Kibale forest National Park contains one of the loveliest and most varied tracts of tropical forest in Uganda. This is home to a host of forest wildlife, most famously 13 species of primate including chimpanzee. Forest cover predominates in the northern and central parts of the park on the elevated Fort Portal plateau. Kibale is highest at the park’s northern tip which stands 1590m above sea level.
Most activities are carried out at Kanyanchu Visitor’s Center.
Kanyanchu tourist center is located within the park and is 10km away from the park headquarter (Isunga) and it is the main center for tourist activities. Chimpanzee, Black and White Colobus, Red Colobus, Grey Cheeked Mangabeys, Red Tailed Monkeys, L’hoest’s monkey and Baboons are all often spotted in the surrounding forest. A variety of birds can be seen on the trails, calling on the guide expertise to spot them in the dense forest canopy. Guided walks are available; morning walks are the most fruitful, also afternoon walks are also popular and night walks offer sightings of nocturnal primates. Whole or half hikes may be arranged, with long distance trekking plans for future.
Kanyanchu enjoys a mild and confortable climate all year and can be quite cold at night. Accommodation is in hired or own tents, or newly built Bandas with hot showers, all in lovely secluded clearings. Some equipment is available if you do not have your own and a shop/ canteen run by a local women’s group sells basic commodities and food (the restaurants in nearby Bigodi town are often used by campers with transport)
Chimpanzee Habituation Experience
The Chimpanzee Habituation Experience (CHEX) allows you to accompany the Kibale’s researchers and habituate’s as they follow chimpanzee during their daily activities, thereby getting them used to human presence without altering their natural behaviors. This is an all day and early visitors may be able to see the spectacular scene of chimps de-nesting, feeding, copulating, hunting, breast feeding, resting, patrolling and displaying until they build new nests and retire for the night around 7.00pm. (Note: Advance booking is essential)
The community undergoing habituation has more than 350 individuals and has been habituated for over past five years and is still undergoing the process. Your driver guide will drive you to the park by 6am for a briefing before heading to the park, and you there after head to the forest to meet these giants while they are still in their nest so as to observe them de- nesting. A packed lunch and enough water will be arranged with your hotel that you may have booked with as you will need to take along. You will then observe the entire social life of the chimps as you will keep following them along the trails or even some times move along the thickets so as to keep them on truck. Habituation is a full day activity with the chimps, but however you may decide to get a relief and return before the end of the day basing on the entire group decision and satisfaction. You may also be able to see the chimps nest and some other group doing their day tracking may come along in case they land to the chimp group you are habituating. After chimps nesting for their late evening nap, there after you can say bye bye to the chimpanzee as you will be led by the guide out of the forest and later you head to your booked accommodation.
Primate Walk (chimpanzee tracking)
Also you can experience and participating in the chimpanzee tracking walks which starts from the Kanyancu Visitor Centre at 08:00 am and 02.00pm from Kanyancu Visitor Centre and take about 2-3 hours. Park guides are readily available to take tourists through this ritual through a forest walk or a small drive to a turning point and there after you take a walk to the forest to search for the chimps. Kibale National Park well known as “home of chimps” has more than 1450 chimpanzees that live in 13 communities whereby only three communities are habituated out of the 13 communities and one community is used for tourism while the other two communities are commonly used for research purpose but more two communities are undergoing the habituation process and may be introduced to tourism in the nearby future. The community being used for tourism has more than 120 individuals under the leadership of the alpha male being followed by other individuals in the ranking hierarchy. This walk is for six persons per group and advance booking essential.
While on your chimpanzee tracking experience, you will be able to meet other primates other than the chimpanzees and some other mammals such as the forest elephants, duikers or buffaloes on your lucky day. Chimps can be spotted busy feeding on fig tree or you may also meet them on the ground. Chimp tracking gives you an opportunity to see the chimpanzees in the their natural setting busy breast feeding, some even breeding, grooming each other, and you will be able to see their real life setting and also you will be able to hike and see some other tree species. Many butterfly species do exist within the park, you also be able to watch the butterflies.
Do not be surprised as your busy either searching for the chimps or looking up in the tree, and you see a chimp either behind you following your trend, it is because your using their trails.
Do not miss chimpanzee tracking on your visit to Kibale National Park, it is incredible.
Day Hikes/Nature Walks
This is an exploration of the park’s diverse habitats providing very close contact with nature. During nature walk the client is able to site some tree species, butterflies, monkeys, insects, birds and many other species of organisms within the park. The walks begin at 08:00 am, 10:00 am and 02:00 pm from Kanyancu Tourist Centre and take about 2-3 hours. On your lucky day, you may also be able to encounter the chimpanzee during the nature walk. Different trails do exist within the park to which your guide will lead you through as you do your nature walk. Enjoy a cool forest breeze with a relaxed mind, lost in the forest as your mind is taken away with the beauty of the nature of Kibale tropical forest.
Kibale National Park (KNP) boast of 372 bird species of which 60 percent are recorded Uganda’s Forest Birds. Bird watchers can spot various species of these birds as they enjoy the various activities in the park. In Kibale National Park the most bird of attraction is “The Rear Green Breasted Pitta” as it is only found in Kibale National Park. The park is also famous for sitting the great blue tullacco which is one of the most common rear birds within the park premises.
Four bird species have not been recorded in any other National park of Uganda: Cassin’s spinetail, blue-headed bee-eater, Nahan’s francolin and Masked apalis. Other bird species that can be sited within the park includes: Yellow-spotted Nictor, Yellow- ramped Tinker bird, Speckled Tinker bird, Little Greenbul, Superb Sunbird, the African Pitta, White-thighed hornbill, Grey-winged Robin, Blue shouldered Robin Chat, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Black-billed Turacco, White-naped Pigeon, Green-breasted Pitta, Purple-headed Starling, Red-chested Flufftail, Joyful Greenbul, Cabanis Greenbul, Grey-throated Tit Flycatcher, Scarlet-tufted, Green-throated, Purple-Breasted sunbirds,White-bellied Crested Flycatcher, Masked Apalis, Tiny Sunbird, White-collared Olive-back and the Black bee-eater any many others.
The best bird-watching spot is the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary – a community project where experienced guides take you on a four-hour trail. Migratory birds are present from November to April.
Best Time for Bird Watching
The birdlife in Kibale is good year-round, but at its best from March to May and from September to November. June to September is the main fruiting season, so food is abundant, and many birds are in breeding plumage. Migratory birds can be found here from November to April.
December to February and June to July have the least rain while March to May and September to November have the most rain. The rains might result in delays due to impassable roads and slippery hiking trails, limiting your bird-watching time.
Night Nature Walk.
The night walk is mostly done to make the tourists be able to have a look at the four nocturnal that are only sighted during the night hours and mostly the walk stark at 7:30 pm and runs for 2 to 4 hours.
The night nature walk which allows visitors to track the unique species of birds, animals and insects such as Bats, Owl, Pottos, Bush babies, Civets, genet cats and Eastern needle nailed; that are most active at night hours. You driver guide will drive you to Kanyanchu Tourist center at around 7 pm to meet your park guide for a brief, and thereafter the guide will lead you through the forest for the walk with a lead of touch light. Remember to carry a touch light for yourself too.
Other reptiles such as snakes can be encountered on your nature walk. You are advised to wear closed boats as you head for the night walk.
Only children above 15 years are only allowed to go through the forest to view the chimps. Kibale has a variety of activities for children less than 15 years including educational forest walks of 1-2 hours followed by creative activities like pond dipping, cyanotype photography and batik-making. Through these educational forest walks, the children can learn about ecosystem and its inhabitants. Parents can enjoy their forest walk with the knowledge that their children are occupied in worthwhile activity with trained ranger guides.
Other activities include; butterfly watching, visit to primate lodge, and playing around as they listen to story tales from the guide.
Long distance walk
Those that need adventuring and maximally enjoy the Forest’s wildlife, a 63 km guide walk from either Sebitoli or Kanyanchu and end at either site as you walk for 2 – 6 days through various sanctuaries and community campsites at Nyakarongo, Nyaibanda and Kinoni where you will enjoy traditional dance and offered local food dishes is quite rewarding. You will be able to hike different hills, and see different flora and fauna along your walk. You will also be able to encounter the local Bakiga and Batooro as they are in the social life. Indeed, it is worth a walk.