Kibale National Park is the sweet home for chimpanzees…the largest in the world! Come and track the primates in Uganda, an experience you will never forget…
Kibale National Park (KNP) is one of the most visited ten national parks in Uganda under the under the management of Uganda Wildlife Authority. The park was gazetted in 1932 and formally established in 1993 to protect a large area of forest previously managed as a logged forest reserve.
Kibale National Park commonly known as “The home of chimps and primate capital of the world” and the park headquarter lies in Western Uganda, Kabarole, Kamwenge, Kyenjojo and Kasese districts 26km Southeast of Fort Portal Town, among gently undulating lush green hills of cultivation. To the west the legendary Mountains of the moon erupt in snow capped splendor, whilst the grasslands and the lakes of Queen Elizabeth National Park stretch to the south. This adjoining of the parks creates a 180 kilometres (110 mi) wildlife corridor. It is an important eco-tourism and safari destination, popular for its population of habituated chimpanzees and twelve other species of primates. It is also the location of the Makerere University Biological Field Station.
The park covers 795 km2, forms a contiguous block with Queen Elizabeth National Park, on an altitude of 1.100-1.590m above sea level. The vegetation is dominated by the tropical rainforest.
Northern Kibale is also the wettest area, receiving a mean annual rainfall of up to 1700mm, mostly during March-May and September-November. The climate is generally pleasant with a mean annual temperature range of 14-27oC. Temperatures are highest (and rainfall lower) in the south where the terrain drops down onto the hot rift valley floor and forest gives way to open grassland.
Kibale National Park harbors over 350 plant species, 71 mammal species, 13 primates and 372 bird species of the 1042 total birds in Uganda. Kibale National Forest has one of the highest diversity and concentration of primates in Africa. It is home to a large number of endangered chimpanzees, as well as the red colobus monkey (status: Endangered) and the rare L’Hoest’s monkey (Vulnerable).
Forest cover predominates in the northern and central parts of the park on the elevated Fort Portal plateau. Kibale is one of the last remaining expanses to contain both lowland and montane forests. In eastern Africa, it sustains the last significant expanse of pre-montane forest.
Kibale is highest at the park’s northern tip which stands 1590m above sea level.
The park is a rich tapestry: mature forest towering with giant trees; younger forest exploding in a profusion of new growth; and grasslands affording bird’s eye views over the forest and Rift Valley.
Graceful palms sway along meandering streams to swamps which invite wallowing by the elephants who silently weave their way between giant strangler figs and broad buttresses. In the deep darkness of the forest floor, beetles roll their balls of dung and golden mushrooms push their way through the carpet of soft decay. High in the forest canopy, chattering monkeys spring from branch to branch in search of insects and far above a crowned eagle circles his territory of forest, grassland and lake, waiting for a meal. Wherever you look, a rich diversity of plant and animals are busy playing their role in maintaining the delicate balance of this tropical park.
Due to its location between the wet rains forest of Congo basin and the drier West African forest, Kibale supporters an unusually rich array of tropical plants and animals from both areas, most famously 13 species of primate. One of the greatest concentrations of monkeys and apes in the world and the highest in the Uganda is found here, including the endangered chimpanzee and a rare subspecies of the Red Colobus monkey.
The park habits 71 mammal species are present , Uganda’s largest population of forest elephants find refuge here, along with buffalos, other large mammals and over one third of Uganda s bird species. By comparison to the open savannah environment of the south, the dense forest makes it a challenge to spot these shy creatures, but the resulting close encounters can be magical.
The uplands and escarpments in the region are composed of sedimentary rocks, folded and metamorphosed during the upheavals of the Precambrian period, 600-3000 million years ago, and resulting in the stunning scenery of the Albertine Rift and the Rwenzori Mountains. Many of the associated volcanic craters now contains small lakes, some within the park boundaries, Kibale National Park straddles the Rift escarpment. The South of the park is therefore of a lower altitude, hotter and drier than the North and its vegetation is contiguous with the grasslands of Queen Elizabeth National Park, whilst the North remain cloaked in tropical forest.
Although it is often assumed that tropical forests are the culmination of millions of years of stability, they have been waxing and waning dramatically, especially during the Ice Ages of the Pleistocene (1.5 million to ten thousand years ago). During warm, wet periods, forests stretched in a nearly continuous belt across tropical Africa, wizening during the dry periods into a handful of moist, mountainous “island refuges”, containing the essential ingredients for future expansion.
Kibale lies near the easternmost mountain refugium (the Rwenzori and Rift escarpments), which enabled the survival and re-establishment of the wide range of plants and animals associated with the forest today.
Flora and fauna
Kibale’s varied altitude supports different types of habitat, ranging from wet tropical forest (moist evergreen forest) on the Fort Portal plateau, through dry tropical forest (moist semi deciduous), to woodland and savanna on the rift valley floor. Around Kanyanchu, in the central part of the park, the high forest contains a mixture of deciduous and evergreen trees with the evergreen species dominant. Trees rise to over 55m and exhibit a semi-closed canopy of stratified tree crowns. The undergrowth is sparse with shade tolerant herbs, shrubs, a variety of ferns and broad leaved forest grasses. 351 tree species have been recorded in the park. The diversity and density of primates in Kibale is the highest in Africa. The most famous of its 13 species is the chimpanzee, our closest relative. Kibale’s 1450 chimpanzee represent Uganda’s largest population of this endangered primate. Kibale is also home to the rare I’Hoest’s monkey and East Africa’s largest population of the threatened red colobus monkey. Other primates include the black and white colobus, blue monkey, grey cheeked mangabey, red tailed monkey, olive baboon, bush baby and potto. Other mammals are present, though rarely seen. These include forest elephant, buffalo, leopard, bush pig and duiker. A keen observer may also spot reptiles and amphibians as well as a colourful variety of butterflies. The park boasts 325 species of birds, including 6 that are endemic to the Albertine Rift region, namely black-capped apalis, blue-headed sunbird, collared apalis, dusky crimsonwing, purple-breasted sunbird and red-faced woodland warbler. Other Kibale specials include the African pitta, green breasted pitta, black bee-eater, yellow spotted nicator, yellow rumped tinker bird, little greenbul, black-eared ground thrush, brown chested alethe, blue-breasted kingfisher, Abyssinian ground thrush, and the crowned eagle.
The British gazetted Kibale a Crown Forest in 1932 and a Forest Reserve in 1948.Besides protecting core areas of the natural forest, the forest Department extracted hardwood timber, established plantation of exotic trees and harvested wild coffee. Uganda National Parks (UNP) took over responsibilities of the Forest Reserve in 1994. In 1996, UNP merge with the Game Department to form the new Uganda Wildlife Authority to consolidate and facilitate wildlife protection and management.
Exploitation of the forest was minimal until 1950’s, when timber was needed for Kilembe Copper Mine, near the town of Kasese. The most favored trees were Fagara (Satinwood), Lovoa (Mahogany family) and Olea (Elgon Olive). Due to political and economic turmoil, logging ground to a halt during the civil war.
Grassland hilltops in the northern sector of the forest reserve were planted with foreign softwoods (Pine, Cypress and Eucalyptus) in the order to keep with increasing demand for poles and firewood, especially for the surrounding tea factory.
Wild Robusta coffee (Coffea canephora) grows in over 70km2 of the forest. The largest harvest produced 100 tons in one year (generating twice the revenue of timber fees) and it is hoped to start production again soon.
Kanyanchu Visitor’s Center is buried in the hearts of the park, along the main road that passes through the park, connecting Fort Portal and Kamwengye, is the major center for all the park tourism related activities. Those intended to participate in chimpanzee trekking, nature walks, bird watching and much more, always come here for the exceptional experience. All ranger guides are based here, to handle the clients.
The people living around the park are mainly Batoro and Bakiga. The Batoro are indigenous to the area while the Bakiga are immigrants from the densely populated southwestern part of Uganda. The Batoro take pride in the cultural heritage of the Toro Kingdom, a scion of the ancient kingdoms of Africa’s Great Lakes region. The Omukama (king) and the kingdom embody the traditional and cultural values of the Batoro. The Bakiga immigrants still maintain their tradition and culture as expressed in their folklore, dance, and language.
Sebitoli Forest Camp
Sebitoli is located 12km from Fort portal town on the Kampala-Fort portal road. This part of the forest offers excellent bird and primate viewing in moist evergreen forest with a semi-closed canopy of stratified tree crowns.
Cultural Heritage and Nature Trail (former Long Distance Walk)
The adventurous visit can follow a 2-6 days trail through the forest. The full walk starts or finishes at either Kanyanchu or Sebitoli. The route explores the forest during the day, emerging in the evening to sleep in community-run campsites near the villages of Kikoni, Nyaibanda and Nyakalongo. These provide the opportunity to meet the local people and gain insights into their Batoro and Bakiga cultures. Porters can be hired at the trailheads to carry equipment. Groups of up to 6 people can undertake the walk. However Pre-booking is essential for effective organization of the walk.
Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary Bigodi wet land sanctuary is situated just outside the park in Magombe swamp. This is known for a wide range of wildlife that includes primates, such as chimpanzees, red colobus, black and white colobus monkey and other mammals such as sitatunga, bushbuck, otter and mongoose. The wetland is also home to 138 bird species. These can be seen during guided walks from viewing platforms and a boardwalk trail.
The sanctuary is a community-run initiative aimed at conserving the unique biodiversity and environmental values of the wetland.
Guided walks, similar to those at Magombe, are conducted in the Kihingani wetland, just outside the national park near Sebitoli.
There is a lot to do and see at Kibale, you will really enjoy your visit here.
Kanyanchu Visitor’s Center Information Consultants, you guide to discover and venture Kibale National Park at your ease, as you explore this great park with us, for more information, do not hesitate to reach us via mail or phone call, we are at your service.