Kibale Forest National Park
See the chimpanzee at play and track down the elusive forest elephant
Comprised of, what are widely considered to be Uganda’s most pristine tropical rainforests, Kibale Forest National Park is at the crossroads between the dry terrains of East Africa and the wetter forests of the West, means it can support a variety of exciting flora and fauna.
The park is home to the largest of Uganda’s chimpanzee populations which stands at around 1,450, so this combined with the ease of access to makes it a perfect place to spot this loveable, endangered primate and it is popular for this alone, despite its many other attractions.
Kibale is in Western Uganda, just a 30 minute drive from Queen Elizabeth National Park, Semliki National Park and the Toro Semliki Wildlife Reserve. It can be easily reached from Kampala either from the north, via Mubende and Fort portal, or from Mbarara and Kamwenge in the south.
- Culture: the park is occupied by two tribes named the Batoora and the Bakiga.
- Unique for: possible to spot the elusive forest elephant.
- Wildlife spotting opportunities: 13 species of primate live in the forest including red colobus monkeys and chimpanzees.
- Birdlife: an estimated 375 species of bird live in the forest.
What to Expect in Kibale Forest N.P
The park has the greatest density of primates in East Africa, so makes a wonderful addition to any wildlife itinerary, especially if you are visiting the mountain gorillas too. There are a total of 13 species to be found here which, aside from our close relatives the chimpanzees, includes the grey cheeked mangabey, endangered red colobus, black-and-white colobus, blue monkey, olive baboon, potto, bush baby, red-tailed monkey and the, rarely seen, Hoest’s monkey. The fascinating chimps tend to be heard before they are seen and their screams pant hoots and barks are used by our local tracking experts to bring you even closer to them. Once you locate the animals you can usually spend up to one hour with them before the forest walk continues in search of other primates.
Whilst other mammals do exist within the park, including red and blue duikers, bushbucks, sitatungas, bushpigs, giant forest hogs, common warthogs, and African buffalo. The carnivores that are present include leopards, African golden cats, servals, different mongooses and two species of otter. Sightings can be difficult due to the thickness of the foliage. You will however see a huge variety of birdlife, as there are in excess of 300 species that live within the forests, such as the endemic Kibale Forest thrush, great blue turacos and African grey parrot.
Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary
Located just outside the park itself, the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary is a highlight of the area, a community-run reserve that provides a great example of how tourism and local communities can work hand-in-hand to benefit the environment. The sanctuary has over 335 bird species and at least five primate species.
The drier months of December to February and June to July are best for chimpanzee trekking. However, you can still go looking for the primates in the wetter months (March to May and August to November), which have the added attraction of low-season prices. The East African sky is also less hazy outside the drier periods.
How To Get There
Kibale will rarely be a destination in itself – it’s more suited as a stop among other parks on a tour of Uganda. Kibale National Park is located in western Uganda, 22km/14mi southeast of the town of Fort Portal and 360km/224mi from Kampala.
Entebbe International Airport (EBB) will be your entrance point into the country. It is located about 46km/29mi from the capital, Kampala. In most cases, your local tour operator will pick you up from the airport and will also provide for any additional transportation as part of your tour package.
Some good accommodation options in the Kibale area include Ndali Lodge and Mantana Tented Camp. Ndali Lodge is reminiscent of colonial Africa, perched on the edge of an extinct volcanic crater, with lakes below and the outline of the Rwenzori Mountains on the horizon. The setting of Mantana Tented Camp is equally stunning within a secondary forest area outside the park itself but with the sights and sounds of the jungle around you.