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A Guide to Visiting Kibale Forest National Park

Kibale Forest National Park is a 321 sq. km. protected area in the Kabarole district of western Uganda. The Uganda Wildlife Authority gazetted it in 1993 to protect the park’s various attractions.

Today, the park is renowned as the world’s primate capital as it harbors the highest number of primate species in Uganda.

Kibale Forest National Park is known for having the largest population of chimpanzees in Uganda and the country’s highest number of primates. The national park is home to other primates such as vervet monkeys, mangabeys, blue monkeys, red colobus monkeys, patas monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, Demidoff’s galago, olive baboons, pottos, and L’Hoest’s monkeys.

Kibale Forest National Park is one of the best places to visit for primate viewing, especially chimpanzees. As home to the highest population of chimpanzees, most travelers visit the park to see these primates in their natural habitat. However, the park is not only known for its primates but also for its 370 bird species, including the famous green-breasted pitta.


Activities in the Kibale Forest National Park

Discover various engaging opportunities for nature lovers and adventure seekers, from primate watching and birding to hiking through scenic trails in one of Uganda’s most ecologically rich areas.

Related read: Things To Do on a Safari in Uganda

Chimpanzee Trekking

Kibale Forest National Park is home to the highest populations of chimpanzees, making chimpanzee trekking the most popular activity. The activity gives tourists a chance to see habituated chimpanzees in their natural habitats. Two large chimpanzee families have been habituated in the park and can be trekked in the morning and evening.

Chimpanzee trekking starts with a briefing from the park headquarters at Kanyanchu Visitors Centre, where tourists are taught the rules and regulations of the activity. After grouping, armed ranger guides are allocated to groups that they lead and guide in the jungle. Tourists are driven to the starting points of the trekkers, where a simple briefing is still done.

Armed ranger guides lead the trekkers through the forest, where they go through different trails searching for the chimps. The search goes on for hours while the armed ranger guides communicate with the rangers in the forest to find the chimps. As trekkers look for the chimpanzees, they have chances to see other different animals, birds, vegetation, and water sources in the thick forest.

After 2 to 4 hours of searching for chimpanzees, trekkers finally meet them and are given 1 hour to be around them. During this time, trekkers can see them carry out day-to-day activities like hunting, nesting, breastfeeding, playing, and resting. When done, trekkers walk back to the starting point, where they meet the driver guides and move out of the forest.

Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda
Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda

Chimpanzee Habituation

Kibale Forest National Park is the only place in Uganda where chimpanzee habituation can take place. Tourists intending to visit the park can participate in the 4-hour habituation experience, during which they get to be around semi-habituated chimpanzees and then participate in activities that help them get used to the human presence around them.

A chimpanzee habituation permit is needed in Kibale Forest National Park. Only a small number of people can do the habituation. On the day of habituation, tourists meet at the Kanyanchu Visitors Centre, where they meet rangers who teach about the rules and regulations of the activities. Armed ranger guides are assigned to lead a group into the jungle.

After the briefing, armed ranger guides, doctors, researchers, rangers, and trekkers join their driver guides to move to the starting point of the trek. The armed ranger guides communicate with the rangers to see where the chimpanzees could be. The search lasts 2 to 4 hours, and once the chimps are spotted, trekkers are given 4 hours to be with them.

During the 4 hours around the chimpanzees, trekkers are allowed to take part in the activities that make the chimpanzees get used to human presence around them. Trekkers are allowed to take videos and take pictures for future memories. After having a good time around the chimpanzees, trekkers move out of the jungle, meet their driver, and move to the next destination.

Bird Watching

There are over 370 bird species hosted in Kibale Forest National Park, making it one of the best bird-watching destinations in Uganda. On a visit to Kibale, birders should participate in bird-watching activities in and around the park to spot many of the birds that have been recorded here.

The green-breasted pitta is the most sought-after bird in Kibale. However, there are other species to spot, such as Nahan’s francolin, blue-headed bee-eater, lowland masked apalis, Cassin’s spinetail, little greenbul, yellow-rumped tinkerbird, collared apalis, Abyssinian ground thrush, African pitta, dusky crimsonwing, and slender-billed weaver.

Other notable species include the blue-headed sunbird, black-eared ground thrush, crowned eagle, grey parrot, western nicator, Nahan’s francolin, scaly-breasted illadopsis, masked apalis, Cassin’s spinetail, blue-breasted kingfisher, red-faced woodland warbler, great blue turaco, papyrus canary, zebra waxbill, and blue-headed gonolek, to mention but a few.

Related read: Best Places for Bird Watching in Uganda

Birdwatching in Uganda, the Shoebill Stork
Shoebill Stork in the Swamps in Uganda

Nature Walks

Nature walks in Kibale Forest National Park are the best way to get close to nature. The walks are a 2—to 3-hour activity that goes to different park areas using different trails.

The armed ranger guides lead tourists throughout the whole activity, making sure that they are safe. During the walks, tourists get to see different animals, birds, vegetation, water sources, and many other attractions in the park.

Plan Your Visit to Kibale Forest National Park

Here are our top tips for planning your visit to Kibale Forest National Park.

Related read: Tips for Planning a Safari in Uganda

What To Pack for a Safari to Kibale Forest National Park?

Most travelers who visit Kibale Forest National Park participate in chimpanzee trekking and habituation activities. These activities involve walking in the jungle for 2 to 3 hours searching for chimpanzees. Proper packing of different items that can be used in the jungle is required.

The packing list for a safari in Kibale Forest National Park includes a day backpack, a rain jacket, long-sleeved pants and shirts, warm gloves, a pair of gaiters, long cotton socks, an umbrella, waterproof shoes, sunscreen, insect repellents, a camera, a pair of binoculars, energy-giving snacks, and a drinking water bottle, to mention but a few.

Africa Adventure Vacations

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They’re a top-rated safari company located in Uganda, providing amazing tours. Whether you’re into wildlife, culture, birding, luxury gorilla safaris, or Kilimanjaro trekking, they’ve got you covered.

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Best Time To Visit Kibale Forest National Park

Kibale Forest National Park is best visited during the dry season, which runs from June to September and December to February. These months are characterized by little rainfall and plenty of sunshine, which can not affect the park’s activities. Being a forest, tourists should expect rainfall at any time of the week, but it’s always little compared to the rainy season.

Tourists who visit Kibale Forest National Park in the dry season will find the trekking trails dry and easier to walk through. The vegetation will be short, and there will be good views of chimpanzees and other attractions in the forest. Lastly, the roads leading to the park are in good condition, and the tourists will get to the park in time.

The rainy season, which occurs from March to May and October to November, can also be used to visit Kibale Forest National Park. This season favors budget travelers who are looking at discounted accommodation facilities, and it also favors birders since there are so many birds in the park due to so many fruits in the forest.

Tourists visiting Kibale Forest National Park in the rainy season should know that too much rainfall makes the trekking trails muddy and slippery, the vegetation is tall with unclear views of chimpanzees and other attractions in the jungle. The roads leading to the park tend to be muddy and slippery, which affects the driver’s speed.

Chimpanzees in Kibale Forest National Park
A Guide to Visiting Kibale Forest National Park

How To Get to Kibale Forest National Park?

Kibale Forest National Park is located in Kabarole district on Uganda’s Western side. Road transport to the park takes about 6 hours, depending on the number of stopovers and the driver’s speed.

From Entebbe, tourists drive through Kampala, Mityana, Mubende, Kyegegwa, Kyenjojo, and Fort Portal, where they drive southeast for a short distance and then get to the park.

Where To Stay While in Kibale Forest National Park?

Accommodation is one of the things to consider when planning to visit Kibale Forest National Park for several days. There are many lodges around the park, ranging from luxury to mid-range to budget options.

Tourists stay in lodges based on their travel budget, which include Primate Lodge, Chimpundu Lodge, Crater Safari Lodge, Turaco Tree Tops, Isunga Safari Lodge, and Kibale Forest Camp, among others.

Get in touch with Africa Adventure Vacations to book your trip to the Kibale Forest National Park:

  • Africa Adventure Vacations

    Africa Adventure Vacations is a one-stop center for the best and most memorable African safaris. We are a renowned safari operator based in Uganda, offering exceptional tours throughout the East African region, ranging from wildlife adventures, culture, birding, luxury gorilla safaris to Kilimanjaro trekking tours. All our tours can be customized to best suit your travel needs, budget and time.

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