Distance from Kampala: 360 km. Estimated transit time: 4-5 hours
Kibale Forest National Park is situated 20 km east of Fort Portal town in western Uganda. This park covers 795 sq km and abuts the northern end of Queen Elizabeth National Park.
The terrain of this part of western Uganda is covered by tea estates, terraced hills, forests and one of the highest concentrations of volcanic crater lakes in the world. The forest is an important water catchment area, protecting river waters that feed the Lake George Basin.
Kibale Forest National Park encompasses the largest hardwood forest in sub-Saharan Africa. The north and southeast parts of the park are primarily tropical forest with more than 350 tree species recorded (28% of the country’s total), while the southwest section of the park is a mix of grassland and wetland with interesting fern and other plant life. Diverse botanical resources include various plant species from important medicinal plants to ancestral varieties of commercial crops like banana and coffee. A walk is available to see wild coffee in its original state, prior to cultivation.
Kibale Forest National Park is the third largest forested national park in Uganda and supports at least 60 different mammal species including the highest concentration of primates in the world. Of the 20 largest forests in Africa inhabited by chimpanzees, ten of these are in Uganda. Kibale Forest National Park is one of the five parks that currently have chimpanzee habituation projects operating. The chimpanzee community in Kibale is comprised of over 1,400 individuals, which is the largest population in the world.
Jane Goodall Foundation began habituation projects in Kibale about ten years ago. Guided forest walks are available daily and visitors may be able to participate in the habituation of chimpanzees during overnight de-nesting activities or as part of a week-long chimp habituation experience. Contact us to find out more about visiting the Kibale chimps!
Chimp tracking is very popular because you get the opportunity to observe the human-like behavior of our close cousins, animals that share 98% of human genetic make-up. Chimpanzee tracking is less strenuous than gorilla trekking.
Kibale Forest's gentle terrain, with rolling hills and paths cut through the forest at regular intervals, makes walking through the forest relatively easy. 4 groups of 8 people each are allowed to go chimpanzee tracking each morning and afternoon. Chimpanzees are more active than gorillas and have larger families (30+ members). Like gorilla trekking, the chance of chimpanzee sightings in Kibale run at more than 90%. Permits cost approximately $150 per day and we recommend that you book 4-12 months in advance.
Apart from chimpanzees there are 12 other primate species, including red Colobus monkeys, black-and-white Colobus monkeys, l’Hoestes monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, vervet and blue monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabeys, olive baboons, and four species of nocturnal primates (pottos and bush babies).
Kibale Forest National Park is also home to the largest concentration of forest elephants in Uganda. These shy creatures live deep in the forest along with buffaloes and giant forest hogs and are therefore seldom seen. More commonly seen mammals include bushbucks, duikers, montane sun squirrels and giant forest squirrels.
The birdlife is prolific, with approximately 400 different species recorded in the area, four of which are endemic to this park. Some of the species most highly sought include the Crested Guinea Fowl, Great Blue Turraco, Grey Parrot, Green-breasted and African Pittas, African Crowned Eagles and Black Bee-eaters. Butterflies are also in abundance with some 45 species recorded.
Birdwatching and swamp walk activities are available daily at the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary just outside the park. The sanctuary is operated by the local community and demonstrates the positive effects that can be achieved by community tourism projects. Approximately 20 families benefit directly from tourism activities in this area. This project is part of UCOTA (the Uganda Community Tourism Association).
If you are interested in expanding your knowledge of local Ugandan culture, visits can be arranged to the local community. Locally produced craft items can be purchased from the park tourist office. You may also want to enjoy a sumptuous local lunch with the KAFRED community, a great way to meet and support the local people, and very popular with visitors.
- Mountains of the Moon Hotel (Fort Portal) - up-market
- Ndali Lodge - up-market
- Kyaninga Lodge - up-market
- Kibale Forest Camp - mid to budget
- Primate Lodge, mid to up-market
- Rwenzori View Guest House (Fort Portal) - mid-market
- Chimpanzee Forest Guest house - mid to budget
- Crater Valley Kibale - budget