Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda gives you amazing encounter with man’s closest relative. Chimpanzees belong to the family of great apes which includes gorillas and orangutans. Their DNA is close to humans, they have large brains and are very intelligent with great adaptability to new things. Studies by the great primatologists like Jane Goodall have shown unique cultures of the chimpanzees among different communities based on their specific diets and habitats. There are two distinct species of chimpanzees. The common chimpanzee which is found in West, East, Central and Southern Africa and the pygmy chimpanzee (known as Bonobo only found in Congo’s jungles and sanctuaries.The common chimpanzee is larger (weighing up to 70kgs), more aggressive with communities led by a dominant male. Bonobos are smaller, peaceful/gentile with communities led by female leaders. Both species have a life span of up to 30 years in the wild and 60 in captivity. Because of their relative intelligence, chimpanzees are capable of constructing complex nests and using tools like rocks for opening nuts or sticks for removing termites from anthills. Chimps entirely feed on fruit, seeds, tree leaves, honey and insects. Chimpanzees also eat meat from other mammals and primates whenever they can.
Where can I go chimpanzee trekking in Uganda?
Kibale National Park
Home to around 1,500 chimpanzees, Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda is mainly done in Kibale National Park.
Located in South-Western Uganda, the rain forest is easily accessible from Kampala or Entebbe. The forest has huge chimp populations, and the park has become synonymous with chimpanzees. The chances of sightings here are at 90% or more, and the park sits along the south-western safari circuit so, it is easy to combine with other experiences.
The tracking excursions depart twice a day at 08:00 and 14:00 and the morning excursions are busier since many itineraries combine it with an afternoon visit to the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary.
Tracking permits are a must have and they can be booked through the Uganda Wildlife Authority. Chimp habituation experiences are also available at Kibale. For those joining for the full day, you will join the chimps from when they break nests at about 06:30 until they nest again for the night at about 19:00.
Budongo Forest Reserve, Murchison Falls National Park
The diversity of experiences on offer here is incredible. On a single visit you get to explore a number of activities like game drives, boat cruises, chimp trekking, hikes to epic waterfalls and landscapes, and sun-downers at boutique lodges overlooking the savannah.
In the wooded southern part of Budongo Forest Reserve is where Chimpanzee trekking takes place.
Budongo’s contact rate is about 80% which is higher than that of Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
The guiding is excellent at Budongo, and up to 6 guided groups of 3 people each visit for chimpanzee trekking every morning and afternoon. More to this, the centre’s historical association with the Jane Goodall Institute gives an edge for excellent guides at telling the wider story of the chimps and the forest.
A classic tracking trip lasts around three hours and contact is usually made after only an hour of walking. A full day habituation experience is also available here for adventurers who seek an extended encounter with the chimps.
Kyambura Gorge, Queen Elizabeth National Park
A delightfully secret cleft in the surface of the otherwise flat savannah bordering Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kyambura Gorge is the third most popular chimp trekking destination in Uganda.
Kyambura Gorge is nicknamed ‘the valley of the apes’ located in the far east of the Queen Elizabeth National Park. The product of centuries of erosion by the Besides Kyambura River, the dense forest inhabits a number of chimpanzees.
Only 17 chimps inhabit the gorge and the chances of seeing them are about 60%. The sights and sounds of the forest generate make the sighting even more rewarding. Tracking permits can be booked through the Uganda Wildlife Authority, however, if you book with us all of this is taken care of for you.
Kyambura Gorge is usually included as an add-on to an existing safari at Queens, as the park has excellent bio-diversity so is usually visited for game drives, boat cruises, and for the tree-climbing lions in Ishasha Sector of the park.
Semuliki Wildlife Reserve
Semuliki willdife reserve makes park of the western rift valley with s located in western Uganda.
Semuliki habours very few chimps because of the dry and sparse forest environment which means they have to roam far and wide to secure enough food.
The research programme here is on the cutting edge as they try to work out the relationship between the chimps walking on two legs and the evolution of our own species.
This is a small but forested island on Lake Victoria which was turned into a chimpanzee sanctuary for rescued chimps all over Uganda. There are over 40 chimpanzees being cared for in the island. Ngamba Island is not designed for standard chimp tracking. Visitors and families with children are allowed to see the chimps from a secure raised platform as they come to feed three times a day.
The Uganda Wildlife Education Center
Formerly known as Entebbe Zoo, was established in 1952 to rehabilitate injured, confiscated and orphaned animals. About 40 chimpanzees can be seen here from enclosures by tourists and families with children.
Rules, Requirements and Regulations for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda
Just like with mountain gorilla trekking, tracking chimpanzee requires following some rules. You need to know the following rules and regulations before trekking Chimpanzees in Uganda.
- Book your chimpanzee permit in advance especially during the peak seasons.
- Children aren’t allowed to track chimpanzee.
- Do not litter the forest while tracking chimpanzee.
- It is not recommended to track chimpanzee while suffering from flue and diarrhea. Chimps are susceptible to human diseases.
- Keep a distance of about 8 meters while near the Chimpanzees.
- Do not eat while near the chimpanzees. They may come and grab it from you violently.
- Do not talk too loud, make fun of or try to intimidate/provoke chimpanzees.
- Taking photos using flash is not allowed.
- Always follow instructions from the forest guides.
- Try to visit the bathroom before heading out for trekking.
- Do not head out tracking without a guide.
- Smoking while tracking chimps isn’t allowed.
- There is a limit to how many people can track a chimpanzee community in a day.
Gear and equipment for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda
Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda requires careful planning with a tour company before hand in order to make it a comfortable, memorable and stress-free event. To that, you will need to think about bringing along the following:-
With good grip that is good for navigating through muddy terrain and steep areas.
The right clothing;
Long sleeved clothes that can help protect you from sharp thickets. Plan for the unpredictable weather and a rain jacket just in case.
Packed snack and drinking water;
This is just in case you get hungry or thirsty along the way.
You don’t want to miss some of the details. These mighty apes love swinging from tree to tree and beautiful birds on top of the trees.
Come with insect repellent.
Camera and extra batteries;
Taking photos of chimpanzees needs some preparation as they live in dense forest and are very quick in movement. Come with a good camera that has sharp lenses as the chimps live in long trees. Taking flash photos is prohibited.
Walking sticks will help you steadily navigate through steep and rough terrain.
Porters can be hired from many of the parks and reserves to help carry heavy equipment and bags so that you concentrate on looking out for the chimps and other creatures.
What Is The Best Time To do Chimpanzee trekking In Uganda?
Chimpanzee trekking can be carried out all year round however the best time to chimp trek is during the dry season which is experienced between the months of June to September and December to January. This is also known as the peak season due to the fact that there are many tourists who come for chimpanzee trekking in the country. During the dry season, the trek trails are passable and it is also easier to see the chimpanzees during the dry season unlike during the rainy season when the roads become slippery and the vegetation is dense. Chimpanzee trekking can also be done during the wet season due to the presence of plenty of food for the chimpanzees making it easy for them to be spotted.
Chimpanzee habituation experiences
Some tours offer the chance to take part in a habituation experience, which involves spending the day with less habituated groups (although this is never guaranteed), as part of the process of getting them ready for tourists to watch them. Non habituated chimps would have disappeared into the forest long before you could see them, but this process, which takes at least six years, slowly, slowly reassures them that humans do not pose a threat.