Kibale Forest National Park is one of the best safari destinations in Africa for chimpanzee trekking  and has the highest number and a diversity of primates in East Africa . There are  13 species of primates including chimpanzees living within its 795km2 landcover which has the most beautiful and most diversified tracks of a tropical forest in the whole of country. The Forest cover dominates the central and northern part of the park on the raised FortPortal plateau. At the park’s northern tip, it’s highest and stands at 1590m above sea level.

The Location of Kibale Forest

Kibale National Park is in the western part of the country {Uganda} about 348km a (5hrs drive) from Kampala and about 26km south-east of the beautiful Fort Portal town, one of Uganda’s most lovely places to visit and explore.The park is located close to the Serene-Ndali Kasenda crater and takes half day drive to Queen Elizabeth National Park, Rwenzori Mountains & Semuliki National Parks and the Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve.
Southern Kibale borders Queen Elizabeth National Park and collectively these conservation areas cover 180km along migration corridor for wildlife that stretches from the southern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park in the “Ishasha”, to “Sebitoli” in northern of Kibale.

Kibale Forest National Park Vegetation

Kibale’s vegetation is interspersed with grassland and swamp patches. The dominant vegetation type is rainforest, spanning 1,100-1,590 meter altitudes, with a floral composition transitional to typical Eastern Afro-montane and the western lowland forest.

Kibale is in contingent with Queen Elizabeth National Park  in the south and occupies undulating topography on the western plateau, which is slightly tilted to the south. Its rainforest water are drained by the Mpanga and Dura rivers flowing in the southern direction to empty into Lake George.

Half of the park (about 45,000ha) is occupied by variety forest vegetation types that can be broadly classified as medium-altitude moist ever green forest in the north and medium-altitude moist semi-deciduous forest at lower altitudes in the south.

Almost 229 species of tree and shrub have been recorded in Kibale. In the, 50s, while still a Forest Reserve, the area was subjected to varying intensities of tree logging and several compartments the vegetation was lost which need regeneration.

The other half of the park is occupied by grassland and swamps. Communities planted some non-native trees of Pines and Cyprus. However, these are currently being removed. In the other parts, the grassland is being colonized by natural forests.

The Lake George Ramsar Site cuts across the extreme south-western corner of the  park, south of Rwimi river. At Kanyawara, towards the north of the park, Makerere University Biological Field set up a research station with a substation at Ngogo. The park also has an ecotourism site near the park headquarters at Kanyancu, where most park tours start from.

Wildlife attracts of Kibale Forest National Park

There are 13 different species. The park is the number one diversity of primates in the whole of Africa. The most popular of these are the chimpanzees with over 1450 individuals living here, making it the best destination to enjoy Chimpanzee Tracking Tour. On a typical Uganda safari, you will be able to see all these primates. In addition Kibale is home to the un common L’Hoest’s monkeys, with EastAfrica’s biggest population of the endangered red colobus monkeys, the black & white colobus, red tailed monkeys, blue monkeys, olive baboons, Grey cheeked mangabeys, bush babiesa mong others.
There is a number of other wildlife in Kibale National Park, however they are hardly seen. This consist of buffaloes, leopards, bush pigs, elephants, and duikers. A keen viewer may also be able to spot some amphibians, reptiles and a variety of colorful butterflies.

Birds in Kibale National Park

There is roughly 375 bird species in Kibale National Park, including four native species not found in any other national parks; Nahan’s francolin, Cassin’s spinetail, blue-headed bee-eater, and masked Apalis.

The birds’ checklist  for Kibale National Park has a similar range of forest birds to those of Semliki National Park, excluding the 40-odd Semliki ‘specials’ and the inclusion of agreater variety of water grassland species. The rare Green-breasted pitta can besighted around Bigodi, while the genuinely enthusiastic might want to look out for Prigogine’s ground thrush, a presumably an endemic species or race.

The best bird watching spot is the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, where patrons have laid out a four-hour trail, and experienced guides will be able to show you several localized species which you might otherwise overlook. Birders can also go for bird watching in the Kiliingami and Magombe swamps near Sebitoli and Katiyancliti, respectively.

Activities to do in Kibale National Park

Guided Nature Walks

The most popular activity in Kibale National Park is the guided chimpanzee tracking  excursion at Kanyanchu almost as popular as the guided walking trail through the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, which is probably better for general monkey viewing and one of the finest birding trails in the country.

There is also plenty of potential for un guided exploration in the area, along the main road through the forest around Bigodi trading center and Kanyanchu Camp. If time is limited, it’s advisable to  do the activity that most interests you in the morning which is the best time to see chimpanzees and when birds are most active.

Chimpanzee Trekking

A highlight of any visitors  Kibale national park is the  chimpanzee trekking excursion that leaves from Kanyanchu Center at 08.00am and 14.00pm daily.

Chimp sightings are not guaranteed on the chimp treks, but the odds of sighting them have significantly improved in recent years and now stand at around 96%. The chimpanzee community, whose territory center is on Kanyanchu, is well habitated that visitors can often approach them with afew meters of them.

While in the forest, you can expect to see atleast two or three other types of primates, most probably grey-cheeked mangabey and red-tailed monkeys.

You hear plenty of birds sing songs, but it’s challenging to see any birds in the heart of the forest. You’re better off looking for them in the rest camp and along the road. The guides are knowledgeable and will identify various medicinal plants, birdcalls, and animals.

Chimpanzee Habituation

For dedicated chimp enthusiasts or aspiring researchers seeking field experience, join a chimpanzee habituation experience, which involves staying with the chimps all day with habituators and taking notes on their behavior.

Night Nature Walks in Kibale National Park

Another novelty is a guided night walk with spotlights, which runs from 19.30pm to 22.00pm daily, and costs US $40 per person, and offers agood chance of sighting nocturnal primates such as the bush baby and potto.

Unguided Walks in Kibale National park

Tourists are forbidden to walk along forest paths or in Magombe Swamp without a guide, but they can walk un guided elsewhere. Kanyanchu itself is worth a couple of hours’ exploration. A colony of Viellot’s black weaver nests in the camp, with flowering trees attract various forest sunbirds.

Expect to see or hear several robin and green bul types, often difficult to tell apart unless you get agood look at them (little green bul and red-capped robin appear to be most common around the camp). The camp’s specialty is the localized red-chested paradise flycatcher, a stunning bird that’s very easy to find once you know its call.

Other interesting birds seen regularly at Kanyanchu are the great blue turaco, hairy-breasted barbet, black-necked weaver, and black-white casqued hornbill. The short self-guided grassland trails which circles the camp is suitable for monkeys.

It is permitted to walk un guided along the main road stretch between FortPortal and Kamwenge as it runs through the forest. The most interesting section on this road is the first few kilometers running north towards FortPortal.

From Katiyanchu,  you’re almost asured to see a variety of monkeys, genuine forest birds such as Sabine’s spine tail, Blue-breasted kingfisher, and Afep pigeon, as well as butterflies in their hundreds, gathered around puddles and streams.

The road south from Kanyanchu to Bigodi passes through various habitat forest patches, swamp, and grassland and is also productive for birds and monkeys.

Kibale Forest Hikes

The Kibale Forest walk trail is 12km long and the hike is usually done in the dry season from the month of June to September and mid-November to February, taking between 5 and 6hours. Hiking tours offer you an opportunity to discover the park’s assorted habitats such as river-rine forest, swamp, grassland and tropical rainforest.

Cultural Encounters Around Kibale National Park

A local guide will lead you and get a chance to meet the native Batooro people as well as the Bakiga immigrants (from the densely populated southwestern part of Uganda) who stay around this park. During the Kibale Cultural Tours, you visit traditional village to see the traditional lifestyle of the Batoro, visit the local church, primary school, traditional healer and get acloser encounter with these natives. You will also enjoy some energetic traditional dances and songs by the Bakiga.

Crater Lakes Tour

The Kasenda craters are found in FortPortal a home to more than 50 different crater lakes which are surrounded by steep sided volcanoes. A visit to this area will give you an opportunity to appreciate the unique landscape of this area.

When To Visit Kibale National Park?

Although Kibale National Park is accessible throughout the year, the best time to Visit the park is during the dry season when the trails are dry and passable. This runs from December to February and then from June to September. The wettest area in Kibale is the northern area, receiving an average annual rainfall of approximately 1700mm, mainly during March to May and September to November. The climate is usually pleasant with an average annual temperature range of 14C to 27C. The southern part of the park experiences the maximum temperatures and lower amounts of rains where the terrain drops onto the hot rift valley floor and forest provides too penny grassland.