Kibale National Park
Kibale Forest National Park is located in western Uganda in the Kibale Fort Portal area, one of the most rewarding destinations to explore. It covers an area of about 795 square kilometres sharing part of the districts of Kabarole, Kyenjojo and Kamwenge, approximately 320 kilometres from Kampala, the capital of Uganda. The park was gazetted as a forest reserve in 1992 and later upgraded to a national park in 1993.
The park comprises one of the loveliest and most diverse zones of tropical forest in Uganda, covered with scattered patches of grasslands and swamps which dominate the northern and central parts of the park.
On an elevated plateau consisting of over 351 tree species, the forest is a habitat to the largest number of primates ever, hence the “Primate Capital of Africa.” With over 13 primate species, including chimpanzees being the most dominant, more than 1450 persons are confirmed to live in the Kibale forest. You can spot baboons, monkeys, African Mangabey, and bushbabies during night nature walks.
Kibale is a habitat to about 70 mammal species, including; African buffaloes, forest elephants, giant forest hogs, warthogs, sitatungas and many more. The park also harbours predators, including the leopard, African golden cats, serval cats, and others.
The forest is also a habitat to about 400 bird species, popular with birdwatchers during guided walks along the boardwalk trail and viewing platforms. These could include the Superb Sunbird, Great Blue Turaco, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Bocage’s Bush-shrike, Black Bishop, White-breasted Negrofinch, Black-crowned Waxbill, White-spotted Flufftail, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Hairy-breasted Barbet, Yellow-billed Barbet, Western Nicator, Grey-winged Robin-chat, White-tailed Ant-thrush, Brown-backed Scrub-robin, Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher and Brown-throated Wattle-eye and many more species of butterflies.
Kibale Forest has 3 main sectors for tourism, including Kanyanchu visitors’ centre, where chimpanzee tracking and habituation activities start, Kanyantale, and Sebitoli, where most fascinating nature walks and birding trips occur.
Adventure Activities in Kibale Forest National Park
Chimpanzee Tracking and Habituations Experience
Chimpanzee tracking and Chimpanzee habituation are the most popular adventure activities in Kibale National Park. The two activities allow visitors to walk and spend time with habituated chimpanzee groups in their natural settings.
Chimpanzee tracking occurs in two shifts; the first one starts at 8:00 AM, and the last one at 2:00 PM. Tracking chimps can last for 3-4 hours, allowing a limited number of 8 people per habituated chimp group to spend at least an hour with the chimps when they locate them. Limiting the number of visitors helps control the vegetation’s adverse effects and manage the primate’s expectation of human presence.
The Chimpanzee habituation experience allows visitors to spend almost the whole day with a research team following a group of semi-habituated chimps on their daily foraging and social excursions.
The experience sets out into the jungle ad down to catch the chimpanzees leaving their overnight nests at around 6:00 – 6:30 am. They follow the chimps wherever they go feeding, copulating, hunting, breastfeeding, resting, patrolling and displaying their social parities until it’s time to create new nests in the evening around 6:00 – 7:00 pm. The process is intended to study the characteristics of the primates in a natural setting.
Chimpanzee tracking fees (2021 – 2022 tariff)
The rates include guide fees and park entrance fees for 4 hours.
Birding in Kibale National Park
Kibale National Park has over 375 bird species, which birders can spot during guided nature walks along the boardwalk trail and viewing platforms.
The Kibale birding list includes the Superb Sunbird, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Bocage’s Bush-shrike, Black Bishop, White-breasted Negrofinch, Black-crowned Waxbill, White-spotted Flufftail, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Hairy-breasted Barbet, Yellow-billed Barbet, Western Nicator, Grey-winged Robin-chat, White-tailed Ant-thrush, Brown-backed Scrub-robin, Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher and Brown-throated Wattle-eye and among others.
The birdwatching tours typically start at Kanyanchu and Sebitoli. The Bigodi wetland sanctuary, located just outside the park, harbours over 138 bird species, some of which are mentioned above. Bigodi Swamp is a community project, and birding in this swamp contributes to the communities, hence supporting responsible and sustainable tourism.
Nature walks in Kibale.
Kibale National Park offers day nature walks and guided night nature walks to spot nocturnal animals. During the night walks, powerful torches are worn to seek nocturnal creatures like the potto, bush baby, nightjar, cricket and tree hyrax, with its chilling shriek, as well as the occasional civet or serval cat. Guided night walks can last for about one and a half and two hours, starting from 7:30 pm.
Kibale National Park is surrounded by mainly the Batooro and Bakiga communities with impressive traditional and cultural practices that offer excellent cultural encounters on your safari to the Kibale conservation area.
When To Visit
The park is accessible throughout the year, the climate around Kibale is usually pleasant, with an average temperature range of 14- 27oC. The Northern part of the park is the wettest, receiving mean annual rainfall up to 1700mm, mostly during March-May and September- November. The rain is lower with higher temperatures on the Southern side of the park.
The dry season is June to September, and January to February is the hottest dry period. It is the time of the year when the park receives low rains and temperatures average 25°C (80°F). During this time, most animals remain near water areas, making it easier to spot them. However, be prepared for afternoon thunderstorms at any time during the dry season, as this is a tropical rain forest.
Rainy Season; it rains anytime from October to December and March to May. During this period, many roads become challenging to use. A 4×4 vehicle is essential during the rainy season. The wet months are characterised by low visitor numbers hence referred to as the low season. This is the perfect time for travellers who do not like visiting congested destinations. Therefore the park is open to visits all year round.
How To Get There
Kibale National Park is located in western Uganda, 22 km Southeast of Fort Portal town. You can access Kibale either by using the Kampala – Mubende – Fort portal route, which is the northern route and is considered the shortest route or the southern route through Mbarara – Ibanda – Kamwenge route. Kibale is strategically located En-route in proximity to other parks, including Mt. Rwenzori national park, Semuliki national park, Queen Elizabeth national park and Lake Mburo National park.
By Air, board a flight from Entebbe International Airport to Kasese, the nearest airstrip and transfer to Kibale by road. Aerolink Uganda has a daily scheduled flight between Entebbe and Kasese 3 times, departing at 07:00 am. 10:15 am and at midday. Various flights connect Kasese to other national parks, which will quicken your connectivity to different parks, especially in the country’s Northern section.
Where to stay in Kibale Forest National Park
- Primate Lodge, it’s an eco-friendly luxury lodge within the boundaries of Kibale park near the Kanyanch tourism centre. The lodge is managed by Uganda Lodges and fashioned with nine spacious en–suite luxury cottages, 7 mid-level forest cottages, one double-storied banda and a campsite
- Crater Safari Lodge is a luxury lodge located at the park boundary near Nyinabulitwa Crater Lake, and Crystal Lodges Uganda manages crater Safari Lodge. The lodge offers 10 cabanas facing the pool with two levels on the ground and upper floor and 11 standalone chalets, some facing the gardens. In contrast, others face the crater, which includes 2 family chalets and a honeymoon suite.
- Kyaninga Lodge is a 4-star lodge located near lake Kyaninga. It offers 9 cottages on raised platforms with a double and twin beds, en-suite washrooms, a private deck overlooking the lake and mountain Rwenzori. The lodge is ideally located in the crater lakes region with amazing views of the surroundings, including the mountains of the moon. It is with no doubt where you would like to start your exploration of the region’s hidden gems.
- Ndali Lodge, with 10 cottages facing a forested land, is a luxurious lodge with a long history as far as 1992. The lodge is ideally located in the crater lake region and is about only 5 minutes drive to Kibale forest.
- Papaya Lake Lodge is a luxurious lodge located on an extinct volcano crater’s slope overlooking the Rwenzoris and Lake Lyantonde. The Lodge offers 9 rooms, one of which is a family suite. All the rooms are uniquely designed and furnished with a blend of African heritage art.
- Turaco Treetops is a Semi Lux lodge in Kibale forest National park, located next to Bigodi swamp. With 16 rooms, including 8 Luxury cottages and 8 standard rooms in the forest, Turaco Treetops is the place to go for friends and families who love to enjoy nature.
- Kibale Guest Cottages is uniquely set close to the Kanyanchu visitor centre in Kibale. The lodge has 10 cottages en-suite fully furnished for the comfort you deserve. The cottages can be occupied as singles, double or twin and families will always be catered for in the family cottages.
- Chimpanzee Forest Guest House is a mid-range accommodation facility along Kamwenge road. This Lodge was a residence of the British District Commissioner during the colonial period in the 1950s. It features 4 self-contained cottages overlooking the park and mountain Rwenzori and the rooms in the main house and the camp.
- Kibale Forest Camp is a mid-range accommodation facility positioned south of the park bordering Magombe swamp outside Kibale park. Kibale Forest Camp offers 12 African style safari tents and 9 non-self-contained tents. All the tents are comfortably furnished with twin and double beds and every unit with a veranda, while the interior is en-suite with flush toilets, shower and hot water.
- Isunga Lode is a budget and clean value for many facilities located near Isunga park headhunters. Isunga lodge is set up in a unique location overlooking the forest, crater lakes region and the Rwenzori mountains. With only 8 private cottages, the owner manages the lodge, a hands-on service that you will never regret.
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