Kabaffulo Safaris

Kibale Forest National park

Kibale Forest National Park is one of the most popular National Parks in Uganda, known for sheltering the country’s highest-ever-recorded species of primates. For most travelers who hope to meet face-to-face with the chimpanzees in their natural habitat, this Park is usually the first destination of choice. Kibale Forest National Park is situated in the western part of Uganda, protecting one of the largest tracts of Tropical rainforest between altitudes of 1100 and 1600 meters above sea level. The verdant Protected Area is just a stone’s throw from the beautiful Ndali-Kasenda Crater Area and only a 2-4 hours’ drive to Queen Elizabeth (depending on the route used) or about 3-4 hours from the Rwenzori Mountains and Semliki National Parks, and the extraordinary Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve.

Size and vegetation
Kibale Forest National Park encompasses an area of about 79500 hectares, making it one of the largest Tropical rainforests in the country. It mainly protects the moist evergreen rainforest (which makes up 75% of the vegetation). The Grassland savannah only shows up on tops and ridges, and it will surprise you to know that this Park is one of the last remaining areas protecting both lowland and montane rainforests in the East African region.
Kibale Forest National Park makes a continuous forest with the popular Queen Elizabeth National Park, creating a 180-kilometer wildlife corridor.

Kibale was first gazetted into a Forest Reserve in 1932, then gained its “National Park” status in 1993. The main aim of gazetting the area was to protect a vast area of forest that was initially managed as a logged Forest Reserve, and also to offer refuge to its incredibly rich biodiversity of montane and lowland forests.
Attractions of Kibale Forest National Park

Kibale Forest National Park is one of the rawest and most diverse ecology settings within the African Continent, and the richness of its diversity is one of the reasons why thousands of travelers choose to visit it each year.
It is here that the country’s highest diversity and concentration of primate species are found and it is for this reason that it was christened the “Primate Capital of the World”. Interestingly, at least half of this Park’s 13 different primate species can be spotted during a single trip. About 1500 of the country’s 5000 chimpanzees live in Kibale Forest National Park alone.
A number of chimpanzee communities in Kibale Forest National Park are well-studied and habituated for tourism hence making it the most preferred destination for chimpanzee trekking adventures.
Aside from Chimpanzees, Olive baboons, L’Hoests monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, vervet monkeys, the Ugandan red colobus monkeys (procolobus tephrosceles), the rare nocturnal Pottos, the rare Grey-cheeked mangabey, blue monkeys, and the nocturnal bush babies also call the Tropical rainforests of Kibale home.
Other wildlife species found in Kibale Forest National Park are the forest elephants, giant forest hogs, African golden cats, bush pigs, Forest buffaloes, bushbucks, serval cats, common warthogs, Otters, Mongoose, blue and red duikers, and Sitatunga among others.

Bird species
It can’t go without mention that Kibale Forest National Park is one of the 33 documented Important Bird Areas in Uganda, boasting over 375 species of birds of which 6 are endemic to the Albertine rift Valley, others to the Congo-Guinea Biome, while some are only found in this Park. While the Green-breasted Pitta is the most sought-after bird in Kibale Forest, other species to look-out for include African pitta, Abyssinian ground thrush, black-eared ground thrush, Brown-chested alethe, Black-capped Apalis, Black bee-eater, Blue-breasted kingfisher, black bee-eaters, blue-headed sunbird, crowned eagle, Dusky Crimsonwing, blue breasted kingfishers, Eastern Nicator, yellow spotted nicator, Olive long-tailed Cuckoo, western tinkerbird, little greenbuls, red-faced woodland warbler, Purple-breasted sunbird, Lowland-masked Apalis, Yellow-rumped tinkerbird, , yellow rumped tinker bird, to mention but a few.

Activities & Attractions

Chimpanzee trekking and Habituation Experience
Kibale Forest National Park is always travelers’ first choice for tracking and seeing mankind’s closest relatives of the animal Kingdom. Travelers go through 1-4 hours of searching for the chimps (on-foot tracking), before finally spending quality time with them.
Chimpanzee treks in Kibale Forest National Park are conducted in two sessions- morning and afternoon sessions, but each starts with registration and briefing at the Park Headquarters (Kanyanchu Reception Center). This is followed by allocation into any of the chimpanzee communities, then walking for several hours before finally seeing the Great Apes.
Participants have to be 12 years and physically fit for the long walks through the jungles. Chimpanzee permits cost only $200 and only 6 persons can trek each habituated chimpanzee community in Kibale Forest National Park. However, there is also an option of spending an entire day with chimpanzees as they undergo habituation through the famous “chimpanzee Habituation Experience”, but a permit costly slightly higher- $250 per person.

Cultural tours
The Batoro and Bakiga are the two major Tribes around Kibale Forest National Park and spending a few hours in their midst will introduce you to their exceptional ways of life, food, cultural dances, unique architectural designs, and others. Get the chance to learn about local medicines from the traditional healer, visit the nearby school, health centers, and other projects established from community tourism initiatives like in Bigodi.

Bird watching
Kibale Forest National Park is an Important Bird Area that shelters over 375 bird species. Birders are offered the chance to walk through any of the well-maintained forest birding trails or view from the raised platforms and boardwalk. Look out for the green-breasted pitta, Purple-breasted sunbird, white-bellied crested flycatcher, grey-throated flycatcher, red-winged francolin, African Pitta, black-capped Apalis, grey-winged robin, red-faced woodland warbler, woodland warbler, Black bee-eater, Abyssinian ground thrush, to mention but a few. Birding is done all year round, but the wet months offer better sighting, as flowers blossom and it’s the breeding season.

Guided forest walks
Undertaking guided forest walks is a wonderful way to see other primates, butterflies, Amphibians, unique tree and plant species, and reptiles that call Kibale Forest National Park home. Travelers have recorded success in encountering forest elephants, bushbucks, Sitatunga, duikers, and sometimes snake species during the daily guided walks. Night guided walks increase chances of sighting leopards, bushbabies, Pottos, and tree hyraxes among others.

When to visit Kibale Forest National Park

Kibale Forest National Park can be visited all year but different seasons offer different challenges and opportunities. While this is majorly a Tropical rainforest, the Northern part is considerably wetter and receives an average rainfall of 1700 millimeters per year. However, the overall wet months are March, April, May, September, and November, and these make trails wetter and muddy hence avoided by travelers. Surprisingly, chimpanzees have more food during the wet months and thus are easier to sight. The peak for most activities is the dry season months of January, February, June, July, August, and December when the average temperature is 25˚C. During these months, trails are drier due to reduced rainfall.

Where to stay

A number of accommodation facilities have been set up around Kibale Forest National Park, to make it easier and effortless for travelers to explore this stunning Protected Area. Some are just a stone’s throw from the Park, others around Fort Portal, and some in the Bigodi Area. These are Primate Lodge, Crater Safari Lodge, Kibale Forest Camp, Kibale Forest Lodge, Ndali Lodge, Kyaninga Safari Lodge, Papaya Lake Lodge, Mountains of the Moon Hotel, Nyinabulitwa Resort, and Safari Camp, Chimps’ Nest, Aramaga Rift Valley Lodge, Kanyanchu River Camp, Sebitoli Campsite, Lake Nkuruba Nature Reserve, to mention but a few.

Getting to Kibale Forest National Park

Kibale National Park is found in the western part of Uganda and the southeast of Fort Portal. This Park is accessed by air and road. For the latter, you can use two routes from Kampala. The first is Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara- Fort Portal then to the Park, taking 6-7 hours. The most popular is Kampala-Mityana-Mubende-Fort Portal to its Northern side, taking 5-6 hours. For air, travelers fly from Entebbe International Airport/Kajjansi Airstrip to Kasese Airstrip, then continue (2 hours) to Kibale Forest by road.

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