Kibale Forest National Park – Uganda

Kibale National Park contains one of the loveliest and most varied tracts of tropical forest in Uganda. Forest cover, interspersed with patches of grassland and swamp, dominates the northern and central parts of the park on an elevated plateau.

Kibale National Park is home to a total of 70 mammal species, most famously 13 species of primate including the chimpanzee. It also contains over 375 species of birds.

Kibale Forest park adjoins Queen Elizabeth National Park to the south to create a 180km-long corridor for wildlife between Ishasha, the remote southern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park, and Sebitoli in the north of Kibale National Park.

The Kibale-Fort Portal area is one of Uganda’s most rewarding destinations to explore while on your Holiday to Uganda. The park lies close to the tranquil Ndali-Kasenda crater area and within half a day’s drive of Queen Elizabeth, the Rwenzori Mountains, and Semuliki National Parks, as well as the Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve.

chimpanzee in Kibale

Things to do in Kibale NP

1. Chimpanzee Tracking & Habituation

Kibale’s most popular activity is the Kanyanchu Primate Walk. Thirteen species can be sought, and a good variety of diurnal monkeys invariably encountered, but the stars of this trail are the chimpanzees.

Kanyanchu’s chimps have been tracked since 1993 and the chances of locating them are excellent. Guided walks start at 8 am and 2 pm and last an average of three hours, depending on various factors.

The full-day Chimpanzee Habituation Experience (CHEX) works with a chimp community that is undergoing habituation.

Early morning visitors can watch chimps leaving their overnight nests between 6:00 – 6:30 am before feeding, copulating, hunting, breastfeeding, resting, patrolling, and displaying until it is time to build new nests around 7 pm.

2. Birding

Bird-watching tours start at 7 am at Kanyanchu; you are advised to book in advance. Rare species include the Papyrus Gonolek, White-winged Warbler, White-collared Olive back, and Papyrus Canary.

Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, located just outside the park, is home to 138 bird species which may be seen during guided walks along the boardwalk trail and viewing platforms.

These include some of the following birds and many more.

 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  Brown-throated Wattle-eye  Superb Sunbird  Brown-crowned Tchagra
 Bocage’s Bush-shrike  Black Bishop  White-breasted Negrofinch  Black-crowned Waxbill

3. Cultural Encounters

Kibale Association for Rural Environment Development (KAFRED).

Join a local guide on a walk through the Magombe swamp wetlands to enjoy the local wildlife, birds, and vegetation. The daily life of the Batooro can be discovered during village walks, including stops at the village’s primary school, church, and traditional healer.

KAFRED is a community-based organization that promotes local livelihoods and biodiversity conservation through ecotourism.

During the nature walk, a local guide will take you along the boardwalk through the Magombe swamp wetlands. You are likely to see wildlife at close hand, including several of the 200 species of birds, eight varieties of primates, and numerous butterflies, along with unusual swamp vegetation.

The daily life of the Batooro can be discovered during the village walks. The tour stops by the village’s primary school, church, and traditional healer.

You will learn about the role of women in the village and traditional ceremonies, and the history of Bigodi is told through the story of the “Village of Two Tribes”, describing when the indigenous Batooro were joined by migrating Bakiga from southwestern Uganda in the 1950s.

Income from this activity is invested in education, health, sanitation, and improving the livelihood of local residents.

It is also used to help raise awareness of the value of biodiversity through music, dance, and drama performances at local schools. In 2010, KAFRED won the prestigious UNDP’s Equator Initiative Award.

4. Hiking/Nature Walks

When chimpanzees and other forest residents rest up at dusk, a nighttime shift of rarely-seen creatures becomes active.

Night walks through the darkened forest use powerful torches to seek nocturnal creatures such as the potto, bushbaby, nightjar, cricket, and tree hyrax, with its chilling shriek as the occasional civet or serval cat.

Night walks leave the camp at 7.30 pm and last between one and a half and two hours.

Areas of Interest in Kibale NP

1. Kanyanchu River Camp

Kanyanchu, in the central part of Kibale forest, is the main trailhead for the park’s famous forest walks, the most popular of which is the daily Primate Walk.

There are 13 species of primate to search for, including habituated chimpanzees. Bird watching, nature walks for kids and adults and guided night treks are also available here.

2. Sebitoli Forest Camp

Kibale’s secondary tourism center in the north of the forest offers guided forest walks and a chance to encounter primates such as red colobus, black-and-white colobus, blue monkeys, and vervet monkeys.

Visitors may also spot a variety of aquatic, forest, and savannah birds and enjoy views of the Mpanga River.

3. Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary

Rich in biodiversity and beautiful scenery, the wetland is a birder’s paradise with about 138 species. Located outside the park in Magombe Swamp it also hosts eight species of primates including the black-and-white colobus, grey-cheeked mangabey, red-tailed, l’Hoest’s, blue monkeys, and olive baboons. Bushbucks and mongooses can also be found here.

The Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary was set up to preserve the exclusive environmental features along with the wetland and is managed by the local community.

4. Kihingami Wetland

Located near Sebitoli in northern Kibale, this community-run project offers excellent bird watching and visits to the local tea estates and factories. Nature walks will bring you up close to primates such as the black-and-white colobus, red colobus, and red-tailed monkeys.

Other animals like otters, mongooses, and bushbucks can be seen in the wetlands.

Accommodation in Kibale NP

Kibale National Park is very popular for chimpanzee tracking tours and experiences which attract many visitors. This has led to the development of good accommodation infrastructure in and around the park. The accommodation can cater to all needs and budgets.