Kibale National Park which covers an area of 795 square km holds one of Uganda’s most beautiful yet greatly varied tropical forests. This park is also habitat to several different wildlife species among which are thirteen primate species include the much loved chimpanzees.
Kibale Forest dominates the central and northern sections of this park and lies on the elevated Fort Portal plateau. The highest point of the park also lies in the north at an altitude of 1590m above sea level.
The weather of Kibale National Park
Generally, this park experiences a pleasant climate with temperature ranging between 14°C and 27°C. The area receives two wet season from March to May and then from September to November every year. The average rainfall the park receives in a year is 700mm.
The southern part of the park which lies at a lower altitude and whose terrain is generally dropping to the rift valley floor experiences the highest temperatures and receives less rainfall. The woodland merges into short open grasslands.
The southern part of Kibale National Park joins Queen Elizabeth National Park and these two wildlife areas form a wildlife migration corridor that stretches over an area of 180km from the remote Ishasha area found in the southern part of Queen Elizabeth National Park to Sebitoli forest in Kibale National Park.
Plants and Animals in Kibale National Park
The altitude difference within Kibale National Park supports a number of wildlife habitats, including the evergreen moist tropical forest, the deciduous forest, and then the rift valley floor has savanna and some woodland.
Kibale National Park has a list of 351 different tree species recorded there. The central part of the park not far from Kanyanchu has a towering forest consisting of a variety of trees. The trees may grow to a height of 55meters and exhibit a tree-canopy that is almost semi-closed. The undergrowth of this forest is generally comprised of ferns, shrubs, herbs and forest grasses with broad leaves.
Primates in Kibale National Park
Kibale National Park has the highest variety and number of primates on the African continent. 13 different primate species have been listed within this park however the most sought after are chimpanzees who are man’s closest living relative. There are 1450 chimpanzees in this park and this is the largest poulation in the whole of Uganda. In addition it has the highest population of the endangered L’Hoest and red colobus monkeys in the whole of East Africa. This is the best place to Trek Chimpanzees in Uganda. Other primates here include the grey-cheeked mangabey, black & white colobus, potto, red-tailed & blue monkeys, olive baboon and bush baby.
There are more than 70 different mammal species within the park which include elephants, buffaloes, warthogs, duikers, leopards golden cats and bush pigs; however it’s a bit challenging to see them because of the thick forest. Also there are over 200 butterfly species in the park.
Birds in Kibale National Park
There are more than 370 bird species ling in this park and some of the commonly seen include: the Black-eared Ground Thrush, African Pitta, Abyssinian Ground-thrush, Green-breasted Pitta, Little Green Bul, Afep Pigeon, Yellow Spotted Nicator, White-naped Pigeon, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Scaly-breasted Illadopsis Brown Illadopsis, Crowned Eagle, Purple-breasted Sunbird, Red-chested Owlet, Black Bee-eater, Dusky Crimsonwing, Western Nicator, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Collared Apalis, Little Greenbul, Blue-headed Sunbird, Brown-chested Alethe, Black-capped Apalis, Blue-breasted Kingfisher and the African Grey Parrot.
How to get to Kibale National Park
the park is located in the western part of Uganda, about 26 km from Fort Portal town. Kanyanchu River Camp – which is the main start off point for tourist activities in the park can be reached from the capital by road through driving along the kampala-Mubende road to Fort portal; this route is shorter with 300km of tarmac to Fort portal and then the remaining 36km to Kanyanchu on murram.
Sebitoli Forest Camp- which is the other tourism centre may be reach by road along the Kampala–Fort highway. Fortunately, there is Public transport serving between Kampala and Fort Portal via Sebitoli or through Fort Portal to Kamwenge (via Kanyanchu).
Accommodation in Kibale National Park
There are a number of accommodation facilities in and around the park ranging from luxury, mid-range to the basic facilities. These include: Luxury Kabale Primate Lodge, Sebitoli basic cottages, luxury Ndali Lodge and Chimpanzee Guesthouse. you may actually opt to spend your nights in the town of FortPortal where you will also find a number of facilities.
The People and communities around Kibale
The area around Kibale National Park is inhabited by the Batoro together with the Bakiga. The real natives of this area are the Batoro however the Bakiga migrated to this place from southwestern Uganda which is heavily populated. The Batoro belong to the Toro Kingdom which is among the ancient African kingdoms within the Great-Lakes region. These people are led by a king referred to as the Omukama. The Bakiga on the other hand maintain their cultural practices and norms as exhibited in their language, and traditions.
The local people here actually survive on the forest for water, food as well as medicinal herbs.
Kanyanchu River Camp – Tourist Center
The Kanyanchu center is where most of the tourist activities in the park begin, and chimpanzee tracking is the main activity here. There are a number of habituated chimpanzees living here which are open to be visited by tourist. Worth noting is that chimpanzees share more than 90% of their DNA with humans, and since 1991 they have been tracked by tourists.
Chimpanzee Habituation Experience
Chimpanzee Habituation is the process during which the park’s researchers plus habituators following the chimpanzees from the time they leave the nests, all throughout the day as they go about their day to day activities (feed, play, look after each other) and then until they finally make their night’s nests as they make them familiar to human presence.
So during the Chimpanzee Habituation Experience you will get an opportunity to join the team as they follow them from 5:30 am- 6:30am when they de-nesting through the day to the time when they form new nests at around 7:00am.
This activity is conducted in March, April, May as well as November when it is the low tourist season.
Chimpanzee tracking in Kibale
Normally, Chimpanzee tracking Safaris in Kibale forest begins at Kanyanchu Visitor Centre at 08.00am and in the afternoon at 15.00pm and this activity takes 2 to 3 hours. Chimpanzees are among the most sought after primates by tourists who travel on Safari in Uganda; however, you may see some other primates including the red tailed colobus monkeys, the black & white colobus, as well as the grey cheeked mangabey. As you walk through the forest looking for the chimps your guide will show you some of the various birds in this park as well as the different trees and medicinal use of the herbs within the forest.
Chimpanzee tracking is conducted in groups of 6 people; this therefore means that chimpanzee trekking permits are limited so this requires that you book your safari in advance.
Forest Hike in Kibale National Park
There is a 12 kilometer seasonal hike that is restricted only to the dry months which is from mid-November to February as well as from June to September. This hike will take you through the different habitats in the park like the tropical rainforest, the riverine forest, the grasslands as well as swamps. During the hike you will get an opportunity to see various birds, primates, bush bucks and duiker. The walk starts at Kanyanchu Visitor Centre at 8.00am at around 2:00pm at the elephant wallow around 14.00. Remember to carry some snacks and plenty of drinking water.
Children’s Activities in Kibale National Park
Children who are less than 13 years of age are not permitted to track chimps or even do the forest hike; however they may participate in the 1 to 2 hours exciting educational forest walks plus a number of other creative activities. So as the parents engage in the other Uganda safari activities, the children will be kept busy occupied in a sensible activity in the company of trained ranger-guides. Children visit the forest and learn about the ecosystem and its inhabitants through short interesting walks, games and creative activities include pond dipping, cyanotype, photography and batik making.
Sebitoli is situated 12km from the town of Fort portal along the Kampala-Fort-Portal road. This section of this damp evergreen forest offers amazing opportunities to see primates and birds
Cultural Heritage and Nature Trail
Adventurous tourists may choose to go on this 2 to 6 days trail in the forest. The complete trail begins and ends at Sebitoli or Kanyanchu or Sebitoli. The route explores the forest during the day, emerging in the evening to sleep in community-run campsites near the villages of Kikoni, Nyaibanda and Nyakalongo. These provide the opportunity to meet the local people and gain insights into their Batoro and Bakiga cultures. Porters can be hired at the trailheads to carry equipment. Groups of up to 6 people can undertake the walk. However Pre-booking is essential for effective organization of the walk.
Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary
The Bigodi wetland sanctuary is found immediately after the boundary of the park within Magombe swamp. it is commonly visited place by several tourists because of the large number of wildlife living there which include: over 135 different types of birds, various primates including chimpanzees, black & white colobus monkey and the red colobus, plus several other animals like the mongoose, sitatunga, otter and bushbuck. The wetland can best be explored through the walking trails.
Being a community managed project, the sanctuary is aimed at protecting the rich biodiversity of the wetland.
There are very interesting Guided walks within Kihingani wetland located close to Sebitoli close to the park’s borders.