Kibale Forest National Park is one of the most visited ten national parks in Uganda under the under the management of Uganda Wildlife Authority.
The park was gazetted in 1932 and formally established in 1993 to protect a large area of forest previously managed as a logged forest reserve.
Kibale National Park commonly known as “The home of chimps and primate capital of the world” and the park headquarter lies in Western Uganda, Kabarole, Kamwenge, Kyenjojo and Kasese districts 26km Southeast of Fort Portal Town, among gently undulating lush green hills of cultivation.
To the west the legendary Mountains of the moon erupt in snow-capped splendor, whilst the grasslands and the lakes of Queen Elizabeth National Park stretch to the south.
This adjoining of the parks creates 180 kilometres (110 mi) wildlife corridor. It is an important eco – tourism and safari destination, popular for its population of habituated chimpanzees and twelve other species of primates. It is also the location of the Makerere University Biological Field Station.
The park covers 795km2, forms a contiguous block with Queen Elizabeth National Park, on an altitude of 1.100-1.590m above sea level. The vegetation is dominated by the tropical rain forest.
Northern Kibale is also the wettest area, receiving a mean annual rainfall of up to 1700mm, mostly during March-May and September-November.
The climate is generally pleasant with a mean annual temperature range of 14-27oC. Temperatures are highest (and rainfall lower) in the south where the terrain drops down onto the hot rift valley floor and forest gives way to open grassland.
Kibale National Park harbours over 350 plant species, 71 mammal species, 13 primates and 372 bird species of the 1042 total birds in Uganda. Kibale National Forest has one of the highest diversities and concentration of primates in Africa.
It is home to a large number of endangered chimpanzees, as well as the red colobus monkey (status: Endangered) and the rare L’Hoest’s monkey (Vulnerable).
Forest cover predominates in the northern and central parts of the park on the elevated Fort Portal plateau. Kibale is one of the last remaining expanses to contain both lowland and montane forests. In eastern Africa, it sustains the last significant expanse of pre – montane forest.
Kibale is highest at the park’s northern tip which stands 1590m above sea level. The park is a rich tapestry: mature forest towering with giant trees; younger forest exploding in a profusion of new growth; and grasslands affording bird’s eye views over the forest and Rift Valley.
Graceful palms sway along meandering streams to swamps which invite wallowing by the elephants who silently weave their way between giant strangler figs and broad buttresses.
In the deep darkness of the forest floor, beetles roll their balls of dung and golden mushrooms push their way through the carpet of soft decay.
High in the forest canopy, chattering monkeys spring from branch to branch in search of insects and far above a crowned eagle circles his territory of forest, grassland and lake, waiting for a meal.
Wherever you look, a rich diversity of plant and animals are busy playing their role in maintaining the delicate balance of this tropical park.
Attractions in Kibale Forest National Park
The chimpanzee is tailless; its coat is dark; its face, fingers, palms of the hands, and soles of the feet are hairless. The exposed skin of the face, hands, and feet varies from pink to very dark in both species, but is generally lighter in younger individuals and darkens with maturity.
The female chimpanzee bears single young at any time of year after a gestation period of about eight months. The new-born weighs about 1.8 kg, is almost helpless, and clings to the fur of the mother’s belly as she moves.
From about 6 months to 2 years, the youngster rides on the mother’s back. Weaning takes place at about 5 years. Males are considered adults at 16 years of age, and females usually begin to reproduce at about 13 years, but often only two offspring survive during her lifetime
A chimpanzee’s life expectancy is at 50 years whereas that for those living in captivity can extend up to 60 years. This is due to the good care, clean environment and medical attention given to the chimps while in the captivity which is the not the case while in the wilderness.
Black and White Colobus Monkey
They are known to be colobus monkeys due to the fact that they do miss the thumb finger. However, your visit to Kibale will give you a chance to have a look at black and white colobus monkeys as they can be sited near the briefing area feeding on leaves, flowers, and twig as their major source of food.
Colobus live in territorial groups of about nine individuals, based upon a single male with a number of females and their offspring. New-born colobus are completely white.
Red Tailed Monkey
The red-tailed monkey, also known as the black-cheeked white-nosed monkey, red-tailed guenon, red tail monkey, or Schmidt’s guenon is one of the primate species that you may come into contact with as you head for you nature walk. Red-tailed monkeys are social primates that form groups that can range in size from 7 to 30 individuals.
They normally feed on small insects, fruits, leaves and twig as their major source of food. They are very shy but friendly monkeys and can be sited near the Kanyanchu Tourist center as their common feeding area and mostly they are active during morning hours. The red-tailed monkey is usually black, red, or orange.
Red-tailed monkeys are within the Parvorder Catarrhini and have nostrils that point downward which differs from the Platyrrhini which have nostrils that point to the sides.
There are other features characteristic to this mammal as well such as the white nose and cheeks in the midst of black or dark grey body fur.
Red-tailed monkeys also have very large, elastic cheeks which are used in gathering food and storing it in their mouths for safety.
Grey Checked Mangabey
The grey-cheeked mangabey, also known as the white-cheeked mangabey, is one of the 13 primates that you may not miss to site at Kibale. The grey-cheeked mangabey is a dark monkey, looking in shape overall like a small, hairy baboon.
Its thick brown fur is almost black in its forest home, with a slightly rufus/golden mane around the neck. The sexes are similar, with the males slightly larger than the females and always in group of 5-30 individuals. It feeds primarily on fruit, particularly figs, taking other fruits seasonally, as well as shoots, flowers and insects.
Red Colobus Monkey.
The red colobus monkey are one of the colobus monkeys that you can see will in Kibale or Bigodi swamp. They are very social monkeys and can leave in a large group up to 80 individuals but average always ranging as 20 to 40 members and the groups often establish a dominance hierarchy determined by aggressive behavior normally feeding on leaves, flowers and unripe fruits.
Red colobus monkeys have overlapping ranges with other troops. Interactions between troops can be either tense, though passive, or violent, with one troop trying to supplant the other.
The L’Hoest’s monkey (Cercopithecus lhoesti), or mountain monkey, is a guenon always sited playing around the Kanyanchu visitor’s center and are forest species.
They have a dark coat and can be distinguished by a characteristic white beard, short, dark brown coat, with a chestnut colour across the back and a dark belly. Its tail is long and hook-shaped at the end and they are born fully coated and with their eyes open.
Commonly known as bush baby is one of the common nocturnal seen in Kibale during night walk. They feed of fresh shoots, fruits, insects and small birds.
Bush babies have longer hinge legs than the front legs which helps them to jump and land to another tree branch with wide open oval eyes that give them sense of vision during night, with ears like for a cat facing front wise.
They are gray, brown, or reddish to yellowish brown, with large eyes and ears, long hind legs, soft, woolly fur, and long tails.
Bush babies are also characterized by the long upper portion of the feet (tarsus) and by the ability to fold their ears. This they extract by gouging holes in trees and scraping the bark, using their tooth combs where they do hide during day time.
Just like bush babies, Potto are also nocturnal animals always sited at night during night forest walk at Kibale. The close, woolly fur is grey-brown. The index finger is vestigial, although it has opposable thumbs with which it grasps branches firmly.
Like other strepsirrhines the potto has a moist nose, tooth comb, and a toilet claw on the second toe of the hind legs. In the hands and feet, fingers three and four are connected to each other by a slight skin fold, while toes three through five are joined at their bases by a skin web that extends to near the proximal third of the toes. The potto moves slowly and carefully, always gripping a branch with at least two limbs, to avoid pretenders.
Baboons are one off the starbon primates that can be sited either at Kanyanchu or along the road while driving through Kibale National Park. They are very social and can leave up to a troop of 150 individuals. Baboons are omnivorous and are always sited near trading centres and home looking for left overs to feast on. However, baboons can snatch away your food in case you keep an eye away from them. Young ones are always in groups and playing together. However, the newly born babies who are always black in look with pink face, are always around the back of their mothers. Baboons live in hierarchy; a dominant male always lead the group.
African Civet cat
African civet is one of the nocturnal cats that can be sited within the forest of Kibale during a night nature walk. They are normal detected by their black and white coat and their grey face, which along with the black band around their eyes, gives these animals a Raccoon-like appearance.
The similarity is only heightened by the fact that the African Civet’s hind legs are quite a bit longer than the front legs, making its stance very different to that of a Mongoose. The African Civet is a solitary animal that only comes out under the cover of night to hunt and catch food. African Civets tend to be most active just after sunset but tends to hunt in areas that still provide plenty of cover.
Two types of African elephant do exist. The savannah elephants and forest elephants. Kibale do boost of having forest elephants since it is a forest park. It is the smallest of the three extant species of elephant, but still one of the largest living terrestrial animals. Like other elephants, they do carry tusk and the female takes 22 month gestation period. During chimpanzee, elephants are always seen within the swampy areas. Generally, these forest-dwelling elephants are smaller and darker than their savannah relatives, the bush elephants with much longer tusk and with trunk top lip and nose are elongated into a trunk that is distinctly more hairy than savannah elephants
Forest Cape Buffaloes
Seen several times during chimpanzee tracking in the forest and is the smallest subspecies of the African buffalo. Cape buffalo weigh anywhere from 400 to 800 kg whereas African forest buffalo are much lighter, weighing in at 250 to 320 kg with reddish brown hide that is darker in the facial area, have much smaller horns than their savannah counterparts, the Cape buffalo, with horns rarely fusing together.
Activities in Kibale Forest National Park
Kanyanchu tourist center
Kibale forest National Park contains one of the loveliest and most varied tracts of tropical forest in Uganda. This is home to a host of forest wildlife, most famously 13 species of primate including chimpanzee. Forest cover predominates in the northern and central parts of the park on the elevated Fort Portal plateau. Kibale is highest at the park’s northern tip which stands 1590m above sea level.
Kanyanchu tourist center is located within the park and is 10km away from the park headquarter (Isunga) and it is the main center for tourist activities. Chimpanzee, Black and White Colobus, Red Colobus, Grey Cheeked Mangabeys, Red Tailed Monkeys, L’hoest’s monkey and Baboons are all often spotted in the surrounding forest. A variety of birds can be seen on the trails, calling on the guide expertise to spot them in the dense forest canopy. Guided walks are available; morning walks are the most fruitful, also afternoon walks are also popular and night walks offer sightings of nocturnal primates. Whole or half hikes may be arranged, with long distance trekking plans for future.
Chimpanzee Habituation Experience
The Chimpanzee Habituation Experience (CHEX) allows you to accompany the Kibale’s researchers and habituate’s as they follow chimpanzee during their daily activities, thereby getting them used to human presence without altering their natural behaviours. This is an all day and early visitors may be able to see the spectacular scene of chimps de-nesting, feeding, copulating, hunting, breast feeding, resting, patrolling and displaying until they build new nests and retire for the night around 7.00pm.
The community undergoing habituation has more than 350 individuals and has been habituated for over past five years and is still undergoing the process. Your driver guide will drive you to the park by 6am for a briefing before heading to the park, and you there after head to the forest to meet these giants while they are still in their nest so as to observe them de- nesting.
A packed lunch and enough water will be arranged with your hotel that you may have booked with as you will need to take along. You will then observe the entire social life of the chimps as you will keep following them along the trails or even some times move along the thickets so as to keep them on truck. Habituation is a full day activity with the chimps, but however you may decide to get a relief and return before the end of the day basing on the entire group decision and satisfaction.
You may also be able to see the chimps’ nest and some other group doing their day tracking may come along in case they land to the chimp group you are habituating. After chimps nesting for their late evening nap, there after you can say bye bye to the chimpanzee as you will be led by the guide out of the forest and later you head to your booked accommodation.
Primate Walk (chimpanzee tracking)
Also, you can experience and participating in the chimpanzee tracking walks which starts from the Kanyanchu Visitor Centre at 08:00 am and 02.00pm from Kanyanchu tourist centre and take about 2-3 hours. Park guides are readily available to take tourists through this ritual through a forest walk or a small drive to a turning point and there after you take a walk to the forest to search for the chimps.
Kibale Forest National Park well known as “home of chimps” has more than 1450 chimpanzees that live in 13 communities whereby only three communities are habituated out of the 13 communities and one community is used for tourism while the other two communities are commonly used for research purpose but more two communities are undergoing the habituation process and may be introduced to tourism in the nearby future.
The community being used for tourism has more than 120 individuals under the leadership of the alpha male known as Magezi which is a local language that means wisdom being followed by other individuals in the ranking hierarchy. This walk is for six persons per group and advance booking essential.
While on your chimpanzee tracking experience, you will be able to meet other primates other than the chimpanzees and some other mammals such as the forest elephants, duikers or buffaloes on your lucky day.
Chimpanzees can be spotted busy feeding on fig tree or you may also meet them on the ground. Chimp tracking gives you an opportunity to see the chimpanzees in their natural setting busy breast feeding, some even breeding, grooming each other, and you will be able to see their real life setting and also you will be able to hike and see some other tree species. Many butterfly species do exist within the park, you also be able to watch the butterflies.
Day Hikes/Nature Walks
This is an exploration of the park’s diverse habitats providing very close contact with nature. During nature walk the client is able to site some tree species, butterflies, monkeys, insects, birds and many other species of organisms within the park. The walks begin at 08:00 am, 10:00 am and 02:00 pm from Kanyanchu Tourist Centre and take about 2-3 hours. On your lucky day, you may also be able to encounter the chimpanzee during the nature walk. Different trails do exist within the park to which your guide will lead you through as you do your nature walk. Enjoy a cool forest breeze with a relaxed mind, lost in the forest as your minds are taken away with the beauty of the nature of Kibale tropical forest.
Kibale Forest National Park (KNP) boast of 372 bird species of which 60 percent are recorded Uganda’s Forest Birds. Bird watchers can spot various species of these birds as they enjoy the various activities in the park. In Kibale National Park the most bird of attraction is “The Rear Green Breasted Pitta” as it is only found in Kibale National Park. The park is also famous for sitting the great blue tulaco which is one of the most common rear birds within the park premises.
Four bird species have not been recorded in any other National park of Uganda: Cassin’s spinetail, blue-headed bee-eater, Nahan’s francolin and masked apalis. Other bird species that can be sited within the park includes: Yellow-spotted Nictor, Yellow- ramped Tinker bird, Speckled Tinker bird, Little Green bul, Superb Sunbird, the African Pitta, White – thighed horn bill, Grey-winged Robin, Blue shouldered Robin Chat, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Black-billed Turaco, White – naped Pigeon, Green-breasted Pitta, Purple-headed Starling, Red-chested Fluff tail, Joyful Green bul, Cabanis Green bul, Grey – throated Tit Flycatcher, Scarlet-tufted, Green – throated, Purple-Breasted sun birds, White-bellied Crested Flycatcher, Masked Apalis, Tiny Sunbird, White-collared Olive-back and the Black bee-eater any many others.
The best bird-watching spot is the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary – a community project where experienced guides take you on a four-hour trail. Migratory birds are present from November to April.
Best time for bird watching
The bird life in Kibale is good year-round, but at its best from March to May and from September to November. June to September is the main fruiting season, so food is abundant, and many birds are in breeding plumage. Migratory birds can be found here from November to April.
December to February and June to July have the least rain while March to May and September to November have the most rain. The rains might result in delays due to impassable roads and slippery hiking trails, limiting your bird-watching time.
Night Nature Walk
The night walk is mostly done to make the tourists be able to have a look at the four nocturnal that are only sighted during the night hours and mostly the walk stark at 7:30 pm and runs for 2 to 4 hours.
The night nature walks allows visitors to track the unique species of birds, animals and insects such as Bats, Owl, Potto, Bush babies, Civets, genet cats and Eastern needle nailed; that are most active at night hours. You driver guide will drive you to Kanyanchu Tourist center at around 7 pm to meet your park guide for a brief, and thereafter the guide will lead you through the forest for the walk with a lead of touch light. Remember to carry a touch light for yourself too.
Other reptiles such as snakes can be encountered on your nature walk. You are advised to wear closed boats as you head for the night walk.
Long distance walk
Those that need adventuring and maximally enjoy the Forest’s wildlife, a 63 km guide walk from either Sebitoli or Kanyanchu and end at either site as you walk for 2 – 6 days through various sanctuaries and community campsites at Nyakarongo, Nyaibanda and Kinoni where you will enjoy traditional dance and offered local food dishes is quite rewarding. You will be able to hike different hills, and see different flora and fauna along your walk. You will also be able to encounter the local Bakiga and Batoro as they are in the social life. Indeed, it is worth a walk.
Lodges in Kibale forest national park
Ataco Country Resort
Located in Fort Portal town 290 km away from Kampala, mostly know as a tourism hub in the western Uganda that can provide you with easy access to some of the tourist attraction such as Semuliki, Kibale and Queen Elizabeth National Park. Ataco Country Resort is known for its superb location around the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountain with excellent service and customer care. The lodge serves both business and tourists’ travellers who opt to visit the countryside for their pleasured vacation.
Chimp Nest Lodge
The lodge is built on the border of Kibale Forest, on a beautiful piece of land with a splendid view of Kibale Forest and the snow-capped peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains. As the name implies, Chimps’ Nest is often visited by monkeys, chimps, and forest elephants. The lodge is situated near Nyabubale, a small village between Nkingo and Bigodi which is a 6 km away from Kanyanchu tourist center. Chimp’s Nest is a true birder’s paradise, virtually all 350 bird species of Kibale Forest and the bordering Bigodi Swamps can be observed on the premises.
Chimpanzee Forest Guest House
Located at the edge Kibale National Park only 22 Km from Fort Portal on the Kamwenge Road. Simply follow the signposts! Chimpanzee Forest Guest House sits on well-manicured lawns, beautiful gardens, tea plantations, pasture and indigenous forest. Enjoy beautiful panoramic vistas of Kibale National Park, ancient crater lakes, and the Rwenzori Mountains. Owned and operated by a Ugandan family, Chimpanzee Forest Guest house was originally established in the 1950s, during Uganda’s colonial period, by the British District Commissioner and has been wonderfully cared for and maintained ever since.
Crater Safari Lodge
Crater safari lodge s an upscale eco – lodge located near the Kibale park headquarters facing the Nyinabulitwa Crater Lake with a beautiful view of the lake, just a few minutes away from the lush green tropical rain forest of Kibale Forest National Park, the lodge offers exceptional comfort and breath-taking scenery. The lodge is 26 km away from Fort Portal town, and it is 5 hours’ drive from Kampala. Blending perfectly with the surrounding landscape, the lodge has been described as one of the most environmentally sensitive lodges in Uganda.
Dutchess Hotel and Restaurant
Dutchess boutique Hotel & Restaurant located in Fort Portal which is 290 km away from Kampala, Uganda. The hotel provides the most delicious food, best restaurant in the countryside. The hotel has spacious rooms and beds for accommodation, for both business and tourist travelers. A tranquil and culinary oasis just outside the city centre. The hotel has variety of rooms ranging from luxury, semi- luxury, and single rooms.
Fort Motel offers boutique hotel accommodation in Fort Portal, Uganda’s gateway town to the Rwenzori Mountains as you reach Fort portal. This hotel is strategically positioned for your quick stop over not to hustle driving looking for a hotel for lunch, accommodation or refreshment. The hotel is a hub to access Semuliki National Park, Kibale National Park, Rwenzori Mountain National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Located near Kibale Forest Park head quarter at Isunga lies Isunga lodge. The lodge sits on an elevated position, with magnificent views of the rain forest, the majestic peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains and all the way to Queen Elizabeth and Lake George. Around 50 volcanic crater lakes can be also found in the surrounding area, making this the ideal base for sightseeing and activities such as chimpanzee and other primate watching, bird watching, hiking and mountain biking.
Kibale Forest Camp
Located adjacent to the park boundary and 2 km away from the park tourist center Kanyanchu is the Kibale forest camp. Kibale Forest Camp is located in a patch of evergreen forest, just outside the southern part of the National Park. It borders the Magombe swamp, known for the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary and is a mere 10 min drive to Kanyanchu Visitor Center, the place from where your chimp track will start.
Kibale Guest Cottages
Kibale Guest Cottages are secluded exclusive amenity cottages situated 36 km on Fort Portal – Kamwenge road neighbouring to Kibale National Park in western Uganda and offer an outstanding view of squat humid forest, a few hundred meters from the Park’s leading tourist center of Kanyanchu. The lodge is a mid- range accommodation and have very many cottages, which have volume of 10 rooms which can house an extreme of 20 guests per night, built on great standards with solar power-driven warm showers.
Kibale Safari Lodge
Kibale Safari lodge is located in Kanyanchu on the way to Bigondi Village, the site of the lodge was carefully chosen, it commands the view of Kibale National park forest and Rwenzori Mountains, the portal peaks, Kibale Safari Lodge: Wilderness Lodge “the comfort that Money can’t buy”. The Lodge blends into its natural surroundings to enable visitors feel part of the wildness.
Located 12 km from Fort portal in a perfect site, set against the stunning backdrop of Lake Kyaninga and the Rwenzori Mountains beyond, Kyaninga Lodge is the spectacular result of one man’s vision and six years of unwavering commitment to creating an experience of Africa’s beauty unlike anything else. Kibale Forest National Park is less than an hour’s drive away, where you’ll find large populations of chimpanzees and other primates…
Mountain of the Moon Hotel Fort Portal
Mountain of the moon hotel is located in Fort Portal town 290 km away from Kampala, a numerous visitor attraction site and hub of tourism in the Western region, sitting on 15 acres of landscaped gardens with wonderful views of the Rwenzori Mountains from where the hotel takes its name. The hotel is a unique blend of oriental and French chic styles where guests instantly feel at home. The hotel is an ideal base for tourists wishing for a relaxing Crater Lake holiday, Kibale Forest, Queen Elizabeth, chimp trekking, Semliki safari Game Reserve and other Safari tours around the Western region.
Ndali lodge is located just adjacent to the Kibale park headquarter in Ndali Kasende center, which is 26 Km from Fort Portal town. The lodge is 5 hours’ drive from Kampala via Fort Portal. From its exciting location to its magnificent views, surveying the ‘Mountains of the Moon’, Ndali Lodge is a truly beautiful place. Situated on the rim of an extinct volcano, which has since filled with water, the lodge looks out upon the incredible Lake Nyinambuga.
Papaya Lake Lodge
Papaya Lake Lodge is located in the Great Crater Lakes area; Papaya Lake Lodge has two of these unique water-filled craters right on its doorstep. The lodge is approximately 350 km from Kampala which is roughly a 5 hours’ drive and boasts magnificent views of the Rwenzori Mountains, surrounding valleys, and lush vegetation. It is a comfortable drive West (asphalt road) towards Fort Portal, the region’s informal capital city. Just outside Fort, take a left to follow a red dirt road. It will take you directly to Papaya through a scenic drive among tea, banana, guava and avocado plantations.
Kibale Primate Safari Lodge
Primate safari lodge is located just in the hearts of Kibale National Park 100m adjacent to tourists briefing center in Kanyanchu which is 36 km from Fort portal and 5 hours’ drive from Kampala. Sounds of the Kibale gentle giants can easily be hard from the lodge peninsular. The lodge is a mid-range facility with hotel rooms, bandas and tents available in place. All of their nine spacious and en-suite Luxury Cottages, each secluded deep in the forest for maximum privacy and a natural ‘living in nature’ feel, come complete with 2x Double size Bed or 1x King Size Bed.
Rwetera Safari Park
Rwetera Safari Park area is located at the entrance of Kibale Forest National Park next to the shore of Lake Nyabikere and one of Uganda’s most rewarding destinations to explore. It’s located just outside Kibale National Park 18km along Kamwenge road, Fort Portal Western part of Uganda. Enjoy Lakeside ‘breakfast/dinner’ with monkeys and birds. The accommodation offers basic tents and traditional round shaped chalets. The beds are draped with a mosquito net.
Standing out to be Fort Portal’s most beautiful, elegant and quiet place, Westend Motel Ltd is located 200 meters from the centre of Fort Portal town in Kabarole District along Kibogo road Plot 8/6. Only limited by their client’s requests and needs, they pride themselves in providing selfless, client satisfactory and whole hearted services, with a team of staff that is devoted to providing their clients with smile drawing services and ensuring you feel the worth of every shilling you have spent at their dome of comfort and elegance.