Kibale National Park
Kibale national park was gazetted as a national park in 1932 and formally established in 1993 to protect a large area of forest previously managed as a logged forest reserve and adjoins Queen Elizabeth National Park to the south to create a 180km-long corridor for wildlife between Ishasha. The park is a tropical rain forest located in the western part of Uganda close to Fort Portal town as one of the remaining gazetted rain forests and poses some patches of grassland savannah and swamps which is a home for plenty of primates, birds, flora, and fauna making it one of desired tourism attraction on the African continent covering an estimated area of about 795 square kilometers.
Kibale forest is a rewarding primate destination for chimpanzee trekking and habituation in Uganda making it unique from the rest of the park with plenty of these primates being habituated for human encounters. It is home to about 70 species of mammals, 375 recorded species of birds, 250 species of Butterflies, and as well Nocturnal Primates which include Bushbabies and Pottos which can often be seen when taking a nightly guided forest walk with spotlights.
With diverse species and reach biodiversity exhibited in the park it makes it one of the preferred primate lover’s destinations in the whole of East Africa. Therefore be rest assured to meet some of the most attractive and play full primates once you choose to explore Kibale national park a home to 13 Primate Species, including almost 1,500 Chimpanzees out of the recorded 5,000 distributed in all the parks and reserves, Olive Baboons, black and white colobus monkey’s, Vervet monkeys, gray-cheeked mangabey, Forest Elephants, Forest Buffaloes, Hippos, etc, great birds ranging from Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Little Greenbul, Brown-chested Alethe, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, African Grey Parrot, Crater Lakes, where you can hike, fish, and swim in. all these can be done on your planned to encounter to the park and much more.
Activities that can be carried out in the park
There several activities which we shall take time to discuss that are done within and around the park and offer you great memory once you decide to choose to visit the area which includes the following;
Kibale national park has drawn its attention to tourism due to the number of habituated chimpanzees all across East Africa. This marvelous park is home to over 1500 habituated chimpanzee groups already for visitors who wish to understand the life of the close relatives to humans. Chimpanzees are scientifically proven to be sharing 98% human DNA which makes them close to human beings. This however prompted researchers to develop different policies that visitors are required to master to ensure that they have a safe trek given the fact that whether the primates share a large percentage of human DNA they still remain wild primates and can charge at any given time. Visitors undertaking this experience are always expected to follow the instructions given to them by the ranger guides before and during the trek.
There high chances of accomplishing your dream of having time with these primates (close to 95%) relatively high than wildlife exploration, Here groups of 4 to 6 visitors are allowed to spend one hour experience with the primates in the jungle once a chimpanzee family to trek is sported were you are allowed to take plenty of pictures and ask any question to the guide with you for any answers and experiencing their day-to-day activities however Visitors who are sick are not allowed to enter the forest to prevent spreading of diseases to the primates and always watched at a close distance will encounter. You can as well encounter other mammals along the trail like forest elephants, rare leopards, Warthog, Giant Hog, include Ichneumon, Banded, and Marsh Mongooses, Alexander’s Cusimanse, Swamp Otter, Ratel ( Honey Badger ) and a colorful variety of butterflies.
This is one of the breathtaking experience visitors enjoy as you glance at the primates feeding, jumping from tree to tree and playing at a free and non-violence grounds
Bird watching in Kibale National Park.
Kibale National Park boasts of several forest birds some of which are endemic to this forest where you can spot over 350 birds which makes the area a great birder destination. These birds can be found across nearby craters and swampy vegetation of Bigodi wetland sanctuary that is home to the great blue turaco, black and white cascade hornbill, Red-winged Francolin, Red-chested Flufftail, White-naped Pigeon, Green-breasted Pitta, African Pitta, Joyful Greenbul, Grey-winged Robin, Abyssinian Ground Thrush, Grey-throated Flycatcher, White-bellied Crested Flycatcher, Masked and Black-capped Apalises, Uganda Woodland Warbler, Chestnut-winged Starling, Orange-tufted and Tiny Sunbirds, Grey-headed Olive-back
Bigodi wetland sanctuary
Bigodi wetland sanctuary is a community project where experienced guides take you on a four-hour trail. The sanctuary itself is blessed with 138 beautiful bird species with migratory birds always present to this wetland which include; the Rare Green Breasted Pitta, Great blue turaco, Yellow-billed Barbet, Western Nicator, Grey-winged Robin-chat, African Grey Parrot, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Crowned Eagle, Western bronze-napped Pigeon, Nahan’s Francolin, Yellow-throated Nicator, among others.
These birds are best observed along the boardwalk trail and viewing platforms situated in the wetland which implies that Kibale being preferred as one of the best birders destinations alongside other attractions within and around the park will create a smile to your face. The smooth sounds of the birds are worth for any vacations and greatly best for relaxation after a hectic chimpanzee experience or tight work schedule.
Chimpanzee habituation which is as well termed as CHEX experience is one of the unique activities apparently only done in Kibale national park in East Africa. This activity involves a process where get researches train the chimpanzees to get used to human presence without interrupting their daily activities in a non-violent encounter. The process takes a period of 2 years of study of the group’s behaviors and movements before chimp tracking can begin. Tracking chimpanzees in Kibale is definitely an experience all on its own and one of the best things to do on your safari tour in Uganda. The activity starts early enough at 6:00 am from the main headquarters at Kanyanchu where you get to be briefed about the dos and don’ts while you get to the forest on your trek, getting early imply that you aim at finding the primates in their nets that they had prepared before, socializing and other activities since the experience takes more hours that trekking experience.
Visitors for CHEX experience are limited to 4 people per chimpanzee family per day and a full day experience can thus be specifically arranged for any visitor who would like to spend more time with the primates. Chimpanzee Habituation Experience is not for the faint of heart – it means an early breakfast – a packed lunch and you are off before dawn breaks into the forest thus visitors here rest assured of active participation in the habituation process itself where you will get to learn the unique features and differences of chimpanzees, learn how to identify the different chimpanzees as individuals by their markings, sometimes scars and other unique features that make them stand apart from rest.
Timely planning is highly recommended for everyone to take part in the experience and the best months for this experience it is best in the months of March, April, May, and November when there is less tourist congestion.
Most tour companies give packages that combine chimpanzee activities and other activities thus there great choices of lodging from budget to luxury, serving exotic and local foods making it more secure for your stay upon your safari.
Bigodi wetland sanctuary
Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary and Magombe swamp are attractions managed by the Kibale Association for Rural Development (KAFRED), a community-based organization that supports eco-tourism initiatives with the objective of helping communities benefit from tourism.
The sanctuary is gifted with a vast, predominantly rich papyrus, vegetation with thousands of tree species that are home to a wide range of wildlife species that continue to surprise you along the way.
Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary has become a must-visit place near Kibale Forest and considered one of Uganda’s best bird watching locations with its rich ecosystem making it a spectacular venue for viewing numerous primates and birds species in their natural habitats. You will be delighted to meet some of the grey parrots The ground thrush, olive long-tailed cuckoo, western tinkerbird, Abyssinian ground thrush Crowned Eagle, Dusky Crimsonwing, Black-capped Apalis, Collared Apalis, Purple-breasted sunbird, Black bee-eater, Yellow-spotted nicator, Little greenbul, Black-eared ground thrush, Brown-chested alethe among others along with different animal species that you can encounter in the forest on your walk.
This adventure which takes about two- to three-hour swamp walks will take you through grassland, small communities, and some beautiful scenery, where the locals are likely to greet you with enthusiastic waves.
Kibale national park nature trail is as well another enjoyable optional activity done either during day or night. The activity which begins from Kanyanchu Visitors Center where you meet your Uganda Wildlife Authority Rangers for orientation takes you to an exploration of the park’s diverse habitats providing very close contact with nature. The walks begin at 08:00 am, 10:00 am, and 02:00 pm and lasts 2-3 hours, the takes you through various terrains such as swampland, grasslands, forests along rivers, and tropical rainforest. You will see more of a variety of terrain that you would on a chimpanzee trekking experience.
Also, there is an amazing Night Nature walk experience which allows visitors to track the unique species starting at 7.30 pm from the Park headquarters through the trails and it lasts one and a half or two hours while in the jungle with sounds of birds, animals, and insects such as Bats, Owl, pottos, bush babies, Civets, Genet cat, and Eastern needle nailed, that are most active at night. By using bright torches/spotlight you will be able to see different nocturnal species in the dark with a magnificent outlook through the winding paths all the time listening to the sounds of singing birds and bubbling brooks is a more incredible experience.
How to access Kibale Forest National Park
The park can be accessed by either road or air transport from Entebbe. At a distance of 331.4 km which is approximately 5hrs and 30 minutes on the road you will have traveled from Entebbe international airport to the park to Kibale national park via Kampala-Fort Portal route, however, there is another route which takes you from Kampala through Kayabwe for equator monument to Mbarara-Ibanda and proceeds to the park or Via Kampala-Mbarara (via Queen Elizabeth national park)-Kasese- Fort Portal and reaches Kibale national park.
Chartered Flights are as well operational from Entebbe international airport to Kasese airstrip which is a close distance on an hour drive to Kibale National Park therefore travelers should rest assured of reaching the park at any given time.
Best time to visit the park
Visiting Kibale forest national park is open for travelers all year round for any given activity given the fact that the park has the highest diversity and concentration of primates in Africa however the area as well experiences two seasons with both dry and wet months, these include December to February and June to July being the dry months and the best time to visit the park with less slippery grounds and best for game viewing with as well opportunity to evidence migratory birds and thus months of March, April, May, October, and November are wet months with rains making grounds slippery and difficult trails within the forest and thus termed as a low season while on the visit.
Accommodation in Kibale forest national park
The park is vast with special and spectacular accommodation sites that well situated within and around the park giving you the best views of Rwenzori Mountain. The facilities range from budget, Mid-range to Luxury accommodation with hospitable staff ready to serve you to the best on your safari. Some of those accommodation lodges may include; Chimpanzee Forest Guesthouse, Kyaninga Lodge, Ndali Lodge, Kibale Forest Camp lovely rooms among others which entail you to have plenty of options to choose from for your safari, these facilities offer great staff, terrific and fresh food for both local and international food, WI-FI facilities and breathtaking views.