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Kibale Forest National Park

Kibale Forest National Park, Situated in the western side of Uganda, one of the country’s 10 magnificent National Parks sitting on over 795 square kilometers of land, at an elevation of between 1100 and 1590 meters above sea level. This Park is characterized by varying ecosystems arising from the difference in attitude with the most towering point being the Northern brim of the Protected Area and the lowest at the south-floor of the vast Albertine Rift Valley.

Dubbed the primate Capital of the World,  one of the most popular and rich primate places in Africa with over 13 extraordinary species of primates that are not found in other primate trekking destinations. The area was first gazetted as a forest Reserve in 1932, then a National Park in 1993 to protect the vast areas of forest that were initially managed as a logged forest Reserve. This lush National Park currently protects diverse vegetation types including the savannah, woodland and lush/moist evergreen rain forest (in form of lowland and montane forests that are one of the last remaining ones in the East African region).

The Park’s varied Landscape or vegetation types can also partly be attributed to the fact that it forms a continuous forest with the adjacent Queen Elizabeth National Park which together creates a wildlife corridor extending for over 180 kilometers. A home to one of Africa’s most popular primate research station (Makerere University Biological Field Station) that mainly focuses on the Park’s different ecosystems and many others.

Fauna of Kibale Forest National Park

Kibale Forest National Park is a haven to more than 70 species of mammals that include 13 primate species such as the Chimpanzees, making it one of the most Authentic and popular chimpanzee tracking destinations in the World. Other primates in the Park are the olive baboons, Patas monkeys, Red-tailed monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabeys, L’Hoests monkeys, Vervet monkeys, Black and white colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, and many others. Kibale Forest National Park boosts of significant populations of African golden cats, elephants, duikers, common warthogs, giant forest hogs, leopards, bushbucks, bush pigs, buffaloes, Sitatunga and many others.

The Reptiles that call Kibale Forest National Park home are more than 37 species of snakes (such as egg-eating snake, forest vine snake, African rock pythons and Gaboon viper among others.), Chameleons and monitor lizards. Some of the Amphibians in the Park are Frogs.

Kibale Forest National Park is also a rich birding spot with over 375 species of birds that include Scaly-breasted Illadopsis, white-naped pigeon, Black-eared ground thrush, Olive long-tailed Cuckoo, yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Abyssinian ground thrush, Collared Apalis, blue-headed sunbirds, blue-breasted kingfisher, yellow-spotted Nicator, red-chested owlet, grey parrots, Dusky Crimsonwing and Green-breasted Pitta among others.

There are also over 250 butterfly species in Kibale Forest National Park.

Flora of Kibale Forest National Park

Kibale Forest National Park has about 351 unique tree species. Some of the things that makes the tree species of the Park worth paying attention to is the fact that some of them have existed for more than 200 years while others are as tall as 55 meters.

Tourist activities 

Chimpanzee trekking and the Habituation Experience

Kibale Forest National Park is popular for Chimpanzee trekking, that has existed since 1993 and offers tourists with the chance to spend time with mankind’s closest relatives. Treks usually begin at 8:00am, 11:00am and 2:00pm but arrival at the Kanyanchu visitor center is one hour earlier for registration and pre-tracking briefing and normally last anywhere between 30 minutes and 3 hours depending on your pace of tracking and location of the Chimps. Six persons can trek a chimpanzee community each day and time with them is limited to one hour.

Similarly, visitors to Kibale Forest National park can participate in the Chimpanzee Habituation Experience, that usually takes a full day to watch go about with their daily activities that ranges from leaving their nests, feeding, breastfeeding, playing, copulating and resting until evening when they build new nests. This activity is conducted on a semi-habituated chimpanzee community.

Nature walks/hiking

Visitors interested in discovering the different primate species, other mammals, reptiles, butterfly species, Amphibians, birds, unique tree species and other natural features such as Rivers/Lakes in and around Kibale Forest National Park can only do that through the guided nature walks/ hiking. Different hiking trails lead to the attractions of the Park and to explore the nocturnal wildlife, night nature walks are conducted to see the Rwenzori nightjars, serval cats, leopards, pottos, bush babies and tree hyraxes among others.

Nature walks are sometimes conducted to the nearby Crater Lakes especially Ndali-Kasenda Craters (that include Lake Nyabikere, Lake Ntambi, Lake Nyinabulitwa and Lake Lyantonde among others). Also, expect to visit the “Amabere Ga Nyina Mwiru” Caves, at a stone throw away from the park.

Bird watching

Bird watching in Kibale Forest National Park begins at 7:00am from Kanyanchu and introduces tourists to the forest, swamp and migratory species of birds in the country. This Park is a home to more than 375 species of birds and for your safari you are likely to come across the Papyrus gonolek, blue-breasted kingfisher, Nahan’s francolin, white-winged warblers, white-breasted Negrofinch, hairy-breasted barbets and brown-throated wattle-eye among others. Surprisingly, you can spot some bird species within the premises of the accommodation facilities.

Visit to Bigodi wetland Sanctuary

Bigodi wetland Sanctuary is a jungle swamp near Kibale Forest National Park and was formed as a community-based project with activities including birding. This wetland is a home to over 200 species of birds that include the Black-crowned waxbill, Papyrus gonolek, brown-throated wattle-eye, Papyrus Canary, great blue turaco, yellow-billed barbets, white-breasted Negrofinch, hairy-breasted barbets and many others.

Cultural tours

Cultural tours around the Park involve exploring the culture of the surrounding communities (Batooro people), visiting village schools, community birding and many other fascinating activities.

When to visit

Kibale Forest National Park can be visited from January to December. However, the Park experiences dry and rainy season whereby with the former (January, February, March, June, July, August and September) forest floor is drier and less muddy/slippery making hiking easier. The latter characterized by heavy rains from March to May and October to mid-December makes forest floors muddy/slippery as well as roads to the Park challenging to use but it’s the time when chimps have more food hence easier and faster to trek them.

Where to stay 

There are several budget, Midrange and luxury accommodation facilities within and around Kibale Forest National Park and these include Sebitoli Camping ground, Mantana Tented Camp, Primate Lodge, Chimps Nest, Lake Nkuruba Nature Reserve, Kibale Forest Camp, Nyinabulitwa Country Resort, Kibale Guest Cottages, Kanyanchu River Camp, and Kibale Forest Lodge among others.

How to get to there

Situated within the western side of Uganda, about 322 kilometers/5-6 hours’ drive from Kampala City. The Park is about 22 kilometers south-east of the Town of Fort Portal and can be reached via two routes, one being Kampala-Mubende-Fort Portal to the Park. This is shorter and the second is Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara-Kamwenge-Kibale being the longer.

It is also possible to get to Kibale Forest National Park by road through charter flights from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi Airstrip to Kasese airstrip then proceed to the Park by road.

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