Kibale National Park

Kibale National Park

Kibale National Park in Uganda
Rainforest national park spanning 494 sq miles known for its chimpanzee & primate population.

Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda

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For the best Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda, Kibale Forest guarantees the best views of these endangered primates. The forest has been ranked as the best destination in East Africa where tourists can easily find the wild chimpanzees. These primates are the second exciting and most popular primates in Uganda after the Mountain Gorillas of Bwindi Forest National Park. Aside Kibale forest being the best destination for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda, there are other destinations where tourists can visit in order to see the chimpanzees namely; Budongo Forest in Murchison falls national park, Kalinzu forest and Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth national park.

Before Chimpanzees are trekked by visitors, to ensure that they get familiar to visitors, they are first tracked by park authorities (Park Rangers) who first carry out a Chimpanzee habituation process before tourists are invited to visit. Chimpanzee habituation is a process that is undertaken to get the Chimpanzee used to human presence before visiting them. This is a daily activity done for hours in a day and takes up to two years to fully habituate the chimpanzees. Many years back, visitors had 20% chances of meeting the Chimpanzee in the wild, whilst today Chimpanzee trekking is 99% guaranteed. Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda involves walking through the jungles of rain forests in search of them for about 2-5 hours depending on the location of the primates and on finding them, visitors are limited to only one hour in the presence of the endangered primates.

What is unique in Kibale national park?

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Kibale forest national park is one of the most interesting and varied tracts of tropical forest in Uganda with a forest cover interspersed with patches of grasslands and swamps dominated in the northern and central parts of the park. The park has about 351 species of trees recorded, some rising to over 55m and are over 200 years old.

Kibale forest national park covers an area 795 square km, standing at 1,590m above sea level with the lowest point of 1,100m on the floor of the Albertine Rift valley to the south. The park’s varied altitude supports different types of habitat, ranging from the wet tropical forest on the Fort Portal plateau to the woodland and savannah on the rift valley floor.

Kibale forest national park is home to about 70 forest wildlife (Mammals) including the buffaloes, forest Elephants and some of the antelope species however most uniquely the park is the habitat of the 13 species of primate amongst which include the endangered Chimpanzees. The forest contains approximately 375 bird species ranking the park as one of the top birding destinations in Uganda.

Kibale forest national park connects to Queen Elizabeth national park to the south creating a 180 km long corridor for different wildlife extending from Ishasha sector which is a remote southern sector of Queen Elizabeth national park and to Sebitoli in the north of Kibale Forest national park.

Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary

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Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary is a project of the Chimpanzee Sanctuary and wildlife conservation Trust that was started in 1998 by Dr. Jane Goodall and a small group of pioneering leaders who rescued about 13 chimpanzees and hence the establishment of Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary. Over the years, Ngamba has grown to support the existence of over 49 orphaned or rescued chimpanzees from the illegal wildlife trade hence making it one of the best and leading primate sanctuaries in Africa providing a home to orphaned or rescued chimpanzees who cannot return to the wild. Since their return to the wild is not possible, Ngamba Island is both a tourist and study center where visitors and the local communities are educated about the remarkable species and the importance of conserving their fragile forest habitat.

Ngamba Island is located 23km southeast of Entebbe district in Lake Victoria, covering approximately 100 acres, 98 of which are forested and separated from the visitors’ area by an electric fence where the chimpanzees roam through the day. Ngamba Island provides an excellent secondary forest habitat for the chimpanzees and other wildlife species including fruit bats, spiders, fish eagles, otters and monitor lizards.

Visiting Ngamba Island starts from a meeting point in Entebbe Lugard Avenue. Departure is from the pier a short walk and accessing the Island is only done by a speedboat which takes approximately 50 minutes or by a traditional motorized boat which takes about 90 minutes. Crossing to Ngamba Island is done in 2 shifts; Half day trip and full day trip; the half day trip starts from 9 am while the full day trip runs up to 5 pm. You are provided with life jackets and rain suites while on board on the boats. The morning viewing hours are between 9 am to 1 pm while the afternoon viewing hours are from 12 pm to 5 pm depending on the weather conditions. During the full day excursion of Ngamba Island, spending time with the chimpanzees is between 8 am to 3 pm. Visitors visiting the sanctuary either for half day or full day observe the chimpanzees from the visitor platform, hearing an informative talk about the chimpanzees by the sanctuary staff. Other activities that take place at Ngamba Island include swimming at the equator, visiting fishing villages, birding activities, other wildlife encounter or barely sunbathing and relaxing at the Island.

While visiting the Island, prices for visiting the island range depending on the number of people visiting. The more the visitor group, the less the price, children under 5 years of age go for free, children between 5-15 years pay half the price. These prices are inclusive a return boat trip and Ngamba Island entry fees, also basing on residence category.

Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary

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Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary is a fascinating wetland that is located in Magombe swamp adjacent to Kibale national park, 6km from the Kanyanchu park information center and is recognized as an area of an extensive array of biodiversity among which also includes the primate species.

Bigodi swamp/wetland is a community-based eco-project managed by the Kibale Association for Rural and Environmental Development (KAFRED). This association is responsible for supporting eco-tourism enterprises objectives to ensure that the local communities around Kibale national park benefit from tourism. Bigodi swamp is known as one of the best birding sites in Uganda, hence “the paradise of birds”. The swamp has been recognized with approximately 138 birds species and bird experts have are said to always spot up to 50 new birds every day. Some of those bird species include the Grand blue Turaco,

Several primates’ species can also be spotted while in the wetland, these could include the black and white colobus, red colobus monkeys, Blue grey-cheeked, Vervet monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, chimpanzees and the L’hoest monkeys to mention a few.

Additionally, visitors can also find mammals like the Mongoose, bushbucks, warthogs, the otters to mention a few.

The distance from Kampala to Kibale national park

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Kibale national park is located in the western part of Uganda in Kabarole district, 22km south of Fort Portal town. There are 2 roads of accessing Kibale national park from Kampala city/Entebbe, which is the central location for any safari tour to Uganda national parks. There is the northern route via Mubende and Fort Portal and the other approach is the south via Mbarara and Kamwenge. The northern route is the shortest and quickly accesses the park at a distance of approximately 290 km on a tarmac road, taking about 4 to 5 hours’ drive. It’s a 32 km driving from Fort Portal to Kanyanchu information center.

Sebitoli Forest camp located directly on Kampala road is a secondary tourism center easily reached with a distance of about 12 km from Fort Portal town. Ndali-Kasenda crater lakes area offers a panoramic view of tea estates, Kibale forest in the East, Rwenzori, Lake George and the rift valley plains to the south. These areas around the park can be accessed on foot or by car. Additionally, Kibale forest adjoins Queen Elizabeth National park in the south and Semliki national park in the north. There is no airstrip close to the park except of one which lands in Kasese. Driving from Kasese is another 2-3 hours’ drive to Fort portal town to connect to the park.

Activities in Kibale

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On reaching Kibale national Park, travelers are engaged in different activities which make their safaris worth a while. Some of the activities the tourists engage in when they visit Kibale National Park include:

Chimpanzee Habituation: This is more like Chimpanzee Trekking but in this case, tourists are allowed to spend more time with the chimpanzees up to more than 6 hours unlike the normal one hour of chimpanzee trekking. And also the chimpanzee permits for habituation are kinda more expensive compared to the trekking permits.
Chimpanzee Trekking: As already mentioned this one of the best selling activities in Kibale National Park and 90% of the tourist come to this park for this activity.
Kibale Forest Walk Trail: this is one of the best interesting walking safari visitors can take part in. This is a 12 km long walk in Kibale national park passing through terrains like swamplands, grassland, forests along rivers and tropical forest and this walk takes about 6 hours in open savannah riverine forestation, tropical jungle, and swamplands. This walk is quite fascinating as it increases your chances of meeting the different primate species, different bird species, mammals most commonly the forest elephants, and finally the beautiful scenery its self is rewarding. After reporting at the park headquarters, you are briefed and thereafter at 8 am, set off for the forest walk trail with the guidance of park rangers and police. Return by 2 pm.
Bigodi Swamp Walk: Bigodi is a jungle swamp as already mentioned and is one of the key areas visited when tourists visit this national park. Bigodi wetlands sanctuary has a lot to offer including the mammals, birds and certain primates species that are rare. This is yet another walking safari experience that every visitor of Kibale national park must do. Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary swamp is located 6 km from Kibale national park head office. This is a jungle swamp commonly known as the birders’ paradise. A walk through Bigodi swamp is usually done after chimpanzee trekking. It takes about 2-3 hours walking through the wetland with papyrus reeds and palm trees. The walk allows you to spot about 5 different Primates species and thousands of different bird species.
Amabere Ga Nyina Mwiru: These are rocks that are situated in a cave near Nyakasura school in fort portal and are fascinating in that as you travel to access them, you are welcomed by captivating waterfalls. The Amabere Ga Nyina Mwiru rocks have a strong cultural attachment to the Batoro tribe people who have a myth about them. This is a place of myths and natural wonders located about 5 km from Fort Portal town. The walk to the caves is often short but slippery so you are advised to carry comfortable hiking shoes. On arriving at the site, you are welcomed by the site manager who takes you through the historical myth of the caves in a relationship the Batooro culture and kingdom. Enter the jungle trail leading you to the caves and the fascinating water falls. There are hills very close to the caves that visitors can hike with views of the numerous Crater lakes.
Crater lakes tour: Fort Portal is a field with captivating landscapes that are so interesting to the eye. There is an area called the Kasenda which has over 50 crater lakes that are enclosed off by steep volcanic slopes. Tourists usually add this crater lakes tour trip to there itinerary so that they can hike up these volcanic slopes to catch a glimpse of these crater lakes. The crater lakes tour is very interesting and once should add this one to there trip.

How do you get to Kibale crater lakes?Kibale national park is surrounded by numerous crater lakes. Hiking through the top of the world and offers exciting views of several crater lakes passing through villages, tea plantations and views of mountain of the moon. Ndali-Kasenda crater lakes are the mostly visited crater lakes that are explored on foot. There are several hikes that lead to Ndali-Kasenda crater take visitors can take. Some of the best sights during the hike include; Kibale rainforest jungle, Lake George, Kichwamba escarpment of the western rift valley. This is a perfect add to your visit to Kibale national park.

Fort portal crater field is yet another location of crater lakes found in Lake Kyaninga. Lake Kyaninga has plenty of nearby hikes that visitors can explore. The existence of this crater led to the construction of one luxury lodge called Kyaninga lodge that has outstanding views of Crater Lake.

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