Kibale National Park (KNP) is one of the most rewarding destinations in Uganda. Home to 13 primate species, 70 mammal species, and over 375 bird species, KNP is a mixed bag of tropical forest interspersed with patches of swamp and grassland.
With views of the magical ranges of snow-capped Rwenzori, a stone’s throw from the transcendental beauty of the Ndali-Kasenda crater area, KNP offers an unbeatable experience. It is a sanctuary for the largest Chimpanzee population in Uganda and a diverse array of bird species.
Visitors to this tranquil old forest are guaranteed the best forest trekking in all East Africa. The trails have a low difficulty level
KNP is a top destination for primate tracking and birding. Though the adjacent Queen Elizabeth National Park and nearby Semliki National Park and Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve have more options for visitors interested in game-viewing, KNP has a diversity of mammal life living alongside its prolific primate and birdlife.
The diversity and density of primates found in the Kibale Forest is the highest in Africa. Uganda Wildlife Authority made the forest a national park to increase the protection of a large number of endangered chimpanzees and monkeys resident in this territory. The park is home to several habituated communities of chimpanzees and East Africa’s largest population of the threatened red colobus and the rare I’Hoest’s monkey.
Over 13 species of primate, including the Uganda mangabey, black-and-white colobus, red-tailed and blue monkey, grey-cheeked mangabey, olive baboon, bush baby, and potto.
Lovers of the game will be happy to learn that KNP has terrestrial mammals in the park too: bushbucks, bushpigs, giant forest hogs, warthogs, buffalo, and red and blue duikers are sighted often. Big Cats are not afraid to visit this chimp country either: the Leopard, African Golden Cat, and Serval Cat are commonly sighted in and around the forest, and Lions from neighbouring Queen Elizabeth National Park vacation here on occasion.
Although KNP’s elephant population is itinerant between Kibale Forest and Queen Elizabeth National Park, sightings of them in the forest area are unrivalled. An estimated 500 elephants are present and those lucky to get a good picture to have a treasure that will last.
Over 375 bird species have been cited in Kibale National Forest, making it one of the best birding destinations in Uganda, and possibly East Africa. Common sightings include the Western Green Tinker Bird, Olive Long-tailed Cuckoo, African Pittas, Green-breasted Pittas, African grey parrot, and Abyssinian Ground Thrush which is endemic to Kibale Forest.
Common species include the Afep Pigeon, White-naped Pigeon, Crowned Eagle, Red-chested Owlet, Black Bee-eater, Western Nicator, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Little Greenbul, Brown-chested Alethe, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, African Grey Parrot, Scaly-breasted Illadopsis, Brown Illadopsis, Black-capped Apalis, Blue-headed Sunbird, Collared Apalis, Dusky Crimsonwing, Purple-breasted Sunbird, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Yellow Spotted Nicator, Little Green Bul, Black-eared Ground Thrush.
ACTIVITIES IN THE PARK
Chimpanzee tracking is the park’s main tourist attraction, forest walks and the chimpanzee habituation experience come second. Tourists going for chimp-tracking must have permits from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA)—they regulate the number of visitors to prevent habit degradation and reduce risks of passing on diseases to the chimpanzee.
Chimpanzee Tracking: The Kanyanchu Primate Walk is the park’s most popular tracking trail. It runs twice a day and offers a good variety of diurnal monkeys and an encounter with are invariably encountered, but the stars of this twice-daily show are chimpanzees.
Bird Watching: Tours start at 7 am. Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary is the most popular birding destination but guided treks through the park’s boardwalk trails and viewing platforms offer a wide variety of sights.
Village Trekking: Get a taste of Tooro rural life with the trek through the Magombe swamp wetlands to a nearby village with stops at the local primary school, church, and traditional healer. The trek includes spectacular bird calls and sightings, and occasional encounters with wildlife.
Night Trekking: When chimpanzees and other forest residents rest up at dusk, a nighttime shift of rarely seen creatures becomes active. Night walks through the darkened forest uses powerful torches to seek nocturnal creatures.
When chimpanzees and other forest residents rest up at dusk, a nighttime shift of rarely-seen creatures becomes active. Night walks through the darkened forest uses powerful torches to seek nocturnal creatures such as the potto, bushbaby, nightjar, cricket, and tree hyrax, with its chilling shriek, as well as the occasional civet or serval cat. Night walks leave the camp at 7.30 pm and last between one and a half and two hours.
POPULAR DESTINATIONS IN THE PARK
Kanyanchu River Camp
Kanyanchu River Camp is in the central part of Kibale. Here the park operates daily walks on its most famous forest trail. The walks offer sightings of over 13 species of primates, a close-up with habituated chimpanzees, and are designed for both adults and kids. The great thing about this camp is that guided night treks are available.
Sebitoli Forest Camp
Kibale’s second-biggest hub is Sebitoli Forest Camp, in the north of the forest. The camp’s treks offer sightings of more elusive primates like red colobus, black-and-white colobus, blue monkeys, and vervet monkeys. Birders can feast on the variety of aquatic, forest, and savannah species common in this area. The hidden gem of this camp though is the views of the Mpanga River.
Tourists can visit the park any time throughout the year, although conditions in the park are more difficult during the rainy season. Available tourist accommodation includes options for luxury and budget lodging.