A trek to see magnificent chimpanzees in the wild is best described as a life time experience. Uganda by far provides the perfect spots for visitors to catch a glimpse of these remarkable primates while in their natural habitat. When it comes to large apes, Uganda is undoubtedly Africa’s primate world. Over 5700 wild chimpanzees are confined within the only few remaining rainforests along the Western border of Uganda. These amazing species live in big communities of about 100 members. Some chimpanzee communities have been habituated for trekking adventures by tourists.
Chimpanzee habituation is a process of making the wild chimpanzees used to human presence through constant visits from well trained personnel and it often take about 2 to 3 years and that is when they finally get used to humans. Unlike the unhabituated communities, they can easily run away when the encounter people. While on your chimpanzee tracking safari in the jungles, you will be assigned a habituated community to track and you are allowed only one hour to be the chimpanzees.
This offers yet a rare chance to catch a glimpse of our closest relatives that share nearly 98.7 percent of the DNA with humans. They stay in complex societies, solve their problems, make and usually use tools, participate in absolute interaction and communicate using several sounds and body gestures. A trek to see these incredible apes is led by the well trained park guide. This means visitors don’t trek the chimpanzees alone in the forest. The trained guides know how to follow the clues that lead to tracking down the chimpanzees and the guides also offers vital information on other life of the forest.
Whereas chimpanzees are habituated, they may still charge against humans especially when they are irritated. There are also two sessions of chimpanzee tracking in Uganda per day and this includes the morning session at 7:00am and afternoon session at 2:00pm. You can choose one of the sessions depending on the schedule. However, each of the two sessions provides distinct experiences. Also only eight (8) visitors are allowed to track chimpanzee communities. Chimpanzee tracking is not all that strenuous in that the habitats are relatively easy terrain of many of the trekking sites.
Where to see chimpanzees in Uganda
- Kibale Forest National Park
This is incredibly Uganda’s best national park when it comes to chimpanzee trekking. It is comprises of 13 varied primate species including over 1500 chimpanzees with 3 large communities set for tourism purposes. Kibale Forest National Park is undoubtedly the capital of primates in the world. For chimpanzee trekking adventures in Kibale Forest National Park, permits can be obtained at $150 per person and in the low season discounted permits are available at $100 especially in the months of April, May and November. There is also Chimpanzee Habituation Experience in Kibale National Park which costs $220 per person.
- Budongo Forest at Kaniyo Padidi in Murchison Falls National Park
Budongo forest is another perfect site for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda. It features as Uganda’s largest forest inhabiting the second largest number of chimpanzees with more than 800 members. One community of 80 individuals that live in the Kaniyo padidi sector in the southern part of Murchison falls national park has been habituated for tourism purposes. The chimpanzees at Kaniyo padidi are easy to sight for most of the time apart from certain months when they leave their community as a result of food shortage and travel deep into the forest. At this time, it is challenging to trek and it also reduces chances of viewing these wild creatures. The permits are obtainable in Budongo at $85.
- Kyambura gorge forest in Queen Elizabeth National Park
The Kyambura is a stunning forest situated in a valley in Queen Elizabeth National Park. It consists of small community of chimpanzees of about 25 members that have been habituated for tourism. Due to their small size, it is at times challenging to sight these apes at Kyambura gorge. But this site offers spectacular scenery and sighting of more biodiversity like the hippos and elephants which is a supplement to the big game in Queen Elizabeth National Park. The permits cost $50.
- Kalinzu forest
Kalinzu forest features as the third best site in Uganda when it comes to chimpanzee trekking safaris. Situated within Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kalinzu forest offers refuge to over 300 chimpanzees with a 40 member community that has been habituated for tourism purposes and provides opportunity of sighting these incredible apes compared to Kyambura gorge. This forest covers 147 square kilometers and this makes it longer for tourists to sight the apes. It also comes with stunning water streams, birdlife and sceneries. Trekking permits for Kalinzu cost shs.100000.
- Toro Semuliki Wildlife Reserve
This reserve straddles around the western border of Uganda with the Democratic Republic of Congo. The forest has a good number of chimpanzees of about 250 members divided into 3 communities. The chimpanzees are still undergoing research by a group from the Indian University but they are still tracked by tourists. These species offer yet another alternative for the chimpanzees in Kibale National Park.
- Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary Situated on a small forested Island in Lake Victoria around Entebbe, Ngamba Island was established to offer protection to orphaned chimpanzees from across Uganda. This sanctuary consists of 40 members that are confined with the fenced forest. There is no chimpanzee trekking but rather tourists can sight them from a raised platform behind the fence. Chimpanzee viewing at the sanctuary occurs during two supplementary feeding times of the day, in the morning and afternoon and it is at this time that they come out of the forest to the feeding site around the view point. It is the perfect site for day chimpanzee visits and there is no age limit offering families with children amazing opportunity.
In conclusion, chimpanzees are some of the most magnificent primates that Uganda has in offer in addition to the rare mountain gorillas. They are represented in various parts of the country but most popular trekking adventures are conducted in Kibale Forest National Park.