Kibale forest national park is situated in the western part of Uganda covering an area of about 795 kilometers squared. The park boasts with about 77 mammalian species, 13 primate species, 351 tree species and 371 species of birds recorded. The park adjoins the famous Queen Elizabeth National Park forming a 180 kilometer corridor of wildlife between Ishasha sector of queen and Sebitoli in the north of Kibale. Its a great place for Chimpanzee safaris in Uganda.
Kibale forest national park was established in 1993. Kibale National Park is the last one that contains both Montane and lowland forests. Kibale National Park adjoins 180 kilometers wildlife corridor, it’s as well an important eco-tourism and the best safari destination, the park is popular for the habituated chimpanzees and other primates, the area is also the Biological Field station.
There are two major tribes around the park including Bakiga and Batooro. These tribes use the parks for food resource; the 14 species of primates living in Kibale national park include L’Hoest’s monkey, colobus, blue monkey, black and white colobus, blue monkey, Ugandan red, and many more.
The chimpanzees are known for eating figs in Kibale National park; other popular mammals include the elephants, red and blue duikers, sitatungas, bushbucks, giant forest hogs, warthogs, buffaloes, and many more. There are carnivores such as African Golden cats, Servals, leopards others include mongooses. The park has a number of bird species such as cuckoo, western tinker bird, olive long-tailed, grey parrot. Primates are very common in Kibale National Park.
Attractions and Activities in Kibale National Park
This park is located in kabarole district in western part of Uganda and it covers an area of 776 km2 Kibale National Park was gazette in 1932 as a game reserve and later established into a national park in 1993 to protect a large area of forest. The park forms a continuous forest with Queen Elizabeth National Park which creates a wildlife corridor that boasts the eco-tourism and safari destination. It is a home to one of Uganda’s most beautiful tropical forests dominated by the thick ever green trees. Kibale National Forest has approximately 229 species of trees found within the moist tropical forests of the park. Some endangered timber species of trees include Cordia millenii, Entandrophragma angolense, and Lovoa swynnertonnii. The forest understory is dominated by shade-tolerant shrubs and herbs, which include Palisota schweinfurthii and Pollia condensata. The nature of this forest is popular for its population of the habituated chimpanzees and twelve other species of primates.
Kibale Forest National Park is best known for its attractions such as
- Kibale national park has one of the highest diversity and concentration of primates in Africa with 13 primate species .this Park is a home to a large number of endangered chimpanzees. These are the major attractions of the park. According to wildlife, the chimpanzees are categorized under the endangered primates next to the mountain gorillas. However, there are still quite a number of chimpanzees scattered in a number of destinations in Uganda. The DNA of the chimpanzees is believed to be 98% human. This makes them intelligent and communicative animals towards people. The chimpanzees are also highly sociable and live in big families and make their own Nests where they sleep at night. According to the Uganda Wildlife Authority, Kibale has a higher number of chimpanzees thus making it the best National Park for Chimpanzee trekking and habituation in Uganda.
- Other primates in Kibale include the red colobus monkey and the rare I’Hoest’s monkey, the olive baboon, the grey cheeked mangabey, bush baby and potto which can also be seen during the chimpanzee trekking, game drives and nature walks.
- The park also has some mammals though they are rarely seen including elephants though a number of them travels between the Kibale park and Queen Elizabeth national park, bush pigs, duiker, buffalos, Leopards, African golden cats, different mongooses, two species of otter and some reptiles and availability of colorful butterfly species which can be seen during the Nature walks and birding. There are also some lions in this park though they visit the park occasionally.
- Kibale Forest National Park being forested harbors over 325 variety of bird species of which some bird species are native to the Albertine Rift destination including the black-capped Apalis, blue-headed sunbird, collared Apalis, Red-faced woodland warbler, dusky Crimsonwings, and the purple-breasted sunbird.
- Other bird species in this park include blue-breasted kingfisher, yellow Spotted Nicator, green breasted pitta, African pitta, black bee-eater, Abyssinian ground thrush, little Greenbuls, black-eared ground thrush, brown chested alethe, yellow rumped tinker bird, the crowned eagle, olive long-tailed cuckoo, western tinker bird, two species of pittas (African and green-breasted pittas), the grey parrot and the ground thrush (Turdus kibalensis) which is endemic to Kibale National Park
The following tourism activities take place in this national park which include chimpanzee trekking, chimpanzee habituation, birding, exploration of crater lakes, Amabere Ga Nyina Mwiru, bushcraft children activities, nature walks among others.
Chimpanzee trekking: chimpanzees are found in densely forested areas of central and West Africa. However, Uganda is the most populated destination for chimpanzee trekking with most concentration in Kibale Forest National Park. Chimp trekking is the most popular tourism activity in Kibale Forest National Park and this activity is the major reason for conservation of this park. Kibale Forest is one of the best places in Uganda and the entire world to see chimpanzees. For one to do a Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale, you are required to obtain a chimpanzee trekking permit from the Uganda Wildlife Authority. Chimpanzee trekking is one of the most interesting activities best done in Kibale national park. Kibale national park has the biggest population of chimpanzees in Uganda and is the reason as to why it is referred to as “the primate capital of the world”. Chimpanzee trekking is better done in the morning when the chimpanzees are coming down from their nests up in the trees and it takes about 2-5 hours depending on how long you take to reach the chimp family. However, once the chimpanzees are found, only 1 hour of interaction is allowed for you and these primates in their natural setting. During the chimpanzee trekking, the visitor gets a chance to learn their behaviors such as the feeding habits, sociality, interactions, with other groups and humans, plus, taking closer and clear photos of the chimpanzees is allowed but no flash light.
Chimpanzee habituation: In Kibale national park chimpanzee habituation is done either half day or full day according to the visitor’s interest. In this process, the visitors join the game rangers and move in the forest in search of the chimpanzees and once they are found, the visitor is given enough time intimate to associate with them training them how to get used with human being. This is the most tiring but enjoyable experience by the visitors who visit Kibale national park as the chimpanzee keep on moving and you follow them up through the daylight until your feet says no to your mind.
Birding: Bird watching is done at Kanyanchu in Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary which is a home to over 138 species of birds. During birding, a tourist is able to see several bird species including; Yellow-billed Barbet, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Hairy-breasted Barbet, White-spotted Fluff tail, Grey-winged Robin-chat, Black-crowned Waxbill, Brown-backed Scrub-robin, White-tailed Ant-thrush, Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Bocage’s Bush-shrike, White-breasted, Superb Sunbird , Black Bishop and many more birds . This activity is done early in the morning. Birding is best done in this park and your Kibale Safari tour will be made by this activity.
Hiking and Nature walks: Hiking and nature walks is normally done in the Kanyanchu which is in the central part of the park. It is famously known for the forest walk due to the nature of the forest which consists of evergreen trees and deciduous with evergreen species dominating the forest where visitors have a close look and learn about the different fauna and flora species ranging from moist evergreen forest along the Fort Portal plateau, then through the dry tropical forest which is moist semi-deciduous, and to the woodland and savanna along the rift valley. Hiking and nature walk in the Kanyanchu is done early morning when most of the primates such as the chimpanzee are easily seen and late in the night when most of the animals are resting. To perform the night walks, a tourist must use powerful sport lights to be able to see the nocturnal creatures such as bush baby, nightjar, potto, cricket and tree hyrax, and many more wild animals.
Visiting Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary: visitors are allowed to visit this wetland during nature walk. This sanctuary is located outside the park in Magombe swamp. It is managed by the local community and to access it you must pay some money which is later used to improve the standards of living of the people around the swamp, the income generated from this swamp is used in constructing schools, health centers and other facilities to help in developing the area around it. This place harbors over 138 bird species which will catch the eyes of the birders. Also eight primate species are easily found in this wetland including the black-and-white colobus, olive baboons, Bushbucks, mongooses, grey-cheeked mangabey, red-tailed monkeys, I’Hoest’s and blue monkeys
Guided forest walks: This forest walk in Sebitoli forest is provided by the Kibale’s secondary tourism Centre in the north of the forest. In this activity a visitor has a chance to encounter primates such as red colobus, black-and-white colobus, blue monkeys and vervet monkeys. With a close look in the forest, Visitors may also be able to see several aquatic animals, savannah birds, some reptiles, bird species and butterfly species
Kihingami Wetland: this wetland is located near Sebitoli in northern Kibale, this community-run project offers excellent bird watching and visits to the local tea estates and factory. It’s a best place for bird watching and nature walks as you can see several animals like the Otter and other animals similar to those seen in Bigodi wetland sanctuary.
Cultural encounters: This activity involves in both the visitors and the locals of the Kibale national park. In this experience, the visitors walk with the Batoro through the Magombe swamp wetlands observing different species of birds, wild animals, domestic animals, butterflies and vegetation of the Magombe swamp. The visitors are also allowed to make some stops in local schools, traditional healers and also be able to see the Amabere Ga Nyina mwiru.
Visit to the Amabere Ga Nyina Mwiru: These natural features were formed as a result of stalagmites and stalactites. However, the Batoro have a belief that these rocks are the breast of a young princess Nyina Mwiru which were cut off by her father the King for refusing to get married to the man whom he had chosen for her. These rocks drip white fluids which made the Batoro believe that its milk. Thus influencing tourists to flock this place during cultural encounters and community walk to learn more about these features and have contributed greatly to the tourism industry and the community around.
Exploration of the crater lakes: these lakes were formed as a result of violent volcanic activities that led to the blowing off of the surface, leaving behind depressions. Some of these volcanic features were later filled up with rain water to become the crater lakes which are good for hiking and swimming.
However some of these craters lakes have sulphric water, green in color, due to the continuity of the volcanic activity below the lake; these lakes are toxic and associated with a bad pungent smell making the water acidic. In this activity several craters lakes are seen including the Lake Nyabikere, Lake Nkuruba, Lake Nyinambuga crater, Lake Lyantonde, Lake Kifuruka which are all seen during the safari in Kibale National Park.
These lakes are mainly found in the Katwe crater area of explosion craters. The others are located around Kichwamba escarpment also known as the Ndali kasenda area yet others are located near Fort portal.
Chimpanzee trekking is such a rewarding activity that you would not want to miss during your primates safari in Uganda. Also, the visit to the Amabere Ga Nyina Mwiru is such a wonderful experience, enjoy the birding with the variety of the bird species and crown up your day with a visit on the crater lakes where you will swim and refresh your memory.