Kibale National Park
Kibale national park located in Kabarole district, western Uganda, is one of the top tourist destinations in the country and remains one of the few forests in East Africa made up of both montane and low land vegetation. The park sits on an area of 766 square kilometers and ranges between 1,100 metres (3,600 ft.) and 1,600 metres (5,200 ft) above sea level. It is best known to be home to the biggest population of primates in East Africa with 13 different species living within the tropical rain forest like chimpanzees, olive baboons, red tailed monkeys and more.
First gazzeted to protect a large forested area in 1933 and established in 1999, the park adjoins to Queen Elizabeth national park creating a 180 kilometers (110 mi) wildlife corridor between the Ishasha sector and Sebitoli in Kibale. The park acts as a haven to more than 1,450 chimpanzees that have been in place for more than 20 years making it the most popular place to track chimpanzees in Uganda.
More like Gorilla trekking, Chimpanzee tracking in Kibale involves moving in jungle for 2-5hrs in search of these endangered species aided by Uganda wild life’s rangers and on spotting them, travelers are only allowed to view the species for one hour in groups that consist a maximum of eight individuals. However, there’s provision for those that’d prefer to spend more time with the chimps called chimpanzee habituation and this lasts for either half day or full day usually starting from 06:30AM till dawn at 7:00PM.
What else to see in the park
Due to its varied altitude, the park supports different habitats; woodland, Savannah, wet tropical forest and semi-deciduous dry tropical forest which harbors a variety of wildlife species that reside in the different habitats. Over 60 mammal species call Kibale home and these include; leopards, Duikers, Golden cats, Warthogs. Red colobus are commonly seen, as well as red-tailed monkeys, L’Hoest’s monkey, black-and-white colobus and grey-cheeked mangabey.
Forest elephants, some antelope species, Buffaloes or Bush Pigs can also be seen in the park but normally you will only find their footprints because they tend to move away when they detect activity in the forest. The park also consists of 351 species of trees that have been in existence for more than 200 years with some 55m tall.
Its also home to different bird species and as of today, 375 species have been recorded including six endemic to the Albertine Rift area. This big population of bird species makes the park one of the top destinations for birding in Uganda. Birders are recommended to join the morning walks and late evenings for the nocturnal birds.
Green breasted Pitta is one of the main attractions for birders visiting the park. Other bird species to look out for include; Red-chested owlet, Purple breasted sunbird, African Grey Parrot, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Crowned Eagle, little Greenbul, Black Bee eater, White-naped pigeon, and Scaly-breasted Illadopsis, Western bronze-napped Pigeon, Nahan’s Francolin, Yellow-throated Nicator, White-headed Wood-hoopoe, Red Headed malimbe, Yellow-spotted barbet, Dusky-blue Flycatcher and many others.
Bigodi wetland sanctuary
Located in Magombe swamp adjacent to Kibale national park, the sanctuary is good for birding and home to monkeys. It is run by the Kibale Association for Rural and Environmental Development (KAFRED) and all profits support education and income-generating initiatives in the Bigodi Cultural Centre. The swamp holds over 138 species of birds ands its estimated that in a single day, researchers are able to spot more than 50 new species of birds hence to being named ‘the paradise of birds’. Birds so far in the park in the sanctuary include: papyrus gonolek; grey-throated, yellow-billed, yellow-spotted and double-toothed barbets; speckled, yellow-rumped and yellow-throated tinker barbets; yellow-bill; and black-and-white casqued hornbill. Blue turaco can also be seen.
Other wildlife species that can be seen in the sanctuary include the black and white Columbus, blue-grey cheeked, red Columbus monkeys, velvet monkeys, red-tailored monkeys, L’Hoest’s monkey etc. on a lucky day, you will be spot chimpanzees foraging on the swamp edges.
Reptiles and amphibians; Kibale national park is also home to several reptiles and amphibians. You will need to be keen to spot the reptiles and amphibians but other creatures like butterflies can be seen all over the place. The park has over 250 species of the butterflies.
The Toro Crater Lakes: The park hosts about 30 permanent crater lakes which are located in the western part and most these waters are made up of saline and fresh water, bilharzia free making them the perfect spot to swim in the wild.
Activities in Kibale national park
There a number of activities a tourist can engage in once they are Kibale national park and these include:
This is the main activity that’s carried out in the park. As earlier noted, this involves walking through the jungle in search of the chimpanzees and on spotting them, a tourist is only allowed to spend an hour with the endangered species. The park hosts the biggest population of the chimpanzees making it one of the top destinations in Africa for chimpanzee tracking.
Here a tourist is allowed to spend more hours with the species and unlike gorilla trekking in Bwindi impenetrable park, a tourist here spends their time with the species either half day or full day with setting off to the jungles usually at 6:30am. Chimpanzee habituation permits are more expensive compared to tracking.
Nature would be incomplete without the sounds of birds and Kibale does offer tourists a chance to have a look at more than 375 species of birds that inhabit the forest due to its variety of vegetation and available food for them. Green breasted pitta is the main attraction for birders in the park. Other include Crested Flycatcher, Tiny Sunbird, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Black-billed Turaco, Blue shouldered Robin Chat, White-naped Pigeon, White-collared Olive-back White-bellied, Red-chested Fluff tail, Masked Apalis, Nahan’s Francolin, Rey-throated Flycatcher Rey-winged Robin among others.
While a tKibale national park, a 12km trek through the park is something worth taking part in. trekking through the forest involves passing through terrain like swamps, forests along rivers, grassland which will give you an opportunity to view different species from plants, animals like bush backs, elephants, buffaloes and the beautiful scenery. The nature walks are conducted with the help of a game ranger stationed at the park and the setting off time is usually at 8:00am in the morning.
Bigodi swamp walk
Walking through this area that’s found in the Magombe swamp area will offer you with long lasting memories and its one of the areas in the park that you don’t have to miss out visiting. In this particular area, you’ll be able to spot different species of mammals, birds, and some primates that are rarely seen. You’ll also be able to come close to chimpanzees and more.
Amabere Ganyina Mwiru
This iconic cultural feature is located 10km from fort portal town in Kabarole district close to Nyakasura school. The rocks found in a cave were formed as a result of stalactites and stalagmites and have a strong cultural attachment to the people of Tooro i.e. the Batoro. Before visiting this place, you’re advise to carry with you strong hiking boots because the place is slippery. Upon reaching there, the site manager will take you through the background of the place, and the cultural significance of the place to the people of Tooro.
From ‘Amabere ganyina mwiru,’ you can hike to Nyakasura hill which will give you views of 3 different crater lakes and a visit to the marking of a large foot in the area believed to belong to one of the last Batembuzi dynasty people who were giants.
Please note each activity is paid for differently with chimpanzee tracking permits costing $200. However, costs usually change each season. Other activities like birding cost $30, Bigodi swamp walk costs about $30
How to get there
Roads in Uganda are greatly improving and on what used to be a long drive, its now simplified with these good and tarmacked roads. Getting to Kibale national park is a 6-7hr drive from Entebbe that is Kampala through Fortportal to Kibale forest or Kampala – Mbarara – Kibale forest via Ibanda while a drive from Murchison national park south down the escarpment to Kibale takes about 7hrs. if queen Elizabeth national park is your next destination from Kibale, then it’ll take you about 3hrs to get there. Alternatively, there scheduled chartered planes always flying between Entebbe and Kasese airstrip that is an hour from Kibale national park, reducing the time you’d spend on the road.
Accommodation in Kibale National Park
Accommodation services in the park range from luxury, mid-range and budget. Kyaninga loge, Ndali and primate lodge are among the favorites. Other hotels in the park include: Mountains of the moon Hotel, Rwenzori View Guest house, The Duchess, Papaya Safari Lodge, Turaco Treetops, Chimpanzee Guest house among others.
Best time to visit Kibale National Park
Tourism in Uganda is an all-year success however given that the country is locate near the equator, it receives rainfall through the year. The best time to visit Kibale is during the drier seasons of the year and that is between June to September and December to February. You can as well choose to visit during the wet season of the year when permits are a bit less costly and that’s between the months of march to May and October to December.
Uganda is richly blessed in nature. While here, you can visit other destinations like Bwindi impenetrable national park known for its endangered gorillas, queen Elizabeth national park known for its tree climbing lions in the Ishasha province, Lake Mburo national park, Kidepo and more. Book with us your next trip as we will be able arrange your itinerary at an affordable price