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Chimpanzee Trekking in Uganda. Chimpanzee trekking takes place to the habituated Chimpanzee groups in their natural habitat and not those in zoos or captivity. The activity of Chimpanzee trekking involves following their movements in the forest which lasts between 3 and 4 hours including the stipulated one hour for observing upon finding them. For more time or even a full day with the Chimpanzees, you can sign up for the Chimpanzee Habituation experience. Chimpanzee habituation is an opportunity to see non-habituated or wild Chimpanzees undergoing the process of getting used to humans. Most Chimpanzee tracking sites in Uganda offer Chimpanzee habituation too.
After Mountain Gorillas, Chimpanzees are the most sought after primates on most Uganda Safaris. Chimpanzees are exciting to see and Chimpanzee tracking provides a rare opportunity to observe the everyday lives of these cheerful noisy primates in their natural habitat. They share 98.7% DNA as humans and so are known to exhibit/display human behavioral traits. It’s not hard to see these traits in them once you come across a troop of habituated Chimpanzees. You will be amazed watching them feed, interact and play. Wild Chimpanzees are very afraid of humans and will always flee when they sense humans in their proximity or advancing towards them.
Uganda is the best destination for an Ultimate Primate Trekking Safari world-wide. With Chimpanzee tracking particularly, Uganda has an edge over other East African destinations/countries. It has a population of about 5,500 Chimpanzees and within Uganda are multiple Chimpanzee trekking spots located in National parks, game reserves, sanctuaries and some private forest areas/land. Other rare primates found in Uganda are the amazing Golden Monkeys and Mountain Gorillas in Mgahinga Gorillas National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Take advantage of our 5 days Gorillas and Chimpanzee safari to stand before these primates, you will be able to tell them apart alongside an amazing experience.
Additionally, there are 99% chances that a tracker will come across other primates sheltered by the forests during the search for a chimpanzee community. Among them are; L’Hoest monkeys, Baboons, Colobus monkeys, Mangebays, Bush babies, Blue monkeys and Red-tailed monkeys. These forests also harbour a great deal of avi-fauna and so Chimpanzee trekking can be done alongside bird watching.
Chimpanzee Trekking sites in Uganda
Chimpanzee trekking sites in Uganda are Kibale Forest National Park, Budongo Forest Reserve with in Murchison falls National Park, Kalinzu forest near Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kyambura Gorge forest with in Queen Elizabeth National Park and Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve. Other sites for viewing Chimpanzees are Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary and the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre formerly Entebbe Zoo. In Uganda, it is not uncommon to come across Chimpanzees even outside the known tracking areas. In Maramagambo forest near Queen Elizabeth Park, Buniga forest near Fort portal, Bigodi wetland near Kibale forest Park and Bwindi Impenetrable forest, are Chimpanzees but the unhabituated ones.
- Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale National Park
At Kibale National Park, are excellent chances of finding the Chimpanzees upon tracking, and in the largest numbers across the region. It is arguably the most perfect Chimpanzee trekking destination in East Africa. An estimated 1500 individuals habit Kibale Forest although the habituated ones are about 100 individuals. Kibale Forest National Park is a primate lover’s dream come true. In this Chimpanzee forest are other primate species like the L’Hoest monkeys, Baboons, Colobus monkeys, Mangebays, Bush babies, Blue monkeys, Red-tailed monkeys, among others. Furthermore, the park is a place of impressive bio-diversity where you will find over 340 bird species, 300 plant species, mammals like the buffaloes, elephants, antelopes and others. Some of our Chimpanzee trekking trips to Kibale Forest National park are;
– 3 Days Kibale Chimpanzees and Queen Elizabeth Park
– 4 Days Kibale Chimpanzees and Bwindi Gorillas.
- Budongo Forest Chimpanzee tracking
Budongo Forest Reserve is part of the larger Murchison falls Conservation Area and is the largest natural forest in Uganda covering an area of 826SqKm. The forest shelters about 800 Chimpanzees though a small community of about 100 individuals has been habituated and opened to tourism since 2005. Chimpanzee tracking sessions are into morning and afternoon. It is not just the Chimpanzees that are there to see in Budongo forest reserve, there are other primates like the Olive Baboons, Grey-checked Mangabeys, Red-tailed monkeys and others. There are over 464 plant species including the Mahogany trees that are as tall as 85 meters and 21 meters in diameter. 24 mammals and 300 butterfly species have been recorded here. It is always rewarding to combine the Chimpanzee trekking expedition in Budongo forest with a Game drive Experience in Murchison falls National Park. You might want to check on some of our trips to Budongo forest:
- Chimpanzee trekking in Kalinzu Forest near Queen Elizabeth National Park
Kalinzu forest is near but not part of Queen Elizabeth National Park. It is the second best Chimpanzee tracking spot in Uganda after Kibale Forest National Park. Chances of a successful Chimpanzee trek are over 90% which are way too high compared with the 60% for Kyambura Gorge and 10% for Maramagambo forest. There are over 70 habituated Chimpanzees out of the 290 estimated to be hosted by Kalinzu forest. Most Chimpanzee tracking tours to Queen Elizabeth have been redirected to Kalinzu forest because of the higher chances of a successful trek than Kyambura and Maramagambo forests. Just like other Chimpanzee forests, Kalinzu too hosts primates like the Baboons, Colobus monkeys, Red-tailed monkeys, among others. Birds and butterflies are in plenty plus a host of plant species and mammals. Chimpanzee tracking in Kalinzu forest can be incorporated in any tour to Queen Elizabeth National Park due to its closeness to the park and the high success rate of Chimpanzee sightings. Our 3 Days Queen Elizabeth and Chimpanzee trekking tour might interest you.
- Kyambura Gorge Chimpanzee trekking in Queen Elizabeth National Park
Kyambura Gorge is popularly known as the ‘Valley of Apes’. It is part of the larger Queen Elizabeth National Park and within this gorge is an underground forest that hosts a small community of Chimpanzees that barely adds up to 30 individuals. Such a number and the fact that Chimpanzees are known to move deep into the forest with such a difficult terrain, the chances of finding them upon tracking reduce. Chimpanzee leaning visitors to the gorge are always not at a loss even where they (Chimpanzees) elude them. The walk/trek in this gorge of unspoiled beauty is very rewarding. Sights of other primates, animals and the underground forest is such an off-the-beaten track experience.
- Chimpanzees in Maramagambo forest
Maramagambo forest is found near Queen Elizabeth National Park and is well known for the bats and python caves but it also inhabits Chimpanzees. Chances of finding Chimpanzees in Maragambo forest exist even when on other tours but they are very unreliable to recommend a Chimpanzee trekking activity there. Besides the lack of resources, the vast Maramagambo forest has rendered the habituation of a community of Chimpanzees hosted in there difficult. Chimpanzee trekking tours in this forest were suspended after several cases of unsuccessful sightings and so the forest is currently visited for nature walks, bats and python caves and the crater lakes.
- Chimpanzees in Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve
Semliki Wildlife Reserve has about 70 semi-habituated Chimpanzees in its Mugiri forest which used to be part of the vast Ituri forest of DR Congo. It is located near Uganda’s border with Congo. Successful Chimpanzee sightings are not guaranteed here like in Kibale forest National Park but it greatly supplements the experience. Chimpanzees here are known to reach out to the savannah areas of the park and are seen moving on two limbs, a habit that is quite unique. The primate walk here however is intended for other primates too and bird watching. You can spot the vervet monkeys, Blue Magebays, Colobus monkeys, Olive baboons, other mammals like the antelopes, buffaloes, elephants and many birds.
- Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary on Lake Victoria near Entebbe airport
Chimpanzees at Ngamba island are for viewing without necessarily tracking like in Kibale Forest, Budongo forest and other destinations mentioned above. Some of these Chimpanzees were rescued from poachers while others were rendered homeless due to deforestation. Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary was established to collect and take care of the orphaned/displaced Chimpanzees. It has been a success as the numbers have since risen from the 19 Chimpanzees in 1998 to over 50 currently. Visit the sanctuary to contribute to the welfare of these Chimpanzees as you enjoy the care giving activities and the interactions amongst themselves. Even families with children of below 12 years can visit. You might want to check on our 1 Day tour to Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary.
- Chimpanzees at the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre formerly Entebbe Zoo.
There is a small number of about 40 Chimpanzees kept at Entebbe Zoo or the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre alongside other animals. They are for research purposes, education and quick views by the visitors. Chimpanzees are viewed from the enclosures so there is nothing like tracking. It is here at the Zoo and Ngamba Chimpanzee Island where children of below 12 years are allowed to visit and see Chimpanzees.
What a typical Chimpanzee trekking day is like
Chimpanzee trekking usually starts with briefing from the information centre at the park headquarters or at the respective trail starting point. Depending on your trekking session and how far/close you may have stayed, plan to leave early enough to reach at the briefing point in time. Briefing tunes you up for the day’s expectations and a brief natural history of the animals you are yet to encounter plus the do’s or don’ts while with them. You (visitors for that day) are then split into groups of not more than 8 people and assigned a Chimpanzee community to search for.
In the company of armed rangers and a guide, you are to walk in the direction of where the animals were last seen the previous day as you listen to their cries/sounds and squashed vegetation or even fruits left overs. They are known to be so noisy and that partly makes the search easier as you move in the directions of their sounds/cries. It will not take much time to find a sub-group of the larger family up in the trees or down feeding, playing, grooming or even fighting amongst themselves.
Upon finding them, you have an hour to quietly and respectfully watch them as you take photos at the stipulated 8 metres space away. Flash photography, eating anywhere near them, shouting or even pointing is restricted in the presence of the Chimpanzees. Leave them to carry on with their day after an hour of following and observing them.
Cost of a Chimpanzee tracking permit for Uganda
Kibale Forest National Park charges the highest fee for a Chimpanzee tracking permit of all the destinations above but it is worth it. Any primate lover can imagine the experience of tracking Chimpanzees in the world’s Primate capital – Kibale Forest National Park! A Chimpanzee permit is at US$200 to foreign non-residents, US$150 to foreign residents and UGx150,000 to Ugandans and other East African Citizens. Due to the high demand, permits for especially Kibale forest should be purchased in advance. If you are booked with Jungle Escape Africa, the company will help you with all the arrangements including securing the permit. See the table below for the permits fees for all the Chimpanzee hosting sites in Uganda
|Foreign Non-Resident||Foreign Resident||East African Citizen|
|Tooro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve|
Age limit for Chimpanzee tracking in Uganda
Any individual below 12 years is restricted from Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda and age is determined/confirmed by a valid passport but not by one’s physique. Arrangements are usually made upon the adults’ consent for the children below 12 years to have a simple walk not far in the forest to be shown around some primates like the monkeys and some birds as the adults go for the real Chimpanzee trekking adventure.
Chimpanzee trekking sessions in Uganda
All Chimpanzee trekking sites in Uganda allow 2 tracking sessions which are usually the morning at 7.00am and afternoon at 2.00pm EAT. There is nothing like swapping permits so one should be very careful when applying for a chimpanzee permit or safari. When your permit is for morning, it will be invalid if you present it for the afternoon session. Also be informed that there is nothing like individual tracking. All visits are led by armed rangers and a guide after the general briefing at the park headquarters or the respective trail starting point.
The Level of difficulty experienced in tracking Chimpanzees
Chimpanzee tracking is not as demanding as Gorilla trekking because Chimpanzees are known to habit flatter areas unlike the Mountain Gorillas that find life in high altitude forested areas. Except Kyambura gorge forest that is located in a difficult terrain, all chimpanzee trekking places in Uganda are relatively flat which makes the activity doable and enjoyable. The only difficulty but which transforms into fun can always be felt during the tracking activity and it arises from the nature of the Chimpanzees. They are known to be very mobile so can hardly keep in one place. They tend to move around more on the ground and even up or down the trees. With that 1 hour after finding them, it may require some bit of activity to follow them or stretch the neck to see them up in the trees.
Best time to visit for Chimpanzee tracking in Uganda
A Chimpanzee tracking safari can be done any time of the year although the dry months are mostly recommended. Trails are relatively dry and therefore passable during the dry months. Dry months are December to February and June to mid-September. However, weather conditions in forested areas are never predictable nor stable. Here in Uganda, it never surprises to have rain even in those known dry months. Chimpanzee forests are not as lush as for the Mountain Gorillas and so navigation is relatively easier even in the wet months. Wet months have an advantage of tracking without the crowds as fewer visitors sign up around that time.
What to pack for Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda
- Shoes with a good grip or running ones, can take you through the forest trails.
- Wear long sleeves for tops and trousers for protection against the pricking thickets as you move in this verdant jungle.
- Binoculars to spot the Chimpanzees at a distant or even those up in trees. They can at the same time be used for bird watching.
- Enough drinking water and some packed lunch or snacks
- Rain gear as it can rain any time
- Sun screen and an insect repellent.
- A camera to help you capture the moments and the Chimpanzees’ funny pauses.