Practically speaking the Kibale Forest National park is an extension of Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park, but in contrast to that reserve, it consists largely of rainforest, which over much of the park is undisturbed, tall and dense. The rainforest’s most famous inhabitants are without doubt the chimpanzees, of which around 1,500 live in Kibale. On large group of circa 70 individuals has been studied for many years, and has now become habituated to people approaching close to them. It is possible, with special permission, to visit these chimpanzees in the company of specialist local guides, who are the very people the chimpanzees are most habituated too.
Together with the Mahale Mountains and Gombe Stream National Parks in Tanzania, Kibale is one of the best places on the planet to see chimpanzees in the wild. Statistically there is a 90% chance of seeing them here. In Kibale you can also see another 10 species of different apes, which makes the park one of the best in the world for primates. Some of these can be seen while chimpanzee-trekking, but a visit to the Bigodi swamps on the borders of the park is a good supplement to this, as the apes can be easier to see in a more open environment.
The swamp is also an excellent place to visit if you are interested in seeing some of the area’s more unusual birds, the Great Blue Turco and the Grey Parrot being perhaps the two biggest attractions. The park is also home to a number of other large mammals, for example, leopard, buffalo and the small forest elephant, which can be identified by its rounded ears, but it is difficult to find these animals in the dense forest. However the many beautiful butterflies here are much easier to spot.
For botanists and other people interested in plants, the park is a real paradise, offering an overwhelming diversity of large, spectacular trees. Amongst the 250 different tree species that grow here, the giant figs are especially impressive, and they attract many species of birds and apes, including chimpanzees, when the figs are ripe. In the forest clearings there are many colourful flowers and it is possible to see orchids growing up in the trees. The park is a good 300km drive from the capital city, Kampala, the most of which is along good tarmacasphalt roads.
High Season: December to February and June to August