Kibale is special because it is one of the few places where tourist can do both the standard chimpanzee trekking or go for the Chimpanzee habituation experience. Chimpanzee habituation refers to the process of making chimps used to human beings around them. It takes about 2 years to complete the process. Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale allows tourists only one hour with the chimps after locating them. During the chimpanzee habituation process, tourists spend the while day with the chimps. Chimpanzee habituation experience and tracking takes place all year round. However the best time to track chimpanzee is during the rainy season despite the mud. During the dry season, chimpanzee like to move deeper into the forests looking for food. During the rainy season, the forests are green and full of fruit reducing the mobility of the chimpanzee communities. Visitors can easily locate them without having to trek for long distance. It is always recommended that visitors book their chimpanzee permits months in advance. There is a limit to how many people can track a particular chimpanzee community each day and this depends entirely on which place you go tracking in Uganda or Rwanda. However in most cases, it’s 6 people per community in a single session. Chimpanzee tracking usually starts in the morning with briefing from a guide. Visitors cannot go out to the forest by themselves and must be led by a park guide or ranger. The rangers know where to find the chimp communities by following clues left behind. Moreover, habituated chimpanzee can identify the familiar faces of the guides which make them reassured. In most of the parks and reserves where chimp visits are open to tourists, there are two sessions of tracking – in the morning and afternoon. The chimps are more active during the morning session as they head out feeding and hunting. In the afternoon, many of the members are resting and grooming each other as they try to find shelter to avoid the suns heat.
While on a chimpanzee trekking session, expect to be escorted by armed rangers/guards. The rangers scare off other wild animals like Buffaloes and elephants that may pose a danger to visitors by shooting in the air. The guides may also start by looking for them around the area that they built their last night nest. Tracking chimpanzee can go on for hours depending on the season and which park you are going to. However getting their exact location isn’t difficult like mountain gorillas that are relatively quiet with occasional barks from the dominant male. Chimpanzees are very stubborn, unruly and noisy. Trackers locate them by their hoots and loud barks. Once you locate a community, prepare to continue following them for a long time through hills, dense forest and vegetation – often at high speed. Be careful of falling fruit and urine from the chimps. The chimps may take a while before descending from the trees and settling down on the ground – be patient. Once they are on the ground, you will get several opportunities to take good photos and observe their individual behavior and character well.