For the primate lover, Uganda’s chimpanzees are a huge attraction. Sharing up to 98% of our DNA, Uganda’s chimpanzee population numbers around 5,000. Living in family groups of 15-20, these highly sociable, intelligent and communicative creatures form complex social relationships. The best way to see chimpanzees in Uganda is on a dedicated chimpanzee trek through the rainforest.
There are several places in Uganda where you can go chimpanzee trekking to learn more about these fascinating animals, but be aware you will need to buy a chimpanzee trekking permit in advance from the Uganda Wildlife Authority. These cost $150 per person and permit you to stay with the chimpanzees for one hour. A morning or afternoon trek will also include guides, entry to your chosen national park and birdwatching.
It’s important to follow chimpanzee trekking rules, which are designed to protect both you and the chimpanzees. Visitors should:
- Stay at least 8m away from the chimpanzees at all times
- Not eat in front of the chimpanzees
- Not trek if you are ill
- Avoid flash photography
- Be at least 12 years old
1. Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale Forest
Kibale Forest National Park, located outside the colonial town of Fort Portal, is a dense tropical rainforest where you can track chimpanzees and 12 other primates, including red-tailed monkeys, olive baboons and the rare Ugandan red colobus.
Known as the primate capital of East Africa, Kibale is the premier site for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda, with most tours starting from the Kanyanchu Visitor Centre. A typical chimpanzee trek in Kibale Forest will see you travel in a group of six plus guides (the total number of permits per day is restricted), heading into the forest either in the early morning or afternoon. Chimpanzee treks are generally shorter than gorilla treks as it’s easier to reach the chimpanzee families. Expect to spend more time looking up at the trees as chimpanzees swing through the rainforest, calling out to each other and thumping tree branches, while your knowledgeable guides explain how the chimpanzees interact and keep you safe.
Within Kibale is the Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary that feeds some 200 bird species and a number of reptiles. It’s also an excellent place for spotting butterflies and taking village walks, where activities include basket-weaving, dance and interactive meals, where your host explain the history and culture behind the food you eat.
2. Chimpanzee trekking in Budongo Forest
Located in western Uganda around a four hour drive from Kampala lies Budongo Forest. Home to six habituated chimpanzee groups totaling around 700 primates in total, Budongo offers chimpanzee treks year round.
The forest is an attraction in itself, owing to its huge mahogany trees and incredible biodiversity, with blue monkeys, red-tailed monkeys and olive baboons all viewable on a trek. Its location — an easy stop-off point on the road from Kampala to Murchison Falls National Park — makes Budongo a popular place for chimpanzee trekking, although its smaller population of primates means your less likely to see the animals than in Kibale.
3. Chimpanzee trekking in Kyambura Gorge
A third option for tracking chimpanzees in Uganda exists in Kyambura Gorge, a gem in the far eastern corner of Queen Elizabeth National Park. Known as the “Valley of Apes”, the gorge’s rich biodiversity comes from the draining of the Kyambura river which left a deep (100m) channel in the landscape. Home to a small family of 16 chimpanzees, this is a chimp trek for those already looking to visit one of Uganda’s most popular national parks.
A hike through the gorge gives you the opportunity to see habituated chimpanzees and other types of primates including red-tailed monkeys, black-and-white colobus, baboons and vervet monkeys.
This green-riverine forest also offers shelter to several forest birds. Although the chance of spotting chimpanzees is not as high as on an official trek in Kibale or Budongo, the gorge’s shimmering green landscape is among the most impressive in Uganda and absolutely worth visiting.
4. Chimpanzee at Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary
Visitors to the sanctuary can see and feed the chimps, learning more about how the sanctuary cares for its chimpanzees. The facility can organise transport, excursions and accommodation.
Besides chimpanzees, Ngamba has monitor lizards, birds and beautiful neighbouring islands where you will interact with locals in their fishing villages.
5. kalinzu forest chimpanzee trek
Chimpanzee trekking experience; kalinzu forest is famous for the popular chimpanzee trekking adventure activity in the jungle and it is known as the second best chimpanzee trekking destination that follows kibale forest national park.
It is a habitat to over 300 chimpanzee population and approximately 70 chimpanzee communities have been habituated for tourism experience to travelers on Uganda safaris.
The trekking experience starts with briefing at UWA headquarters in the park where you are taught the dos and don’ts safety measures as well as the expectations when you go trekking in kalinzu forest.
In kalinzu forest chimpanzee trekking is limited to children below 13 years of age and travelers are grouped according to physical fitness level and to every group a park ranger guide is allocated who will take the group through the forest as you go for the chimpanzee trekking experience.
Chimpanzee trekking in kalinzu forest will take about 3-4 hours and more before you meet the chimpanzee community depending on which trail you take and due to the fact that chimpanzee keep moving from one place to another searching for food in different locations.
And once you locate a certain chimpanzee community/family, you will be allowed to spend only hour with it as you enjoy taking photos, video with them, as well as observing their feeding behaviors and lifestyle pattern in the forest.
The habituated chimpanzees in kalinzu forest are so friendly and have gotten used to presence of human being thus trekking in the forest will earn you incredible adventure experiences of a lifetime in the forest jungle.
Chimpanzee trekking permits in kalinzu forest is much affordable compared to that of kibale forest national park. The trekking permit costs 50 dollars per person while as in kibale forest national park chimpanzee trekking permit costs 150 dollars per person.
To acquire a chimpanzee trekking permit, travelers can book directly with the Uganda wildlife reception at the headquarters the park or they can use a genuine Uganda safari expert such as Adventure in the azas safaris to assist them with the booking before they travel to kalinzu forest for the chimpanzee trekking experience.
The Uganda safari experts will assist with the entire planning and arrangement of your chimpanzee trekking safari in kalinzu forest giving you a stress free adventure experience of the chimpanzees.
However for travelers will to enjoy chimpanzee trekking, we advance that you make advance permit booking for the great and wonderful trekking experience so as to avoid issues of last minute booking that may turn your safari into a hell experience.