Kibale Forest National Park is the most magniﬁcent of Uganda’s tropical rain forests and one of the most rewarding areas to explore. Established at the end of the 18th Century, Kibale boasts of 13 species of primates including the localized Red Colobus and L’Hoest monkeys.
Kibale’s major attraction is the chimpanzee, the delightful ape most closely related to humans than to any other living creature. While you enjoy your tour in this sunny side of nature, you have a life opportunity to sight over 300 bird species including the endemic Prigogine’s ground thrush (Zoothera kibalensis). It is also habits mammals like the elusive forest elephant, buﬀalo, giant forest hog and half a dozen antelope species; thereby making it one of the most stunning parks in Uganda.
Situated ideally in the heart of the Tooro Kingdom in western Uganda, near Fort portal, the park lies close to the tranquil Ndali- Kasenda crater area and is within a half days’ drive of Queen Elizabeth, Rwenzori Mountains and Semuliki National Parks. The park became a government Forest Reserve in the early 1940s.
THE LOCAL PEOPLE
The people living around the park today are mainly Batooro (the indigenous people) and the Bakiga (immigrants) from the densely-populated southwestern part of Uganda. The Batooro take pride in the cultural heritage of their kingdom, a scion of the ancient kingdoms of Africa’s Great Lakes region. The Omukama (The Tooro King) and the Kingdom, embody the traditional and cultural values of Batooro while the Bakiga immigrants still maintain their tradition and culture as expressed in the folklore, dance and language.
The 795 sq km park can be accessed from Uganda’s capital, Kampala, along a newly surfaced road via Kasese (near Queen Elizabeth National Park). The park can also be reached from Kampala via Mubende and Fort Portal or through Mbarara and Kamwenge. There is daily public transport between Kampala and Fort portal by bus.
Kibale Forrest National Park has access to two Airstrips; Nyakisharara Airstrip in Mbarara (about 98km through Kamwenge to Kanyancu) and Kasese air strip, 75km from Fort Portal town. It can also be reached from the airstrip in Tooro/Semliki Wildlife Reserve, only 86 km from Kanyancu.
The climate is generally pleasant with a mean annual temperature range of 14-27oc. Temperatures are highest in the south where the terrain drops down to the hot rift valley ﬂoor and forest gives way to open grassland. Kibale’s highest altitude is at the Park’s northern tip at 1,590m above sea level. This is also the wettest area, receiving a mean annual rainfall of up to 1,700 mm mostly during March-May and September-November.
WHEN TO VISIT
The park can be visited any time of the year.
The Park provides a choice of accommodation including up-market lodges, stone and wood cottages, elevated bandas, tree house and an up market tented camp at Kanyancu and around the park. There is also UWA budget to moderate accommodation at Sebitoli Accommodation can also be found in Fort-Portal town. See some of the accommodation units in our Kibale Forest accommodation unit section.
There is a variety of tropical tree species in the park, some of which grow up to over 55 meters high and exhibiting a semi-closed canopy of stratiﬁed tree crowns. Three hundred and ﬁfty one tree species have been recorded in the park among which are Ptyregota, Funtumia, Entandrophragma, Piptadeniastrum Africana, Gate trees and the ‘Naked Adam tree’.
Kibale boasts of the highest diversity and density of primates in Africa. The most famous of its 13 species is man’s closest relative – the Chimpanzee. Kibale’s 1,450 chimpanzee populations represent Uganda’s largest of this endangered species. Kibale is also home to the rare L’Hoest monkey and East Africa’s largest population of the threatened red colobus monkey, the black and white colobus, blue monkey, grey cheeked mangabey, red railed monkey, olive baboon, bush baby and potto.
The park also boasts of over 372 species of birds, including six that are endemic to the Albertine Rift region, namely; black –capped Apalis, blue- headed sunbird, collared Apalis, Dusky Crimsonwing, Purple-breasted sunbird and Red-faced woodland Warbler. Other ‘Kibale Specials’ include the African Pitta, Green- breasted Pitta, Black bee –Eater, Yellow- spotted Nicator, Yellow rumped Tinker Bird, Little green Bul, Black –eared Ground Thrush, Brown-chested Alethe, Blue –breasted Kingﬁsher, Abyssinian Ground-Thrush and the Crowned Eagle.
The park inhabits a variety of savanna wild mammals such as the elusive Forest Elephants, Forest Buﬀaloes, Antelopes, Leopards, Hyenas, Hippos, Bush pigs and Duikers. But there’s more; butterﬂies such as Swallow tails, Charaxes and Nymphalidae. Reptiles and Amphibians are also among the many attractions.
Chimpanzee Habituation Experience:
The Chimpanzee Habituation Experience (CHEX) allows you to accompany Kibale’s researchers and habituators as they follow chimpanzees during their daily activity, thereby getting them used to human presence without altering their natural behavior. This is an all day and early visitors may be able to see the spectacular scene of chimps de-nesting, feeding, copulating, hunting, breast feeding, resting, patrolling and displaying until they build new nests and retire for the night around 7.00 pm. (Note: Advance booking is essential)
Primate Walk (Chimpanzee tracking):
Also you can experience and participate in the chimpanzee tracking walks which starts from the Kanyancu Visitor Centre at 08:00 am and 02: 00pm and lasts 2-3 hours. Park guides are readily available to take tourists through this ritual. This walk is for six persons per group and advance booking is essential.
Day Hikes/Nature Walks:
This is an exploration of the park’s diverse habitats providing very close contact with nature. The walks begin at 08:00 am, 10:00 am and 2.00 pm from Kanyancu Tourist Centre and take about 2 – 3 hours. Remind your guide to show you the naked Adam and Eve tree, one of Kibale’s unique wonders.
Bird Watching & Night Nature Walk:
Kibale National Park boasts of 372 bird species of which 60 percent are recorded Uganda’s Forest Birds. Bird watchers can spot various species of these birds as they enjoy the various activities in the park. Also there is night nature walk which allows visitors to track the unique species of birds, animals and insects such as Bat, Owl, Pottos, bush babies, Civets, genet cats and Eastern needle nailed; that are most active at night.
Only children above 15 years are allowed to go into the forest to view the chimps. Kibale has a variety of activities for children less than 15 years including educational forest walks of 1-2 hours followed by creative activities like pond dipping, cyanotype photography and batik- making. Through these educational forest walks, the children can learn about the ecosystem and its inhabitants. Parents can enjoy their forest walk with the knowledge that their children are occupied in worthwhile activity with trained ranger guides.