Most people who go to Uganda go to see gorillas however visitors shouldn’t overlook going chimpanzee trekking at Kibale National Forest. I had no idea what to expect when we went chimp trekking at Kibale but it was an unforgettable experience! It was truly magical and one of the rawest natural encounters I have ever had! In this guide to chimpanzee trekking we cover everything you need to know from safety, where to stay and what to pack for Chimpanzee Trekking.
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Where to Go Chimpanzee Trekking In Uganda
If you want to go chimpanzee trekking then Uganda is the best place in East Africa to go as there are over 5000 chimps and plenty of places that you can go to experience them.
The premier destination to go chimpanzee trekking in Uganda is in Kibale Forest National Park which is the focus of this guide. However if you can not get permits to trek here (they need to be booked in Advance) then there are plenty of other places to see Chimpanzee’s including:
- Kyambura Gorge – this was the second of our chimp trekking experiences and visitors to Uganda will often include a visit to both Kibale and Kyambura in their Uganda itinerary.
- Kalinzu Forest – near Queen Elizabeth National Park another must for your Uganda Bucket list
- Murchison Falls Park
- Toro-Semlili Wildlife Reserve
What to know before booking your chimpanzee trekking experience
- Permits are required to be booked in advance. They are known as CHEX permits. It is advisable to book these as far in advance as possible as the numbers are limited for the chimps wellbeing. If you are doing an organised Uganda safari as we did then your safari company should be booking these for you but be sure to make sure you know what is included in your package before booking.
- Once booked, the dates and names etc on your CHEX permits can not be changed.
- As you are dealing with wild animals there is no guarantee that you will see the animals. However Kibale National Forest has a really high rate of spotting (much higher than at our other experience in Kyambura).
What is the best time to go Chimpanzee Trekking at Kibale National Forest?
Chimp trekking is such an amazing experience that I can’t believe that there is a bad time to go. Most safari companies and tour operators advise that the dry season has the easiest conditions for chimp trekking. We went Chimpanzee trekking in the wet season which is October – November and March to May and had a great experience.
Chimp Trekking in the Wet Season
- A visit to Uganda for chimp and gorilla trekking is never going to be cheap however in the wet season you will find that many places offer discounts.
- Food sources during wet season are high so the chimps don’t roam as far which means they may be easier to find.
- Trails and conditions may be difficult due to mud.
Chimp Trekking in the Dry Season
- The trails and conditions may be easier for hiking especially for those not used to such conditions
- More expensive
Where to Stay Near Kibale National Park
As the premier chimpanzee trekking destination in Uganda there are several options for accommodations near Kibale. If you are looking for where to stay near Kibale National Park we recommend:
Ndali Lodge – this is where we stand during our visit. You can read our full review of Ndali Lodge here! The lodge is in close proximity to Kibale and also has amazing views of the Rwenzori Mountains. Facilities on site include an outdoor pool, sauna and a walk down to a crater lake. The lodges are all stand alone allowing for privacy while not having electricity making for a cozy feeling. For rates and availability click here!
Other place nearby include:
Kyaninga Lodge – we had originally looked to book here but it was fully booked for our dates. The property looks amazing with raised lodges overlooking another beautiful crater lake. In our chimp trekking group we met a couple who were staying at this property and raved about it. For rates and availability click here!
Primate Lodge – actually located in Kibale National Park so the wildlife is literally on your doorstep. For rates and availability click here!
What to Pack for Chimpanzee Trekking
- Good Hiking Boots that can handle slippy conditions especially if you are traveling in the wet season.
- Rain gear – the weather in Uganda is unpredictable
- Waterproof trousers
- Long sleeve tops as the foliage can be high and prickly
- Fleece and layers – it can be cold in the forest
- Insect Repellant
- Hiking Gaiters or Tuck Trousers into Socks to prevent insects getting in
- Hiking Stick if required – I didn’t need one in Kibale however this was useful in Kyambura where the conditions are harder.
Our hotel also provided a packed lunch to be eaten once the trek was over which depending on how long you are out will definitely be needed.
For a more complete chimpanzee packing list click here – includes info on best colours to wear and more helpful hints.
Chimpanzee Trekking Rules
You will be given a briefing at the start of your chimp trekking experience however the main rules are:
- No loud Talking near the chimps
- No eating near the chimps – it is likely your lodge will give you a packed lunch but this is only to be opened once your trekking experience is over.
- No Littering
- No flash Photography
- Keep your distance – 8 meters – however there were occasions we found the chimps to break this rule and it was hard to move back to the allocated distance.
- Loud talking, eating near the chimpanzees, littering, flash photography and monkey imitations are not allowed.
- Due to the close relationship between chimps and humans DNA wise if you are ill you can not go on the trek.
- You must be aged 12 or above to go on the trek – there is a higher age for gorillas so if want to combine as family trip may be worth waiting until older).
What’s it Like to Go Chimpanzee Trekking Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda – Our Experience
When we arrive at Kibale Forest National Park we were promptly split into small groups by the Uganda Wildlife Authority Ranger. In the initial briefing we were told about how to behave around chimps, to observe distance rules and that we would only be spending an hour with the chimps once we had found them. Our groups then set off!
The trek here was actually pretty easy, inclines weren’t overly steep and the undergrowth not too troublesome to get through. Completely different to our experience in our second chimp trek at Kyambura and gorilla trek at Bwindi which were gruelling at times.
It took us about an hour to find the chimps. At first we couldn’t see them but the sound of the chimps is a haunting and unforgettable noise. The noise of chimps screams filled the air so even though you couldn’t see them you knew you were surrounded!
Then all of a sudden a flash of fur was seen in the undergrowth and off we ran. I can’t tell you how many logs and fallen trees we jumped over as we ran in the direction of the chimp.
Then we found him! We were told he was the Beta of the Group, the alpha keeping himself up in the trees. You could tell he had become moderately accustomed to human presence. We stayed at the regulated distance but he came very close to us. On one occasion he hit both me and another lady in our group, expressing his dominance. He did not however like Wandermust Daddy, and he ran ever time Wandermust Daddy was near.
It was great that we were able to get so close and he allowed us to get some great shots. We have some great tips here on how to take amazing photographs while gorilla and chimp trekking.
The next group we found, was a group of three females, grooming themselves in the undergrowth. This was a really special experience to watch and far more peaceful than our interaction with the males
It was amazing how quickly the time with the chimps went and we had a pleasant hike through back through the forest.
FAQs About Chimpanzee Trekking
Our next experience of the Chimps was at Kyambura Gorge. Click here to read part 2 in our chimp trekking series.