Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda

Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda

Chimpanzee trekking or tracking in Uganda is an amazing wildlife experience where tourists trek through an African jungle to find and see up close wild chimpanzees in their natural habitat. Uganda offers by far the best opportunities for chimpanzee trekking in the world with one of the largest population of chimps in Africa, plus there are many places for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda more than any other country.

Uganda has over 5700 chimpanzees living in forests along the western border. The chimpanzees live in large communities of as many as 100 individuals. Some communities of the chimps have been habituated for tourism. The chimpanzee habituation is a process of making the wild chimpanzees accommodating to human presence by continuous visits from trained personnel and this usually goes on for as long as three years, and that is when the chimps finally accept humans. The un-habituated wild chimps attack or flee when approached by humans.

On a chimpanzee trekking tour in the forest the tourists visit the habituated chimps and spend a maximum of one hour with the group. This provides a unique opportunity to get into the lives of our closest relatives with whom we share 98.7% DNA. Like humans, chimpanzees live in complex societies, solve complicated problems, make and use tools, engage in elaborate interactions and communicate through a variety of sounds and gestures. Perhaps one of the major differences with humans is that they lack speech!

A chimpanzee trek is lead by the trained ranger guides. Tourists cannot set out on their own into the forests to track the Chimps! The trained guides know how to follow the clues that lead to tracking down the chimps, and the guides also provide important information on other life of the forest. Also, the faces of these guides are known to the chimps as they have been seen on numerous tracking visits and some of the guides were part of the habituation process. The chimpanzees though habituated may still not be welcoming to complete strangers if they do not see a familiar face. There are reported cases when tourists illegally went into a forest (Budongo) to track a habituated group on their own only to face hostility from the suspecting chimps that chased and attacked them.

There are two sessions of chimpanzee trekking in Uganda in a day, that is, the morning chimps trek (from 7am) and the afternoon chimps trek (from 2pm). The tourists chose to track in either one of the two depending on their time schedule. However each of the two chimp session offers a different encounter. For instance, in the morning the chimps are usually very mobile and up in the trees because they are feeding and hunting other monkeys, while in the afternoon they often come down to the ground to escape the heat of the sun in the canopies and get to lazing on the ground, resting, grooming each other, and mating, etc… and generally less mobile.

In each chimp tracking session, there are no more than 8 tourists and this is to limit negative effects of the trekking in their natural habitat.

There is an age limit for chimpanzee tracking in Uganda of 16 years, without exception!

Level of difficulty for Chimpanzee trekking

Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda is not very physically demanding because of the relatively easy terrain of many of the tracking places. It is less strenuous than the gorilla trekking which occurs in mountainous terrain. Chimpanzee tracking therefore requires almost no fitness. However, given that the chimps can move swiftly through the trees you may have to run or move quickly to catch up and good fitness will be very important.

Places to see Chimpanzees in Uganda and cost of tracking permits

Kibale Forest National Park

Kibale Forest National Park is the best place to track Chimpanzees in Uganda. The park has the largest population of Chimpanzees in Uganda with over 1500 chimps and there are three big communities of chimps that have been habituated for tourism which is more than any other place in East Africa. Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale Forest National Park is available throughout the year and offers 100% chance of seeing the Chimps.

The chimpanzee tacking permit for Kibale Forest National Park costs USD150 and is the most expensive. There are discounts on the permit during the low season months November, April and May and the permit costs USD 100.

Budongo Forest at Kaniyo Pabidi in Murchison Falls National Park

Budongo Forest is the next best place to track Chimpanzees in Uganda. Budongo which is Uganda’s biggest forest hosts Uganda’s second biggest population of Chimps with over 800 individuals. One community of 80 members that lives in the Kaniyo Pabidi area in the southern area of Murchison Falls National Park has been habituated for chimpanzee tracking. The chimps at Kaninyo Pabidi are easy to see for most of the time except during certain months when the chimps leave their territory due to shortage of food and travel deeper into the forest. During that time the chimps are harder to track and therefore chance of seeing them becomes minimal. It is always advised to check for their presence/ nearness in/to Kaniyo Pabidi before choosing to track them. Tracking chimpanzees in Budongo forest is best done as add on to the wildlife safari in Murchison Falls National Park.

The tracking permit in Budongo forest costs USD 85

Kyambura Gorge Forest in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Kyambura is a beautiful forest located in a valley in Queen Elizabeth National Park. The forest has a small community of Chimps numbering about 25 chimps which has been habituated for chimp tracking. Given the small population, and that the chimps are always traveling through the vast Kyambura forest, they are often difficult to find and one can put the chances of seeing them at less than 50%. The trek however is very rewarding with stunning scenery and sightings of other wildlife such as Hippos and Elephants. It is a great add on to the big game safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

The chimpanzee tracking for Kyambura Gorge is USD 50!

Kalinzu Forest

Kalinzu forest is located near Queen Elizabeth National Park and has a population of about 300 chimps of which a 40-member community has been habituated for tracking and offers better chances of seeing the Chimps than Kyambura Gorge. But due to the vastness of Kalinzu (147 sq km) the trek to find the chimps is often long and many times the chimps are missed. One can put the chance of seeing Kalizu chimps at 50%, but there is still a lot to see during the trek such as beautiful water streams, birds, and nice scenery!

The price of tracking chimps in Kalinzu is Uganda Shillings 100,000, approx USD 35

Toro-Semuliki Wildlife Reserve

This protected wildlife reserve lies near the western border of Uganda with the D.R. Congo. The forest has a modest population of about 250 Chimps divided between three communities. The Chimps are under research by a group from the Indiana University but are still available for Chimpanzee tracking. The Chimps of Toro-Semuliki can provide an alternative or supplement to the nearby Chimps of Kibale Forest National Park. The Chimps here tend to move into the savanna habitat (in search of food) which is an interesting aspect about them as they will try to move upright in a humanely way.

Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary

chimpanzee ngamba islandLocated on a tiny forested island in Lake Victory near Entebbe, this chimpanzee sanctuary was established to provide a safe haven to rescued chimps from across Uganda. The sanctuary has 40 Chimps that are protected and cared for in the fenced forest. There is no chimpanzee tracking here, but instead visitors see the chimps from a raised platform behind the fence. Chimp viewing at the sanctuary takes place during two supplementary feeding times of the day, in the morning and afternoon and it is during these times the chimps come of the forest to the feeding area near the view point. The sanctuary is the best place for day Chimp visits and there is no age limit hence ideal for families with kids.

The Uganda Wildlife Education Center (Entebbe Zoo)

Located in Entebbe, the Uganda Zoo has among other captive wildlife including chimpanzees. Like Ngamba, the chimps at the zoo are seen from a view point!

Book from our Uganda chimpanzee tours

2 day Chimpanzee tracking tour in Kibale Forest National Park

4 Days Murchison Falls Safari and Budongo Forest Chimp tracking

1 day Ngamba Island Chimp experience

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