You can do the chimpanzee trekking in a number of places in Uganda, but, the most popular has been the Kibale National Park which has previously been known to provide the best chances of seeing the chimps. It has therefore been the prime destination for chimp trekking in Uganda. However other destinations have improved the chances of seeing the chimps that they can provide good (or even better?) alternatives to the Kibale National Park, and one such place is the Budongo Forest Reserve.
In the past, no other place could be compared to Kibale National Park, however it is not the case anymore, and in this article, I want to answer the question; what is(are) currently the best place(s) for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda – is it Kibale National Park or Budongo forest? Or there are more alternatives?
Kibale National Park
Kibale National Park has for long had the bragging rights of being Uganda’s number one chimp destination. It has Uganda’s biggest population of chimps and was the first destination opened up for the chimpanzee trekking adventure.
It has been the place to consider if you had at least two days and wanted to see chimps in the wild, and so the quick 2-day Kibale chimps tour from Kampala or Entebbe is one of the short Uganda chimp trips to do. The journey to the park is not very long, taking about 5 – 6 hours drive. So, if you leave Kampala or Entebbe by 7am, you will get there in time for lunch and have the rest of the afternoon free and you can enjoy some adventures such as taking a nature walk in Bigodi wetlands, take a crater lakes tour with a hike to a view point, community cultural tour etc… Actually, you can also do the chimp trek this very afternoon as there is an afternoon chimpanzee trekking session starting at 2pm.
Kibale National Park is also well situated on the popular Uganda safari circuit, between the Murchison Falls National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park, two of Uganda major safari parks. If you are planning a vacation in Uganda, the journey between Murchison Falls Park and Queen Elizabeth is best broken down with the chimp trek at Kibale National Park.
Expensive chimp permit/ticket – Kibale has the most expensive permit costing $200 for international tourists
Sporadic chimp sightings (poor sightings) – of late sightings of chimps in Kibale National Park have been very sporadic and thus disappointing. Some tourists have reported sighting just one chimp from the whole community, other times just a few individuals high up in the tree canopy, while some tourists have even missed them entirely.
Budongo forest is the largest forest in East Africa and is home to Uganda’s second largest population of chimpanzees. The forest has a large habituated chimpanzee group at Kaniyo Pabidi which is located within the boundary of Murchison Falls National Park – Uganda’s most popular park for big game watching. The big game safari in the park has largely overshadowed the chimpanzee trek as most tourists think of Murchison Falls National Park for safaris, and therefore opting to do most treks in Kibale National Park.
The chimp trekking in Budongo has recently proved to provide the best encounter with the chimps in the jungle. Due to the large habituated community you get to see many individuals and observe their activities.
The Budongo chimp trekking permit is also cheaper costing $130
Budongo forest is about 4 – 5 hours drive from the capital Kampala or Entebbe hence it is closer than Kibale National Park. Therefore the 2 day Budongo chimps tour should be the trip to book if you have just 2 days.
Another advantage that Budongo forest presents is that you can easily combine the chimp trek with a big five safari experience in as few as 3 days. Four of the big five, i.e. Buffalo, Lion, Leopard, Elephant are found in Murchison Falls National Park. While the rhino is found in the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary that is along the way to Murchison Falls National Park.
The Chimpanzee trek is done within the Murchison Falls Park and therefore you have to pay an extra $45 – $55 for person and car.
In the past the chimpanzee group would during some seasons venture farther from its territory (at Kaniyo Pabidi) after depleting the food there and when this would happen the chances of finding the chimps reduced. But of late the authority has improved on tracking the chimps and the sightings have been consistent throughout the seasons.
Notable mentions – these places are great for chimps
Kalinzu Forest is an undiscovered good chimpanzee trekking destination. The forest has a sizeable population of chimps and the habituated group is always seen. Kalinzu is located in the west of Uganda near Queen Elizabeth National Park. It is therefore easy to combine the chimp trek with a big game safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
If you are planning a trip to track the gorillas in Bwindi National Park and want to include the chimpanzee trek as well, Kalinzu forest is the best situated place for the chimp trek.
Kalinzu is also the cheapest chimpanzee trekking destination in Uganda, costing about $50
It is a long 7 hour drive from Kampala or Entebbe to Kalinzu forest, so it is not an ideal place for a quick 2 day trip. It is best done as addition to the itinerary.
Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary
Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary is a located on small island measuring about 100 acres on Lake Victoria. The sanctuary is home to about 50 chimps. The sanctuary does not offer your typical chimpanzee trek in the forest, but offers the opportunity to observe the chimps up-close and learn so much about their social structures and individual characters.
The sanctuary is accessed by a 40 minutes boat trip from Entebbe.
If you are want to see and learn about the chimps but cannot go for the trek, I highly recommend visiting the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee sanctuary. The sanctuary would also be a good place to start from before going for the trek in the forest.