Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda

Chimpanzee Uganda

Chimpanzee trekking / tracking is one of the top wildlife adventures to do in Uganda. The chimpanzee trekking adventure gives you the rare chance of tracking down chimpanzees in the jungle and have the unique opportunity to get into the lives of our closest relatives. Chimpanzees and Humans share 98.7% DNA, and just 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.

The number of chimpanzees in the wild in Uganda is about 5700 chimps, which is one of the highest in Africa, and this is attributed to the abundance of forests in protected areas such as the parks and reserves. Uganda therefore offers the best opportunities to see chimpanzees.

All you need to know about the chimpanzee trekking experience

Chimpanzees live in large communities which may have as many as 100 individuals, and in a chimp community are groupings such as families. The chimpanzee trekking/tracking involves tracking a chimpanzee community that has been habituated. Habituating the chimpanzees is making the chimps tolerant to humans that they are naturally afraid of and are aggressive towards. The habituation process is done by trained park personnel who will make frequent visits to the chimpanzees till the chimps realize the visiting humans are of no harm. This can take up to three years and above.

All chimpanzee trekking tours into the jungle are lead by knowledgeable park guides/rangers who follow the clues leading to the tracking down of the chimps. Also, these guides will have participated in the habituation process or have been involved in the tracking for a long time that the chimps can recognize them and tolerate the group, otherwise though the chimps are habituated but if they do not see a familiar face in the tracking group they may treat the group as intruders and enemies and thus rough them up.

There are two sessions of the chimpanzee trekking in a day, one in the morning starting at 7am and another one in the afternoon starting at 2pm. During morning the chimps have just woken up and are quite mobile, mostly swinging high up in the trees looking for fruits or hunting monkeys to feed on, while in the afternoon the chimps are less mobile, just lazing around in the tree branches, resting, grooming each other and mating. They can also come to the ground to escape the heat of the sun in the canopies. Hence the 2 sessions may give a different experience with the chimps.

No more than 8 people are allowed to track one chimp group in one session. The number is limited to control the effects of trekking on the habitat of the chimps. Plus also limit chances of spreading diseases from the humans to the chimps or from the chimps to humans since they share 98.7% DNA.

A maximum of one hour is allowed to be with the chimpanzees after tracking them down. However if one wishes to spend more time with the chimps another experience called the Chimpanzee Habituation Experience (CHEX) is offered in some parks which allows spending more than 1 hour with the chimps.

To go chimpanzee tracking there is an age limit and only persons aged from 12 years and above are allowed participate in the adventure.

The level of difficult of tracking the chimpanzees

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 chimps are very active (a lot more active than the gorillas) and often can move swiftly through the trees and so sometimes you may have to run or move quickly to catch up with them and this demands for good fitness.

How to prepare for your chimpanzee trekking tour in Uganda

Purchase your chimpanzee trekking ticket or book your chimpanzee tour for your preferred dates well in advance because the permits are limited

Ensure you are free from diseases such as flue, cough which can easily be transferred to the chimps. If found sick you will not be allowed to track in order to protect the chimps

Pack the following items which are essential for the trek; hiking shoes, long pants and long sleeved shirt, hut/cap, sunscreen, rain coat, and insect repellent

Where to go for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda, chances of seeing the chimps & cost

Kibale Forest National Park

Kibale Forest National Park is the best place to for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda. The park has the largest population of Chimpanzees in Uganda with over 1500 chimps and there are five communities that have been habituated for tourism and research, the highest number of habituated chimps in any park or reserve 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 USD200 and is the most expensive.

Kibale National Park also offers premium tracking of chimpanzees with one of the habituated chimp communities (Ngogo) which allows fewer number of participants and spending 1 – 2 hours with the chimps. This has been called experiential chimpanzee tracking and it is more intimate and enjoyable with much fewer people & a little more time spent with the chimps. This also costs a little more at $400 . Experiential chimpanzee tracking should however not be confused with the chimpanzee habituation experience which allows up to 4hours with the chimps.

Budongo Forest at Kaniyo Pabidi in Murchison Falls National Park

Budongo Forest is the next best place for chimpanzee tracking in Uganda. Budongo which is Uganda and East Africa’s biggest forest hosts Uganda’s second biggest population of Chimps with over 800 individuals. One community of more than 100 members that lives in the Kaniyo Pabidi area in the south 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 (September) 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 reduce. 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 chimpanzee tracking permit in Budongo forest costs USD 130

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 tours. 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 on rare occasions the chimps may be missed. One can put the chance of seeing Kalizu chimps at 85%, but there is still a lot to see during the trek such as beautiful water streams, birds, and nice scenery!

The price of chimpanzee tracking in Kalinzu is USD 40

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.

Places to see chimpanzees in Uganda without trekking in the jungle

Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary

chimpanzee ngamba islandLocated on a tiny forested island in Lake Victory near Entebbe, Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary was established to provide a safe haven to rescued chimps in Uganda. The sanctuary has about 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 out 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!

Our tailored trips with chimpanzee trekking in Uganda

2 days chimpanzee trekking in Budongo forest reserve

2 day Chimpanzee trekking trip to Kibale Forest National Park

3 days Chimpanzee tour in Kibale National Park

4 Days Murchison Falls Safari and Budongo Forest Chimp tracking

4 days chimpanzee tracking in Kibale forest and wildlife safari in Queen Elizabeth Park

5 days Chimpanzees and gorillas tour

5 days Murchison falls safari and chimpanzee tracking in Kibale forest

1 day Ngamba Island Chimps tour

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