Where can I track chimpanzees in Uganda?

A primate safari or tour to Uganda without chimpanzee tracking can as well be dubbed incomplete. Primate loves don’t miss on this exciting activity that involves walking in the lush forests to meet man’s closest relatives -Chimpanzees in their natural home. 

Chimpanzees are one of the famous great apes, others being bonobos, orangutans and Gorillas. They have a 98.7% DNA as humans next to bonobos which have 99% making them second closest relatives to man. Chimpanzees are both terrestrial and arboreal animals. They spend most of their time down on the ground in troops of 10-100 and they sleep in trees (build nests). There is an estimate of 180,000-300,000 chimpanzee individuals surviving in 21 African countries and about 5000 of these live in the protected and unprotected forest in the “Pearl of Africa”-Uganda. Some of these areas include, Kibale Forest National park, Budongo Forest inside Murchison Falls National Park, Bugoma Forest, Kalinzu Forest and Kyambura gorge inside Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Some of these chimpanzees have been habituated for tourism and others are still wild. The growth of tourism and research, is influencing the habituation of more groups and this creates a chance for visitors who would like to spend more time with these chimpanzees an opportunity to go for Chimpanzee habituation experience.  Each of the areas where chimpanzee tracking is done, offer a unique experience, below are the highlights.

Kibale Forest National park

This is the top flight destination for Chimpanzee tracking in Uganda. It offers over a 95% chance of seeing these primates. Tracking sessions are from 8am, 11am and 2pm and visitors are always expected to get to the Kanyanchu Visitors centre for briefing early enough. Kanyanchu has the tourism group of chimpanzees and a primate walk from the centre into the park offers a chance to encounter some of the 12 other primates that are home to the park. 

Visitors arrive at the centre and receive a briefing and thereafter, they are led into the forest in groups of 6. The tracking can take 2-6 hours depending on how far the chimpanzees have moved. The walk involves encounters with beautiful butterflies, plants and birds. Once you get to the group, you are allowed an hour encounter with these chimpanzees and later return to the lodge or opt for an add-on to Bigodi wetland

Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth National park.

Discover more than Chimpanzees in the 100m deep gorge as you learn about the ecosystem of the forest covered area. It is one of the best tracts in the park with 24 habituated chimpanzees. Chimp sightings here are not guaranteed but visitors can’t miss on hearing or sighting them from a distance. The activity can take about two to three hours and it is done on a daily basis from 8am and 2pm. 

Kalinzu Forest Reserve

Kalinzu Forest Reserve is located in Lubirizi district just 30minutes drive from Queen Elizabeth National park. The forest has one of the biggest populations of chimpanzees in Uganda with about 320 individuals and 50 of them are habituated for tourism. It is the second best place to track chimpanzees after Kibale with over 90% chances to see these apes. There are two sessions of tracking one at 8am and another at 3pm, but they all offer unique experiences. Enter into the forest with a ranger guide after briefing and start the search for these primates. The activity can take about 3-4hrs depending on the movement of the chimpanzees because they are mobile and free in their natural habitat.

Trackers go ahead of you and will communicate with your guide when the chimpanzees are sighted. But before you get to the chimpanzees, the walk is not boring as it involves encounters with different colored birds, monkeys like the Red tailed, L’Hoest and blue monkeys. 

A one-hour encounter is allowed for photography, to observe the behaviors and way of life of these chimpanzees. 

Chimpanzee permits can be booked through a tour operator and each of these areas have a cost for the permit. So don’t miss on an amazing encounter with these great apes while visiting the pearl of Africa.