Chimpanzee Trekking in Uganda
Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda is considered as the second most sought after tourist activity after gorilla trekking. Chimpanzees are primates that live in forested areas and in Uganda they are distributed in various locations like Kibale Forest, Budongo Forest and many other places as we shall see later on. Chimpanzees, just like gorillas, share a 98%DNA with humans. This makes them prone to human infections that precautions are necessary and are set for travelers and all persons visiting the chimps to follow. Uganda has about 5000 chimpanzees that are both wild and habituated that travelers can trek and spend some time with. The number in recent pasts used to be in tens of thousands but due to poaching, instabilities in the areas and animal trafficking that saw them being sold for meat and pets has had the number greatly decline.
Ugandans never used to eat chimpanzees as food, but it is with the migration of persons from countries that find chimpanzee meat edible, say the Congolese, that have had Ugandans learn to eat chimps thus poach them for food.
There are only 21 countries in Africa that have chimpanzees in the wild, but Uganda is surely the best place to do chimpanzee trekking from. Uganda has various places from where one can do chimpanzee trekking from and they include;
Kibale Forest National Park
Kibale forest is the ultimate destination for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda as it offers the very best experience. Kibale also has other primates like monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabeys and others that travelers can see while in the park. Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale National Park starts from the Kanyanchu visitor center at 8am and is an activity that can take 2-3 hours and travelers are allowed only one hour with the chimpanzees. Advance booking is advised as chimpanzee permits just like gorilla permits do sell out quite quickly. A chimp permit for Kibale costs $200 for foreign non-residents, $150 for foreign residents and ugx150000 for East African citizens effective July 2020. Chimpanzee habituation experience can be done in Kibale forest and it has travelers spending the whole day with the nearly-fully habituated chimpanzees. Chimpanzee habituation experience permits cost $250 only for both foreign residents and foreign non-residents while East African citizens pay only ugx200,000.
Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda can also be done from the Kyambura Gorge which is found inside Queen Elizabeth National Park. The gorge is very scenic and it has been referred to as the lost Valley by the BBC and the Valley of the Apes by some others. The gorge is part of the Western Rift Valley thus giving quite a tough terrain for a trek in search of the chimps for it involves crossing creeks and rivers. Chimpanzee trekking in Kyambura Gorge can take about 3 hours in total, and it can be done during one’s stay in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Chimp permits for Kyambura gorge are cheaper and they cost only $50 for both foreign non-residents and residents while East African citizens can pay ugx30,000 only.
Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda can be done in Budongo forest located in Murchison falls National Park. Budongo forest is only 4 hours from Kampala thus making it possible to do a one-day chimpanzee trekking adventure very possible.
Other areas that travelers can find chimpanzees in Uganda are Kalinzu forest and Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary where orphaned or rescued chimpanzees are kept.
With the various options provided for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda, travelers can choose to trek from any of them. Kibale forest is however considered by many as the very best to see chimpanzees from.
Chimpanzees stay in groups that range from 10-100 members and only 6 persons can trek chimpanzee groups per day and allowed only one hour with them. Chimpanzee trekking is more active than gorilla trekking as the chips never really stay put. They keep moving and jumping from one tree to another and keep moving as they find what to eat.
Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda has rules and regulations that travelers are supposed to follow, and they include;
- Maintain an 8-meter distance away from the chimps
- Chimpanzee trekking is for persons that are 12 years and above only
- Sick persons with infections like flue, cough should not opt for chimpanzee trekking as the chimps will get sick too
- Do not use flash photography
- Do not eat near the chimpanzees
- Do not throw rubbish in the park
For a successful chimpanzee trekking in Uganda experience, travelers are advised to pack appropriately and some of the items one should consider include;
- Good hiking boots with a good grip
- Long sleeved shirts to cover your arms from the scratchy forest vegetation
- Long safari trousers
- Waterproof jackets, to keep you dry from the rains that can fall anytime especially in Kibale Forest National Park
- Waterproof backpack to safe keep your important items like the cameras and phones
- Energy giving snacks and water for refreshment during the hike
- Carrying a good camera for your pictures is also recommended that you might take pictures that you can share with friends and family when you return home.
- A pair of binoculars could also come in handy.
Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda can be done all year long. The dry season that runs through June-September and December-February is most recommended for travelers visiting Kibale and Budongo forests as they can be quite hard to maneuver during the wet season as the paths are to muddy and slippery. The wet season is the low season and some travelers do opt for this and those that are more adventurous also prefer this for the challenges it provides that make the experience all the more amazing.
Chimpanzee trekking permits sell out very fast, booking in advance is recommended. They can be got from the Uganda Wildlife Authority offices or through trusted tour operators. Chimp permits in the low season are not so hard to find though.
Persons that are 12 years and above are the only ones that are allowed to do chimpanzee trekking. Persons in groups of 6 are allocated a chimp family by a ranger and it is them only that can track that particular chimp family.
The chimpanzee trekking in Uganda experience involves travelers waking up early in the morning and after breakfast transfer to the chimp starting point where you will meet other travelers. You will have a brief by the rangers who will share on what to expect on the trek and reminded the rules and regulations to be followed. You’ll then be placed in groups of 6 and allocated chimp groups to track and then embark on their search. The trek can take anything between 2-4 hours and during the trek, travelers can sight other animals in the forests and birds. The rangers share their knowledge of the forests and the gorge plus the history. Once the chimps are encountered, travelers are allowed only one hour with them in which time they can take pictures, videos and just enjoy watching the cousins to humans as they eat, play and jump from one tree to another. After the one hour has elapsed, travelers trek back to the starting point and then find their driver guides who will take them for their next activity or back to the lodge.
Chimpanzee trekking is an exciting activity and travelers to Uganda oftentimes combine it with gorilla trekking to make the perfect primate safari in Uganda, which is indeed the pearl of Africa. Take time to contact your trusted tour operators to get you the best primate safari package to Uganda or just a chimpanzee trekking in Uganda safari.