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Chimpanzee Trekking In Uganda: A Great Wildlife Adventure
Why chimpanzee trekking in Uganda is one of the greatest wildlife adventures.
Chimpanzees may get much less attention in the travel publications than the endangered and enormous mountain gorillas.
But tracking our closest relative on foot through the dense rainforest jungles in Africa is in fact one of the world’s most thrilling wildlife adventures. And it costs a fraction of a trek to see our larger cousins (trekking gorillas in Uganda).
While there are approximately 300,000 wild chimpanzees left on the planet in the tropical forests of Africa, observing these Great Apes in their natural habitat is a rare treat. The best place to do so is Uganda as its home to over 5700 wild chimpanzees.
Chimpanzees live in communities of up to 250 members. The chimpanzee communities are also divided into smaller subgroups each led by a dominant/alpha male.
They will usually spend most of their day time high in the trees, grooming, dozing, sleeping, and feeding on fruit, bark and leaves. But it is when they come down from the tree canopy that you will have your best opportunity to get close to these incredible creatures.
Today we know that chimps are humankind’s closest genetic relatives – sharing about 98% of our nuclear DNA. But it was the great primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall who first observed their amazing behaviors that are almost human.
Dr. Goodall in the 1960s lived with a community of chimps in Gombe Stream National Park of Tanzania, where she was able to prove that chimpanzees can make and use tools, hunt, kill and eat small mammals, ideas that were completely not known at the time.
By spending time with the chimps she finally taught them to accept her – a process known as habituation. Chimpanzee habituation is not only fantastic for scientists, but also opens up the opportunity for ordinary visitors to get almost within touching distance of these incredible primates.
Best Places to See Chimpanzees in Uganda
Kibale National Park
The 776 Km2 Kibale National Park is one of Africa’s last remaining expanses to contain both lowland and montane rainforests.
Kibale Forest National Park has the highest diversity and concentration of primate on the continent, including over 1500 wild chimpanzees. The park offers around 95% chances of seeing chimps, far better than any other place that offers chimpanzee trekking in Uganda, Tanzania, or Rwanda.
Besides chimps, Kibale Forest is home to 12 other species of primate, including Grey-cheeked Mangabey, the endangered Red Colobus, Olive Baboon, Red-tailed Monkey, Black-and-white colobus, Blue Monkey and the vulnerable L’Hoest’s Monkey. There is also over 370 bird species and 220 species of butterflies in the forest.
Kalinzu Forest Reserve
Kalinzu Forest is the next best alternative for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda. The forest is an ecotourism site that is situated just outside Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Kalinzu Forest contains a population of about 300 chimpanzees of which a community of about 40 chimps has been habituated for trekking adventures. Kalinzu offers about 90% chances of seeing Uganda chimpanzees.
Budongo Forest Reserve
The Budongo Forest is a big (825 km2) tract of intact tropical rainforest on the southern edge of the Murchison Falls National Park in northwestern Uganda.
It is the largest natural forest area in East Africa. The forest is known for the enormous mahogany trees that grow there, but also for its population of wild Chimpanzees and phenomenal birdwatching of over 366 species.
The Budongo forest has a population of approximately 800 chimpanzees and offers around 80% chances of seeing them in Uganda. This species-rich reserve also contains more than 290 butterflies, 130 moths, 465 trees, and 24 other species of mammals.
Queen Elizabeth National Park’s rolling golden savannah grasslands and green, lush forests are most popular for the rare tree-climbing lions and more than 5,000 hippos that wallow in the waters of Kazinga Channel, Lake Edward, and Lake George.
Not known well is the park’s population of chimps that reside in the 100 meter-deep Kyambura Gorge. Although these chimpanzees are habituated to the presence people, there is no guarantee they will show up for you. But, when they do, the low number of visitors in Kyambura Gorge means you will probably have them much to yourself.
Kyambura offers around 50% chances of seeing chimpanzees in Uganda.
Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary
Yes, seeing Chimpanzees at Ngamba Island is not a genuine wilderness wildlife viewing experience. However, if you have limited time and you are confined to the Kampala city or Entebbe region then Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Lake Victoria (Africa’s largest lake) is the perfect place to visit.
The Island is accessed by a short boat ride from Entebbe. You will have a chance to see many of the 52 orphaned and rescued chimpanzees at Ngamba. You can also encounter Uganda Chimpanzees at Uganda Wildlife Education Centre in Entebbe.
The Chimpanzee Trekking In Uganda Experience
Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda completely differ from the typical safaris in African country like Kenya,Tanzania, or Botswana. This unique adventure offers you a welcome break from savannah game drives.
Chimps reside in rainforest and the only access to them is by tracking them on foot. Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda is an active adventure and usually entails hiking for about 2 to 6 hours to watch chimps up close.
The adventure commences with a briefing, in which you learn a little about the apes you are about to see. You are also given some rules and regulations. One of the rules is to avoid getting too close to chimps. This is for your own safety and safety of chimpanzees as our illnesses can easily spread to them due to shared DNA.
After the briefing, you are separated into groups of up to six guests, each accompanied by a knowledgeable local ranger guide, who is armed in case of any emergency. And then it is time to trek the jungle.
Hiking through the dense rainforest, you will trek in the direction of where the chimps were last seen. You might even hear them before you see them. Hearing their d pant-hooting (chorus of vocalizations) at close range is a spine-tingling experience that will etched on your mind forever.
As you follow the pant-hoots direction, you will soon find one of the community’s sub-groups. They might be high up in the trees, feasting on figs, grooming, dozing, or playing. But if you are lucky, some will come down to the forest floor, and that is when the real adventure happens.
Face To Face Encounter With Chimps
Nothing beats that first, up-close encounter with chimpanzees no matter how prepared you are. You will be thrilled the intelligence, their poses, expressions and interactions that could be almost human. The way they look right at you with their bright eyes, and even pose for your camera, you may wonder if they are enjoying the interaction even more than you are.
Our Suggested Safari Itineraries Featuring Chimpanzee Trekking In Uganda
At Kubwa Five Safaris, we offer complete chimpanzee trekking packages, tours, trips, holidays, and vacations in Uganda. Some of our safari tour packages features sole chimpanzee trekking destination, but chimpanzee trekking in Uganda is mostly done as part of long Uganda safaris.
So, the tour can include other Uganda safari activities like wildlife game viewing in savannah parks, mountain gorilla trekking, and cultural encounters.
- 3 Days Wildlife Adventure Tour, Lake Mburo & Kyambura Gorge
- 7 Days Gorilla Trekking,Chimpanzee Tracking & Game Drives
- 10 Days Uganda Safari Of Big Apes & Big Cats
- 16 Days Safari To Murchison Falls, Kibale Forest, and Bwindi
7 Frequently Asked Questions About Chimpanzee Trekking In Uganda
What Fitness Is Required For Chimpanzee Trekking In Uganda?
While every day is different, chimpanzee trekking in Uganda needs a fair fitness level. Chimps reside in big territories and you may be lucky to find them after one hour or it might take two hours and more.
You get to spend up one hour with the chimpanzees and this experience is very variable too. Chimps may be stationary, feeding or resting or they might be on the move.
Unlike mountain gorillas, chimpanzees move very fast through the forest undergrowth. And trying to keep up with them can be a challenge. The unpredictability adds to the adventure. Most people walk away with great experience.
Whatever your fitness, you will need bring proper gear for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda. These include strong hiking shoes, a lightweight rain jacket, long trousers, and long-sleeved shirts, among others.
How Close Can I Get To The Uganda Chimpanzees?
Chimpanzees are our closest relatives, sharing 98.8% of our DNA. That implies that they can easily catch our diseases. So, as well as your own safety, you are advised to keep a some distance when watching and photographing chimps. Your chimpanzee trekking tour will be conducted in a small group of up to 6 visitors and the guide.
Your guide will give you very clear instructions on where to stay when you get close to the chimps. Despite this, chimps themselves are so habituated and they do not follow the guide’s rules.
And it might not be easy sometimes to back off due to the thick forest growth. Thus, it is very likely that a chimp will approach you within a meter.
How Much Is Chimpanzee Tracking In Uganda?
Chimp trekking in Kibale Forest National Park costs USD 200, Kyambura Gorge (USD50), Kalinzu Forest Reserve (USD50) and Budongo Forest Reserve (USD 130).
When booking an organized safari to Uganda, the trekking fees are included in the general safari price. A 3 days chimpanzee trekking tour to Kibale costs around USD 800 per person.
And a 10 Days Uganda safari tour, including chimp and gorilla trekking, as well as savannah safaris in Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth NPs, costs about USD 4,300 per person.
These prices are only guidelines because they vary depending on the level of the class of accommodation on your tour. The accommodation ranges from budget, mid-range to luxury Uganda safari lodges and camps.
How Does Chimpanzee Trekking In Uganda Compare To Other Countries?
Though a number of countries offer chimpanzee trekking in Africa, the adventure is best done in Uganda. Many guests go chimp trekking at least once on their wildlife safaris in Uganda.
There is great chimpanzee trekking in Tanzania too in Gombe Stream and Mahale Mountains National Parks, on the shores of Lake Tanganyika – Africa’s deepest lake. Gombe National Park is well-known for being the site where the celebrated Primatologist, Dr. Jane Goodall did her chimpanzee research.
Also in these remote regions, it is very special. But getting there is time-consuming or costly, which has made chimpanzee trekking is much less common on Tanzania safaris.
In Rwanda, Nyungwe Forest National Park is less-known chimpanzee trekking destination. This ancient montane rainforest is remarkably accessible and has 13 species of primates.
Nyungwe Forest is worth visiting for its natural beauty, forest hikes, canopy walks, and biodiversity alone. And the chance to trek for chimpanzees is a bonus.
Are Chimp Sightings Guaranteed On A Uganda Chimp Trek?
Your success rate of finding the Chimps depends on where you go on a chimpanzee trekking in Uganda. Though habituated, the chimps are totally wild animals.
They move in search of food daily. Also, they make a new nest every night wherever they end up. All in all, these agile primates are less sedentary than mountain gorillas and the sightings are altogether more variable.
In Kibale Forest National Park, sightings are almost guaranteed (95%). With a lot of visitor activity as well as research groups operating here, the guides usually have a good idea of where the chimps are at any time.
Kalinzu is the next best alternative with about 90% chances. Budongo forest offers around 70% chances and in Kyambura Gorge, the Chances are around 60%.
Is Chimpanzee Trekking In Uganda Safe?
Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda is a safe adventure. The chimps are habituated and they know that people pose no threat to them. You’ll be given a safety briefing before you head out on a chimpanzee trekking tour.
And one of the rules is to maintain the recommended 8 meters/26 feet distance from the chimpanzees. It is also not good to imitate chimp calls.
It might seem fun to mimic them, but if you are not cautious you may accidentally end up recreating a battle cry and bring 250 angry chimpanzees down upon you.
Once you have been briefed, you’re separated into groups of up to 6, each accompanied by a guide, who is armed in case of emergencies.
As long as you listen to the instructions given by your guide, you’ll have nothing to worry about. Moreover, Uganda as a country is a safe travel destination. Crime in any of the parks or reserves is very rare.
How Do Chimpanzee & Gorilla Trekking Compare?
In comparison to trekking gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, chimpanzee trekking in Uganda is vastly underrated. This might be a result of gorillas’ massive size, which makes these great giants so overwhelming to be around.
But the encounters are nearly similar. Before you set out with a small group of visitors on either activity, your ranger will brief you.
You’ll have an entire hour to observe the primates once you’ve located them. The primary distinction is that gorillas are overall less active. The young ones may play, but the adults typically eat or sleep.
Also gorillas live in families of up 20 individuals. While gorilla families always stay together, chimp communities are more fluid. They often split into sub groups, which spend time apart to reunite later.
There always seems to be something going on in a chimpanzee community. For example, you may see an alpha male trying to take over, a youngster chimp throwing a tantrum, males patrolling their territory and, occasionally, a hunt for colobus monkeys.
Although this makes chimpanzee trekking and watching very rewarding, it also makes it trickier than spending time with mountain gorillas.
When on the move, chimps are difficult to follow. Their nimble bodies move easily through thick vegetation while you may struggle to get through.
Chimpanzees spend most of their time high up in trees compared to gorillas. That can make watching more difficult too. Despite this, your guide will work really hard to ensure you get a good sighting and great photo opportunities.
Last but not least is the price difference; chimp trekking costs $200 in Kibale and less in other parks, while gorilla trekking costs $700 per person.