​Expert Reviews – Kibale NP

Sort By: Most helpful Rating 1-10 of 10 Reviews
Expert
Mike Unwin   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: September

Mike is an award-winning wildlife writer, former editor of Travel Zambia magazine and author of the Bradt Guide to Southern African Wildlife.

9 people found this review helpful.

Primate Central
Overall rating
4/5

Kibale National Park has made its name from one species: the chimpanzee. The long-term habituation of several troops in the park allows excellent close encounters with this fascinating and sometimes volatile primate – our closest relative. Sightings are virtually guaranteed, and for those with the time and budget, a one-hour encounter can be extended into a day-long ‘nest-to-nest’ experience, in which you will stay with the troop from dawn to dusk, gaining intimate insights into their behaviour along the way.

But Kibale is not only about the chimps. This 795-square-kilometre patch of forest, surrounded on three sides by tea estates, has the most concentrated primate biodiversity in Africa, with other species ranging from black-and-white colobus, Uganda mangabey and red-tailed monkey to – after dark – diminutive galagos and slow-moving pottos, located by eye-shine on torch-lit night walks. On its fourth side, the forest forms a contiguous corridor with Queen Elizabeth National Park. This means that the occasional elephant turns up along Kibale’s trails, although large mammals more often encountered include three species of duiker, bushbuck, bush pig and, if you’re lucky, giant forest hog. The birdlife is both prolific and special, with forest rarities such as green-breasted pitta and olive long-tailed cuckoo among some 370 recorded species. Tracking down some of these shy canopy denizens on the dark, overgrown trails requires patience and a good ear. Thankfully the guiding is excellent.

Much accommodation is outside the park, requiring a drive of up to an hour to make an early start for the chimps. Accommodation inside the park, where possible, is preferable, and promises excellent primate action around your lodge. With a morning to spare, it is well worth visiting the nearby Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, a small community project that offers outstanding birding in and around a protected swamp. Monkeys, pythons and sitatungas may also be seen here.

Expert
Charlotte Beauvoisin   –  
Uganda UG
Visited: Multiple times

Charlotte lives in Uganda and is a writer, blogger, volunteer and promoter of birding, conservation and responsible tourism. She writes for Fodor’s, Horizon Guides and Bradt, and runs an award-winning blog.

8 people found this review helpful.

Chimptastic!
Overall rating
5/5

Most famous for its population of chimpanzees, Kibale Forest is known as "the primate capital of the world" for its 13 types of primates including nocturnal bushbabies.

Nothing will prepare you for the cacophony if chimps sense danger. The "buttress drumming" of tree trunks and noisy "pant hoots" may alert you to the group chasing down and hunting a black-and-white Colobus monkey. The same drama could simply mean an excited youngster has found a fruiting fig tree. You can never predict how your hour with man's closest relative will pan out.

Although Uganda you can track chimps in numerous forests (most established are Kyambura, Budongo and Kalinzu), Kibale has the highest number of permits daily. Close encounters with chimps are de rigeur (the downside is that during busy seasons, you may find dozens of other visitors in the forest with you). Regular tracking allows one hour with the primates after you have tramped through the forest to find them. For a more immersive few hours, join researchers for the chimpanzee habituation experience. Chimp tracking in Kibale Forest combines well with swamp walks in nearby Bigodi (KAFRED directly benefits the local community) and Sunbird Hill, a private forest-edge site run by the NGO In the Shadow of Chimpanzees.

Kibale's 120 mammals include shy forest elephants, occasionally seen on the main road that bisects the park. Rarely seen - but recently caught on a camera trap - are serval and golden cats. Uganda's forests have an astonishing range of butterflies and moths and Kibale's butterflies number over 250. A trained guide can help you add the elusive green-breasted pitta to your life list.

Expert
Dale R Morris   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: February

Dale is a multi-award-winning writer and photographer with more than 500 published magazine articles featured in magazines such as National Geographic, BBC Wildlife, Travel Africa, and CNN Travel.

6 people found this review helpful.

Chimping Around in Kibale
Overall rating
4/5

Kibale is principally a rainforest park, and as such is a great place for bird-watching and primate encounters, with the main drawcard being its habituated communities of chimpanzees.

On my most recent foray into Kibale’s jungles, I participated in two chimp treks (which are limited to one hour with the apes), as well as a ‘habituation’ session where up to six hours can be spent with these enigmatic cousins of ours. The difference is that the lengthier ‘habituation’ trek may require chasing around the forest behind a group of chimpanzees that are less used to human presence than a fully habituated troop would be.

I guess I got lucky on my ‘habituation’ day because the chimps we followed seemed no warier of me than the fully habituated groups I had earlier visited. I got to spend hours quietly observing, as they socialized, fed, groomed one another, and engaged in politics, and pranks.

Although most visitors go to Kibale for the chimps, there are other activities available, such as birding excursions (with more than 370 recorded species), guided forest hikes (expect to see some of the 13 species of resident primates) and night walks. Also worthwhile is a guided walk to see plentiful monkeys and birds in the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, a community-owned reserve that borders the park.

If you have time on your hands, take a stroll or a drive along the main paved road that bisects the park. You are likely to see numerous bird species, monkeys, and if lucky, even chimpanzees.

Expert
Philip Briggs   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: Multiple times

Philip is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many guidebooks, including the Bradt guides to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.

4 people found this review helpful.

Monkey Nirvana
Overall rating
4/5

Kibale NP is best known for its habituated chimpanzees. In my experience, it is easily the most reliable place in Uganda to track our closest relative, and I've had excellent sightings on all my most recent visits. That said, the relatively high tourist volumes mean that encounters with these fascinating and delightful creatures tend to be less intimate than in the likes of Tanzania’s Mahale Mountains or Gombe NPs.

The great thing about Kibale is that it offers so much more than just chimp tracking. A dozen other primate species are resident, and I’ve often seen five or six in a day – not just chimps but also the Ugandan red colobus, the acrobatic black-and-white colobus, the secretive red-tailed monkey and the relatively terrestrial l’Hoest’s monkey. Here, you should also encounter large troops of olive baboon on the main road and might well glimpse the Uganda mangabey, which is endemic to the country.

As is the case with so many other Ugandan parks, Kibale is an outrageously good bird-watching destination. On my most recent visit, a long guided walk along the main road through the park yielded a long list of wonderful sightings, including Ross’s turaco, black-billed turaco, speckled tinkerbird, masked apalis, red-headed bluebill, white-breasted nigrita, green crombec, dusky tit, dusky-blue flycatcher and red-bellied paradise flycatcher. If you are really lucky, you might even glimpse the localized and stunningly beautiful green-breasted pitta.

Expert
Stuart Butler   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: December

Stuart is a travel writer and author of numerous Lonely Planet guidebooks, including 'Kenya', 'Rwanda' and 'Tanzania'.

3 people found this review helpful.

The World’s Best Chimpanzee Encounter?
Overall rating
4/5

Although chimpanzees can be found in quite a number of parks and reserves in eastern Africa, the four big ‘chimp parks’ are Tanzania’s Gombe and Mahale Mountains, Rwanda’s Nyungwe and Uganda’s Kibale. I have been lucky enough to have visited all of them and they all have their plus and minus points.

The chimps of Rwanda’s Nyungwe forest are easily the most timid around people, and though the forest is beautiful and there are other things to do here, plus access is easy, it’s probably the least enticing of the four for chimps. Tanzania’s two parks both offer fabulous chimpanzee encounters but both are expensive to visit, other activities are limited, access is hard and visitors are limited to one hour with the chimps (as in Nyungwe).

Uganda’s Kibale by contrast offers an enticing mixture of easy access (about a half-day drive from Kampala), excellent-value accommodation in all price ranges, and a wide array of other activities from seriously good birding in a neighbouring area of marshland to long forest walks and numerous exciting community activities. All this stands it in good stead but then there’s the chimpanzee encounter itself. The chimps here are almost as relaxed with people as those of Gombe and Mahale, so very close-up encounters are almost a given. As with all the other parks, the standard chimp tracking tour gives you just one hour with the chimps (and it costs more here than any other park), but what I think gives Kibale the edge over all the others is that it’s also possible to pay for a full-day ‘chimp habituation experience’. This doesn’t cost much more than the one-hour tracking permit, but you get to spend far longer with the chimps. When I did it, I think I spent a little over nine hours in the forest with the chimpanzees and it was arguably the most rewarding wildlife encounter I have ever had. What’s even better is that the vast majority of visitors only do the one-hour trek, so you and your guide have a good chance of spending most of the day with the chimps alone – an utterly magical experience. So for this reason I would say that Kibale is the best place in the world to track chimpanzees.

Expert
Ariadne van Zandbergen   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: Wet season

Ariadne is a renowned African wildlife photographer whose work is featured in many well-known guidebooks and magazines.

3 people found this review helpful.

The Pant-Hooting Chimpanzees of Kibale
Overall rating
4/5

I had one of my most memorable wildlife encounters in Kibale. I arrived late and after paying my fees for the next day’s guided chimpanzee tracking trip, I decided to take a stroll down the main road that runs through the forest. Unfortunately, the forest is bisected by a public road. Minibuses loaded with passengers hurtle along through this otherwise pristine reserve. Because I was tired and felt I wasn’t going into the forest proper, I went light with only a pair of binoculars around my neck, free of my disgustingly heavy camera with wildlife lens attached to it.

After an hour’s walk, I saw some rustling in the trees and on further inspection I discovered some chimps feeding in the canopy. I sat down on the side of the road, hoping for some action and I wasn’t to be disappointed. Out of nowhere, more and more chimps arrived and they started their famous pant-hooting. With chimps all around me, the swelling hoots became deafening and, from a human perspective, hysterical – goosebump-raising stuff. They seemed to have gathered all together on one side of the road when one individual decided to cross over. The road is too wide for them to swing so it had to come down to the ground and leap across, hooting and arms swinging all along. This seemed to have been the cue for all of them to follow suit. They ran across on either side of me, some as close to me as a couple of meters. Knowing the danger the road poses, their adrenaline was obviously running high, but I doubt it was running as high as mine. Once they’d crossed, all went quiet and the forest closed behind them.

The next day, on my paid activity, I was prepared with all my photographic goodies, but no real opportunity presented itself. My fellow trackers seemed more concerned with keeping their new CAT boots clean than finding chimps and when we finally found them, the chimps seemed wary of us, or maybe they were just on the move.

Expert
Alan Murphy   –  
Australia AU
Visited: May

Alan is a travel writer and author of over 20 Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guides to Southern Africa and Zambia & Malawi.

2 people found this review helpful.

Primate Paradise
Overall rating
4/5

I was told Kibale was outstanding for tracking chimps. What I wasn’t told was that it was also outstanding for other primates – 13 species in all! So, keep an eye out for other furry delights amongst the trees. Undoubtedly though, visitors come to this beautiful, dense forest to observe chimpanzees, first and foremost. And it is unlikely you will leave disappointed.

We tracked a family both on the ground, as they searched for fruits to eat, and through the forest canopy once they scampered up the trees. I got nice and close to a big male chomping on some fruit on the ground, which made for some excellent pics. It’s uncanny how they can look human at times, just with a small gesture or movement.

Expert
Tim Bewer   –  
United States US
Visited: August

Tim is a travel writer who has covered 10 African countries for Lonely Planet's Africa, East Africa and West Africa guidebooks.

2 people found this review helpful.

The Highest Density of Primates in Africa
Overall rating
3/5

It’s not a typical safari stop, but if you love primates you’re going to love Kibale. This lush jungle near several gorgeous crater lakes has 13 primate species including black-and-white colobus, red-tailed monkey, l’Hoest’s monkey and chimpanzee. The latter is what brings most people here because some have been habituated to humans and the chances of finding them are very good, plus the tracking is not very difficult. There’s the usual option to spend an hour with the chimps, but Kibale offers a day-long habituation experience too. You might also see elephants, buffaloes, or leopards, but don’t count on it – the dense forest makes finding them very difficult. On the other hand, night walks are excellent here with bush baby and civet sightings fairly common. Bird-watching is also very good, though most birders focus their efforts outside the park in small preserves like Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, which harbors grassland and wetland birds alongside Kibale’s forest species.

Expert
Lizzie Williams   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: Wet season

Lizzie is a reputed guidebook writer and author of the Footprint guides to South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

2 people found this review helpful.

Observing the Busy Lifestyle of Chimpanzees in Kibale
Overall rating
3/5

Kibale is an enchanting equatorial rainforest of very tall trees (some over 50 metres high), broad buttress roots and dense undergrowth. It’s best known for its large population of chimpanzees, though other primates can be spotted including red-tailed and black-and-white-colobus monkeys. The highlight is to go chimpanzee tracking, and surprisingly I found it quite different to gorilla tracking, simply because chimps are far more agile animals and the pace is much faster. While the guides located them quickly (you can hear their distinctive screeching long before you see them), once they decided to move at high speed through the canopy of branches, keeping up with them was quite a challenge. But it was fascinating to see how clever they are – scaling giant trees, feeding, communicating and caring for their young – and they seemed to have no fear of their curious human audience.

Expert
Stephen Cunliffe   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: September

Stephen is a travel writer and avid conservationist whose work appears in prestigious magazines such as Africa Geographic and Travel Africa.

1 person found this review helpful.

The Place To Go for Habituated Chimps in Uganda
Overall rating
3/5

Gorillas aside, Kibale is the epicentre of primate trekking in Uganda. The park is home to 13 different primate species with habituated chimpanzees, l’Hoest’s monkey and the threatened Uganda mangabey and Ugandan red colobus being the big four. However, most tourists come here because a visit to Kibale almost guarantees them a chance to see very relaxed chimps going about their daily business. Because this is one of the most popular spots for chimp treks in East Africa, the chimps have become extremely habituated over time and I like this from a quality of sightings and purely photographic point of view. Primate densities are high and chimps are abundant, so few leave this park without having enjoyed a good sighting of these often-elusive primates that are, in fact, our closest relatives. Birders will also enjoy spending some time here and the variety of forest types will ensure they probably add a few lifers to their bird lists.

Average Expert Rating

  • 3.8/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star 1
  • 4 star 6
  • 3 star 3
  • 2 star 0
  • 1 star 0
Write a User Review