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Kalinzu Chimpanzee Trekking Tours

Sharing a western border with Queen Elizabeth National Park, the 137km²/53mi² Kalinzu Forest Reserve protects a tropical rainforest that rises from the Rift Valley floor to the Kichwamba Escarpment. More than 300 chimps roam wild in this pristine jungle, and two communities have been habituated, one for research purposes and the other for tourist visits. Kalinzu is less publicized than other chimp-watching venues, but it is emerging as a popular addition to budget safari tours, thanks to its combination of low prices, ready accessibility and high success rate. Like chimp trekking elsewhere, visiting these humanlike apes (with which we humans share almost 99% of our DNA) in Kalinzu is pure magic and utterly unforgettable.

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1-20 of 24 chimp tracking trips, holidays and vacation packages to Kalinzu Forest Reserve

7 Questions About Kalinzu Chimpanzee Trekking Tours


7 Questions About Kalinzu Chimpanzee Trekking Tours

Answered by Philip Briggs

How does chimp trekking in Kalinzu Forest compare to other chimp trekking reserves in Uganda?

“Kalinzu ranks among the best places to track chimps in Uganda. The success rate stands at above 90%. This is lower than Kibale National Park, but comparable to or better than other Ugandan chimp trekking sites such as Kyambura Gorge (which also borders Queen Elizabeth National Park), Budongo Forest and Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve. Three major advantages of doing a chimp trek at Kalinzu are that permits are much cheaper than elsewhere (you could track chimps here twice for half the cost of a single permit at Kibale), that it is relatively uncrowded, and that it is highly accessible to independent travelers whether they self-drive or use public transport. We also like the fact that chimp trekking and other activities in Kalinzu form part of a community-based ecotourism project, which is managed in conjunction with the National Forestry Authority. A disadvantage of tracking at Kalinzu is that the hike out to locate the chimps is generally relatively long and demanding, but this should not be a deterrent to a moderately fit traveler.”


Is chimp trekking in Kalinzu easily incorporated in a general Uganda trip?

“Absolutely. Nearby Queen Elizabeth National Park is included on most Uganda tour packages, and Kalinzu can easily be visited as a day trip from most camps there. Kalinzu is also the closest chimp trekking venue to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda’s main gorilla trekking destination. Furthermore, Kalinzu’s reception office and trekking trailhead are set right alongside a busy surfaced main road. It is very accessible to independent travelers, whether they are on a self-drive holiday or use public transport.”


Are chimp sightings guaranteed?

“Chimp sightings are not guaranteed anywhere in Uganda, and Kalinzu is no exception. This is because, unlike gorillas, chimpanzees are very restless and often move long distances at a rapid pace or sit high in the canopy obscured by foliage. Within that context, however, Kalinzu’s recent success rate of 90% is about as good as it gets outside Kibale National Park, the country’s premier chimp-watching venue. And the lower permit price means that you could consider a second trek (and even a third or fourth) should the first attempt be unsuccessful.”


Are mornings or afternoons best for chimp trekking?

“This can vary considerably from one day to the next, but the morning chimp trek (which leaves from the reception office at 8 AM) typically offers the best sightings. This is partly because chimps are more active and vocal in the morning, so they tend to be easier to locate and to see clearly. But it’s also because you can stay out longer if required without having to worry about returning in the dark. That said, if the afternoon trek (which leaves at 3 PM) slots in better with your trip itinerary, it is also often very productive, so worth doing.”


What fitness level is required?

“Chimp trekking in Kalinzu tends to be slightly harder work than it is in Kibale National Park or Budongo Forest, as you need to walk farther and the terrain is more hilly. But even so, the level of fitness required is moderate. If you are reasonably agile and comfortable with the idea of spending around 4 hours on your feet, you should be fine. If that sounds daunting, however, then you might want to do some light training before you travel.”


What other animals live in Kalinzu Forest?

“A wide diversity of mammals, birds and other creatures live in Kalinzu. Chimps aside, five primates that are active by day are regularly seen in the forest. These are olive baboon, black-and-white colobus, blue monkey, red-tailed monkey and l’Hoest’s monkey. Kalinzu is also an important refuge for the rare pygmy antelope, while elephant, buffalo, leopard and even lion occasionally stray across from Queen Elizabeth National Park. A bird checklist of 378 species features an impressive selection of striking forest specialists including great blue turaco, black-and-white-casqued hornbill and black bee-eater.”


Is chimp trekking in Kalinzu Forest safe?

“Yes. Although male chimps are heavier and stronger than human adults, the habituated community here is very relaxed around people. While you are in the forest, there is a chance of bumping into the likes of elephant and buffalo, but this is a very rare occurrence. And when it does happen, the animal will normally move on. Prior to your chimp trek, an experienced guide will brief you about safety. If you follow their instructions, you have little to worry about. Note, however, that for safety reasons, children under the age of 12 are not allowed to track chimpanzees.”