Uganda is one of the top destinations for primate watching, and Kibale is the best of the best
WHILE THE famous mountain gorillas feature on every traveller’s bucket list, chimp trekking offers a different kind of reward. Often heard before they are seen, over 5,000 of our closest relatives are believed to live within the forests of Uganda.
Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale began in 1991 when the first family of chimpanzees had been successfully habituated to the presence of humans. Back then the chances of a sighting was less than 20 per cent, but it is now over 90 per cent, due the conservation of their habitat and the habituation of more chimp communities; a direct result of tourism in Uganda.
Seeing a chimp in the wild is an adrenaline-fuelled experience
Kibale Forest National Park has the greatest variety and concentration of primates found anywhere in Africa. There are almost 1,500 chimpanzees, and with a community of 120 habituated chimps you can now spend one hour or even a whole day shadowing a ranger and taking part in their adjustment process, monitoring the chimps’ routine from dawn till dusk.
Seeing a chimpanzee in the wild is an adrenaline-fuelled experience. They are highly mobile and active as they move around in their social groups so keeping up with them is no mean feat! Their distinctive cries can be heard through Kibale Forest, heightening anticipation of the encounter and leading trackers to their whereabouts. It is usual to encounter anything from a solitary individual to around 10 or 12 chimpanzees as they rest, forage and fornicate.
Chimps share many of their genes with us, and although better than us at climbing trees, we share the same emotions. From power struggles between males competing for females, to tenderly grooming one another and embracing in an act of security and protection before preparing to defend their territory. These great apes are fascinating to watch, so would say more so than the mountain gorillas, but with standard permits less than a quarter of the cost than that of the mountain gorilla, you can judge that for yourselves.
Uganda, well known as the Pearl of Africa, has 10 national parks providing the best of East Africa. These include Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (home to the mountain gorilla); Queen Elizabeth National Park, rich in game and home to the tree climbing lion; Murchison Falls National Park, where the mighty Nile squeezes through a narrow gorge before it falls over 140ft; the hidden gem of Kidepo Valley National Park – a true untouched wilderness; and Jinja, the adventure capital of Uganda and the source of the River Nile. Wherever you go in the country, travellers will encounter many different cultures, foods and lifestyles, all linked by the smile and warmth that defines the people of Uganda.