One of the most exciting animals to see on a safari in Uganda is the chimpanzee. Next to gorillas these are the most popular primate species among tourists. Uganda has a population of close to 5000 chimpanzees distributed in the various forests and game parks. The chimpanzee population in Uganda used to be much higher than it is today. It used to number in tens of thousands but poaching and unstable political environment led to the continual decline in population. Chimpanzees were even hunted for food or sold as pets.
Before the civil and political unrest in the region, Ugandans never ate chimpanzees as food, or even reared them as pets, but they learnt these habits from people who migrated into the country, or fled the political instability in Democratic republic of Congo into Uganda.
Sometimes chimpanzees have been caught in snares meant for other animals such as antelopes, and many of these snares are deadly enough to kill the clueless chimpanzees.
Which are the best places to see chimpanzees?
There are only 21 countries in Africa where you can find chimpanzees in the wild. Uganda is one of those countries. It is actually the best place in east Africa to see chimpanzees. In west and central Africa, there is a lot of human encroachment on chimpanzee habitats, and hunting of chimpanzees for meat, which will eventually bring down the number of countries that have chimpanzees in the wild if those activities are not controlled.
If you are looking to see chimpanzees in east Africa, Uganda is the best choice you could ever make. With various forests and national parks, this trip, 5 Days Gorilla Safari & Chimpanzees there are many places where you can see chimpanzees in Uganda.
Where can you see chimpanzees in Uganda?
Uganda has various forests and national parks in which chimpanzees can be found. You can either choose to go chimpanzee tracking, or a chimpanzee habituation experience. Some parks offer one options, some offer both.
Here are some of the national parks and forests you can visit if you want to see chimpanzees in Uganda.
Kibale national park, Budongo forest- Murchison Falls national park, and Kyambura gorge-Queen Elizabeth National park, are some of the places where you can see gorillas in Uganda.
Every now and then, you might come across a chimpanzee outside a national park such as in the Buniga forest, the Bigodi wetlands sanctuary, and the Bwindi impenetrable forest.
The best places to have a chimpanzee tracking experience or a habituation experience is in the parks. Habituated chimpanzees are accustomed to human presence and will not run off when they sense or see you approach, but will stay put and you can see them and take pictures, from a distance of course.
To go on any chimpanzee adventure in Uganda, you need a chimpanzee permit, for each park you visit. Permit prices vary with each park.
The Chimpanzee experience in Kibale Forest
Kibale forest offers both chimpanzee tacking and habituation experiences. With chimpanzee trekking, you track the chimpanzees up to where they have settled in the forest. The trek itself is fun and in Kibale forest you get to see a few other animals and some other primates along the way. Kibale forest is home to about 12 other primates. When you finally find the chimps, you have one hour of viewing before you head back.
The chimpanzee habituation experience on the other hand, is where you get to experience a day with researchers who are involved in the chimpanzee habituation process. Habituation is a two year long process, so you get to spend the day watching the researchers go about habituating some chimpanzees.
The habituation experience is an available option in Kibale forest all year round, but in Budongo forest it is during the off season months.
The Kyambura gorge in Queen Elizabeth Park is another very good place to track chimpanzees in Uganda. This scenic gorge has been called the lost Valley by BBC and the Valley of the Apes by others. Kyambura Gorge is part of the Western Rift Valley and it provides such a unique setting and backdrop for chimpanzee tracking. The terrain can be a bit on the rough side, it means crossing creeks and rivers all part of the excitement of being with the chimpanzees of Kyambura Gorge. Tracking chimpanzees in Kyambura gorge is 3 hours well spent, and the chimpanzee permits here are usually cheaper than those for Kibale forest.
Budongo Forest in Murchison falls national park is another place to go chimpanzee tracking on your safari in Uganda. You can even do a one day chimpanzee tracking safari here. Budongo forest is only 4 hours from Kampala and is the nearest of the chimpanzee tracking destination. So while a one day gorilla trekking safari is almost impossible, a one day chimpanzee trekking experience is possible in Budongo forest. You just have to leave Kampala at about 6am, and you will probably be back in your room by 7 pm. Although you can instead choose to make it a two, three or four day trip. This gives you time to explore the rest of the park, perhaps visit the rhino sanctuary and go rhino tracking too.
Talk to your safari company of choice about chimpanzee tracking and add it to your itinerary as you plan your Uganda safari.