Kibale Forest National Park in Western Uganda is a tropical forest dominated Park with moist evergreen rain forest. It covers an area of 766 square kilometers (296 sq. mi) and found between 1,100 meters (3,600 ft.) to 1,600 meters (5,200 ft.) in altitude. There is a 180 kilometers (110 mi) forest corridor that joins Kibale National Park to Queen Elizabeth National Park, which attracts Uganda tours to both Parks. The forest was gazetted in 1932 and transformed into a national park in 1993 purposely to protect chimpanzees and ensure diversify tourism products in Uganda the pearl of Africa. Presently, Kibale Forest National Park has become an important eco-tourism and safari destination. The park is rich in biodiversity sheltering Uganda’s highest number of Chimpanzees, other twelve species of primates and various vegetation types a combination of which make kibale national park a must visit to make a Uganda safari complete. The national park is also the host for the Makerere University Biological Field.
Among the 13 species of primates that are habituated in Kibale Forest National Park include the common Chimpanzee, several species of the Central African Monkey like the Uganda Mangabey, the Uganda Red Colobus and the L’Hoest’s monkey. Other primates in the Park include the black and white colobus and the blue monkey. Other mammals in the Park are; Warthogs, African buffalo, leopards, African golden cats, servals, mongooses and otter, Red and blue duikers, bushbucks, situngas, bush pigs, and giant forest hogs. The Park has also got elephants that keep switching with Queen Elizabeth National Park. Lions visit the park on occasionally. Over 325 bird species can also be viewed in the Park and the most common of these include the olive long-tailed cuckoo, Western tinker bird, African green-breasted and grey parrot and the Park’s endemic specie of the ground thrush.
Regarding vegetation cover, the national Park has approximately 229 species of trees of which some are endangered timber species like Cordia millenii, Entandrophragma angolense and Lovoa swynnertonnii. The forest ground cover is dominated by the shade-tolerant shrubs and herbs like ferns and broad leaf grasses.
Activities & Attractions in Kibale forest national park
Chimps are tracked during the Kanyanchu primate walk that starts at the information center after a simple briefing by the park rangers. Chimpanzee tracking is the key activity in the park, which attract the highest number of travelers from different parts of the world. Among all the thirteen primates in the park, the chimps are the most sought specie of all. In addition to Chimpanzee tracking, there is also full-day Chimpanzee Habituation Experience (CHEX), which allow travelers to spend a half-day with chimpanzees. Chimpanzee tracking starts early at 8 am and lasts for about 3 hours and starts again at 2pm.
Although unguided walking is no longer permitted in Kibale National Park save around the vicinity of Kanyanchu Visitor’s Centre to watch the localized friendly red-chested paradise flycatcher, robin chats, weavers and greenbuls, daytime guided walks into the forest are offered to visitors. While on this walk, visitors can encounter different monkey species including the endemic Uganda Mangabey. Other magnificent bird species that can be watched along the forest’s flanked section along the Fort Portal road North of Kanyanchu include Sabine’s spine tail, blue-breasted kingfisher, Afep pigeon and plenty butterflies. A decent section of monkeys can also be seen in this area.
Bigodi Swamp Walk
The Bigodi Swamp Walk offers one of the best bird and monkey views in Uganda. In addition to this, the walk brings you in touch with the unique swamp’s more than 40 bird species. The spectacular swamp associated with amazing birds like the papyrus gonolek, grey-throated, yellow-billed, yellow spotted and double-toothed barbets, join the great blue turaco. Others include, yellow bill, brown-eared woodpecker, blue-throated roller, grey parrot, bronze sun bird, black-crowned waxbill, grey-headed Negro finch, swam p flycatcher. The most common monkey in the swamp is the red colobus. However, red tailed monkey, L’Hoest’s monkey, black and white colobus, Uganda mangabey can also be seen here. Lucky visitors can also the chimps and the shy sitatatunga antelope, which visit the swamp occasionally to look for fruits.
Bigodi Cultural Centre
This a traditional museum situated just opposite the Bigodi Swamp Walk office with traditional clothes, grinding stones, musical instruments and many other artifacts that offer an alternative for those who are not interested in the swamp and forest walk.
This 50 meters high waterfall along the Mpanga River tumbles over the rim of Mount Karubaguma just 15 kilometers before emptying into Lake George. The waterfall is enclosed by a steep gorge, which is surrounded by the Uganda Giant Cycad a unique vegetation type, and one of Africa’s largest cycad colonies. It is a critically endangered species endemic to this single area. Mpanga gorge is located in one of the remotest corners of Queen Elizabeth National Park and therefore you need permission from the Park’s authority at Kebuko village 28km from Kamwenge to access it. From Kawenge, you can use a special hire or boda to cover the 22km to the gorge.
The Sebitoli Sector was opened in 2002 as an extension of Kibale Forest to ease tourist pressure on Kanyanchu. Although the sector can easily be accessed by a few hundred kilometers off the main Fort Portal-Kampala road, the lack of chimpanzee tracking in the sector has made it to continue lagging behind Kanyanchu for this favorite tourist activity. However, this can be compensated the availability of good value and worthwhile budget guided walks in the Kihingami Wetlands found just 1km from Sebitoli.
A local guide will help to explore the Magombe Wetlands, the 200 species of birds, numerous butterflies, 8 varieties of primates together with the unusual swamp vegetation during the nature walk.
The village walks help you to discover the daily life of Batooro. The cultural tour also passes across the village’s primary school, Church and a traditional healer. Traditional story of “village of two tribes” describes how the migrating Bakinga from the South-western Uganda came to join the indigenous Batooro in 1950s while narrating the history of Bigodi. You will also learn about the role of women in the village and traditional ceremonies during this cultural encounter.
From Kampala to the primary center for tourism activities in the Park especially gorilla tracking Kanyanchu River Camp can be reached either from the North, via Mubende and Fort Portal or the South through Mbarara and Kamwenge by road. However, the Northern approach via Fort Portal is shorter and quicker with a 290km of tarmac to Fort Portal and then 32km of gravel to Kanyanchu.
The Sebitoli Forest Camp is even easier to reach as it lies along the main high way from Kampala just 12km before Fort Portal.
When you have a stop at the Ndali-Kasenda crater area, you can have a beautiful panoramic view of the tea estate and Kibale forest to the East, the Rwenzori to the West and Lake George and the Rift Valley plains t the South.
Accommodation/ Where To Stay In Kibale Forest National Park
High standard accommodation facilities like lodges and hotels for luxury are available at Fort Portal town. Budget accommodation is also available at Bigodi, Nkingo and Ndali crater area, these include up-market accommodation and chimpanzee guesthouse near Lake Nkuruba. The Park has also got accommodation with Kibale primate Lodge in Kanyanchu which is very convenient for those who want to do primate walks and chimpanzee tracking. Others include tree houses and cottages at Sebitoli. Campsites and restaurants serving both local and international dishes are found at every accommodation.
In general, a Uganda safari tour to Kibale National Park basically enriches you with incredible experience of chimpanzee tracking, primate tour and unforgettable birding experience. Forest and swamp walks leave you admiring the Forest’s unique vegetation species. In addition to that, the nature walks through the forest and around Mpanga falls together with the cultural encounters make you fall in love with the area’s rich nature and unique tradition and culture of the local residents.