CHIMPANZEE TREKKING IN UGANDA.

Chimpanzees are awesome creatures with great similarities with humans, both DNA and physical attributes. Uganda is blessed with a large population of these primates and this is what you need to know about these primates.

Chimpanzee destinations in Uganda.

Kalinzu Forest.

Kalinzu Forest is located in the western Uganda. Because of its biodiversity, Kalinzu is classified as a forest reserve. It is found in Bushenyi district and nears Queen Elizabeth National Park. It also borders with Maramagambo Forest an equally rich biodiverse forest. Of all primates in this forest, chimpanzees are the majority.

Kalinzu Forest is estimated to have a population of about 350 chimpanzees. Out of these, about 40 families have been habituated and therefore open to tourism. As an addition to the chimpanzee trekking experience, the tourist also gets to view other primates like vervet monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, L’Hoest’s monkey and baboons. While in the forest reserve, tourists also happen to encounter forest’s fortune teller. His details go as far as history of the forest, people that lived in it and how they interacted with the forest’s biodiversity.

Kalinzu forest also has a camping site, which uniquely, is located inside the forest. Therefore, interested tourists can camp and are able to view night animals like bush babies.

Budongo Forest.

Budongo is located in western Uganda. It’s closer to Masindi district and Murchison Falls National Park. It has chimpanzee population of about 700 chimpanzees. It has a large concentration of tropical trees on which chimpanzees breed. This forest gets less visitors as compared to other chimpanzee trekking destinations in Uganda. Because of this feature, trekkers get a better experience with the chimpanzees without interruption.

Chimpanzee trekking permits to Budongo Forest can be procured from the offices of Uganda lodges. Six trekking groups, with a composition of 3 trekkers per group are carried out daily. These trekking groups are ensured in the morning and afternoon. The trekking goes on up to 3 hours and tourists who intend to have a day long trek can reserve for that to be arranged.

Kibale Forest.

It’s located in Western Uganda near the tourism city of Fort portal. It has the highest concentration of chimpanzees in Uganda. Because of its biodiversity, Kibale was gazetted as a national park in 1993. It forms part of the extension to Queen Elizabeth National Park. The forest also has other primate species such as colobus monkeys and blue monkeys.

Habituation experiences have equally been successful and there are many habituated chimpanzees in the forest. Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale Forest is unique since only 2 trekking sessions are carried out daily, compared to other chimpanzee trekking destinations. The first trekking group is flagged off in the morning and the second in the afternoon at 2:00pm. Chimpanzee trekking goes on for up to 3 hours and tourists get an hour of interaction with the chimpanzees.

Kyambura Gorge.

This is also referred to as the ‘valley of apes’, because of a large pool of primates. It’s located within the Queen Elizabeth National Park, Western Uganda. Kyambura Gorge is drained by a number of streams and rivers, but the notable one is River Kyambura. The gorge was formed millions of years ago due to the geological earth processes.

It’s closer to the western arm of East African rift and the gorge is so extensive that the scenery is beautiful while on its upper lands. Kyambura Gorge also has good flora that creates a conducive ecosystem for the thriving of chimpanzees. As an addition to the chimpanzees, the gorge has olive baboons, red-tailed monkeys, and colobus monkeys. It also has hundreds of bird species the fill the forest day atmosphere with chatters.

Chimpanzee trekking permits.

Of all chimpanzee trekking destinations in Uganda, Kalinzu Forest has the cheapest chimpanzee trekking permits. A chimpanzee trekking permit in Kalinzu Forest costs $40 for foreign non-residents.

Chimpanzee trekking permits in Kyambura Gorge cost $50 for both non-resident foreigners and foreign residents. East Africa citizens get a permit in Kyambura at 30,000 UGX.

Chimpanzee trekking permits for Kibale Forest cost $200 for each non-resident foreigner. Each foreign resident gets the permit at $150 and East African nationals at 150,000 UGX. The habituation permits cost $250 for both non-resident foreigners and foreign residents, while East African nationals will get the permit at 150,000 UGX.

Chimpanzee trekking permits for Budongo Forest cost $90 for both non-resident foreigners and foreign residents.

Chimpanzee trekking rules.

  • The number of trekkers is limited to only 8 trekkers for each troop. This is to enable an uncongested experience.
  • Carry packed and enough drinking water, just in case the trek takes longer than expected.
  • Only 1 hour is designated to interact with the group of chimpanzees. The justification is to avoid any health issues like transmission of diseases between the chimpanzees and humans.
  • Always follow the lead and direction from your guide since chimpanzees are potentially aggressive compared to many other primates.
  • Eating food near the chimpanzees is prohibited.
  • An 8-meter distance between the primates and trekkers is advised.
  • Trekkers are asked to walk together in a group and not wander over. It’s a protection and safety precaution.
  • Provocation of chimpanzees is prohibited.
  • Trekkers with potentially airborne diseases aren’t allowed to get close to the chimpanzees. Some of these are cough and flue.
  • Only trained government ranger guides are allowed to lead trekkers, not private guides.
  • Flash cameras are prohibited. They could potentially be sensitive to the chimpanzees.
  • Trekkers should keep a low tone while around the chimpanzees.
  • Trekkers should not litter anyhow within the forest.
  • The minimum age requirement is 12 years.
  • Hiking wear and gear is a must to take part in the trekking.

Best time to visit.

The best time to do chimpanzee trekking is during the months of July to September, and then the period between December and February. This is because in Uganda, that time is termed as the dry season. The dry spell brings with it abundant sunlight conducive for the chimpanzee trekking.

What to pack?

Comfortable trekking boots and gear, camera, backpack, pair of binoculars, water bottle, hiking stick, food pack, insect repellent, hat, goggles, power bank and more as the visitor may choose.

Difficulty.

Whereas one may be worried and quick to compare chimpanzee trekking to mountain gorilla trekking, chimpanzee trekking is less difficult because chimpanzee locations in Uganda aren’t as hilly and rugged as those of mountain gorillas which often include steep hiking.

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