Chimpanzee Trekking in Uganda

Chimpanzee trekking is one of the most popular wildlife activities in Uganda which allows you to step into the world of chimpanzees in the wild. It takes you to the pearl of Africa for an amazing encounter with man’s closest relative. Chimpanzees belong to the family of great apes which includes gorillas and orangutans. They have large brains and are very intelligent with a great ability to learn new things. Chimpanzees can live up to 30 years in the wild and more. Because of their relative intelligence, chimpanzees are capable of constructing complex nests and using tools like rocks and sticks for removing termites from anthills. Chimps feed on fruit, seeds, tree leaves, honey, and insects. Chimpanzees also eat meat from other mammals and primates.

Chimpanzees live in large extended families/communities of 10 – 100 individuals that look out for and take care of each other. The males stay within the community while the females leave for nearby communities once they reach adolescence and that’s at 4 years. Like humans, they use complex methods that include facial expressions, gestures, sounds, and body language to interact, communicate and convey emotion. Chimp trekking in Uganda is an extraordinary wildlife experience.

Chimpanzee trekking destinations in Uganda include Kibale National Park, Murchison Falls National Park Queen Elizabeth National Park, Semliki Wildlife Reserve, Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, and Uganda Wildlife Education Centre.

Chimpanzee Tracking in Kibale Forest

The best place to track chimpanzees in Uganda is in the Kibale forest. The forest is home to several species of primates. There are 3 habituated communities in Kibale National Park. One community has been set apart for tourists while the other two are for researchers. The activity is done twice a day, in the morning at 8 am and in the afternoon at 2 pm. The chances of seeing a chimpanzee community in Kibale are very high. Tourists in Kibale Forest also have a chance to experience full-day chimpanzee habituation with one of the chimpanzee communities. Permits for tracking chimpanzees in Kibale Forest are more expensive than any other place in Uganda at 200 $ for foreigners, 150 $ for foreign residents, and 150,000 ugx for East African citizens. The Chimpanzee habituation experience will cost 250 $. Permits can be acquired by emailing or calling staff from the Uganda Wildlife Authority office. There are some discounts during certain months of March, April, May, October, and November.

Chimpanzee Trekking in Kalinzu Forest

It is located outside Queen Elizabeth National Park and is the second best place to track chimpanzees in Uganda after Kibale Forest. The pure density and concentration of chimps in a relatively small area raise the possibility of finding them to be over 90 percent. Apart from chimps, visitors should expect to spot different bird species, primates, butterflies, moths, reptiles, and flowers as they pass through in the forest. There are about 290 chimps found in Kalinzu forest with over 70 habituated. Chimpanzee trekking in Kalinzu forest is managed by the Uganda ministry of Forestry. A chimpanzee tracking permit costs $35 which is far less than at Kibale. The minimum age for tracking chimpanzees is 12 years in Kalinzu forest.

Chimpanzee Tracking in Budongo Forest (Murchison Falls National Park)

With a population of over 800 chimpanzees, Budongo forest is the third best place to track chimpanzees in Uganda. Budongo forest is found within the Murchison Falls National Park. The natural mahogany trees found in the forest provide perfect shelter for these amazing apes and other primates. About 100 habituated chimpanzees are available for tracking at Kaniyo Pabidi out of the total chimp population. Tourists who want to learn more about the chimpanzees can go for the whole day chimpanzee habituation Experience in Budongo. The activity in Budongo starts at 7 am for the morning session and 2 pm for the afternoon session. The best time to track chimpanzees in Budongo is between the months of May and August which are rainy seasons. During the dry season, the chimps move deep into the forest looking for scarce food, water, and shelter. This movement reduces the chances of seeing them significantly because trackers have to move great distances looking for them. Chimpanzee trekking in Budongo can be arranged alongside a wildlife safari to the Murchison falls national park. Chimpanzee permits cost $85 in Budongo.

Chimpanzee Tracking in Kyambura Gorge

The Valley of Apes is located within Queen Elizabeth National Park, the Kyambura Gorge is a good place to spot chimpanzees. The Kyambura Gorge is famous for its large concentration of primates like Baboons, red-tailed monkeys, vervet monkeys, and colobus monkeys. The population of chimpanzees is small at about 30 individuals. The small chimpanzee community often moves deep into the underground forest making it harder to find them on certain days. A chimpanzee permit costs $50 at the Kyambura Gorge.

Chimpanzee Trekking in Semliki Wildlife Reserve

It is located near the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo and has a population of about 260 chimps living in 3 communities. The chimps have a unique habit of moving upright as they leave the forest to go feed in the Savannah and that’s why it’s rare tracking them.

Chimpanzee Watching on Ngamba Island

This is a small but forested island on Lake Victoria which was turned into a chimpanzee sanctuary for rescued chimps all over Uganda. There are over 40 chimpanzees being cared for on the island. Ngamba Island is not designed for standard Chimp tracking.  Tourists and families with children are allowed to see the chimps from a secure raised platform as they come to feed three times a day.

Chimpanzee Sighting at The Uganda Wildlife Education Center

Commonly known as Entebbe Zoo, Uganda Wildlife Education Center (UWEC) was established in 1952 to rehabilitate injured, confiscated, and orphaned animals. About 40 chimpanzees can be seen from enclosures by tourists and families with children.

The experienced Ugandan Wildlife Authority guide leads you into the forest in the National Park, you will feel like you have entered another world. The treks last about three hours and include a maximum of one hour with the chimps, during which you can expect to see them from a safe but intimate distance of 8-10 meters. Get up close and personal with the chimpanzees and discover their beauty, intelligence, and social structures.

Tracking chimpanzees requires following some rules and they include;

  1. To book your chimpanzee permit in advance, especially during the peak seasons
  2. Children below the age of 15 aren’t allowed to track chimpanzees
  3. Do not litter the forest while tracking chimpanzees.
  4. It is not recommended to track chimpanzees while suffering from communicable diseases like flue
  5. Keep a distance of about 8 meters while near the Chimpanzees for your own safety
  6. Do not eat while near the chimpanzees. They may come and grab it from you violently.
  7. Do not talk too loud, make fun of or try to intimidate/provoke chimpanzees.
  8. Taking photos using flash is not allowed.
  9. Smoking while tracking chimps isn’t allowed

What to carry during Chimpanzee Trekking

  • Suitable Shoes for trekking in the jungle with a good grip that is good for navigating through muddy terrain and steep areas.
  • The right clothing like long-sleeved clothes can help protect you from scratches in the jungle. Plan for the unpredictable weather and a rain jacket just in case
  • Packed snacks and drinking water to get hungry or thirsty along the way.
  • Binoculars for not missing any detail in the jungle.
  • Insect repellant
  • A camera for taking photos of chimpanzees needs to have sharp lenses as the chimps live in long trees.
  • Walking sticks will help you steadily navigate through steep and rough terrain.

Chimpanzee trekking is an exciting activity that should be done by everyone as you get a close encounter with your close relative. Chimpanzee trekking shouldn’t miss on your itinerary on a Safari in Uganda.