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Chimpanzee Trekking In Uganda

Chimpanzees live in huge extended families or communities that range in size from 10 to 100 people and look out for and care for one another. These vast populations frequently separate into smaller groups when going outside for eating before coming back together, unlike mountain gorillas and baboons. When they reach adolescence, the females may depart for neighboring communities while the males remain in the community. At age four, children become independent. Like humans, they connect, communicate, and exhibit emotion through elaborate techniques like as facial expressions, gestures, noises, and body language.

Although chimpanzees are extensively distributed throughout Africa, their overall population has severely decreased over the past 20 years, making them a critically endangered species. Disease, hunting (for food and trade), injury from forest traps, and habitat degradation brought on by growing human populations are the greatest threats to chimpanzees. However, a number of organizations have been established to safeguard the chimpanzee population that still exists and to make sure that they continue to thrive in the wild. One such group is The Jane Goodall Foundation, which has made significant contributions to the protection of chimpanzees and other primates, such mountain gorillas, in Africa.

Chimpanzee tracking in Uganda is one of the most fantastic Primate encounters on the continent. With about 5600 chimpanzees in the wild and a sizable number of habituated communities, it has one of the largest populations and a wide range of locations to track chimpanzees. In certain locations, chimpanzees in Uganda can even be seen dwelling in tiny woods on private property. From Kibale National Park, Budongo Forest (in Murchison Falls National Park), Kyambura Gorge (in Queen Elizabeth National Park), Kalinzu Forest, and Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve, chimpanzees can be observed in Uganda. Additionally, chimpanzees can be seen in zoos and preserves like the Uganda Wildlife Education Center and Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary.

You will need a Chimpanzee trekking permit in Uganda.

Visitors from the age of 12 can get chimpanzee trekking permits, which are official certificates that allow them to see the critically endangered chimpanzees in their natural habitat. Following gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, it is the second most popular activity in Uganda.

The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), a government agency in charge of tourism, issues the permits, and the cost varies depending on the location. In the Kibale National Park, chimpanzee trekking licenses cost USD 200 for foreign non-residents, USD 150 for foreign residents, and UGX 150,000 for East African nationals. Both foreign non-residents and foreign residents must pay USD 130 per person for chimpanzee trekking licenses in Budongo Forest, whereas East African nationals must pay UGX 30,000 and USD 50, respectively, for chimpanzee trekking permits in Kyambura Gorge. In the Kibale National Park, chimpanzee habituation licenses cost USD 250 for foreign non-residents, USD 250 for foreign residents, and UGX 150,000 for citizens of east Africa.

Best time to book the chimpanzee trekking permits in Uganda 

You can either book chimpanzee trekking permits in Uganda directly through the Uganda Wildlife Authority by getting in touch with the headquarters via email or phone calls, or you can book through a reputable tour operator. The best time to track chimpanzees is during the dry season, also known as the peak season, which is from June to September and from December to February. However, permits can be reserved at any time of the year.

In contrast to the rainy season when the routes are muddy and treacherous, access roads to chimpanzee sites will be possible during the dry season. Additionally, foliage will be sparse, allowing you to plainly see chimpanzees and other primates. In the months of March through May and November, which are referred to as the “wet season” and “low season,” they can also be reserved. The chimpanzee hotspots get a lot of rainfall during the rainy season, which makes trekking challenging but has some benefits like less visitors to the parks.

The Chimpanzee Trekking Experience in Uganda

The morning session, which begins at 8:00am, and the afternoon session, which begins at around 2:00pm, are the two sessions that are used for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda. At the park’s administrative Centre, a briefing on the policies kicks off each session. A few people (no more than eight) are guided into the chimpanzee habitat by rangers. Chimpanzees prefer to wander from one spot to another in search of food, thus a trek might last anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours, depending on where they are.

When the chimpanzees are located, you will be allowed to spend an hour with them in their natural habitat, giving you the chance to observe their habits and behaviors. You will be able to watch them feed, breastfeed, fight, hunt, play, and rest while also having the chance to take pictures and document the experience. You can choose a habituation experience, where you spend more time with the chimpanzees during a half- or full-day excursion deep into the forest. Although it can be difficult to follow these nimble primates, the experience is very rewarding.

Where can I go for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda?

Kibale National Park in Uganda

The primary chimpanzee trekking location in Uganda is Kibale Forest National Park, which is home to over 1,500 chimpanzees. The rainforest, which is in South-West Uganda, is home to great chimp populations, and the park has come to be associated with chimpanzees. Over the course of Kibale National Park, there are 3 habituated settlements. Two of the communities are for researchers, while one is designated for visitors. Several primate species, besides chimpanzees, reside in the Kibale Forest, including the L’Hoests monkey, Red colobus, Mangabeys, bush babies, baboons, Red tailed monkeys, and blue monkeys, to name a few.

Tracking chimps in Kibale may also go hand in hand with birding expeditions and other wildlife watching. Some of the species that may be observed while tracking chimps in the jungle includes Buffaloes, elephants, antelopes, bush pigs, otters and huge forest hogs. The forest’s approximately 345 bird species, including the African grey parrot, hornbills, and Breasted pitas, as well as the neighboring Bigodi Wetlands bird sanctuary, will astonish birdwatchers. In comparison to other areas of Uganda, Kibale Forest permits for chimpanzee trekking cost $200. A habituation experience with chimpanzees will cost $250.

Budongo Forest Reserve, Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda

The Budongo Forest Reserve, a woodland area south of the lovely Murchison Falls National park, is a great place to go chimpanzee tracking. With a population of more than 800 chimpanzees and an area of around 825 square kilometers. From Kampala, it takes 4-5 hours to get to the park. The contact rate at Budongo is roughly 80%. These incredible apes and other primates can find the ideal refuge in the forest’s native mahogany trees. In Budongo, chimpanzee tracking begins at 7am in the morning and at 2 pm in the afternoon. It is possible to combine a wildlife safari to the Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda with chimpanzee trekking in Budongo forest. In Budongo, chimpanzee licenses cost $130. Typically, contact is achieved after just one hour of walking during a traditional tracking mission, which lasts around three hours. For adventurers who want a longer interaction with the chimpanzees, this location also offers a full-day habituation experience.

Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda  

Kyambura Gorge is a convenient location to see chimpanzees when on a safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park because it is situated within Uganda’s most popular national park in a valley inside the park. A dense subterranean forest covers the 16km long and 100m deep valley. Baboons, red-tailed monkeys, vervet monkeys, and colobus monkeys are just a few of the primates that may be seen in great numbers in the Kyambura Gorge.

Chimp trekking in Kyambura Gorge has two benefits. It is one of the locations where park animals congregate to drink, providing an opportunity to see other primates and Africa’s largest mammals. A chimpanzee permit at the Kyambura Gorge costs $50.

Semuliki wildlife reserve in Uganda

In western Uganda’s Semuliki Valley, there is a tiny population of chimpanzees. Be prepared for a difficult hunt for the chimpanzees in Semuliki. They must travel a great distance in the dry, sparse forest to find enough food. Researchers from Indiana University have discovered that the chimpanzees have the unusual habit of standing up as they leave the forest to search for food in the Savannah.

Kalinzu Forest in Uganda

The Kyambura Gorge is a popular destination for visitors to Queen Elizabeth National Park, but Kalinzu Forest has a better chance of yielding chimpanzee sightings. Over 90% of the time, it is possible to spot chimpanzees because of the sheer number and concentration of them in a relatively small area. In the Kalinzu forest, there are roughly 290 chimpanzees, about 70 of whom are domesticated. Along the four guided trails in the forest, visitors can expect to see over 410 bird species, primates, butterflies, moths, reptiles, and flowers in addition to chimpanzees.

A chimpanzee tracking permit in Karinzu forest is significantly cheaper than in Kibale due to different management. The fact that night camps are the only decent lodging options in the forest here makes chimpanzee tracking difficult. To find suitable lodging close to the Queen Elizabeth National Park, visitors must return.

Ngamba Island chimpanzee Sanctuary in Uganda: a tiny but heavily forested island in Lake Victoria, has been transformed into a sanctuary for rescued chimpanzees from all over Uganda. On the island, more than 50 chimpanzees are being taken care of. Standard chimpanzee tracking is not feasible on Ngamba Island. Visitors and families with children are welcome to see the chimps eat three times a day from a safe elevated platform.

The Entebbe Zoo in Uganda, today known as the Uganda Wildlife Education Center, was founded in 1952 to care for wounded, impounded, and orphaned animals. Tourists and families with children are able to view about 40 chimpanzees from cages at this location.

The same rules apply to tracking chimpanzees as they do for mountain gorillas.

  • Make a reservation for your chimpanzee permit.
  • Chimpanzee tracking is prohibited for children.
  • Keep the woodland clean while tracking.
  • Do not follow chimpanzees if you have the illness or diarrhoea. Human illnesses can infect chimpanzees.
  • When near the chimpanzees, keep an 8 metre distance.
  • When around the chimpanzees, avoid eating.
  • Avoid talking too loudly, making fun of chimps, or provoking or intimidating them.
  • Flash photography is not permitted.
  • Try to use the restroom before starting your hike.
  • Without a guide, never go tracking.
  • It is forbidden to smoke during chimpanzee tracking.
  • A chimpanzee colony can only be tracked by a certain number of persons each day.

What will you need when trekking the chimpanzees?

  • Suitable Shoes with strong traction that are useful for crossing muddy terrain and rocky terrain.
  • Wear long sleeves that will shield you from jagged thickets, and bring a raincoat just in case.
  • With a snack and water
  • Come equipped with an insect repellant.
  • Camera: Chimpanzee photography requires some preparation because they dwell in the jungle and are swiftly moving animals. Flash photography is not permitted.
  • Binoculars: For spotting chimpanzees and lovely birds.
  • Using a walking stick will enable you to move across rocky, steep terrain slowly.
  • Porters: You may employ porters to carry heavy objects and baggage so that you can focus on keeping an eye out for chimpanzees and other animals.

How challenging is Uganda chimpanzee trekking?

Since treks last about three hours, chimpanzee trekking in Uganda necessitates a moderate level of physical fitness. Chimpanzees typically live at low altitudes, unlike gorillas, and the flat terrain will let you concentrate on the chimpanzees. Chimpanzees may dash across the forest and are quite energetic. You should be comfortable moving quickly on short notice to keep up with them. The pathways will be slicker and the forest will be thicker during the wet season making the expedition more challenging.

Contrasting gorilla trekking and chimpanzee tracking

Similarities

  • Permits are required for both activities. But gorilla permits are significantly more expensive than chimpanzee permits.
  • There is often a 12-year-old minimum age restriction for tourists who want to participate in both chimpanzee and gorilla trekking.
  • You should dress appropriately for both experiences (boots, gloves, long sleeve shirts, rain jackets, etc.) and may need to hire a porter.

Differences

  • One thing to bear in mind is that unlike mountain gorillas, which can only be found in Uganda, Rwanda, and Democratic Republic of Congo, chimpanzee populations may be found in a considerable number of countries in East, Central, and West Africa.
  • Chimpanzees live in huge groups that frequently split up into smaller groups to search for scarce food before reuniting. When tracking these breakaway groups, trackers frequently split apart, which can be confusing if the chimpanzees guide them back to the main group. Mountain gorillas share a stable community with an abundance of food.
  • You are only permitted to observe a mountain gorilla group for an hour at a time. Nevertheless, depending on the location and nation that tourists choose to go tracking in, they may be able to spend more time with a chimpanzee community.
  • Only eight people can visit a gorilla family in a single day, compared to eight people who can visit a chimpanzee community twice daily.
  • Mountain gorillas like to lounge on the ground in a clearing in the forest, but chimpanzees are dynamic and continuously on the go, necessitating trackers to follow them continually and at great speed. For some, this may be exhilarating and adventurous.
  • It is challenging to get clear pictures of chimpanzees because of their frequent movements and habit of hanging from tree to tree.
  • While tracking, chimpanzees make a lot of noise, but mountain gorillas often eat and play quietly.
  • It usually doesn’t take as long to find the chimpanzee community as it does to find a gorilla group.
  • Trekking can be done twice a day, in the morning and in the late afternoon. One gorilla tracking session can be scheduled every day.
  • As chimpanzee trekking is far less structured than gorilla trekking, there is a much higher chance—almost a guarantee—of encountering a mountain gorilla. Chimpanzees can’t be considered to be like that.
  • While mountain gorillas live in steep regions and hills, which can be stressful, chimpanzees dwell in comparatively level ground.
  • Gorillas spend their time on the ground, whereas chimpanzees spend the most of their time on treetops.