When I went to Uganda, I had the adventure of a lifetime tracking Chimpanzees in Kibale Forest National Park.
The minute we entered the forest, howls and shrieks of wild chimpanzees echoed around us; leaves and branches rustled in canopies as apes bolted from tree to tree. For three amazing hours, I was able to observe these magnificent creatures live freely in the wild.
Chimpanzee trekking is one of the things that makes a Uganda safari unique. Not only is it incredibly special to be able to track gorillas and chimps in one country, Kibale Forest National Park is one of the best places in East Africa to see chimpanzees.
Chimpanzees are one of our closest relatives, sharing over 98% of our DNA. They typically live in family groups of 15 to 20 (though some may be much larger, up to 100), and each chimpanzee group has a unique personality of its own.
They communicate mainly through body language and sounds (hoots, pants, and barks), and are one of the only species to create and use tools, as documented by Dr Jane Goodall in her reaserch of Chimpanzees in Gombe, Tanzania. Digging insects out of tight spaces or opening hard nuts or fruits with rocks are common, creative activities chimpanzees are known to engage in. This helps keep their diet varied, ranging from fruits and other plants to insects, eggs, meat, and even carrion. Plus, because most wild chimps live about 40 years, they have plenty of time to pass on their special skills to younger generations.
Kibale Forest National Park covers 795 km2 of rainforest, swamps, rivers and few areas of grassland. It is home to more than 1,450 chimpanzees and in total thirteen primate species. Children have to be 15 years and above to able to track the Chimpanzees, if you have children below 15 years they can engage in an educative forest walk.
When is the best time to go chimpanzee trekking in Kibale Forest?
Like most countries in East Africa, Uganda has two rainy and dry seasons. The rainy seasons are between April to May and October to November while the dry season falls between December to early March. The best time for chimpanzee trekking in Kibale forest is during the drier season. However, given the popularity of the forest for chimp tracking, it can get crowded during the dry season. If you have come to see the chimps alongside other activities and wildlife adventures in the other game parks, then the dry season would be ideal. I would recommend that you visit during the low season if you have come to see only the chimps in Uganda to avoid the crowds. Besides, Kibale is a rain forest and the rains should be expected at any time of the year.
How much does chimpanzee tracking cost?
Costs are dependent on how many days or hours you choose to do. Chimpanzee trekking permits cost US$ 150 per person, per trek. These permits must be pre-booked and paid for.
10 Things to Know About Chimpanzees:
Chimpanzees and humans share over 98% similarity in their DNA. (But we’re a tad less hairy.)
Chimpanzees are great apes, not monkeys. (Monkeys have tails.) Other apes include gorillas, gibbons, bonobos, and orangutans.
Chimpanzees are native to Africa, and are an endangered species. They used to exist in millions; Africa is now down to 300,000.
Primary chimpanzee threats are disease, hunting/poaching, and habitat destruction.
Wild chimps live in a “fission-fusion society”. All members know each other, living in groups of 15 to 120.
Chimpanzee gatherings are social. Members play, interact, groom, and breed.
Chimpanzee hierarchies are typically led by alpha males. Their success as a leader is dependent on female support.
Chimps are omnivores. They eat mostly leaves and fruit, but also eat nuts, eggs, bark, insects, and sometimes animals for meat.
Chimpanzees, just like us human folk, use facial expressions to convey emotions.
Chimpanzees are really bloody cute. (I could go on about them all day! But I’ll spare you now.)