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Kibale National Park.

Kibale National Park is located in western Uganda, 22km southeast of Fort Portal town. Kanyanchu River Camp, the primary center for tourism activities, can be reached from Kampala either from the north, via Mubende and Fort Portal, or the south through Mbarara and Kamwenge.

The northern approach is shorter and quicker, with a 290km tarmac road running to Fort Portal followed by 32km on gravel to Kanyanchu.

Sebitoli Forest Camp, a secondary tourism centre, is even easier to reach. This stands directly on the Kampala road, 12km before Fort Portal. Public transport runs throughout the day between Kampala and Fort Portal (passing Sebitoli) and Fort Portal and Kamwenge (passing Kanyanchu).

A stop at the Ndali-Kasenda crater area offers a panoramic view of the tea estates and Kibale Forest to the east, the Rwenzori to the west and Lake George and the Rift Valley plains to the south. This area can be explored on foot or by car.

Though Kibale’s trailheads at Sebitoli and Kanyanchu can both be reached by vehicles, tourists explore the park on foot. Trails are generally well-maintained and the terrain, though undulating, is not difficult.

Kibale is highest at the park’s northern tip, which stands 1,590m above sea level. The lowest point is 1,100m on the floor of the Albertine Rift Valley to the south.

351 tree species have been recorded in the park, some rise to over 55m and are over 200 years old.

Kibale’s varied altitude supports different types of habitat, ranging from wet tropical forest on the Fort Portal plateau to woodland and savanna on the rift valley floor.

Kibale is one of Africa’s foremost research sites. While many researchers focus on the chimpanzees and other primates found in the park, others are investigating Kibale’s ecosystems, wild pigs and fish species, among other topics.

Kibale National Park

Kibale National Park contains one of the loveliest and most varied tracts of tropical forest in Uganda. Forest cover, interspersed with patches of grassland and swamp, dominates the northern and central parts of the park on an elevated plateau.

The park is home to a total of 70 mammal species, most famously 13 species of primate including the chimpanzee.

It also contains over 375 species of birds. Kibale adjoins Queen Elizabeth National Park to the south to create a 180km-long corridor for wildlife between Ishasha, the remote southern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park, and Sebitoli in the north of Kibale National Park.

The Kibale-Fort Portal area is one of Uganda’s most rewarding destinations to explore. The park lies close to the tranquil Ndali-Kasenda crater area and within half a day’s drive of the Queen Elizabeth, Rwenzori Mountains and Semuliki National Parks, as well as the Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve.

Kanyanchu River Camp

Kanyanchu, in the central part of Kibale, is the main trailhead for the park’s famous forest walks, the most popular of which is the daily Primate Walk. There are 13 species of primate to search for, including habituated chimpanzees. Bird watching, nature walks for both kids and adults and guided night treks are also available here.

Sebitoli Forest Camp

Kibale’s secondary tourism centre in the north of the forest offers guided forest walks and a chance to encounter primates such as red colobus, black-and-white colobus, blue monkeys and vervet monkeys. Visitors may also spot a variety of aquatic, forest and savannah birds and enjoy views of the Mpanga River.

Areas of Interest outside the Park

Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary

Rich in biodiversity and beautiful scenery, the wetland is a birder’s paradise with about 138 species. Located outside the park in Magombe Swamp it also hosts eight species of primates including the black-and-white colobus, grey-cheeked mangabey, red-tailed, l’Hoest’s and blue monkeys, and olive baboons. Bushbucks and mongooses can also be found here. The sanctuary was set up to preserve the exclusive environmental features along with the wetland and is managed by the local community.

Kihingami Wetland

Located near Sebitoli in northern Kibale, this community-run project offers excellent bird watching and visits to the local tea estates and factory. Nature walks will bring you up close to primates such as the black-and-white colobus, red colobus and red-tailed monkeys. Other animals like otters, mongooses and bushbucks can be observed in the wetlands.

Wildlife and Birding

Primates

The diversity and density of primates in Kibale is the highest in Africa. The most famous of its 13 species is the chimpanzee, our closest relative. Kibale’s 1450 chimpanzees represent Uganda’s largest population of this endangered primate. The forest is also home to East Africa’s largest population of the threatened red colobus and the rare I’Hoest’s monkey. Other primates include the black-and-white colobus, red-tailed and blue monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabey, olive baboon, bush baby and potto.

Other Wildlife

At least 70 mammal species are present in the park though ground-dwelling animals are difficult to see in dense forest. An estimated 500elephants are present, along with buffalos, leopards, warthogs, bush pigs, golden cats and duikers. A keen observer may spot reptiles and amphibians as well as a colorful variety of 250 species of butterflies.

Birding

The park boasts more than 375 species of birds. Kibale specials include the African Pitta, Green-breasted Pitta, Afep Pigeon, White-naped Pigeon, Crowned Eagle, Red-chested Owlet, Black Bee-eater, Western Nicator, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Little Greenbul, Brown-chested Alethe, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, African Grey Parrot, Scaly-breasted Illadopsis ,Brown Illadopsis, Black-capped Apalis, Blue-headed Sunbird, Collared Apalis, Dusky Crimsonwing, Purple-breasted Sunbird, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Yellow Spotted Nicator, Little Green Bul, Black-eared Ground Thrush and the Abyssinian Ground-thrush.

What to Bring

Hiking boots are ideal for forest walks although stout walking shoes are adequate. Lightweight raincoats are advisable. Altitude and the forest environment makes evenings cool and a light jacket is also recommended. If you choose to bring a camera, be aware that the dark-haired chimpanzees in typically dim conditions present challenging subjects

Chimpanzee Tracking and Habituation in Kibale

Kibale’s most popular activity is the Kanyanchu Primate Walk. Thirteen species can be sought, and a good variety of diurnal monkeys invariably encountered, but the stars of this trail are the chimpanzees. Kanyanchu’s chimps have been tracked since 1993 and the chances of locating them are excellent. Guided walks start at 8am and 2pm and last an average of three hours, depending on various factors.

The full-day Chimpanzee Habituation Experience (CHEX) works with a chimp community which is undergoing habituation. Early visitors can watch chimps leaving their overnight nests between 6:00 - 6:30am before feeding, copulating, hunting, breastfeeding, resting, patrolling and displaying until it is time to build new nests around 7pm.

Birding in Kibale

Bird watching tours start at 7am at Kanyanchu; you are advised to book in advance. Rare species include the Papyrus Gonolek, White-winged Warbler, White-collared Oliveback and Papyrus Canary.

Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, located just outside the park, is home to 138 bird species which may be seen during guided walks along the boardwalk trail and viewing platforms. These could include the White-spotted Flufftail, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Hairy-breasted Barbet, Yellow-billed Barbet, Western Nicator, Grey-winged Robin-chat, White-tailed Ant-thrush, Brown-backed Scrub-robin, Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Superb Sunbird, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Bocage’s Bush-shrike, Black Bishop, White-breasted Negrofinch and Black-crowned Waxbill among others

Cultural Encounters in Kibale

Kibale Association for Rural Environment Development (KAFRED)

KAFRED is a community-based organization which promotes local livelihoods and biodiversity conservation through ecotourism.

During the nature walk, a local guide will take you along the boardwalk through the Magombe swamp wetlands. You are likely to see wildlife at close-hand, including several of the 200 species of birds, eight varieties of primates and numerous butterflies, along with unusual swamp vegetation.

The daily life of the Batooro can be discovered during the village walks. The tour stops by the village’s primary school, church, and traditional healer. You will learn about the role of women in the village and traditional ceremonies, and the history of Bigodi is told through the story of the “Village of Two Tribes”, describing when the indigenous Batooro were joined by migrating Bakiga from southwestern Uganda in the 1950s.

Income from this activity is invested in education, health, sanitation and improving the livelihood of local residents. It is also used to help raise awareness of the value of biodiversity through music, dance, and drama performances at local schools. In 2010, KAFRED they won the prestigious UNDP’s Equator Initiative Award.

Hiking/Nature Walks in Kibale

When chimpanzees and other forest residents rest up at dusk, a nighttime shift of rarely seen creatures becomes active. Night walks though the darkened forest use powerful torches to seek nocturnal creatures such as the potto, bushbaby, nightjar, cricket and tree hyrax, with its chilling shriek, as well as the occasional civet or serval cat. Night walks leave the camp at 7.30pm and last between one and a half and two hours.

 

 

 

 

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