Activities and attractions in Kibale forest National Park – Things to do and see in Kibale Forest
Activities and attractions in Kibale forest -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 chimpanzee, others are investigating Kibale’s ecosystems, wild pigs and fish species, among other topics.
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. Kibale is famously known for chimpanzee tracking
The Chimpanzee Habituation Experience (CHEX) enables visitors to accompany researchers and habituators into the forest. The chimpanzee groups involved are less accustomed to human presence than those visited on the Primate Walk and following and viewing them is both exciting and challenging.
Chimpanzee Habituation Experience (CHEX) is available on a full or half day basis starting and advance booking for this activity is required. 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. Various local tour operators that have been acredited by government are available to provide services including Chimpanzee Habituation Experience booking in order to ensure that you get a your slot at the appropiate time. The most popular activity in the national park is the guided chimp-tracking excursion out of Kanyanchu. Almost as popular is the guided walking trail through the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, which is probably better for general monkey viewing and one of the finest birding trails in the country. There is also plenty of potential for unguided exploration in the area, both along the main road through the forest, and around Bigodi Trading Centre and Kanyanchu Camp. If time is limited, it’s advisable to do the activity that most interests you in the morning, this is not only the best time to see chimpanzees, but also when birds are most active.
Guided Forest Walks
A highlight of any activity to Kibale Forest will be the chimp-tracking excursions that leave from Kanyanchu at 8:00 and 14:00 daily. Chimp sightings are not guaranteed on these walks, but the odds of encountering them have improved greatly in recent years, and now stand around 90%. The chimpanzee community, whose territory centres on Kanyanchu, is well habituated, with the result that visitors can often approach to within a few metres of them. Whilst in the forest you can expect to see at least two or three other types of primate, most probably grey-cheeked mangabey and red-tailed monkey. You will hear plenty of birdsong, but it’s very difficult to see any birds in the heart of the forest. You are better off looking for them in the rest camp and along the road. The guides are knowledgeable and will identify various medical plants, bird calls and animal spoor.
For dedicated chimp enthusiasts or aspiring researchers seeking field experience, which involves staying with the chimps all day with habituators and taking notes on their behavior. Another novelty is a guided night walk with spotlights, which runs from 19.30 to 22.00 daily and offers a good chance of sighting nocturnal primates such as the bushbaby and potto.
Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary
Activities and attractions in Kibale forest -This small sanctuary which protects the Magombe Swamp, adjacent to Bigodi trading centre and immediately outside the national park boundary, is and admirable example of conservation and tourism having a direct benefit at grassroots level. Run by the Kibale Association for Rural and Environment Development (KAFRED), all money raised from the trail is used in community projects in Bigodi, it has so far funded the creation of a small local library as well as the construction of a new secondary school in the village. The guided 4.5km circular trail through the swamp is also one of the best guided bird trails in east Africa, as well as offering a realistic opportunity to see up to six different primate species in the space of a few hours. The trail starts at the KAFRED office on the Fort Portal side of Bigodi. Here a visitor is allocated a guide; a serious birdwatcher should mention their special interest, since some guides are better at identifying birds than others and if you don’t have a field guide and binoculars, then make sure your guide does. Afternoon walks technically start at 15:00 and generally take around three hours, but dedicated birders will need longer and are advised to get going an hour earlier, there are enough guides for you to start whenever you like. For morning walks, it is worth getting to the office as early as you can, or possibly even arranging a dawn start a day in advance. The trail is very muddy in parts, and if you don’t have good walking shoes, then you would do well to hire a pair of gumboots from the KAFRED office. For general monkey viewing, it doesn’t matter greatly whether you go in the morning or afternoon, but birders should definitely aim to do the morning walk. The sanctuary’s main attraction to ornithologists is quality rather than quantity. You would be lucky to identify more than 40 species in one walk, but most of these will be forest-fringe and swamp specials, and a good number will be West African species at the eastern limit of their range. There are other places in Uganda where these birds can be seen, but not in the company of local guides who know the terrain intimately and can identify even the most troublesome greenbuls by sight or call. One of the birds most strongly associated with the swamp is the greater blue turaco, which will be seen by most visitors. Another specialty is the papyrus gonolek, likely to be heard before it is seen, and most frequently encountered along the main road as it crosses the swamp or from the wooden walkway about halfway along the trail. Other regularly seen birds include grey-throated, yellow-billed, yellow spotted and double-toothed barbets, speckled, yellow-rumped and yellow throated tinker-barbets, yellowbill, brown-eared woodpecker, blue-throated roller, grey parrot, bronze sunbird, black-crowned waxbill, grey-headed Negro-finch, swamp flycatcher, red-capped and snowy-headed robin-chats, grosbeak and northern brown-throated weavers, and black-and-white casqued hornbill.
Butterflies are abundant in the swamp, and it is also home to sitatunga antelope, serval, a variety of mongoose and most of the primate species recorded in the forest. The red colobus is the most common monkey, often seen at close quarters, but you are also likely to observe red-tailed monkey, L’Hoest’s monkey, black-and-white colobus and grey-cheeked mangabey. If you are extremely fortunate, you might even see chimpanzees, since they occasionally visit the swamp to forage for fruit.
Tourists are forbidden to walk along forest paths or in Magombe swamp without a guide, but they are free to walk unguided elsewhere. Kanyanchu itself is worth a couple of hours’ exploration. A colony of Viellot’s black weaver nests in the camp, while flowering trees attract a variety of forest sunbirds. You can also expect to see or hear several types of robin and greenbul, often difficult to tell apart unless you get a good look at them. A specialty of the camp is the localized red-chested paradise flycatcher, a stunning bird that’s very easy to find once you know its call. Other interesting birds seen there regularly at Kanyanchu are the great blue turaco, hairy-breasted barbet, black-necked weaver and black-and-white casqued hornbill. The short, self-guided grassland trail which circles the camp is good for monkeys. It is permitted to walk unguided along the stretch of the main road between Fort portal and Kamwenge as it runs through the forest. The most interesting section on this road is the first few kilometres running north towards Fort portal from Kanyanchu, where you are almost certain to see a variety of monkeys, genuine forest birds such as Sabine’s spinetail, blue-breasted kingfisher and Afep pigeon, as well as butterflies in their hundreds gathered around puddles and streams. The road south from Kanyanchu to Bigodi passes through a variety of habitats, forest patches, swamp and grassland and is also productive for birds and monkeys.
Sebitoli and the Kihingami Wetlands
Sebitoli lies inside the northern part of Kibale forest national park. It is little visited, which is a shame, since it is conveniently located just metres off the main Fort portal-Kampala road and is far easier to reach than Kanyanchu. Sebitoli development opened in 2002 to help ease tourist’s pressure on the Kanyanchu sector of the park. It offers similar activities and facilities to Kanyanchu, with the exception of chimpanzee tracking, and is far more accessible for day trippers from Fort portal. Guided forest walks offer a good chance of seeing red and black-and-white colobus and blue and vervet monkey, as well as a varied selection of the (rapidly expanding ) local checklist of 236 bird species, chimpanzees are present in the area but not habituated. Guided walking or cycling tours to the nearby Kihingami wetlands outside the park offer excellent bird watching and a visit to local tea estates, and leave daily. Great Adventure Safaris arranges all activities and attractions in Kibale forest National Park.