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.
Quick Facts About the Park
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.
LOCATION: In the west, near Fort Portal
GETTING THERE: Fort Portal lies 320km from Kampala along a mostly surfaced direct road, or an hour’s drive from Kasese (near QENP). Kanyanchu Visitors Centre, 35km from Fort Portal, is reached via a dirt road and is accessible on public transport..
WHAT TO DO: Chimp tracking and other guided forest walks, even night walks. Birders shouldn’t miss Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, a superb community development fringing the park. A field of beautiful crater lakes lies between Fort Portal and Kibale Forest.
WHEN TO VISIT: Any time of year
WHERE TO STAY: Primate Lodge (former Kanyanchu rest Camp), with a luxury tented camp and upmarket lodge nearby. Budget lodges at Bigodi, the crater lakes, and Fort Portal.
The density and diversity of primates in Kibale National Park is the highest in the whole of Africa.
Things to See
The most well known of its 13 species are the chimpanzees, our closest relative. Kibale’s 1450 chimpanzee indicate Uganda’s biggest population of this threatened primate. Additionally Kibale is home to the uncommon I’Hoest’s monkey as well as East Africa’s biggest population of the endangered Red Colobus monkey.
The black & white Colobus, red tailed monkey, blue monkey, olive baboon, grey cheeked mangabey, bush baby and Potto are among the other primates. Kibale’s major attraction, however, is the opportunity to track habituated chimps – these delightful apes, more closely related to humans than to any other living creature, are tremendous fun to watch as they squabble and play in fruiting trees. A network of shady forest trails provides much to delight botanists and butterfly lovers, while birders are in for a treat with 335 species recorded including the endemic Prirogrine’s ground thrush.
The elusive forest elephant, smaller and hairier than its savannah counterpart, moves seasonally into the developed part of the park, while other terrestrial mammals include buffalo, giant forest hog and a half dozen antelope species.
Other mammals are also present, though they are hardly seen. These consist of buffalo, leopard, bush pig elephant, and duiker. A neat viewer could also see amphibians and reptiles and a colorful variety of butterflies.
The park is a home to 325 variety of bird species, including 6 that are native to the Albertine Rift destination, that is to say dusky crimson wing, black-capped Apalis, blue-headed sunbird, collared Apalis, red-faced woodland warbler and purple-breasted sunbird. Other Kibale specials are the green breasted Pitta, African Pitta, black bee-eater, Abyssinian ground thrush, yellow spotted Nicator, little Greenbul, black-eared ground thrush, brown chested alethe, yellow-rumped tinker bird, blue-breasted kingfisher, along with the crowned eagle.
The people living around Kibale National Park are mostly Batoro and Bakiga. The Batoro are native to the region while the Bakiga are just immigrants from the thickly populated southwestern part of the country. The Batoro carry pride in the ethnical heritage of the Kingdom of Toro, a scion of the ancient kingdoms of the Great Lakes region un Africa. The king (Omukama) and the kingdom personify the traditional along with cultural values of the Batoro. The immigrants (Bakiga) still hold their culture and tradition as expressed in their dance, folklore, as well as language.