Playground of the chimpanzees
One of the last remaining areas of rainforest in Africa, Kibale offers dense forest with 250 tree species, grasslands, swamps and a scenic field of volcanic craters. Standing at the foot of the Rwenzori Mountains, the park is an extension of the Queen Elizabeth National Park, one of Uganda's most recent national parks. Most famous for its chimpanzee communities, statistics suggest that the park offers the visitor a 75% chance of viewing these fascinating creatures, over 600 of which live in nests in the tree canopy.
Size: 766 sq km.
Location: Kabarole District, Western Uganda, 357 kms from Kampala.
Altitude: 1,590 to 1,110 metres above sea level.
Vegetation: Moist evergreen forest, montane forest and mixed tropical deciduous forest.
Fauna: The park supports a rich mammalian fauna that includes 12 species of primate, most notable of which is the chimpanzee. Other animals include the bushbuck, sitatunga, red duiker, blue duiker, bush pig, potto, bush babies, genet cats, civet and leopard. Rare species are the buffalo, giant forest hog and forest elephant.
Birds: 325 species, a number of which are endemic.
Facilities: Visitor Centre with binocular hire, self-guided walk (1km) or professionally guided walks. Camping, bandas, tented camp and a variety of lodges. Daily primate walks (8am and 3pm) night walks 7.30 pm and 12 km forest hikes.
When to go: Chimps can be tracked year-round. Elephants move into the Kanyanchu area during the west seasons (March to May and September to November).
History of the park
Originally known as the Kibale Forest Corridor Game Reserve, which was established in 1964 to serve as a migratory corridor for the huge herds of elephant moving between the QE II national park and the Murchison falls National Park, the park was gazetted in 1993.
The park supports the highest number of primates in Uganda and one of the highest primate densities in the world. It offers sanctuary to 13 species of primates, three of which are nocturnal. There are two species of colobus monkeys, the black-and-white and the more rare red colobus, which exists in high densities and can usually be seen on the forest walks. Other primates include the red-tailed, blue and L'Hoest's monkeys, mangebey and olive baboons. Most popular, however, are the chimpanzees, several communities of which exist within the forest.
The park contains Uganda's largest population of forest elephant. Small, but shy, these rare elephants tend to visit the park during the rainy seasons.
The park supports a rich diversity of other wildlife including bushbuck, red duiker, blue duiker, bush pig, civet, buffalo and giant forest hog. There are also 144 species of butterflies.
The Kasenda Crater Lake Field
The park offers a field of 30 volcanic craters lakes, each of which is a different shade of blue or green. Legend has it that they were originally created by Ndahura, the fist Bachwezi King, when he retired to the area after abdicating in favour of his son, Wamara. The water is safe for swimming and there is also boating on the lakes.
What to do
There are around 3km of nature trails and tracks through the forest and 2-3 hour bird-spotting and primate-spotting walks are led by knowledgeable field staff. There are also walks along the banks of the Kanyanchu River.
Bird life includes turacos (Ross's great blue and black-billed) copper sunbirds, crowned cranes, coucals, kingfishers, finches and a myriad of weavers.