Uganda’s Primates Heaven
Kibale Forest National Park
Kibale Forest National Park protects 766km2 of typically forested habitat that extends more than 50km the main Kampala – Fort Portal road to the northeast border of Queen Elizabeth National Park. The trailhead for chimp tracking and the main centre of tourism activity within the park is the Kanyanchu visitors centre,which lies 35km south of Fort Portal along a surfaced road continuing south to Kamwenge. Kanyanchu offers some superb forest birding and monkey viewing, with the community – run Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, only 5km away immediately outside the park and Kanyanchu are practically synonymous so far as most are concerned, a good forest walk at the Northerly Sebitolo Sector, it is among the most scenic tropical rainforests in the whole of Uganda.
Kibale Forest National Park was Gazetted as a forest reserve in 1932, the park has one of the highest primate densities in the world. The Park includes what used to be the Kibale Forest Corridor Game Reserve, established in 1964 to allow additional habitat for the then large herds of wildlife in Queen Elizabeth National Park. It also served as an important stop to the migratory routes to game reserves and Murchison Falls National Park further north for the huge herds of elephants that once roamed Uganda’s western frontier.
The altitude ranges from 1590 meters in the north to 1110 in the south, and to a large degree is responsible for the differing vegetation within the park. It is a medium altitude transitional moist ever green forest occurring at elevations between montane forest and mixed tropical deciduous forest.
Flora and Fauna of Kibale National Park
The park is dominated by rainforest, but this is interspersed with tracts of grassland and swamp. Spanning altitudes of 1100-1590m, Kibale boasts a floral composition transitional to typical eastern Afro-montane and western lowland forest with more than 200 tree species recorded in total. Areas of mature forest are still liberally endowed with large buttressed mahoganies, tall fruit figs and other hardwood trees whose canopy is up to 60m above the ground.
At least 60 mammal species are present in Kibale Forest National Park. It is awfully rich in primates, with 13 species recorded, the highest total for any Ugandan national park. Kibale forest is the most salient strong hold for of Ugandan red colobus, but it support eight other diurnal primate species: vervet, red-tailed, L’Hoest’s and blue monkey, Ugandan mangabey, black and white colobus, olive baboon and chimpanzee, with a population of approximately 1400 chimpanzee. It also supports four species of nocturnal prosimian including the sloth-like potto.
Approximately 335 bird species have been recorded in Kibale , including four species not recorded anywhere in any other national park: Nahan’s francolin, Cassin’s spinetail, blue-headed bee-eater and masked apalis. The checklist of Kibale includes a homogeneous range of forest birds to Semliki National Park with the exclusion of the 40-odd Semliki specials and the inclusion of a greater variety of water and grassland species.
Activities in Kibale Forest National Park
Kibale Forest National Park is located in the western Uganda about 6 hours drive from Enetebbe International Airport. The park is among the best Primate sanctuaries in Uganda. It is particularly rich in primates, with 13 species recorded most of which are Chimpanzees. The park is also a home to over 60 species of mammals including Giant forest Hogs, Forest Buffaloes, Bushbuck Antelopes, Forest elephants, Duikers, Hippos and Warthogs. 335 bird species have been recorded in Kibale including four species not recorded in any other national park, Kibale boosts a floral composition transitional to typical eastern Afro-montane and western lowland forest with more than 200 tree species. Kibale is one of the astonishing places that one should never miss visiting, activities include;
Chimpanzee tracking is the most common activity to visitors, the standard excursion usually take up to 2-3 hours , including the maximum period of 1 hour with the chimps.
A good alternative for those who think they will want to spend longer with the chimps is the habituation experience, which allows you to hang all day from very early to afternoon.
Kibale Forest National Park the home for primates in East Africa is the best place for chimpanzee tracking in Uganda.
Guided walking is permitted atKibale Forest National Park, except with in the immediate vicinity of Kanyanchu Visitors Centre, where birders should look out for the localized robin-chats, weaver and greenbuls.
The night forest walks takes place after dinner in Kibale forest, visitors are guided by Uganda Wildlife Rangers. Spotlight night walks offer a good chance of sighting to see nocturnal creatures such as Galagos, Pottos and other nocturnal animals.
The walk is about 2 hours in length, the most rewarding option for first time birders in Kibale is the forest flanked section of the Fort Portal Road that runs for several kilometers north of Kanyanchu.
Bigodi Swamp Walk
Offering some of the finest birding and monkey-viewing in Uganda, the swamp walk through Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary is also an admirable example of conversation and tourism. Bigodi is far more affordable prospect than a guided walk in the national park, particularly as the guides know the terrain intimately and can usually identify even the most the most troublesome species by sight or call.
The sanctuary’s main ornithological virtue is quality rather than quantity. The visitor could be lucky to identify more than 40 species in one walk, but most will be forest-fringe and swamp specials, and a good number of West African species at the eastern limit of their range. A spectacular bird strongly associated with the swamp is the great blue turaco, which will be seen by most visitors.
Bigodi Cultural Centre
Situated right opposite the Bigodi Swamp Walk office, this small museum displaying traditional clothes, grinding stones, musical instruments and other such artifacts offers a sedate alternative for those who don’t feel like doing the walk.
This impressive waterfall is formed by the Mpanga River as it tumbles over the rim of the 1,200m Mount Karubagamba some 15km before emptying into Lake George. Estimated to be about 50m high, the waterfall is enclosed by a steep gorge and supports a lush cover of spray forest.
A remarkable feature of the gorge’s vegetation is one of Africa’s largest cycad colonies, comprised entirely of the so-called Ugandan Giant Cycad, a critically endangered species endemics to this single location. Perhaps the closest thing among trees to the living fossils, the cycads are relicts of an ancient order of coniferous plants that flourished 200 million years ago.
An extension of Kibale Forest National Park that opened recently to help ease tourist pressure on Kanyanchu, Sebitoli, several short guided hikes are available. The prosaically named 6-8 hour-long hike starts at Sebitoli Camp at 08.00 and exits the national park near the Jacaranda Hilltop Guesthouse. It offers a good chance of seeing red monkey and blue monkey, as well as a wide range of bird species. Chimpanzees are often heard but seldom seen, while elephants are occasionally encountered close to the Mpanga River.
The 13km2 Kihingami Wetlands border Kibale National Park on the north side of the Kampala Road about 15km out of Fort Portal and 1km from Sebitoli. Home of more than 230 bird species, it is best known as a refuge for localized white-spotted flufftail, an elusive and largely nocturnal swamp dweller that is very difficult to see despite its often persistent. Other alluring species associated with the forest fringes and swamp great blue turaco, masked apalis, papyrus gonolek, white winged warbler, black faced warbler, blue shouldered robin-chat and many more.
The 13 Primate Species in Kibale
Uganda is home to many different primate species, with Kibale Forest National Park containing the highest density in all of Africa and these include the following.
Well-grown adult males have an average weight of between 35-70kgs and a height of approximately 3m
Well-grown adults have an average weight of between 26-50kgs and a height of 2 and 4 feet.
Life expectancy is 40 years, and that in captivity is 60 years.
Chimpanzees are the closest relatives to humans sharing about 98% of their DNA composition with humans. They are Sociable, intelligent as well as communicative and among their very fascinating traits are the ability to utilize tools like rocks for crushing nuts, empty pods for hollowing out water plus sticks for capturing termites from their holes. These skills are for long been passed on from generation to another and researchers say that different troops have specialist tasks, basing on their habitat as well as diet.
Chimps stay in groups of 10 – 100 members. They can babysit each other’s young, kiss, groom one another and even hold hands. The young chimps become independent at the age of 4 year. Nonetheless, chimps can be aggressive and unsociable, mainly if disturbed.
Although they spend some time on ground, they normally feed and do make their sleeping nests up in the trees. Their diet varies comprising of leaves, seeds, fruit plus flowers.
Chimpanzees can also be seen in Bwindi forest gorillas, Nyungwe forest national park, Rwanda gorillas, among others.
These are known as olive baboons and are found in Uganda. They can be viewed in three main national parks namely, Mgahinga national park, Mount Elgon national park and Rwenzori national park.
These olive baboons can be found in almost 25 countries of Africa. These are known to live in large groups of about 150 individuals comprising of few male individuals, many females and there young ones.
Large in size and are fierce due to their dog like faces and menacing teeth
These baboons are large enough to be viewed by all the visitors that come to visit the national parks where these beautiful primates are found.
They are interested in living in open wood land, savannah, rain forests, steppes, and in large plains of grasslands. There name is derived from the coat color which is a shade of the green – grey that can be viewed at a distance.
The female baboons are sexually active at the age of 7 or 8 and the male at 10 years old. They are also omnivorous species and mainly feed on invertebrates, plants, birds and small mammals.
Black and White Colobus monkey
Colobuses are herbivorous, eating leaves, fruit, flowers, and twigs.
Their habitats include primary and secondary forests, riverine forests, and wooded grasslands; they are found more in higher-density logged forests than in other primary forests.
Their ruminant-like digestive systems have enabled these leaf-eaters to occupy niches that are inaccessible to other primates.
Colobuses live in territorial groups of about nine individuals, based upon a single male with a number of females and their offspring. Newborn colobuses are completely white. Cases of all mothering are documented, which means members of the troop other than the infant’s biological mother care for it.
Colobuses are important for seed dispersal through their sloppy eating habits, as well as through their digestive systems. They are prey for many forest predators, and are threatened by hunting for the bush meat trade, logging, and habitat destruction.
There are five species of this monkey, with at least eight subspecies
These are known as old monkeys of the genus colobus family and mainly live in Africa. These are greatly related to the brown colobus monkeys and mainly live in Riverine forests, wooded grasslands and forests. Their groups are made of nine individuals including a single male, many females and their young ones. Their bodies are black in color, with a white face as well as a tail. They can be viewed in Entebbe botanical gardens, and in many national parks of Uganda. You have a great opportunity of taking their photos at any time.
These are many in East Africa and mainly found in Congo, Angola, Zambia, and Uganda.
The blackish cap, feet and front legs, and the mantle, which is brown, olive or grey depending on the subspecies. Typical sizes are from 50 to 65 cm in length (not including the tail, which is almost as long as the rest of the animal), with females weighing a little over 4 kg and males up to 8 kg.
These have little hair on their faces and gives a blue appearance most of the times but not really blue in color.
These mainly live in montane, bamboo forests, ever green forests, and also in forest canopy. They like humid and shady places with plenty of water. Mainly feed on leaves, invertebrates as well as fruits.
There groups are made of 4 to 12 individuals and mainly consist of one male, many females with their young ones.
These can easily be viewed from Murchison falls national park and Lake Mburo national park, their gestation period is usually 5 months with females giving birth every after two years.
In these female-bonded societies, only 5–15% of monkeys’ activity budget is occupied by social interactions and the most common social interactions within a group are grooming and play. Relationships between group members vary: infants interact most frequently with their peers and adult or juvenile females and are rarely seen near adult males.
Alloparenting is common among blue monkeys. The most common infant handlers are juvenile females and usually one infant is carried by a number of alloparents. One hypothesis is that this allows the infant to learn to socialize at an early stage in life.
Interesting female-female relationships exist among blue monkeys. This relationship is believed to be shaped by their feeding ecology, which, in turn, is shaped by between-group and within-group competition. Blue monkey females exhibit strong, aggressive competition between groups and between other species because of their territorial character but milder though more frequent competition within groups. Even though earlier beliefs were that blue monkeys are not territorial, more current extended research shows that earlier researchers misinterpreted the results because social interactions overall are infrequent. Moreover, overall agonism rates in blue monkeys are very low. Within group conflicts are mild and infrequent because females tend to distance themselves from one another and feed at different sites, thus avoiding competition. Though it was believed that blue monkeys are egalitarian, current extended research confirms that there actually is linear dominance hierarchy in female blue monkeys, which becomes more apparent when food resources are scarce.
The mating system is polygynous, and there is a corresponding sexual dimorphism in size, with the males substantially the larger sex. Females normally give birth every two years, during the onset of the warm, rainy season; gestation is around five months, and the infants are born with fur and with their eyes open. Group sizes range from 10 to 40, containing only a single adult male. It is often found in groups with other species of monkeys such as the red-tailed monkey and various red colobus monkeys.
Cercopithecus mitis males mate with more than one female, but the females only mate with one male. The female attracts males to have sex with her through body language. They breed throughout the year. The groups can have up to forty members and the females usually help to care for all of the young, not just their own.
De Brazza’s monkey
These are mostly found in central Africa and it’s widely spread in the forests of Africa.
These are mainly known as swamp monkeys with grey fur and a reddish brown back with black tail and limbs.
These mainly stay in swamps, dry mountain forests, bamboo areas and situated in countries including; Cameroon, Uganda, Congo, Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan.
This guenon has grey agouti fur with a reddish-brown back, black limbs and tail and a white rump.
A white stripe runs down its thigh, and an orange crescent-shaped marking appears on its forehead.
Its white eyelids match its muzzle and beard. Due to this distinctive appearance, the monkey is sometimes referred to as the “Ayatollah Monkey” after the similarly-bearded Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Both sexes have cheek pouches in which to carry food while they forage, and males have a blue scrotum.
De Brazza’s monkey is a sexually dimorphic species; males weigh around 7 kilograms, while females weigh around 4 kilograms
They also have a life span of 22 years and live in small social groups of 5 to 30 individuals headed by a male whose main job is to provide protection to the group members.
These also communicate through shaking tree branches, making booming sounds, and nodding. In Uganda, the can be found in Mount Elgon National Park and Semliki national park.
The Grey Cheeked Mangabee monkey
It’s known to be specie of the World old monkey found in Uganda. These are mainly grey and black in color.
These also live in moderate and low altitude rain forests. These pose features of the baboons and have got a shaggy appearance and mainly located in Kibale national Park and in Semliki national park.
The grey-cheeked mangabey lives in groups of between 5 and 30 individuals. The groups have either a single male or (more usually) several, without a single dominant male.
Young males leave the troop once they are adult and join other troops, whereas the females stay in the troop of their birth. If troops become too large they may split.
Confrontations between troops are rare, as this mangabey will usually avoid other troops. Their territories cover several square miles of forest, and can both overlap with other troops and shift over time.
These can also be tracked in Mabira Forest which is considered to be the largest of forests in Uganda. In most of the parks above, these species of monkeys are being habituated and will be soon available for visitors to track.
These are sometimes referred to as mountain monkeys and most located in Uganda and in the Congo basin, Rwanda and Burundi.
These are short and have got a dark brown coat across their bellies and back. The males weigh 6 kgs and the females weigh 3.5 kgs.
These are also referred to as forest monkeys and like living in moist and primary forests. These monkey species are mostly found in lowland rain forests, wooded savannah, and forest galleries of the mountain slopes.
They have a gestation period of 5 months and females give birth to single young one.
These are also herbivores and they mostly feed on fruits, mush rooms, roots, as well as roots, they also sometimes feed on lizards, eggs as well as small birds.
In Uganda, they can be found in Bwindi impenetrable national park, Queen Elizabeth national park, Kibale National park, and in Budongo Forest.
These are sometimes known as wadi monkeys and are mostly found in semi arid area in West Africa. These are also considered to be close relatives of the vervet Monkeys.
The adult patas monkey is larger than the females and these are considered to be the fastest among all the primates.
These species always live in a group of 60 individuals with one adult male, and many females. The patas monkey grows to 85 cm (33 in) in length, excluding the tail, which measures 75 cm (30 in). Adult males are considerably larger than adult females.
Reaching speeds of 55 km/h (34 mph), it is the fastest runner among the primates. The patas monkey lives in multi-female groups of up to 60 individuals (although much larger aggregations have been reported).
The group contains just one adult male for most of the year. During the breeding season, there are multi-male influxes into the group. Once juvenile males reach sexual maturity (around the age of four years) they leave the group, usually joining all-male groups. The adult females in the group initiate the movement of the group, with the male following their lead
These are mostly found in savannah, dense woodlands as well as semi-deserts areas and mostly feed on insects, seeds, gum, tubers as well as smaller primates.
In Uganda, patas monkeys are mostly found in Murchison falls national park, Pian Upe wildlife reserve and Kidepo valley national park. You can also view the patas monkey when you visit Rwanda for safaris including Rwanda gorilla tours.
Red Colobus Monkey
Groups often establish a dominance hierarchy determined by aggressive behavior. Food, grooming, and sexual partners are distributed amongst higher-ranking individuals initially, followed by lower-ranking individuals.
They live in large troops, which can number up to 80 individuals, the average being somewhere around 20 to 40 monkeys. These groups tend to have more females than males at a 2:1 ratio. The few male monkeys in the troop usually stay with their original group, but the females have a tendency to move together in small numbers, probably in close familial relationships between troops.
Red colobus monkeys have overlapping ranges with other troops. Interactions between troops can be either tense, though passive, or violent, with one troop trying to supplant the other.
These fights are usually based on a number of factors including physical condition, fighting ability, and the number of males in the opposing troop. Females are also known to take part in these competitions for dominance and often fight together. Mother-infant bonds among the red colobus are quite strong, as they are with most primates.
The mothers are usually reluctant to allow other females from their troop to carry their babies. This may be owing to the fact that many of the females in a troop are not related as they move between groups quite frequently.
Another remarkable behavior occurs when red colobus monkeys reach their restless and somewhat nomadic adolescence. This period is when the young monkeys leave their natal troops and look for another troop to join. This is not easy, as most troops are very suspicious and can get deadly when new monkeys try to join. The red colobus monkeys have adapted their behavior by joining troops of green monkeys that are near the potential red colobus troops that they wish to join, and living amongst them in order to spy on their potential new families. In one notable case, an adolescent male red colobus spent two years with a green monkey troop in order to spy in safety on a prospective troop in this manner.
The diet of red colobus monkeys consists mainly of young leaves, flowers, and unripe fruit. They are also known to eat charcoal or clay to help combat the cyanide some leaves may contain. This medicinal cure for the plants they eat appears to be passed on from mother to child. However, their stomachs are able to digest some toxic plants that other primates cannot. Red colobus monkeys are extraordinarily adapted to their entirely vegetarian and widely varied diet. They have special salivary glands, which are larger and produce more specialized saliva to help facilitate the breakdown of leaves before they even reaches their digestive tract. The stomach of the red colobus is also sacculated into four chambers (similar to unrelated ungulates) and larger than those of other monkeys of comparative size. This allows for longer digestion so that most nutrients can be gleaned from the relatively low-nutrient food.
This is very common monkey specie in Uganda and is usually in black, orange or red in color. Commonly located in Cameroon, Congo, Rwanda, Kenya Zambia, Uganda and Angola
These are relatively small primates since males weigh only 4.1 kgs and females weigh 2.9 kgs. Red tailed monkeys live in large variety of habitants mainly found in canopy tropical rain forests, swamps, riverine forests and many types of woodland.
These monkey species also feed on insects, leaves, flowers, buds and gums, they are generally herbivores animals.
These use visual, auditory and tactile as a means of communication, and this includes; raising eye brows, stretching of the face skin and bobbing of the head.
Their life span is 30 years and usually males reach their sexual maturity at 6 years and females at 5 years. In Uganda, they can be viewed in Kibale national park, Bwindi impenetrable national park, Semliki and Queen Elizabeth National Park.
These are closely related to the black and white colobus monkeys and are found in western, eastern and central Africa. These live in large groups of about 80 individuals and have many females within the group. Red Colobus monkeys live in humid forests with thickets and scrubs. Their diet mainly consists of flowers, young leaves, as well as fruits. They are usually social and mostly found in Kibale National Park and Semliki national park.
These are mainly an ancient group of mammals with over 233 species divided into different families. This poses large eyes to see during the darkness. These include night monkeys, tarsiers, Aye Aye, bush babies, Dwarf lemurs and the Mouse Lemurs, as well as the Lorises and the Pottos. These are mainly found in Kibale national park and can be enjoyed on guided walks within the forest.
These are also known as the Galagos and are small in size measuring 37cm in length and weigh only 150g when fully grown.
These have also got large brown orange eyes which help them to see during the dark. These mostly live in sub Saharan Africa in semi arid areas, scrub forests and in savannah areas.
They mostly feed on beetles, scorpions, grasshoppers, moths, small reptiles, as well as butterflies. These also give birth to only one off spring and their gestation period is 4 months. They are found in most of Uganda’s national parks.
These are from the family of Lorisidae and medium in size, these can be spotted in kibale national park at night hours. They can also be found in Bwindi impenetrable national park and also in Queen Elizabeth National park.
They are 39cm in length and weigh approximately between 600 to 1600 grams. They like living in canopy rain forests and can be spotted in Kenya, Congo, Guinea, and Uganda. These species also move slowly with a careful mode and mostly feed on insects, leaves and scrubs.
Kibale Forest National Park is located in western Uganda, 26km southeast of Fort Portal town. The northern route is shorter and faster and has a distance of about 300km (5 hours) drive on tarmac road to Fort Portal. The trailhead for chimp tracking and the main centre of tourist activity within the park is the Kanyanchu River Camp which lies 35km south of Fort Portal is a murram road.
Accommodation in Kibale Forest National Park
KIBALE PRIMATE LODGE
Situated less than 10 minutes walk from the chimp-tracking trailhead, this atmospheric lodge in the heart of the jungle is alive with mysterious rustles and bird calls during the day and washed over by a white noise of cicadas and other insects after dark. Rebuilt and upgraded in 2015, the luxurious new thatched cottages come with stylish earthly décor, timber floor, king-sized beds with walk-in –nets, indoor seating, private balcony, large glass windows and spacious en-route hot shower. The older cottages have been refurbished to semi-luxury standard. For adventurous travelers, an isolated budget tree house overlooks a scenic elephant wallow 10 mins’ walk from the main camp.
Experience the world acclaimed Ugandan hospitality amidst unrivaled nature, scenery and serenity in the National Park, home 13 species of primates, copious mammals, birds and butterflies. The starting point for Chimpanzee Tracking as well as the magnificent Chimpanzee Habituation Experience, two of the most astonishing wildlife experience on the planet. As well as the chilly weather, well behaved staff, well furnished rooms, impressive natural surroundings, well furnished rooms, lounges and free WiFi.
Lounge area: An open lounge area is furnished with comfortable large chairs, soft cushions and sofas, making it the ideal place to repose and listen to the blathering of the monkeys in the dense branches.
Restaurant and Bar: The restaurant serves both international and local foods with well trained waitresses. Adjacent to the restaurant is a fully stocked bar with a beautiful magnificent view of the forest.
Luxury Safari Tents : The lodge has lavish safari tents, wooden platform with a thatched roof that tends to match well with the environment. The inside of the lodge is designed with an African style, The toilets and bathrooms have a natural touch of the environment made out of local stones.
Sky Tree Hous: Another exciting adventure is the sky tree house, it has a bedroom with other facilities that can enable the visitor enjoy a night there. It’s suited at a 10 minutes’ walk from the major lodge, giving you a scenic view of the Elephant lurch at night.
Forest Cottage: The lodge has 7 cottages secretly located in the forest. The rooms are big with double beds, a sitting room with an African design and standard en-suite bathroom and toilets.
Cultural Dancing: In the slightly chilly evenings visitors can find shelter in a unique fire cave, where a fire will be lit to warm. And as night falls peaceful sounds of the forest enclose the lodge, you might even hear the exciting trumpeting of the meandering forest elephants.
Community Tourism: The local community is greatly involved in the running of the lodge, including employment, providing local products and handmade crafts and performing local dances and songs.
KIBALE FOREST CAMP
This long serving tented camp, set in a pretty forest patch 2km south of Bigodi, is now managed by nature lodges, who spruced up the rooms and slashed the prices to make it a contender for the best value facility in the vicinity of Kibale Forest. Classic en-suite safari tents have slate floors & bright ethnic décor, & there also some cheaper & more basic tents using common showers on the slope leading down to a lily-covered river. Monkeys & birds are plentiful around the camp, which is centered on a 2-storey wood-&-thatched restaurant and bar.
Kibale Forest Camp offers an excellent canvas experience with 10 African safari style tents concealed in a lash timberland. A monetary plan option is our slow outdoor on the camp ground.
BIGODI COMMUNITY LODGE
Conveniently located opposite the office for Bigodi Swamp Walk, the misleadingly named private lodge is owned by a former national park guide & has co-community links, simple rooms with beds and nets, & use of common cold showers.
Park Entry Fees
Kibale Forest National Park entry fees vary according to the activities to be done at the national park.
The cost for tracking chimps is US$150 for non-residents and US$100 for resident foreigners and 100,000 UGX for both citizens and EAC Nationals.
Chimpanzee Habituation experience costs US$220 for non-residents and US$150 for resident foreigners.