Kibale Forest National Park is an extensive and densely Forested protected Area extending for 795 square kilometers, at the outskirts of Fort Portal, western side of Uganda. The Northern corner of this National Park has the highest elevation at 1590 meters above sea level while the southern edge is the lowest point of the Park at 1100 meters above sea level on the floor of the lush Albertine Rift Valley. The varying altitude is responsible for the varying vegetation types and ecosystems ranging from the woodland and savannah on the rift valley floor to the wet tropical forest on the plateau areas.
There are over 350 species of tree within this verdant tropical rainforest with some of them towering up to 55 meters tall and others existing for up to 200 years. Initially the area was gazetted into a Forest Reserve in 1932 before being eventually converted into a National Park in 1993 to preserve a vast area of forest that was initially managed as a logged forest Reserve.
Wildlife of Kibale National Park
Kibale Forest National Park is characterized by a thick evergreen tropical Rainforest within which dwell up to 70 species of mammals, popularly the 13 species of primates including mankind’s closest relatives-Chimpanzees. Apart from the Chimpanzees, other primate species harbored in the Park are the L’Hoests monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, Ugandan Red Colobus, Grey cheeked mangabey, Black and white colobus monkeys and blue monkeys among others.
Other wildlife species that call Kibale Forest National Park home are the African buffaloes, forest elephants, bush pigs, Sitatunga, bushbucks, leopards, duikers, giant forest hogs, warthogs, African golden cats and servals among others.
Bird life in Kibale Forest National Park
Kibale Forest National Park contains more than 375 species of birds including the ground thrush, olive long-tailed cuckoo, the western Tinkerbird, yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, black-capped Apalis, yellow-spotted Nicator, little greenbul, blue-breasted kingfisher, dusky Crimsonwing, Chestnut-winged starling, green breasted pitta and red-faced woodland warbler among others. There are also over 250 species of butterflies in Kibale Forest National Park.
Other attractions in and around Kibale Forest National Park
When you mention people being attractions, it’s not their physical attributes that attracts tourists but rather their outstanding way of life and culture that takes visitors’ breath away. The Bakiga and Batooro living around Kibale Forest National Park take pride in their unique heritage with the King being the Cultural head of the latter. Visitors visiting the Park can get to learn about their cultural dances, norms, customs, folklore and language.
The Amabere Craves
You should not leave Kibale Forest National Park without visiting the mysterious Amabere Caves whose cultural formation carries more weight about its scientific formation. The beauty, history and formation will blow your mind and make you wish to make another trip to the area.
Around Kibale Forest National Park are several magnificent Crater Lakes including Kyaninga, Ndali, Kasenda and the three Craters (Kigere, Bikere and Saka) near the Amabere Caves. Hike to these Lakes to discover about their interesting history and formation.
Tourist activities conducted within and around Kibale Forest National Park
Chimpanzee tracking is the number one reason why tourists visit Kibale Forest National Park, the home to majority of the country’s chimpanzee population. One hour encounter with a habituated Chimpanzee community means the World to any primate lover and can be guaranteed with a visit to this Forest National Park.
Chimpanzee Habituation Experience
With Chimpanzee habituation Experience, you will have the entire day with a Chimpanzee community still undergoing habituation (to make them used to humans) to watch them wake up, feed, groom, play and finally nest in the evening.
With over 375 species of birds, birding is one of the must-do activities for tourists who visit Kibale Forest National Park. Some of the common species encountered during birding are the little greenbul, scaly-breasted Illadopsis, yellow-spotted Nicator, Brown-chested Alethe, Abyssinian ground-thrush and African grey parrot among others.
Nature walks are usually conducted within, near and around Kibale Forest National Park lasting several hours to see the different attractions of the Park ranging from the butterflies, birds, wildlife to outstanding tree species. In addition to the day nature walks/hikes, night nature walks are also conducted for a chance to spot the nocturnal animal species such as leopards, Potto and many others as well as nocturnal bird species. Nature walks are also conducted within the nearby Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary for a chance to see the wetland bird species.
The Park neighboring communities of Batooro and Bakiga have interesting cultures, traditions and norms that you can’t miss to explore during your visit to Kibale Forest National Park. Cultural activities such as dance, drama, farming, hand-craft making and many others are lined for visitors to the Park.
Where to stay
Visitors’ places to stay in and around Kibale Forest National Park range from budget, midrange to luxury accommodation facilities. The best luxury accommodation facilities in Kibale Forest National park are Ndali Lodge, Primate Lodge, Papaya Lake Lodge, Crater Safari Lodge and Kyaninga Lodge among others.
The most exquisite mid-range accommodation facilities to stay in during your visit to Kibale Forest National Park are Mountains of the Moon Hotel, Chimpanzee Forest Guesthouse, Chimps Nest and Kibale Forest Camp while the most classic budget facilities are Rwenzori View Guesthouse, Lake Nkuruba Nature Reserve and Community Campsite and Nyinabulitwa Country Resort and Safari Camp
Best time to visit Kibale National Park
Kibale Forest is a lush and beautiful National Park that can be visited at any time of the year. The dry season which is perfect for most activities in this Park is in January, February, June, July, August, September and December. Less rain is received during this season hence making vegetation less thick and forest floor less muddy and slippery which makes hiking/trekking easier.
The wet season-March, April, May, October and November is usually avoided because vegetation becomes thicker, forest floor is wet, muddy and slippery hence making trekking more difficult but is ideal for birding because chances of spotting migratory species is higher. However, primates have plenty of food during this time hence making chimpanzee trekking faster since chimpanzees will not have to move far for food.
How to get there
Kibale Forest National Park is situated within the western side of the country and can be accessed from the Capital City (Kampala) from the south through Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara-Kamwenge route or the northern route thorough Kampala-Mityana-Mubende-Fort Portal road. The latter route is easier, shorter and quicker involving travelling for 290 kilometers on tarmac to Fort Portal then by another 32 kilometers on murram to Kanyanchu Visitor Center (the center for most activities of the Park).