Chimpanzee trekking in Africa

Where to go chimpanzee trekking in Africa, what to wear for chimpanzee trekking

Our Chimpanzee trekking and Safaris are mostly concentrated in two countries that is Uganda and Rwanda due to the intense number of the primates that is found in the different parks of the two countries. Uganda being home to more than 5000 chimpanzees makes it the top destination for all those who want to go for chimpanzee trekking and safaris and if you want to enjoy your chimp trekking experience you will need to book earlier as the chimpanzee just like the gorilla permits are sold up to two years ahead and on first come first served basis.

Chimpanzees are known to be the closest relatives to the human race with a percentage of 98.7%. Most of the chimpanzees on the chimpanzee trekking and safaris are habituated and are used to the presence of humans / people around them. Most of the habituated chimpanzees are found in these two countries Uganda and Rwanda and you will get to enjoy the numerous chimp treks to see these primates and with the help of the different specilalized guides with vast knowledge on the chimps.

Chimpanzee trekking usually starts in the morning with briefing from a guide. Visitors cannot go out to the forest by themselves and must be led by a park guide or ranger. The rangers know where to find the chimp communities by following clues left behind. Moreover, habituated chimpanzee can identify the familiar faces of the guides which make them reassured.

Where to go Chimpanzee Trekking in Uganda

Uganda is a diverse country that has a lot of things you can see and do and one of the best experiences is chimpanzee trekking. The minimum age for chimpanzee trekking in most parks is fifteen years apart from Kalinzu forest where it is twelve years. It is done in specific places and some of the places where chimpanzee trekking is carried out from include the following.

Chimpanzee Trekking in Kibale National Park

Kibale National Park is the best destination for chimpanzee trekking in East Africa. Located in the western part of Uganda, Kibale national Park is a home to 1500 chimpanzees including other primates that are located in the Park. There are thirteen different chimp species that are found in the Kibale National Park and other primates. There are also other wild animals that can be seen in the park including a variety of bird species that can be found in the park.

Chimpanzee Trekking in Kibale Park is done mostly for one hour for each group of tourists who go for trekking and the group consists of six people who are always escorted by an experienced tour guide and there can be over six groups in a day that go for trekking since the trekking process takes only one hour for each group. Most of the people who go to Kibale are advised to put on long sleeved clothes.

Since the park is densely populated with trees to avoid tree branch scratches and insect bites. There are opportunities for Chimpanzee trekking twice each day – morning session starts at 8 am and afternoon at 2 pm with as many as 6 groups tracking each day each with 6 individuals. Chimp trekking is not as hard as it might look in Kibale because the chimps can easily be seen up the trees eating fruits and for as long as you follow the rule and regulations that are given to you.

Chimpanzee Habituation Experience in Kibale Forest

In Kibale Forest you can also participate in Chimpanzee habituation experience. The Chimpanzee Habituation Experience is one of the most popular activities in Kibale National Park. Kibale is special because it is one of the few places where tourist can do both the standard chimpanzee trekking or go for the Chimpanzee habituation experience. Chimpanzee habituation refers to the process of making chimps used to human beings around them. It takes about 2 years to complete the process.

Unlike normal tracking of chimps, during chimpanzee habituation experience, visitors spend the whole day following these amazing creatures. Chimpanzee Habituation Experience is more demanding and visitors are involved in all habituation related activities unlike the 4 hour trekking where visitors remain distant. Visitors must wake before the break of dawn to meet the guides and go looking for the chimpanzees before they leave nests.

In this way, you will be able to watch them wake up and prepare for the day’s activities like feeding, resting, taking care of their young, protecting their territories and finally building their nests on top of trees. Lunch is usually provided because the experience goes on for the whole day. By the end of the experience, you should be familiar with all the individuals including their body markings and personalities. The exercise ends once the chimps go into their nests for the night.

Chimpanzee Trekking
Chimpanzee Trekking

Chimpanzee Trekking Budongo Forest at Kaniyo Pabidi

Budongo forest is located near the famous Murchison falls in the northern part of Uganda and you can join your Murchison safari with a chimpanzee trekking safari to Kaniyo Pabidi Budongo. Budongo is a large forest that is filled with mahogany trees that cover up most of the forest. Once you visit Budongo forest you will be able to go for chimpanzee and habituation. Habituation is the process of getting the chimpanzees used to the humans who keep on visiting the area and the two activities can be joined.

There are a lot of chimpanzees in that they will be the first thing that you will see when you go to Budongo and the trekking is mostly done in the mornings. If you are planning to go to Budongo for trekking the best thing to do is spend a night at nearby lodges so that you get an early start.

Chimpanzee Trekking at Kyambura Gorge

Kyambura gorge is located in the Queen Elizabeth National Park in the western part of Uganda and it is known to be one of the top chimpanzee trekking destinations in Uganda and East Africa. It is locally known as the valley of apes due to the presence of a small family of chimps that is about twelve of them that live in the area. You will have a guide who will take you on the trek and you will be able to interact with the chimps since habituation has been done at the Kyambura gorge. Chimpanzee Trekking is also mostly done in the mornings and you can couple it with some other activities that are carried out in the Park.

Chimpanzee Trekking in Kalinzu Forest

Kalinzu forest is also located in Queen Elizabeth National Park and it is a top and unique destination for all those that love chimp trekking. The forest has about 300 chimpanzees 40 of which are habituated and all these can be seen with just a visit to the forest. The Kalinzu forest is also a home to other species that can be found in the park including a number of bird species.

The permits at Kalinzu are a bit cheaper than in other places and if you cannot get the permit you can just inform the park rangers of the day when you will be able to go for the trekking and you will be sorted. you can also be able to see other primates as you enjoy your trekking in Kalinzu and the minimum age for people who can participate in the trekking is twelve years here.

Semiliki Wildlife Reserve

Semiliki conservation reserve chimpanzee trekking is another place where you can go and enjoy the chimp trekking in the area. It is a gazette area which was put up to conserve the Kobs and Other wild animals that were leaving in the area. It is located in a valley and is covered with acacia woodland which houses most of the chimpanzees in the Reserve. The chimpanzee trekking takes place in the morning and it takes three to four hours in the reserve.

Chimpanzee trekking generally is on the rise and is one of the top safari activities in East Africa. These human like primates behave like humans and that is why most people are attracted to come and see how they look like physically, their different behaviors and the how they take care of each other. Remember that they live in groups and it is very hard for these groups to sleep in the same place twice. They keep on moving to the different places in search of food and water.

Ngamba Island Chimpanzees

This is a small but forested island on Lake Victoria which was turned into a chimpanzee sanctuary for rescued chimps all over Uganda. There are over 40 chimpanzees being cared for in the island. Ngamba Island is not designed for standard chimp tracking. Visitors and families with children are allowed to see the chimps from a secure raised platform as they come to feed three times a day.

The Uganda Wildlife Education Center:

Formerly known as Entebbe Zoo, was established in 1952 to rehabilitate injured, confiscated and orphaned animals. About 40 chimpanzees can be seen here from enclosures by tourists and families with children.

Comparing chimpanzee tracking and gorilla trekking

There are similarities and differences in the experiences of tracking these two great apes.

  • Gorilla trekking is far more organized than chimpanzee trekking and hence the chances of seeing mountain gorillas are very high – Almost guaranteed unlike the chimpanzees.
  • Chimpanzees live in relatively flatter terrain while mountain gorillas live in mountainous areas and slopes which can be stressful.
  • Chimpanzees spend most of their time on tree tops while gorillas spend their time on the ground.
  • Chimpanzees are mobile and always on the move requiring trackers to follow them constantly and at high pace whereas mountain gorillas tend to relax on the ground in a forest clearing – This can actually be exciting and adventurous for many.
  • The constant movements and habit of swinging from tree to tree makes it harder to take good photos of chimps.
  • Chimpanzees are very noisy during tracking while mountain gorillas usually feed and play quietly.
  • Finding the Chimpanzee community doesn’t take as long as locating a gorilla group.
  • Trekking can be done in two sessions per day – In the morning and afternoon. Gorilla tracking can only be arranged for one session in a day.
  • Chimpanzees live in large communities that frequently breakup into smaller parties to go looking for scarce food before getting back together again. Trackers often split up to follow these splinter groups which can lead to confusion if the chimps lead them back to the main group. Mountain gorillas live in a relatively stable group with plenty of food.
  • There is a one hour limit to how much time you can spend watching a mountain gorilla group. However visitors can spend more time with a chimpanzee community depending on which place and country they choose to go tracking.
  • Only 8 people can see a gorilla family in a day while 6 people can see a chimpanzee community in two daily shifts.
  • Chimpanzee and gorilla tracking are similar in that you need permits to take part in both activities. However gorilla permits cost much more than chimpanzee permits
  • There is an age limit requirement for visitors planning to take part in both chimpanzee and gorilla trekking – Usually 15 years and above.
  • For both experiences, you are advised to move with suitable clothing (boots, gloves, long shirts, rain jackets) and might require hiring a porter.

Rules, Requirements and Regulations for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda

Just like with mountain gorillas, chimpanzee trekking/ tracking requires following some rules. You need to know the following:

  • You need to book your chimpanzee permit in advance especially during the peak seasons.
  • Children below 15 years are not allowed to track chimpanzee.
  • Do not litter the forest while tracking chimpanzee.
  • It is not recommended to track chimpanzee while suffering from flue and diarrhea. Chimps are susceptible to human diseases.
  • Keep a distance of about 8 meters while near the Chimpanzees.
  • Do not eat while near the chimpanzees. They may come and grab it from you violently.
  • Do not talk too loud, make fun of or try to intimidate/provoke chimpanzees.
  • Taking photos using flash is not allowed.
  • Always follow instructions from the forest guides.
  • Try to visit the bathroom before heading out for trekking.
  • Do not head out tracking without a guide.
  • Smoking while tracking chimps isn’t allowed.
  • There is a limit to how many people can track a chimpanzee community in a day.
  • Gear and equipment for chimpanzee tracking in Uganda
  • Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda requires careful planning with your tour company beforehand in order to make it a comfortable, memorable and stress-free event.

Bring along the following for your chimpanzee trekking safari:

  • Suitable Shoes: with good grip that is good for navigating through muddy terrain and steep areas.
  • The right clothing: Long sleeved clothes that can help protect you from sharp thickets. Plan for the unpredictable weather and a rain jacket just in case.
  • Packed snack and drinking water: This is just in case you get hungry or thirsty along the way.
  • Binoculars: You don’t want to miss some of the details. These mighty apes love swinging from tree to tree.
  • Come with insect repellent.
  • Camera and extra batteries: Taking photos of chimpanzees needs some preparation as they live in dense forest and are very quick in movement. Come with a good camera that has sharp lenses as the chimps live in long trees. Taking flash photos is prohibited.
  • Binoculars: To spot the chimps and beautiful birds on top of the trees.
  • Walking stick: Walking sticks will help you steadily navigate through steep and rough terrain.
  • Porters: Porters can be hired from many of the parks and reserves to help carry heavy equipment and bags so that you concentrate on looking out for the chimps and other creatures.

Chimpanzee Trekking In Rwanda

Chimpanzee trekking is done in Nyungwe National park and Cyamudongo National Park which are located in the south Western part of Uganda. The minimum age for one to take part in the trekking in Rwanda is sixteen years and in each of these parks have a tour guide that will take you through on this wonderful journey.

Chimpanzee Trekking in Nyungwe national Park

Nyungwe National park has a large number of chimpanzees that amount to 500 registered chimpanzees and one troop has been habituated. The chimps keep on changing their resting places every night and that is why when you go for chimp trekking in Nyungwe, a tracker will first go before your group too find out exactly where they spent the night so that you do not have to trek in the wrong direction.

The park has three Centres where tourists gather before they go for trekking at 4:30 or 5:00am in the morning and these Centres include the Gisakura, Kitabi and Uwinka. It is almost nearly impossible to see the chimps due to the dense forests but you will be able to see a few of them.

Cyamudongo forest

Cyamudongo National Park is located in the south western part of Rwanda and is near the Nyungwe national park. It is much easier to trek the chimps in the Cyamudongo more than in Nyungwe since it is not densely filled with trees although the number of chimps here is a little bit limited. One of the habituated troops of chimps is located in Cyamudongo forest and you can go and interact with them and get to know more about the chimps.