GUIDE ON KIBALE NATIONAL PARK IN UGANDA
Kibale Park Introduction - Location, Wildlife & HistoryDespite its relatively small size of 795 square kilometers, Kibale National Park is a stunningly beautiful natural reserve that captivates like-minded adventurers on their safari vacation in Uganda. The park received gazetted status as a protected area in 1932 and was formally declared a national reserve in 1993. Its most valued treasure is an incredible diversity of primates – 13 species in all, including the rare Eastern chimpanzee. Kibale stands on the northern boundary of the famous Queen Elizabeth National Park. Along with Semuliki National Park and Semliki-Tooro Reserve in the west, and Katonga Reserve on the east, the entire wilderness forms the Kibale Conservation Area.
As you will discover on your safari vacation, Kibale Park is a 180-kilometer-long corridor that connects these major reserves and allows an unconfined passage of wildlife from distant Ishasha in the south of Queen Elizabeth Park all the way to the northern Sebitoli area. Aside from attracting the interest of tourists and wildlife enthusiasts, the park also forms an important center for study and research on primates. It’s the location of the famous Makerere University Biological Field Station. In addition, the Kibale Chimpanzee Project (KCP), founded in 1987 under the leadership of Dr. Richard Wrangham, is focused on studying the behavior, physiology, and favored habitats of the wild chimpanzees of Uganda.
An interesting facet of Kibale National Park (best time to visit) is that it covers a striking range of altitudes, from 1590 meters above sea level in the northernmost section to 1100 meters at the lowest point, where the southern section of the park slopes into the bed of the Albertine Rift Valley. This diversity of altitudes contributes to an amazing range of flora found within the park. Close to 77% of the park has a forest cover. This includes medium-altitude, moist-climate evergreen trees in the north. As you descend to lower altitudes during your travel through the park, you will come across semi-deciduous woodlands. In all, close to 351 species of trees abound here, and it’s not unusual to come upon specimens that are more than 200 years old and up to 55 meters tall.
The remaining 23% of the landscape on Kibale Park’s south side boasts wetlands, sprawling savannah grasslands where lions roam, and acreages of coniferous trees. This park is one of the last remaining regions with both mountainous rainforests and swamplands. The reserve has yet another notable feature: owing to its location in the Albertine Rift Valley, the landscape is dotted with extinct volcanic craters, some of which have transformed over the centuries into gloriously beautiful crater lakes that attract a variety of flora and fauna. The most famous of these lakes is the Ndali-Kasenda crater.
Kibale National Park is fast emerging as a favored destination on the Ugandan safari circuit thanks to the speedy development of an infrastructure that supports cultural tourism. This development is particularly notable because it involves several community projects and is focused on the participation of the local tribes, the Bakiga and Batoro. These people have survived in the forest for centuries, relying on its resources for food, fuel, raw materials for crafts, and medicines. By obtaining employment in the tourism industry, they can now earn a livelihood that was taken away with the setting of the reserve boundaries.
- Received gazetted status in 1932, formally declared a national park in 1993
- An incredible diversity of primates, home to 13 species in all, including the rare chimpanzees. 351 different species of trees and plants
- Adjoins the northern boundary of Queen Elizabeth National Park. Park is a 180-kilometer long corridor allowing the unrestricted passage of wildlife between the southern Ishasha sector in Queen Elizabeth Park to the northern Sebitoli region of Kibale Park
- Location of the renowned Makerere University Biological Field Station. Kibale Chimpanzee Project (KCP), established in 1987 under the leadership of Dr. Richard Wrangham operates in the park
- 77% of the reserve is covered with moist-climate evergreen trees and semi-deciduous woodlands. 23% of the reserve with wetlands, sprawling savanna grasslands, and mountainous rainforests. Landscape also having scenic craters left behind by extinct volcanoes now converted into lakes
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1. What Are The Wildlife Experiences In Kibale National Park?
- Close to 1500 individual chimpanzees known to live here, some of which have been habituated
- Park is also home to various other types of primates only found here
- Also has 70 species of mammals, 375 kinds of birds, 250 types of butterflies, and myriad reptiles and amphibians
What Are The Areas Of Interest In Kibale National Park?
2. Chimpanzees & Primates Of Kanyawara, Ngogo, Kanyanchu & Sebitole Areas
- 13 species of primates, some of them exceedingly rare
- Main highlight is the opportunity to view the 1500 individual chimpanzees that thrive in the forests
- Research programs like the Kibale Chimpanzee Project (KCP) and Makerere University Biological Field Station working to study them
3. Viewing Other Wildlife In Kibale’s Conservation Areas & Uncharted Wilderness
- Possibility of sighting 375 avian and 70 terrestrial species of wildlife
- Close to 500 elephants and a range of herbivores and antelopes including the rare sitatunga
- Large and small predators, 250 kinds of butterflies, insects, reptiles, and amphibians
Among the predator group, lions, leopards, golden cats, serval, common genets, and the African palm civet are present primarily in the open south region of the park but rarely spotted. You could also see three kinds of mongoose: Alexander’s cusimanse, the marsh mongoose, and the banded mongoose. Check out the crater lakes of Kibale and you might run into swamp otters and hippos. In addition, your safari vacation in Africa will be made memorable by sighting some of the park’s 250 varieties of butterflies and myriad reptiles, insects, and amphibians.
4. Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary & The Kanyanchu Birding Area
- Birdwatching expeditions to spot some of the incredible avian life, of which 4 are only seen in Kibale
- 138 species of birds sighted in the Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary
- Kanyanchu area also known for its incredible diversity of birds
As the AfricanMecca expert guide accompanying you will explain, Kibale National Park also hosts four species that are not found in any other location in Uganda. These include the blue-headed bee-eater, Cassin’s spinetail, masked apalis, and Nahan’s francolin. The Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary alone boasts 138 types of avifauna. In this area you could spot the black-crowned waxbill, white-breasted negro finch, black bishop, Bocage’s bush-shrike, brown-crowned tchagra, superb sunbird, brown-throated wattle-eye, black-and-white shrike-flycatcher, brown-backed scrub-robin, white-tailed ant-thrush, grey-winged robin-chat, yellow-billed barbet, white-spotted flufftail, hairy-breasted barbet, and the yellow-spotted barbet.
The Kanyanchu area in Kibale National Park (where to stay) also has a high density of birds, and during your safari holiday you should keep your eyes peeled for the white-winged warbler, papyrus canary, papyrus gonolek, and white-collared oliveback. Other species that abound here include the fine-banded woodpecker, white-bellied crested flycatcher, red-faced crimson-wing, bar-tailed trogon, forest ground thrush, and the white-thighed hornbill.
5. The Cultural Communities Of The Batoro & Bakiga Tribes
- Cultural heritage dating back to the ancient kingdoms thriving in the Great Lakes’ region
- Communities forced to relocate after the establishment of the reserve in 1993
- Upliftment of the Bakiga and Batoro people as a result of tourism
The Bakiga and Batoro have lived in the reserve for many centuries, relying on its resources for food, medicines, fuel, and raw material for making crafts and other essentials. After the mapping of the park boundaries in 1993, these tribes were forced to relocate to places outside the forests and adopt a way of living that is very different from their traditions. As a result, a large proportion of the people struggle for survival. In the past, they were often found trying to hunt in the park, which is both an illegal activity and endangers rare species of animals. Superb non-profit organizations such as The New Nature Foundation are now attempting to assimilate these people into the mainstream economy by offering training programs and providing opportunities for education and employment.
6. Viewing the Flora of Kibale
- Altitudes ranging from 1100 to 1590 meters above sea level with conditions ideal for the flourishing of diverse plant life
- Landscape showcasing tropical forests, moist evergreens, semi-deciduous trees, forests, savannah grasslands, conifers, and wetlands
- Combines forests on 77% of the land with grasslands and swamps on 23%
Further, the Kanyanchu region abounds with trees that reach for the skies at up to 55 meters, sheltering shrubs, ferns, and grasses that thrive in the dim sunlight filtering through to the forest floor. Closer to the Albertine Rift Valley floor are more of the grassy savannah fields. As you will observe on your trip, forests cover close to 77% of Kibale National Park. The remaining 23% consists of sprawling grasslands, wetlands, and conifers.
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WHERE & BEST PLACES TO STAY IN KIBALE
Kibale has varied accommodations, from the luxuries of Kyaninga Lodge to the deluxe option of Ndali Lodge. The value lodge options in Kibale National Park are Crater Safari Lodge and Primate Lodge.
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SAFARI & TOUR IN KIBALE
Experience chimpanzee trekking safaris in Kibale. Other activities including birdwatching, crater lakes hikes, cultural interactions, night forest walks, chimp habituation experience, and canoe excursions.
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BEST TIME TO VISIT KIBALE
Like most locations in Africa, Kibale National Park has two wet rainy seasons and two dry seasons. June to August and end of December, January, and February is the best time to visit Kibale in Uganda.
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EAST AFRICA SAFARI BOOKING TRIP IDEA FOR KIBALE IN UGANDA
When visiting Kibale for your chimpanzee safari tour, we recommend combining it with Bwindi Park for your gorilla safari trek, Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls for your wildlife safari, and alongside your city tour visits of Kampala and Entebbe.
You may optionally extend out to other wilderness areas such as Mgahinga to track down golden monkeys and gorillas in the same park, Jinja for whitewater rafting on the Nile River, and Semliki, Lake Mburo or Kidepo for an offbeat wildlife tour.
You can end your vacation on the beach at Lake Victoria or even extending out to the exotic spice island of Zanzibar or Lamu, or even Mombasa.
Best Safari Planning Ideas & Trip Experiences For UgandaBelow are guide references on how to plan each of the below safari experience in Uganda. Alternatively, go to the summary section for a quick overview of each trip planning experience.READ MORE
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