Best Places to See Chimps in Uganda
Budongo Forest, Murchison Falls National Park
Lying on the southern end of the Murchison Falls National Park Conservation Area, Budongo Forest is home to 600 to 700 chimpanzees. They live in several communities scattered throughout the 500 square mile forest. Each community has 50 to 120 chimpanzees—the size of a small human village.
Your best chance of seeing one of these chimps is in Kaniyo Pabidi, an area on the northeast edge of Budongo Forest. Unlike mountain gorilla treks, which always start first thing in the morning, chimp treks at Kaniyo Pabidi take place in both the morning and afternoon. Here, you can take a guided walk in the morning or afternoon.
The walk includes some steep inclines, but is mostly along well-maintained paths.
You have a very good change of seeing chimps on your walk. This is especially true in May through August, when the forest provides the chimps with plenty of fruit. With so much food around, the chimps can stay in one area instead of wandering to satisfy their hunger. This makes the chimps easier to find.
Chance of sightings: High
Kibale Forest National Park
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be Jane Goodall for a day? You can find out at Kibale Forest National Park.
Located in Western Uganda, Kibale Forest is an hour drive from the town of Fort Portal. The forest has a rich habitat for primates, with chimpanzees being the most famous inhabitants. You have two options for getting up close and personal with this fascinating creature in Kibale:
- take a morning or afternoon chimp trek
- spend the day observing chimpanzees with field scientists
The field option is truly one of a kind. You’ll stay with one group of chimps all day, taking notes about their behavior and interactions. This is a dream come true for primate lovers and aspiring researchers.
Chance of Sightings: High
Kyambura Gorge, Queen Elizabeth National Park
The lush rainforest of Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to habituated chimpanzees and many other primates. The best time for a chimpanzee trek is in the morning when temperatures are cooler. However, treks can also be made in the afternoon.
The trails are maintained and once you are inside the gorge, you won’t encounter many significant inclines. However, the climb back out of the gorge is steep and can be difficult.
Reenergize after your trek by sampling java at a local women’s coffee cooperative that helps protect the chimps.
Chance of Sightings: Medium-High
Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary
Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary lies off the northern shore of Lake Victoria, a short boat ride from Entebbe, and offers a safe haven for chimps rescued from the pet or bushmeat trade or released from laboratories. With no predators around, they can safely learn to be wild again at their own pace.
The chimps are free to roam, explore their environment, and forage for food. Twice a day, caretakers offer supplementary feedings of fruits and other treats to ensure that chimps who are less skilled at foraging still get a healthy diet. Visitors can view the feedings from a raised walkway, getting a unique opportunity for close viewing of chimpanzees.
Visitors can also walk through the island to see chimps in their natural forested environment.
Chance of Sightings: Guaranteed
Semliki Wildlife Reserve
The Semliki Valley, deep in the heart of Uganda’s western rift valley, is a prime conservation area. The chimps here are famous for walking and standing on two legs more often than other chimpanzees. They are also quite the engineers—they dig small wells to get drinking water in the dry season.
And they’re more peaceful than most other chimps. According to biologists at the Simliki Chimpanzee Project, they get into fewer fights that lead to injuries. They even hunt less than other chimps.
However, they are also harder to see than in other parks. Your chimp trek will take you over varied terrain, and the chimps may be a little more reclusive than at other parks.
But many visitors see the longer hike as a benefit. Because Semliki lies on the boundary between Central African rainforest and East African savannah, the scenery here is breathtaking.
Chance of Sightings: Medium