Chimpanzees are found almost exclusively in the dense forests of Central and West Africa, and Uganda stands tall with over 5,000 chimps and more habituated to human presence, making it prime real estate for chimpanzee trekking. A male chimp can stand just under 4 feet tall and weigh between 90-130lbs. Female chimps tend to be a little smaller, usually weighing between 60-100lbs.
Chimpanzees are among human’s closest relatives, sharing over 98% of our DNA a little above that of gorillas. Living in family bands of 15 to 20, each chimpanzee band can have a personality of its own and seeing these impressive creatures in the wild is everything from humorous to awe-inspiring.
Opportunities for observing chimpanzees in the wild in Africa range from tracking unhabituated chimps in Nyungwe Forest or Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, to visiting habituated and often long-studied groups in Kibale National Park in Uganda and the Mahale Mountains of western Tanzania.
Although chimp sightings are not guaranteed, the odds of seeing them have greatly improved over the years TO OVER 90%, especially with habituated groups. The odds of seeing other primates are also great during your hike, including the grey-cheeked mangabey and red-tailed or golden monkey (depending on where you are).
In addition, while you explore deep into lush green forests, these treks are generally less strenuous and more fun-filled than hiking to find mountain gorillas. You also have the option to visit one of several chimpanzee sanctuaries, including Ngamba Island in Uganda and Sweetwaters in Kenya.
Chimpanzee Habituation Experience
In addition to chimpanzee trekking, Kibale offers a chimpanzee habituation experience where you get to spend a full day with the chimps, contributing to research and the habituation process with experts from the Uganda Wildlife Authority. It is a fascinating experience for primate enthusiasts.
The habituation experience involves staying with a band of chimpanzees all day. This gives you time to really connect with the band and learn about their different characters and habits, and group dynamics. This experience offers a real chance to develop fieldwork skills and learn about behavioral research. Guests are also accompanied by both UWA rangers and guides who know the chimps intimately and will be able to answer any questions you may have during the habituation experience and can discuss the history of the group and changes over time. Overall, the chimpanzee habituation experience is more immersive than chimpanzee trekking due to sheer time spent with the chimps.
Best Time For Chimpanzee Trekking in Uganda
The best time to go chimpanzee trekking to avoid crowds is April through May, during the rainy season. But you’ll be trekking in a rainforest so you’re likely to get wet any time of year. The best months to visit Uganda for drier weather are also during peak travel season from June to October.
What to Bring?
- A small day pack for personal items
- A few snacks of your preference
- Camera. Trust us, you’ll want to take lots of photos, but remember no flash!
- Durable, water-resistant boots with good traction in case of muddy slopes
- Durable, water-resistant jacket
- Layered clothing to adjust for a variety of weather (rain, heat, etc.). Long sleeves and long pants are recommended for any prickly foliage you might trek through.
- Insect repellent
Rules for Chimpanzee Tracking
- Our consultants must book your permits in advance
- To prevent transmitting human-borne diseases to the chimps, anyone who is ill (with the flu, for example) is not allowed in the park.
- You must be at least 12 years old to go chimpanzee trekking in Kibale Forest National Park
- Keep a distance of at least 8 meters between you and the chimpanzees
- Don’t eat next to the chimpanzees
- Listen to your guide at all times – they really do know best
- There are typically 8 people per chimpanzee group
Chimpanzee Tracking Costs
A chimp permit for Kibale National Park costs $150 per person per trek either in the morning or afternoon. It allows you to stay with chimpanzees for one hour but the walk is punctuated with plant and bird identification as it is always guided by informed and knowledgeable Uganda Wildlife Authority ranger guides.
The Chimpanzee habituation experience costs $220 for foreign non-residents, $150 for foreign residents and $70 for East Africans. Additionally, there are transport costs and lodging and meals.
For your convenience, most tour companies give packages that combine chimpanzee activities and other activities.