Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda, A country of rolling green hills, misty valleys and craggy mountains. Where lions stalk their prey through grasslands, hippos soak lazily in the shallows, and mountain gorillas move purposefully through tangled forests.
Where the calm waters of Lake Victoria, transform into the thundering rapids of the River Nile, as it makes its way across Africa to the Mediterranean sea.
Less well-known, less-well travelled, but no less enchanting than its East African neighbors, Uganda is a country of surprise. Especially, when it comes to our cousins, the chimpanzees.
Although the main attraction that brings people to the wilderness of Uganda, is the majestic silverback gorilla, there is plenty more wildlife and things to see in this beautiful country, the Pearl Of Africa.
Uganda, has a lot to offer for those planning on experiencing Africa’s natural beauty. Primate lovers will want to know that Uganda offers an opportunity to track, observe and photograph the amazing chimpanzees.
There’s a good chance you’ve seen a chimp or two after a visit to your local zoo. Maybe you think you’ve already seen it all when it comes to chimps, but you haven’t seen anything until you’ve immersed yourself in their natural habitat.
There is one way to make this immersion happen, and that is to book a flight to Uganda and visit the Kibaale Forest National Park, which is the ultimate destination to track, observe, and admire the chimpanzees.
What is the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee?
You might think that chimpanzees and gorillas are the same, more so, when it comes to behavior, but that is not the case.
First of all, gorillas tend to be much more lethargic than chimpanzees. A gorilla will spend the majority of the day sitting in a comfortable clearing, chowing down on plants and fruits.
A chimpanzee, on the other hand, is far more active than the average gorilla. They have high energy, often swinging from tree to tree throughout the day.
Hence making the two different. You can expect a lot of action from chimpanzee trekking in Uganda, whereas a gorilla trek will mostly be about observation.
However, both activities are exciting. Watching our closest friends, more to cousins, is the most memorable thing.
Amazing facts about chimpanzees
One of the most interesting facts about the chimpanzee, is that its DNA is a 98.7% match with that of humans. Apart from homo sapiens, the chimpanzee is one of the most intelligent creatures on Earth.
With so much similarity to humans, observing chimps can be quite interesting. It is why some visitors to Uganda enjoy chimpanzee trekking.
- Chimpanzees are stubborn and always up to something mischievous. They live in large clans led by a dominant male. chimpanzee clans undergo more frequent changes with members leaving to join other clans
- They communicate with one another through a complex, subtle system of vocalizations, facial expressions, body postures, and gestures.
- Chimpanzees in the wild have different cultures. That is, different groups of chimpanzees that live in different parts of Africa have unique behaviors, tools, and traditions that are passed down from generation to generation.
- In their natural habitats, chimpanzees are known to use plants with medicinal value to self-medicate themselves.
- The time a female chimpanzee is pregnant, known as the gestation period, is 230-260 days.
- At birth, a chimpanzee weighs about four pounds and has a white tuft of fur on his/her rump.
- Like human infants, newborn chimpanzees are entirely dependent on their mothers for warmth, protection, transportation, and nourishment.
- In their natural habitat, chimpanzees nurse for 5 years. During this time, they learn what to eat, what to avoid by watching their mothers and other adult chimpanzees.
- Chimpanzees begin wandering short distances from their mothers at about 8 months of age.
- Chimpanzees enter adulthood at about 13 years of age. Chimpanzee mothers may enjoy life-long bonds with their adult sons and daughters.
- Chimpanzees make and use tools, such as stones to crack nuts, twigs to probe for insects or honey, spears to hunt small mammals, and wads of crumbled leaves to sponge drinking water from hard-to-reach places.
- Some chimpanzees have learned to “talk” using American Sign Language, symbols, and computer graphics. Some have even combined signs to come up with new words. When the famous sign language chimpanzee, Washoe, first saw a swan, she called it a “water bird.”
- Chimpanzees, like humans, use facial expressions to convey emotions.
- Chimpanzees have emotions similar to those we call joy, anger, grief, sorrow, pleasure, boredom, and depression. They also comfort and reassure one another by kissing and embracing.
- Adult chimps are estimated to be at least twice as strong, and perhaps even seven times as strong, as humans. This trait is one of the reasons that people who have chimps as pets often end up giving their chimp to an organization like Save the Chimps.
- Chimpanzees have 32 teeth.
- Chimpanzees’ body temperature is the same as humans, at 98.6 degrees.
- Standing upright on two legs, a chimpanzee may reach over 4 feet in height, and weigh more than 150 lbs.
- A chimpanzee’s senses of sight, taste, and hearing are similar to those of humans.
- Like humans, chimpanzees eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Chimpanzees not only have opposable thumbs, like humans, but they also have opposable big toes, so they can grab things with their hands and their feet.
- While humans have blood types A, B, O, and AB, chimps have only A or O.
- Many older captive chimpanzees suffer from cardiac disease and take the same medications that humans take for heart conditions.
Chimpanzees can live for more than 50 years. This is another reason why chimps who were purchased as pets often end up at sanctuaries.
Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda.
This is an adventurous activity. Visitors move into the forest n search of habituated chimpanzee families. Visitors spend one hour with them , in their natural habitat.
Nelson, a wildlife veterinarian at Uganda’s Kibaale National Park, told the BBC’s Newsday programme that staff going into the forest now had to wear clean clothes and disinfect their shoes to ensure they did not endanger the great apes.
Thus, security, safety of both visitors and apes guaranteed. Despite the conditions of pandemic, nothing to worry about.
This is the second most popular activity carried out, after gorilla trekking. Chimpanzee trekking can be carried out in several destinations such as,
Kibaale Forest National Park
Kibaale Forest National Park , located in southwestern Uganda, is one of the best safari destinations in Africa for chimpanzee trekking. It has the highest number and diversity of primates in East Africa.
There are 13 species of primates including chimpanzees living within its 795km2 land cover, with the most beautiful and most diversified tracts of tropical forest in the whole of Uganda.
The Forest covering predominates in the central and northern part of the park on the raised Fort Portal plateau. At the park’s northern tip, Kibaale is highest and stands 1590m above sea level.
Offers habituation experience, a process where chimpanzees are trained, by a team of researchers to get used to the human presence.
However, this process allows 4 individuals, who trek with the researcher. The habituation process, involves naming of chimpanzees, watching them feed and among others.
In this process, visitors spend 4 hours with the chimpanzees.
Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda, can also be done in Kaniyo Pabidi, which is situated in Budongo forest, southern part of Murchison falls national park, which is the largest and most visited park in Uganda.
The trekking can be done either in the mornings or afternoon. It starts with briefing about the rules of the activity. It takes about 2 to 4 hours or even more, once the chimpanzees have been found, visitors spend 1 hour with them in their natural environment.
Visitors take photos, record videos and learn about their habits, behavior among others.
Chimpanzee trekking in Kyambura gorge, is one of the top travel experiences in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Travelers with extended time in the park, love to include a trek to see chimpanzees, in the under ground Forest Kyambura Gorge.
Whereas, most chimpanzee tours are done in Kibaale Forest National Park, “The primate capital of Africa” Kyambura gorge, is yet another interesting place to meet face to face with the endangered chimpanzees.
The experience of trekking chimps, in Kyambura gorge is off beaten given the under ground forest, where these primates live.
One community of chimpanzees, has been habituated for travelers to see and interact with in the area. Chimpanzee trekking in Kyambura gorge, also entails learning about the formation of this gorge, discovering birds and other wildlife in this underground forest.
Kalinzu Forest National Park
It is found in southwestern Uganda, in the district of Bushenyi. The forest reserve is close to Maramagambo forest and Queen Elizabeth National Park. Kalinzu forest reserve has abundant wildlife.
Over 379 species of birds exist in the forest. There are six species of primates which include chimpanzees, baboons, blue monkeys, red tailed monkeys, Vervet monkeys, black and white Colobus monkeys.
The forest also has night creatures like bush babies, Pottos and Galagos. Those interested in butterflies can expect to spot over 261 species. The forest reserve has 414 species of trees, 98 of moths, flowers and reptiles.
The close proximity to two major wildlife conservation areas, as earlier noted helps draw large mammals like Lions, wild pigs, antelopes, leopards and buffaloes to the forest from time to time.
However, Chimpanzees are the key attraction on Kalinzu Forest. The trekking also starts early in the morning, or afternoons with briefing and takes about, 3 to 4 hours in the steeps and muddy slopes.
Best time for chimpanzee trekking.
Just like the best time to visit Uganda, the best time for a chimpanzee trekking experience in Uganda, is during the dry season.
This is in the months of June to October, and December to February. During this time the rains are less and therefore trekking is more comfortable.
Depending on your interests, this activity can be customized as part of long tours or as a short trip just planned for chimpanzee trekking.
This Uganda safari activity can be done either in the morning, mid-morning or afternoon depending on your itinerary schedule.
However, this is the busiest time in the tourist industry, and yet the number of trekking permits is limited. For that reason, we recommend that make your reservations earlier to guarantee availability of the Permits.
Inspire African Safaris, a number one choice for many, can always get you there. Feel free to contact them for well organized, exciting and memorable safari in Uganda.