Kibale Forest - A view from our expert author

Crater lake Kibale Forest Uganda by Ariadne Van Zandbergen

Kibale National Park is close to being an independent traveller’s dream, blessed with the tantalising combination of inexpensive accommodation, easy access, wonderful scenery and a remarkable variety of activities. 

Uganda’s premier chimpanzee-tracking destination, Kibale National Park protects 766km² of predominantly forested habitat that extends more than 50km south from the main Kampala–Fort Portal Road to the northeast border of Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP). Originally gazetted as a forest reserve in 1932, Kibale was upgraded to national park status, and extended southward to form a contiguous block with the Queen Elizabeth National Park, in 1993.

Though the scenic appeal of the region remains undiminished, the rising cost of chimp tracking, and the conversion of the old budget Kanyanchu River Camp to an upmarket tented camp, means that the national park is no longer the mandatory backpacker destination it was a few years ago. Interspersed with patches of grassland and swamp, the dominant vegetation type is rainforest, spanning altitudes of 1,100–1,590m and with a floral composition transitional to typical eastern Afro-montane and western lowland forest.

At least 60 mammal species are present in Kibale National Park. It is particularly rich in primates, with 13 species recorded, the highest total for any Ugandan national park. Kibale Forest is the most important stronghold of Ugandan red colobus, but it supports eight other diurnal primate species: vervet, red-tailed, L’Hoest’s and blue monkeys; Uganda mangabey; black-and-white colobus; olive baboon; and chimpanzee. It also supports four species of nocturnal prosimian including the sloth-like potto.

The elephants found in Kibale Forest are classified as belonging to the forest race, which is smaller and hairier than the more familiar savannah elephant. Elephants frequently move into the Kanyanchu area during the wet season, but they are not often seen by tourists.

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