The genesis of Kibale Forest National Park dates back to the early 1940,s when it was gazette as a government Forest Reserve. The forest park sits on a total area of 795sqkms with an elevation ranging from 1,100m – 1,590m above sea level from the floor of the Albertine Rift Valley. This varying altitude supports a diversity of wildlife characterized by savannah on the rift valley floor, woodland and wet-tropical forests.
Kibale’s varied altitude supports different types of habitat, ranging from wet tropical forest on the Fort Portal plateau to woodland and savanna on the rift valley floor.
Kibale is one of Africa’s foremost research sites. While many researchers focus on the chimpanzees and other primates found in the park, others are investigating Kibale’s ecosystems, wild pigs and fish species, among other topics.
Kibale National Park contains one of the loveliest and most varied tracts of tropical forest in Uganda. Forest cover, interspersed with patches of grassland and swamp, dominates the northern and central parts of the park on an elevated plateau.
Kibale adjoins Queen Elizabeth National Park to the south to create a 180km-long corridor for wildlife between Ishasha, the remote southern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park, and Sebitoli in the north of Kibale National Park.
The Kibale-Fort Portal area is one of Uganda’s most rewarding destinations to explore. The park lies close to the tranquil Ndali-Kasenda crater area and within half a day’s drive of the Queen Elizabeth, Rwenzori Mountains and Semuliki National Parks, as well as the Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve.
Flaura and Fauna
Kibale Forest N.P. is a hub for scientific research and findings over time indicate that there are 351 tree species with some trees hitting the height of 55m and longevity of 200years. Special tree species include Ptyregota, Funtu-mia, Entandrophragma, Piptadeniastrum Africana, Gate trees and the ‘Naked Adam Tree” among others. With a mean annual temperature of 14 -27?C and rainfall of up to 1,700mm, the climate supports the magnificent greenery that the park holds.
With 13 recorded primate species, Kibale Forest National Park is endowed with the highest diversity and concentration of primates in Africa The most famous of its 13 species is the chimpanzee, our closest relative. Kibale’s 1450 chimpanzees represent Uganda’s largest population of this endangered primate. The forest is also home to East Africa’s largest population of the threatened red colobus and the rare L’Hoests monkey. Other primates include the black-and-white colobus, red-tailed and blue monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabey, olive baboon, bush baby and potto.
At least 70 mammal species are present in the park though ground-dwelling animals are difficult to see in dense forest. An estimated 500 Forest elephants are present, along with forest buffalos, leopards, warthogs, bush pigs, Antelopes, Hyenas, Bush pigs, golden cats and duikers. A keen observer may spot reptiles and amphibians as well as a colorful variety of 250 species of butterflies.
Kibale Forest is also a birding hotspot! The park boasts more than 375 species of birds, six of which are Albertine Rift Endemics hence bird enthusiasts find the park an Eden of birds. Kibale specials include the African Pitta, Green-breasted Pitta, Afep Pigeon, White-napped Pigeon, Crowned Eagle, Red-chested Owlet, Black Bee-eater, Western Nicator, Yellow-rumped Tinker bird, Little Greenbul, Brown-chested Alethe, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, African Grey Parrot, Scaly-breasted Illadopsis ,Brown Illadopsis, Black-capped Apalis, Blue-headed Sunbird, Collared Apalis, Dusky Crimson wing, Purple-breasted Sunbird, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Yellow Spotted Nicator, Little
Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary
Rich in biodiversity and beautiful scenery, the wetland is a birder’s paradise with about 138 species. Located outside the park in Magombe Swamp it also hosts eight species of primates including the black-and-white colobus, grey-cheeked mangabey, red-tailed, L’Hoests and blue monkeys, and olive baboons. Bushbucks and mongooses can also be found here. The sanctuary was set up to preserve the exclusive environmental features along with the wetland and is managed by the local community.
Located near Sebitoli in northern Kibale, this community-run project offers excellent bird watching and visits to the local tea estates and factory. Nature walks will bring you up close to primates such as the black-and-white colobus, red colobus and red-tailed monkeys. Other animals like otters, mongooses and bushbucks can be observed in the wetlands.
CHIMPANZEE TRACKING AND HABITUATION IN KIBALE.
Kibale’s most popular activity is the Kanyanchu’s Primate Walk. Thirteen species can be sought, and a good variety of diurnal monkeys invariably encountered, but the stars of this trail are the chimpanzees. Kanyanchu’s chimps have been tracked since 1993 and the chances of locating them are excellent. Guided walks start at 8am and 2pm and last an average of three hours, depending on various factors.
The perennially popular primate walk provides the chance to observe chimpanzees in their natural habitat. Kanyanchu’s groups are accustomed to human presence – some have been observed for over 25 years – and the chance of locating them is over 90%. Walks leave Kanyanchu’s Visitor Centre at 08.00, 11.00 and 14.00 and last between 2-5 hours. Early arrival to allow for registration and briefing is recommended. Contact time with chimpanzees is limited to one hour; group size is limited to six visitors; participants must be aged 16 or over. Advance booking is essential.
CHIMPANZEE HABITUATION EXPERIENCE
The Chimpanzee Habituation Experience (CHEX) enables visitors to accompany researchers and habituators into the forest. The chimpanzee groups involved are less accustomed to human presence than those visited on the Primate Walk and following and viewing them is both exciting and challenging.
Chimpanzee Habituation Experience (CHEX) is available on a full or half day basis starting and advance booking for this activity is required. Early visitors can watch chimps leaving their overnight nests between 6:00 - 6:30am before feeding, copulating, hunting, breastfeeding, resting, patrolling and displaying until it is time to build new nests around 7pm.
BIRDING IN KIBALE
Bird watching tours start at 7am at Kanyanchu; you are advised to book in advance. Rare species include the Papyrus Gonolek, White-winged Warbler, White-collared Olive back and Papyrus Canary.
Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, located just outside the park, is home to 138 bird species which may be seen during guided walks along the boardwalk trail and viewing platforms. These could include the White-spotted Fluff tail, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Hairy-breasted Barbet, Yellow-billed Barbet, Western Nicator, Grey-winged Robin-chat, White-tailed Ant-thrush, Brown-backed Scrub-robin, Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Superb Sunbird, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Bocage’s Bush-shrike, Black Bishop, White-breasted Negrofinch and Black-crowned Waxbill among others.
HIKING/NATURE WALKS IN KIBALE
When chimpanzees and other forest residents rest up at dusk, a nighttime shift of rarely seen creatures becomes active. Night walks though the darkened forest use powerful torches to seek nocturnal creatures such as the potto, bush baby, nightjar, cricket and tree hyrax, with its chilling shriek, as well as the occasional civet or serval cat. Night walks leave the camp at 7.30pm and last between one and a half and two hours.
CULTURAL ENCOUNTERS IN KIBALE
Kibale Association for Rural Environment Development (KAFRED)
KAFRED is a community-based organization which promotes local livelihoods and biodiversity conservation through ecotourism.
During the nature walk, a local guide will take you along the boardwalk through the Magombe swamp wetlands. You are likely to see wildlife at close-hand, including several of the 200 species of birds, eight varieties of primates and numerous butterflies, along with unusual swamp vegetation.
The daily life of the Batooro can be discovered during the village walks. The tour stops by the village’s primary school, church, and traditional healer. You will learn about the role of women in the village and traditional ceremonies, and the history of Bigodi is told through the story of the “Village of Two Tribes”, describing when the indigenous Batooro were joined by migrating Bakiga from southwestern Uganda in the 1950s.
Income from this activity is invested in education, health, sanitation and improving the livelihood of local residents. It is also used to help raise awareness of the value of biodiversity through music, dance, and drama performances at local schools. In 2010, KAFRED they won the prestigious UNDP’s Equator Initiative Award.
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