Discover the best spots across Uganda for seeing these great apes…Chimpanzees are in decline across their range: in parts of Africa, they are clinging on by their fingertips. But well-managed Eco-tourism has the power to help protect the forests that are crucial to their survival.
The Albertine Rift, where East Africa meets the jungles of the Congo, is an excellent spot for a primate-watching adventure. Truly vast in its biodiversity, it harbors most of Africa’s chimps as well as more endemic wildlife species than any other Eco-region on the continent.
Uganda is arguably the pick of the lot, due to its prime habitats not only for chimps but also for mountain gorillas, golden monkeys and other primates. But it’s not the only option, as travelers to these regions will discover…
1. Kibale National Park, Kanyanchu
Best for Photography
Kibale is the world’s busiest chimpanzee tracking destination in Uganda. Accommodation is plentiful and the terrain is mostly flat and easy, with little undergrowth. One-hour sightings can feel crowded, with groups taking turns, but it is also possible to book a full-day Habituation Experience year-round. This may yield sightings that, though less predictable, are lengthier and quieter. There is a chance that you may meet elephants in the park, too, which can be unnerving, but you will be with an armed guide who can fire a warning shot if necessary.
2. Budongo Forest Reserve, Kaniyo Pabidi
Best for: Eco-friendliness and niche appeal
Located near Lake Albert and deep within the Murchison Falls Conservation Area, this superb reserve has over 600 chimps and a rustic eco-lodge with links to a research station. The terrain is fairly flat and tourists can either set out for a half-day, watching a habituated group for an hour, or during low season (January–June and October–December) they can spend an entire day in the forest. It’s an excellent experience, even though the canopy is denser than Kibale, making photography more challenging.
3.Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kyambura Gorge
Best for: Chimps in big cat country
Kyambura is a deep, forested gash in a grassy plain with a beautiful riverside path at its foot. Its small community of chimps have a heartbreaking story: isolated from the main Maramagambo forest by an overgrown village and grasslands where predators such as lions and hyenas lurk, they are already showing signs of inbreeding. You have the option of booking a guided walk in the gorge during your stay, and even if you only catch a glimpse of the chimps, the walk itself is glorious.
The park where Dr Jane Goodall conducted her ground-breaking chimpanzee studies in the 1960s is still an important research centre. Even though the focus here is more on science than tourism, good sightings are almost certain if you have the stamina for a challenging trek. Park rangers act as guides and there is the option of no-frills accommodation in the national park rest house close to the research centre.