Kibale National Park
There is a heavy thud on the forest floor and my heart leaps to my mouth. I look nervously up toward the forest canopy and try to compose myself but our guide just smiles. ‘They are here’ he whispers and gestures us to move forward. Pointing toward the high branches of a forest giant, I see dark shapes walking casually along the rounded limbs of the tree silhouetted against the blue sky.
There is no hesitation in the step, each motion is grace and power; clearly the great apes are at home many storeys above their pavement. Without warning, a chorus of chimpanzee echoes through the forest. They know we are here and they are there are no reservations in letting us all know that.
Curiosity gets the better of him and soon a youngster swings effortlessly from the upper branches, climbs down the trunk of the giant fig and comes to greet his visitors. In one hand is a ripe fig which he snacks on, with the other powerful arm he swings from the bough of a tree and smiles shamelessly at his closest non-chimp relatives. At such close range, the gestures are remarkably human; perhaps he believes ours are unwittingly chimpanzee? Whatever the truth, the encounter is magical for all in our party and we feel privileged to have shared some time deep in the forest home to over a thousand chimpanzees; one of the last remaining habitats of it’s kind in the world.
Facts about Kibale National Park
Dry seasons: mid-Nov to mid Feb and Jun to Sep
Mean Temperatures: 15-25 C or 59-77 F
Wildlife: 1150 chimpanzees, Red Colobus, L’Hoest Monkey, 13 primate species, 325 species of bird (including large populations of Great Blue Turaco)
Primate Walk: This 2-4 hour walk departs daily from Primate Lodge at Kanyanchu in the Forest. Is is the most popular activity in the park and delivers over 90% of the time with chimpanzee viewings of habituated groups of chimpanzees (those comfortable with human visitors and close range). There are also excellent chances to see other primate species as well as the other incredible flora and fauna that makes Kibale so special.
Chimpanzee habituation experience: This is the ongoing process of getting chimpanzees accustomed to human presence without necessarily altering their natural behavior. This is a multi-day experience with some of the chimpanzee researchers which allows the traveler to enjoy an incredible experience living in the forest with the chimpanzees and all of the other forest inhabitants. Of particular interest is witnessing the chimpanzees nest each night and de-camp again in the mornings.