If you have ever contemplated an African safari, thought about trekking after apes, or splashing through swamps, traversing large hills and challenging your status quo, you should stop thinking and act. Uganda has all the best of both East and Central Africa, with savannah animals like elephant and antelope and forest animals like gorillas, chimps and monkeys. And Kibale is the best of all—an unbeatable, affordable adventure of a lifetime.
I have been living and working in Kibale National Park on and off for the past 16 years. It has become a home for me; a forest filled with romance, simplicity that returns us to our visceral nature. It is also absolutely filled with monkeys and the sounds of chimpanzees eating happily, elephants rubbing against trees, insects at sundown, and a bounty of biodiversity.
My introduction to Kibale was as an undergraduate, studying monkeys, but as you can see, I fell in love with the place and quickly moved in for the long haul. Now, 16 years later, I am the president and co-founder of New Nature Foundation, which works with the people who live on the border of Kibale who have been forced to poach wood from the park to cook their meals. The forests in Uganda are now islands, all the wood outside the parks is commercial pine and eucalyptus and people simply do not have enough wood anymore. To protect Kibale, we have worked with people on fuel-efficient stoves, biomass briquettes, indigenous tree planting, and an extensive education campaign. If you do come to Kibale, you’d be very welcome to spend some time with the project, meet the Ugandan staff, and truly connect with people in a life altering way.
Have I convinced you yet? One last try! My favorite time of day in Kibale is sunset, the daturia is fragrant, troops of moneys are having one final romp or bite before settling in for the night, the forest is alive with sound, birds, grasshoppers, frogs, monkeys, and the work is done for the day. We can light some candles and just sit back to enjoy the magic of Kibale.
The park is easy to reach from Kampala—just take the public bus to Fort Portal, which is roughly a five hour ride and ~$10, or a “private hire” all the way ~$150. You don’t need a vehicle to experience Kibale’s richness, just hire a ride from town or your lodge each morning and spend the day walking and soaking it in. The tourist camp, in Kanyanchu, offers typical one-hour chimp trekking as well as the full-day “habituation experience”. You can also do a regular forest walk to see other animals, or specialized birding walks in nearby swamps. Kibale is linked to Queen Elizabeth National Park with a game corridor, so many of the species like elephant, pigs and bushbuck do pass back and forth, but your best bet at seeing those dryer-habitat animals is by driving around QE itself—just head an hour and a half south of Fort Portal for that next stage of your adventure.