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5 Must-Know Tips for Chimpanzee Trekking in Kibale National Park, Uganda

Do you need tips for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda?

Are you chimpanzee trekking in Kibale National Forest?

You’re in the right place!

I’m Mel, a travel blogger who spent a month in Uganda.

When I went wild chimpanzee trekking in Kibale National Forest earlier this year, my mind was blown. Chimp trekking in Uganda is probably one of the most incredible things I’ve done to date.

Being around animals, wild animals in a conversation park particularly, makes you reconsider the way we live.

So in this guide, I’ve put together a few practical tips for chimpanzee trekking that I hope will help you go forth and frolic with these wild, beautiful creatures.

So in this guide, I’ll share what to wear for chimpanzee trekking, what not to do around wild chimpanzees, and how to make the most of your chimpanzee trekking experience.

Check out my full review: chimpanzee trekking in Kibale National Park, Uganda!

Wild chimpanzee in Kibale National Park Forest, Uganda

Wild chimpanzee in Kibale National Park Forest, Uganda

What’s so special about chimpanzee trekking?

Before we jump into the chimp trekking guide, let’s pause for a moment to appreciate why understanding our close relatives, the chimpanzees, is so important?

The amazing genetic similarities between us and these smart creatures mean they can give actually us deep insights into our own behaviour, evolution, and health as humans.

When we admire these chimps in their natural home, it’s like looking in a mirror that shows our primal roots.

Apes (including gorillas, orang-utans, gibbons, and chimpanzees) are amazing creatures. They’re extremely dexterous and intelligent (and cute!).

Did you know that chimpanzees are so closely related to the human species that after calculating our genetic differences to apes, scientists found an average difference of only 1.2%?

A whopping 98% of our DNA is identical to that of a chimpanzee!

So, before you step into the forest, remember – we’re not just sightseeing, we’re connecting with a part of ourselves that we rarely get to see.

Wild male chimpanzee inspecting his hand, visible through the trees in Kibale Forest

Wild male chimpanzee inspecting his hand, visible through the trees in Kibale Forest

5 Must-Know Tips for Chimpanzee Trekking in Kibale National Park, Uganda

1. Chimpanzee Trekking Tip #1: Wear Strong, Suppportive Shoes + Cover Up

Most importantly: wear supportive shoes. By supportive shoes, I mean sneakers, hiking boots, or anything that is sturdy and securely attached to your foot. No flip flops or sandals.

You will be walking around for at least two or three hours in wild forestRepeat: forest. 

That means the floor will be uneven and occasionally dangerous, littered with roots and leaves and fallen branches.

You don’t want to get any nasty infected cuts on your bare skin, either so wear long sleeves.

There will be all kinds of insects on the floor, and potential animal poop lurking around. Having your feet covered will prevent bug bites, injury, and having poop between your toes. (No thanks.)

For your wellbeing (or if your back gets dodgy sometimes like mine) you’ll need supportive shoes to keep your body from aching after walking for so long.

Sometimes you’ll be trekking for a while to find any chimpanzees, so it’s always better to be prepared with supportive shoes and comfortable insoles if needed.

When the chimps start moving you’ll have to keep up with them, and if a wild angry elephant explodes out of the forest, you’ll have to run like the wind to avoid becoming a pile of mush from under its elephant foot.

In both instances you want to be able to freely run around without worrying about sharp bits of branch stabbing your bare toes.

Wild chimpanzee walking on the ground strewn with brown leaves in Kibale National Park Forest, Uganda

Wild chimpanzee walking on the forest floor strewn with brown leaves in Kibale National Park, Uganda

2. Bring Snacks and Water (for yourself, NOT for the chimps!)

As mentioned, you’ll be trekking around a forest for hours, and will likely get very very hot, and/or sweat a lot. Water is your best friend. Bring at least 1 litre of water, and if possible, another electrolyte replacer such as Gatorade or juice.

You need to replenish all the water your body has lost and keep yourself feeling refreshed. Remember to constantly sip water and not only start drinking when you feel like you’re on the verge of passing out from dehydration!

Ditto goes for eating snacks.

Anything to keep up your energy will work well, whether a granola bar, a handful of nuts/seeds/trail mix, a chocolate bar, a banana, and so on.

On a related note: DO NOT FEED THE CHIMPS!

Please, for the love of apes, do NOT bring any snacks for the chimpanzees. Don’t even bring an extra banana to be cute.

Feeding the wild chimps may seem harmless, but it can have serious consequences for both the animals and us humans.

It’s very important that you hide all of your food and drink inside your backpack, away from the animals. Why? Because they’re wild. They may be habituated, but they’re still wild.

Human food was not made for animal consumption.

Our food can spread disease to wild animals and harm them in many ways.

Getting too close to the animals is also risky because they might be carry diseases such as rabies.

Also, if you start feeding chimps human food, they’ll develop a taste for it, in which case they’ll either stop being able to survive in the forest, or potentially start attacking humans for food.

Wild animals are unpredictable.

So… let’s not risk the extra banana.

Mel, brunette girl with red bandana and hair braid, pointing at a wild chimpanzee in Kibale Forest

Spotted: a wild chimpanzee in Kibale Forest!

3. Be Patient, Keep Calm + Listen to your Guide

Sometimes people can get lucky and stumble across a bunch of chimpanzees five minutes into their trek. Other times, it might take up to an hour or more to come across even one chimp.

The success of a trek depends on the weather, the perceptiveness of your guide, and sheer luck. Patience is a virtue, and just seeing that first glimpse of a chimpanzee up close and personal makes everything worth it.

On a related note — keep calm. Most of the trek guides are extremely smart, informed, and assertive. They understand chimpanzee behaviour and it is imperative that you follow your guide’s instructions. If they say stay away, you stay the hell away! Also, the guide will be equipped with a rifle or some other form of gun. Don’t be scared by this – it is for everyone’s safety, the animals included. Guides can let off a warning shot to scare away rogue wild animals like elephants if they get too lairy.

Wild male chimpanzee eating fruit, visible through the trees in Kibale Forest

Wild male chimpanzee eating fruit, visible through the trees in Kibale Forest

4. Charge your Camera + Make Space on your Memory Card

This one is self explanatory. Chimpanzee trekking is a life-changing event. If you don’t want to bring a camera, that’s fine — but if you do, you want to be ready to take the best photograph ever when a chimpanzee starts grinning at you.

How terrible would it be if a chimpanzee starts doing the salsa right in front of you and your camera suddenly dies, or if you forever lose the vision of a baby chimp smiling at you because there’s no more memory on your SD card?

Tragic. So charge up and bring a free memory card if possible. Also, if a photographer or using an SLR, you’ll definitely want to bring a zoom lens – at least 300mm! – to catch baby monkeys chilling high up in the tree branches in epic detail.

Young chimp swinging through the trees

5. Finally… Enjoy Yourself on Your Chimpanzee Trek!

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity – and it doesn’t come that cheaply, either! Put aside everything else in your life and take a moment to focus and connect with the animals.

If you’re a phone addict, take a few pictures and then choose to be in the moment. If you’re feeling hot, bothered, and hungry, ignore it for the next hour. Chimpanzees are glorious creatures, and you should bask in the chance of being around them in their natural habitat. How many other people do you know who are lucky enough to go on a chimpanzee trek?!

Remember: we’re only a 1.2% genetic difference away from apes. You will see more of yourself in a chimpanzee than you’d ever have thought possible. I promise.

Happy Trekking!

Group of wild chimpanzee males huddled between the trees in Kibale Forest

Group of wild chimpanzee males huddled between the trees in Kibale Forest

FAQ: Chimpanzee Trekking in Uganda

What is the best time of year to go chimpanzee trekking in Kibale National Forest?

The best time of year to go chimpanzee trekking in Kibale National Forest is during the dry seasons, which are from mid-December to February and June to September. This is when the trails are less muddy and the forest is easier to navigate.

How physically demanding is chimpanzee trekking? Do I need to be in good shape?

Chimpanzee trekking can be physically demanding as it involves walking through dense forests and hilly terrain. However, no extreme fitness level is required. As long as you’re comfortable with moderate exercise and can walk for a few hours, you’ll be fine. You can take a walking stick if you need one for extra support.

What should I wear for chimpanzee trekking?

For chimpanzee trekking, it’s recommended to wear light, breathable clothing that covers your arms and legs. This will protect you from insect bites and scratches from plants. Also, sturdy walking shoes or hiking boots are a must for the uneven terrain.

Here’s a guide on What To Wear Chimpanzee Trekking in Uganda

Wild chimpanzee in Kibale National Park Forest, Uganda

Is there a recommended list of items to bring along for the chimpanzee trek?

The recommended list of items to bring along for the trek includes a water bottle, snacks, binoculars, a hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, and a light rain jacket just in case.

How close can I get to the chimpanzees?

You can get quite close to the chimpanzees, within a few metres, but it’s important to follow the guide’s instructions and not to cross the 7-meter rule to ensure both your safety and that of the chimpanzees.

Are there any health precautions or vaccinations I need to take before the chimpanzee trek?

Before the trek, it’s recommended to be up-to-date with routine vaccines. Specific vaccines like Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, Yellow Fever, and Rabies might be recommended depending on your travel history and medical condition.

How long does a typical chimpanzee trek last?

A typical chimpanzee trek lasts between 2 to 4 hours, but it can vary depending on where the chimpanzees are on that day.

What are the safety measures in place during the chimpanzee trek?

The safety measures during the trek include following the guide’s instructions at all times, maintaining a safe distance from the chimpanzees, and not eating or drinking near the chimpanzees.

Can I touch or feed the chimpanzees?

No, touching or feeding the chimpanzees is strictly prohibited. This is to prevent the transmission of diseases and to keep the chimpanzees wild.

Is there any accommodation nearby Kibale National Forest if I wish to stay overnight?

Yes, there are a couple of accommodation options nearby Kibale National Forest if you wish to stay overnight. These range from luxury lodges to budget guesthouses, so there’s something to suit every preference and budget.

Mel Legarda

Melissa Legarda is the founder of illumelation. She has worked as a travel blogger, creator and writer since 2015, and has collaborated with well-known brands worldwide. She has helped over 1,100+ students improve their travel photography skills since launching her creative courses. Her mission is to encourage and empower others to travel and create more. Find her on Instagram.

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