Chimpanzee Trekking in Kalinzu Forest

Chimpanzees are the key charisma in Kalinzu Forest Reserve. Chimpanzees are currently found in 21 African countries only. Researchers and conservationists believe that in 10 years, Chimpanzees may become extinct in 10 more countries in Africa. Even though 5,000 or more chimpanzees are found in Uganda, 90% of the chimpanzees’ population has been lost in the past 80 years.

Chimpanzees are interesting because they look and behave almost like humans. They share at least 98% of their DNA with humans. Chimpanzees give birth every 5 years, taking care of their young until they are about 12 years old. Chimpanzees live in large communities each characterised by a different culture. They are also very intelligent and known to use a variety of tools and tricks to hunt insects, smaller primates and antelopes. Unlike gorillas, chimpanzee communities evolve with female adolescents, particularly those living in the group to join others.

The greatest threat that imposes chimpanzees in Africa is the loss of habitat through deforestation. Chimpanzees are sometimes hunted by tribes in some countries like the Congo for their meat or sold as pets to unlawful animal collectors. Uganda has lost thousands of chimpanzees in the last century to poachers’ and hunters’ snares with other traps set up for other animals like antelopes. However, the Ugandan government has taken action, declaring the killing of chimpanzees illegal, and also partnered with wildlife conservation Agencies like the Chimpanzee sanctuary in Ngamba Island to protect chimpanzees. Conscious and strict measures were passed at all major national parks and forest reserves for the protection of wildlife in the country and if caught in the act of killing any form of wildlife you’ll be booked

chimpanzee trekking in Uganda

Chimpanzee Trekking in Kalinzu Forest

Chimpanzee trekking in Kalinzu forest is the prime activity that draws tourists to the forest reserve. Kalinzu Central Forest Reserve hosts one of the largest communities of chimpanzees in Uganda, and arguably the second-best place for chimpanzee tracking after Kibale Forest. The forest reserve has about 320 chimpanzees in the forest reserve, and close to 50 are habituated and open to tourism. Most tourists that are visiting Queen Elizabeth National Park and also have chimpanzee tracking, prefer tracking in Kalinzu forest although Q.E national park also has its chimpanzee community at Kyambura Gorge. Kalinzu Forest reserve is easily reached through the Mweya sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park, driving for only 40 minutes.

Chimpanzee trekking in Kalinzu forest is not as demanding as gorilla tracking but you’ll need to be fit enough to hike for 3 hours through the thick terrain. Trekking sometimes may include passing via steep slopes and muddy areas of the forest. Though chimpanzees normally live on flat terrain compared to mountain gorillas, chimps are very mobile in that one needs to be prepared and fit to follow them at high speed.

Chimpanzee tracking in Kalinzu forest has 2 shifts, morning and afternoon shifts which are led by a guide and an armed ranger. The Guides are familiar with the chimpanzees because they’re involved in their habituation process. Chimpanzees at times are not so welcoming to strangers, which calls for the activity to be led by an official park guide.

Both the morning and afternoon shifts start with a briefing about your trekking. The morning shift starts at 8:00 am whereas the afternoon shift begins at 3:00 pm, as each shift offers a unique experience. Chimpanzees are very active in the morning as they’re going out to eat and secure their territory. In the afternoon, chimpanzees prefer to relax and try to escape the heat of the sun.

Chimpanzee Trekking in Kalinzu Forest starts with a briefing from the park guide. During the briefing, visitors are assigned into groups of 5-6 depending on their overall fitness and pace. After the briefing, you’ll head to the forest in search of the chimpanzees. By this time, park tackers leave much earlier to identify the exact location of the chimpanzees you’re going to trek. As you hike to locate the chimpanzees, you’ll encounter other forest creatures, birds and primates like baboons, blue monkeys, L’Hoest’s monkeys and red-tailed monkeys. The first trackers communicate with the park guide by radio to let him/her know about the chimpanzee’s movements and their location. Chimpanzees are mobile creatures that spend a lot of their time swinging on top of trees. Sighting chimpanzees and taking photos requires patience, skill and effort.

You’ll hike tracking the chimpanzees for about 1-2 hours through thick forest, and steep terrain, having yourself covered with leaves, ants and shrubs, and your attention is drawn by the distant calls of the primates. When you get to the chimpanzees, use the 1 hour given to you to observe their behaviour and group dynamics, as they swing from tree to tree. You’ll see some resting, others mating or grooming one another. Some chimpanzees might approach you whereas most will keep a distance. You’ll get to notice that they make unique sounds to convey different emotions. To understand the meaning of each hoot is to observe how the other chimpanzees respond to it.

The success rate of sighting chimpanzees in Kalinzu forest is 95%. A chimpanzee permit in Kalinzu forest costs $80. which is far less than the $150 charged in Kibale National Park. To book the chimpanzee permits, you can use a tour operating company (operator) to be on the safe side or pay at the reception Centre of the reserve.

Accommodations in Kalinzu Forest

For now, there are no standard accommodation facilities within Kalinzu forest yet. Clients interested in camping will need to come with their bedding, food supplies and tents. The Kalinzu Forest main camping site is close to the forest offices at Nkombe forest station but with basic facilities like solar-powered showers and Pit latrines. Firewood and Water can be picked up at the station or purchased in the nearby trading Centre along the highway.

The closest standard accommodation facility to Kalinzu forest reserve is the Homeland hotel in Ishaka. For more accommodation facility options which are more comfortable, you can choose one of the various lodges in Queen Elizabeth National Park, for example, Engiri game lodge, Jacana lodge, Katara lodge, Mweya hostels, Mweya safari lodge, Park View Safari Lodge and Queen Elizabeth Pvt lodge. These facilities offer budget, mid-range and Luxury accommodation. Secure a room in one of the above lodges, and then go to Kalinzu forest for either early morning or afternoon activities and return for dinner and overnight.