Experience Primate Safaris in Uganda

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This Uganda Safari highlights gorilla trekking, golden monkey trekking and chimpanzee trekking as the main activities. This trip will bring you face to face with these great apes in the middle of the rain forests Kibale forest National Park, Bwindi impenetrable forest National Park and Mgahinga National Park.

Gorilla safari experience in Uganda

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a large primeval forest located in south-western Uganda in the Kanungu District. The Bwindi forest is on the edge of the Albertine Rift, the western branch of the East African Rift. The name Bwindi is derived from the Runyakitara word Mubwindi and means “a place full of darkness”. This name comes from the extensive stands of bamboo interspersed amongst the larger forest hardwoods. The bamboo and thick ground cover of ferns, vines, and other plant growth severely hinder direct access on foot. The forest is on the edge of the western arm of the Great Rift Valley, only a few kilometers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo border and about 25 kilometers north of the Virunga Mountains.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, a prime destination, with thick vegetation like its name suggests. Every day when tourists go out for the famous gorilla trekking adventure, the ranger guides have to cut vegetation for trackers to access way to where gorillas nested the previous night. It is the true African jungle with droplets of the sun coming through the thick forest cover giving you a feeling of being in paradise with zero pollution from several emissions common to our daily environment. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is best known for its Mountain Gorilla populations and gorilla tracking.

Bwindi is home to half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas. Gorilla tracking is done daily after purchasing a gorilla-tracking permit from the Uganda Wildlife Authority. You are advised to book your permit at least 3 months prior to secure your day especially if you prefer a certain location. Only 8 individuals from 15 years of age are permitted to visit a gorilla family per day. You need to be in good health condition otherwise you will not track because humans and Gorillas can easily pass diseases to each other. You will be briefed by your guide way before tracking and advices to stay at least 8m from the gorillas, do not use flash photography and do not look directly in the eyes of the gorilla for an extended period of time.

Bwindi Impenetrable forest is divided into different trail heads where gorilla tracking tours happens. The gorillas habituated for tourism are in families based at different trailheads. When you choose to visit Bwindi, be sure to know which trailhead you are allocated before you book your hotel. After knowing your allocated trailhead then you can book the hotel in that location. Currently 20 gorilla families are habituated for tourism. The trail heads include; Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga, and Nkuringo. This unique experience can only be done in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the smallest park in Uganda covering an area of 33.7km2. It is located in the southwestern tip of Uganda in Kisoro district. The park adjoins Rwanda’s Volcano national park and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga national parks and is part of the Virunga conservation area. The park takes its name from “Gahinga” the local word for piles of volcanic stones cleared from farmlands. While in the park, you will experience six vegetation types, Afromontane, tree heathers, montane forest, bamboo, montane woodland, and former farmland.

The Virunga ranges have eight volcanoes and three of the conical peaks are in Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla national park. Muhabura is the highest at 4,127m – the name is translated ‘guide’ in the local language, they used it as a reference to give direction because it towered above everything else. It has panoramic views of Uganda and Rwanda with a clear lake at its summit 36m wide. Gahinga at 3,474m is also the smallest of the Virunga volcanoes, its name is derived from the ‘piles of rock’ that are cleared from farmlands. It has a swamp-filled crater on the top that measures about 180m wide. Finally Sabyinyo at 3,669m is translated ‘old man’s teeth’ because of the deep gorges and ravines that dissect it. On the highest peak of Sabyinyo is where you find the intersection between Uganda, Rwanda, and Democratic Republic of Congo. You can take a hike to all these peaks in one day; you will be rewarded with magnificent views and great photographic moments.

Gorilla tracking, for example all activities in Mgahinga gorilla national park are done on foot because the park is mainly mountainous. Early morning you will get to the starting point Ntebeko gate at 8am where you receive a briefing about the expectations while you are tracking gorillas in Uganda. Your ranger guide will go ahead of you sharing stories of the gorilla highlands in Uganda. You will learn about the different members of the Nyakagezi family and general gorilla behaviors. The ranger will be in touch with the earlier trackers who will share information on where the gorillas nested the previous night. Once they are located you have an opportunity to spend up to one hour in the presence of gorillas. Remember that should you have a communicable disease, you will not be allowed to track gorillas to avoid likelihood of passing on the disease to the gorillas. Nyakagezi group in Mgahinga are a much easier group to track. They live in a smaller range compared to most of the gorilla groups in Bwindi. 

Chimpanzee Trekking in Uganda

Chimpanzees are man’s closest relatives sharing about 98.7% of the DNA with man. They adapt to their environments over time developing tools for survival much like humans. You can spend an hour with these creatures in their natural habitat by visiting one of the areas where the trekking happens in Uganda. You will be able to follow them with your ranger guide to get great pictures and learn more about the chimps.

Where to do Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda

Kibale National Park is the primate capital of the world offering a large chimpanzee population with over 120 habituated chimps and 1400 in the forest. The success rate of locating chimps while trekking is about 95%. There are opportunities for Chimpanzee trekking twice each day morning session starts at 7 am and afternoon at 12 pm with as many as 6 groups tracking each day each with 6 individuals. The forest is home to about 13 different primates including; black & white colobus, red-tailed monkey, red colobus monkeys, and baboons.

Kalinzu forest has about 40 Chimps habituated for visitors but the forest is home to over 300 individuals. The rate of Chimps sighting while on a trek is about 60% but the forest has a lot to offer in addition to the chimpanzee trekking. Enjoy the beautiful scenery and flowing streams while on this chimpanzee trekking safari. This trek is usually long and therefore requires one to be with good fitness levels.

Budongo forest at the Kaniyo Pabidi section in Murchison falls national park offers a rewarding chimp trekking experience. The forest boasts of the largest population of Chimpanzees but only a few are habituated for tourism. Unlike Kibale where you need to book permits earlier, at Kaniyo Pabidi, you can inform the park rangers the day before your chimp trek.

Kyambura gorge is a remarkable underground forest in the middle of the otherwise Savannah Park the famous Queen Elizabeth national park. The forest has few chimpanzees that are sometimes difficult to spot but the forest walk is rewarding and the views of the gorge from a look out are priceless. There are chances for one to come across Hippos and elephants as they look out for Chimps; and on rare occasions you could spot lions.

For those with limited time you can visit Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary for an up-close experience with Chimpanzees. The sanctuary is 45 minutes from the Entebbe pier on Lake Victoria on a speed boat and 1.5 hours on a motorized traditional canoe.

Golden Monkey trekking

In Uganda golden monkey safaris are done in Mgahinga gorilla national park the only place you will find these unique endangered species. The park is the only place where gold meets silver due to fact that Mgahinga national park harbors mountain silverback gorillas that live in high altitude areas of the park as well as the golden monkeys which are found in the lowland areas of the park.

Just like gorilla trekking experience, golden monkeys in Mgahinga gorilla national park start with a morning briefing at 7:00 am and trekking takes about 2 to 4 hours or more due to fact that they are found of moving from location another to another to such for food as well as playing with one another as one of their lifestyle behavior.

Travelers are allowed to spend one hour with the golden monkeys group once allocated as they enjoy taking photos and videos with these stubborn and playful creature in their territories as well as learning about their behavior pattern of life in the jungle.

Best time to go golden monkey trekking safari

Although golden monkey trekking is open to travelers throughout year, the best recommended season to trek the golden monkeys is during the dry season in the months of December to February, June to October when there is little rainfall that is expected, and when the forest trails are dry and passable. During the rainy season the roads and forest trails are wet, muddy and slippery thus making the golden monkey trekking difficult.

Conclusion

Looking for Primate Tours in Uganda, we offer great journeys to the “Gorilla kingdom”, the home of mountain Gorillas in Bwindi NP & Mgahinga NP, also experiencing the chimpanzees in their natural home Kibale National Park and Mgahinga NP the only park with both Golden monkeys and Gorillas in Uganda. A bucket list of adventure and one that lasts a lifetime, come create memories in Uganda.

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