How To Plan A Gorilla & Chimps Trekking Combo in Uganda
Uganda’s gorilla & chimps trekking combo safari brings you close to the most celebrated primates in the world, the chimpanzees and the mountain gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The trip is a top bucket-list item for adventures in Africa and of the most endearing experiences travelers rate highly.
With more than half of the world’s mountain gorilla population, a robust primate conservation program, and good tourism infrastructure, Uganda stands out as the top Africa safari destination for gorilla & chimps trekking adventures. It is the best place worldwide to watch habituated primates in their natural setting.
In this post, we’ll cover the top two destinations to watch chimps and gorillas up close, safari planning logistics, and what a typical trip itinerary looks like. We’ll also look at the best time to go and what you should pack for such a holiday in Africa.
Gorilla & Chimps Destinations in Uganda
Two national parks in Uganda combine well for a gorilla & chimps trekking combo safari; Kibale National Park in western Uganda near the Rwenzori Mountains and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda’s southwestern corner, in the highlands at the base of the Virunga Mountains.
Chimpanzee Tracking Kibale National Park
Kibale National Park has thirteen (13) primate species hopping between the park’s treetops, the highest concentration of primates in Africa. The Central African monkey primate species in Kibale include the mangabey, red colobus, L’Hoest’s monkey, black-and-white colobus, olive baboon, vervet, blue monkey, and the common chimpanzee. However, the biggest visitor attraction to the park is the habituated troops of chimpanzees. Chimp sightings are guaranteed with every visit, making Kibale an outstanding choice for chimps tracking in Uganda.
At Kanyanchu visitor’s center, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) guides lead small group daily excursions in the forest to find a chimpanzee family and spend at least an hour with them for a permit price of $200 per person. A much more intense experience with the chimps in Kibale is the Habituation Experience, which allows visitors to spend the whole day with a chimpanzee family for a permit price of $250 per person.
Expert trackers lead small groups of tourists from the Knyanchu Visitor’s Center into the rainforest to find a habituated troop of chimpanzees every day at 0800 and 1400. The chimpanzee tracking adventure starts after a short briefing at the center. Sightings are not guaranteed because the chimps are free to forage anywhere in the 296 sq mi forest park. However, you have a very high chance (about 98%) of seeing the chimpanzee band and spending at least an hour with them.
Tracking the chimps in Kibale is not as physically demanding as you’ll find out for gorillas. Although the rainforest is thick, the Kibale Forest terrain is mostly flat and easy to navigate. However, keeping up with the chimps once you find them is an active experience that may drain your breath. The chimps rarely stay still but stay on the move unless they’ve just filled their bellies and are relaxing to gain energy for the next foraging expedition.
When you plan a gorilla & chimps combo in Uganda, you can end the safari in Kibale after trekking the gorillas in Bwindi or start with Kibale and head southwards to Bwindi. Either route is highly satisfying.
Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Located in Uganda’s mountainous southwestern region, surrounded by terraced slopes, misty mountain peaks, and densely populated communities, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a wildlife haven. The UNESCO World Heritage site hosts a high number of animal and plant species, one of the highest in the world. However, its most celebrated inhabitants are the mountain gorillas.
With the highest mountain gorilla population than any other protected area, Bwindi is an outstanding gorilla trekking destination in Africa. If you hope to have to best gorilla & chimps combo in Africa, the two parks, Kibale and Bwindi, will be your best choice across the continent.
When planning your gorilla & chimps combo safari, note that Bwindi is subdivided into four sectors that highly determine where you’ll stay and book the gorilla trekking safari. Each sector has many habituated gorilla groups, which visitors will trek in small clusters of eight trekkers per gorilla group. Make sure your tour operator informs you of which sector connects well with chimps tracking in Kibale.
Nkuringo, Rushaga, and Ruhijja sectors, in the south of Bwindi, connect well to Kibale, driving through the smooth-surfaced road via Kamwenge-Mbarara-Kale. Buhoma sector in the north is a challenging connection to Bwindi because of the unsurfaced road through Queen Elizabeth National Park’s Ishasha sector. It would take close to a 10-hours drive unless you hope to spend a night in Queen Elizabeth for a game viewing safari.
Plan to spend a night in Bwindi, close to the trekking point, because the gorilla trekking excursions start very early every morning. The whole gorilla trekking experience is written about in our Guide to Gorilla Trekking Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is quite a distance from Entebbe International Airport. You would have to drive for about 10 hours from Entebbe or take a one-hour flight to a small airport 2 hours outside the park. However, between Bwindi & Kibale, the drive is shorter.
When you’re planning the gorilla & chimps combo safari, know that you’ll be driving for long hours in the back of a 4×4 safari car between to reach or leave Bwindi.
A Typical Itinerary For a Gorilla & Chimps Trekking Combo
A typical gorilla & chimps combo safari itinerary would take about 5 days and 4 nights. The trip starts and ends in Entebbe, where you’ll spend a night on both occasions. You spend a night in each national park and plan to spend a day traveling between destinations.
Coming into Uganda through Entebbe International Airport (EBB), Kibale Forest is the nearest of the two. Driving west via Fort Portal City, Kibale is about 338 km from Entebbe, a 6-hour drive on a smooth-surfaced road. Bwindi is about a 10-hours drive from Entebbe. Whichever route you choose to take, there’s no escaping the long-hour drive between the two destinations unless you can afford local flight fees.
Accommodation at both parks, from cheap homestays to exotic luxury forest lodges, is readily available for all types of travelers. If you’re using the services of a tour operator like Encounter Africa, they’ll usually book your accommodation, including meals and transport on the gorilla & chimps combo itinerary.
Accommodation on the itinerary will cost you less than $150 per person per night for budget, $150-$350 per person per night for midrange, and above $400 per person per night for an exclusive luxury lodge. Depending on the tour operator and your initial location, transfers may cost about $50 – $300 per day, including the driver and gas/fuel.
Other unavoidable costs on the gorilla & chimps trekking combo safari include the gorilla permit at $700 per person (or habituation permit at $1,500) and the chimps permit at $200 per person (or habituation experience permit at $250).
Best time to go
The best time to plan for a gorilla & chimp combo safari in Uganda is during the annual dry seasons of June to September. We don’t expect rain to disrupt your gorilla or chimps trekking experience during the dry seasons, giving you a high chance to see and spend time with the primates. The trails and roads in Bwindi are dry during this time.
The annual rainy seasons of March to May and November are the best times for chimpanzee trekking in Kibale Forest. During this time, the chimps are easier to find because of the wide availability of forest fruits. And there are fewer travelers during the wet seasons. However, the rain can disrupt most travelers, so most choose to come during the dry seasons.
While planning, remember that the dry season is peak season in Uganda, and most travelers book their permits for the peak season. Therefore, ensure that you book your permit and accommodation with a trusted tour operator months before your travel date to avoid disappointments.
What to pack
Rwanda has tropical temperatures with warm days and cold nights, especially at altitudes in the gorilla mountains. Your packing list should include something to keep you warm and dry during your stay.
You should pack a lightweight rain jacket, a sweater, a pair of warm socks, and maybe a scarf for evenings at the forest lodge. For gorilla & chimps trekking, you should pack a pair of lightweight, waterproof hiking shoes, gaiters, trousers, and long sleeve shirt, a waterproof backpack to keep your gadgets dry, and maybe a hut to protect your head. Ensure they are lightweight for easy movement while trekking in the forest.
Organizing your gorilla & chimps safari combo in Uganda
Uganda is your best destination choice for gorilla & chimps trekking combo safari, no doubt about that. However, planning a trip like that is quite challenging for most first-timers, and a local expert would help you navigate the logistics.
The most challenging part of planning this safari is booking the permits and accommodation. Permits sell out months in advance, and with the help of our local consultants, we can get your permits for your fixed dates from our reserves so that you travel on your planned dates. We also have great relationships with lodges around chimps and gorilla parks that will give attractive offers for a safari that fits your budget.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get a free quote and quick assistance in planning your combo safari.