Planning a photography safari to Kibale National Park
Kibale National Park is one of Uganda’s most visited tourist destinations, known for having the highest number of chimpanzees in Africa, amounting to over 1500 registered chimpanzees. The national park is also home to 13 other primates, including different monkey species like the L’Hoests, black and white colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, vervet monkeys, grey-cheeked Mangabeys, bush babies, and olive baboons.
Most Popular Safaris
Kibale National Park covers over 766 square kilometers, and this is made up of Afro-Montane forests and tropical rainforests harboring not only primates but other wild animals like elephants, wild dogs, sitatungas, and bird species.
A photography safari to Kibale is considered to be one of the best ways in which you get to capture the wild and keep your memories intact. The first step in planning a photo safari is to get in touch with a tour operator to help you get the best accommodation and transport for your safari. Before narrowing down on the tour operator to use, conduct extensive research by reading bad and good reviews and ensure they are registered with the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO). Photography safaris involve trekking from one corner to the next and searching for wildlife. There are a lot of things and steps that will make your safari more comfortable and enjoyable. These include a good packing list, knowing what to bring on your safari, following the chimpanzee trekking rules and regulations and getting a good tour operator.
Things to pack for a photo safari in Kibale National Park
As you plan for a photo safari to Kibale National Park, the words that you should first consider are pack right and light. Normally, tourists need to learn what to pack to have a good safari to Kibale National Park, and below is a list of the essential things that need to be packed for a proper safari.
As you pack for the safari, ensure that the luggage is packed securely and can be secured with a padlock. Photography is designed to cover almost all the activities carried out in Kibale National Park, and as you pack, make sure that you pack while putting the different activities carried out in the national park.
Brightly colored clothes, blue, black, and camouflage should be avoided at all costs especially if you are participating in the different activities offered in Kibale. Camouflage clothes are usually associated with the army, blue is associated with tsetse flies and black absorbs heat. We always advise our clients to pack neutral clothes like light brown, green, or khaki, among others. The type of clothes that you should pack for a Kibale photo safari include the following:
- Trousers: Lightweight trousers are the best for a safari, and if possible, avoid carrying jeans because they will slow you down when they get wet. And two pairs of trousers can be enough for your photo safari as long as they are not brightly colored.The pants are usually tucked in the socks during the trek.
- Face mask: Even though Covid is no longer a threat to wildlife, you are advised to carry facemasks with you, especially if you have a cough and flu, to avoid infecting the disease-prone chimpanzees and other primates.
- Shorts: Although these are considered inappropriate for men in Uganda, you can pack them when you get to the accommodation facility. Do not put on shorts when going for a chimpanzee trek in Kibale.
- Shirts: Tourists are advised to carry long-sleeved shirts for the photo safari. These help protect your skin from scratches, insect bites, and cuts.
- Sweaters/fleece jackets: The temperatures experienced within the national park keep changing, and it is usually cold in the mornings and at night, and that is when you will need a warm sweater.
- Waterproof hiking boots: These are extremely important because you will have to move from one place to the next, taking photos of the different primates within the national park. A good pair of hiking boots should be lightweight, fit to avoid blisters, have some ankle support, and be waterproof.
- Sandals, shoes, and socks: Sandals are usually used at the accommodation or during the relaxing hours after trekking through Kibale. Note that sandals or other open shoes cannot be used for trekking and hiking through the forest. Socks, on the other hand, come in handy during the trek so that trousers are tucked into the socks during the hike to avoid insects from crawling up your trousers.
- Gardening gloves and gaiters: The gardening gloves should be strong, and these will protect your hands from scratches as you trek through the forest and support yourself on trees and branches. Gaiters are usually used during the wet season but carry them just in case because the weather in Uganda keeps changing from time to time, regardless of the travel season.
When we talk about gadgets, we are looking at a good camera and binoculars. Although phones can take photos, a good old camera does wonders to help you capture all your memories on the safari. A good camera should be able to take photos during low light conditions, should be long-range to allow you to capture photos of wildlife far from you and you will also need to carry extra batteries and lenses. There is, however, a rule that needs to be followed when taking photos, especially for chimpanzees, and that rule is always to turn off your flashlight when taking photos of the primates.
A pair of binoculars is also essential and good for bird watching and other wildlife far from you. Remember to carry a day backpack for all the gadget equipment, including extra batteries, lenses, lens cleaner, camera, and binocular accessories.
First Aid kit
First aid kits are usually available at the hotels, and a tour guide also packs one, but you should also carry yours in case of emergencies. It would be best if you made sure that the first aid kit is fully packed with items like prescriptions from your doctor, cotton and bandages, painkillers like Panadol and ibuprofen, Diarrhea and stomach ache medicines, Insect repellent, Aspirin, Antibiotics, Hand sanitizers, iodine, and spirit among others.
Other items that you need for the photo safari include a waterproof day backpack, cash, ATM cards, Health insurance, guidebooks, snacks, flashlights, toiletries like wet wipes, toothpaste and toothbrushes, towels, shampoo, lotion, and travel documents.
Activities offered at the Kibale National Park
Kibale National Park offers a lot of activities, including photography, and these activities include the following:
Chimpanzee trekking: This is the main activity that is carried out in Kibale National Park. Kibale National Park has over 1500 chimpanzees, which can be trekked throughout the year. The trek starts early morning with a briefing from the tour guides about the rules and regulations to be followed while trekking, and after the briefing, the trek starts with the different groups assigned to you. The trek can take between 30 minutes to 5 hours, depending on the location of the chimpanzees. To access the chimpanzees, you must get a trekking permit that can be bought directly from the Uganda Wildlife Authority or through a tour operator. The current cost of a chimpanzee permit is $250 for foreign residents, $300 for foreign non-residents and 250, 000 UGX for East African citizens, and this is per person. The permit is valid for one day. The chimpanzee trekking should be purchased in advance because they are always in high demand during the dry/peak season.
Some rules and regulations need to be followed when trekking, and these include the following:
- The minimum age for chimp trekking is 15 years.
- You need to keep a distance of 7 meters from the chimpanzees.
- When sneezing or coughing, make sure that you turn away from the chimpanzees to prevent infections.
- Flash photography is not allowed; therefore, you should ensure that the flash is turned off before the start of the trek.
- Littering in the National Park is not allowed, and all rubbish should be taken out of the national park.
- No feeding of the chimpanzees
- When you want to use the toilet, dig a hole 30 cm deep and after that cover it up.
- Follow all the rules and regulations given to you by the tour guides.
- You spend an hour with the chimpanzees.
Chimpanzee habituation: Chimpanzee habituation is a whole new experience, and tourists spend more than an hour with the chimpanzees. The trek starts with a briefing from a tour guide at the Kanyachu headquarters. Since the chimpanzees are trained to get used to human presence, it is easier to study and learn more about their habits, how they care for their young ones, and their feeding habits.
Nature walks: Carried out best during the dry season, nature walks are one of the best ways tourists can explore the expanse of Kibale National Park. Guided nature walks are also carried out in Kibale, and some of the things that you get to see while on the walks include chimpanzees, L’Hoests monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, forest elephants, red-tailed monkeys, nightjars, civets, Serval cats, pottos and bush babies.
Birding: Kibale has over 370 bird species, including migratory birds, best seen during the wet/green season starting in the early morning. Bird watching can be done in two sessions, one in the morning and the evening. Some of the bird species that you should look out for include the African emerald cuckoo, Black-capped Apalis, Little Greenbul, Blue-throated roller, Blue-breasted kingfisher, yellow-billed barbet, African green pigeon, African Jacana, crowned eagle, Shrike flycatcher, Dusky Crimsonwing and the yellow-spotted Nicator among others.
Best time for a photo safari in Kibale
Two seasons are experienced in Kibale: the peak/ dry season and the low/wet season. The dry season is from June to September and December to February, and this season is always congested, and accommodation is fully booked. This is usually the best time to carry out activities like chimpanzee trekking, nature walks, and cultural visits.
The wet/low season, on the other hand, is from October to November and March to April and is the best time to go bird-watching because the migratory birds are around this time. This is the best time to travel for tourists on a budget because chimpanzee trekking permits are discounted during the low season to attract more tourists, and it is less crowded than during the dry season.
How to travel to Kibale National Park
Kibale National Park is located in the western part of Uganda, and the best way to do this is by using road or air transport. Traveling to Kibale is considered one of the easiest, especially if you have booked through a tour operator because the tour operator will help organize your transport, pick you up from the airport till you get to your destination, and then back to the airport for your departure.
You can use several routes to Kibale, including the Mubende-Fort portal, or drive to Fort Portal through Mbarara-Kamwenge before driving to the park headquarters. Note that this is the shortest route to Kibale. The drive from Kampala to Kibale is between 6 to 7 hours, and you can use private or public means, although we recommend that you use private means.
There are no direct flights to Kibale National Park, but charter flights can be arranged from Kajjansi Airport and Entebbe International Airport to either Semiliki Airstrip or Kasese Airstrip, and a 4×4 vehicle will take you to the national park (if you have booked with a tour guide).
Kibale is well known for chimpanzees in Uganda. Are you interested in chimpanzee trekking in Kibale National Park? Contact us for more information.