KIBALE FOREST NATIONAL PARK
The 795km2 Kibale National Park contains one of the loveliest and most varied tracts of tropical forest in Uganda. This is home to a host of forest wildlife, most famously 13 species of primate including chimpanzee. Forest cover predominates in the northern and central parts of the park on the elevated Fort Portal plateau. Kibale is highest at the park’s northern tip which stands 1590m above sea level. Northern Kibale is also the wettest area, receiving a mean annual rainfall of up to 1700mm, mostly during March-May and September-November. The climate is generally pleasant with a mean annual temperature range of 14-27oC.
Temperatures are highest (and rainfall lower) in the south where the terrain drops down onto the hot rift valley floor and forest gives way to open grassland.
Southern Kibale adjoins Queen Elizabeth National Park and together these protected areas maintain a 180km-long migration corridor for wildlife which extends from Ishasha, the remote southern sector of Queen Elizabeth NP, to the Sebitoli forest in the north of Kibale. The Kibale-Fort Portal area is one of Uganda’s most rewarding areas to explore. The park lies close to the tranquil NdaliKasenda crater area and within a half day’s drive of the Queen Elizabeth, Rwenzori Mountains and Semuliki National Parks and the Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve.
HOW TO GET THERE
Kibale National Park is located in western Uganda, 26km south-east of Fort Portal town. Kanyanchu River Camp, the primary centre for tourism activities, can be reached from Kampala either from the north, via Mubende and Fort Portal, or the south through Mbarara and Kamwenge. The northern approach is shorter and quicker, with a 300km tarmac road running to Fort Portal followed by 36km on murram to Kanyanchu. Sebitoli Forest Camp, a secondary tourism centre, is even easier to reach. This stands directly on the Kampala road, 16km before Fort Portal. Public transport runs throughout the day between Kampala and Fort Portal (passing Sebitoli) and Fort Portal and Kamwenge (passing Kanyanchu).
KIBALE FOREST FLORA AND FAUNAL SPECIES
Kibale’s varied altitude supports different types of habitat, ranging from wet tropical forest (moist evergreen forest) on the Fort Portal plateau, through dry tropical forest (moist semi deciduous), to woodland and savanna on the rift valley floor. Around Kanyanchu, in the central part of the park, the high forest contains a mixture of deciduous and evergreen trees with the evergreen species dominant. Trees rise to over 55m and exhibit a semi-closed canopy of stratified tree crowns. The undergrowth is sparse with shade tolerant herbs, shrubs, a variety of ferns and broad leaved forest grasses. 351 tree species have been recorded in the park.
The diversity and density of primates in Kibale is the highest in Africa. The most famous of its 13 species is the chimpanzee, our closest relative. Kibale’s 1450 chimpanzee represent Uganda’s largest population of this endangered primate. Kibale is also home to the rare I’Hoest’s monkey and East Africa’s largest population of the threatened red colobus monkey. Other primates include the black and white colobus, blue monkey, grey cheeked mangabey, red tailed monkey, olive baboon, bush baby and potto. Other mammals are present, though rarely seen. These include forest elephant, buffalo, leopard, bush pig and duiker. A keen observer may also spot reptiles and amphibians as well as a colourful variety of butterflies.
The park boasts 325 species of birds, including 6 that are endemic to the Albertine Rift region, namely black-capped apalis, blue-headed sunbird, collared apalis, dusky crimsonwing, purple-breasted sunbird and red-faced woodland warbler.
Other Kibale specials include the African pitta, green breasted pitta, black bee-eater, yellow spotted nicator, yellow rumped tinker bird, little greenbul, black-eared ground thrush, brownchested alethe, blue-breasted kingfisher, Abyssinian groundthrush, and the crowned eagle.