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Places to Visit the Chimpanzees of East Africa

If you want to see chimpanzees in the wild, the East Africa region has some of the best destinations in Africa to see the amazing creatures.

Some of the chimpanzee families in East Africa has been habituated for chimpanzee trekking where visitors can spend hours interacting with them.

Tourists can spend several hours to a day observing human – habituated chimpanzee troops in large swathes of forests of Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania

These are the best places in East Africa where you can see wild chimpanzees in the natural habitat. 

The following are the places to see chimpanzees in East Africa

  1. Kibale National Park – Western Uganda

 Located in the remote western region of Uganda, Kibale National Park also known as Kibale Forest National Park is the best place to see chimpanzees in the wild. The park protects the oldest and most charming rainforests in Africa, Kibale is also home to the highest number and diversity of primates in East Africa. With over 1,400 chimpanzees and 13 species of primates, Kibale National Park is crowned the Primate Capital of Africa.

In addition to chimpanzees, other primates you will see in Kibale National Park include the vervet, red-tailed, L’Hoest’s, and blue monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabey, endangered red colobus, and the black-and-white colobus monkey.

 Chimpanzees in Kibale National Park are seen on chimpanzee trekking experience allowing visitors to spend only 1 hour in the presence of the chimpanzees, for visitors who wish to spend more hours with chimpanzees in Kibale Forest National Park there is Chimpanzee Habituation Experience allowing a full day of being with the chimpanzees together with researchers and scientists. Chimpanzee Habituation Experience allows visitors to witness how chimpanzees are habituated to human presence, learn about their individual trails among others.

On this day of the chimpanzee experience, visitors head out at dawn with the research team to find a chimpanzee troop before they leave their nests and spread almost the whole day among the forest, giving you a more profound experience, learning more and better sighting.

Cost of Seeing Chimpanzees in Kibale National Park as of July 2023

CategoryEast African Community NationalsResidentsNon – Residents
Chimpanzee Trekking180,000 Ugx$ 200$ 250
Chimpanzee Habituation ExperienceUgx 250,000$ 250$ 300

 Where to Stay in Kibale Forest National Park

There are several accommodation options in Kibale Forest National Park ranging from budget, midrange to luxury.

  • Primate Lodge
  • Kyaninga Lodge
  • Ndali Lodge
  • Papaya Lake Lodge

How to get to Kibale Forest National Park

 Kibale Forest National Park is situated in the western part of Uganda and about 26km south-east of Fort Portal. The park is easily accessible from Kampala from the North through Mubenda as well as Fort Portal. The northern route is shorter and faster and the distance is about 300 km with a tarmac road going to Fort Portal and also a distance of 36 km on murram to Kanyanchu.

In the southern part, you can use Mbarara or Kamwenge road to get to the park

There is also chartered/domestic flights from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi Airstrip to Kasese airstrip, then connect to the park by road. 

 Mahale Mountains National Park – Tanzania

The forested slopes of the Mahale Mountains protects the least world’s largest protected population of approximately 700-1000 of the eastern subspecies of chimpanzees, Mahale Mountain National Park is a remote, magical chimpanzee destination covering about 1,600 square kilometers.

Located along the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika, the park is renowned for its fantastic sunsets over Lake Tanganyika and its breathtaking array of habitats which include rainforest, grasslands, alpine bamboo and woodlands. 

Mahale Mountains National Park is home to other primates including red colobus, yellow baboons, blue, red-tailed and vervet monkeys. 

Chimpanzees in Mahale Mountains National Park living in small communities and only one group – the Mimikire clan of more than 50 individuals, has been habituated to close human contact since 1965.

Chimpanzee trekking excursions in Mahale Mountains National Park are done on a daily, except on Mondays and Thursdays, visitors should be conscious of their physical fitness before heading into the Mahale Mountains. The trek can be challenging, lasting five to six hours a day, up very steep inclines in the humid jungle. 

Costs of tracking chimpanzees in Mahale Mountains National Park

The guided Chimpanzee tracking fee in Mahale is $ 20 per person plus a park entrance fee of $80 per 24 hours.

Where to Stay.

There are limited accommodation facilities in Mahale Mountains National Park.

The best accommodations to stay at are Greystoke Mahale or Kungwe Beach Lodge, both sitting on a pristine, white sandy beach overlooking the turquoise water of Lake Tanganyika, with the dramatic backdrop of the forested Mahale Mountains. 

How to get to Mahale Mountains National Park

To reach Mahale Mountains National Park, the most convenient method is to take a flight from Arusha to Katavi. The only public schedule flight available is Safari Air Link’s Service which operates twice a week between Ruaha, Katavi and Mahale. After arriving at Mahale Airstrip, you will need to take a 90-minute boat ride to reach the beach lodges. 

  • Kyambura Gorge – A Mysterious Wilderness in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda

Kyambura Gorge known as The Valley of Apes is a cliff-lined sunken ravine with a mystical river flowing at its foot to join the Kazinga Channel, its forested ridges form a deep chasm in the savannah landscape and a natural boundary between Queen Elizabeth National Park and neighboring Kyambura Wildlife Reserve. 

Chimpanzee tracking in Kyambura Gorge is more active than most, as visitors may have to cross the river by a fallen log and hike on the gorge’s steep sides which can be a bit difficult at best.

However, the effort is worth it as the valley is mysterious, primal place and the view alone is worth the 1.6 miles(2.5 km) drive from the Katunguru highway.

Visitors should note that the terrain in Kyambura Gorge can be challenging, and they should bring appropriate clothing and gear. Additionally, visitors should book a tour package with transportation and a guide to enjoy a hassle-free experience and make the most of their time in the gorge. 

Cost of visiting chimps in Uganda’s Kyambura Gorge

You can purchase chimpanzee permits for Kyambura Gorge locally from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) for $80 per person. However, due to limited availability, it is best to secure them in advance for fee. Also visitors must have to pay the park entry fee of $10 per person to access the platform.

  • Kaniyo Pabidi, Budongo Forest Reserve – Uganda

Kaniyo Pabidi located in the Budongo Forest Reserve in Northern Uganda is a less popular but less excellent place to see chimpanzees in the wild, the forest reserve is located en-route to the famous Murchison Falls National Park making it a convenient stop for visitors traveling to the park.

Budongo Forest Reserve is worthy visiting for chimpanzee trekking while on a Uganda Wildlife Safari in Murchison Falls National Park for the big game viewing experience. The reserve offers visitors a chance to experience the beauty of the forest and its inhabitants including chimpanzees in a more intimate setting.

Visitors to Budongo Forest Reserve for chimpanzee trekking in Kaniyo Pabidi requires a permit which is obtained from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) or registered local operator.

Nyungwe National Park – Rwanda

Located in southwestern Rwanda, Nyungwe Forest National Park is a stretch of 394 square miles (1,020 sq km) teeming with a dazzling array of flora and fauna explored using several hiking trails.

Nyungwe Forest is one of the world’s most beautiful and pristine rain forests, dominated by a series of mountains originating in northern Uganda and Congo, running south through the Rwenzori Mountains, western Rwanda and Burundi, to the shores of Lake Tanganyika.

Chimpanzees are the main attraction Nyungwe Forest National Park, however the park is also home to other 12 primate species including Silver monkey,Golden monkey, Owl-faced monkey/ Hamlyn’s monkey, Grey-cheeked mangabey, Red-tailed monkey, L’Hoest’s monkey, Vervet monkey, Olive baboon, Dent’s Mona Monkey, Blue Monkey and Angolan Colobus Monkeys.

Nyungwe Forest National Park is one of the best places to see chimpanzees in East Africa in the wild, with over 500 chimpanzees living in the forested park,  chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe is done every with visitors spend one hour interacting with the chimpanzees as they go on with their lives. 

Cost of chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe Forest

International VisitorForeign ResidentsRwandan/East African Citizens
$150$75$25

Where to stay in Nyungwe Forest National Park

The best accommodations to stay at in Nyungwe Forest include

  • One&Only Nyungwe House
  • Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel 
  • Nyungwe Nziza Eco Lodge
  • Nyungwe Forest Lodge

How to get to Rwanda’s Nyungwe Forest National Park

Nyungwe Forest National Park is situated approximately 124 miles south of Rwanda and is a 4-5 hour drive from Kigali International Airport via Muhanga and the King’s Palace in Nyanza.

There are also scheduled domestic and helicopters flights from Kigali International Airport to Nyungwe at Kamembe Airport or One& Only helipad, the flight takes only 45 minutes.  

Gombe Stream National Park – Tanzania

Tucked away on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, the deepest lake in Africa and the largest among the Albertine Rift lakes. Gombe Stream National Park is the most petite and loveliest destination in Tanzania, made famous by Jane Goodall.

Gombe is one of the only two places in Tanzania where visitors can see chimpanzees in a natural habitat, however it is also the most challenging of all chimpanzee trekking destinations in East Africa as well as Africa.

The park is only 2 miles wide and 9 miles long, stretching from the white sandy beaches of the blue lake up into the thick jungle and the mountains of the rift escarpment in the backdrop. The park also has strips of riverine bush alongside the many streams that gouge out steep valleys as they make their way from the highlands to flow down into the lake. 

To follow in Jane Goodall’s Footsteps, you ought to be reasonably fit. Keeping up with a group of feeding and moving chimpanzees as they climb hills and forage deep in valleys of Gombe can be very strenuous work. But the effort will be worth with as you come face to face with a chimpanzee or accompanying a group as they make their way through the forest. 

Cost of Chimpanzee Trekking in Gombe Stream National Park

The cost of a chimpanzee permit is as follows

$ 118 for adults and $ 23 for children between the ages of 5 and 15.

Where to Stay

 The best accommodations in Gombe Stream National Park include

Gombe Forest Lodge

Kigoma Hilltop Hotel 

 Sunset Vista Hote

Kwa Sifa Norad

Mama Muni (Kigoma)

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