Travel in Uganda

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Viewing Chimpanzees in Uganda

The best opportunities to see chimpanzees in the wild are probably found in the Budongo Kibale and Kanyiyo Pabidi forests in western Uganda or in the Chambura Gorge in the Queen Elizabeth National Park. Here the chimps have been habituated to human intrusion.

Whether you'll actually get to see a loosely bonded 100-strong troops of chimpanzees, or a coalition of related males vigorously defending their territory, is a matter of pure luck. With even greater fortune, you may even see a small band co-operate in stalking and killing a monkey or a young bush pig as an occasional variant to their otherwise fruity diet.

A bit gruesome but, in watching chimps in the wild, it's easy to understand how their physical and mental resemblance to us has cast them as prime subjects for medical, behavioural and space exploration research and as pets.

Kyambura Gorge, Kibale and Budongo Forests

All these game reserves are home to several families of habituated chimpanzees, and are probably the best places in Uganda to watch these fascinating primates.

Kyambura Gorge

Kyambura Gorge and the 156 sq. km Game reserve lie between the southern shores of Lake Gorge and the boundary of the Queen Elizabeth National Park . In the reserve are several spectacular crater lakes and swamps which are home to hippo, buffalo and some elephant, and the forested areas are the natural habitat of chimpanzees. Occasionally lion and leopard can be spotted as they sleep through the midday sun.

Kibale Forest National Park

The Kibale Forest National Park is to the northeast of the Queen Elizabeth National Park , close to Fort Portal and Kasese, and includes part of the Mpanga forest . Originally the Reserve was home to herds of migrating elephants but they are now seen less and less. However, 11 species of primates, including many families of chimpanzees and Colobus Monkeys, live in the north of the Reserve and buffalo, warthog and Uganda Kob can be sighted. The grassland in the south of the reserve is also home to various interesting species of birds and insects.

Kibale Forest is a recently created National Park with over 30 crater lakes. It is usually a 4-hour trek in search of chimpanzees and other primates living in the forest, and if time permits go on the 4.5 km Magombe swamp walk, again in search of primates and the prolific bird life in the area.

The Budongo Forest lies between Masindi and Lake Albert . The forest is famous for its chimpanzees, and Chambere Gorge is probably the most accessible place to see these intriguing primates. Also seen in the forest is the unusual Scaly-tailed Flying Squirrel as well as the Tree Pangolin and many duiker. The Bunyoro Rabbit will be seen on many of the roads at night. The birdlife in the forest is extremely prolific and is a delight to all birdwatchers.

Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the less visited reserves and the perfect place to relax as we cruise the Kazinga Channel in search of its prolific hippo, elephant and crocodile population. The reserve also boasts an island entirely devoted to providing sanctuary to chimpanzees who have been orphaned or freed from zoos. To the south east there is an opportunity to see the chimpanzee in its more natural habitat as well as elephant and varied birdlife in the scenic Kibale Forest. T here is an option to track chimpanzees in the Chamburu gorge (subject to permits being available and group size). Early morning and late afternoon game viewing / drives will also be conducted in search of Uganda's unique wildlife such as their Giant Forest Hog, Red Forest Buffalo and Ugandan Kob. The sequence of activities will depend on availability of permits at various times of the day.

Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary

On October 3, 1999, the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary was officially opened. While it is a real sanctuary, for chimpanzees which cannot be returned to the wild, it is also a great point of interest for visitors to Uganda, an opportunity to view up-close the species who share over 98% of our DNA.

Ngamba Island lies about a 45-minute boat ride from Kampala or Entebbe. The island comprises 100 acres, and unlike a zoo, the chimps have it entirely to themselves, short of a small, fenced-off area interpretative centre provided shade from the equatorial sun as we were briefed on details of the sanctuary.The biographies of the residents of this island are saddening. A number have been rescued from intended smugglers at Entebbe airport. Others were removed from travelling circuses or private residences. Some were saved from poacher's snares, or were orphaned by poachers. They come from Uganda, Rwanda and the Congo. In all, there are 22 chimpanzees living on the island (the last of which arrived on October 29 a three year old boy confiscated from soldiers returned from the Congo). They share their space with a variety of neighbours over 150 species of birds, a colony of thousands of fruit bats, otters, and even hippos which huff and spray in the shallows at the water's edge.

These lucky chimpanzees were saved from being destined for life as a pet or in a lab in the west. They were all confiscated by authorities and brought to the Wildlife Education Centre for care and rehabilitation. Unfortunately, chimpanzees are still being illegally taken out the wild and sanctuaries like this one is needed throughout Africa. Several wildlife organisations are determined to stop this exploitation and to help these animals and Ngamba is one of the projects supported by them.


Situated in Uganda 23km off shore from Entebbe on Lake Victoria is the new Ngamba Island Chimpanzee sanctuary. It has been set up by a group of concerned organisations including Uganda Wildlife Education Centre in order to offer a facility for 19 orphaned chimpanzees where they can co-habitat in a near natural environment. The beautifully forested tropical island is almost 100 acres in size and boats over 50 different types of vegetation that the chimps utilize. The chimpanzees are free to roam this forest, exploring their environment and foraging for food at their leisure.

Visits to the Island

Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary offers you a unique opportunity to contribute in the process by visiting the chimps. A special raised viewing platform facility has been set up at the edge of the sanctuary to cater for visitors to the island where they are able to view chimps from a few metres a way in their natural environment. Pre-arranged supplementary feeding times (11.00am & 3.00pm) bring the chimpanzees to within metres of the raised walkway. Excellent photographic opportunities are available as well as just enjoying being close to one of our closest animal relatives with many behaviours similar to ours.

Transport available

Several boats are available for transportation to the island. Options are dependant on budget and the size of the groups. A 6 metres sea going ski boat with single foam filled hull, powered by 2 x Mariner 60HP outboard engines boat with a maximum seating capacity of 8 passengers plus skipper. Or A traditional sesse canoe modified for tourist travelling on Lake Victoria , with a sealing capacity of up to 20 passengers, plus skipper. This boat takes longer than the speed boat. If you have your own transportation, then purchase of entrance tickets is also done through the booking agent on the contact number listed below.

Last Updated on Monday 30th November 2009