Life is a journey

Chimpanzees and relaxation in Kibale

Chimpanzees and relaxation in Kibale

Chimp tracking is one of the most popular things to do in Kibale Forest National Park. Uganda Wildlife Authority arrange guided tours in the morning and afternoon, with limited numbers in each group. Before the tracking we had a general briefing with do’s and don’ts, including not bringing any food, and not trying to imitate their calls. We obeyed and kept quiet. You never know what you might say anyway… And I was happy my banana was waiting as a pre-lunch snack when we returned.

It had been raining quite heavily during the night and the morning, so we were afraid we would have to do the chimp tracking in pouring rain. And even more so after we learned that the chimps are not very fond of rain, and mainly stay up in the trees when the ground is wet.

Walking along the dirt road, we suddenly turned left into the woods. The wet green leafs were hanging down, and it sometimes felt like an expedition through a rough jungle.

Walking along the dirt road before heading into the forest. Chimp Tracking in Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.

We had only been out in the forest for about 10 minutes before we heard the characteristic roars from the treetops. Walking closer to the source, we saw two chimps high up above us. I was happy that we had even found any that fast, even though they were at quite a distance. So when one of them decided to climb down towards us, I was trembling with excitement. The large male took a quick look at our group before he decided to saunter on into the woods. We slowly followed him, zigzagging between the lush green trees.

Sseebo climbing down from the tree. Chimp Tracking in Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.

Sseebo sauntering on into the woods. Chimp Tracking in Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.

After a short stroll, he found a thick overturned tree lying down on the forest floor. As it was way dryer than the wet leafs all over the ground, he found at peace and settled down. We gathered around trying to get the best angle for overlooking the black beauty, before we were allowed to spread out a bit. Numerous shots were taken by multiple cameras, and it seemed he enjoyed being in the spotlight. After enjoying some fruit for breakfast, he turned on his back to lay down to rest.

Sseebo relaxing. Chimp Tracking in Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.

What are you looking at. Chimp Tracking in Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.

Charming Sseebo posing and flirting. Chimp Tracking in Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.

It almost felt like he was flirting with us, giving that cheeky “come join me in bed”-look you can see in bad movies. And when we thought it could not get any better, he slightly stuck his tongue out. His age 42 I could handle, but he was a little bit to furry for my taste…

Chimp selfie! Chimp Tracking in Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.
Chimp selfie! We were close, but still at safe distance. As we share much of the same DNA, we had to stay at least 8 meters away for the chimps not to risk catching any human decides.

We got curious to know more about Ssebo, and turned to our guide Africano (33) for his knowledge. We had already learned his name and age, and for location he was moving around every day making tree nests in the evenings. Getting to occupation it got even more interesting. Sseebo used to be the “vise president” of the group under the alpha male Magezi. However, in July 2016 the new alpha male Totti took over the lead after years of fights. So now Sseebo does what he likes, which apparently includes flirting with foreigners with cameras.

I must admit I was struggling to cut loose from this charmer, and as most people know the grass is not always greener on the other side, but we went on through the forest looking for some of the others of his group.

The tree has grown spikes to defend itself against elephants
The tree has grown spikes to defend itself against elephants.

Mushrooms. Chimp Tracking in Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.

After passing elephant-self-protecting trees and hundreds of small mushrooms, we found a group of about 20 chimps up in a tree. Unlike Sseebo, they were shy and preferred to be up in the high. Or, shy would probably be an exaggeration; Two of the chimps had a “quickie” up between the leaves. On the other hand, the average sex among chimps last only 5 seconds, so I guess it was just quite ordinary.

The other chimps were minding their own business. Some were relaxing, the small babies were playing, and most of the others were eating. The main diet is fruits and leaves, but also dry wood for fiber and calcium. And apparently they occasionally hunt down monkeys and small antelopes.

While we were hanging around waiting for some of them to get down, Africano told us more facts about the chimpanzees.

The chimps make sleeping nests in the trees by dragging bushes together to form a platform. As they constantly move along, they have to make a new one every day. The children sleep together with their mothers until the mother has another baby. The oldest then make a small nest beside them. When the offspring is 8 years, they are independent.

When the female is 13, she can have babies, and then leaves her group to avoid inbreeding. An adult female can produce babies every 4-5 years. The chimps live in a sharing community, were all the females belong to all the men, so no jealousy there. The average age is 50 years, and when one of them die, the group hang around and mourn for three days before they move on.

Chimps up in the tree. Chimp Tracking in Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.

Totti, the new Alpha male. Chimp Tracking in Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.
Totti, the new Alpha Male.

Enough about the chimpanzees, let’s move on to Africano; When Kibale Forest became a National Park in 1993, the people that lived there had to move out to the nearby surroundings. Without getting any compensation. Africano’s family were among them, but despite the fact that they were forced to leave, he decided to study tourism and wildlife to be able to get back to work there. And he was not alone. The Kibale Forest National Park is a very popular place to work. For 20 available jobs, they get more than 1000 applications! To screen them, they have to go through different tests, both physical and written, and have to have a lot of knowledge about the wildlife. If you make it that far, you get to the interview. Respect!

Our knowledgeable guide Africano (33). Chimp Tracking in Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.
Our knowledgeable guide Africano (33).

Our time was up, and we had to make our way back without getting any more close encounters with the fascinating hairy creatures. I guess we lost against the wet ground this time, but we could still treasure the time we got with Sseebo.

No need to dress up nicely for the Chimp Tracking in Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.
Be sure not to wear your best clothes…

After activities comes resting

Arriving at Crater Safari Lodge the night before had given me an instant feeling of happiness. Partly as it had been a very long drive from Murchison Falls National Park, but mainly because of the beautiful view in front of us. The pale yellow huts with thatched roofing blended nicely in with the nature and the calm Nyinabulitawa lake. We were lucky enough to be upgraded to a deluxe double room in the front row, directly overlooking the lake. After the chimp tracking, I was longing to get back to have lunch and relax for a bit at our giant terrace. I even had an after-lunch nap in the hammock.

Power nap in the hammock at the terrace at Crater Safari Lodge by Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.

Patches of land where crawling up the hills on the other side of the lake, mixed with banana trees and green grass.

Beautiful lake view on our walk near Crater Safari Lodge by Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.

Even though I could spend ages just looking at this view, we figured it would be nice to go for a walk around the area. Passing the local houses, curious kids came running towards us. Most of them were mainly interested in candy though, but since we did not have any, they wanted their photos taken instead.

The coolest kids in the village near Crater Safari Lodge by Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.
The coolest kids in the village! And the coolest glasses!

The kids looking at the photos.

The twins Rachel and Rebecca living in the village near Crater Safari Lodge by Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.
The twins Rachel and Rebecca.
James is on his way to the market with his bike loaded with Matoke. Uganda
James with his bike loaded with Matoke going to the market

Time had come to relax a bit again, and I soon found myself slowly swinging back and forth in the hammock yet again, enjoying the stunning beautiful view. This time with the sun shining in my face.

I could seriously not get enough of the view from our terrace at Crater Safari Lodge by Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.

With the sun out, I got on my feet and ordered two ice-cold beers. Soaked in mosquito repellent, I crawled up in the deep outdoor sofa on the terrace, sitting quietly enjoying the scenery and the calming sounds of birds singing in the rain. The sun sadly did not stay for long…

Relaxing with an ice-cold beer at our terrace at Crater Safari Lodge by Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.

As the darkness was approaching, an owl appeared out of nowhere, and sat on our fence. Soon another one joined the party. What an amazing feeling to have them only a few meters away!

The African wood owl followed us to the dining area as well. Photo Bella Falck – Passport&Pixels. Crater Safari Lodge by Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.
The African wood owl followed us to the dining area as well. Photo: Bella Falck – Passport&Pixels.

Practical information about the chimpanzee track:
The price per person is 150USD, and it is wise to book in advance. Our driver Hassan had arranged for them and picked them up for us. As my travel companion was based in Kampala, she had given him money in advance to pay for them. As most people are not in that situation, you can contact Uganda Wildlife Authority.
The tours run twice a day; in the morning and in the afternoon

Where to stay:
We stayed in Crater Safari Lodge with full board. It included an a la carte breakfast, and a three course set menu with three choices of main dish for both lunch and dinner. If you are on the road during one of the meals, you can have food packed to go.

The food was tasty and the staff super friendly, but what made the most impression was the amazing location and view, and of course the perfect terrace. We ended up spending hours just sitting relaxing instead of doing any of the multiple activities they offer.

Prices including full board start from 265USD per person in a double room. See the Crater Safari Lodge website for other prices and services.
PS: If you are travelling with kids, they also have family cottages and provide babysitting.

The dining area at Crater Safari Lodge by Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.

Huts at Crater Safari Lodge by Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.

The walk towards the other rooms and swimming pool at Crater Safari Lodge by Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.

Huts and lake view at Crater Safari Lodge by Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.

Our hut with beautiful lake view at Crater Safari Lodge by Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.

Our fantastic terrace at Crater Safari Lodge by Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.

Nice and comfortable beds in our room at Crater Safari Lodge by Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.

Our nice room at Crater Safari Lodge by Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.



11 thoughts on “Chimpanzees and relaxation in Kibale”

  • Wow, looks like such a fun adventure! Anything to do with wildlife really appeals to me so I must do this someday! Great post 🙂

  • First thing first. Weren’t you scared??? Being so close to the chimpanzees and all?
    Great experience none the less. I would love to do it too, once I grow out of my chicken suit.
    The resort was also very nice. Not too fancy and very home feely.
    Great article. Thanks for sharing.

  • It”s such a fantastic adventure, chimps are such fascinating creatures it must be awesome to really see them in their own environment. Although I’m a bit scared of them they’re just so human-like sometimes it weirds me out.
    The view from the resort is totally breathtaking, I’d love to take a nap in that hammock ahah.

  • What an incredible experience! You have the most amazing photos and I love that you included the videos so I could really hear what it was like to be there too. The lodge you stayed in looked like the perfect place to unwind after your incredible adventure.

  • I enjoyed reading each and every word of this article! I loved that “come and join me in my bed’ look of the chimp. That owl 🦉 in the balcony was exciting too. I would love to go for an adventure like yours!

  • I’ve never heard of “chimp tracking” but it’s defintiely on my bucket list now! Wow! And that lodge looks INCREDIBLE!

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