Chimpanzee Habituation Experience is the travel experience done the rain-forest of Uganda – Kibale Forest National Park. The Chimpanzees have to be habituated for humans to be able to visit them in their natural habitat without causing harm.
It can take a good number of years to habituate a chimpanzee family for humans tour. When researchers are going on with their work, the Uganda Wildlife Authority allows travellers to join them for a whole day and experience the whole journey of habituating our closest cousins.
Gorilla tracking and Chimpanzee tracking are the most popular safari activities in Uganda. But imagine for a minute the excitement you have when tracking up the thick jungles in search of the Mountain Gorillas. And when you get to them, you’re allowed only 60 minutes to stay with these creatures and you still get away with so much memory to talk about for a lifetime.
Now, step back and imagine this – on a chimpanzee habituation experience (CHEX) you get to spend a whole day with the chimpanzees deep in the thick rain-forests 05.30 to 06.30. You’ll see them wakeup from their nests, follow them looking for their meals, mating, playing and build their nests to end their day. Wow!
Nowhere in the world you’ll get such an experience.
A typical day for a chimpanzee habituation experience starts early at about 5:00 AM. You need to be up early, take an early breakfast. Your safari lodge will advise you to pack lunch.
Your chimpanzee adventure begins at dawn with a guide leading you through the thick jungle pathways, cutting shrubs in the way until you get to the chimpanzee nests before they actually wakeup.
The chimpanzees arise at the break dawn as you approach their nests. And your day of observing the chimpanzees begins. Chimpanzee habituation is aimed at getting the chimpanzees used to human presence and is a long process that can take up to two years before a group of chimpanzees can safely be considered habituated. As a visitor you are part of this experience for the whole day.
Travelers are required to be at the starting point early in the dawn to start the trek. Experienced armed guides hired by the Uganda wildlife authority lead travelers through the jungle in search for the chimpanzees. Trekkers together with the guides follow tracks in the forest depending on where the chimpanzees slept the previous night.
While searching for the chimpanzees, travelers are blessed to encounter other wildlife in the national park such as elephants, baboons, black and white colubus, red tailed monkeys, duikers, warthogs, buffalos, bush pigs, leopards, African golden cats and mongooses among others. A variety of bird species and butterflies are also seen in the process, which adds to the final experience.
Currently twelve people are allowed on this adventure per day, excluding porters and guides. Since travelers spend the whole day in the jungle, packed lunch is provided. These include simple snacks, eats, fruits and enough drinking waters. Potters help in carrying these hence making it easy for travelers to hike.
Timely planning is highly recommended for everyone to take part in the experience. It requires advance booking at least three weeks earlier and the payment of the booking fee. This permits timely planning and allocation of the chimpanzee communities to the travelers on the real day. On that very day, a simple briefing before hiking into the forest is a must attend for every participant.
Here travelers are familiarized to the dos and don’ts while with the chimpanzees, to have non-flash cameras and keeping a distance of seven meters away from the chimpanzees.
It’s not only chimpanzees you will see on this habituation experience. You will see a host of other animals in Kibale forest like elephants, buffaloes, bush pigs, various bird species-the forest has 350 different bird species, and about 12 other kinds of primates.
The beauty and richness of the forest is seen in the exotic plants, trees, and butterflies. It is simply amazing. And you need to keep your eyes wide open so you do not miss anything.
You chimpanzee habituation experience eventful day finally comes to a close when the chimpanzees climb into their newly built nests for the night and you’ll head back to your lodge with exciting memories, great writing content and the satisfaction of a day well spent.
A chimpanzee habituation permit costs USD 200 (January 2018) – which is an obligation for everyone taking part in the experience and can be purchased from the Uganda wildlife authority (UWA). This is a Bargain compared to the chimpanzee tracking permit cost USD $150 – meant to give you one hour with a Chimpanzee Group.
Once a traveler gets a permit, they’re assured of being with the chimpanzees the whole day hence in-depth knowledge about the chimpanzees.
The most favourite of Kibale’s walks embarks on from the Kanyanchu Visitor center at 08.00 & 15.00 and lasts 2 to 3 hours. Chimpanzee are the most sought after primate by visitors, but you should look out for the black & white colobus, red tailed monkey or the grey cheeked mangabey.
Your guides will be able to show you pittas & different bird species and will give details of the tradit of the plant species within the forest. This walk is for 6 people in a group. Advance booking is all-important especially during peak sea.
Uganda provides the greatest opportunities for tracking Chimpanzees in East African region. You can do chimpanzee tracking in various parts of the country. The country is home to over 5000 chimpanzees in protected and unprotected areas. The Chimpanzee tracking areas described here are habituated, meaning that they are used to humans and will go about their days while you are near them. Meanwhile you can see chimpanzees in zoos or sanctuaries, there is nothing like seeing the chimpanzees in their natural habitat in the wild. There are also chimpanzees in Bwindi (not habituated) and other degraded forest fragments on private land across western Uganda. The increasing demand for tourism and research is leading to more groups of chimpanzees being habituated.
Kibale Forest is the leading Chimpanzee tracking destination in East Africa. The jungle rainforest is a home to about 30% of the Chimpanzee population in Uganda. The recent census of Chimpanzees in Kibale forest puts it at about 1500. In addition to Chimpanzees, there are also twelve other different species of primates. Literally, it is referred to as the Worlds Capital City of Primates. You can not only see privates while tracking chimpanzees, there are also various mammalian species including forest elephants, forest buffaloes, both local and exotic birds, several butterfly species, mammals. While tracking Chimpanzees, you can see at least 5 of the 13 primate species in Kibale Forest.
The other four chimpanzee tracking destinations in Uganda include:
The average weight of an adult well grown male chimpanzee is between 35 and 70 kilograms, with a height of approximately 3 meters whereas tan adult female chimpanzee weighs between 26 and 50 kilograms and a height between 2 and 4 feet.
A chimpanzee’s life expectancy is at 40 years whereas that for those living in captivity can extend up to 60 years.
In Uganda today, Efforts to actually conserve the chimpanzees are extensively acknowledged and well supported. Actually The Jane Goodall Foundation has played a major role in the overall conservation of not only these Chimpanzees but the Gorillas as well found in Uganda.
Chimpanzees are the closest relatives to humans sharing about 98% of their DNA composition with humans. They are Sociable, intelligent as well as communicative and among their very fascinating traits is the ability to utilize tools like rocks for crushing nuts, empty pods for hollowing out water plus sticks for capturing termites from their holes. These skills are for long been passed on from generation to another and researchers say that different troops have specialist tasks, basing on their habitat as well as diet.
Chimps stay in groups of 10 – 100 members. They can babysit each other’s young, kiss, groom one another and even hold hands. The young chimps become independent at the age of 4 year. Nonetheless, chimps can be aggressive and unsociable, mainly if disturbed.
Although they spend some time on ground, they normally feed and do make their sleeping nests up in the trees. Their diet varies comprising of leaves, seeds, fruit plus flowers.
Mountain gorilla habituation in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park is a one-life time experience. Bwindi is the only site were this experience is offered and there are two mountain gorilla families undergoing habituation both in Rushaga sector of the national park. However, a maximum of four people are allowed to take part in habituation experience at a cost of 1500usd quite high compared to the chimpanzees.
Golden monkey habituation yet another experience which takes place in the tropical rainforest of Mgahinga gorilla national park. It is a newly introduced tourism product but has become a highlight for tourism there. In the whole of the virunga conservation area, Mgahinga is the only site where golden monkey habituation takes place. Golden monkeys are good-natured animals, which continuously hurdle over travelers in the process of interacting with them making the experience so lively.
Note that in both experiences, advance booking and paying for the permits is highly emphasized, it is a “first come first serve” aspect but the experience in both is real amazing. Physical capability is a necessity in all experiences since both animals live in tropical rainforest of higher altitudes.
We organise Chimpanzee Habituation Experience tours in Kibale Forest National Park. Our experience tour includes accommodation, the Chimpanzee Habituation Experience permit – which we purchase on your behalf from Uganda Wildlife Authority, transportation to the park and back and all the meals.