Semliki & Kibale

The best place in East Africa for chimpanzees, plus Uganda kob, Shoebills and forest elephant...

Overview

In the western part of Uganda, you find the Kibale National Park, Semuliki National Park and Semliki Wildlife Reserve. All offer great views of the awesome Rwenzori Mountains and excellent birding, plus rewarding forest walks in search of chimpanzees and other primates. The three game reserves all share this. But they are far from replicating the same safari experience.

Kibale National Park

This is the best place for primates in Uganda in terms of both numbers and variety. Kibale is home to over 1000 chimps, including one group of 80 individuals. Plus the Rainforest Park hides the elusive forest elephant and giant forest hog, as well as small antelope and buffalo.

Most of the activities are organised from the Kibale National Park headquarters. The most popular are the chimpanzee tours which takes place in the morning and the late afternoon. There is also a fascinating chimpanzee habituation experience. This gives you the chance to watch as they wake up, search for food, rest and play and then settle down to sleep again. A nocturnal walk is a particularly unusual and thrilling treat. But it is only possible for those staying close to the park gate at lodges such as Primate Lodge or Kibale Forest Lodge.

Outside the park, you enjoy guided village walks around their community and to the nearby wetlands.  Local crafts such as woven raffia baskets are often on sale.

Semliki Wildlife Reserve

The Semliki Wildlife Reserve of Uganda is 500 km² of wilderness between the Rwenzori Mountains and Lake Albert in the Western Rift Valley. It has good numbers of buffalo, forest elephant, the shy leopard and various monkeys and antelope. Being a centre for primate research, this is also a great place for chimpanzee tracking on guided walks and safaris. The Shoebill stork can regularly to be seen on the shimmering shores of Lake Albert.

Semuliki National Park

Semuliki National Park is very much border country. It feels more Central Africa than East Africa. The Semliki River forms the border with the DRC. And the forest, which makes up most of the protected area, is the eastern part of the ancient Ituri Forest of the Congo basin. This, coupled with the fact that there is no accommodation in Semuliki National Park means that it is little visited. Two hot springs gurgle up in a swamp in the midst of the forest, each used in ritual by men and women separately.

Rwenzori Mountains

Between the parks is the dusty old colonial outpost of Fort Portal, surrounded by lush tea plantations and numerous crater lakes. The ridges of these extinct volcanoes are ideal for a scenic hike. Here you can admire not only the sparkling waters of the lakes, but also the misty grandeur of the towering Rwenzori Mountains - only the solo peaks of Kilimanjaro and Kenya are higher.

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Ginny Russell

Co-founder & Director
Our experienced band of Safari Planners can create a bespoke plan for you. Ginny has returned from the UK to Africa at least twice a year for 25 years and advocates for Slow Travel and a more immersive experience.

Features

Why you may love it

  • Chimpanzee tracking is the key attraction of the forest walks in Kibale National Park
  • Kibale is also home to 13 primate species, including the red colobus, black-and-white colobus and L’Hoest’s monkey
  • Semliki Wildlife Reserve offers dramatic contrasts: acacia savanna with dense jungle forests and wetland habitats
  • Semliki is best known for the its elegant antelope - the Uganda kob - and is an excellent birding safari destination with 500 bird species
  • Semuliki National Park’s main draw is the Sempaya Hot Springs
  • The Rwenzoris are the highest mountain range in Africa

Explore the Semliki & Kibale map

When to visit Semliki & Kibale

December to February

Dry Summer season in Semliki & Kibale

Kibale is open year-round. The summer months are a relatively dry time of year, so a good option for chimp tracking as the trails are drier. So you’ve got a better chance of spending a dry hour with the chimpanzees. However, the skies tend to be hazy as there is no rain to clear away the dust.
AVG RAINFALL 108mm
AVG DAYLIGHT 7 Hours
MAX TEMP 25 ℃ / 77 ℉
MIN TEMP 17 ℃ / 63 ℉

March to May

Long Rains Season

This is the time of the long rains so it is not an ideal time to visit as the safari roads become difficult to navigate and the trails get muddy. But the park is at its most beautiful and green during the two rainy seasons and it’s a great time for birders. April is the wettest month and so rain may affect your chimp experience. Many camps either close or offer lower prices.
AVG RAINFALL 108mm
AVG DAYLIGHT 7 Hours
MAX TEMP 25 ℃ / 77 ℉
MIN TEMP 17 ℃ / 63 ℉

June to mid-August

The driest time and a very pleasant temperature

This is considered the best time to visit, being the driest time and a very pleasant temperature. Game-viewing is easier as vegetation thins out and animals tend to congregate at the water sources. Chimp trekking is easier because the trails are drier. However, this is also the busiest time to visit. This is also the best birding time (May to September)
AVG RAINFALL 108mm
AVG DAYLIGHT 7 Hours
MAX TEMP 25 ℃ / 77 ℉
MIN TEMP 17 ℃ / 63 ℉

Mid-August to November

Rainy season

Central Uganda has a much shorter winter dry season than Bwindir and Queen Elizabeth. So it starts to rain again in August and continues to November . Again September onwards is not an ideal time to visit due as the rains make the trails muddy and challenging.
AVG RAINFALL 108mm
AVG DAYLIGHT 7 Hours
MAX TEMP 25 ℃ / 77 ℉
MIN TEMP 17 ℃ / 63 ℉

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Did you know
  • SemlikiOne of the richest areas of floral and faunal diversity in Africa
  • KibaleSustains the last significant expanse of pre-montane forest