The next best place to do chimpanzee tracking in Uganda is Budongo Forest. This is because Budongo forest is home to 600 – 700 chimpanzees. This forest reserve is located in the North West of Uganda’s capital Kampala; at the top of the Albertine Rift within the Murchison Conservation area. As such, chimpanzee tracking is another activity that can be added onto your Murchison Falls tour.
The beautiful and diverse Budongo Forest was demarcated in 1932. Budongo means “fertile soil” in the local Runyoro dialect. Historically, the king of Bunyoro always protected the forest. And only with his permission could local chiefs hunt in this forest.
What makes Budongo Forest unique? Although the forest is home to a big population of chimpanzees, Budongo is also the biggest tropical rainforest, with an abundance of large East African mahogany trees (some more than 80m tall, with a 20 metre circumference).
Chimpanzee tracking in Budongo takes place on well developed and extensive trail systems which spread throughout the forest. This makes chimpanzee tracking here is easier as the terrain is fairly flat. Tourists interested in staying for longer can do other activities like birding, forest and nature walks.
A visitor interested in chimpanzee tracking in Budongo must have a chimp tracking permit. An authorized tour operator in Uganda can help you reserve your permit in advance.
Depending on your itinerary or permit availability, you may do chimpanzee tracking either in the morning (AM) or in the afternoon (PM). However, the timing doesn’t affect your experience. This is because chimpanzee tracking is done with the guidance of experienced and knowledgeable rangers.
On the day of the chimp tracking activity, visitors gather at Kaniyo Pabidi Eco site for briefing about chimp tracking etiquette. Only 8 people can track chimpanzees per shift. This means that there are only 16 permits available on a daily basis. So it is better to book or reserve your permit in advance to avoid disappointment.
Once you set out into the forest and chimpanzees are sighted, visitors are allowed only 1 hour for observation. During this one hour, you learn about the chimpanzees behavioral patterns. It is also a chance for you take as many photographs as you can. If you need more time with chimpanzees, then it is better for you to opt for the chimpanzee habituation experience. This takes a full day.
A chimpanzee tracking permit in Budongo costs $120 USD, and a participant must be 15 years and above to be able to track chimpanzees. Gate payment / booking for the permit fetches a $10 surcharge, raising it to $130.
A chimpanzee habituation experience permit in Budongo costs $230 USD.