The chimpanzee habituation experience and chimpanzee trekking are two unique and rewarding opportunities to see chimps in Uganda. Most people traveling to Uganda focus on visiting the gorillas and forget about visiting the chimpanzees in their natural habitat. Should you do the chimp trekking or habituation experience? And what is the difference? First of all, regardless of what you choose; you will love the experience!
To help you decide what experience is best for you, I will provide information about the Uganda chimpanzee experiences. For example, the important differences between Chimpanzee Trekking and the Chimpanzee Habituation Experience (CHE) in Africa.
What is chimpanzee trekking?
A chimpanzee trekking is a hike with a professional guide, through the natural habitat of wild chimpanzees, looking for a habituated chimp family. After you reached the family, you are allowed to stay near them for a maximum of one hour. You can watch the chimpanzees' behavior, take pictures and enjoy their natural habitat. Because habituated chimpanzees are used to human presence, they will not runoff. That will make it easier to photograph them. Depending on the time and the activity they are doing, you can see them feeding, playing, or swinging to different trees.
What is a chimpanzee habituation experience?
The Chimpanzee habituation experience is a full-day experience, where a professional guide takes you through the forest to spend the entire day near a family of chimpanzees. In this activity, you get the chance to be with chimpanzees during their daily activities. For example, searching for food, grooming, playing, and making nests for the night. You will learn more about the process of monitoring and tracking the chimps in Africa as well as how they are habituated. You are actually taking part in the process of making wild primates a little more habituated. This means these great apes get familiar with people but still remain wild in their natural habitat. This process is totally ethical and done to protect and preserve these amazing human-like animals.
What is the best place in Uganda to go for chimpanzee habituation or trekking?
Kibale Forest Uganda is one of the best places to track chimps in the wild. There are two activities offered to see chimpanzees in the wild; the chimp trekking and the chimpanzee habituation experience. One of the main reasons for us to choose for the chimpanzee experience in Kibale National Park was because it is the only place to join a chimpanzee habituation experience, along with Tanzania.
What is the level of difficulty regarding the two chimp experiences?
One important difference is the level of difficulty. Both activities require an average level of physical condition, but the chimp habituation experience will be more exhausted. You will walk through the (dense) forest up and downhill, all day. Chimps are active during the day. They often change places and move fast through the trees, so you will take many steps to keep up with them and you don't have much time to take a rest. It all depends on the chimps' behavior of that day. If they decide to go ‘border patrolling' all day, you have to make an effort to keep up with them.
The walk to get to the chimps during the trekking can vary from 5 minutes to a few hours. This depends on the starting point and their movements. They generally move where food is and they are very mobile. Therefore, it's hard to predict how far they may be from the starting point. Organizations do try to divide the participants on their age and fitness level. To make it a bit easier, there are also walking sticks (for free) available and porters (at a fee).
Read more about fees, porters and how to prepare for a chimp experience in the Chimpanzee Trekking Uganda blog.
How long does each chimpanzee activity last?
The chimpanzee habituation experience will last a whole day, starting around 6.30 in the morning and end in the late afternoon. Once you find the group of chimpanzees, you will follow them or their trails through the forest.
If you choose for a chimpanzee trekking, the time depends on the place of the group of chimpanzees and the time of walking to that place and back. An average hike takes about 2-5 hours and you are allowed to stay 1 hour in the company of the chimps. For the trekking experience, the chimpanzee trackers already go out ahead to spot the family you are going to visit, so the guide can bring the group straight to that place.
What is the level of habituation of these great apes?
Habituated chimpanzees are used to human beings around them in their natural habitat. The process of habituating takes 3 years to be completed. To guarantee safety to all participants, all chimpanzee families that can be visited, have been habituated for several months. The chimp families that can be visited with a Chimpanzee Trekking in Uganda are fully habituated.
The chimp families that will be visited during the habituation activity are still completing the process of habituation, which means they are less used to people and are only partially habituated. These chimps can be less curious and timider. In behavior, this means they can run away faster, hide in the thicker forest, or stay up in the trees.
Which of the two chimpanzee activities has the highest chance of watching the apes up close?
Depending on your wishes and expectations, you might like the habituated chimps more or vice versa. To be genuine about expectations; the highest chance of watching the chimps up close is during the chimp trekking in Uganda, which makes it also easier to admire them and take photos.
The behavior from partially habituated chimpanzees will be more genuine while the habituated chimpanzees will be more close what makes it easier. If you want to learn about the behavior of the chimps in daily life and observe their activities all day long, the chimp habituation experience might be more interesting. You will also be able to see more primates and other wildlife found in the park.
What is the price of the chimpanzee habituation experience and trekking?
To meet the chimps, you need a chimpanzee tracking permit. This is an identification provided by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. This permit allows you access to Kibale National Park to track Chimps.
The price of the chimpanzee trekking permits for the two activities varies and may be different depending on the country. The prices for permits also vary based on the residence status of the visitors. Regularly, the habituation experience is a bit more expensive than chimp trekking. In Kibale Forest Uganda, Foreign Non Residents pay 200 dollars for the Chimpanzee Trekking permit and 250 dollars for the Chimpanzee Habituation permit. Visit the website of the Uganda Wildlife Authority to keep up with the latest rates.
How to prepare for the chimpanzee experience?
Hopefully, this blog helps you choose between the Chimpanzee trekking and habituation experience in Uganda. If you have any questions about traveling to Uganda, the chimpanzee trekking, or the chimpanzee habituation experience, please leave a comment.
My guide to prepare your chimpanzee experience might also be useful. In this Uganda chimpanzee blog, you will find rules for the chimpanzee experiences, tips about what to wear, what to bring, and a lot more.
Travel to Uganda
Apart from a once-in-a-lifetime chimpanzee encounter, Uganda has a lot more stunning nature sites to explore. Some of the best places to visit in Uganda are Sipi Falls, Murchison Falls, Kidepo National Park, and Queen Elizabeth National Park. Uganda is a great African safari destination to spot the Big Five and two species of great apes: Gorillas, and Chimpanzees! Other travel tips for your trip can be found in my ultimate Uganda Travel Guide.
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