Chimpanzee habituation is not the most popular activity in kibale national park as compared to gorilla trekking in Bwindi impenetrable national park. However, chimpanzee trekking is the most thrilling and exciting activity in kibale national park, even though it is still not so known since it is a research activity. Habituation can be defined as “the decrease in the strength of a response after repeated presentation of the stimulus that elicits the particular response”. Chimpanzee habituation is a process aiming at decreasing the reaction of the chimpanzees towards the visitors. The habituated chimpanzee group gets familiar with the visitor encounters with time. This makes the interaction with chimpanzees in kibale national park more intimate, thus turning the 1-hour interaction into a memorable one for all the visitors.
Kibale habituation in Uganda is not so much popular since not a lot of national parks have the potential to carry on the activity. Besides, also the chimpanzees are endangered in not only Uganda but also in other parts of Africa, so habituation gets really hard due to the absence of the chimpanzees to include into the program, for example, Kyambura gorge has one chimpanzee community which is already habituated and no need to habituate it again. In Uganda, chimpanzee habituation can be conducted in Kibale National Park and Budongo natural forest, however, Kibale National Park is recommendable for chimpanzee habituation since it has more chimpanzees compared to other places in the country.
Chimpanzee Habituation is different from chimpanzee trekking because it is a whole day activity yet chimpanzee trekking lasts for 2-3 hours and the interaction with the chimpanzees is just for 1 hour. Uganda has over 4950 chimpanzees and kibale national park harbors about 1500 chimpanzees of the whole population, almost three-thirds of the whole population in Uganda. This is possibly the reason for Kibale being the best destination for chimpanzee habituation. The habituation process can last for about 2 years, and that is when a particular chimpanzee community can be called a habituated community and ready for visitors.
In kibale national park, chimpanzee habituation is conducted at Kanyanchu. Kanyancchu is found in the northern part of Kibale national park which is characterized with tall trees of the tropical forest and thick undergrowth in some sections. Kanyanchu is also famous for the primate walks in Kibale National Park like chimpanzee trekking or tracking. Also, the chimpanzee group is the biggest among all the communities in Kibale National Park. Kanyanchu chimpanzee community has over 50 members which gives you an 85% chance to see chimpanzees in the shortest time.
Chimpanzee habituation activity is not for the faint hearts, it involves waking up early in the morning before dawn and head to Kanyanchu visitor center to start the day. The group of visitors to participate in the chimpanzee habituation has to wake up a little earlier to have an early breakfast. Also the lunch is just parked for them since chimpanzee habituation is a full day activity in the deep of the forest. You stand a 20% chance to see the chimpanzees before the habituation process, and a 90% chance after a certain group of chimpanzees is habituated.
At Kanyanchu, you gather all together for a briefing by a trained guide about forest tactic and chimpanzee behavior. At exactly 6:00 am, you set off to the forest for chimpanzee habituation with two trained guides who will lead you to the area where the chimpanzees might have slept that night. Between 6 am and 6:30 am, the chimpanzees start coming out of their nests to the ground. Then you can start observing them as they copulate & breastfeed their young ones. You also get the chance to watch the chimpanzees as they exhibit their hunting skills, then rest for a while and the resort to patrolling through the forest until they start nesting in the evening after the sun set at around 7 pm.
Chimpanzee habituation is a real-life opportunity for you to learn a lot about chimpanzee habits like how they mate or copulate, feeding habits, and socialization among others. Chimpanzee habituation also gives you an opportunity to learn how to identify them from one another by learning the specific features in them like the color of fur, scars, the color of the eyes et cetera. Perhaps, if possible you can also engage in naming the chimpanzee babies.
Make sure that you don’t forget your camera and binoculars, chimpanzee habituation is such an interesting activity that you might need to capture every moment as you observe the chimpanzees in kibale national park. In the thickets, chimpanzee spotting might be obstructed by the shrubs; this is the time you get out your binoculars to get a better view of the chimpanzees.
Kibale national park is a home for many other wild animals, so chimpanzees are not the only animals in kibale national park. During chimpanzee habituation, you can spot a lot of monkeys in the forest such as the black and white colobus monkeys, red colobus monkeys, and the blue colobus monkeys, the vervet monkeys, and olive baboons among others. kibale national park is also a home for a number of bird species summing up to 350 birds and other animals such as the buffaloes, elephants, bushbucks, sitatunga antelope, duikers, and leopards, among others.
You can visit kibale national park any time of the year; however, chimpanzee habituation is best done in March, April, May, and November. This is the season when kibale national park is free of congestion of the chimpanzee trekkers. Plus, during the low tourism season, also the prices for accommodation can be reduced so it is the best time to plan on the budget for your kibale national park primate safari. Kibale national park is open all year through for other park activities such as birding, nature walks, cultural walks, community visits among others.