Chimpanzee Trekking in Murchison Falls National Park

Budongo & Rabongo

Budongo forest is part of Murchison Falls conservation area and has the largest number of chimpanzees in Uganda. It’s also home to over 360 species of birds, 450 species of trees (including mahogany), and 24 species of mammals.

Alongside chimpanzees, you may come across olive baboons, white and black colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, and blue monkeys. Budongo has two ecotourism sites, Kaniyo Pabidi and Busingiro, and is managed by The Jane Goodall Institute.

Rabongo forest is an island covered by tropical-river forest, where you will find chimpanzees and other primates such as baboons, black and white colobus monkeys, and red-tailed monkeys. Chimp trekking is less common in Rabongo than Budongo, as there are fewer chimp families here

Murchison Falls Chimpanzee Trekking

What does a typical day of trekking entail?

Chimp trekking is run twice a day, once at 7am, and again at 3pm. You will need to arrive at the Kaniyo Pabidi eco-site, where you will have a briefing about your trek.

From here, you’ll head into the forest, following trails with a Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) guide.

The trek can take up to three hours and includes an hour of observing the chimpanzees.

Chimpanzee in Kibale Forest, sitting in a tree.

Chimpanzee Habituation Experience

For those wanting to spend a little longer with the chimps, you can join the chimpanzee habituation experience. The day starts with an early breakfast, before you head out to meet your guide at 6am.

From there, you’ll find where the chimpanzees built their nests the night before. You will spend the day with the chimpanzees, watching them in their natural habitat, from the moment they wake up (around 6/6.30am), to the moment they build their new nests for the night. 

This experience is designed to help the chimpanzees become habituated and comfortable with human presence. Budongo Forest in Murchison and Kibale National Park are the only two places that offer the chimp habituation experience in Uganda.

Chimpanzee staring into the distance in Kibale Forest on Kibale habituation experience.

When’s the best time to go?

The best time to go chimp trekking is between October and January. During these months, the trails are dry, the grass is short, and the fruits are ripening. However, the chimps may move deeper into the forest, as food and water are scarcer, so spotting them may take longer. 

In June and July, there’s high competition for both accommodation and permits, as the temperature is cooler and there’s less rainfall. Therefore, if you’d like to visit during this time, make sure you book several months in advance.

How much does it cost?

You will need to purchase a permit before you can attend a chimp trek. You can get them from the UWA offices, and they cost $85 each at the time of writing. Only 16 permits for chimp trekking are sold per day, and you need to be above 15 years old to buy one.

If you’re wanting to partake in the chimpanzee habituation experience, the permits cost $220 at the time of writing.

If you are booking your trip with us, all of this is taken care of for you. 

Murchison Falls Chimpanzee Trekking

What do I need to bring?

If you book with us, we will send you a detailed kit list ahead of your trip, but here's a quick cheat sheet of things to bring on your trek: 

  • Lightweight waterproof trousers
  • A quick-dry long-sleeved T-shirt
  • A lightweight waterproof jacket
  • A hat
  • Thick socks
  • A sturdy pair of hiking boots
  • Sunglasses
  • Gloves
  • Rucksack
  • Bottled water
  • Sun cream
  • Insect repellent
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Camera/Phone
Murchison Falls Chimpanzee Trekking

Where can I stay?

The accommodation options in Murchison Falls National Park are split between three locations: the Albert Nile, Paraa and the Victoria Nile, and Kaniyo Pabidi and the Masindi road.

These lodges cater for a range of budgets: from modest, through the mid-range, to luxury. Prices range between $40 to $500 per night.

Which accommodation is right for you will depend on many factors, including your budget, group size, and duration of stay.

What else can I do at Murchison Falls?

Murchison Falls National Park is the best safari destination in Uganda. Its diversity of habitats, wildlife densities, and natural landscapes make it one of the most exciting wilderness areas on the western safari circuit. 

It’s the largest safari park in Uganda, with over 76 species of mammals and 451 species of birds. 

Game drives in Murchison offer excellent wildlife sightings. The park is home to four of the Big Five: lions, buffalo, elephants, and leopards.

The park is intersected by the Nile River as it winds its way through cataracts and falls, before relaxing into Lake Albert. If you take to the river on a boat cruise, you’ll find crocs, hippos, and plenty of water-birds. 

Combined with chimp trekking in the Budongo Forest, you’ve got an action-packed 3-day safari in one of Uganda’s most exciting national parks. 

There are plenty of boutique and luxe lodges that make perfect retreats after a day’s adventuring. You’ll leave Murchison with a heavy heart, but there’s still so much more of Uganda to explore…

Murchison Falls Chimpanzee Trekking

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