Tracking the primates of western Uganda
Chimpanzee in Kibale National Park © Patrick Shah
Where Uganda’s western border converges with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, lies a collection of national parks that serve as a sanctuary for some of the most endangered primate species in the world. For a primate tracking safari in Uganda, you need to head to the forests that line the country’s western region. This is a bucket-list trip for many wildlife enthusiasts and an experience that will stand out for many years to come.
Mountain gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Uganda
In Uganda’s south-western corner lies Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, famous for providing refuge to around half the world’s population of mountain gorillas. This iconic primate species historically lost its stronghold in Bwindi as a result of human conflict, poaching, habitat destruction and disease. Fortunately, thanks to concerted conservation efforts, at the end of 2018 the mountain gorillas’ listing on the IUCN Red List moved from critically endangered to endangered, and their population is now believed to be over 1000 individuals.
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Hiking up into the emerald green, mist-covered rainforest is an adventure in itself, but it is made unforgettable upon meeting these amazing primates up-close. There are up to 11 habituated mountain gorilla groups in Bwindi, each within their territory, and each group has a variety of ages and individual characters that create a special dynamic unique to every family.
Young mountain gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Uganda
More common than their distint gorilla relatives, the shaggy-coated black and white colobus monkeys can be found across several of Uganda’s western parks, including Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Kibale Forest. These monochromatic and rather serious-looking monkeys are found in lowland and montane forests. Visitors on a primate tracking safari in Kibale might also have the incredible opportunity of spotting L’Hoest’s, red colobus and blue monkeys.
Black and white colobus monkeys in Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda
Kibale Forest is the perfect location for primate safaris, as it holds the highest density and diversity of primates in Africa – 13 different species, including the endangered chimpanzee. Uganda has around 5000 chimpanzees, and Kibale Forest is home to close to a third of that population, which makes it one of the best parks to encounter chimpanzees in their natural habitat. Five family groups of habituated chimpanzees are tracked through the tropical rainforest of Kibale.
Chimpanzee in Kibale National Park, Uganda
Golden monkeys, relatively small and characteristically comical primates, can be found in Uganda’s smallest park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Located in the country’s far south-western corner, this is the only park in Uganda’s where visitors can track golden monkeys. These endangered primates are found in dense bamboo forests in groups of up to 60 members and keeping track of them can be a little tricky at times as they move quickly through the trees.
While mountain gorillas are understandably the main drawcard for travellers visiting Uganda, their various cousins are just as magnificent and should not be overlooked when planning your safari.
Golden monkeys in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Uganda