Into the Ugandan wild, Kibale Forest National Park

I took the Postal Bus from Kampala to Fort Portal, the nearest town to the Kibale Forest National Park. It was a fun journey, lots of women dressed in the brightest, most glamorous clothes and headdresses I’ve ever seen got on the bus in party mood. It turned out that their children were graduating from college and they were preparing to celebrate. The two hour journey flew by as I was interrogated about my marital status and life in London.

Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Kibale is a place I’d wanted to visit for a long time, ever since I read about it’s chimpanzees, humanity’s closest relatives. The park has much more to offer than just chimpanzees though. It has thirteen species of primates, one of the highest diversities of primates in Africa, some of them highly endangered. It is relatively easy to spot at least four or five types of primate, and, in-between sightings, there are over three hundred species of birds and sixty species of mammals to keep an eye out for.

The National Park office is the starting point of the chimpanzee trekking, it is also home to the conveniently located Kibale Primate Lodge. I’d booked something called an Elevated Banda, which turned out to be a lovely place to stay in an opening in the forest. At night monkeys could be seen in the trees and the noise of insects was deafening. Once the sun set, it was one of the darkest nights I’ve ever experienced, made slightly traumatic by the sound of creatures walking across the roof.

Elevated Banda, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Elevated Banda, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Elevated Banda, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Elevated Banda, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

While I sorted out permits to track chimpanzees, I spent a day walking the 7 or 8km to the nearest village, Bigodi. On the outskirts of the village is the fabulous Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary. This extraordinarily biodiverse swampland is host to eight species of primates, several mammals and numerous bird species. This is a birders paradise, including the spectacular Great Blue Turaco. The sanctuary is managed by a local association; the local community is invested in the sanctuary, and this has ensured poaching has been dramatically reduced.

Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

House, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

House, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Guide in Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Guide in Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Fauna in Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Fauna in Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Fauna in Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Fauna in Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

A knowledgable local guide takes you through the sanctuary, the day I was there I was the only person on the tour. Despite all the attractions, this area still doesn’t get huge numbers of tourists. It was a lovely couple of hours, exploring the swamp and spotting a number of animals, including four primates – Baboon, Vervet, Red Colobus, Black and White Colobus – and the Great Blue Turaco.

Baboon, Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Baboon, Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Red Colobus, Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Red Colobus, Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Red Colobus, Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Red Colobus, Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Black and White Colobus, Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa, Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Black and White Colobus, Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa, Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Vervet, Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Vervet, Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Afterwards, I walked into the village and had lunch before stumbling upon a local business, set up by a women’s association, making delicious local peanut butter. It turned out the woman who ran it was the wife of the National Park’s head guard, both of whom came from Gulu, so we had a long chat about the situation in that part of the country. I bought a couple of jars of the sticky brown stuff and headed off on my walk back to the Kibale Primate Lodge.

Great Blue Turaco, Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Great Blue Turaco, Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Great Blue Turaco, Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Great Blue Turaco, Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Bigodi Peanut Butter Project, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Bigodi Peanut Butter Project, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Bigodi Peanut Butter Project, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Bigodi Peanut Butter Project, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

Unfortunately, I came across a troupe of Baboons, three or four kilometres from the lodge, completely blocking the road. Laugh if you like, but I have a terrible fear of Baboons. I was once chased and attacked by Baboons when I was in India, an experience I didn’t particularly want to repeat. I was on the verge of walking back to the village when a man on a motorbike came along. I flagged him down and, despite laughing when I explained my predicament, he drove me past the Baboons and back to the lodge.

I imagine that story did the rounds in the village for quite some time.

House with plantain, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

House with plantain, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda, Africa

11 thoughts on “Into the Ugandan wild, Kibale Forest National Park

    • In India I was just walking along, there were several other people in the vicinity, and the baboons randomly decided to attack me. I was last seen running down a the street at top speed with an 80l rucksack on my back being chased by several angry baboons. Everyone else thought it was hilarious.

  1. Great turaco pictures.

    I share your fear of baboons! I would rather be faced by a lion (I have the idea in my head a baboon would choose to hunt me down just for the fun of it!!)

    Really loved Bigodi, was a highlight of Uganda – brings back great memories

    • I loved Bigodi as well, really wonderful, but a few too many baboons for my liking. I think they do attack for the fun of it, certainly very menacing creatures. We got really lucky with the turaco, it just landed in the tree when we were in the hide. Brilliant.

  2. The Banda looks lovely! But yes, I can imagine the sounds on the roof 🙂
    Better to be laughed at than torn to pieces.
    How did you avoid getting a bride on the bus? 🙂

    • How? By the skin of my teeth! It was one of the most entertaining bus journeys of my life though.

      The roof of the Banda is metal, so when something lands/walks on it, its a bit like being inside a drum. Not the ideal way to be woken in the early morning.

  3. Monkeys are no to be messed with. (Especially baboons) On a trip (back) to Kenya, my youngest daughter was about 5. Kinda slow at breakfast. She kept a chunk of bread to munch on. We stopped at Mzima springs, Tsavo, to go and see the hippos. In a minute she was surrounded by a crowd of vervets. maybe twenty of them.
    I told her to throw away the bread. All the monkeys jumped on the bread instead of jumping on her. She still remembers the “incident” vividly.
    Great posts! I can see the heat on the dirt road…
    Thank you
    Brian

    • For me, red dirt roads mean just one thing – East Africa. I can imagine how scared your daughter must have been. Monkeys can be very aggressive, especially around food. In India going to temples is fraught with danger because people feed the temple monkeys, they’ve learned not to fear people and are really nasty at times.

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