Together with the bonobo the chimpanzee is man’s closest relative. Once found in 25 African countries, chimpanzees are now becoming extinct in some countries through deforestation and commercial poaching. They share about 98% of human genes: their brain is startlingly similar to our own; they also adapt to their environment and develop tools like humans do.
In Uganda, habituated chimpanzees are found in the wild in Kyambura, Kibale and Kalinzu forest.
Kyambura is a unique underground forest in the middle of the savannah. There are only 20 chimps in the whole forest and they have become isolated from other chimps due to human encroachment and have started inbreeding. The chimps are just as habituated as those in Kibale but the success rate is not as high due to the challenges of the habitat. The success rate is on par with Kalinzu at around 50-60%. Hippo, elephant and even lion can be spotted in the gorge.
Kibale offers a very large chimpanzee population (over 120 touristed chimps - 1400 in whole forest) for viewing and is very popular, with as many as 6 groups tracking each day. Their success rate is around 90%.
Finally, Kalinzu counts about 40 chimpanzees in the tourist population (around 300 in the whole forest). They are moderately habituated with about a 50-60% success rate of seeing them. The forest is beautiful, with dense vegetation and streams throughout. The walk requires good fitness levels in some parts and should not be considered an easier option to Kyambura Gorge. Monkeys can also be seen on the walk including L'Hoist, Blue, Black and White Colobus, Baboons, and Red Tails.
Bwindi is one of the few forests where gorillas and chimps co-exist. Chimps, however, are rarely seen there, as they live lower down when both species are present. The Ugandan variety (Pan Troglodytes Schweinfurthi) is long-haired and lives in those forests where there is a rich, all year round food supply. Chimpanzees can also be seen at Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary near Entebbe. This sanctuary, on a beautiful forested island, is home to chimpanzees illegally removed from the wild and confiscated by the authorities; a raised platform enables close viewing and makes feeding time an exciting activity to watch. The tour lasts about half a day, travelling either by a modified traditional Ssese canoe or a faster motorboat. An overnight stay, at a simple mobile camp, can be arranged. The entrance fees paid goes towards looking after the chimpanzees.
In Rwanda they can be seen in Nyungwe Forest. Renowned for its large groups of colobus monkeys, chimpanzees, a variety of orchids and unusual birds, Nyungwe is the largest Afromontane forest in central Africa.