Review by The Eye
Primate Lodge is situated in Kibale National Park, it was originally owned and operated by the Uganda Wildlife Authority but in July 2007 it changed hands and the lodge is now operated by Great Lake Safaris in Kampala.
The lodge has eight luxury tents that can sleep two people per tent – each guest with their own three quarter bed – there are no double or king size beds in the tents. Each luxury tent is tastefully furnished with its own bathroom with flushing toilet, spacious shower (because of the distance the water has to travel to get to the tents, the water pressure is not great but it is manageable) and a wash basin. Hot water is available for showering from 18H00 each day, however you can request an alternative shower time with the management. The tents are positioned about 30m from each other and they are private and comfortable. The rate per night is based on a full board basis and there are rates for double occupancy and single occupancy
There are 7 Bandas, 5 of the bandas have three quarter beds in them and 2 of them have king size beds – each Banda can sleep two people. The rates for the bandas are based on either a full board or half board option and like the luxury tents there is a double occupancy and single occupancy rate.
For all accommodation at the lodge there are rates for non residents and East African residents. The lodge also offers camping facilities and charge 15,000/= per person per day.
The main lodge has a wonderful bar area that stocks a variety of beers, spirits and wines – ice is not always available, in fact there wasn’t any during our stay – the good news is that the beers were ice cold. There is a comfortable sitting area, a spacious dining area and a thatched Lapa that can be used to simply sit, relax or read a book. It is extremely quiet and peaceful at Primate Lodge and this was just one of the many reasons we enjoyed being there. The lodge is surrounded by lush green forest and no matter where you are you can hear the chirping of birds or the sounds of monkeys swinging from tree to tree.
Meals at Primate Lodge are likened to those of home cooked meals; from cereals to eggs and bacon in the mornings to spaghetti bolognaise at lunch to chicken/fish with potatoes and veggies in the evenings. The meals are hot and extremely tasty and each meal that is served at the lodge comes as a four course meal. Breakfast is priced at 12 USD, Lunch at 18 USD and Dinner at 20 USD for residents/non residents. The coffee that is served at Primate Lodge reminds me a lot like the coffee you get at the exclusive lodges in South Africa – it’s that good strong bush coffee.
Primate Lodge is worth visiting for a number of reasons other than for a weekend of peace and tranquility and chimp tracking (see below), there are activities like the Nocturnal Walk (a night walk in the forest to look for bush baby and Potto), the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary (a trail where you can encounter 137 different species of birds, primates and butterflies), Exploration of the Crater Lakes, the Sebitoli Forest Camp offers different walking trails for excellent bird and primate viewing in the forest and a 2-6 day hike for the more adventurous to explore the natural environment as well as a chance to meet the local people and gain insights in to the Batoro and Bakiga cultures, to name but a few.
The Kibale National Park plays host to 1400 chimpanzees of which 320 are habituated. There are three groups of habituated chimps. The primate walk (chimp track) starts from the Kanyanchu visitor centre at 08H00 and 15H00 and lasts around 2-3 hours. 30 minutes into our walk we spotted a family of chimps hanging out in the trees having breakfast. It was a lovely sighting and we spent one hour (maximum time allowed, unless you are on the extended full day habituation program) taking photographs and watching them go about their business. Along the way we encountered the Grey Cheeked Mangabey and the red tailed monkey – we did not see any of the Black and White Colobus monkeys but were told that they do live in the forest.
It is advisable to get a checklist of the items that you will need for the track from the central reservations office prior to your departure. We were unfortunately ill-equipped for our chimp track and were not quite sure what to expect.
In case you are considering doing a chimp track, the following is the check list and recommended items to take along and dress code. Long trousers are recommended and preferably long socks – ideally with half decent hiking boots. However, I did the hike in a pair of Jeans, golf socks, with gum boots, and although I looked like a real woody, I was fine throughout the hike. Kibale national forest is also a RAIN forest, so expect rain at any stage and to walk under wet conditions in muddy conditions. The walk is a light one and the terrain easy – no breaking into a major sweat. Take along some kind of light rain jacket (it is not cold, slightly chilly at times) with a hood. The rain is more like a drizzle and can get you very wet, very quickly, and if you are just into your hike, it means you will be wet for around d 2 / 3 hours. Take along a decent water bottle and if you are carrying a camera, make sure the pouch is water proof and the bag is easy to carry – a good zoom lens (200mm or more will also be great). Binoculars are also good as the chimps we saw were up in the trees (around 30 meters up) and difficult to see at times. However, when the sun is up and shining, the chimps retreat to the ground and then viewing is up close (6 to 8 meters) and the experience that much better.
If you are considering Gorilla trekking and are a bit apprehensive, then chimp tracking is a great start, a worthwhile experience and a really good indicator of what gorilla trekking is all about – my suggestion is that you should use this opportunity. It is cheap (by gorilla standards) and close (by gorilla standards) and value for money and hell, you may even see the elephants (although I would have dropped a load in my rods, if we had bumped into elephants!)
Chimp tracking costs 70 USD per person for residents and 90 USD for non-residents, advance bookings are essential during peak seasons. Children 12 years and younger are not allowed to view the chimps or go into the forest, however the park does offer an educational forest walk that takes around 1-2 hours followed by some creative activities. Parents should know that while they are chimp tracking, their children are occupied with worthwhile activities with trained ranger guides.
Kibale National Park
The Kibale National Park is 795 square kilometers in size and contains one of the most varied tracts of tropical forest in Uganda. There are 13 species of primate including the chimpanzees. The birdlife in the park is spectacular – there are around 370 different bird species. We were lucky enough to see two crested guinea fowls while on our way back from our chimp track.
Elephant (around 300), buffalo and buck can be found in the park. Charles, our ranger has been a guide for 15 years and told us that he has only ever encountered the elephants four times. We heard the elephants on the Saturday evening trumpeting and carry on, but they were at least 2 kilometers away.
The park itself is made up of Forest (65%), Savannah (25%) and Swampland (10%).
How to get there
From Kampala you need to get to Fort Portal (Western Uganda) which will take you around 4 hours – there are a lot of road works taking place from Kampala to Mityana, so traffic does come to a standstill at times. On the whole the road from Kampala to Fort Portal is pleasant. Once in Fort Portal follow the sign posts to Kibale National Park. The road from FP to KNP is a murram road and it is approximately 36km’s to get to the KNP main gate. Primate Lodge can be found about 10km’s from the KNP main gate.
For more information, please contact:-
Great Lake Safaris (central reservations for Primate Lodge Kibale)
Tel: (041) 4267153. Fax: (041) 4267153. Mobile: +256 772 426368.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: www.ugandalodges.com