14- Day Uganda Birding Tour
Boasting several fantastic birding sites and an incredible 1,020 species (around half of the total number found in Africa) our 14 Day Uganda Birding Tour promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
This expert-guided birding tour can be booked as a small group private tour for dates that suits your travel plans.
Next Group Tour Departure Date: 3 August 2021 / 3 August 2022
Full Itinerary – Uganda Birding Tour
Arrival at Entebbe International Airport, transfer to local hotel
Welcome to Uganda! Your fantastic birding safari will start as soon as you touch down at the Entebbe International Airport. You will be met by your Nature Travel guide who will help load the bags into our comfortable, airconditioned vehicle before we set off for our guesthouse situated nearby.
It was from the airport you just landed at that Queen Elizabeth II departed Africa to return to England in 1952, when she learned of her father’s death and that she had become Queen of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms. Entebbe airport was also the scene of a famous hostage situation and rescue operation that ended on 4 July 1976.
Entebbe is in central Uganda, about 44 km (27 mi) southwest of the capital Kampala, stunningly located on the shores of Lake Victoria (Africa’s largest lake) on the magical Entebbe peninsula. The fresh air, relaxed pace of life and tropical sun will make you feel instantly at home in the “Pearl of Africa”. The small city used to be the governmental seat of power (the word Entebbe in the local Luganda language actually means a “seat”) before it transferred to Kampala. In fact, the president of Uganda still has his official office and residence in Entebbe.
Depending on your time of arrival there might be a chance for an optional excursion to one or more of the nearby attractions. These include the extensive National Botanical Gardens, the National Zoo and the Uganda Reptiles Village. The National Botanical Gardens is a great place to start our trip lists (if you arrived on an early flight) with some cool birds (Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill, Red-headed Lovebird, Double-toothed Barbet, Grey Parrot, White-throated Bee-eater, Great Blue Turaco, Palm-nut Vulture, Orange Weaver and Black-headed Gonolek) and primates (Angola Colobus, Vervet and Red-tailed Monkey).
Our characterful guesthouse is one of the best in town, and offers beautifully manicured tropical gardens and superb, personal service.
We will get together at the restaurant to get to know each other, for relaxation, dinner (the food is excellent) and our overnight stay. Tomorrow the tour starts in earnest!
Entebbe to Masindi (Mabamba Swamp birding in the morning)
We will start our day with an early breakfast in the hotel. We will then pack our bags, check out and set off.
Our first stop is the legendary Mabamba Swamp, about an hour to the north. It is a large (16,500 hectares/64 sq mi) wetland on the shores of Lake Victoria in the west of Kampala, and is a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, as well as one of Uganda’s 33 Important Bird Areas.
The magical species of this location is the endangered Shoebill, Uganda’s most famous and iconic avian resident. This prehistoric-looking bird is very high on most world birders’ wish list, and for good reason. It is just so different, with a huge, yellow, human-like eyes and that massive, clog-like bill. On a recent trip we were treated to a fly-over of a young bird, which then landed and called for an adult to bring in food, while it preened itself. Cheeky maybe, but fantastic for us!
We will do our birding from a big canoe paddled by an expert local bird guide. The canoe ride along the narrow channels of the swamp will give us chances of sighting other bird species like the sought-after Papyrus Gonolek, regal African Fish Eagle, African Marsh Harrier, Black-winged Kite, Lizard Buzzard, African and Lesser Jacana, African Pygmy Goose, Black Heron, Blue Swallow, Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Greater and White-winged Swamp Warbler, Marsh Tchagra, Blue-headed Coucal, Carruther’s Cisticola, Swamp Flycatcher, Malachite, African Pygmy and Pied Kingfisher as well as several other species of herons, egrets and waterfowl.
We will stop for lunch along the way as we continue on our drive of about 5 hours. On the way we will also look out for African Pied Hornbill that regularly fly over the road, as well as species like Piapiac, Yellow-mantled and Fan-tailed Widowbird, Splendid Starling and Long-crested Eagle. We will use the time in the vehicle to get to know each other a bit better and find out what every person wants from the trip, in terms of wildlife sightings, scenery, and so on. This will ensure that everyone has a great time in Uganda!
Speaking of Uganda, we will also use the time to learn more about the country. You will see why the opening lines of the national anthem is “Oh Uganda, Land of Beauty”. It truly is an incredibly scenic place, and no other area in Africa can match its amazing diversity of habitats. The country lies in Africa’s Great Lakes area, and the southern portion of the country includes a big part of Lake Victoria. Uganda also lies within the Nile basin, averages about 1,100 metres (3,609 ft) above sea level and has a moderate equatorial climate. Uganda has 60 protected areas, including ten national parks, that harbour populations of numerous critically endangered and localised species.
In the last twenty or so years the country has shaken off its dark history (including Idi Amin’s brutal dictatorship and a lengthy civil war) and has emerged as one of the tourist destinations on the continent. It is infrastructure-rich, tourist-friendly, filled with smiling, helpful, English-speaking people, has a burgeoning cultural-artistic scene, boasts Africa’s Big Five, gorillas, Chimpanzees, over 1,000 species of birds and on top of that, has fantastic coffee! What’s not to like!
During our transfer today we will drive past the famous state-private partnership success story that is the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, the only place in Uganda to see the near-threatened (Southern) White Rhinoceros Ceratotherium simum simum in the wild. There are currently 22 of these special animals at the sanctuary, and the idea is to one day release them back into other parks in the country.
We will reach our destination, Masindi town, in the late afternoon. Masindi is a pleasant rural town known for being a good stopover on the way to Murchison Falls National Park, where we will go tomorrow.
We will relax, have dinner and stay overnight at our comfortable lodge after a great first day in Uganda.
Masindi to Murchison Falls National Park (including “Royal Mile” in Budongo Forest)
After an early breakfast we will check out of our guesthouse and head west to the nearby Budongo Forest Reserve. It is a large (825 km2/319 sq mi) tract of intact, virgin tropical forest on the southern edge of the Murchison Falls National Park. In fact, it is the largest natural forest area in all of east Africa. It is known for the massive mahogany trees that grow there, but also for its population of Chimpanzees and phenomenal birdwatching. It is a species-rich reserve, with more than 360 bird species, 290 butterflies, 130 moths, 465 trees, and 24 mammals on the reserve’s list.
We will take a walk along the legendary “Royal Mile”, a premier forest birding road that lies under a lush forest canopy and that is probably one of Africa’s most famous birding destinations, rivalling the famous Manu road in Peru in world birding terms.
The forest road offers opportunities of spotting some fantastic birds like Nahan’s Partridge, White-thighed Hornbill, Blue Malkoha, Sabine’s and Cassin’s Spinetail, Blue-throated Roller, Forest and Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Speckled, Yellow-throated and Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Yellow-browed Camaroptera, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Ituri Batis, Tit Hylia, Forest Robin, Narina Trogon, Uganda Woodland Warbler, Grey-throated, Yellow-billed, Yellow -spotted and Hairy-breasted Barbet, Black-billed and Great Blue Turaco, Plain, Spotted, Slender-billed, Little Grey, White-throated and Little Greenbul, Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo, Chocolate-backed, Blue-breasted and African Dwarf Kingfisher, Black-capped Apalis and Red-tailed Bristlebill among other species. Primate species that we could see are Red tailed and Blue Monkey, Olive Baboon, Guereza and even a Chimpanzee if we are lucky. Smaller mammals might include Red-legged Sun Squirrel and Boehm’s Bush Squirrel.
After our exciting walk along the “Royal Mile”, we will have a packed picnic lunch in our beautiful surroundings and then drive through Murchison Falls National Park on our way to our overnight accommodation. Apart from looking for birds (we might see species like Black-winged Red Bishop, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, Baglafecht Weaver, Northern Red Bishop, Scarce Swift, Short-winged Cisticola and Black-bellied Firefinch) and animals on the way, it will also give us a chance to learn more about this fantastic park.
This used to be one of Africa’s most famous national parks, but the poaching in the 1960s and onwards led to the decimation of the park’s fauna populations. However, recently the park is starting to reclaim its former glory, and now the 3,893 km2 (1,503 sq mi) conservation area boasts 76 mammal (including four of the Big Five) and 450 bird species (among them some very special range-restricted ones) and spectacular scenery.
The park is named after the dramatic Murchison Falls, which in turn were christened by explorer and naturalist Sir Samuel Baker. Baker named the falls Murchison Falls after the geologist Roderick Murchison, the president of the Royal Geographical Society in the 1860s. Notable visitors to the park include Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway and several British royals. The 1951 film The African Queen starring Humphrey Bogart was filmed on Lake Albert and the Nile river in Murchison Falls National Park.
We plan to arrive at our lodge in the early evening, and you will see why we chose it! It is situated directly on the southern bank of the Victoria portion of the Nile river overlooking the park, and from the vantage point of the lodge bar and restaurant, you are treated to some fabulous panoramic views.
After freshening up (and maybe enjoying a dip in the pool) we will get together to update our growing trip lists, and then to enjoy a sumptuous three-course dinner and a good night’s rest.
Remember to look at up the African sky when you go back to your room tonight; the night sky out here in the bush is truly amazing. Also listen for the hippos that exit the river at night; it is an incredible experience to watch and hear them at night grazing around the lodge grounds.
Murchison Falls National Park to Masindi
We will start the day with an early breakfast on the deck and then we are off!
We will start our day with an activity that will surely be one of the highlights of the entire trip: a boat ride to the delta area of the Nile river in the park!
The boat ride will take us on the legendary Nile river’s more relaxed waters as it joins the Albert delta. This offers another opportunity for us of finding the iconic Shoebill, along with other special species like Pel’s Fishing Owl, Long-toed Lapwing, Saddle-billed Stork, Red-throated Bee-Eater, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Goliath Heron, African Darter, Red-winged Grey Warbler and Wire-tailed Swallow. We will also see many Hippopotamus in the water, as well as African Elephants and Nile Crocodiles on the water’s edge. We end our boat trip at the confluence of the Victoria and Albert Nile. It’s at this point the Victoria Nile flows south into Lake Albert and the Nile River continues into South Sudan and eventually to Egypt.
After our early morning boat cruise we will do some game drives in the park. The northern section contains savanna and borassus palms, acacia trees and riverine woodland, whereas the south is dominated by woodland and forest patches.
We will enjoy a packed picnic lunch somewhere on the banks of the Nile.
During our drive we will look for Lion, Leopard, African Buffalo, African Elephant, the rothschildi subspecies of Giraffe, Spotted Hyaena, Oribi, Common Warthog, the taxonomically interesting Jackson’s Hartebeest, Waterbuck, Sitatunga, Hippopotamus, the thomasi subspecies of Kob (also just called the Uganda Kob by some), Tantalus and Patas Monkey, Olive Baboon and Uganda’s largest population of Nile Crocodiles.
Of course, there are birds here too! Over 450 species have been recorded in the park, ranging from a variety of waterbirds, as well as many rare and range-restricted species, including 23 Albertine Rift endemics. Some of the top birds we will search for on our drive are Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Black-billed Wood Dove, Senegal Coucal, Snowy-crowned Robin-chat, Whistling Cisticola, Buff-bellied Warbler, Silverbird, Western Black-headed Batis, Orange-breasted and Grey-headed Bushshrike, White-crested Helmetshrike, Eastern Violet-backed and Beautiful Sunbird, Fawn-breasted and Black-rumped Waxbill, Grey Crowned Crane (Uganda’s national bird), Double-toothed Barbet, White-thighed Hornbill and spectacular Great Blue Turaco, to name just a few.
Our drive will also take us to an iconic spot: the top of one of the world’s most phenomenal waterfalls. The Murchison falls have been described as the most spectacular thing to happen to the Nile along its entire 6,700 km length. The 50 metre wide river forces itself through a rocky gap less than 8 metres wide before falling 45 metres to what has been termed the “devil’s cauldron” below, forming a plume of spray marked by a thunderous roar and a permanent rainbow. It is a truly unforgettable sight and experience!
After this incredibly exciting day we will cross the river with the 4pm ferry and transfer to Masindi with our vehicle. If there is time we will make a brief stop in the Kaniyo Pabidi sector of the Budongo Forest en route to look for the Puvel’s Illadopsis, as it is the best place in east Africa to look for this special bird. We might also see Rufous-sided Broadbill and Crested Guineafowl, two more special species.
We will then make our way to the guesthouse where we stayed two nights ago. We will have dinner and some time to socialise and relax before falling asleep after a busy day of birding!
Masindi to Kibale National Park
We start the day with some good Ugandan coffee and breakfast today. Why don’t you try a “rolex” this morning? It is an omelette with onion and vegetables rolled up in a chapati; delicious!
After breakfast we pack our bags, check out and head south.
Then it’s time to take a very scenic drive south to the Albertine Rift area, marked with incredible steep escarpments, the extensive rift valley flats and beautiful views of Lake Albert to our right, and the distant Blue Mountains in the Democratic Republic of Congo even further on the horizon. The drive is about 5 to 6 hours long, but the time will fly by; it’s just so beautiful here!
We will be birding en route across low lying waterlogged environments in Kagadi and Kagorro forest reserve near Kyenjonjo. We could add some good birds to our trip lists on the drive, including Long-crested Eagle, Village Indigobird, Vieillot’s Black Weaver, Black-crowned and Yellow-bellied Waxbill, Shikra, and Northern Double-collared and Marico Sunbird.
We will reach the town of Fort Portal at around lunchtime. The fort that gave the town its name might not stand anymore, but this is a beautiful town in another scenic area of the country. It is an important commercial area too, as it is in the heartland of the tea-growing area of Uganda. The town also boasts a fantastic market.
We will enjoy lunch at one of best restaurants in town. In fact, some people say it is the best place to eat in all of Uganda! There are a myriad options to choose from, with things like crocodile burgers, Guiness beef stew and 46 different pizzas on the menu! Bon appetit!
After lunch we will transfer to Kibale National Park, about an hour to the south. The 776 km2 (300 sq mi) park is one of the last remaining expanses to contain both lowland and montane forests, and is famous for its primates. The park, formally established in 1993, forms a continuous forest with Queen Elizabeth National Park to the southwest. This adjoining of the parks creates a 180 kilometre (110 mi) wildlife corridor, in which African Elephants move freely.
The varied altitude (1,100 metres (3,600 ft) to 1,600 metres (5,200 ft) above sea level) of the park results in different varieties of habitat, ranging from moist evergreen forest (wet tropical forest) along the Fort Portal plateau, then through the dry tropical forest (moist semi deciduous), and then to the woodland & savanna along the rift valley floor. Over 350 species of trees have been registered in Kibale.
The reason that naturalists from all over the world come to Kibale, however, is the fact that it has one of the highest diversities and concentrations of primates in Africa. Species include the endangered Chimpanzee, Ugandan Grey-cheeked Mangabey, the endangered Ashy Red Colobus, Olive Baboon, Red-tailed Monkey, Guereza, Blue Monkey and the vulnerable L’Hoest’s Monkey.
We will start our birding in Kibale in the Sebitoli area, where we hope to see species like White-tailed Blue Flycatcher, Olive-bellied and Blue-throated Brown Sunbird, Luhder’s and Bocage’s Bushshrike, Honeyguide Greenbul, Brown-breasted Barbet, Blue Malkoha, Ross’s Turaco, African Dusky Flycatcher, Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher and Red-capped Robin-Chat.
We will reach our camp in the late afternoon and settle in. It is a beautifully atmospheric camp hidden away in the forest. Here you will get seduced by forest smells and sounds, spot primates swinging through the trees and observe rare birds and beautiful butterflies fluttering around. On our trips we regularly see Demidoff’s and Thomas’s Dwarf Galago, as well as African Wood Owl in the gardens. A magical place indeed!
We will get together in the restaurant area for relaxation, dinner and our overnight stay. Tomorrow another exciting adventure awaits!
Kibale National Park (including optional Chimpanzee trekking) to Fort Portal
Today is going to be a highlight that we highly recommend you opt to do! So if you can’t sleep through the night due to the excitement, do not hesitate to ask for a coffee or tea with your wake-up call; there is no better way to wake up than with a cup of good Ugandan coffee on the terrace of your tent, enjoying the lush verdant forest around you.
Kibale is home to 325 variety of bird species, including 6 that are endemic to the Albertine Rift valley. These are Dusky Crimsonwing, Black-capped and Black-collared Apalis, Blue-headed and Purple-breasted Sunbird and Red-faced Woodland Warbler. Other Kibale specials are the highly prized are Green-breasted and African Pitta, Afep Pigeon, Black Bee-eater, Olive Long-tailed and African Emerald Cuckoo, Crowned Eagle, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Western Nicator, Abyssinian Thrush, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Brown-chested Alethe, Grey Parrot, Brown Illadopsis, and many others.
We will do a full morning of birding in this beautiful forest reserve, and afterwards have a packed picnic lunch and catch our breaths before this afternoon’s exciting activity.
We will gather at the Kanyanchu Tourism Centre in Kibale to do our Chimpanzee trekking activity which begins promptly at 2pm. The encounter commences with a briefing from the excellent park rangers who will be our guides for the activity. After the briefing, we head to the forest in search of man’s closest relative. The activity lasts about 3 hours and over the years have had a 95% success rate of seeing some of the 1,450 individuals in Kibale. The chimps have been fully habituated and thus offer you an opportunity to draw quite close to them and take pictures. Viewing them as they munch fruit, swinging in trees, socializing, patrolling, mating and making hooting calls is an unforgettable experience that you will treasure forever. You have a full hour to enjoy these precious creatures and you are free to take as many photos as you wish!
There are of course several other mammals present in Kibale’s lush flora, though they are hardly seen. If we are lucky we might see Bushbuck, Blue Duiker, Common Warthog, Sitatunga, Forest Hog or Bushpig. And if we are extremely lucky, we could encounter African Buffalo, Leopard, some of the forest-adapted African Elephant, different mongooses, two species of otter, and even a Lion. A sharp observer will also see many species of amphibians and reptiles and a colourful variety of butterflies.
After our exciting day we will head back north for a drive of about an hour, returning to the town of Fort Portal.
We will check into out comfortable hotel for the night (our home for two nights), and then we have dinner together. The hotel has a classic country club feel and is set in beautifully manicured gardens.
We will update our lists and reminisce about our wonderful day and amazing time so far in Uganda. Then we’re off to bed for a good night’s rest, because tomorrow another superb national park awaits!
Fort Portal to Semuliki National Park and back
After an early breakfast this morning at the hotel, we will grab our cameras and binoculars and head west to a very special park.
We are going to have a full day of birding in the Semuliki National Park. It is a 2 hour drive with incredibly scenic views en route.
The forest tract of Semuliki is an extension of West African jungle that stretches all the way from Equatorial Guinea through Congo, forming a habitat for some special Guinea-Congo biome species that do not exist in other areas of east Africa. The 219 km2 (85 sq mi) park is one of Uganda’s newest national parks (established in 1993) and contains east Africa’s only lowland tropical rainforest, and is contiguous with the DRC’s huge Ituri forest. It is one of the richest areas of floral and faunal diversity in Africa, especially for bird and butterfly species. The park is also famous for its primordial hot springs, and you will feel a change in the air as we walk along the trail network looking for birds today. It is the closest you can get to central Africa’s steaming jungles from anywhere in east Africa.
Over 440 species of birds have been recorded in the park, of which 50 are found nowhere else in east Africa! We will look for Guinea-Congo biome specials and others like Congo Serpent Eagle, Yellow-throated Cuckoo, Bate’s Nightjar, Oberländer’s Ground Thrush, Orange-tufted Sunbird, Rufous-sided Broadbill, Black-throated Coucal, Icterine Greenbul, Nkulengu Rail, Spot-breasted Ibis, Long-tailed Hawk, Capuchin Babbler, Northern Bearded Scrub-robin, Yellow-throated and Western Nicator, Red-chested Owlet, Western Bronze-naped Pigeon, Red-rumped Tinkerbird, White-bellied Kingfisher, Zenker’s and Lyre-tailed Honeyguide, Crested Malimbe, Swamp Palm Bulbul, Blue-billed Malimbe, Chestnut-bellied and Pale-fronted Nigrita, Fiery-breasted Bushshrike, Piping, Black Dwarf, Red-billed Dwarf and White-crested Hornbill and African Piculet among other bird species.
In terms of mammals, Semuliki also has some special species, and despite the thick vegetation we hope to see Angola Colobus, Vervet, Olive Baboon, Ugandan Grey-cheeked Mangabey and Red-tailed Monkey. The park actually boasts over 60 other mammal species though, but they are normally not seen on a one-day visit. These include African Elephant, African Buffalo, Leopard, Hippopotamus, African Civet, Water Chevrotain, Mona Monkey, Pygmy Scaly-tailed Flying Squirrel, Bay Duiker, Little Collared Fruit Bat, Target Rat and many others. There are also more than 450 species of butterflies to feast our eyes on.
After our amazing day in this very special patch of forest we will drive back to our hotel in Fort Portal. We will freshen up and get together to update our trips lists, socialise and have another fantastic dinner. Then we are off to bed for a good night’s rest; tomorrow yet another excellent park awaits us.
Fort Portal to Queen Elizabeth National Park
We will have a slightly later breakfast today at our hotel, before we pack up and check out after two memorable nights in Fort Portal.
We then depart and head south, aiming for the Queen Elizabeth National Park. It is a drive of about 2 to 3 hours, depending on how many stops we make en route to spot some more birds. On previous trips we have seen Little Sparrowhawk, Bronzy Sunbird, and African Golden and Black-headed Weaver on this stretch of road.
We will arrive at our lodge in time for lunch. Surrounded by the park and bordering the stunning Kazinga channel, the authentic lodge has a truly unique setting. Animals literally roam in and out the camp and the sounds of hippos and hyaenas will complement our star-lit dinners… It really has a great outdoor safari atmosphere, and a close-to-nature experience with excellent food and friendly service. While enjoying our excellent lunch, we will look for Snowy-crowned Robin-chat, Swamp Flycatcher, White-tailed Blue Flycatcher and Green-winged Pytilia.
We will get together for a short afternoon game drive to explore the impressive landscapes of “Queen”, as the locals and those in the know call the park. It was founded in 1952 and named Kazinga National Park, but was renamed two years later to commemorate a visit by Queen Elizabeth II. The park covers a large area (1,978 km2/764 sq mi) and extends from Lake George in the northeast to Lake Edward in the southwest, with the Kazinga Channel connecting the two lakes.
Queen is Uganda’s most visited park, and with good reason! It has the most diverse habitats of any park in the country, and includes areas of sprawling grassland savannah, moist forests, fertile wetlands and beautiful crater lakes cut into the green, rolling hills. This incredible diversity has led to a fauna and flora count of 95 mammal species, over 600 bird species and much, much more. Get your cameras ready!
At the end of the game drive we will do another amazing activity, namely a sundowner boat cruise on the impressively scenic Kazinga channel. It really is a fantastic experience sitting on the sturdy cruiser and watching the animals and birds as we float serenely by. Africa is just the best!
From a birding perspective we will look for Rüppell’s Vulture, Bateleur, Brown Snake Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Grey Kestrel, Pin-tailed Whydah, Senegal Lapwing, Temminck’s Courser, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Rufous-naped and White-tailed Lark, Stout, Red-faced and Croaking Cisticola, Kittlitz’s Plover, White-throated Bee-eater, Black-lored Babbler, Common Buttonquail and Buff-belied Warbler on the game drive, and from the boat we could see species like African Skimmer, African Openbill, Wire-tailed Swallow, Yellow-billed Stork, Hamerkop, Pink-backed and Great White Pelican, African Wattled Lapwing, Water Thick-knee, White-winged and Gull-billed Tern, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Common Greenshank, African Sacred Ibis, and Wood, Marsh and Common Sandpiper.
Mammals we could tick on the drive include Leopard, Spotted Hyaena, Kob, Defassa subspecies of Waterbuck, Bushbuck, the huge Forest Hog, and Common Warthog. In fact, on a recent trip we even managed to see two young male Lions of the famous “tree-climbing” variety on the drive to the jetty. From the boat we will almost certainly see many African Buffalo, African Elephant and Hippopotamus.
After the fantastic boat cruise we will do a short game drive along the channel track as we head back to the lodge. We will then relax and have dinner at the lodge, chatting about trips we would all like to do in the future to exotic places on the planet.
Remember to listen for night creatures in and around the camp grounds; we have seen Verreaux’ Eagle-owl, Square-tailed and Black-shouldered Nightjar, and African Wood Owl here before. After our exciting day we will all get a good night’s sleep.
Queen Elizabeth National Park to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
We start our day with an early breakfast at the camp, then pack our bags and check out.
We will depart “Queen” and head even further south. Before leaving the park we will undertake a game drive in the Ishasha sector in the Rukungiri District in search of the famous tree climbing Lions, whose males sport black manes, that tend to lie on fig tree branches scanning the plains for prey. This is also the only area in the park to see Tsessebe (Topi subspecies) and Sitatunga.
We then exit “Queen” and continue towards our next park, the world famous Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. We will enjoy lunch somewhere along the route and reach our destination in the mid-afternoon.
Composed of 321 km2 (124 sq mi) of both montane and lowland rainforest, and accessible only on foot due to the improbable steepness, Bwindi was gazetted as a National Park in 1991 and declared a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site in 1994. It is an amazing piece of land; it survived the last Ice Age (about 15,000 years ago) when most other forests in Africa disappeared. In the local language (Lukiga), Bwindi actually means ‘impenetrable.’
Of course most famously, Bwindi is home to more than half the world’s population of Mountain Gorillas (a subspecies of the Eastern Gorilla), Gorilla beringei beringei, about 400 individuals at last count. It is undoubtedly Uganda’s biggest tourism drawcard, and rightly so.
In addition to the endangered and impressive Mountain Gorillas, the incredibly biologically varied park also has almost 350 bird species, including 23 of the 24 Albertine Rift endemic species.
We will check in to our accommodation (our home for two nights) and set off for our first bit of forest birding in Bwindi. We are hoping to see many special species, including Grey-throated Barbet, Northern Double-collared and Green-throated Sunbird, Petit’s Cuckooshrike, Grey-winged Robin-chat, White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher, Green Crombec, Red-tailed and Ansorge’s Greenbul, Buff-spotted, Tullberg’s and Elliot’s Woodpecker, and Dusky Tit among many others.
After our afternoon birding session we will return to our lodge. Tonight we are staying in a special spot, in a beautiful new lodge with landscaped gardens and breathtaking views of the Bwindi forest and the six peaks of the Virunga mountains in the distance. We will get together for a scrumptious 5 course dinner, to update our trip lists and socialise. Then we are off to bed for a good night’s rest.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
We will spend most of today in the fantastic forests of Bwindi, looking for special birds and mammals in this amazing place. Bwindi is undoubtedly one of the most famous birding spots in all of east Africa, if not the entire continent.
We will bird the Buhoma sector and hope to find species like Augur Buzzard, African Goshawk, Cassin’s Hawk-eagle, African Black Duck, Bar-tailed Trogon, Olive Long-tailed Cuckoo, Yellow-throated Tinkerbird, Black-billed Weaver, African Broadbill, White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher, Grey-chinned, Green-headed and Green-throated Sunbird, Petit’s Cuckooshrike, Pink-footed Puffback, Willard’s Sooty Boubou, Willcock’s Honeyguide, Red-throated Alethe, Plain, Kakamega, Ansorge’s and Shelley’s Greenbul, Grey-throated Tit-flycatcher, Grey Parrot, Red-headed Malimbe, Mountain Wagtail, Banded Prinia, Mountain Oriole, Chapin’s Flycatcher, Many-coloured Bushshrike, Neumann’s Warbler and Waller’s Starling.
Apart from the amazing avian species and the Eastern Gorillas (that we will see tomorrow), Bwindi also boasts 120 other mammal species (including various other primate species, in addition to African Elephant and many antelopes), more than 200 butterfly species, 27 species of frogs, more than 1,000 flowering plant species and 324 species of trees.
We will either have a packed lunch somewhere in the forest today, or return to the lodge for lunch and a siesta before birding in the afternoon again. We will make this decision based on how everyone is feeling and which species we might still need to tick.
We will get together in the early evening for some time to socialise and have dinner. We will already feel the excitement to start to build for tomorrow’s activity. A trek through the thick and dark rainforests of Bwindi in search of the great apes definitely ranks among one of the world’s premier wildlife encounters. We will go to bed and get a good night’s sleep so we are all well rested for tomorrow.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (optional gorilla trekking)
Today is going to be an undoubted highlight and we can honestly highly recommend that you choose this option on this safari. And we don’t mean just a highlight of this safari, but of your life. Gorilla trekking really is a bucket list experience that naturalists from all over the world dream of doing!
We will have breakfast at our lodge and then pack our bags and check out. We are still inside Bwindi for two more full days of birding today and tomorrow, but we will overnight in a different lodge just outside the park from tonight.
We will head to the park offices to get briefed by the expert local guides. At 8am we will embark on the trek along the designated trails within the impenetrable forest in search for these great mountain creatures. We are specifically looking for the Mukiza family group, but our expert guides are brilliant at knowing where the different family groups are, so we might change our plans according to where we have the best chance of finding these amazing creatures.
The park is inhabited by about 400 individual gorillas, known as the Bwindi population, which makes up almost half of all the Mountain Gorillas in the world. The gorilla trekking might take us a good few hours, depending on their movements. The trek for these great apes is tiresome as the forest can be quite wet and the going fairly steep. But trust us, the bit of exercise will be very well rewarded by meeting, watching, spending time with and photographing these incredible big apes as you look straight into their inviting, brown, expressive eyes. You will soon realise why, in both evolutionary and genetic terms, ape species (like the gorilla) are actually much closer to humans than monkeys are. Today’s gorilla trek is a thrill of a lifetime only Bwindi can offer you. Enjoy!
Just to illustrate how unpredictable the gorilla trekking is, on a very recent trip we were extremely lucky and after just 45 minutes of walking we found a family of 17 individuals ranging from a baby of 7 months, infants of about 2 years of age, adult females and a big silverback male. So you never know…
Although the gorillas will be the undoubted highlight, other mammals that we may be fortunate enough to find on our trek include Black-fronted and Yellow-backed Duiker, Guereza, L’Hoest’s, Blue and Red-tailed Monkey, Chimpanzee and several species of squirrels, including Fire-footed Rope, Carruthers’ Mountain, Ruwenzori Sun and Red-legged Sun Squirrel.
After this life-changing gorilla trekking experience we will return to the starting point where the slogan of “we came, we trekked, we saw and we conquered” will be cheered when we receive our gorilla trekking certificates at our gorilla graduation.
We will enjoy a packed picnic lunch, after which we will enjoy some more birding in this part of Bwindi. In this section we are looking for species like African Hill Babbler, Mountain Illadopsis, Equatorial Akalat, Magpie Mannikin, Black-faced Prinia, Black-faced Rufous Warbler, Thick-billed Seedeater, Black-billed Turaco, Ruwenzori Apalis, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Elliot’s and Tullberg’s Woodpecker, Cabanis’s Greenbul, Strange Weaver, Little Sparrowhawk, Crowned Hornbill and many others.
We will then drive to our lodge on the park border, check in and freshen up. This is an equally classic African lodge, with beautiful gardens and breathtaking views over Bwindi’s misty and mysterious forests.
We will get together to have another lovely dinner, chatting about and sharing photos of our incredible day with the gorillas! Then we are off to bed for our overnight stay after a taxing but wonderful day.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
After a more relaxed breakfast this morning, we will have another full day of birding in Bwindi. We will once again either have a packed lunch somewhere in a nice spot in the forest, or return to the lodge for lunch and some down time.
We will bird the Ruhija sector, and although not a large area, the birds are normally so good we will move very slowly and not cover a great distance. We will pass through Kitahurira or “The Neck,’ another well-known birding spot in Uganda that serious birders from all over the world come to. Later we will continue to some more open cultivated areas, with thick bracken areas that also host other species. This is a very scenic area, made even more memorable by the fantastic birding we will enjoy today.
We will hope to add some new and special species to our lists, and we could get Ayre’s Hawk-eagle, Crowned Eagle, Common and Augur Buzzard, Black Sparrowhawk, Ross’s Turaco, Bar-tailed Trogon, Western Bronze-naped Pigeon, White-headed Wood Hoopoe, Grey-throated Barbet, Red-tailed and Shelley’s Greenbul, Doherty’s Bushshrike, Red- throated Alethe, African Shrike-flycatcher, Black and Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Bronzy, Tiny, Copper and Variable Sunbird, Baglafecht, Brown-capped, Black-necked and African Golden Weaver, Cassin’s Honeybird, White-chinned Prinia, Yellow Bishop, Village Indigobird, Red-headed Bluebill, Dusky Twinspot, Streaky and Thick-billed Seedeater, Yellow-bellied, Kandt’s and Black-crowned Waxbill, African Stonechat, Black-throated and Yellow-crowned Canary, Rwenzori Batis, Western Citril, Chubb’s Cisticola and Mackinnon’s Shrike.
Mammals that we could see include Black-fronted Duiker, Red-legged Sun Squirrel, Blue and L’Hoest’s Monkey and Guereza, but really, anything is possible!
If there is time this afternoon, there might be time to bird yet another famous location, the Umubwindi Swamp. Here our main target is the rare, endangered and localised Grauer’s Broadbill, and if we are lucky we could also get Red-chested Flufftail and African Rail. At the swamp and the surrounding area we could also tick Carruther’s Cisticola, Grauer’s Swamp Warbler, Olive, Elliot’s and Fine-banded Woodpecker, Black-billed Turaco, African Hill Babbler, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Mountain Illadopsis, Mountain Greenbul, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Grey Cuckooshrike, Chestnut-throated, Collared and Black-throated Apalis, Mountain Yellow Warbler, Stripe-breasted Tit, Mountain, Shelley’s and Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Regal Sunbird and Rwenzori Batis among many other bird species.
After another superb day of birding in Bwindi we will return to our accommodation and have some time to relax and freshen up. If it is cool enough (remember we are at over 2,000 metres above sea level) the staff will light the fireplace for us!
Then we will get together in the dining area, do our lists and enjoy dinner. Afterwards we will chat and socialise and then we are off to bed for our final night’s sleep in beautiful and bird-rich Bwindi. We guarantee you will leave with fond memories of this incredible place.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to Lake Mburo National Park
We will start our day with an early breakfast and then check out of our accommodation, saying goodbye to the wonderful staff.
We will then head northeast towards our final park of this fantastic birding tour, the Lake Mburo National Park. The drive to the northeast will take about 5 to 6 hours, but we will still look for birds, and make rest stops as needed. On previous trips we have seen Long-crested Eagle, Augur Buzzard, African Stonechat, Fan-tailed Widowbird and Long-tailed Cisticola on this stretch of road.
We will enter the Lake Mburo National Park through the Sanga Gate. Just outside the park we will come across some of the world-famous long-horned Ankole cattle of the Bahima people that live in the area – always a highlight and worthy of a few photos.
The 260 km2 (100 sq mi) park is a superb wetland and Acacia savanna sanctuary that is a famous spot for serious birders, and also a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. Together with 13 other lakes in the area, Lake Mburo forms part of a 50km-long wetland system linked by a swamp. Five of these lakes lie within the park’s borders.
We will reach our stunning lodge and check in, followed by a superb late lunch.
We will end our day with an afternoon/early evening game drive in the park. Lake Mburo is home to 350 bird species as well as Plains Zebra, Impala (the only park in Uganda with this elegant antelope), Common Eland, African Buffalo, Oribi, Defassa subspecies of Waterbuck, Leopard, Lion (there is maybe one individual left in the park), Hippopotamus, Spotted Hyaena, Topi subspecies of Tsessebe, Southern Reedbuck, and Banded, Slender and Dwarf Mongoose.
Some of the avian gems of the park we will look for include the localised Red-faced Barbet, Rufous-bellied Heron, African Marsh Harrier, White-backed, Lappet-faced and White-headed Vulture, Brown Snake Eagle, African Hawk-eagle, Bateleur, Coqui Francolin, Grey Crowned Crane, Black-bellied Bustard, Red-headed Lovebird, Ross’s Turaco, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Green Wood Hoopoe, Common Scimitarbill, White-headed Barbet, Nubian Woodpecker, Tropical Boubou, Woodland Kingfisher, Red-shouldered Cuckooshrike, Long-tailed Cisticola, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Green-capped Eremomela, White-winged Tit and Meyer’s Parrot.
We will then return to our stunningly-located lodge in time to freshen up. Then we will have our excellent farewell dinner after an amazing tour through the “Pearl of Africa”, as we watch the African night creep closer over the waters of Lake Mburo.
Lake Mburo to Entebbe International Airport and Departure
After our early morning breakfast, we will undertake a short private boat cruise on the lake, our last “safari activity” of the tour.
This is one of the most beautiful, tranquil boat cruises you can imagine. Apart from the stunning scenery, we will hope to tick some special final species for our trip, including African Finfoot, African Fish Eagle, Squacco Heron, Water Thick-knee, Pied and Giant Kingfisher, and loads of Hippopotamus.
After the boat cruise we will embark on the transfer to Entebbe, about 4 to 5 hours away. However, there is one more surprise in store!
We will make a stop at the Ugandan Equator crossing at Kayabwe, where you can stand with one leg in the Northern hemisphere while the other remains in the Southern! It makes for great photographs and memories. It is also an impressive site for purchasing memorabilia to take back home as a memento of this incredible birding safari in Uganda.
We will reach the Entebbe International Airport where we will say our goodbyes after making friends for life. Then we all depart on our onward or homeward flights.
*Please note: For those with late-night flights, a day room in Entebbe can be arranged.
*Please note: Extensions to Rwanda, Tanzania or Kenya can easily be arranged. Please don’t hesitate to ask for our expert assistance.