Gorilla Trekking, Game Parks and The African Queen. Uganda
The lush, green landscapes of Uganda include dense rainforest, volcanoes, snow-capped mountains, terraced hillsides, lakes, waterfalls and massive rivers. The indigenous wildlife is equally diverse: mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, a wealth of bird life and nowadays, all the Big Game species. The local people are welcoming and friendly and travelling around the country is straight forward.
This safari combines rhinos, wild chimps, tracking mountain gorillas, the Big Five and a boat trip on the Kazinga Channel. The grand finale is a visit to the source of the Nile where it gushes out of Lake Victoria: the white water rafting is immense, Wildwaters Lodge is a dream and the romance of The African Queen is the perfect way to round your safari.
[Note. Flights are not included in the description and can be added to suit you.]
Your private 4X4 and driver will meet you upon arrival at Entebbe airport. The action begins straightaway: set off northwards, via Kampala, to Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary which is the only place in Uganda where rhinos (white) can be seen. The population of 12 was re-introduced to form a nucleus herd from which other parks can be re-stocked. Ziwa’s other great claim to fame is the resident Shoebill population.
Continue to Murchison Falls National Park (NP) and check in to Paraa Lodge, perfectly located on the north bank of the Nile in the centre of the park.
This morning we pick up a ranger from the park HQ who not only knows the park inside out but is up to date with animal movements, so will be able to advise where best to go in the massive park.
In the afternoon leave the vehicle and board a boat for a trip on the Nile up to Murchison Falls where the river forces its way through a fault in the rock in an awesome demonstration of power. Look out for the 19’ Nile crocodiles who like the sandy beach-lets below the falls as nest sites.
Overnight at Paraa.
Today we drive beyond the park boundary to Budongo Forest, which is primarily a mahogany forest. Since the 1960’s a great deal of research has gone into the chimpanzee population here (some 700 individuals) divided into several “communities”. Some of the communities are habituated and you should be have some close encounters.
Return to Paraa for overnight.
Today is a travelling day and we turn south towards Kibale NP (6 hrs). Kibale is joined to Queen Elizabeth NP and forms a crucial wildlife corridor.
Overnight in the Great Lakes Safari Lodge.
Explore Kibale Forest and the Bigodi wetlands: Kibale is home to a dozen primate species, one of which is the Red Colobus; the other significant population of Red Colobus is Jozani Forest on Zanzibar; I wonder what twist of evolution caused that?
The Bigodi wetland is part of the Magombe swamp and amongst its inhabitants includes the Sitatunga, an antelope that is perfectly happy in water and if startled will actually dive and submerge itself; which is a great strategy, so long as crocs aren’t around! The bird list is extensive and star of the show is probably the Blue Turaco. Kibale’s headline is the chimp communities and along with the grey-cheeky mangabey troops will make another memorable wildlife day.
Overnight in the Great Lakes Safari Lodge.
Today we cross the Equator and enter Queen Elizabeth NP which is home to nearly 100 mammal species and a staggering 612 bird species (compared to the entire UK with about 450 birds!). The park sits on the floor of the Rift Valley and away to the west is the jagged mountain mass of the Ruwenzori Mountains, the so-called “Mountains of the Moon”. It’s a thrilling setting and the network of trails guarantees some excellent wildlife encounters.
Overnight at Mweya Lodge which is a medium size lodge, perfectly located on a peninsular overlooking the Kazinga Chanel.
Spend the morning exploring the park and around mid-day board a river launch to sail along the Kazinga Chanel. This waterway links Lakes Edward and George and is home to the highest concentration of hippos in Africa.
Overnight at Mweya
Today we travel up into the mountains, ascending to mountain forests by mi- afternoon. The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, a truly evocative name, is surprisingly compact at just 330 Km². However, just over half the world’s population of Mountain Gorillas live here, divided into 21 troops. Visits from we humans are strictly controlled and just 72 permits are issue each day, which means you need to book well in advance (9 to 12 months ideally) and pay up-front.
PDF’s: We have prepared a leaflet about gorilla family dynamics [click] and the etiquette to follow when visiting wild Mountain Gorillas [click].
Overnight at Gorilla Forest Camp, which is the best lodge in the area; a lovely lodge with just 8 tented, luxury rooms.
One of the highlights of an African safari is a trek to the mountain gorillas: it’s a very different experience compared to seeing plains game, or even visiting tigers in India, which is equally thrilling. The thing that sets this experience in a class of its own is how intimately close you stand. An entire gorilla family is often within a matter of metres from you and there’s no Land Rover or elephant-back in between: it’s an up-close and personal encounter. Thrilling.
Overnight at Gorilla Forest Camp.
After breakfast a short drive brings you to Kisoro airstrip; fly back to Entebbe where you will be met and driven to Wildwaters Lodge. The Nile is a big, powerful river and even within a few miles of its beginning is wide enough to have many islets midstream. The island next to Kalanga Falls is where Wildwaters Lodge is built. There is no lodge anywhere else in Africa that captures the excitement of the African dream better. This top-end, luxury lodge has just 8 rooms and a level of service to match.
Overnight at Wildwaters.
Today is set aside to enjoy the wonderful facilities at Wildwaters, or to do something altogether more adrenaline-fuelled: Wildwaters offers some of the best whitewater rafting you can imagine.
Overnight at Wildwaters.
At the other end of the boating spectrum Wildwaters has a romantic secret: THE African Queen that featured in the 1951 Bogart/Hepburn movie has been carefully restored to its steam-powered glory and calls Wildwaters home. There is no more romantic way to round off a safari than to take a trip on the Nile in the original African Queen.
This safari has one final surprise: this morning drive back to Entebbe and join a launch that will take you 20-odd Km out into Lake Victoria, to N’gamba Island. This island is primary rainforest (that is, it has never been logged) which makes it the ideal habitat of chimpanzees. N’gamba is a project that rescues chimps, nurses them back to health and releases them into a troop that is self-contained yet protected both from wild chimps (who wouldn’t welcome them) and from human interference. Being able to get so close to chimps is a wonderful complement to the wild experience you will have had earlier in the safari.
Overnight at Entebbe.
Your driver will run you back to the airport for your flight.
Please note that every aspect of this itinerary is tailor made, so days can be added; visits can be extended and individual elements adjusted to suit you.
Starts: any day.
Price £4,745 based on two travellers sharing accommodation.