Great Apes Big Game and the Best Beach

There’s no doubt that if you’re an adventurous couple who love to explore and you’re passionate about travel, this safari is for you.

East Africa is romantic and exciting in equal measure. It offers dream beaches, stunning islands and wildlife that is simply unsurpassed: nowhere else in the world do you see such variety and such vast populations in so compact an area. This itinerary is a dream come true, but you should read it as a suggestion – every aspect is adjustable to match your wish. It includes a couple of lodges that are simply stunning. In fact, we think that if you spent the rest of your life travelling, one of these lodges (if not both) would always remain in your Top Ten “Best places I’ve stayed”.

Day by day itinerary – Great Apes; Big Game and the Best Beach.

Day 1 Getting there, Heathrow to Entebbe

Entebbe airport transfer. Overnight Lake Victoria Hotel, Entebbe.

Day 2 Entebbe to N’gamba Island

N’gamba Island is a Chimpanzee rescue sanctuary that was set up in 1998. For more information http://www.ngambaisland.com/

Chimp N'gamba Islans

Chimp N’gamba Islans

After visiting the sanctuary we return to shore and transfer to Cassia Lodge in Kampala.
Cassia Lodge sits on top of one of Kampala’s hills with great views south to Lake Victoria and to the north over Kampala itself. It’s owned and operated by Ugandans and is charming: friendly staff, local flavour and, for a city hotel, full of character.

Day 3 Kampala to Lake Mburo

Lake Mburo National Park is a fantastic park, lots of game but no large cats, so you can take a walking safari, you must have an armed guide with you because there are buffalo and crocs, but this is highly recommended, particularly in the forest area because this is a true forest (closed canopy) with several primate species. The boat trip on the channel is also good, and is included.

Impala in Lake Mburo National Park

Impala in Lake Mburo National Park

Your accommodation tonight is Mantana Camp: this is where the dream really begins! The magic of Africa lies in the bush; African cities are one thing, but the wilderness, wildlife and villages, rural life in general, is where the unique feel of Africa glows. And you’ll feel that uniqueness tonight in Mantana. Almost all the decent camps in East Africa are owner managed, which means attention to detail is superb, hospitality is simply spot on and no two properties are quite the same. This one is a good introduction to the romance of safari.

Day 4 Mantana to Bwindi

Today the road climbs. You leave the dusty, dry plains behind and climb into the brilliant green of the mountains. This is the western edge of the Great Rift Valley which runs from the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia all the way to the gold fields of South Africa. A few miles to your west, across the Ruwenzori Mountains (“The Mountains of the Moon”) is the start of the Congo Rainforest, which reaches all the way to the Atlantic. This is a unique habitat where everything seems to be oversized: nettles grow to 8 feet, rainfall reaches nearly 2 m a year and the oversized star of the show is the Mountain Gorilla. This is only a 3 or 4 hour drive, but you’d think you’re in a different country.
Your accommodation tonight doesn’t need to make any spectacular claims: location – perfect; design – tasteful; result – just so! Welcome to Buhoma (first of two nights).

Mantana (last night) was magic; this is a step beyond. I’d go as far as saying that this is one of Africa’s most special places: it has that elusive quality of magic hanging in the air.

Day 5 Gorillas in the mountains.

Today’s the day! Gorilla tracking! Click here for the gorilla etiquette factsheet

Day 6 Bwindi to Queen Elizabeth NP

The drive to QE NP takes about 2 hrs. The range of habitats in the park is very broad indeed, and includes open plains, papyrus swamps, rainforest and several large lakes. Consequently the range of mammal and bird species is huge. Ishasha is in the southernmost corner of QE NP. The star performer in the Ishasha sector is the pride of lions which regularly climb trees. There are few places in Africa where lions climb trees (I can only think of Lake Manyara in Tanzania) so this is, potentially, a fairly unusual wildlife sight. There are many tales about why the lions in Ishasha climb trees, but most are a little fanciful. Perhaps the most plausible is that it allows the lions to escape the Tsetse flies which can be a bother here. I worked in Africa for 8 years and only saw lions in trees once; but then again, I never visited Ishasha! If you’re going to see lions in trees, this is as good an opportunity as you’ll get.

Overnight: Ishasha Wilderness Lodge.

Tree Climbing Lion

Tree Climbing Lion

Day 7 Ishasha to Jacana Lodge

The next two nights are spent at Jacana Lodge. A tree house lodge! Queen Elizabeth National Park hosts over 600 bird species (compared to the entire UK with just over 400) so this is a birder’s paradise. Many mammal species were poached out during the Idi Amin civil war years but they have since been re-introduced and there are over 100 mammal species resident in the park now. Rhinos are conspicuous by their absence, but this park does contain wild chimps, which is a pretty good compensation.

Overnight: Jacana Lodge (first of two nights)

Day 8: Wild chimps

Chimpanzee tracking in either Chambura Gorge, which can get really hot around midday, so an early start is recommended or Kitomi forest which adjoins the gorge and lies just outside the official park boundary in the game reserve. And please don’t ask me what the difference between a National Park and a Game Reserve is: I think it has something to do with which authority administers it. On the ground there’s absolutely no difference and animals move freely between them. The choice of venue is yours and it’s probably best to speak to the manager at Jacana who will know which chimp troupes are where, on the day.

Day 9 – 16 Jacana to Mafia Island, the hidden gem of the Indian Ocean

Depart from Queen Elizabeth NP and fly to Entebbe, connect with the flight to Mafia Island.

This is a total change of pace: safaris are all-absorbing and time just seems to evaporate, but they’re quite hard work too. This is the complete opposite. The Indian Ocean has a magic all its own; the quality of light is unique, the locals are wonderful and the pace of life oozes tranquility.

 

The Best Beach: the east coast of Mafia Island; the Indian Ocean

Met upon arrival on Mafia Island airstrip and driven to Chole Mjini. This is a fabulous lodge. Buhoma is sprinkled with magic dust, and so is Chole Mjini, but in a very different way. If you spend the rest of your life island hopping, I think you will be hard pressed to find a better beach spot. This is a dream come true and as yet, not on the tourist trail: it’s a bit of a mission to get here and it’s pretty well hidden away, but rewards the intrepid traveller. http://cholemjini.com

Day 17

Transfer to airstrip for flight to Dar es Salaam and connect to the international flight home.

What’s included

Uganda

Personal safari guide throughout.
Private use of safari vehicle
Airport collection and transfer at Entebbe
Boat transfer to N’gamba Island and entry fee
Hotel accommodation throughout stay in Uganda, full board.
Gorilla tracking permits x 2 persons for one day (with guides)
Chimpanzee tracking permit x 2 persons for one day (with guide)
National Park entry fees at:-
Lake Mburo x 1 day
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest x 2 days
Queen Elizabeth x 3 days
Boat trip in QENP
Safari drives throughout

Mafia Island

Meet and greet
Return Transfer
7 nights B&B basis; option to upgrade meal basis.

Not included in the price

Visas for Uganda and Tanzania
Tips: are expected in East Africa.
Alcoholic drinks