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The River Nile Ride and Mountain Gorillas, Uganda

At a GlanceItineraryDetail

Horse Riding and Gorilla Safari Uganda

Uganda is a delightful country to explore. This ride follows the Nile upstream to the point where it bursts out from Lake Victoria, a sight first witnessed by the Victorian explorer John Speke in 1858. The volume of water flowing out of the lake, and the sheer power of it, is inspiring. The trail leads through sugar plantations; visits local villages; explores pristine rainforest and all within sight and sound of the River Nile.The ride ends with a swim with the horses in the Nile.

Drive back to Kampala for a night and next morning fly to the west where the Ruwenzori Mountains (the “Mountains of the Moon”) join the Virunga Volcanoes to create the jungle home of the rare and endangered mountain gorillas.

The accommodation throughout is excellent; good lodges, no camping, excellent meals throughout and well-informed guides to show you the way.

Riding holiday, Uganda. The Nile on horseback.

The Nile from horseback

Horse Riding and Gorilla Safari,Uganda: Day-by-day Itinerary

 Day 1
Arrive in Entebbe, which is where the international airport is (not Kampala). Most flights from London travel overnight which means we can meet you in the morning and drive you to Jinja (about 3 hrs) a town on the northern shore of Lake Victoria. If you require an overnight stay in Entebbe we can arrange a hotel, perhaps near the excellent botanical gardens.

Lunch will be served aboard a Nile riverboat and during luch we’ll run through the riding itinerary. There will be time to visit the stable after lunch and take a trial ride around a couple of the near-by villages, to make sure you and your horse are in harmony. If you wish to change horse – no problem!

Overnight in Jinja (hotel).

In the saddle: 3 hrs

 

Riding holiday, Uganda. The Nile on horseback.

Local life: fishing on Lake Victoria

Day 2: Sugar and Tea Plantations Ride

After breakfast saddle up for a circular ride that leads through the lush and fertile country that surrounds the hotel. Ride through several plantations on the typical red, laterite piste which are firm but easy on the horses’ hooves. We also pass through a couple of villages, which always causes a stir! There are a couple of low hills that we ride to the top of which give fantastic views over the surrounding countryside. It’s said that this area is so fertile that if you leave a spade in the ground overnight it will sprout roots. Picnic lunch. Long canters for those who wish to indulge. Return to the same hotel as last night.

4 hrs riding.

Day 3 Lake Victoria shore ride
After breakfast we leave the hotel and drive to Lake Victoria. The horses will have been boxed over and will be waiting, tacked up. This morning’s ride is around a huge peninsular that projects into Lake Victoria and provides several excellent vantage points, one of which will be our lunchtime picnic spot. Ride on to a lodge deep inside the rainforest.

6 hrs riding.

 

Ride through the forest; River Nile horse ride, Uganda

Colobus Monkeys seen from horseback, Uganda

Day 4: Rainforest Explorer
In the morning we head into Mbira Forest which is a small forest that has been protected since the 1930’s. It has a healthy population of indigenous African rubber trees, not nearly as prolific as their Malaysian counterparts, which has been their saving grace! It wasn’t worth incurring the cost of clearing the land and beginning again (back in the 1900’s) so the forest survived intact and in pristine condition. One of the pleasures of this morning’s ride are the Grey-cheeked Mangabeys who live here: inquisitive, agile and utterly charming! Bird and butterfly life is also astonishing.

Picnic lunch in the forest and ride on to a most unexpected lodge, hidden in the middle of the forest, reminding you vaguely of “Hansel and Gretel”!  This is a lovely place to stay with small pool, sauna and massage facilities. Perfect!

Overnight rainforest lodge

3 1/2 hrs riding

Day 5: Through the Rainforest ride
Set off through the forest heading for the Nile, downstream of where we have visited so far. Picnic lunch en route and we arrive on the bank of the Nile in mid-afternoon. The views over the Nile and rapids is stunning; this is a relaxing, peaceful haven, tucked away from hustle and bustle. There is a pool (or the river) for a quick dip. Fish Eagles, otters and monitor lizards are regularly seen from the bar.

Overnight riverbank lodge

5 hrs riding.

 

Cantering through a tea plantation, Uganda. Horse riding holiday on the bank of the River Nile

Cantering through a tea plantation, Uganda

Day 6: White-water rafting on the River Nile

Drive the short distance to the west bank of the Nile. Here we join the river guide and the raft that will take over some impressive rapids.  This is an option and if it doesn’t appeal to you there is a ‘menu’ of other activities available including quad biking, bungee jumping, kayak school and a birding trip on the Nile.

Day 7: Swimming with the horses

This is also an option because not everyone might wish to swim in the Nile with your horse. There’s a beautiful bay nearby, with a sandy bottom, no hippos or crocs and easy access for the horses. Back to the hotel for breakfast. Later in the morning ride to the local high point, a small summit that looks out over the Nile Valley. Excellent traffic-free tracks lead back to Kalagala Falls where the ride ends. Say goodbye to your horse and the guides and board a motorboat to head downstream towards Wildwaters Lodge. This lodge is in a unique position, perched on a private island in the middle of the river! An amazing place to stay with well-appointed rooms, excellent chef and a genuine claim to being “unique in Africa”.

Horse riding holiday and mountain gorilla safari, Uganda

Big Beast! The mountain gorilla in her natural habitat.

Day 8: Fly to the mountain gorillas
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight to Bwindi (Kihiihi airstrip) which takes 1 hr 45 mins. The flight is glorious (weather allowing!) and the views of Lake Victoria and the other Great Rift Valley lakes is fantastic. Met upon arrival and driven to the hotel. This is a complete change in habitat: the flat grasslands end in the line of mountains that run north-south and form the natural barrier between East Africa’s grasslands and the jungle of the Congo Basin. This is a rainforest, so be prepared for all weather eventualities. The afternoon is free to enjoy the surroundings of the lodge which are lush and green and the charming grounds with their attendant sunbirds.

Day 9: Mountain Gorilla Tracking
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a unique jungle with 15 primate species. This morning is focussed on the largest and most famous, the Mountain Gorilla. Drive to the starting point of the gorilla tracking. After an introductory briefing about gorilla etiquette you begin walking.
The rainforest will drip around you as you first hear the breaking of bamboo, which signals the group is near, and then come face to face with one of the most delightful and fascinating creatures in the world. After an hour’s viewing make the return trek to the hotel.

Day 10: Return to Entebbe
Transfer to the airstrip for your flight to Entebbe which connects with outbound flight to London.

 

Details; Horse Riding and Gorilla Safari Uganda

Riding Terrain: the west bank of the Nile is gently undulating, following low cliffs about 60 m above the river. The trail descends to river level and winds through hamlets and small villages, between small family farming plots and palm oil trees. The soil here is classic East African laterite, a rich red soil that is so fertile. Frequent level sections with smooth trails allow for faster paces. Riders should be happy to get over natural obstacles such as rivers, gullies and drifts. There is no jumping in this itinerary.

Gorilla Terrain: the gorillas live in the rainforest. The terrain is steep in places and can be wet and muddy underfoot. The staple diet of gorillas is stinging nettles which they love but can irritate exposed skin; it’s best to wear long sleeves and long trousers (over-trousers a good idea). Don’t forget to take a waterproof bag for your camera.

Horse riding holiday and mountain gorilla safari, Uganda

Big Daddy of the Big Beasts!

Pace of ride: walk; 50% trot: 35%; canter/gallop 15%.

Horse Breed: Thoroughbred, Irish Sports Horse and a couple of smaller Ethiopian ponies. 14.2 hh to 17 hh

Tack: classic English, no Western tack available.

Rider’s involvement: you can groom and tack your horse if you wish though grooms will be on hand; it will be helpful if you can untack during breaks. Guides available to advise and assist where necessary.

Rider’s weight: (max) 90 Kg

Best season for ride: Year round. March, April and May are the wettest months; please refer to the weather guide on the Uganda landing page (bottom of page).

Best season for gorilla tracking: Year round. Be prepared for rain in all months.

Accommodation (Based on twin share; single occupancy option is available.) Family run hotel x 2 nights; Lodges x 4 nights; Wildwaters x 1; Entebbe hotel x 1 and mountain gorilla lodge x 2 nights.

Cross-cultural awareness: This ride takes you way off the beaten track; the local villagers maybe shy at first encounter so please act gently and sympathetically towards them. Communities in Jinja and larger villages are more robust and used to Westerner’s ways! The indigenous people in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest are the Batwa Pygmies. It is possible to arrange a walk to a local village to meet them; let us know if this option appeals to you.

Guides: English speaking professional guides throughout.