Uganda – Mountain Gorilla Trip 25th Jan – 4th Feb 2021
Uganda is one of my favourite countries; it has stunning countryside, friendly people and is stuffed full of wildlife. I first travelled there in search of the magnificent mountain gorillas. I had no idea of the incredible wealth the country had to offer.
The moment you arrive in Entebbe, the charm of the place hits you. Situated on the shores of Lake Victoria, it is a leafy, lazy place to find your feet. The hotel has a beautiful garden, full of flowers and colourful birds. It’s a great place to acclimatise.
One of the wonderful things about Uganda is its huge range of habitats and because it is a relatively small country, these changes happen quickly. The lowland swamp areas around Entebbe are home to the prehistoric looking shoebill. Reached by dug-out canoe, an early morning search for these huge blue birds is truly magical.
Then there is Kibale rainforest, where we trek for chimps; Queen Elizabeth National Park, where open savanna provides a home for elephants, big cats, many different antelope species and much more…. There is the stunning Fort Portal area where extinct volcanoes filled with water make up Uganda’s lake district. And then, of course, there is Bwindi. The air in Bwindi forest is so clean it’s exhilarating. You breathe the freshness; it makes you inhale to the very bottom of your lungs. The subtle power, the life force of the trees hits you the moment you enter. And everywhere there is moss, it drips from every bough, clings to the newest of trees. The ferns are enormous, they curl forth competing with the trees for light, they tower over you like huge umbrellas creating dappled shade on the forest floor. All this to a background of insects and birds and the constant babble of the river. The clear water making its way through the stones. There are waterfalls too, moss and ferns hanging improbably from their constantly wet stone sides. And all this before you have even seen the gorillas….
The accommodation is in a variety of incredible locations from jungle to escarpment. It is good quality, clean and comfortable with wonderfully helpful and happy staff. Dietary requirements catered for…
Day 1: Arrival and transfer to your hotel
Arrive at Entebbe international airport (EBB), transfer to your hotel. We will meet our guides and drivers and have an opportunity to discuss the trip…. & importantly, relax after the journey. Transfer time is 15 Minutes
Day 2: Shoebill at Mabamba swamp/Entebbe Botanical gardens/UWEC
After breakfast, we will be collected and driven to Mabamba Swamp, home of the prehistoric Shoebill. It is big & blue and looks like a pterodacty. The bird life in Uganda is incredible and it is likely we will see some interesting stuff along the way. Dug-out canoes will take us out into the swamp in search of the Shoebill. We are also likely to see; pygmy, pied and malachite kingfishers, jacana, marsh harrier, African pygmy-goose, whistling duck, blue swallow, blue breasted bee-eater etc. You get the picture, loads of birds. Very nice swamp. In the afternoon/evening you can have an optional walk around the beautiful botanical gardens. Resident troop of black & white Colobus monkeys & some beautiful fauna & flora. You will return to the hotel for a well-earned dinner. Activity takes from (2-4 hours)
Day 3: Transfer from Entebbe to Kibale
Early departure. We will head to Kibale Forest National Park in the morning. Stopping on our way for breaks and wildlife and countryside…. Lunch in the beautiful gardens of Chimpanzee Forest Guest House. An afternoon visit to the Bigodi swamp, situated on the eastern edge of Kibale Forest. This walk in the wetlands should reward us with plenty of wildlife including birds and, with any luck, the magnificent blue turaco. Its primate tastic too. The office is home to a wonderful town of weaver birds, quite enchanting to watch. Stay a night in the beautiful area close to a crater lakes zone bordering Kibale Forest. You can often hear the chimps calling from your cottage. Transfer time (4/5 Hours)
Dinner and overnight at Chimpanzee Forest Guest House
Day 4: Chimpanzee tracking tour in Kibale Forest, Nature Walk Bigodi Wetlands
After early morning breakfast, you will be transferred to the park office to meet the ranger guides for the pre-trek briefing after which you will set off to trek into the forest to track the Chimpanzees. You may spot other primates like the red-tailed monkey (my favourite, it has the kindest face!) Black & white Colobus (chimps like them on toast), Red Colobus Monkey, L’Hoest Monkey, Grey-cheeked Mangabey, and Vervet Monkeys. The bird lovers will spot many forest specials from a total of 335 bird species recorded in the forest. The chimp encounter can be very different; sometimes I have been amongst them & almost fallen asleep with their soporific vibe and other times, when they are hunting, it has been an adrenaline filled experience… its great either way. There are some really nice butterflies in Kibale forest too, not to mention quality trees…. Back to CFGH for a relaxing afternoon. Perhaps a walk down to the lake shores…
Dinner and overnight at Chimpanzee Forest Guest House
Day 5: Transfer to Queen Elizabeth NP
A leisurely breakfast at CFGH and then we will embark on a road trip to Queen Elizabeth national park. Transfer time (4 hours)
Mazike Valley Lodge or Enganzi lodge
Day 6: Kazinga Channel and transfer to Ishasha sector
After breakfast, we head out for a boat cruise on the Kazinga channel. Elephants, buffaloes, antelopes, crocs, hippos and thousands of birds. This short channel of water is packed full of big mammal action. The slow boat ride in the channel between Lake Edward and George is a real favourite… We get up close so the experience is an intimate one. A packed lunch will sustain us for the journey to the Ishasha sector of QENP. A lovely drive through the park will hopefully reward us with sightings of a wide variety of wildlife. Here you will experience a change in the landscape from flat savanna grassland to jungle with thickets and fig trees.
Transfer time (4 hours)
Day 7: Morning and afternoon game drives in Ishasha
To increase our chances of seeing Ishasha’s famous tree climbing lions, we will have morning and afternoon game drives in this section of QENP. There is plenty to see. Thousands of swallows swoop around the cars, catching insects as we dislodge them from the grasses. The vast savanna is home to huge herds of Buffaloes, Topi & Ugandan Kob, Elephants, Hyenas and many others. Returning to the Lodge for lunch we will head out again late afternoon.
Day 8: Morning drive and Transfer to Bwindi impenetrable forest
After having breakfast at your pace, check out the lodge and transfer through the Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National park with another morning game drive. We will drive through the beautiful terraced hills of Kigezi to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. The dense rainforest of Bwindi, famous for its gorilla population, is one of the most fertile and rich in the world. It is home to a variety of primates, plants, and tropical birds. It is primaeval, a very special place. On arrival, check in at the lodge & relax, Dinner and overnight stay at your lodge as you await for the next day’s big adventure.
Transfer time (3 hours)
Dinner and overnight at Engagi Lodge
Day 9: Gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable forest
Early morning breakfast and proceed to the briefing point. The highlight of your trip – Gorilla trekking. This may last from 2 to 6 hours depending on the group you are visiting. You will trek through the rainforest and bamboo covered slopes, accompanied by the Uganda Wildlife Authority guide and other trackers, in search of a mountain gorilla family. Due to the nature of the activity, you will have packed lunch. After Gorilla trekking, back to the lodge for a relaxed evening & probably a glass of wine or two. Overnight at Engagi Lodge
Day 10: Transfer to Lake Mburo National Park
After breakfast transfer to Lake Mburo, the ‘Zebra magnet’. Zebra, Topi, Warthog, Giraffe, Buffaloe, Eland and Impalas. Optional boat ride on Lake Mburo, if you haven’t had your fill of hippos! Transfer time (6/7 hours)
Day 11: Morning Safari walk in Lake Mburo National Park and transfer to Entebbe via the equator line!
Optional morning safari in Lake Mburo national park. This park is famous for walks inside and around the park on foot where you can see long-horned cattle of Ankole community. Checkout of the lodge and transfer to Kampala with lunch along the way. Arrive in the evening to be dropped at the airport to board your return flight Transfer time (4/5 hours). Depending on flight times, you may want to spend another night in Entebbe. This is not included but easily arranged.
“The air in Bwindi forest is so clean it’s exhilarating. You breathe the freshness, it makes you inhale to the very bottom of your lungs. The subtle power, the life force of the trees hits you the moment you enter. It makes me want to run down the narrow paths. There are steps made out of the roots of trees. Climbers that try and trip you up, spikey things that mean you have to watch where you place your hands… And everywhere there is moss, it drips from every bough, clings to the newest of trees. And the ferns are enormous, as they uncurl, they compete with the trees for light, they tower above me like huge umbrellas creating dappled shade on the forest floor. All this to a background of insects and birds and the constant babble of the river. The clear water making its way through the stones. There are waterfalls too, moss and ferns hanging improbably from their constantly wet stone sides.
Bwindi is magical, you know it even before you meet the gorillas….. Veering from the path, our guide cuts through the thick vegetation with his machete. Under foot the leaves on top of mud and rotting wood make the going slippery. The steep slope means a scramble up and a slide down. And then we are there among them. Our guide turns to brief us. I know I should be making eye contact with him and listening carefully but it’s so hard to concentrate when a full grown female mountain gorilla scales the tree behind me, munching leaves as she goes… Her pot belly silhouetted against the sky. Branches creek and crack under her weight. Totally ignoring us she carries on with her meal. Beneath her another female lies soporifically. Her tiny baby curiously poking out through the foliage, his bright clear eyes occasionally catch the light. I love the fatness of their hands and feet, they are squidgy looking. The skin not as soft as ours and grey, of course. I am always staggered by the blackness and fluffiness of mountain gorillas. There are two youngsters in the Mubare group. One is just 5 months old, the other 9. I am surprised at their smallness. The youngest never leaving his mother’s grasp. The elder only just taking a very few steps from his. This group has one silverback, Kanyonyi, the other adult members are all female. The silverback must be a pretty attractive proposition for he has purloined most of his ladies from other groups. The family are mostly resting when we come across them. The silverback close to his females.. All is calm. Then suddenly something frightens them. It is incredible how quickly they move, the females all rush to the silverback for protection. He is instantly alert and on guard. His massive bulk ready to defend. He stands up and beats his chest and the noise resounds through the forest. He means business. But it is nothing, this time. The mother with the youngest infant, clearly shaken, snuggles in to the huge male for reassurance. He embraces her, the gentlest of cuddles, their baby between them. They stay like that for a while and then he decides to move off through the forest leading his family away.
Bwindi has 350 bird species, 310 butterfly species and 324 tree species… At least 120 species of mammals, including 10 primate… The park ranges from lowland to afro-montane forest, a moist tropical forest that is unique in Uganda. It has remained like this for millions of years, thus Bwindi is a refuge for many species…. And I LOVE it….”
Cost – £3,500
Per person sharing twin room
Single supplement available.
Mabamba swamp – dugout canoe Shoebill trip
Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale Forest NP
Bigodi Swamp walk near Kibale Forest NP
Boat cruise in Kazinga Channel
Game drives in QENP
Game drives in Ishasha sector
Gorilla trekking and permits in Bwindi NP
Game drive in Mburo NP
Park entry fees
English speaking driver
Almost all meals
What’s not included
International flight ticket
Additional night in Entebbe before departure
Lunch and dinner at The Boma
Drinks and tips
Entry Visa – $50
Guests must ensure they have full medical and travel Insurance. It is advised to take out insurance when booking which covers any unforeseen trip cancellation.
Yellow fever vaccination required
Hep A & B recommended
Uganda, Wild Trips