UGANDA

Gorillas and Shoebills…. need we say more!

 

This Silverback was seen on our 2006 tour. Go to the bottom of the page to see more photos.

 

Darkest Africa inspired epic sagas of discovery in the Victorian Age. Livingstone and Stanley’s quest for the Nile’s source filled newspapers. Reports of fearsome beasts meant that only the most intrepid explorers ventured into the bush.  

Much has changed since those times. Uganda is now enjoying unprecedented economic growth. An excellent national park infrastructure gives economic benefits back to the local people. The country is now reaping great rewards as the true value of Churchill's "Pearl of Africa" is recognised.Few African countries can match Uganda's diversity of habitats, which are home to at least 23 Albertine Rift endemics among over one thousand bird species in an area of similar size to the UK! 

After a thorough recce, all the ingredients for a wonderful trip fell into place. We have now run two successful tours, with over 450 bird species being the supporting cast to intimate sessions with Gorillas and Chimpanzees. The awesome Shoebill Stork, our 2005 brochure cover bird and one of the continent's almost mythical species played a starring role. We will visit the dancing grounds of Grey Crowned Cranes, experience a massive bat cave and see acrobatic Black Bee-eaters. Building on our experience, our 2007 tour is another Shoebill and Gorilla quest.  

Despite Hollywood's attempt to portray the Great Apes as monsters, Dian Fossey’s work followed by Sir David Attenborough's TV encounter have showed a more gentle side to the endangered Mountain Gorilla. To sit just feet from them and to see, hear and smell them is something that words cannot convey. 


ITINERARY

LAKE VICTORIA

On arriving in Entebbe we will go straight to our hotel in Kampala. After freshening up we will visit Mabira Forest for the afternoon. The next morning we will visit a site where we have seen Shoebills in both 2005 and 2006. We will take a boat ride to see them along with other birds that live in the papyrus beds of Lake Victoria. The boats provide a relaxed way to look for Pygmy Goose and Long-toed Lapwing while African Jacanas trot over lily pads. Malachite Kingfishers dart by and Carruthers’ Cisticola, the first of several papyrus endemics, sing from the tallest stems. Later in the day we will drive to Lake Mburu for one night. 

LAKE MBURU

At Lake Mburu we should log Broad-billed Rollers, Marabou Storks and Hooded Vultures, while Pied Hornbill and Ross's Turaco are roadside birds. Wattled Plover and Red-chested Swallow feed among Defassa Waterbuck, Tsessebe and Burchell's Zebra. Bare-faced Go-away-birds, Nubian Woodpeckers and Black-headed Bush Shrikes are found in the giant euphorbia. The pedigree Ankole cattle belonging to the royal family are also found here. 

The next day we will take an early morning boat ride in search of African Finfoot. This is possibly the most reliable site on the continent to find one. Hammerkop and Papyrus Yellow Warbler are possible before we drive to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park for a three night stay.  

BWINDI

We will visit the higher elevation forest, one of the world's great natural treasures providing home to various endemic birds. Ten species of primate occur here including the beautiful L'Hoest's and Blue Monkeys and, of course, the magnificent Mountain Gorilla. With a world population of just 650, Bwindi is one of just two places where they still survive. Tourist revenue is vital to the Gorillas’ survival. Our money provides education and medical facilities for the locals who are proud of the park and welcome tourists. Villagers are even giving farmland back to nature, to increase Gorilla and bird habitats. Uganda is one of those countries where you feel that conservation is working for both people and wildlife. 

After a long hike we should hopefully find a party of Gorillas. They can often be watched from just a few feet away. In addition to tracking Gorillas, we will spend time searching for birds along the trails that lead to a waterfall. We hope to see Rwenzori Sunbird, Long-tailed Barred Cuckoo, White-starred Robin, African Blue Flycatcher, Lhuder's Bush Shrike, and Green and African Broadbills. 

MGAHINGA AND LAKE BUNYONYI

On day seven we will drive to Mgahinga, the only other home of the Mountain Gorilla. We will spend two nights in this, perhaps the most scenic part of Uganda, which is also home to the Batwa (pygmy) tribes. We will search for more endemics at a higher altitude in the shadow of the Virunga Volcanoes. The habitat changes to echuya bamboo and then montane heath. Our guide is able to whistle the birds out of the thickets and we will hope to see Rwenzori Turaco, Handsome Francolin, Lagden’s Bush-Shrike and Scarlet-tufted Malachite Sunbird. 

We will then drive to Lake Bunyonyi for one night. A boat ride allows us to enter some of the best papyrus beds in Uganda. The dazzling scarlet Papyrus Gonolek will be a highlight along with Papyrus Canary and White-winged Warbler. 

QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK

On day ten we transfer to Mweya Lodge overlooking the Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth NP for three nights. We can watch Elephant, Buffalo and Hippo. 

Uganda Kob Antelope rut among scenic volcanic craters and in turn provide food for the famous tree-climbing Lions. Grey Crowned Cranes have a dancing ground here, Black-bellied Bustards rasp from termite mounds and Kurrichane Button Quail creep through the grass. The Maramagambo Forest holds Cameroon Greenbuls, African Emerald Cuckoo, Hairy-breasted Barbet, Blue-breasted Kingfisher and the striking white-morph African Paradise Flycatcher. We will stand at the entrance to a bat cave containing thousands of fruit bats. 

A boat trip allows us to see waterbirds at close proximity that will delight photographers. African Skimmers flock here and waders along the shore can include Spur-winged and Wattled Plovers. Water Dikkops roost by tree roots and Pied Kingfishers perch on the backs of Hippos! Yellow-billed and Saddle-billed Storks are seen along the shore, while African Fish Eagles are abundant! In 2006, we discovered the first Collared Flycatchers for Uganda. 

On day 13 we will drive back to Kampala, birding en route. We will spend the last night here before our return flight. 

VEHICLES, GUIDES AND PACE

Our safari vehicle provides access to many difficult areas as well as insurance against the unpredictability of Ugandan roads and weather. Our leader and a Ugandan birdguide will be assisted by other local guides in the parks, where specialist knowledge is essential. Daytime temperatures can be high, so early morning excursions are made to maximise wildlife viewing opportunities. In Queen Elizabeth NP viewing is only allowed from a vehicle, due to the presence of large mammals. Basic fitness is all that is required. Walking will be at a sensible pace with frequent stops to look at birds. There is some uphill walking in hot humid conditions in the forest and it may rain and be muddy.

Gorilla trekking involves a strenuous steep uphill walk in hot humid conditions, rewarded by about one hour with the Gorillas (not guaranteed). The length of the walk is dependent on where the animals are that day. On rare occasions Gorillas can be seen from the lodge, so no two days are alike. Good physical fitness is required. There is the opportunity to change your mind before trekking begins and get part of your permit fee refunded. If you are unsure about trekking conditions, please discuss it with us over the phone. 

ACCOMMODATION AND FOOD

Full-board accommodation is provided with one night at the Hotel Africana, Kampala, one night at Mantana Tented Camp, Lake Mburu, three nights at Gorilla Safari Camp, Bwindi, two nights at Volcanoes Lodge, Mgahinga, one night at the Hotel Arcadia, Lake Bunyonyi, three nights at Mweya Lodge, Queen Elizabeth NP, and the last night at the Hotel Africana, Kampala. Hotels and lodges are all very pleasant with comfortable rooms. At Lake Mburu, Bwindi and Mgahinga accommodation is in comfortable permanent tented camps. All rooms and tents have en suite facilities. Lunch is usually packed, but occasionally taken at the accommodations. 

PRICE INCLUDES …..

Full-board accommodation, soft drinks at meal times, birdwatching excursions with expert leader and local guide, boat trips, transport, park entrance fees, return flights to Entebbe and airport taxes. 

WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED

Our optional travel insurance, payable at the time of booking. Visa (US$30 on arrival). Personal items, alcoholic drinks, laundry, tips. The optional Gorilla permit must be requested at the time of booking. 

INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS

Return flights from London Heathrow to Entebbe, using the scheduled services of British Airways. Outbound flight departs mid-evening, return flight arrives back mid-afternoon. Shuttle flights are available on this tour for £70 return (due at time of booking), from Manchester and other regional airports. 

Gorilla permits sell quickly so, to guarantee one, we strongly recommend you book as soon as possible.                                           

 

 

13 nights including one overnight flight:  12th to 25th July 2007

                               

Principal leader: Phil Palmer

 

Local guide:  Alfred Twinomujuni

 

Maximum group size:  10 clients with one leader and a local guide

 

Cost with discount

(if you book before 29th March 2007):  £2950 per person sharing

 

Full Cost:  £3100 per person sharing

 

Single supplement:  £180

 

Gorilla permit:  £220

 

Deposit:  £300

 

Insurance premium:  £57.00 due at time of booking

                                        (£80.00 for age 65 to 69)

                                        (£116.00 for age 70 and over)

 

 

 

The pictures below were taken on our trips to Uganda.

 

 

African Finfoot taken on our 2006 Tour

 

Possibly the star bird of this tour, this Shoebill posed for us on our 2004 tour when we found five!

 

 

 

 

Red-throated Wryneck, Bwindi

 

 

 

Ross's Turaco, Bwindi.

 

Crowned Cranes near Kampala

 

 

Wattled Plovers, Lake Mburu.

 

 

 

African Skimmers, Queen Elizabeth Park.

 

 

Hippo on the Congo border.

 

 

Heuglin's Robin, Queen Elizabeth Park.

 

 

Giant Forest Hog, Queen Elizabeth Park.

 

 

 

Black-bellied Bustard, common in large grassland areas.

 

 

Ankole cattle, the pride of Uganda's farmers.

 

Dwarf Kingfisher can be a tricky bird to see in the forest.