11 Days Savannah and Water Birding in Uganda



Savannah and Water Birding in Uganda

This bird watching vacation is meant for birders who would like to have it relaxed. It is very recommendable even to birding couples in their honeymoon. Please come enjoy with Journeys Uganda as we take you to unique and isolated destinations in Uganda, The Mabamba swamp is the best place world over to find the Shoebill a dream any bird watcher to Uganda would like to fulfil after this we take you the Zziwa Rhino  sanctuary to find one of the big five then continue further north to the world’s most powerful falls where game viewing is ranked the best in Uganda due to the abundance and diversity  the only forest destination on this trip is Kibale National Park the primate principal of the world, just for you to come enjoy and watch the amazing chimps interact not leaving out the magical Green-breasted Pitta. We shall ascend further to the second largest National Park in Uganda – Queen Elizabeth and explore both sections and the further remote southern part will offer us the tree climbing lions and adaptation unique to this part of the park and finally to Lake Mburo the best savannah park to visit and the closest to the capital of Uganda punctuated with lakes and dotted acacias which offer great birding and game viewing opportunities.

Trip Summary

  • Day 1: Arrival for our savannah birding tour in Uganda
  • Day 2: Birding to Mabamba Wetland
  • Day 3: Birding vacation to Murchison Falls
  • Day 4: Birding on the northern bank of Murchison Falls National Park.
  • Day 5: Birding tour to Fort Portal
  • Day 6: Birding to Queen Elizabeth
  • Day 7: Birding tour to southern Queen Elizabeth – Ishasha sector
  • Day 8: Savannah Birding to Lake Mburo Savannah Park
  • Day 9: Birding Lake Mburo National Park
  • Day 10: Birding to Entebbe

Day 1: Arrival for our savannah birding tour in Uganda

Arrival and transfer to Papyrus Guest House or Equivalent for your overnight stay. Early arrivals will have an introduction to Uganda by visiting the Uganda Wildlife Education centre for a number of wildlife experiences including behind the scenes – walking alongside the Cheetah an activity hard to undertake by deep natural history scholars who are acclimatized to hunting antics of this predator, the centre has great birdlife and the other option will be to visit the Entebbe Botanical gardens that lies along the Lake Victoria basin and constitutes numerous habitats that bird watchers embrace. BB

Day 2: Birding to Babamba Wetland

After breakfast, we bird to Namugabo or Mabamba Wetland. This large wetland was discovered as a new birding site in a few years and a far better option than Mabamba an IBA on the shores of Lake Victoria. It is 57km west of Kampala. This is the home of the Shoebill stork. Other special birds on this trail include Lesser Jacana, Blue Swallow, Northern Brown-throated Weaver, Purple and Allen’s Galinule, Common and Lesser Moorhen, White Faced and Fulvous Whistling duck, Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Papyrus Gonolek, White-winged Warbler, Glossy Ibis, African Pygmy-Goose, Spur-winged Geese, Long-toed Lapwing, Blue-breasted and Madagascar Bee-eaters, Grey-rumped Swallow, Greater Swamp-Warbler, African Reed Warbler, Slender-billed Weaver, Lizard Buzzard, African Pygmy and Malachite Kingfisher, White Winged Tern, Grey Headed Gull, Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Three Banded Plover, African-wattled Plover and many more.

Day 3: Birding vacation to Murchison Falls

After breakfast we drive northwards through the Luwero triangle to Murchison Falls conservation area with a stopover for lunch probably in Masindi. Journeys Uganda highly recommends a visit to the Zziwa Rhino Sanctuary which harbars the wild endangered Rhinos in Uganda and it is the only place where you can track rhinos on foot and this activity is closely watched by security and done in presence of a guide to avoid repetition of history in the early 80’s when there was massive killing and poaching leading to the extinction of the rhinos in 1983. Luckily, in 2005, a sanctuary was established and rhinos were reintroduced by the Rhino-Fund Uganda that started with 6 rhinos and now has up to 19 Rhinoceros. The sanctuary has about 78 skilled park rangers and it works very closely with Uganda Wildlife Authority. It covers about 70 square kilometres and is a three hours’ drive from Kampala, the capital city of Uganda.

Rhinos aside, the sanctuary also harbours a number of bird species, very good for the White-crested Turaco, Sulpur-breasted Bush-shrike, great records of the Rufous Chatterer, Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike, Silverbird, Bruce’s Green-pigeon, Greater-blue Eared, Lesser-blue Eared and Purple Starling with plenty of reptiles, good habitat for the Bohor Reedbuck, crocodiles, monkeys and so many more.

Later we continue to Murchison Falls the largest protected area in Uganda and bisected by the Victoria Nile. Murchison falls has about three different eco systems namely; savannah which is woodland and grassland, riverine, tropical forest and woodland together with many water ecosystems. This park has a variety of wildlife which includes among others the Lions, Leopards, Reedbucks, Elephants, Giraffes, Buffaloes, Hartebeest, Oribis, Uganda Kobs, Chimpanzees and many bird species including the rare Shoebill. Actually this is the 3rd best birding site in Africa according to African Bird Club.
We shall spend our nights at Sambiya River Lodge or Equivalent.


Day 4: Birding on the northern bank of the park.

We start birding after an early breakfast. If we spent a night at sambiya we cross and do a birding drive which will take us up to the Albert delta point. Special birds to look out for here include Shoebill, Northern Carmine Bee-Eater, Abyssinian Roller and Ground Hornbill, Red-throated Bee-eaters, Goliath Heron, Saddle-billed Stork, White Browed Sparrow Weaver, Silver bird, Buff-bellied Warbler, White-faced and Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Senegal Thick-knee, Osprey, Spotted Thick-knee, Black-headed Lapwing, Long-toed Lapwing, Little Bittern, Red-necked Falcon, Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Hauglin’s Francolin, Black Billed Wood-Dove, Namaqua dove, Vinaceous Dove and Grosbeak Weaver, Bar-breasted Firefinch, Red-winged Grey Warbler, Spotted Morning-Thrush, White Rumped Seed-eater, Red-throated Bee-eater, Beautiful Sunbird, Speckle-fronted and Golden-backed Weavers, White rumped canary etc. The boat trip we do today’s afternoon takes us to the bottom of the falls where we have the biggest concentration of hippos, crocodile, and a variety of bird life. Look out for birds like the Yellow Billed Stork, Egyptian Plover, Red Chested Bee-Eater, Rock Pratincole, Wire Tailed Swallow Goliath, Grey and Purple Heron, list endless.

Day 5: Birding tour to Kibale Forest

We have a long birding drive today thanks to the recent road works which minimize the past long hours of driving, so birding will be minimized with a few stops en route. We shall be leaving Murchison Falls National Park with a picnic lunch which we shall enjoy en route. Some bird species we expect today on our stopovers include the Brown and Western Banded Snake Eagle, Little Sparrow Hawk, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Joyful Greenbul, Grey Throated, Yellow Spotted and Yellow Billed Barbet, Olive-longtailed Cuckoo, White Breasted and Grey Headed Nigrofinch, African Emerald Cuckoo, Cassine’s Flycatcher, Black Bee-eater, African Black Duck, Mountain Wagtail, Mottled and Sabine’s Spinetail, Narrow-tailed, Purple-headed, Stuhlmann’s and Splendid Starling, Forest and Yellow-mantled Weaver, White-collared Oliveback and many more. We shall stay at Chimpanzee Forest Guest House. For 2 nights – FB

Day 6: Morning search for the Green Breasted Pitta and chimpanzee tracking

On this day we get into the forest at down, the forest boasts of over 150 bird species. The main bird species we look out for here is the Green Breasted Pitta a very uncommon bird and restricted to forest interiors. We shall as well look out for the African Broadbill, Rufous Flycatcher Thrush, Red Tailed Ant-Thrush, Red-capped and Blue-shouldered Robin-chat, Afep Pigeon, Narina Trogon, Black-billed Turaco,  Red-chested Owlet and many more other bird species, we later go for chimp tracking. The close cousins of man the Chimpanzees live in elaborate societies, just like a community of humans, the have the ability to solve complicated problems, they are also able to make and bring into play tools, engage in convoluted social interactions and communicate through a variety of sounds and gestures. When encountering these habituated chimpanzees, you may scrutinize a variety of behaviours. Its worthy watching them play and interact with one another. FB

Day 7: Birding to Queen Elizabeth

In the morning we start and head to Queen Elizabeth National Park which is the 2nd largest National Park in Uganda, with its varied habitats this park boats of 612 recorded species of birds. On this day, we shall do birding as we get into the park looking out for special savannah species like the African Moustached and Broad Tailed Warbler, Black and Senegal Coucal, Brown Backed and White Browed Scrub Robin, Hollub’s Golden Weaver, Common Quail and many more species. In the afternoon we take a two hours launch cruise along the Kazinga Channel. This is a natural channel joining Lakes George and Edward, and is one of the most productive birding cruises on the planet. Schools of hippos, huge families of buffalos, elephants and other Antelopes come to take water in the hot dry afternoons. Lots of birds are found here including the African Skimmers, African Spoonbill, Striated Heron, African Spoonbill, African Crake, many migrants including the Grey Plover, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Herring Gull and many more, Water Thick-knee, Three-banded Plover, Marsh, Green, Wood and Common Sandpiper, Grey-headed Gull, Plain Martin, Lesser Swamp-Warbler, Collard Pratincole, Yellow-billed Ox-pecker etc. Dinner and overnight stay at Marafiki Safari Lodge


Day 8: Birding tour to southern Queen Elizabeth – Ishasha sector

With our picnic lunch we start our birding drive towards the Ishasha sector birding all way through. A game drive in this Sector exposes us to the seasonal Red-backed Shrike, Red-necked Spurfowl, Arrow-marked and Sharpe’s Babbler, White-backed, Rupell’s Griffon, Palm-nut, Lappet-faced, White-headed and Hooded Vulture, Violet-backed Starling, Brown, Black-Chested and Western banded Snake-Eagle, Holub’s Golden Weaver, Greater and Lesser Honeyguide, Trilling, Stout, Wing-Snapping and Croaking Cisticola, Grassland Pipit, Cardinal and Nubian Woodpecker, African-wattled Lapwing, African Snipe, Common Drongo, Blue-naped Mousebird, Double Toothed, Crested, White Headed Barbet and Spot Flanked, Yellow Fronted Tinkerbird, African Cuckoo Hawk and many more savannah genus. As we carry on with the drive we should remember that this part of Uganda is home to the rare tree climbing lions and thus on a lucky day, we may come across some. We late drive back and spend our night at the previous place of accommodation. FB

Day 9: Savannah Birding to Lake Mburo Savannah Park

After early morning breakfast we check out and start our birding to Lake Mburo national park. This is one of the most accessible national parks in Uganda and one we can explore on foot with an armed ranger. It harbors several species of mammals which do not exist in the southern hemisphere of Uganda and among these are the Zebra, Impala, Eland, Topi, Oribi, the Roan Antelope used to roam here but has not been seen in many months. Here we are at the epitome of savannah birding with special species like the  Green – backed Woodpecker, Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, Temmincks Courser, Common Quails, Green Wood hoopoe, Blue-naped Mouse bird, Bare-faced Go-away Bird Green Capped Eremomela, Yellow Bellied Apalis, Nubian Woodpecker, Black Cuckoo-Shrike Brown-chested Plover, Lilac-breasted Roller, Coqui Francolin, Black-bellied Bustard, African Wattled Plover, Rufous-naped and Flappet Larks, Rufous-chested Swallow Southern Ground Hornbill if rarely seen, Spot-flanked, Red-faced and Black-collared Barbets, of the 313 different bird species and dominated by savannah, water birds like the rare Shoebill, White-winged Warblers, African Finfoot, Giant Kingfisher, White Backed Night Heron, Little Bittern, papyrus Yellow Warbler, Papyrus Gonolek among others. We spend or night at Rwakobo Rock two nights

Day 10: Birding Lake Mburo National Park

We look out for the missed species on day 9. We shall be driving, or we can choose to do a walk and later have a boat ride on the lake. FB

Day 11: Birding to Entebbe

Morning birding and then transfer to Entebbe we can chose to pass via Kampala or use the Mpigi route which gives us a chance of finding the Papyrus Gonolek or Shoebill if missed on our past days. End of our Uganda Savannah birding safari.

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