Excellent birding, scenery, wildlife and undisturbed interaction with Nature in Uganda; this and much more is what Journeys Uganda brings to you on this Primates, Birding and photography trip. From the scattered dome shaped homesteads surrounded by lush green plantations and forests, to sparkling lakes and river climaxed by spectacular falls with a mix of mashes. The primates’ diversity is unmatched with an opportunity to catch the chimpanzees and the endangered mountain Gorillas with the world’s remaining population of them reigning in the Bwindi impenetrable Forest National Park and the Virungas conservation area both of which we will have an opportunity to explore. Although Uganda is rich in nature and culture, the country is without a doubt Primate Destination Number 1 in Africa. Apart from the legendary mountain gorillas, the country hosts 19 other different species of primates, including the fascinating chimpanzees. Before the 20th century, the chimp population was over a several million in Uganda, but this number has dramatically decreased due to deterioration of their natural habitat caused by increase in the populations around their home ranges. These days, Uganda is home to approximately 5,000 chimpanzees divided over about twelve forest blocks, over 400 mountain gorillas, a number of golden monkeys which are all endangered spp. As you consider your primate adventure and birding safari, Uganda should be on your bucket list to have this ticked off before other prime safari destinations in the world.
This Photography, Primates and Birding safari in Uganda will also offer you Enjoyable and rewarding game drives coupled with memorable boat cruises with a variety of wildlife to see. The bird life is in-explainable as you will have it all. The rolling thousand hills of Rwanda, with the terraced hills sides are a spectacular site and the winding roads that hug the hills tightly give the journey a fine twist. Journeys Uganda has put together this photography, birding and primate tour to all those interested in the three, whether keen or beginners, we are looking at those young in mind thus age will not be the limit, come let’s do it together with our natural history and great birding guides who will make this a safari of a lifetime.
Arrival, meet and greet then transfer to Papyrus Guest House or Equivalent. Early arrivals will visit the Entebbe Wildlife Education Centre or be introduced to birding at the Botanical gardens a good place to view the solitary Red Colobus and some troops of Black and White Colobus monkeys. The Entebbe Botanical gardens established in 1901 and strategically located on the shores of the second largest fresh water lake in the world – Victoria. The gardens are a mix of indigenous and a few foreign forest, cultivation, savannah patches, with water habitats making it and a highly attractive destination for an introduction to any bird watching, photography and primate trip to Uganda.
The Entebbe Botanical gardens are a haven to a variety of open country, wading, and woodland species of birds and while birding here we have sighted the; Purple-banded, Mariqua, Superb, Green-throated, Collared, Bronze, Scarlet-chested, Red-chested, Olive and Olive-bellied Sunbird, Pink-backed Pelican, Vieillot’s Black, the and almost Lake Victoria endemic Orange Weaver, Golden Backed, Village, Slender-billed, Northern-brown Throated, Grosbeak, Black-necked and Black-headed Weaver, Yellow-billed and African Open-billed Stork, Eastern Grey Plantain-eater, African Jacana, Klaas’s, African Emerald, Red-chested and Diederik Cuckoos, Yellow-billed Duck, the sought after Giant Kingfisher, African Pygmy, Pied, Woodland and Malachite Kingfisher, the seasonal Eurasian, White-throated and Blue-checked Bee-eater, Wood, Common and Green Sandpiper, Black-and-white Casqued, African Pied and Crowned Hornbill, Black Crake, Africa and Red-billed Firefinch, Little Stint, Little Weaver, Striated Heron, Ruff, Gull-billed and White-winged Tern, Red-eyed, Blue Spotted and Tambourine Dove, Little Greenbuls, Green Crombec, Water Thick-knee, Egyptian Goose, Black-headed Gonolek, Splendid and Rupell’s Long-tailed Sterling, Grey-Headed Sparrow, the Spur-winged Lapwing, Black-winged Stilt, African and Eurasian Hobby, watch out for the silent Bat Hawk which would be a big highlight for this introduction to birding in Uganda among others on the endless list.
After breakfast, drive northwest through the famous Luwero Triangle to Murchison Falls National Park, arriving Masindi Town in time for lunch. In the afternoon visit the top of the Falls where you can see the Nile’s beauty perfected! Marvel at the Nile, compressing from up to one km squeezed through a 7-metre canyon dropping 150 metres with a thunderous roar, creating a beautiful rainbow. Marvel at ‘The Murchison Falls’ and enjoy the sunset as you drive to the lodge. Today as we drive through undulating grasslands and mosaic woodland where watch out for the White-crested Turaco, Ross’s and Great Blue, Bronze-tailed, Lesser-blue and Greater Blue-eared Starlings, Black, and Black Winged Bishops, Yellow Mantled Widowbird, White Headed Barbet, Cardinal and Nubian Woodpecker, Lesser and Greater Honeyguide, Grey Capped Warbler, White Shouldered Tit, Brown Throated Wattle Eye, Brown Twin-spot, Grey-headed and Sulphur-breasted Bush-shrike Eastern and Dark Chanting Goshawk, Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike, Banded and Brown Snake Eagle, Broad Billed Roller, Lizard Buzzard, Shikra, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Grey Kestrel, Lesser Striped, Angola and Barn Swallow, Little, White-rumped Palm Swifts, Compact, Village and Black Headed Weaver, Red Throated Bee-eater, Sooty Chat, Black Headed Batis among others. Dinner and overnight Sambiya River Lodge or Equivlant. FB.
After an early breakfast, if we spent the night on the southern sector of the park, we drive shortly and cross to the northern side for a game safari expect to see the African elephant, lion, cape buffalo, Rothschild’s giraffe, hartebeest, waterbuck, oribi, bushbuck, bohor reed buck, Uganda Kob, hyena and if you are lucky, the leopard. After a picnic lunch, in the afternoon we proceed for a boat safari upstream the calm Victoria Nile to the bottom of the falls stopping just tens of meters from the ‘Devil’s Cauldron’, marvel at the toothsome hippos, crocodiles and over the 17km stretch you may see African elephant, waterbuck and Uganda Kob. This is also the zone of many birds, species like goliath heron, Egyptian goose, Red-throated Bee-eater, Giant Kingfisher, Reed Cormorants, Senegal Thick-knee, the rare Shoebill stork, Rock Pratincole, African Skimmers can all be sighted here. After taking shorts of the photogenic Murchison Falls, return to the Lodge for dinner and overnight stay. On the morning drive through the vast grass and wooded savannahs expect birds including the Saddle-billed, Yellow Billed and African Open Billed Stork, Heuglin’s Francolin Woodland and Grey Headed Kingfisher, Black Billed Barbet, Northern and Red Faced Crombec, Black-billed Barbet, Swallow-tailed, Little and Northern Carmine Bee-eaters, Abyssinian Rollers, the giant Abyssinian Ground Hornbills, Black Winged and Northern Red Bishops, Speckle-fronted, Chestnut Crowned and the White Browed Sparrow Weaver, Namaqua, African Morning, Ring Necked and Red Eyed dove, African Green and Bruce’s Pigeon, Beautiful and Pygmy Sunbird, Spotted Palm Thrush, Denham’s and Black-belied Bustard, Silverbird, Senegal and White-browed Coucal, Black-rumped Waxbill, Bar-breasted Firefinch, Heuglin’s and Vitelline Masked Weavers birding further to the delta will be good for the Goliath Heron, Saddle-billed Stork, White Browed Sparrow Weaver, Buff-bellied Warbler, Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Senegal Thick-knee, Osprey, Black-headed Lapwing, Long-toed Lapwing, Little Bittern, Red-necked Falcon, Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Black Billed Wood-Dove and Vinaceous Dove Red-winged Grey Warbler,, White-rumped Seed Eater, among others FB
After an early breakfast our target will be reaching the Butiaba escarpment overlooking the mighty Lake Albert. This area holds a number of interesting species including Black-billed Barbet, Lesser Blue-eared Starling, Flappet Lark and Mocking Cliff-Chat Green-backed Eremomela, Foxy Cisticola, Red Chested Cuckoo, Banded and Short Toed Snake Eagle, Black Billed Wood-dove, , Black Cheeked Waxbill, Black Headed and Vitelline Masked Weaver, Heuglin’s Robin-chat, Black-headed Gonolek, Spot Flanked Barbet, Sulphur Breasted Bush-shrike, Black-billed Barbet, Spotted Flycatcher, Beautiful Sunbird, Cinnamon-breasted Rock and Cabanis’s Bunting after here we ascend into the forest which is a section of the Bundongo Forest Reserve south of Murchison Falls conservation area where we can stop over and look out for the shy and often heard than seen Forest Robin, Grey Headed Sunbird, Chocolate-backed, Dwarf and Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Purple-headed Glossy Starling, Forest Flycatcher, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Tit Hylia, Ituri Batis, Dusky-long Tailed-cuckoo, White-thighed Hornbill, the shy and endangered Nahan’s Partridge list endless as we drive slowly on our way to Masindi and spend our night at Masindi Hotel . FB
We start early and drive to the Royal Mile which is Uganda’s premier forest birding prime location very rich in birds but many are skulking bird species and concealed in the forest’s dense undergrowth and dense covers with some tiny birds living in the high canopies of big Mahogany, soft and iron wood trees, requiring our perseverance to spot them since many can be neck breakers. Birding the open habitat in cultivated areas before reaching the forest on in the surroundings can produce different range of species. Among the many bird species today expect the seven species of both forest and savannah kingfisher—Chocolate-backed, Blue-breasted and Dwarf in the forest, Woodland, Striped, Grey-headed and African Pygmy, before getting into the forest lookout for the Brown Twin-spot, Red-headed Love-bird, Black-bellied and African Firefinch, Zebra Waxbill, Grey-headed Olive-back, Cabanis’s Bunting, Whistling and Red-faced Cisticola, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, and many more, in the forest expect the Grey and Yellow Longbills, African Forest-Flycatcher, White-spotted Flufftail, Blue Malkoha, impressive White-thighed Hornbill, barbets including Yellow-spotted, Grey-throated, Hairy-breasted and Yellow-billed, cryptic Green Hylia and the Uganda Woodland Warbler, and local specialties of the Guinea Congo biome including the Rufous-crowned Eremomela, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Lemon-bellied Crombec and Ituri Batis. Other birds to find include Purple-headed Glossy-Starling, the deviant Grey-headed Sunbird, Western Black-headed Oriole, Yellow-mantled Weaver, Blue-throated Roller Dusky-long Tailed Cuckoo, Green Twin-spot, Blue-throated Brown-sunbird, Crested Malimbe and Red-headed Bluebill. Greenbuls are numerous including; White-throated, Plain, Slender-billed, Honeyguide, Grey, Red-tailed, and the striking shy Spotted. The near endemic and spectacular Nahan’s Partridge is often heard but requires perseverance and luck to catch a glimpse. We’ll search the undergrowth alongside the track for numerous understory skulking birds like the Scally Breasted, Brown and Pale-breasted Illadopsis, Brown-chested and Fire-crested Alethe, Red-tailed Ant-Thrush, Yellow-browed Camaroptera, Jameson’s Wattle-eye and Grey-throated Flycatcher among others. We later drive back to Masindi Hotel for dinner and overnight stay.
Today, we shall start after an early breakfast and begin our birding and wildlife safari with a drive to Kibale National Park. We may have a chance of birding the main Road where we expect to encounter primates including large crowds of Olive Baboons, Black and White Colobus Monkeys, red Colobus Monkey, Red Tailed and Velvet Monkeys. Our bird watching stops today might produce the Whistling Cisticola, Western Violet-backed Sunbird, African Firefinch, March Tchagra, as we get close to Kibale Forest National Park around the Sebitoli area out for the Cassine’s Flycatcher, African Black Dark and Mountain Wagtail along the river, birding along the road needs you to be careful as is it a highway through the park, the forest edges, canopies and interiors not under looking the skies can produce; Sabine’s and Mottled Spinetail, the local and generally uncommon Masked Apalis, Black-faced Rufous Warbler, Yellow-mantled and the strange Forest Weaver, the very happy patchy ranged Joyful Greenbul, Olive-long Tailed, African Emerald and Dusky-long Tailed Cuckoo Cuckoo, Glossy Purple-headed, Narrow-tailed and Stuhlmann’s Starling, the Afep Pigeon always flies over or patches on the dead tops of the figs, Many-coloured and Lagden’s Bush-shrike, White-collared Oliveback, White-headed Wood-hoopoe, Black-billed Turaco, Golden Crowned Woodpecker, Cassine’s Honeybird, Black Bee-eater and many more on the list. Kibale National Park is popular for hosting 13 primate species including the closest living cousins of man – the Chimpanzees making it the primate capital of the world. Stay at Kibale Forest Lodge or Equivalent. FB
Today we have an option of chimpanzee and other primate tracking. The closest cousins of man the Chimpanzees live in intricate societies, just like a community of human beings, they have the ability to solve complicated disputes among themselves, they are also able to make and bring into play tools, engage in elaborate 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. Back to birding, the main bird species we look out for here is the Green Breasted Pitta a very uncommon bird and restricted to forest interiors within Africa always best sighted at down as it makes the wonderful display any bird watcher would not like to miss out when visiting Kibale Forest National Park. The forest is also home to the African Broadbill, Rufous Flycatcher Thrush, Red Tailed Ant-Thrush Purple-headed, Glossy-Starling, Brown, Pale and Scaly Breasted Illadopsis, the puzzling if sighted White-naped and Afep Pigeon, Red-capped and Blue-shouldered Robin-chat, Masked Apalis, Toro Olive-Greenbul, Black-billed Turaco, Chestnut Wattle-eye, Elliot’s and Buff-spotted Woodpecker, Red-headed Malimbe, Red-tailed Bristlebill, Green Crombec and many more other bird species. Later in the evening we shall take a swamp walk around Bigodi looking out for Red Headed Blue Bill, Scaly Breasted Illadopsis, Uganda Spotted Woodpecker, African Emerald Cuckoo, Petit’s Cuckoo-shrike, Red-capped and Grey-winged Robin-chat and Rufous Flycatcher-Thrush, Luhdher’s Bush-shrike, Shining-blue Kingfisher, Cabanis’s and Joyful Greenbul as well as White-spotted Flufftail. We later get back to our lodge for dinner and overnight stay. BLD. Kibale Forest Lodge or Equivalent. FB
This day, we start at leisure and our journey takes us through Uganda’s beautiful scenic areas with a clear view of the Mountains of the Moon depending on the cloud. We shall reach in the late morning and a game drive en route is always rewarding Queen Elizabeth in the second largest national park in Uganda. In terms of diversity this park is having the biggest birding checklist in Uganda and perhaps the whole world with so far 612 species recorded. Special birds of this park include the Harlequin Quail, Blue Quail, Red Capped Lark, African Crake, Common Buttonquail, Broad Tailed grassland Warbler, Martial Eagle, African Skimmer, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Amur Falcon. Primates include Olive Baboon, Valvet Monkey, Tantalus Monkey, in the Kyambura gorge we find the Chimps, Blue and Red Tailed Monkey. In the afternoon we shall embark on a boat ride along the Kazinga channel where we get close to big schools of Hippos, Buffalos, and Crocodiles close to the waterside, many a time elephants are always swimming here. There is a variety of bird species’, Including Saddle billed stork, both species of Pink-backed and Great Pelicans, and other migratory species. The African Skimmer, Striated Heron, African Spoonbill, Water Thick-knee, Three-banded Plover, Marsh, Green, Wood and Common Sandpiper, Gray-headed Gull, Plain Martin, Lesser Swamp-Warbler and Yellow-billed Ox-pecker are on the birding list to be sighted in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Overnight at Marafiki Lodge or Equivalent. FB
Visit the nearby Kyambura Gorge to track the fast moving and elusive chimpanzees, one of man’s closest relatives. The chimp population is quite mobile and viewing is unpredictable, however the walk in this “lost world” is nevertheless enchanting. Alternatively, time allowing go for a nature walk in the Maramagambo Forest. This forest harbours some unusual species -red-tailed and L’Hoest’s Monkey, potto, giant forest hog, pygmy antelope, and giant elephant shrew. You can also visit the bat caves and the blue lake in the afternoon, later in the evening, have a game drive to the Kasenyi plains found on the Western shores of the gorgeous Lake George, in the North Eastern part of Queen Elizabeth National Park. These plains are an area of open savannah swarmed with wildlife with the Uganda Kob being the most dominant antelope. In fact, Kasenyi sector is the major breeding area for the Uganda Kobs within the park hence lions to, whose main meal is the Kobs, are also drawn to the area not leaving out Leopard and herd of Cape Buffalo, many birds like the Black-winged Pratincole, Temminck’s Courser, Kittlitz’s Plover, African Morning Dove, Crowned Lapwings flock the grounds. (B,L,D)
Today we shall have checked out of our rooms in the morning, we continue to the ‘Switzerland of Africa’ area known as the Kigezi Highlands with its terraced hillside and winding roads through the Ishasha sector where you will have an opportunity to see the tree climbing lions on a good and lucky day. The game drive through Ishasha will give us chances of seeing the tree climbing lions and bigger opportunities of seeing the leopard this morning as we get into the gorilla jungle and theatre of wildlife dreams – Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. We have stopovers to look out for interesting savannah bird species. These include Black-lored and Arrow-marked Babbler, ovambo Sparrow Hawk, African Cuckoo Hawk, Siffling, Stout, Zitting, Wing snapping and Trilling Cisticolas, Wattled and Violet-backed Starling, Banded, Black-chested and Brown Snake Eagle, Spectacled, Lesser-masked and Holub’s Golden Weaver, Lesser and Greater Honeyguide, African Penduline Tit, Grassland and Plain Backed Pipit, Black Coucal, Fork-tailed Drongo, Senegal Thick-knee, Blue-naped Mousebird. Always big troupes of the shy olive baboon will be met on the road. As we go along through “The Neck,’ another well-known birding locality. Here we will search for species such as Black Goshawk; Bronze-naped Pigeon; Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater; Cassin’s Honeyguide; Petit’s Cuckoo-shrike; White-chinned Prinia; the enigmatic Chapin’s Flycatcher; Mountain Wagtail; Pink-footed Puffback; the rare Tiny Sunbird and the attractive Brown-capped Weaver.
Stay at Bakiga Lodge or Equivalent
On one of these days, we set of early, with packed lunch, to the park headquarters for a briefing prior to Gorilla Tracking in Uganda. The gorillas are gentle animals and it is an unforgettable experience to photograph them as they interact. It is a wonderful experience to stare in to the eyes of these gentle giants; watch them in awe as they play and go about their daily activities. It is indeed a “once in a lifetime” experience that you must never miss. Each encounter is different and has its own rewards; you are likely to enjoy the close view of adults feeding, grooming and resting as the youngsters frolic and swing from vines in a delightfully playful display. Gorilla tracking involves part or one day in the Impenetrable Forest. Sometimes the gorillas can be located within an hour or so, but at other times it sometimes takes an entire day of quite hard trekking to find them and return, so you need to be physically fit if you wish to maximize your chances. Very occasionally, in spite of all efforts, the gorillas prove elusive. Depending on the time we get back we might have optional village walk to the communities around the gorillas the pygmies inclusive or evening birding around the Ruhija area, another Eden of birding in Uganda and later to our lodge for dinner and Stay at Bakiga Lodge or Equivalent
On the other day we bird to the No.1 African birding spot according to the African Bird Club. The elevation is higher than where we have done birding before, so there are exceptional high altitude rarities and bird species that are Endemic to the Albertine Rift Valley. This is the birding spot where we find the African Green Broadbill and the sight to look out for the, Cinnamon Bracken, Ever Green Forest, Grauer’s and Grauer’s Rush Warbler, most Albertine Rift Endemics here include the Handsome Francolin, Archer’s Robin-chat, Rwenzori Blue Headed, Purple Breasted and Regal Sunbird, Red Throated Alethe, Strange Weaver, Collard and Mountain Masked Apalis, Rwenzori Batis, Yellow Eyed Black Flycatcher, Stripe-breasted Tit, Red-faced Woodland Warbler plus more. Other high altitude bird spp here will be the Mountain Illadopsis, Bar Tailed and Narina Trogon, Western-green Tinkerbird, Mountain-yellow Warbler, Lagden’s and Doherty’s Bush-shrike, Olive Woodpecker, Banded Prinia, White-starred Akalat, Sharpe’s and Slender-billed Starling, White Tailed Crested Flycatcher, Abyssinian Hill Babbler, Yellow-streaked Greenbul and others. Later we shall get back to our lodge then head out to try the Rwenzori Nightjar before dinner. BLD
Today we will be moving from the high forest biome to the seldom-used forest exit of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. In scrubby areas after the Ndego gate, we will search for Red-necked Wryneck; Brown-backed Scrub-Robin; Bronze, Copper and Variable sunbirds; Baglafecht, Black-necked and Holub’s Golden weavers; Yellow Bishop; Village Indigobird and Black-throated Seed-eater. Further along the road, further up the road, cultivated areas provide feeding opportunities for many seedeaters. Our main targets here will be the highly sought-after Dusky Twinspot and Yellow-bellied, Black-headed and Black-crowned waxbills. African Stonechat; Streaky and Thick-billed seedeaters; African Citril and Cape Canary may also be found here. Noisy Chubb’s Cisticola will mock us from deep within the bracken, and the beautiful Doherty’s Bush-shrike can be lured out from the dense vegetation towards the exit of the park. Mackinnon’s Shrikes survey the road from high, exposed perches. We have many chance of seeing the I’heost’s, Blue, Red Tailed and the Black and White Colobus Monkey.
There are so many special birds at these elevations that we do not want to rush through, we continue with our drive through the kanaba gap a good swamp slightly ahead providing chances for the Common and Lesser Moorhen, Hotentot Teal, African Rail and many more as we ascend into Rwanda. We stay at Mountain Gorilla View Lodge or Equivalent -FB
Gorilla trekking in the Parc National des Volcans. Volcanoes National Park is an immensely scenic and ecologically diverse area in the world. Indeed, this chain of steep free-standing mountains, spanning altitudes of 2,400m to 4,507m, and linked by fertile saddles formed by solidified lava flows, ranks among the most stirring and memorable of African landscapes. Tracking the gorillas through the lush forested slopes of the Virungas is a magical experience. If you are lucky you can get to the gorillas, spend an hour with them, and be back at the base in time for a late lunch! Some gorilla families however are more elusive, and tracking can take a full day, especially when it is wet and muddy. If you chose to do the Golden monkey trek, not that Little is known about the mannerisms of the Golden Monkeys except for the fact that they live in social groups, usually of approximately 30 individuals. It is an exceptional experience seeing them feed on fruits, leaves and insects; the trek is not as hard as that of the gorillas after which we shall get back to our lodge, we explore the cultural village of Ibya Wachu a demonstration cultural village started by one of the park wardens to show case how the Rwanda Kings lived and a place which has helped many former poachers appreciate conservation of the gorillas, we shall later drive back to our Lodge for dinner and overnight stay. Overnight at Mountain Gorilla View Lodge or Equivalent. FB
After breakfast, leave for Kigali and go for a tour of the city including a visit to the market, a pottery project, handicraft shops, the Franco-Rwandan cultural Centre and a genocide memorial. Kigali named by Dr. Richard Kandt, the first colonial resident governor of Rwanda in 1907, is Rwanda’s capital. Kigali is the main administrative and economic centre of Rwanda. With an ever green feel of fresh air, it is the cleanest and safest city in the region. Kigali’s face is her fortune; it is this dramatic beauty from which its name is derived. There are, however, other factors; Kigali is a city that delights the mind as well as the eye of any visitor. Transfer to the airport for your flight onward, end of our 15 days Photography, primates and Birding safari to Uganda and Rwanda