Explore Uganda and Rwanda, Gorilla, Chimps and Game – From £7,250 Per Person Sharing, Excluding International Flights
On your arrival into Entebbe International Airport you will be met by your private vehicle and professional driver/guide and escorted to your guesthouse for the night. If time permits, you can have a stroll around the sleepy tropical town of Entebbe.
Overnight: Boma Guesthouse – a clean and comfortable guest house providing easy access from the airport
Today, you will head west towards Kibale Forest through the verdant hillsides of Uganda (an approximate 7hr drive). You arrive this afternoon where you have a chance to relax and enjoy your surroundings.
Overnight: Ndali Lodge – is a fantastic traditional colonial lodge set in the stunning crater region of Western Uganda. Built of local stone and thatch, the 8 luxury bandas offer views over the dramatic Rwenzori Mountains; each banda is en-suite with a private veranda. The dining room and lounge offer relaxing views over the Crater Lake below (B/D)
This morning you have the chance to track a troop of about 120 habituated chimpanzees that live in the Kibale Forest National Park. This 766km2 tropical rain forest is the natural habitat for an amazing 12 primate species, and contains the highest primate density of an area on Earth. Here, on a guided forest walk, you may find families of Chimpanzees and Red Colobus Monkeys chattering and swinging through the ancient forest trees. Some of the trees are 50 to 60 meters (150 to 180 feet) in height, and provide a majestic canopy for the profusion of rain forest life, including 325 bird species. Even though you may only rarely see them, the park is home to the largest population of Forest Elephant in Uganda, and is also home to Buffalo, Uganda Kob, Genet, Civet, Waterbuck and Bushbuck. You will track the chimpanzees through this fascinating forest, following the well-marked trails. Like the gorilla tracking the amount of time spend with the chimps is limited to 1 hour. This is to prevent the spread of disease, but also to allow the chimps to have a normal life in the forest.
This afternoon you will visit the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary lies 5km southeast of Kibale National Park. The sanctuary is managed by the Kibale Association for Rural and Environmental Development (KAFRED), a community based environmental organisation formed in 1992 with the aim of achieving social and economic development for local communities. With the generated income KAFRED has been able to maintain the tourism infrastructure and support community projects. Here you can find out about the Bigodi Women’s Group, Bigodi Peanut Group, and Enyange Dance and Drama Group. Rich in biodiversity and scenic beauty the 8km long wetlands acts as an important wildlife corridor of Kibale Forest. The sanctuary harbours 8 species of primates, including one of the best sightings in Africa to see the elusive Red Colobus monkey. It is rich in the abundance of butterflies and species of vegetation such as wild palms, polita figs, water lilies and papyrus. The guided nature/bird walk around Magombe Swamp, its boardwalk trail and viewing platforms lasts 3hrs.
Overnight: Ndali Lodge (B/L/D)
You enjoy a relaxing morning prior to transferring in a southerly direction (an approximate 2hr drive) to the lovely Queen Elizabeth National Park, the Mweya section. If it is a clear day you may even catch a glimpse of the Rwenzori Mountains on your right hand side, also known as the Mountains of the Moon. Queen Elizabeth is arguably one of the most scenic national parks in Uganda. Gazetted in 1952, the park occupies an area of 1,978km2 and is located on the rift valley floor at 910m (a.s.l) and rises to 1,390m (a.s.l) in the Explosion Crater Field. The dramatic scenery is enhanced by the Rwenzori Mountain range beyond the park boundary. A staggering fifty-seven vegetation types exist in Queen Elizabeth National Park. The habitats include moist semi-deciduous forest, moist thicket, riparian and riverine forests, bush savannah and open acacia woodland, open grassland, swamps, craters, & crater lakes. You will enjoy a game drive en-route to the lodge and if lucky you can spot elephant, lion, savannah cape buffalo, defassa waterbuck, bushbuck and kob. Hippopotamus, warthog, spotted hyena, side-striped jackal, blotched genet, and banded mongoose are known to wander close to Mweya Safari Lodge.
Overnight: Mweya Safari Lodge – a 1960’s lodge located on a peninsular in the heart of Queen Elizabeth National Park; this lodge offers spectacular views over the Kazinga Channel with great bird watching and a variety of savannah game drives possible. Perfect pool positioning means that you can look down onto the plains whilst enjoying a cooling swim. All rooms have en-suite facilities (B/L/D)
After an early breakfast you will head out for a long morning’s game drive returning for lunch. You head towards the Kasenyi Track which is one of the best game-viewing areas in Queen Elizabeth National Park and renowned for its rutting herds of Ugandan Kob. Common mammals to be seen include herds of defassa waterbuck, savannah buffalo, elephant, warthog and lion. You will return to the lodge for a well deserved lunch. Here you can enjoy the lodge swimming pool. After a restful afternoon you head to the Kazinga Channel for an evening boat cruise. 40km’s in length, the Kazinga Channel connects Lake George to Lake Edward. It’s the park’s prime wildlife location attracting large numbers of birds, mammals and reptiles annually. It acts as a migrant trap for birds journeying along the Albertine Rift. Here you have the chance to see a wide variety of water-related species. It is also home to some of the largest concentration of hippopotamus populations in the world. Here they spend most of the daylight hours in the water emerging frequently to bask on the sandy mud-banks and on occasion to feed. If you are lucky elephant herds may make their way to the Channel for their evening refreshments. This sometimes consists of splendid cooling displays. Several reptiles also are seen along the banks of the river, including huge Nile Crocodiles and Nile Monitor Lizards. You return in the late afternoon, and transfer to our lodge. As dusk falls, we prepare for dinner and a good night’s rest.
Overnight: Mweya Safari Lodge (B/L/D)
From the Mweya section of the park you drive to the quieter area of Ishasha. This is one of our favourite areas of Queen Elizabeth; based from the beautiful Ishasha Wilderness Camp we explore this remote corner of QE famous for its tree climbing lions. This area is also popular with migrating elephant herds, a variety of grazers and more and more frequently, leopard. Sit back and relax this evening on the banks of the river as you listen to the sounds of the wilderness unfold before you.
Overnight: Ishasha Wilderness Camp – is a cosy camp consisting of 6 Meru Style tents located on the banks of the Ntungwe River and providing access to a host of game viewing including the famous tree climbing lions. There are en-suite bathrooms with hot bush showers and eco-friendly toilets. Ishasha Wilderness Camp is the perfect place to stop on the way to track the gorillas of Bwindi (B/L/D)
Today you will explore Ishasha, the southern sector of Queen Elizabeth considered by some experts as one of the most alluring game viewing area of East Africa. It’s an off-the-beaten-track destination that you will surely enjoy. You wake up early, of course, since this is the best time for observing nature. You start from the southern circuit in search of the elephants and we will drive over the plains of Ishasha in the open savannah. The southern circuit usually has large herds of buffalo, Uganda Kob and topi. Near to the swamps of the southern circuit you might see even leopard. You continue and drive to the northern circuit which is the area near the main road known for its tree climbing lions. You will look particularly at the many fig trees where lions like to stay and also visit the Uganda Kob mating ground which is their preferred hunting area. After an initial scouting expedition, you will return to the camp for a lunch, relax, observe the hippos and take time for a shower or siesta in the shadow of the woods. In the afternoon you will have another game drive and if the weather is favourable you may be driven to the Edward’s flats to see elephants, large herds of buffalo and different water birds.
Overnight: Ishasha Wilderness Camp (B/L/D)
This morning you enjoy a game drive on the way out of the park and travel further south to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (an approximate 2-3hr drive). This is a leisurely drive climbing out of the Rift Valley and through the Kigezi Highlands of South-Western Uganda. The scenery gets increasingly breathtaking as we switchback up and down the hills and 30kms before the end of your journey, you will see your objective – the mist-swathed mountains of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world. Upon arrival, you are welcomed at your cosy lodge.
After lunch, you then get the opportunity to visit the small communities of Batwa (Pygmies). The Bwindi area supports one of the highest rural population densities in Uganda with 350 people per km2. A 2-3hr village walk will allow you to immerse yourself into village life where you may get to visit a typical homestead, the traditional healer and a banana beer brewery. These activities enable the community to benefit from gorilla tourism and profits are shared with the community through assistance in funding local schools and clinics. After dinner, you retire for the night, lulled to sleep by the sounds of one of Africa’s most incredible natural environments.
Overnight: Buhoma Lodge – is located only 5 minutes walk from Bwindi Park Headquarters. The lodge consists of 8 traditionally built wooden cottages. With en-suite bathrooms and hot and cold running water this is a lovely place to stay. If you’re lucky you may even spot gorillas walking past the property! (B/L/D)
The Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi are part of a worldwide population of just 720 individuals. The gorillas you are allowed to track belong to one of five habituated family groups. For up to five years each, these groups have undergone an extremely delicate process that has gradually brought them to tolerate the presence of humans for a brief period every day and allowed a few privileged visitors to interact with them in the wild.
The gorillas are by no means tame, and are completely wild animals. However, experienced guides will accompany you on your tracking, many of who have been involved in the habituation process themselves. The guides will use their knowledge of the gorillas’ habits and information from the previous day to locate the group’s whereabouts. Because of this, the time taken to track the gorillas varies enormously, from as little as half an hour to as much as 9hrs before one returns to camp. Once the gorillas are located, your group will be allowed a maximum of one hour with them. This is one of the world’s truly memorable experiences – a look into one of these magnificent creatures’ eyes brings home the bond that exists between them and us. It also brings home the poignant fact that they are on the edge of extinction, and that your presence here contributes to ensuring their continued survival. Tracking the mountain gorillas is an awe inspiring experience and as you come across them in their forest surroundings all thought of fatigue disappear!
The hour is often over all too quickly, and you slowly make our way back to our lodge to recount the day’s adventures.
Overnight: Buhoma Lodge (B/L/D)
Today you can enjoy a nature forest walk passing tree ferns, epiphytic ferns, orchids and a colourful array of butterflies. This trail leads to 3 scenic crystal clear waterfalls in the middle of the tropical rain forest. The rest of the day is yours at leisure. You may wish to do a gentle bird walk around the gardens of the lodge and the community area.
Overnight: Buhoma Lodge (B/L/D)
Today you have a wonderfully scenic drive to Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda clearing customs en-route (an approximate 8hr drive). The drive undulates over Rwanda’s extremely hilly and picturesque countryside, and as you near the end of your journey, you will (weather permitting!) begin to catch glimpses of the Virungas – a chain of 5 impossibly steep and lofty volcanoes straddling the western branch of the Rift Valley from east to west. Each mountain possesses its own unique character and silhouette, but together they form one of the most isolated and visually dramatic ecosystems in the world. A ‘true island in the sky’, the Volcanoes National Park is home to some of the worlds few remaining Mountain Gorilla, which were first studied here in 1959 by George Schaller, and through the 1960’s by Dian Fossey and her colleagues.
Overnight: Virunga Lodge – consists of eight bandas set on a stunning hillside with a panoramic view of the Virunga volcanoes and the lakes Ruhondo and Bulera. The Lodge is situated 45mins from the Park Headquarters (B/L/D)
Today you set off to the park headquarters in Kinigi to be allocated the gorilla group that you are going to track. Your final day of gorilla tracking is one that you will not forget. Try not to spend too much time behind the camera and just take in your surroundings as you enjoy the company of these amiable primates. Spending an hour with these gentle giants is a true privilege and one that you will never forget.
Overnight: Virunga Lodge (B/L/D)
After breakfast you will journey to the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project headquarters in Ruhengeri. It is here, to ensure their healthy future, that a huge amount of time and effort is put into caring for these critically endangered primates. You will spend time with the staff learning about how the gorillas are monitored, how life-saving medical care is provided; how health studies are conducted and how veterinary medicine and ecosystem health is taught. You will tour around centre with one of the doctors and watch a presentation about gorilla conservation. In the afternoon, there may be an opportunity to visit the local communities and the bustling market town of Ruhengeri or take a drive out to the scenic Lakes Bulera and Ruhondo. Return to the lodge later in the afternoon to relax, have a hot shower and reflect on the days activities.
Overnight: Virunga Lodge (B/L/D)
This morning you will set off into the forest to track the golden monkeys. Here, it is hoped to spend an hour with the cheeky primates. Listed as ‘endangered’ by the World Conservation Union, the Golden monkey (Cercopithecus Kandti) is endemic to the Albertine Rift. The Virunga Volcanoes harbour the only remaining viable breeding population of this localised monkey, a rare subspecies of the Blue monkey with a golden-orange patch on the upper flanks and back, each individual are only 5kg in weight. The activity will involve venturing through open farmland and searching high into the dense bamboo forest canopy. Here, the Golden monkey feed most of the year on bamboo leaves, insects and on ripe fruit when it is available. If successful at tracking the Golden monkeys it is hoped to spend a whole hour studying their behaviour. And watch them effortlessly glide atop the bamboo stems, stopping intermittingly to pluck tiny shoots out of the budding leaves. On standing still, the monkeys can come close – sometimes to watch us while other times to forage nearby. It can be a very peaceful atmosphere. On returning to the lodge you leave this stunning landscape behind you and make your way to Kigali where you will spend your final night in the comforts of the Kigali Serena.
Overnight: Kigali Serena – is ideally located on one of Kigali’s most charming boulevards and is just 10kms from Kigali International Airport. This relaxed, yet elegant hotel, centres on the executive lounge and bar, which opens onto a wide sundeck overlooking the newly refurbished swimming pool (B/L/D)
After breakfast, you are finally driven to the Kigali International Airport in order to meet your international flight back home (B)