The group flight arrives late in the evening.
This morning we start our journey in Uganda and drive to Murchison Falls National Park. This is Uganda's largest national park, with an area of 3840sqkm. It lies in the core of the Murchison Falls Conservation Area. This impressive park protects a chunk of untamed African savannah bisected by the mighty Nile River. The dramatic Murchison Falls, where the world's longest river explodes violently through a narrow cleft in the Rift Valley escarpment to plunge into a frothing pool 43m below strikes an exhilarating impression on all 5 senses. Murchison Falls is occupied mainly by lush grasslands. The highest diversity of wildlife is found on the open plains north of the Nile, where elephant, buffalo, giraffe and a huge variety of antelope are regularly encountered. The Nile itself boasts one of Africa's densest hippo and crocodile populations, and a dazzling variety of water birds including the world's most accessible wild population of the rare shoebill.
Upon arrival in Murchison Falls National Park, you will visit the top of the mighty falls.
Today we get to explore the wonders of this magnificent park by safari vehicle and private boat. The boat trip takes us along the Nile to the bottom of the falls. Murchison Falls National Park is said to be the best game park in Uganda. During a typical game drive we can be expected to see a large number of antelope species, including bush buck, water buck, Thomson's gazelle and dik dik to name but a few. Larger herbivores, such as giraffe and elephant are present in the park in great numbers and often the lumbering giraffe will cross the roads right in front of us. MFNP is the most accessible park in Uganda to see giraffes. Huge groups of buffalo are a common sight whilst exploring the park on a game drive. Primates, such as baboons and Patas monkeys, stare at you as you pass by and if you are a bird lover then this Park will not disappoint. We later take a boat ride to the base of the falls.
We drive to the Kibale Forest area, the drive is a full day of approximately eight hours. After leaving the Rift Valley we pass through beautiful agricultural countryside where every type of fruit and vegetable imaginable is grown. Upon reaching Kyanjojo, in the lower foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains (also known as the Mountains of the Moon), we drive through beautiful tea plantations and onto the town of Fort Portal near the Kibale rainforest.
Today we have the opportunity to explore Kibale Forest National Park, home to 13 primate. There are 9 diurnal primates, these include, Vervet, Red-tailed, L'Hoest's, Blue monkeys, Grey-cheeked Manabey, Red colobus, Black-and-white colobus, Olive baboon and the most famous of all, the chimpanzee. Although chimp sightings are not guaranteed, the odds of encountering them standing are very good. This morning we will explore the Bigodi Wetlands Sancturay located in the Magombe wetland. The sanctuary is a major eco-tourist attraction in the Kibale Forest area and is operated by the Kibale Association for Rural and Environmental Development (KAFRED), a local community based organisation. This afternoon we will go on a forest walk in search of primates. Whilst trekking in the depths of the lush green forest, you will be surrounded by bird song and can expect to see at least 5 or 6 other types of primate, most probably the grey-cheeked managebey and the red-tailed monkey and of course the chimpanzee. The walking is fairly easy due to the well-maintained trails and reasonably flat terrain.
To increase our chances of spending time with chimps we have a second opportunity this morning to track these close cousins in one of the best locations on Earth for chimp-tracking. This 2nd chimp tracking is an optional activity but needs to be booked in advance in order to secure permits. We will then drive on to Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP). The drive goes south along the eastern length of The Rwenzori Mountains, where, weather depending, we can see the glaciated peaks. We gently descend into The Great Rift Valley and QENP. The park resides in a fertile, equatorial area and has beautiful scenery. It is Uganda's most popular and accessible savannah reserve, with a total area of 1978sqkm. It is primarily associated with grassy savannah plains, but this impressive park also includes within its boundaries, leafy rainforests, dense papyrus swamps and natural volcanic crater lakes. As a result it has one of the highest biodiversity ratings of any game reserve in the world, including a total of 95 recorded mammal species and more than 610 species of birds
This morning we will explore QENP on a game drive in search of the local game including elephants, lions, buffalo, leopard, hyena, jackal, topi, kob, bush buck and various others. In the afternoon we have a boat trip of about two hours along the Kazinga Channel to view some of the largest concentration of hippo in the world (reported to be about 30,000) and other game with excellent birding. QENP is one of best birding parks in Africa, with 560 + recorded species and a record of 296 bird species seen in one 24 hour period.
Today we drive through the park to the Ishasha region. We game drive in search of tree climbing lion and other game. This afternoon we drive to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, a World Heritage site, passing through the scenic area known as The Switzerland of East Africa. The driving today is about 5 1/2 hours (not including game drives).
Day 9 - 10
We spend two full days in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest region. This forest covers the northern flank of the Virunga Mountains which straddle the border Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo and which are home the world's entire population of Mountain gorillas. As well as gorillas these forests are also habitat to numerous birds and various primate species. There are also large mammals such as forest elephants and giant forest hogs but these are seldom seen. During our time here we have a number of optional activities:
Gorilla tracking (to be booked in advance):
For many coming toe to toe with a Mountain gorilla is one the most emotional wildlife experiences possible. Tracking these gentle giants can take anything from under an hour to closer to 6 hours depending on which family we are allocated. Permits are limited and they should be obtained as a soon as possible. To increase the possibilities of getting a permit we spend 2 days in Bwindi. Should the permits for gorilla families close to where we are staying be unavailable there are more permits for another area of the park though this will mean a long drive to get to the start point of the trek. The Batwa Cultural Experience (to be booked in advance):
The Batwa pygmies have long lived in harmony with the forest, when the National Park was created they were displaced out of the park and had to adapt. Struggling with their new lives and integrating with the modern world, the Batwa pygmies, who'd been moved out of the forest to protect Mountain gorillas, came close to extinction themselves. With outside help, however, they started to adapt whilst holding onto their traditions. During this day-excursion we learn about the traditional Batwa way of life, we hike through the forest, getting a chance to see the forest through their eyes, learn about traditional hunting techniques using bow and arrows, visit a homestead and learn about domestic life and try local dishes, learn about medicinal plants used by a medicine man and hear Batwa legends and traditional songs. Because the number of tourists who can visit the Batwa is restricted in order to be less intrusive, this optional activity needs to be booked in advance.
It is possible to organise a local guide to explore the forest and search for the various birdlife and primates who inhabit the area as well as learn about the fauna. This can be organised locally.
Drive to Mbarara passing through the Switzerland of East Africa area and eventually into Ankole Cattle country around Mbarara. These cattle are incredible with horns larger than one can imagine.
This morning we head back to Entebbe, this takes approximately 5 hours - road and weather dependent. If time permits it is possible to stop in Kampala for shopping and lunch and a visit to the Mpigi Royal Drum Makers. We are then transferred to Entebbe International airport to connect with our departure flight.