The bird-rich country of Uganda holds many special and much sought-after species, and we will concentrate on finding as many of the fabled Albertine Rift Endemics as possible. A good reason alone to make this a must visit destination. To top this however we will have the once in a lifetime experience of seeing wild Mountain Gorillas. Uganda is an incredibly beautiful country and is one of Africa’s richest areas for birds with over 1000 species. There are magnificent ancient forests, mist shrouded mountains, papyrus-fringed swamps and lakes, as well as wide-open plains. It is home to the truly bizarre Shoebill and we have planned our itinerary to maximise our chances of locating this special bird. In the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest we will search for Mountain Gorillas and have an excellent chance of finding these outstanding animals in what can only be described as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Our itinerary allows us to visit some of the other top sites in the country, including Magahinga, Kibale and Lake Mburo. We will specifically target the Albertine Rift Endemics and visit lush forests teeming with spectacular birds. To compliment all this, we take several jeep drives in search of African game, as well as spending a special day looking for Chimpanzee. Uganda is currently one of the friendliest countries in East Africa, with a stable government, exciting mammals and an incredible bird list – which all adds up to an fantastic East African adventure.
We will plan on arriving this evening where we will be met on arrival and transferred to a nearby hotel.
Entebbe is situated on the vast shores of Lake Victoria, and after a good rest and some breakfast we will make a short trip to one or two swamps where we stand an excellent chance to encounter Uganda’s most famous bird, the enormous and thoroughly bizarre Shoebill. This prehistoric looking bird really has to be seen to be believed. Being paddled silently towards one of these huge birds in our wooden boats will be a life long memorable experience. Many other water birds will be searched for including a variety of herons and ducks, as well as Black Crake, African Jacana, Malachite Kingfishers and Swamp Flycatcher, and with luck we may find a Lesser Jacana, Saddle-billed Stork or smart looking Blue-breasted Bee-eaters. As African Fish Eagles soar overhead we will check for papyrus specialities, including White-winged Warbler and Papyrus Gonolek. After our boat trip we will check out the city's superb botanical gardens situated on the lake shore. Here we can find a variety of waterbirds including Pink-backed Pelican, African Open-billed Stork, Black Heron, Egrets and many wading birds such as Marsh Sandpiper, Greenshank, Black-winged Stilts, Wood, Green and Common Sandpiper, Spur-winged Plover and maybe a surprise or two. Amongst the flocks of Slender-billed Weavers we will look for the localised Orange Weaver, and here amongst the scrub and reeds we can find a host of other typical African species. We also have the chance to find day roosting Verreaux's Eagle-owl and if we stay late enough maybe African Wood Owl. Just a short distance back to our hotel we will have our second night in Entebbe.
Today we will take an early breakfast before setting off on the drive to Kibale National Park. We will break this journey with birding stops and have more opportunities to see White-winged Warbler and Papyrus Gonelek if we have missed them previously. As we near Portal we will pass through a section of the National Park and here a few roadside stops could produce an assortment of species. On the streams we could see African Black Duck, Cassin’s Grey flycatcher, and maybe Shining Blue Kingfisher, while the forest edges could produce Waller’s, Narrow-tailed and Purple-headed Starlings, Joyful, Slender-billed and Toro-olive Greenbuls, Luhder’s, Bocage’s and Many-coloured Bush-shrikes, Senegal Coucal, African Emerald Cuckoo, Hairy-breasted and Grey-fronted Barbets, Black-and-white Casqued Hornbill, and possibilities such as Afep and White-naped Pigeons, Red-headed Bluebill, Blue-headed Brown Sunbird, Crowned Eagle, Sabine’s Spinetail and White-collared Oliveback. Leaving the main road we will then drive towards our accommodation. Again passing through forest we will make a couple of stops in search of Black Bee-eater, Blue-throated Roller, Green Crombec, Red-headed Malimbe, Crested Guineafowl, Grey-throated and Sooty Flycatchers, Great Blue Turaco plus a variety of primates such as Olive Baboon, Blue, L’Hoest’s and Red-tailed Monkeys, and Red Colobus. Depending on what time we arrive at the lodge we can either relax or take a short walk into the surrounding forest. Night Primate Lodge
Day 4 Kibale National Park - Chimp Trek - Bigodi Wetland
After an early morning breakfast we will set off into the forest in search of one of its most difficult inhabitants – the shy Green-breasted Pitta. As dawn rises we hope to hear one displaying and with luck this will enable us to track it down and hopefully see it! Early morning in the forest can be alive with strange sounds and we may be able to coax a Red-chested Owlet to show itself, or even African Wood Owl. Some birds are easier heard than seen and both Scaly-breasted Illidopsis and White-spotted Flufftail are prime examples although with patience we have a good chance for the latter. As the morning unfolds our tracker will head us towards a meeting with our closest living relative the Chimpanzee. Park ranges set out early each morning to track the animals from their previous overnight nests, meaning that our chances of an encounter are extremely high. A highlight of the Kibale forest this will be an awe-inspiring experience and a highlight of any tour to Uganda. After our meeting with the unpredictable Chimps, we will continue birding the area until lunch-time. Some of the species we can hope to come across include White-headed Wood-hoopoe, Black-billed Turaco, Red-tailed Antthrush, Western Black-headed Oriole, Crowned Hornbill, White-chinned Prinia, Narina Trogon, Olive, Scarlet-chested and Green Sunbirds, Mountain Wagtail, Velvet-mantled Drongo and Honeyguide Greenbul. After lunch we will take the short drive to the Bigodi Wetland an area of dense Papyrus, pools and marshland. A walk around the trail that circles this reserve will give us chances for Papyrus Gonolek, Western Nicator, Grosbeak Weaver, Grey-winged Robin-chat, Red-faced Cisticola, African Green Pigeon, Olive-bellied Sunbird, the elusive White-spotted Flufftail, Vieillot’s Black Weaver and maybe Grey Parrot, African Hobby, Ayre’s Hawk-eagle, Long-crested Eagle and both Red Colobus, Black-and-white Colobus and Grey-cheeked Mangabey’s. Night Primate Lodge
Day 5 Kibale - Queen Elizabeth National Park
This morning we can have an optional early morning start to try again for Green-breasted Pitta if we failed yesterday. Returning for breakfast we will then set off toward the Queen Elizabeth National Park. Much more typical the African savannah opens up before us and various mammals will start to appear. Buffalo, Elephant and Kob will vie for our attention while raptors could include the impressive Martial Eagle, Bateleur, Long-crested Eagle, Brown Snake Eagle, Lizard Buzzard, Grey Kestrel, African Harrier-hawk, White-backed, White-headed and Lappet-faced Vultures, Wahlberg’s Eagle and even Africa Cuckoo-hawk. Grey-crowned Cranes strut around and Red-necked Spurfowls become common. Crowned Hornbills should be easier to see here and Sooty Chats everywhere. A stop beside a river could find us White-winged Terns, Gull-billed Tern, Hammerkop, Pied Kingfishers, African Reed Warbler, Southern Red Bishop, Yellow-backed Weaver and a variety of waterbirds. Back into the savannah we will take a few quieter tracks in the hope of finding the parks famous tree-climbing Lions or with real luck a Leopard. Waterbuck and Topi should be found and these rolling grasslands play host to numerous birds. Ruppell’s Long-tailed Starlings will outnumber Violet-backed, while Yellow-billed Oxpeckers attend herds of Buffalo and White-throated Bee-eater effortlessly snatch insect from the air. Our bird list for the day will be extensive and could include such species as Woodland, Grey-headed and Striped Kingfishers, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Ross’s Turaco, levaillant’s, African, Red-chested and Black-and-white Cuckoo, Black-headed Gonolek, Broad-billed Roller, Black-bellied Bustard, Palm-nut Vulture, White-headed, Spot-flanked and Double-toothed Barbet, Nubian Woodpecker, Rufous-naped, Flappet and possibly White-tailed Larks, Plain-backed Pipit, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Senegal Plover, white-browed Robin-chat, Brown-backed Scrub-robin, and possibilities of African Crake or Common Buttonquail. We will need to watch the skies and dead perches for Mosque Swallow, Banded Martin, Lesser-striped and Angola Swallows, as well as Little, Alpine and White-rumped Swifts. Near to our lodge the arable fields hold Black-shouldered Kite, Red-collared and Fan-tailed Widowbirds, as well as Red-billed Quelea, Red-billed Firefinch, Fawn-breasted Waxbill, Bronze Mannikin and Pin-tailed Whydah. If that’s not enough then we still have a few Cisticolas to sort through. There is also a marsh where we have a second chance to find the outrageous Shoebill. Night Savannah Resort.
Day 6 Queen Elizabeth Park - Buhoma
This morning we head out of the park towards Buhoma and the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, home to Mountain Gorillas and a good selection of Albertine Rift Endemics. After our arrival at our lodge which overlooks these forested mountains we will have lunch and then go out for the afternoon, birding along a stream and the forest edges. Once again we have a chance for African Black Duck, and many new and exciting species such as Black Cuckoo, Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo, Tambourine Dove, Black Saw-wing, Red-headed Malimbe, Grey-headed Negro-finch, Ludher’s Bush-shrike, Little and Yellow-throated Greenbul, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Yellowbill, Green Crombec, Brown-throated wattle-eye, Green-headed Sunbird, and if we are lucky Woodhouse’s Antpecker. Night Silverback Lodge
Day 7 Buhoma
Today we have all day explore the Buhoma main trail that cuts into an area of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. We take an additional local guide here who is an expert in this area and can hopefully find us some of the rarer and seldom seen species that inhabit this forest. There will be plenty to see and our effort will be focused on many of the Albertine Rift Endemics and specialties such as Short-tailed Warbler, Kivu Ground-thrush, Red-throated Alethe, Mountain and Scaly-breasted illidopsis, Equatorial Akalat, White-bellied Robin-chat, Grey-winged Robin-chat, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, African Broadbill, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Ansorge’s Greebul, Bar-tailed Trogon, White-headed Wood-hoopoe, Sooty Boubou, Many-coloured Bush-shrike, Green Crombec, Petit’s Cuckoo-shrike, Red-tailed Greenbul, Green Hylia, Black-faced Rufous Warbler, Honeyguide Greenbul, Black Bee-eater, Blue-throated Roller, Speckled Tinkerbird, Handsome Francolin, Stuhlmann’s Starling, White-tailed Antthrush, Mackinnon’s Fiscal, Grey and Buff-throated Apalis, Dusky Tit, Black-necked and Black-billed Weaver, Pink-footed Puffback, Black-and-white Shrike Flycatcher and African Shrike-flycatcher. It will be a full day and we come away with a good selection of sought after species. Night Silverback Lodge.
Two nights at Engagi Lodge
Day 8 Buhoma – Ruhizha, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
We have the morning to catch up with any species we may have missed before making our way towards Ruhizha. Along the way we will bird the "neck" an excellent birding area in its own right and one we will thoroughly explore. Mist lingers along the higher stretches, and the dense forest is covered in a profusion of epiphytes and mosses that create a rather damp atmosphere. This is an excellent locality for Black Bee-eater, as well as Cassin’s Hawk Eagle, Augur Buzzard, Handsome Francolin, Red-throated Wryneck, Archer’s Robin-chat, Collared Apalis, Bronze Sunbird, Scarce Swift, Black Saw-wing, Cassin’s Grey, Dusky Blue, African Blue, White-tailed Blue and White-eyed Slaty Flycatchers, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Toro Olive Greenbul, Black-faced Rufous Warbler, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Doherty’s, Many-coloured and Lühder’s Bush-Shrikes, Ruwenzori Batis, Stripe-breasted Tit, Yellow Bishop, Purple-breasted Sunbird, White-naped Raven, Strange and Baglafecht Weaver, Dusky Crimsonwing, Yellow Bishop, Yellow-bellied Waxbill, Black-and-White Mannikin, the rare Dusky Twinspot, Yellow-crowned Canary and Streaky Seedeater. Other memorable species could include Black-billed Turaco, Elliott’s Woodpecker, Blue-throated Roller, Shelley’s Greenbul, White-browed Crombec, Chapin’s Flycatchers, White-bellied Crested Flycatcher, Northern Double-collared and Blue-headed Sunbirds, Bar-tailed Trogon, and African Broadbill. The very rare and exceedingly difficult African Green Broadbill has been seen on many occasions along this road so we need to keep vigilant. We will eventually arrive at our lodge in time for a welcome coffee. Nights Trekkers Tavern Cottages
Day 9 Ruhizha and the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
Today we have the full day returning for lunch to explore the area which includes the old school road, and sections of forest within a short distance of our lodge. One of our main targets for today will be trying to connect with the very rare and difficult African Green Broadbill, and it must be stressed that unless an active nest has been located then our chances of seeing this bird are very slim. They can move around with mixed species flocks and it will be these that we search for. Beside our lodge we can find Chubb’s Cisicola, Yellow-headed Canary, African Dusky Flycatcher and the stunning Golden-breasted Bunting, while closer to the forest we could come across Dusky Twinspot, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Rwenzori Batis, Stripe-breasted Tit, Chestnut-throated Apalis, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, African Hill-babbler, Willcock’s Honeyguide, Grauer’s Warbler, Mountain Masked, Collared and Black-throated Apalis. The gorgeous looking Doherty’s Bush-shrike will be sought and other birds in this area include Purple-breasted, Blue-headed and Regal Sunbirds, Narina Trogon, Tullberg's Woodpecker, Grey Cuckoo-Shrike, Speckle-breasted Woodpecker, Archer’s Robin-chat, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Dusky Crimsonwing, Banded Prinia, White-starred Robin, Slender-billed Starling, Yellow-bellied and Black-headed Waxbill, Brown-crowned Tchagra, White-breasted Negrofinch and hopefully Rwenzori Double-collared Sunbird. Dawn or dusky excursions could find us Rwenzori Nightjar, African Wood Owl or Handsome Francolin. An open fire in the evening is the perfect place to reflect on what we have already seen and also discuss our forthcoming trek to see Mountain Gorillas. Night Trekker’s Tavern Cottages.
Day 10 Mountain Gorilla Trek - Bwindi
Today surely has to represent one of those truly “once in a life-time” experiences as we set out on an early morning trek into Bwindi Impenetrable forest National Park. The forest is so named because of the steepness of the hills which used to make progress almost impossible, but thankfully these days most of the special birds can be observed from gently sloping trails or from roads. Today however the birds will not be our priority and with a packed lunch and led by our experienced team of guides and trackers we will go in search of a family of Mountain Gorillas. Tracking the Gorillas through the dense mountain forest is a magical experience, and we could spend anywhere between a couple of hours to a full day looking for these rare and docile animals. Once found we have a full hour to enjoy, quietly watch and take photographs on what will most likely be one of the best days experiences ever! Many people go on Gorilla treks from Buhoma, but doing this from Ruhizha is by far the best experience as we will probably be the only people going out on our designated day. This really does make it special and a day never to be forgot. Depending on the time we return from the Gorillas we may bird the mine trail where we have a chance for Grassland Pipit, Chestnut throated Apalis, Regal Sunbird, Black-headed and Yellow-bellied Waxbills, Dusky Twinspot, Mackinnon’s Shrike, Red-throated Wryneck, and if we are lucky we may see a Spotted Eagle-Owl in a day roost. If for any reason you do not opt for the Gorilla trek then there will be birding opportunities where we can see some excellent species such as Western Bronze-naped Pigeon, Olive Long-tailed Cuckoo, Red-chested Owlet, Bar-tailed Trogon, Equatorial Akalat, Grey-throated Barbet, Yellow-spotted Barbet, African Broadbill, Petit's Cuckoo-Shrike, Grey-chested Illadopsis, Red-throated Alethe, White-bellied Robin Chat, Chubb’s Cisticola, Black-faced Rufous Warbler, Grauer’s Warbler, Cape Wagtail, Mackinnon’s Fiscal, Slender-billed, Stuhlmann’s and Waller’s Starlings, Oriole Finch, Willcock’s Honeyguide and the curious and attractive Woodhouse's Antpecker. Night at Trekker’s Tavern cottages.
Day 11 Bwindi - Mgahinga
Today we will drive towards Mgahinga Gorilla National Park which consists of the partly forested slopes of three extinct volcanoes. Along the way a stop beside a marsh and tracts of bamboo where we will look for several specialties including Grauer’s Rush Warbler, Carruther’s Cisticola, Victoria’s Masked Weaver and possibly Papyrus Yellow Warbler. On arrival at Mgahinga we can see volcanoes draped in extensive Afro-alpine forests, vast stands of bamboo and moorland dominated by Giant Lobelias. The trails we will take are lower and give us the chance to find the extraordinary Rwenzori Turaco, one of our target species. Other birds that will be in our sights include Ruwenzori Double-collared Sunbird and other Albertine Rift Endemics and specialities such Lagden’s Bush-Shrike, Kivu Ground Thrush, Handsome Francolin and the beautiful Shelley’s Crimsonwing, although the latter is rarely seen so we would consider ourselves very fortunate to encounter this endangered bird. There will be plenty of other species to keep us busy such as Cape Robin-chat, Dusky Turtle Dove, Scarlet-tufted Malachite Sunbird, Montane double collared Sunbird, White-tailed Blue-flycatcher, Alpine Chat and more chances for Rwenzori Nightjar. The beautiful Golden Monkey, a localized form of the Blue Monkey, occurs in the bamboo zone and we would hope to encounter these to add to our growing primate list. Night Mgahinga
Day 12 Mgahinga - Lake Mburo National Park
Today we will make the drive to Lake Mburo National Park a transition from thick damp forest to open dry savannah so typical of Africa. Along the way we will make several stops, before reaching this very attractive park. Birds are fairly easy to see in this open habitat and we should be able to find such species as Lilac-breasted Roller, Ross’s Turaco, Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, Brown Parrot, Rufous-chested Swallow, Temminck’s Courser, Flappet Lark, Singing, Siffling and Long-tailed Cisticolas, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Brubru, Wattled Starling, Coqui Francolin, Grassland and Long-billed Pipits, Red-tailed Chat, African Stonechat, Wing-snapping Cisticola, White-winged Black Tits, Red-faced Crombec, Buff-bellied Warbler, Sulphur-breasted Bush-shrike, Lead-coloured Flycatcher, African Penduline Tit, Blue-headed Coucal, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Striped Kingfisher, Green Wood Hoopoe, Spot-flanked Barbet, African Grey Hornbill, White-browed Scrub Robin and Green-headed Sunbird. We will also try and find the restricted range Red-faced Barbet. There should be plenty of mammals here with Impalas, Warthog, Topi, Tree Hyrax, Defassa Waterbuck and Common Zebras found amongst the open, acacia scrub. In the evening around our excellent camp Galagos come in to be fed, while Freckled Nightjars can be seen around the fabulous rooms. We may even hear African Scops Owls, or with luck we may come across a Black-shouldered Nightjar. Night Mahinga Lodge
Day 13 Lake Mburo National Park - Entebbe
After an excellent breakfast and maybe a Freckled Nightjar or two, we will again drive into the park and look for a variety of birds and mammals. Mid morning will see us on the shore of lake Mburo where we will head out for a very pleasant boat trip. In the reed fringed edges we will look for skulking White-backed Night-heron, while Black-crowned Night-heron should be much easier. Malachite, Pied and Giant Kingfishers will be looked for as well as Northern Brown-throated Weaver, Grey-headed Warbler and close ups of African Fish Eagles. We may be able to find Black Crake alongside African Jacana, Water Thick-knee, and maybe Dwarf Bittern or Rufous-bellied Heron. The main reason for us to be out on the water is the excellent opportunity to see the often elusive African Finfoot. After lunch we will continue our safari looking for Red-headed, Little and Holub’s Golden Weavers. African Penduline Tit, Black-headed Oriole, Tropical Boubou, White-crested Helmet Shrike, Black Cuckoo-Shrike, Greater Blue-eared Starling, Marico Sunbird, Grey Kestrel, Speckled Pigeon and African Black Swift until it’s time to head back to Entebbe where we should have time to get cleaned up for our dinner, and then transferred to the airport for our late night international departure.
Day 14 End of Tour - 22nd January
Morning arrival in UK and end of tour.
Leaders: Chris Townend plus local Ugandan Bird Guide.
Ground Price: £2895.00 - Entebbe/Entebbe
Airfare: £630.00 (Approx) - UK/UK
Zoothera tour prices explained
Single supplement: £495.00
Group size: Minimum for tour to go ahead 4 per vehicle, maximum of 6 per vehicle
Included in cost: Accommodation in twin rooms all en-suite, all meals including picnic lunches where necessary, bottled water, all entrance fees, forest and swamp walk fees, transport in 4x4 stretched Toyota Landcruisers with windows for all seats and pop up roof, boat trips and services of local guides, trackers and leaders.
Not included: International airfare, insurance, drinks, tips, and items of a personal nature.
Also not included: Gorilla Tracking Permit: currently $500 US Dollars and Chimp Tracking Permit currently $90 if you wish to go on either of these then the sooner we know the better as permits can only be issued on a first come first serve basis.
Accommodation: Ranges from good to quite basic. But all put us in the right places without too much travelling each day.
Tour Code: This is a birding tour that will also focus on two incredible primates - the Mountain Gorilla and Chimpanzee. Early starts are normal to get the best birding and some late finishes are necessary. We have excluded the permits for Gorillas and Chimps as this can be optional. If not going on these treks you will be able to bird around the camps. If you are going on the treks then note that searching for Gorillas can take anywhere between 2 & 8 hours, but the chances of an encounter are very high. If trekking for Chimps this is much less predictable.
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