13 DAYS HOLIDAY TRIPS (1 FREE GORILLA PERMIT) | Budget Travel Experts-Hamerkop Safaris

13 DAYS HOLIDAY TRIPS (1 FREE GORILLA PERMIT)

13 DAYS HOLIDAY TRIPS (1 FREE GORILLA PERMIT)

Day 1: Arrival at Entebbe international airport

On your arrival at the Entebbe international airport the main gateway to Uganda, you will meet and get greeted by your assigned guide from Hamerkop Safaris who will later drive you to Kampala for your dinner and overnight.

Day 2: Start your all-inclusive Uganda Safari from Entebbe or Kampala, driving to Murchison Falls National Park & Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary (there’ flights to Murchison Falls if you prefer not to drive)

On this day, we have it programmed that your designated Uganda safari guide/ driver should be meeting you at the hotel you are staying to start the tour at 8 am. Or, if you are planning to arrive in Uganda today (at Entebbe Airport), we shall be meeting you at the airport but your flight needs to arrive not later than 11 am.

You will get a brief about the holiday experience ahead of you before starting the drive through the famous Luwero triangle, your final destination being Murchison Falls National Park (about 380 km away by road). In case you prefer not to drive this long, there are flights that go to Murchison Falls National Park (only operate on a minimum of 4 persons).

Along the way, we have our first Uganda wildlife experience. This will be with the white rhinos at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. Ziwa Rhino sanctuary is the only place to trek wild Rhinos in Uganda, the other Rhinos are found at Uganda wildlife education center (former Zoo) in Entebbe. On arrival at the sanctuary, you will be given a briefing from your ranger guide on how to behave while on this Rhino trek. It is very critical that you heed the ranger’s instructions while on the trek because Rhinos can be aggressive if they sense a need to defend themselves. Depending on the location of the Rhinos, you may need to drive closer to their location before you start the trek to reduce the distance. Your ranger guide will share different information on the behavior of Rhinos and how you ought to behave while as you trek.

Once you locate the Rhinos, you can stay a maximum of one hour in their presence. Sometimes different families are within a distance of each other, in which case you will get an opportunity to visit more than one group. You also have a chance of other animal sightings on this nature walk, they include Waterbucks, Bushbucks, Kobs, Leopard (rarely), duikers, etc.

We will continue through the park stopping at the top of the falls which is a fantastic sight. Here the Nile, the longest river in the world, is forced through a narrow gap in the rock (only 7 meters wide), before ferociously plunging down 43 meters. From here we will continue onto our accommodation place along the Nile River

Murchison Falls National Park is the largest in Uganda at 3,840 square kilometers. Here is the awe-inspiring Murchison Falls where the River Nile hurls itself in convulsions through a narrow crevice and then plunges 40 meters in one breathtaking leap.

The park has a variety of vegetation ranging from riparian forests and swamplands to broad savannah and provides visitors the opportunity of seeing large concentrations of wildlife including lion, leopard, civet, hyena, elephant, giraffe, buffalo, hippo, crocodile, a host of smaller game, small primates and many bird species, including the rare shoebill stork. The park is especially famous for crocodiles and hippos.

Apart from game viewing, the launch trip to the bottom of the falls is another memorable adventure giving you the experience of the mighty Biblical Nile. On the launch trip, you may see schools of crocodiles and hippos basking on the river banks as well as a variety of birds.

Accommodation Options

Up-market: Baker’s Lodge |  Paraa Safari Lodge (or upgrade to Nile Safari Lodge)

Moderate:  Pakuba Lodge

Budget: Fort Murchison Lodge (tents) | Murchison River Lodge (tents) | Red Chilli Rest Camp

Day 3: Safari in Murchison Falls National Park | Game Drive | Boat Trip

Our first safari game drive is right on today! But this will come with some early morning rising. It is very advisable that you plan on leaving your lodge/ camp at 6:30 am at the latest because we literary want to catch the big cats in or right after the action (they are less active in the sun). If you are sleeping on the Southern side of the Nile, you should plan with your safari guide to be at the ferry jetty by 6:30 am. The lodge should be able to prepare a simple breakfast, keeping the rest for when you return from the game drive.

Off we will be going in the wild, on the dusty or muddy tracks of the park. Our vehicles are fully equipped for game drives in African National Parks. The Toyota land-cruisers have a full pop-up roof, wide-opening windows, and several other amenities. So you are assured of a really great wildlife experience today.

As we keep going, your tour guide will try to uncover as much as possible. Expect to view lots of animals in the wilderness. Keep looking out for lions, giraffes, herds of elephants, buffaloes, and many more.

Apart from the extensive wild game list, the landscape of Murchison Falls National Park is definitely another beauty to behold. If you have a good camera, you should prepare for one of those very busy days. If you are like me, it is highly likely that you need a second battery for this game drive. There is also a very diverse birding list, especially in the delta area of the park.

A wildlife game drive in Murchison Falls National Park could even go on for as long as 7 hours if you like. There is just so much to cover in the expansive park.

Right after you are done with the game drive, we shall be driving back to the lodge for our lunch before taking an afternoon boat cruise to the foot of Murchison Falls.

The Murchison Falls boat trip along the Nile is often cited as being the highlight of a trip to Murchison since it allows you to get up close and personal with the animals. Along this stretch of the river, there are reported to be around 4,000 hippos in addition to some enormous Nile crocodiles. The birdlife is stunning with brightly colored kingfishers and bee-eaters darting along the riverbanks. If lucky, you may see the rare and prehistoric-looking shoebill, which is a cross between the dodo and a dinosaur.

The boat takes you to the base of the falls which only adds to their impressiveness. The Murchison Falls is, by all means, a world wonder. At this point, you will see how the entire River Nile waters squeeze through a narrow passage of fewer than 7 meters radius while plunging over a 40-meter depth. This one rare creation wonder, so amazing and so wonderful to behold. You will be blown away by the awesome scenery as you appreciate the natural wonder only in Uganda (and this is partly the reason why Uganda is referred to as the Pearl of Africa. When Sir Winston Churchill visited the falls in 1907, he advised that “Ten pounds would throw an iron bridge across the river at this point.” Needless to say, a footbridge was built in 1960 (we can’t really ascertain how much it cost though). The bridge provided superb views into the chasm for close to two years before being washed off during the famous 1962 floods. A single concrete pillar still remains to show for this ten pounds bridge.

While there, you could actually choose to hike to the top of the falls (costs USD20 extra) but you need to arrange with your tour guide to meet you on the other side of the river. Otherwise, you can just remain on the boat for the splendid return cruise back. Hiking to Baker’s point takes about 15 minutes to the top and rewards you with marvelous views of the Murchison gorge and a secondary waterfall, Uhuru Falls.

After our hectic day out, relax in the evening and have overnight at the lodge as we prepare for the next day’s drive.

Accommodation Options

Up-market: Baker’s Lodge| Paraa Safari Lodge (or upgrade to Nile Safari Lodge)

Moderate: Pakuba Lodge

Budget: Fort Murchison Lodge (tents) | Murchison River Lodge (tents) | Red Chilli Rest Camp

Day 4: Drive to Kibale National Park; Guided Primate Walk in Bigodi Swamp (flights can be arranged if driving is a challenge for you)

Please plan to set off not later than 8 am today from the lodge. We shall be driving the Kibale National Park, an expansive forest mostly referred to as East Africa’s Primates’ capital. We shall be driving for at least two hours through Murchison Falls, sighting wildlife along the way and then through beautiful remote African villages.

You continue driving through the undulating highlands of southwestern Uganda on our way to the greener and beautiful Fort Portal area. The lush rolling hills of this region provide good “photo opportunities”.

If we arrive early, we can have our lunch from the lodge before going to Bigodi Swamp for a guided primates walk accompanied by a traditional village tribes’ experience. Bigodi swamp is great for its many monkey species and birds. You will expect birds like the great Blue turaco, blue monkeys, baboons, otters, mongoose, bushbucks, bush pigs, and among others. At the tail end of the walk, the local guides lead you in the local community where you can participate in local alcohol brewing, coffee roasting, farming, basket weaving, among other activities.

We later return to the lodge for overnight and dinner.

Accommodation options available

Up-market: Kyaninga Lodge | Crater Safari Lodge Kibale | Ndali Lodge

Moderate: Isunga Lodge | Kibale Forest Camp | Turaco Treetops

Low Budget: Tents at Kibale Forest Camp | Chimpanzee Forest Guesthouse

Day 5: Chimpanzee Tracking in Kibale National Park (you can opt for the full day habituation experience for USD50 extra)

Our first primates’ experience is on today, and that will be chimpanzee tracking in Kibale National Park. There are two chimp trekking sessions, one starting at 8 am and the other at 11 am and we plan to be on one of these at least 20 minutes before. The starting place for the chimps trek is the park headquarters, at Kanyankyu River camp from where most of the park’s tourist activities commence.

At the Kibale park office, you will be asked for your passport for registration and then briefed about the chimpanzee tracking. The trek is mostly mild trekking through the jungles of  Kibale, guided by the park rangers. You will be able to locate the chimps by listening for their pant-hooting calls, then hustle to the area from which they are calling.  You should be able to observe them as they feed in fruiting trees, lounge, and socialize with each other, or even, occasionally hunt. You will be allowed one hour in the presence of the chimpanzees, and then after led back to the Park office where your tour driver is awaiting.

On the way back, we often meet other primates inhabiting this forest. There are at least 12 primates species in Kibale and these include the black and white colobus monkeys, L’Hoest monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabey, red-tailed monkeys, bushbabies, pottos.

You should be on the lookout for forest bird species like the yellow-spotted nicator, rumped tinker bird, little greenbul, green breasted pitta, the crowned eagle, black bee-eater, and mammals like elephants.

Accommodation options available

Up-market: Kyaninga Lodge | Crater Safari Lodge Kibale | Ndali Lodge

Moderate: Isunga Lodge | Kibale Forest Camp | Turaco Treetops

Low Budget: Tents at Kibale Forest Camp | Chimpanzee Forest Guesthouse

Day 6: Safari to Queen Elizabeth National Park & Rwenzori Mountains, Uganda

Today we shall be shifting southwards to one of the most famous National Parks in East Africa, Queen Elizabeth National Park. On the way, we shall be exploring the Ndali-Kasenda Craters in the south of Fort Portal.

While driving to Queen Elizabeth National Park, on the righthand side are views of the Rwenzori mountains, one of the great mountain ranges of the world.  If you set off from the lodge earlier enough, you could go for an optional walk in the foothills of the mountains, looking out for its forbidding peaks in the distance.

As you enter Queen Elizabeth National park, we shall try exploring the Katwe Explosion Craters in the north of the park. This is also the highest point of the park at 1390m. We shall be visiting Lake Nyamunuka, which is mostly frequented by buffalo and elephants. Then we shall be off to Lake Kitagata that is at the bottom of this deep crater fed by salty hot springs. We also visit the Kyemengo Crater on our way to the Baboon Cliff view at its western end. Finally, the route provides magnificent Rift Valley panoramas along the way, including the Rwenzoris, Lake George, and its satellite Lake Kikorongo, the Kazinga Chanel and Lake Edward, and the rift’s enclosing escarpments.

The 1978 square km Queen Elizabeth National Park is deservedly Uganda’s most popular Protected Area.  It is easy to reach and enjoys a stunning location on the rift valley floor between Lakes Edward and George.  Varied habitats epitomize the rift valley vegetative mosaic that tempted our hominid ancestors to migrate from forest to grasslands and are home to 95 mammal and 612 bird species.

Accommodation Options

Up-market/Luxury: Mweya Safari Lodge |  Katara Lodge (or upgrade to Kyambura Gorge Lodge or Elephant Plains Lodge)

Mid-range: Ihamba Safari Lodge| Enganzi Lodge | Queen Elizabeth Bush Lodge

Budget: Bush Lodge (tents)|  Simba Safari Camp (tents) | Pumba Cottages

Meals included: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Day 7: Safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park –  Game Drive & Boat Trip on Kazinga  Channel

We set out early in the morning for a game drive in the northern part of the park on the Kasenyi Track in search of lions, elephants, and solitary buffaloes. This is the best time for opportunities of viewing the cats in action owing to the vast population of Uganda kobs. We have an excellent chance to view just about every animal here at a very close range.

In the afternoon we will go on a launch trip along the Kazinga Channel. This gives you the opportunity to view wildlife up close: hippos huff and sprays at mere feet away from the boat, buffalo linger in the shallows. The shores of the channel are also home to an array of birds including pink-backed pelicans, pied and malachite kingfishers, saddle-billed stork, and many others.

This 767-square-mile conservation area is bordered on the northeast by Lake George and on the southwest by Lake Edward; its western border adjoins the Congo Parc du Virunga. You will expect to see teeming herds of impala-like Uganda Kob, as well as topi, elephant and lion, giant forest hog, Cape buffalo. There are also several soda lakes filling ancient volcanic calderas where flamingos reside seasonally.

Accommodation Options

Up-market/Luxury: Mweya Safari Lodge |  Katara Lodge (or upgrade to Kyambura Gorge Lodge or Elephant Plains Lodge)

Mid-range: Ihamba Safari Lodge| Enganzi Lodge | Queen Elizabeth Bush Lodge

Budget: Bush Lodge (tents)|  Simba Safari Camp (tents) | Pumba Cottages

Meals included: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Day 8: Tree climbing lions in Ishasha & Maramagambo Forest Bush Walk

Another early start for a bushwalk through the Maramagambo Forest.

This is one of the largest forests in Uganda and forms a habitat for a number of primates and forest dwellers. Due to its location, Maramagambo also has a great diversity of butterflies and birds. The walk culminates in a visit to volcanic caves that are home to thousands of bats. Pythons are often observed in the crevices of the bats’ cave as they prey on bats. On this walk, you will see the picturesque blue lake Kimeranjojo which got its name after swallowing an elephant. Other trails will lead you to Crater Lake and habitats of the wild chimps and forest birds.

In the afternoon you will proceed to the Ishasha Sector. Drive along the deep and wide dry craters that are occupied by savanna grasses and acacia. The drive takes you through the unique western rift valley escarpment and the (southern part of Queen Elizabeth National Park) Ishasha sector where you will take on yet another game drive in search of tree climbing lions in the afternoon and evening.

Accommodation Options

Up-market/Luxury: Ishasha Wilderness Campsite

Mid-range: Enjojo Lodge

Budget: @ the River

Meals included: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Day 9: Drive to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda.

Early morning guided bush walk for a closer interaction with nature in Ishasha. The mid-morning will be spent on a game drive for the tree-climbing lions, elephants, and other Big Mammals, thereafter proceed to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

 

The journey takes about 2-3 hours but driving through interesting features. We shall be arriving in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in the evening. This park is home to the rare mountain gorillas plus 11 other primates species including the blue and red-tailed monkeys. The forest itself is lush and green and there are streams running through it.

Accommodation Options Up-market: Mahogany Lodge | Buhoma Lodge | Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge | Chameleon Hill Lodge(or upgrade to Gorilla Forest Camp/ Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge/ Bwindi Lodge)

Moderate: Silverback Lodge |Engagi Lodge | Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge | Gorilla Mist Camp

Low Budget: Rushaga Gorilla Havens Lodge | Ruhija Gorilla Friends Camp | Gorilla Conservation Camp Bwindi

Day 10: Gorilla Trek in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda.

Gorilla trekking in Bwindi is an exceptionally memorable experience. No wonder it is is a definite highlight for most visitors to Africa. Physically demanding is tracking the gorillas in Bwindi often is, the excitement one gets in the presence of these gentle giants shall surely wipe away all memory of tiredness.

Your driver shall be meeting you at your lodge/camp to transfer you to the nearest Bwindi park offices for accrediting and gorilla trek briefing. The park officers will be giving you more information on what to expect when you trek the gorillas, how to behave while in their presence, the ecology of mountain gorillas and other primates in Bwindi, relationships between the gorillas and humans, Bwindi park management, and the neighboring communities – there’s just so much information you shall be receiving during the briefing. Usually, a local community women’s group does traditional music and dance performances for those going to trek the gorillas in Bwindi.

You will be allocated to a group of not more than 8 other tourists with whom you will be trekking the gorillas. Each group is allocated a family of habituated gorillas (also known as a gorilla group) that they track. There are 19 gorilla groups or gorilla families in Uganda, 17 in Bwindi and the other two in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.

You should expect some moderately rugged terrain for your gorilla trek in Bwindi. Most of the paths you shall be walking along to the gorillas shall most likely be made that day. Either way, the trek rangers will allow for numerous rests along the way as they take time to explain the unique details about the Bwindi forest and the other mammals and birds you encounter as you trek to the gorillas. From our experience, you should be walking for between 1 hour to 3 hours on average before encountering the mountain gorillas.

When sighted, visitors will be guided to within 6 meters from the gorillas, sit around them for a whole hour while gazing into their big round eyes. We strongly advise that you consider having a face mask with you when in the presence of the mountain gorillas to limit any chances of disease transmission with them.

You will be allowed to take all the photos, videos, and even selfies while with the gorillas. Rangers even guide you on the best angles to do this. They shall be assisting to remove any blocking shrubs and also guide the gorillas to the best spots you can view them. Your gorilla trekking experience shall greatly be enhanced if you hire a porter (for $15) who helps you carry your backpack while you go along with the gorilla viewing business. Being in the presence of a habituated group of mountain gorillas is just indescribable. These gentle giants will just continue carrying on with their daily routine, so unbothered by the presence of humans. There’s all the fierceness you should expect from such an animal in its remote wild home but instead, you receive “gentleness”.

Unless you opt for the exclusive gorilla habituation experience (that allows you 4 hours with the gorillas for an extra $800), you will be allowed only 1 hour with the gorillas counted from the time you first see them. After your time is done, the head ranger will motion for you to start preparing to leave the gorillas and start on your way back to camp.

As you return back to camp, be on a keen lookout for the other wildlife in the park that includes the 11 other primate species like the red-tailed, L’Hoest’s,  and blue monkeys, black and white colobus, olive baboons, chimpanzee, which are part of the 120 mammals you can find in Bwindi. There are also at least 350 bird species that have been recorded to be resident in the jungles of Bwindi – seven which are IUCN red data listed and 90% of all Albertine rift endemics, species which are difficult or impossible to see in any other part of East Africa.

Most likely though, there are very high chances of encountering another gorilla group on your way back, so be extra vigilant.

Back to the camp, the staff shall make sure you have a very relaxed evening. If you happen to return earlier than usual, you might consider taking on some of the optional guided community walks some of which involve encounters with the local pygmies’ tribe –  the Batwa. The Batwa were originally spending all their lives in the deep jungles of Bwindi sharing space with all the wildlife there. In the Batwa experience, you can walk with them back into the forest and share in their jungle ways of life.

There might other tourists who are open to sharing their gorilla trekking experiences with the other gorilla groups, enjoy.

Have a great night’s sleep in the jungle as you recount your day’s experiences.

Bwindi Accommodation Options

Up-market: Mahogany Lodge | Buhoma Lodge | Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge | Chameleon Hill Lodge (or upgrade to Gorilla Forest Camp/ Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge/ Bwindi Lodge)

Moderate: Silverback Lodge |Engagi Lodge | Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge | Gorilla Mist Camp

Low Budget: Rushaga Gorilla Havens Lodge | Ruhija Gorilla Friends Camp | Gorilla Conservation Camp Bwindi

Day 11: Lake Bunyonyi for Half Day Canoe Trekking, relaxing in the afternoon

After having breakfast, we shall take a scenic drive to Lake Bunyonyi taking you through the beautiful terrain of the rolling hills with terraced landscape. A short drive leads us to the beautiful Lake Bunyonyi where we can relax and enjoy some reflection time. With its freshwater, bilharzia-free, and beautiful landscapes, Lake Bunyonyi is a small paradise for travelers.

After meeting our local guide for the day, we are led out for a canoe trek as well as bird watching on the beautiful Lake Bunyonyi, traversing to the gorgeous Kyabahinga peninsula. Here you will be gladly welcomed with songs plus dances by the resident school children. You will enjoy with the locals at least a cup of “Obushera” which is a local brew. You will ascend the Kyabahinga slopes having a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the birdlife and the verdant terrain. The view is very breathtaking! The guide will certainly brief you about the history of the area.

Among the bird species, you will see are the Dusky Turtle Dove, the Handsome Francolin, and Alpine Chat. A renowned herbalist who is a traditional healer -Omugurusi Jeremiah, based on the hilltop will disclose to you some of the secrets about the flora on the tropical highland.

Accommodation options available

Up-market: Bird’s Nest | Acadia Cottages Lake Bunyonyi

Moderate: Bird’s Nest | Acadia Cottages Lake Bunyonyi

Low Budget: Bunyonyi Overland Resort | Bushara Campsite

Day 12: Mburo National Park

We drive east to Mbarara, now one of Uganda’s major towns, but formerly the capital of Ankole kingdom for over 400 years until disbanded by independence in 1962. In the days before modern Uganda came into being, the area had a series of fiercely independent tribal states.

From here you continue to Lake Mburo, a small but picturesque national park renowned for its herds of antelope and one of the only two Ugandan parks home to Burchell’s zebra. The park is also especially good for acacia-associated birds.

Upon arrival, you will go for the game drive which will give you insights into animal species like the zebras, topes, elephants, elands, impalas, buffaloes, antelopes and so many others.

Accommodation Options

Luxury: Mihingo Lodge | Mantana Tented Camp | Arcadia Cottages

Medium: Rakobo Rock Lodge or Lake Mburo Safari Lodge

Low Budget: Mburo Eagles Nest | Rwonyo Restcamp

Day 13: End the Uganda safari with Lake Mburo National Park Game Drive, Return to Kampala / Entebbe

Rise early for breakfast before a short drive to the Rwonyo Park headquarters.

This has often been a good chance of seeing hyenas coming back to their dens, hippos walking back to the water, you will see buffalo, zebra, impala, and topi, and with a bit of luck maybe even a sitatunga, an antelope rarely seen living in the papyrus swamps.

After your early morning activities, return to the lodge for a late breakfast and check-out.

We then bid farewell to the park’s friendly staff as we depart for Kampala / Entebbe.

En route, we will stop at the Equator for photographs and ‘polar-water experiment’, then local community crafts shops and fruit markets.

We will be in Kampala in the evening before your flight back home.

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