Uganda – The Pearl of Africa
Birds, primates and so much more!
23 November – 8 December 2023
Tour at a glance:
Tour Leader – Eran Banker
Local Leader – Prossy Nanyobi
13 full days of birding
6-11 people with 2 guides
Difficulty – easy to moderate – Gorilla tracking can be a tough walk sometimes.
Photography options – Excellent
Sir Winston Churchill was the first to name Uganda “the pearl of Africa”. Churchill visited the country several times and was blown away by the beauty of the landscape, the wildlife and the people. Uganda truly is beautiful and combines breathtaking scenery, great amounts of water and some of the highest mountain ranges in the continent. Uganda’s unique location combines the landscapes of Eastern and Central Africa, it’s impressive forests host over 20 species of Primates including half of the world’s Mountain Gorillas, good numbers of Chimpanzees and many regional endemic animals. There are over 30 protected areas in the country, many reserves and 10 impressive national parks that are considered amongst the best in the world. Uganda has very diverse and healthy natural habitats, over 20 percent of Uganda is covered in water, it has some of the best preserved equatorial rain forests and extensive grasslands. As a result, Uganda’s parks host impressive herds of various Antelopes, large numbers of Elephants (Tusks and all…) Zebras, Giraffes, great chances for Leopards and more… When it comes to birds Uganda is right up there with the best destinations in the world. With nearly 1100 species documented including real specialties such as the Shoebill, Green breasted Pitta, Turacos and many more, birding in Uganda is just incredible.
Our trip includes four different national parks including the world famous Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls national parks, many reserves, several boat trips (the White Nile, Lake Mburo and the famous Kazinga Channel) and many more. The trip also includes tracking of Chimpanzees and Mountain Gorillas (optional, but a life changing experience).
As always, birds will be the focal point of the trip and we will put in the time to search for the Uganda specialties, but with so many amazing mammals and wildlife all around we can guarantee that this trip will give you the full on “Africa” experience.
The pace of the trip is very relaxed, small group, comfortable vehicles, great accommodation and fantastic food. Join us for a memorable birding holiday and do your part for conservation as you do so!
Click for our Full Program
Day 1 – Nov 23 2023
Arrival in Entebbe/ Boma hotel, some light birding around the hotel time permitting.
Day 2 – Nov 24
Today our tour starts in earnest, following an early breakfast we will head to the famous Mabamba Wetlands. This vast swamp hosts many species of birds but our main target here is the famous Shoebill – One of the most sought after birds in the world. Mabamba is probably the best place in the entire world to connect with this near mythical bird. At Mabamba we will load on to dugout canoes and explore the waterways with the guidance of the local community. The locals know the swamp very well and follow and protect the Shoebills so chances are very high.
Besides the amazing Shoebill Mabamba hosts numerous Kingfishers, several Weaver species and hard to come by birds such as Swamp Flycatcher, Lesser Jacana and many more.
After a tour on the water we will have lunch nearby and start heading west to Lake Mburo Park.
Night at Rwakobo Rock Lodge
Day 3 – Nov 25
Today we explore Lake Mburo Park National Park. The park is a great introduction to the wildlife of Uganda as besides an impressive list of birds it also hosts great numbers of mammals. This is one of the only places we will observe Plains Zebra and Rothschild’s Giraffes. Besides these we will enjoy many other animals such as: Hippopotamus, African Buffalo, Defassa Waterbuck, Bohor Reedbuck, Topi, Common Eland, and many more.
In the late morning we will take a boat trip on Lake Mburo itself. This is arguably the best place in Uganda to find the enigmatic African Finfoot. The lake is home to many species of water birds and we should expect several species of kingfishers including Malachite Kingfisher, Giant Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, and with luck, the rare Shining-blue Kingfisher. The shores of the lake also attract many Herons, Egrets, some Waders and good numbers of African Fish Eagles providing great photo opportunities.
Following the lake tour we will explore other parts of the Park and will surely rack up an impressive list of arid-country birds, which can include Blue-naped Mousebird, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Golden-breasted Bunting, the rare Red-faced Barbet as well as many wintering Palearctic migrants.
Night at Rwakobo Rock Lodge
Day 4 – Nov 26
Following breakfast, we will start the journey towards Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. The road will take us south west close to the border with Rwanda. Around mid-day we will start gaining elevation and the scenery will become more forested and lush. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is one of the most bird-rich parks in Uganda but the real attraction are the amazing Eastern Mountain Gorillas and other primates. We will start in the higher elevations of the park (Ruhija area) where the wooded hills host regional specialties such as the amazing Black Bee-eater and Cinnamon chested Bee-eater, Mountain Masked Apalis, Rwenzori Apalis, Chestnut-throated Apalis, Grey-throated Barbet, Red-faced Woodland Warbler and many more. In the late afternoon we will arrive at Buhoma where we will spend the next 3 nights.
Night at “Ride 4 a Woman” Buhoma.
Day 5 – Nov 27
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Park is world famous for hosting nearly half of the world population of Mountain Gorillas. These amazing primates are shy and rare and require special permits and guides to see. Spending time with these amazing creatures is one of the most incredible wildlife experiences anywhere in the world. The tracking can be strenuous at times as we need to go deep into the rainforest to find specific families of Gorillas. The tracking is done with the help of porters, guides and guards. This activity is optional and for those who want to opt out there will be great birding on offer instead.
Following the Gorilla tracking we will head back to our lodge for the afternoon. There are great birding and photo opportunities on the grounds and we will enjoy a leisurely afternoon of relaxed birding.
Night at Ride 4 a Woman Buhoma
Day 6 – Nov 28
Today we will bird all around the forested areas of the National Park. The area is incredible for birds with many beautiful and sought after species. Bwindi’s location near the Congolese border offers many regional endemics and highly localized specialties. Some of the exciting species to expect are: Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Mackinnon’s Shrike, Bronzy Sunbird (and 5-6 other sunbirds) African Grey Woodpecker, Augur Buzzard and more. Some shy forest birds we’ll seek include many localized endemics that barely get into neighboring countries – Grauer’s Warbler, Bar-tailed Trogon, Petit’s Cuckooshrike, Lühder’s Bushshrike, Brown-capped Weaver, Red-throated Alethe, and lots of others. We’ll be sure to spend time looking for slightly more widespread birds as well, including the skulking White-spotted Flufftail, Red-shouldered Cuckooshrike, Olive-bellied Sunbird, some beautiful forest barbets such as the large Yellow-billed Barbet, the dazzlingly bright and shiny, green-and-yellow African Emerald Cuckoo, and, last but not least, Black-billed Turaco. Forest-edge birding can be equally rewarding with such beauties as Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo, Great Blue and Ross’s Turaco, Grey-winged Robin Chat, Black-necked Weaver, Red-headed Malimbe, Northern Double-collared Sunbird, Grey-headed Nigrita and many others.
In the afternoon we will spend some time with the Women of “Ride 4 a Woman”, take a walk through the community and hear about this amazing project.
Night at Ride 4 a Woman
Day 7 – Nov 29
Following breakfast, we will head north along the border with Congo and start making our way towards the world famous Queen Elizabeth National Park. We will have time for some birding along the way and should arrive in the park in the early afternoon. Queen Elizabeth Park is known for its amazing wildlife, famous tree climbing Lions and close to 100 species of mammals! We will bird around the park and enjoy a great range of grassland and wetland birds both local and wintering migrants. After arriving at our lodge we will take a short drive around in search of Nightjars and Owls.
Night at Enganzi Lodge – This is a special lodge where animals enter the grounds at night so be prepared for an amazing experience!
Day 8 – Nov 30
A full day of exploring Queen Elizabeth park including a boat cruise on the famous Kazinga channel. Kazinga channel is a long natural waterway that connects Lake Edward and Lake George. The channel attracts great numbers of birds and wildlife including Elephants, Buffalos and huge concentrations of Hippos and Nile Crocodiles. During the cruise we will enjoy a wonderful selection of Waders, Gulls, Terns, Skimmers, Storks and many more. The cruise is a “mainstream” tourist attraction but is very birding oriented and we will have time to look at and photograph birds as we go.
Following the cruise, we will have lunch and explore another section of the park adding many more birds including impressive flocks of Queleas, Larks, Pipits and many more. On previous trips we also had great success with birds of prey (Vultures, Eagles, Harriers etc.) on this sector and we even found national rarities such as Pacific Golden Plover!
Night at Engazi Lodge
Day 9 – Dec 1st
Today we leave Queen Elizabeth Park and start heading north towards Kibale Park. The road is very scenic as we skirt the foothills of the amazing Ruwenzori mountains. Kibale is arguably the most pristine and rich forest in Uganda. It hosts an amazing collection of Primates including Chimpanzees, Blue Monkey, L’Hoest’s Monkey, Guereza (Eastern Black-and-white Colobus), Red-tailed Monkey, Grey-cheeked Mangabey and others! We will have some time for birding in the afternoon and we will search for specialties such as White-headed Wood Hoopoe, Narrow-tailed Starling, Black-billed Turaco, and Chestnut Wattle-eye.
Night at Chimpanzee Forest Lodge.
Day 10 – Dec 2nd
A full day of exploring Kibale Forest.
During the morning we will meet with the Kibale rangers team for tracking Chimpanzees. There are good numbers of these amazing primates in Kibale and the rangers know where the families are. The tracking involves hiking in the forest and can be strenuous at times, but is an amazing and memorable experience. Following the tracking we will continue birding the forest and search for one of the rarest birds in Africa, the Green Breasted Pitta. The Pittas are not easy to find even with their bright colors, and are even more difficult in December. We will put in the time to search for this jewel of the forest and enjoy some quality forest birding as we go.
In the afternoon we will visit the famous Bigodi Swamp. This special reserve is maintained by the local community and hosts an impressive list of birds (and mammals). We will search for the shy White-spotted Flufftail and others and enjoy good views of the endemic Uganda Red Colobus.
Night at Chimpanzee Forest Lodge.
Day 11 – Dec 3rd
Early morning birding around the lodge and checkout. Today is mostly a travel day as we make our way north to Masindi, with some short birding stops along the road of course. In the afternoon we will arrive at Masindi Hotel. This old establishment has quite the history and hosted many famous people over the years. Ernst Hemingway spent a few months here recovering from a plane crash… Those interested can get a tour of the hotel, explore the local market or relax before dinner.
Night at Masindi Hotel
Day 12 – Dec 4th
Today we visit one of the most iconic birding hotspots in Uganda, the Royal Mile. The Royal Mile is a famous stretch of the Budongo forest that hosts amazing birds. Some of the highlights here include the striking Chocolate-backed Kingfisher, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, African Dwarf Kingfisher, and others. The forest is home to some other rare specialties such as Red-tailed Ant Thrush, Fire-crested Alethe, and Nahan’s Partridge, the pretty Rufous-crowned Eremomela, White-thighed Hornbill and many more. In the afternoon we will do some more birding around the Budongo forest and area.
Night at Masindi Hotel
Day 13 – Dec 5th
Today we transfer to the famous Murchison Falls National Park. This amazing park is a wildlife heaven with incredible numbers of Large mammals such as Elephants, Rothschild’s Giraffes, Hartebeests, Oribi and the rare Patas Monkey, a special primate of the dry savannah. Birds here are amazing as well with Black-headed Lapwing, Silverbird, Speckle-fronted Weaver, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Red-throated Bee-eaters, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Rock Pratincole, White-headed Barbet, Black-billed Barbet, Meyer’s Parrot, and Bateleur. Murchison is one of the best places in Africa to find Leopards both during the day and night drives.
Night at Pakuba Safari Lodge
Day 14 – Dec 6th
A full day at Murchison Falls park. We will visit the famous Murchison Falls, where the mighty Nile River narrows down to a ravine with staggering volume and in the afternoon we will take a boat cruise on the Nile. The cruise to the bottom of the falls is another highlight of the trip. Besides the amazing scenery, this cruise will deliver a great variety of birds and a good chance to try a “Nile beer” while cruising the Nile River. That evening we will take a night drive with good chances for several species of Nightjars and Owls and with luck some shy nocturnal mammals as well.
Night at Pakuba Safari Lodge
Day 15 – Dec 7th
Our last day in Uganda.
We will make our way back to Entebbe and transfer to the airport for our flights home.
Tour price: $5130
Single supplement: $5730
All accommodation and transportation within the country
All meals from dinner on day 1 till breakfast on the last morning.
Gorilla and Chimpanzees tracking permits
(Permits are $700 – will be deducted if you prefer to not join the Gorillas trip… but who wouldn’t?!)
All guiding and entry fees.
Visa to Uganda
Alcoholic drinks and items of personal nature
Travelers to Uganda have to show a valid Yellow Fever vaccination certificate