Ultimate Primate Safari
Day 1 – Entebbe
On your arrival into Entebbe you will be welcomed and transferred to the guesthouse for the night. Depending on your time of arrival, there are a few things you can see and do in and around Entebbe. If you arrive early enough in the morning you can head across Lake Victoria to Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary. 95% of the Ngamba Island is left wild for the rescued chimpanzees to spend their days in relative freedom. There is a small visitor’s centre where guests can have an educational talk on the work being done by Ngamba Island. After the talk, you can head to the viewing platforms to see the chimps being fed.
For our keen birders, Lake Victoria is one of the best places to see the prehistoric looking shoebill. Makanaga Swamps can be accessed by boat or canoe from Entebbe and offers excellent opportunities to see the massive birds in the reeds
Days 2 and 3 – Kibale Forest National Park
From Entebbe your driver/guide will take you west towards the Rwenzori Mountain Range and to the Kibale Forest National Park. The drive takes about 5 ½ hours which means you should arrive mid-afternoon. In the afternoon, settle into the lodge and if time allows, head out on an afternoon walk into the forest where you can see red colobus and black and white colobus monkeys in the forest canopy. The forests of Kibale are home to highest diversity of primates in Africa, including chimpanzees.
The following morning after an early breakfast you head to the park headquarters for your chimpanzee tracking briefing before heading into the forest to look for the troop of habituated chimps. Chimpanzees are very mobile and are able to move through the forest with ease and so the trek could last all day. You will usually hear the chimps before you see them as they use vocal sounds and tree thumping to communicate with each other. Once you locate the troop, you will get 1 hour with them as they go about their daily activities. This could include foraging, hunting or resting and grooming.
For people looking for a more immersive chimpanzee experience, you can take part in the chimpanzee habituation program. The habituation program requires a high level of fitness as the experience last a half-day or a full day and will need to keep up with the chimps as they move through the forest going about their daily activities. The chimpanzees that are followed during the habituation program are less habituated than those that are followed during the regular chimpanzee walks.
Days 4 and 5 – Kyambura Gorge, Queen Elizabeth National Park
From Kibale Forest you head south travelling parallel with the Rwenzori Mountains towards the Queen Elizabeth National Park. The Kibale Forest and Queen Elizabeth National Parks form an important wildlife corridor allowing game to move freely between the grasslands of the Queen Elizabeth National Park and the forests of Kibale Forest National Park.
Your destination is Kyambura Gorge which is a stunning gorge that cuts through the grasslands of Queen Elizabeth. Down in the gorge the humid weather creates an Eden with thick forests and tall trees with clear streams flowing through. This afternoon enjoy a boat cruise on the Kazinga Channel and spot elephant, buffalo, waterbuck, hippo and crocodiles along the river bank. This is a birders paradise with plenty of water birds taking advantage of the good fishing. The Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to lion and leopard as well, so keep your eye pealed.
The following morning you have the chance to track the lost chimpanzees of Kyambura Gorge. Around 20 chimpanzees live in the Kyambura Gorge, cut off from their cousins in Kibale by villages and farms. During the trek, you head down the steep sides of the gorge into the forest below where you start to track the troop. You will often hear them before you see them as they use focal calls and tree thumping as a way to communicate to each other. Once you find the troop you get to spend an hour with them as they go about their daily lives.
Days 6 and 7 – Ishasha Section, Queen Elizabeth National Park
Not far from Kyambura Gorge and forming the southern section of the Queen Elizabeth National Park is the Ishasha section. This open grassland is home to leopard, buffalo, elephant, topi and the famous tree climbing lions. Head to the camp to settle in before heading out on a game drive. Spend the following day on a game drive searching for the tree climbing lions who prefer the large fig trees in the area.
Days 8 and 9 – Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
Your journey continues south to the rainforest of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, home to the endangered mountain gorilla. Depending on the time of arrival you have the chance to do an afternoon village tour of Buhoma village or you can do one of the self-guided forest walks.
The following morning after an early breakfast you will head to the park headquarters for your gorilla tracking briefing. Groups are restricted to a maximum of 8 tourists all accompanied by park rangers and trackers. Each group is assigned a gorilla family and at the briefing you will learn more about your family as well as the rules and regulations. After the briefing you will head out into the Bwindi Forest in search of your gorilla family.
Bwindi is a mountainous park, clad in thick rain forest, so tracking can be tough going with steep muddy paths and thick undergrowth to work through. The rangers are in constant contact with the trackers who head out early morning to find the gorillas, so you and your group can head in the general direction of the family. Once you have located the family, you get to spend 1 hour with them as they go about their daily lives. This time limit is strictly enforced to ensure minimal disturbance on the family.
Spending this hour with them is an incredible privilege and is something you will treasure for a very long time.
Tracking can take anything from 30 minutes right up to a full day, depending on where your gorilla family is situated.
Days 10 and 11- Mgahinga National Park
For the more active, we would suggest an enjoyable 4-hour hike through the Bwindi Forest to a pick-up point where the vehicle will collect you and drive you another 2 hours to your next lodge, Mt Gahinga Lodge which is located in the lesser known gorilla park in Uganda, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. This is on the slopes of extinct volcanoes on the border with Rwanda.
This afternoon you have the chance to rest or you can visit the Gahinga Batwa Village to learn more about their traditions and culture.
The following morning you head to the park headquarters for your second opportunity to track gorillas. After your briefing you head into the forest clad volcanoes in search of the family. Again, you only get 1 hour with the family to minimize the impact on their natural behavior. Typically we find with the second trek, you spend less time taking photos and more time observing the gorillas, thus leaving a bigger impact on you and you engage more with the individuals.
Days 12 and 13 – Volcanoes National Park
Today you head from Uganda across to Rwanda for the final gorilla experience on your safari. The Volcanoes National Park is on the other side of the volcanoes from Mgahinga National Park which also joins the Virunga National Park in the DRC. Between the 3 national parks and countries, they are home to half the world’s population of Mountain Gorilla. It is on these slopes that Diane Fossey spent her life living with and studying the mountain gorillas for many years.
Depending on your time of arrival you could relax at the lodge or head out for an afternoon walk.
The following morning you meet at the park headquarters for your final gorilla tracking briefing before heading onto the slopes of the Virunga Volcanoes to track the gorillas for the third time. The vegetation on the volcanoes is more open bamboo forests which often allows for better photography as there is more light. The same process happens here as it does in Uganda. Trackers head out in the early morning to locate the family and they radio through to your guide so that you know where to go to. Once you have found the family you get 1 hour with them before heading back to the lodge.
Day 14 – Kigali and depart
This morning after breakfast, you continue your journey to Kigali in time for your onward flight home.