The Pearl of Africa Birding Adventure - Uganda

riftvalley shoebill

A 3 weeks/21 days round trip covering some of the well-known birding spots of Uganda. The trip starts with Mabamba Swamp famous for “her” majestic shoebill stock that lingers in the marshy section of Lake Victoria, then spread out to four Savanah parks (Murchison Falls National Park, Semuliki Valley National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Lake Mburo National Park) and two rainforest parks (Kibale Forest National Park, popular for its high primate population including the Chimpanzee, and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, also home to the highest Gorilla population in the world).

This Birding trip is interrupted by Big game, Gorilla tracking, Chimpanzee tracking and local Community visits.

Itinerary.

Day 1: Arrival Entebbe International airport

On arrival, Adventure Consults’ airport staff will meet you right on tarmac before entering the airport building, assist through customs, get your camera gear cleared. Pick your other luggage and transfer to the hotel. Depending on arrival time, you may have a briefing on your safari today/tonight or opt to have it in the morning after some hours of relaxation.

If arrived early afternoon, you have an option to go Birding at the nearby Entebbe Botanical Gardens or do Birding photography around the lodge/hotel gardens. Accommodation on Bed and Breakfast included.

Day 2: Birding at Mabamba Swamp.

Mabamba Bay Ecotourism site is one of the Important Bird Areas (RAMSER sites) in the world popularly known for being home for shoebill stork. It’s an extensive marsh stretching through a narrow and long bay fringed with papyrus towards the main body of Lake Victoria - the only swamp close to Kampala and Entebbe where one can easily find the globally-threatened Shoebill stork (Balaeniceps rex).

Adventure Consults’ Birding guide will pick you from the hotel, take a drive to the lake, drop off at the pier in time for your speedboat ride to Mabamba swamp. The ride will take about an hour, before changing boats on to the traditional motorized canoe/s. The canoes can easily manoeuvre through papyrus swamps for a close encounter, giving you the best opp. for photography Sometimes the shoebill can be far or close, but you will have an amazing birding experience as the swamp hosts so many other rare bird species. Spending time with the Birders’ ‘Gentle Shoebill stork’ is an amazing experience.

The wetland supports close to 300 bird species and is part of the wetland system which hosts approximately 38% of the global population of the Blue Swallow (Hirundo atrocaerulea), as well as the globally-threatened Papyrus Yellow Warbler and other birds of global conservation concern.

While at the swamp, you have high chances of spotting the swamp flycatcher, African purple swamp hen, African water rail, Pallid Harrier, Papyrus Gonolek, White-winged Warbler and the Blue Swallow Common moorhen, lesser jacana, African jacana, African pygym Goose, White-faced whistling duck, Squacco heron, Blue Breasted Bee-eater, Winding cisticola, Goliath Heron and many others.

PS – Just like any wildlife viewing, Adventure Consults cannot guarantee quality of shoebill viewing. They can sometimes be elusive but chances of seeing the shoebill are very high.

You will later return to Entebbe in the afternoon or evening, drop off at the hotel. Accommodation on Bed and Breakfast included.

Day 3:  Entebbe Masindi via Kampala – Ziwa Rhinos App. 6 -7 hours’ drive.                                                      

Meet at the hotel, full briefing for the day and head out towards northwest, a stop and visit to the ZIWA RHINO SANCTUARY is worth it!

The sanctuary was created to re-introduce Rhino to Uganda after their extinction in 1982. Presently (as of beginning 2020), the sanctuary is home to thirty (30) Ssouthern white rhinos and has become increasingly popular for rhino trekking, Bird watching, nature walks and relaxation.

On arrival at the sanctuary, you will be introduced to trained rangers who will ably guide you through to the Rhinos. Have an opportunity to observe them at a very close and safe distance. While at the sanctuary you may also encounter a range of other wildlife species including Uganda kobs, reed bucks, oribis, rich bucks, hippos, crocodiles and lots of Bird species.

After lunch, proceed to Masindi, an old town with rich history and culture.  Afternoon walk around the lodge or take a lazy street walk around Masindi town. Dinner and overnight accommodation included.

Day 4: Full day Birding at the royal mile (AM & PM).

Parked breakfast and picnic lunch.  Briefing for the day and start an hours’ drive to the Royal Mile. The royal mile is part of the 793km square Budongo Forest reserve, at the edge of the Albertine rift and its part of Murchison Falls national Park. It is a spectacular one -mile long forest road known for its popularity as a traditional leisure stop over for Uganda’s royalty, The Royal Mile is a superb birding spot with many west and central African species, as well as a variety of sought a-after key species.

 The forest offers opportunities of spotting birds like Nahan’s Francolin, White-thighed Hornbill, Sabine’s and Cassin’s Spinetails, Blue-throated Roller, Forest Flycatcher, Yellow-browed Camaroptera, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Ituri Batis, Tit Hylia, Forest Robin, Uganda Woodland Warbler, Grey-throated, Yellow-billed, Yellow -spotted and Hairy-breasted Barbets, Black-billed and Great Blue Turaco, Plain, Spotted, Slender-billed, Little Grey, White-throated and Little Greenbul, Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo, Black-capped Apalis and Red-tailed Bristlebill among other species.

Primate species that may also be spotted are Black-and-white colobus monkeys, Red tailed and blue monkeys.

You will return to Masindi late in the evening. Meals and Overnight accommodation included.

Day 5: Half day Birding - Royal Mile – Drive to Murchison Falls National park.

Parked breakfast and picnic lunch, briefing and head back to the famous Royal Mile. The forest is endowed with more bird species than you can cover. A second half day birding is worth it!

In the afternoon, head out to the heart of Murchison falls National Park. If staying at Paraa, Baker’s lodge or any of the lodges in that area, the drive will take about 2.5 hours. If staying at Budongo Eco-lodge, the drive is about 1.5 hours.

Afternoon birding around the lodge.  Meals and Overnight accommodation included.

Day 6: Murchison Falls National Park; Game drive takes 2 to 3 hours and the boat ride 2 hours.

Early morning game drive to the delta circuit where there’s a possibility of spotting lots of big game and countless Savannah and water Birds.

Murchison falls is home to about 460 bird species! Some of the highlights include the Red- throated Bee-eater, Secretary bird Eurasian Curlew, White-headed Barbet, Denham's Bustard, Black-billed Barbet, Southern and Northern Carmine Bee-Eater, Rüppell’s Vulture, Lapet-faced Vulture, Silverbird, Black-billed Wood Dove, Pallid Harrier, Egyptian Plover and Montague's Harrier.

Both the morning game drive and afternoon boat ride, will leave you with an impressive checklist!

In the afternoon, you will safari upstream by boat to the calm Victoria Nile and the base of the falls just tens of meters from the "Devil's Cauldron." You have an option to hike to the top of the Murchison Falls, from this vantage point you will have an opportunity to see the Nile's beauty perfected as you watch the Nile forced through a seven-meter cleft in the rocks and plunge 45 meters below, forming a spectacular rainbow.

Meals and Overnight accommodation included. 

Day 7: Murchison Falls National Park: Delta trip by boat & Afternoon game drive.

Today, you will take a private boat ride to the delta where there are high opportunities for spotting the shoebill stork and lots of other Bird species.

In the afternoon, go for a second game drive and look out for more Game. Every safari drive gives you a different experience!  

Meals and overnight accommodation included.

Day 8: Scenic flight from Murchison Falls to Kasese Airstrip – Drive to Fort-portal.

After Breakfast, transfer to the airstrip in time for your scenic flight to Queen Elizabeth. Flying along the Nile at a very low altitude, gives you the best game viewing opportunity then proceed towards the mystical Rwenzori Mountain Range and finally land at Kasese airstrip – please keep an eye out for the most amazing views of the farmlands, rivers, savannahs, ever green forests and crater lakes.  

Meet Adventure Consults’ guide at the airstrip, a welcome cup of coffee or chilled drink awaits then proceed to Fort Portal driving through the shadow of the fabled "Mountains of the Moon." Head out to Kibale forest driving through farmlands and homesteads.

Afternoon Birding walk and photography around the Lodge. Meals and overnight accommodation included.

Day 9:  Chimpanzee Trekking and Bigodi Walk.

Unlike other days, today you have a different and unique experience – Chimpanzee tracking in the heart of Kibale Forest.

After Breakfast, you will be transferred to Kanyanchu park Headquarters in time for a briefing and head out to the forest in search for man’s closest relative – Chimpanzee. The guide will provide detailed explanations on not only primates, but also on all the forest's fauna and flora, ensuring that your walk is both informative and enjoyable. This walk is excellent for viewing bird life and primates in close quarters.

Your walk is not only limited to Primates but also lots of Birds. Kibale Forest Boasts more than 375 species of birds , and among others, include the African Pitta, green – breasted pitta, Afep pigeon, White napped Pigeon, Crowned Eagle, Red -chested Owlet, Black Bee eater, western Nicator, Yellow -Rumped Tinkerbird, Little Greenbul, Brown Chested Alethe, Blue-Breasted Kingfisher, African Gyre Parrot, Scaly-breasted Illadopsis, Brown Illadopsis, Black – Capped Apalis, Dusky Crimson wing, purple Breasted sunbird, Red-faced woodland Warbler, Yellow  Spotted Nicator, Little Green Bul, Black -eared Ground Thrush and the Abyssinian Ground-Thrush.

 After lunch, go for a Swamp walk in Bigodi - an eco-tourism site with over 200 bird species, 6 of which are endemic to the area, Bigodi wetland sanctuary is a Birders’ paradise. In addition to the resident and the Signature great blue turaco, you will have an opportunity to see a number of other birds, among others; breasted sunbird, African pitta, Abyssinian ground thrush, Collared Apalis, Black capped apalis, Crowned eagle, Green breasted pitta, Kingfishers, Weavers, Cuckoos, Hornbills, Papyrus Gonoleks, Flycatchers, Black bee eater, Little greenbul, Brown chested alethe, Blue breasted kingfisher, Yellow rumpled tinker bird, Dusky crimson wing, Black bishop, Western nictor, Spotted bardet, Brown throated wattle eye, white-spotted fluff tail, weaver birds and purple breasted sunbird.

Meals and Overnight accommodation included.

Day 10: Morning and Afternoon Birding - Kibale forest National Park

Today, will be dedicated to Birding, with a break during the day’s heat. Adventure Consults’ Birding expert will be your guiding hand, but please feel to share ideas if you want to change the day’s program.

Meals and Overnight accommodation included.

Day 11: Kibale - Semiliki National Park

You will have an early breakfast and start the journey through meandering Rwenzori ranges via Fort-portal town. Head down to Semliki valley (about 2 hours’ drive), and on straight to the National park section. The deep dark mysterious forest is the real heart of the country’s birding haven. Visit the hot springs, thick rain forest, and Semiliki river fed by the icy cold streams running from the Rwenzori glaciers. 

Among other birds you will most likely be lucky with include the Congo Serpent Eagle, Yellow-throated Cuckoo, Bate’s Nightjar, Orange-tufted Sunbird, Rufous-sided and Black-winged Broadbills, Black-throated Coucal, Icterine Greenbul, Nkulengu Rail, Spot-breasted Ibis, Long-tailed Hawk, Capuchin Babbler, Northern Bearded Scrub-Robin, Yellow-throated and Western Nicator, Red-chested Owlet, Black-collared Lovebird, Western Bronze-naped Pigeon, Red-rumped Tinkerbird, White-bellied Kingfisher, Zenker’s and Lyre-tailed Honey guides, White-throated Blue Swallow, Crested Malimbe, Swamp Palm Bulbul, Blue-billed Malimbe, Chestnut Bellied and Pale-fronted Negrofinch, Fiery-breasted Bush-shrike, Piping, Black Dwarf, Red-billed Dwarf, White Crested, African Piculet among other bird species.

Meals and Overnight accommodation included.

Day 12: Nature walk and birding in Semiliki

This morning we bird Semuliki Forest to look for some of the few Guinea-Congo forest biome. Being the only connection to Ituri forest from DR Congo makes it that spot where over thirty-five restricted-range specialties exist in East Africa.

When the resident birds are breeding, it is effortless to spot Black and Southern Red Bishops, Piapiac which is a social crow, Rattling and Whistling Cisticolas, and Mosque Swallow before entering the forest. When we get to the forest, we will work for excellent views of Piping, White-crested, Black Dwarf Hornbill, the canopy-dwelling Red-billed Dwarf and the gigantic Black Casqued Hornbills. Other good birds like Yellow-lored Bristlebill, Yellow-throated Nicator, Black-headed and African Paradise Flycatchers, Forest Robin, African Piculet, African Dwarf Kingfisher and Hartlaub’s Duck, Xavier’s Greenbul, Red-tailed Ant-thrush, Crested Malimbe, Dusky-crested Flycatcher, Orange-cheeked Waxbill, Black-bellied Seed-cracker, Grant’s and Red-headed Bluebills, Brown Illadopsis are among others we will be looking for.

Meals and Overnight accommodation included.

Day 13: Boat trip on Lake Albert – Afternoon Nature walk.

Morning drive through Tooro - Semliki game reserve, keep an eye out for big game, amazing scenery and lots of savannah Bird species. You will drive to Lake Albert in time for a boat ride. Lake Albert is home to the rare and endangered Shoebill stock, African Pygmy Goose, Blue-breasted and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters and Blue-headed Coucal. Lots of Bird species, and also have an encounter with the fishing community.

In afternoon, you will take a nature walk in the reserve. Tooro - Semiliki reserve is endowed with several eco-habitats including the Savannah woodlands, Riverine forests and swamps. This gives the Birders a great opportunity for viewing a variety of species.

Sundowner, late evening return to the lodge.  Meals and Overnight accommodation included.

Day 14: Semiliki National Park - Queen Elizabeth National Park

A morning game drive, return to the lodge for breakfast and head out to Queen Elizabeth National Park. It’s approximately 4 hours’ drive with relevant stops on the way for Birding, scenery and stretching.

You will go straight to Queen Elizabeth National Park, home to over 600 bird species on record including Temminck’s Courser, Rupell’s Griffon, Martial Eagle, White Headed, Lappet Faced Vultures, Blue Quail, Harlequin Quail, Small (Common) Buttonquail, African Crake, African Skimmer, Black Headed Gonolek, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Amur Falcon, Lowland Akalat, Ovambo Sparrowhawk, Greater and Lesser Flamingo among others.

During your stay, we will have game drives and boat ride on the kazinga channel. This afternoon, you will head out for a game drive, ending with a sundowner at the craters. Meals and Overnight accommodation included.

Day 15: Game drive and Water safari along Kazinga Channel – Queen Elizabeth.

After an early morning beverage, head out for a game drive through the open grasslands and sparsely distributed thickets that provide perfect microhabitats for quite shy birds. The diverse ecosystem of this park, offers the best habitat for birds like Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Rufous-napped, White-tailed, Red-capped and Flappet Lark, African and Jackson’s Pipit.

You may also be rewarded with the Temminck’s Courser, Black-crowned, Senegal and Wattled Lapwings, Kittlitz’s Plover, Yellow-throated Longclaw, White-backed Vultures, Ruppell’s Griffon and others soring the sky, Black-chinned and Black-faced Quail-finches and lots more.  

After lunch, enjoy a boat cruise on the Kazinga Channel and ride into Lake Edward. This trip passes through high concentrations of Hippos and a wide variety of animals may be seen drinking at the water's edge. This river cruise offers an excellent platform for photography, bird watching and game viewing. The prolific bird life is colorful and stupendous with well over 600 recorded species having been spotted.

Meals and Overnight accommodation included.

Day 16: Queen Elizabeth N.P Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. App. 4 hours’ drive
Today, you will head out to Bwindi via the Ishasha sector, famous for its tree climbing Lions and multitude of animals.

Arrive at the Lodge in the afternoon, you may take a village walk with a visit to craft shops, local schools, hospital or simply relax at the lodge and later enjoy entertainment by the local community/Orphan group. Meals and Overnight accommodation included.

Day 17: Gorilla Tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Tracking takes between 3 – 7 hours.

Unlike other days, today will be dedicated to the unique Gorilla tracking. Nowhere on earth you will get to see Gorillas other than in Uganda, Rwanda or D.R Congo.

Depending on the Gorilla family booked, you may have breakfast at the lodge or have a parked breakfast. Meet your personal guide at the lounge and drive down to the Park Headquarters. Briefing on the day’s adventure and later enter the sanctuary for an interesting search of the gentle giants- Gorillas.

Experienced Wildlife guides along with trackers and porters will accompany you through the ever-green forest.  The walk, through dense foliage and up steep climbs, leads you to lifetime experience of viewing mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.  After finding the Gorillas, you will have an opportunity to be within meters of these magnificent apes, sharing in their daily lives and experiencing their day-to-day activities. With an estimated 1,063 Gorilla population in the world, spending one hour with a Gorilla family is a once in a lifetime experience! You will later follow your footsteps and return to the forest edge, meet your guide, head back to the lodge. Depending on trek duration, you have an option for a picnic lunch or have a warm meal at the lodge. 

In the afternoon, you will go birding at the waterfall area or down at the river. 

Meals and Overnight accommodation included.

Day 18: Birding in Bwindi (Ruhija) and Umubwindi Swamp.

Bwindi is Uganda’s oldest forest with varying habitats which makes it an ideal home for a variety of birds with 350 species recorded, including 23 endemics (90% of all Albertine Rift Endemics) such as the short-tailed Warbler and Blue Headed Sunbird as well as the seven IUCN red data listed species. Easy to see are the African Emerald Cuckoo, common Bulbul and the white-tailed blue Flycatchers and the Red headed- Blue Bill.

Today we will take the Mubwindi Swamp trail in Ruhija and afternoon, go back to the water trail.

Meals and Overnight accommodation included.

Day 19: Bwindi - Lake Mburo National N.P. App 5 hrs drive.

After breakfast, start a scenic journey to Lake Mburo National Park, with stopovers at various points of interests for more birding exploration and Photography, proceed to the park arriving in time for lunch.

In the afternoon, go for a boat ride. The Eastern banks of Lake Mburo are best explored by a tranquil two-hour boat voyage. Keep an eye out for crocodiles, buffalo, and hippos as well as colourful Kingfishers, magnificent Fish Eagles and Hamerkops with their enormous nests. Lake Mburo has a wide range of activities available to choose from and on payment of supplement, you may go for Horseback Safaris, Night drives, and walking safaris.

Meals and Overnight accommodation included.

Day 20: Lake Mburo Walking Safari and afternoon water safari or Game Drive (weather dependent).

The smallest savanna park in the Pearl is known for having very few cats (if any) and No elephants. This provides perfect opportunities for nature walks as a magical way to experience the bush.

Along with an armed ranger and birding guide, take walk along the swamps bordering Lake Mburo.  You will walk around the valleys and ridges, then down to the swamp. You might be lucky with sightings of the Sitatunga or the rare Shoebill stork.

In the afternoon, you have an option to take a relaxed boat ride on the lake or have a game drive.

While walking, game driving or boating, you are rewarded with lots of bird species, among others include; the White-backed Night-Heron, African Finfoot, African Darter, African Fish Eagle, Northern Brown-Throated Weaver, Striated Heron, Purple Heron, Grey Heron, Common Squacco Heron, Pied Kingfisher,Palm-nut Vulture, Black Crake, Purple Gallinules, White-faced Whistling Duck, Knobbed-billed Duck, Spur-winged Goose, Red-faced Barbet, Black-collared Barbet, Crested Barbet, Abyssinian/Ground-hornbill, Long-tailed Cisticola and Brubru.

Meals and Overnight accommodation included.

Day 21: Lake Mburo – Entebbe.

Morning game drives; After an early breakfast, head out for a game drive in search for some big game and more bird spotting opportunities. The game drive will take you along the lakeshore track, and with its own system of game trails and cleared walkways. The network of game tracks in the east of the park passes a variety of landscape features; acacia woodland, wetlands, grassy hillsides, rock outcrops and seasonally flooded valley floors.

With stops at places of interest, drive to Kampala, optional craft shopping and proceed to the airport in time for your evening return flight or drop off at your residence.

Depending on flight schedule, you may need a day room near the airport for which we shall book upon request or possibly an overnight then fly out the following day.  Check with us - sales@adventureconsults.com   for professional advice on hotels/lodges and related costs.

Accommodation: We do not restrict on where to stay. In most cases, we go with the travellers’ choice. Here are below are suggested places (among others) as we cannot list all available options. So, get in touch for more ideas.

Lion range (Luxury):

Entebbe; Hotel No.5/Protea Hotel.
Masindi/Queen’s Mile section: Masindi Hotel (only best option available).
Murchison Falls National Park: Bakers Lodge/Paraa safari Lodge
Semuliki Natinal Park: Semuliki Safari Lodge.
Kibale Forest National Park: Kyaninga/Ndali/Primate lodge Kibale/Crater Lodge
Queen Elizabeth National park: Mweya Lodge/Katara Safari Lodge/Kyambura Gorge Lodge.
Bwindi Impenetrable Park: Bwindi Lodge, Buhoma Lodge, Mahogany springs, Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp, Clouds lodge, Silverback Lodge, Gorilla Safari Lodge, Engagi Lodge.
Lake Mburo National park: Mihingo Lodge/ Rwakobo Rock/Mantana tented camp.

 

Pride range (Mid-range):

Entebbe; Boma hotel/Carpediem guest house.
Masindi/Queen’s Mile section: Masindi Hotel (only recommended option available).
Murchison Falls National park: Fort Murchison/Pakuba lodge/Nile safari Lodge/Budongo ecolodge/Sambiya River lodge.
Kibale Forest National park: Kibale Forest camp/ Chimpanzee Guest House/Isunga Lodge/Turaco tree tops.
Semuliki National Park: Ntoroko Game Lodge.
Queen Elizabeth National Park: Mazike Lodge, Enganzi lodge/Kingfisher Lodge/Bush Lodge/Buffalo lodge.
Bwindi Forest national park: Haven’s Lodge Buhoma/Crested crane/Rushaga Gorilla CampLake Mburo National park: Mburo Eagles Nest/Leopard Rest camp


The Rift Valley Birding & Chimpanzee Adventure - Uganda
A 9-day Birding photography trip covering Mabamba Swamp famous for “her” majestic shoebill stock that lingers in the marshy section of Lake Victoria, Read More

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