Uganda & Rwanda 2011
Uganda & Rwanda are the jewels at the heart of Africa. Located at the meeting of the East African savannahs and the Congo forest, Uganda & Rwanda offer an unrivalled variety of wildlife experiences in a range of habitats: from encountering groups of chimpanzees as they interact in the rainforest of Kibale National Park, to safari game-drives on the rolling savannahs of Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth National Parks; from wildlife-packed boat cruises on the Kazinga Channel and the Victoria Nile, to tracking families of endangered mountain gorillas on the ancient volcanic slopes of Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
Our itinerary takes in the best that Uganda & Rwanda have to offer, and gives a wonderful overview of these beautiful verdant countries. In addition to the well-loved parks of Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth and Volcanoes National Parks, we also have the chance to visit a new star on the Ugandan stage: the previously inaccessible Kidepo National Park. Stretching along the northern borders of Uganda, Kidepo National Park protects healthy populations of wildlife, including a variety of species not found in any other Ugandan park, including striped hyena, cheetah and African wild dog, as well as 465 species of bird.
Day 1; November 27th
We arrive at Entebbe and check in to our hotel. Tonight we meet for our Welcome Dinner.
Day 2; November 28th
After breakfast we begin our adventure with a drive westwards across the country to Murchison Falls National Park. Our route takes us through the towns of Masindi and Biso, before we drop down off the escarpment of the African Rift Valley, and get our first spectacular views of Lake Albert. After settling in to our lovely lodge we begin our explorations of the National Park with our first safari drive.
Day 3; November 29th
This morning we take a boat trip on the Victoria Nile to the base of Murchison Falls, looking for mammals and birds en route. Nile crocodiles are in abundance, as are large numbers of hippos and riverine birds, including the beautiful red-throated bee-eater. We then drive to the top of the falls for lunch, and walk to the edge of the falls where the mighty Nile River is forced through a 20-foot wide gap in the rocks before dropping 145 feet over the escarpment. This is said to be the largest natural force of water in the world, creating what appears to be a boiling caldron of water.
Day 4; November 30th
After an early breakfast we drive to the northern sector of the Park on safari. Most of the game is to be found in this area, north of the Victoria Nile and east of the Albert Nile and Lake Albert. This is where the movie The African Queen was filmed. During our drive we look for a variety of game, including elephant, oribi, Rothschild’s giraffe, Jackson’s hartebeest, sitatunga, warthog, as well as the big cats, lion and leopard. This area is also home to groups of patas monkey, a terrestrial primate found only in these arid, northern savannahs. This afternoon we take a boat cruise downriver looking for wildlife, including waterbuck, hippos, Nile crocodiles, and a variety of birds including African skimmers. One of the highlights of this trip is the chance of seeing the rare and bizarre shoebill, a large stork-like bird which uses its enormous bill to catch lungfish.
Day 5; December 1st
Today we take a full-day drive south to Kibale Forest. After leaving the Rift Valley we pass through beautiful agricultural countryside where a huge variety of fruit and vegetables are grown. As we reach the lower foothills of the Ruwenzori Mountains (Mountains of the Moon), we drive through beautiful tea plantations and into Kibale tropical rain forest. Our home for the next two days is beautiful Ndali Lodge, situated on a high saddle between two crater lakes. The breathtaking views are spectacular, and the cooler climate at Ndali is very welcome. The lodge was built by the late Captain Mark Price, a British tea grower, and is run as a working farm by his family today. The rooms are decorated with local crafts, and feature high ceilings and four-poster beds with mosquito netting. There is no electricity at this lodge, but ample candle and oil lamps are provided in the evening, creating a romantic feel of “old Africa”.
Day 6; December 2nd
Today we explore Kibale Forest, taking walks through both rain- and swamp-forest to view primates and birds, our main focus being chimpanzees. Kibale is home to a remarkable 13 species of primate, including the localised red colobus and L’Hoest’s monkey. However, the highlight for most people is the opportunity of tracking and watching groups of habituated common chimpanzees as they play and squabble. The forest is also home to a multitude of butterfly species, as well as 335 species of birds.
Day 7; December 3rd
This morning we return to Kibale Forest for another opportunity to track the chimpanzees, before continuing our journey with a drive to Queen Elizabeth National Park. The drive passes through the town of Fort Portal, and then south along the eastern length of the Ruwenzori Mountains. We descend again into the Rift Valley, arriving at Queen Elizabeth National Park, and our beautiful lodge situated on a peninsula overlooking Lake Edward and the Kazinga Channel.
Day 8; December 4th
Today we take game drives in Queen Elizabeth National Park, looking for some of the 100 species of mammals found here, including elephant, lion, leopard, topi, warthog and, perhaps, the rare giant forest hog. Queen Elizabeth National Park is also one of best birding areas in Africa with over 600 recorded species. This afternoon we take a boat trip on the Kazinga Channel to view one of the largest concentrations of hippo in the world (reported to be about 30,000).
Day 9; December 5th
This morning we take an extended game drive through the National Park towards the Rwanda border. Our drive takes us into the Ishasha region of the National Park, in search of the famous tree-climbing lions that inhabit this area. On leaving the National Park we drive southwards into Rwanda, and to our comfortable lodge nestled amongst the lofty Virunga Mountains of Volcanoes National Park. The view from our lodge is quite spectacular, with volcanoes visible in all directions.
Days 10 & 11; December 6th & 7th
We have two full days here, and we track the gorillas each day. After breakfast we take a short drive to Park Headquarters to meet our local guides and trackers. We then hike into the forest to where the gorillas were seen the night before and track them from that point. The trekking can take anything from one hour to the whole day. The terrain is rough and at times steep and muddy, and the trek will take us off the trails. Although the hike is physically demanding the beauty of the forest and surrounding scenery make the trekking worthwhile. Once the gorillas are located all fatigue is forgotten. The experience of watching the gorillas is often described as being the most profound natural history experience in the world.
Day 12; December 8th
This morning we say farewell to Volcanoes National Park, and drive to Kigali, capital of Rwanda, for a city tour. Tonight we transfer to the airport for our flights home.
Kidepo National Park pre-extension:
This extension will run before the main tour begins. Day 5 of this pre-extension is Day 1 of the main tour, and we will fly from Kidepo to Entebbe in time to meet up with the rest of the group in Entebbe for the start of the main tour.
Day 1; November 23rd
Arrive into Entebbe Airport on your international flight, and transfer to our hotel. Tonight we meet for our welcome dinner.
Day 2; November 24th
Early this morning we take a charter flight north to Kidepo National Park, one of Uganda’s most beautiful parks. On arrival we start our exploration of this little-known National Park with a game drive.
Days 3 & 4; November 25th & 26th
Kidepo National Park is home to more than 80 species of mammal, with a healthy population of carnivores: lion, leopard, bat-eared fox, spotted and striped hyæna, aardwolf, caracal, cheetah, side-striped and black-backed jackals, and African wild dog, as well as some rare ungulates, including lesser kudu, Chandlers Mountain reedbuck, klipspringer, dikdik and bright gazelle. Birdlife is also prolific, with more than 465 species found here, many not found anywhere else in Uganda. We have two full days to enjoy the National Park, and we will spend our time on game drives and walk, as well as visiting a local Karamojong village.
Day 5; November 27th
This morning we take a last game drive before our charter flight back to Entebbe where we meet the rest of our group before the main tour begins.