Archives March 27, 2019

Queen Elizabeth National park

Queen Elizabeth National park – Things to do and see – Accommodation

Queen Elizabeth National park in Uganda was officially established in 1952 Kazinga National park and it offers a visitor the opportunity of a classic East African Safari on savannah plains. The park covers an area of 774 sq miles between Lake Edward and Lake George, connected by the Kazinga channel.

Queen Elizabeth National park is one of the most popular national parks in Uganda and is home to over 95 mammals and 600 bird species, with a dramatic background of the Majestic Rwenzori Mountains. Visitors can enjoy many safari activities from sunrise, afternoon and night safari game drives on the great savannah plains in the northern and Ishasha sectors, boat safaris on the Kazinga channel that attracts lots of big and small game like elephants, buffalos, crocodiles, hippos, monitor lizards, and lots of birds more than you can possibly imagine. The birds include the pied and malachite king fishers, African fish eagle, spoon billed stork, yellow billed stork, pink backed pelicans, marabou stocks and saddle billed storks. One can also go for chimpanzee tracking in the Kyabura gorge or just a guided walk to the bat cave in Maramagambo Forest.

Activities in Queen Elizabeth National park

Sunrise, Afternoon and night safari game drives:

A Uganda safari is not complete without a game drive in Queen Elizabeth National park. With countless types of mammals that include elephants, different types of reptiles that include snakes, crocodiles and monitor lizards and about 600 bird species, Queen Elizabeth National is perfect for visitors who want to explore African wildlife. All game drives are guided in 4 x 4 WD customized safari vehicles with a professional safari guide. The park is home to large numbers of buffalos, lions, leopards, hippos, elephants, giant forest hogs, warthogs, hyenas, bush bucks and different types of antelopes that include the Uganda Kob which is an endemic antelope and is on the coat of arms together with the crested crane.

Boat Safaris on Kazinga channel:

Boat safaris a long the Kazinga Channel are a great way to view animals that come to the water banks to drink water. The Kazinga Channel is 32 km and connects Lakes George and Edward and attracts countless animals that include the elephants, buffalos, schools of hippos and rich number of birds. You will all those animals and numerous Nile crocodiles basking in the sun. Bird watchers are normally overwhelmed by over 60 bird species spotted during this boat safari. The birds include the spoon billed stork, long tailed cormorants, African fish eagle, pelicans, marabou storks, pied and malachite king fishers, sacred ibis among others

Tree climbing Lions in Ishasha Sector:

Ishasha sector in the southern part of Queen Elizabeth National park is famous for tree climbing lions. There are only two places in the world where lions climb trees i.e. in Ishasha Uganda and in Lake Manyara National park in Tanzania. The reasons why these lions climb trees is unknown. It has been said that may be they climb to run away from Tsetse flies, of to escape the scorching sun. The lions lie lazily on the branches of fig trees in the sector. A game drive or a night in the Ishasha area will give a visitor an opportunity to spot these lions. Apart from tree climbing lions, other animals like topis, buffalos and elephants can be seen on game drives in Ishasha plains. These however tend to be more aggressive since most probably they have crossed from Virunga National park in Congo where poaching is a great threat. Remember to bring your binoculars.

Lion tracking:

If you want to get up close and personal and at the same time contribute to the research data base, then lion tracking is perfect.  This experience will allow visitors to monitor lions using locator devices. You will learn habituation calls, behaviours and habits of lions. Lion tracking gives you a 95% chance to see the lions in their natural habitant. The number of people for this activity is very limited so that the lions are not stressed but also makes the experience more quality and exclusive.

Other experience activities in Queen Elizabeth National park include hippo census, bird counting and mongoose tracking. You will either go for lion tracking in the morning or in the evening and sometimes at night and these must be booked through Uganda Wildlife Authority

Hot air balloon safari

Another unique way to experience Queen Elizabeth National park wilderness is to fly over its savannah plains on a hot air balloon safari. From above, you will watch over elephants, buffalos, antelopes and the African savannah

This hot air balloon safari should be added on your things to do while in Queen Elizabeth National park. It is very exciting. You will wake up early for this opportunity, fly high for approximately one hour. You will rise as the sun rises and float in the direction the window takes you. After the safari when you come done, you will have a hearty bush breakfast. Hot air balloon safaris in Uganda are only in two national parks, Queen Elizabeth National park and Murchison falls National Park

Chimpanzee tracking in Kyambura Gorge:

You can visit Kyambura Gorge which is popular for chimpanzee tracking. Kyambura gorge is a tropical rain forest and it is located in the far eastern corner of Queen Elizabeth National Park and it is 16km to the Kazinga channel. The gorge is drained by the Kyambura River and has some of the most stunning landscapes in Uganda. Many animals come to the gorge for water and even though it is surrounded by the savannah, it has a big number of primates.  It is home to chimpanzees, red tailed, black and white colobus monkeys, baboons, other animals and birds. The other alternative for chimpanzee tracking is in Kalizu forest.

Bush walks in the Maramagambo forest:

Besides the traditional safari game drives, one can go for a nature walk in Maramagambo forest. For a little bit of adventure, you can visit the bat cave that has snaking always waiting to swallow bats in the cave

General safari Requirements to Queen Elizabeth National park

  • Light safari clothing’s i.e. shorts/sleeveless for the day
  • Warm clothing/sweater for the evening
  • Anti Malarial/Yellow fever vaccination

Getting around to Queen Elizabeth National park

By Road transport:

It takes about 7 hours from Kampala via Mbarara to Queen Elizabeth National park. Those hours exclude breaks and lunch stops

By Air transport:

The park can be access by air transport from Entebbe airport with Aerolink.

Accommodation in Queen Elizabeth National park

Luxury Accommodation inside the park

  • Mweya Safari Lodge- Views of the Kazinga channel

Luxury accommodation outside the park

  • Kyambura Gorge Lodge- Views of the Kyambura gorge

Semi- luxury outside the park

  • Katara Lodge- Views of the rift valley
  • Mazike Safari Lodge
  • Kasenyi safari camp

Mid range accommodation

  • Marafiki Safari Lodge- Views of Lake George
  • Twin Lakes Safari Lodge- Views of the rift valley and national park
  • Ihamba Safari Lodge- Views of Lake George

Budget accommodation

  • Bush Lodge- Views of Kazinga channel
  • Irungu Forest Safari Lodge

Accommodation in the Ishasha sector- South of Queen Elizabeth National park

Luxury accommodation in Ishasha

  • Ishasha Wilderness camp- Views of Ishasha River

Mid range accommodation in Ishasha

  • Enjojo lodge cottages
  • Ishasha Jungle Lodge

Budget accommodation in Ishasha

  • At the River

Suggested safari itineraries that include Queen Elizabeth National park

Murchison Falls National Park

Located in the North-western part of Uganda, Murchison falls national park is the largest national park in Uganda and covers an area of 3,893 sq km about 1,503 sq miles. It is the oldest and first conservation area in Uganda and it is divided by the Victoria Nile. The park was named after the popular Murchison falls where the Victoria Nile forces its way through a narrow gap before plunging 43 meters down with a thunderous roar. The park is surrounded by Karuma and Bugungu wildlife reserves. A Uganda safari to Murchison falls national park can never disappoint and on one of the safaris here, a traveler may see all the big 5 animals when combined with an en route visit to Ziwa Rhino sanctuary for guided Rhino tracking. Travelers who visit Murchison Falls National park can also combine it with a chimpanzee tracking safari to Kibale National park.

On a Uganda wildlife safari to Murchison Falls, expect to see a massive number of wildlife on sunrise or sunset game drives. Look out for African Cape buffalo, the graceful giraffes, elephants, lions, and leopards, different types of antelopes, monkeys and different bird species and on a boat to the delta, you will have a high chance of seeing the bizarre looking shoebill stork which is one of the famous birds looked for on our bird watching safaris. There are many optional activities in this beautiful national park that include a hike to the top of the falls. You do not need to be physically fit to go for this hike which offers stunning photographic views of the falls. At the top of the falls, you will see a beautiful rain bow. Other optional activities are a balloon safari over the park, sports fishing which requires a sport fishing permit, and chimpanzee tracking tour in Budongo forest. On a boat safari at the bottom of the falls, you will see hippos, Nile crocodiles and beautifully feathered birds.

The park has different types of accommodations for every traveler. Luxury lodges include Bakers lodge and Paraa Safari lodge; mid range lodges include Pakuba safari lodge, Murchison River lodge and Fort Murchison and budget accommodation include Red chilli Murchison Falls.

Top things to do and see in Murchison Fall National park- Uganda big five safaris.

Boat safaris to the base of Murchison Falls:  A boat safari at the bottom of the Murchison falls national park is one of the highlights of this national park and should not missed. At the stunning Murchison Falls, River Nile which is the world’s longest river forces itself through a narrow cleft before dropping 43m down with a thunderous roar. River Nile divided Murchison Falls National park in North and south sectors and attracts a huge number of animals which come to drink from the river. A boat safari to the bottom of Murchison falls offers visitors an opportunity to see and photograph animals that come to drink especially during afternoon or evening hours. Apart from the animals, the river attracts huge numbers of birds. You will see Nile crocodiles relaxing at the river bank, hippopotamus splashing waters, elephants, giraffes, antelopes among others. Birds include pied king fisher, fish eagles, saddle billed storks and bee eaters. Boat safaris in Murchison falls national park happen in the morning, in the afternoon and early evening and booking in advance is recommended.

Hike to the top of the Murchison Falls.     The Murchison falls are stunning and a hike to the top of the falls with a constant rainbow is breath taking. This activity by all means should not be missed while in the park and it can also be done by children. The hike offers stunning views of the falls and the green scenery surrounding them. The hike is an easy one and takes about 30 minutes for people who are really fast and about an hour for people who are less fast and with stopovers for the guide’s briefing on some of the stop points. The hike trails are well developed although the steps are quite steep on some point. A traveler will have great views of the Uhuru falls too and you will have some of the best photographs taken from here. The hike starts from the bottom of the falls and your driver guide MUST wait for a visitor at the top of the falls. It is an easy hike but we recommend wearing closed shoes

River trip to the Nile Delta.      Another top activity in Murchison Falls National park is a river boat trip to the Nile Delta. This is where the Victoria Nile flows into Lake Albert and a boat trip here is a must for bird watchers. The banks of the Nile Delta are famous for the weird looking shoebill stork which is rare and pre-historic.  The shoebill stork is one of Uganda’s highly sought after birds on every bird watching safari. Apart from the shoebill stork, look out for other birds like the giant Kingfisher, bee eaters, pelican and other storks. You will see many Nile crocodiles, some elephants and numerous antelopes. If time allows, have a bush breakfast by the northern bank or river Nile. As you approach lake Albert, you will have beautiful views of mountains on the other side. Few people go for the Nile Delta boat safari, so you will have the whole river to yourself.

Sunrise, sunset and night safaris in Murchison Falls National park.       The best way to come face to face with the animal kingdom in Murchison falls National parks is by the going for a sunrise, sunset or night safari, in the Northern part of River Nile where most wildlife of the national park are. Travelers who stay at Paraa Safari Lodge and Pakuba Safari lodge do not need to cross the ferry for the game drives since they are located in the North where the activity starts from. On these game drives expect to see lots of elephants, giraffes, Africa cape Buffalo, lions, leopards, primates,  and different types of antelopes that include the oribi and the water buck. Murchison Falls National park is also home to many birds which can be seen during the game drives. On a nocturnal or night game drive, you will see nightlight of nocturnal animals like lions hunting.

Birding watching safari in Murchison falls National Park.     Murchison falls National Park is also one of the best birding places in Uganda and the park’s main attraction is the shoebill stork, best sighted on the Nile Delta boat safari. The best time to see the shoebill stork in Murchison Falls National park is January to March. Bird watching can be done during game drives. The most common birds sighted are the Abyssinian ground hornbill, black bellied Bustards, open billed storks, secretary bird. On your boat safari at the bottom of the Murchison falls you will see the kingfishers, hornbills, the Grey heron, fly catchers and bee eaters among others. At the Nile river bank, you will also see stilts, plovers, and geese. Birding watching can also be done from Budongo Forest for forest birds and a long the royal mile. We have a ready made bird watching safari which you can sign up to, for birds of Uganda.

Hot air balloon safari in Murchison Falls National park.      A hot air balloon safari gives a visitor in Murchison Falls National park a bird eye’s view of the national park. Hot air balloon safaris are only possible in the morning, and they are wrapped up by a bush breakfast. One sees lots of animals from above and the safari also offers beautiful views of Lake Albert, River Nile and colorful sunrises.

Chimpanzee tracking Budongo Forest, Murchison Falls NP.     Although Budongo Forest is known as one of the best bird watching locations in East, the forest is home to different types of primates that include red tailed monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, the dog shaped olive baboons but the star are the chimpanzees. A visitor can combine a wildlife safari to Murchison falls national park and chimpanzee tracking of habituated chimpanzees in Budongo forest.  Chimpanzee tracking can be done in the morning or in the afternoon. For keen bird watchers, includes bird watching a long the Royal Mile track which is one of the best bird watching places. The other best places for chimpanzee tracking and habituation are Kibale National park and Queen Elizabeth National park

Sports Fishing safari in Murchison Falls National park.        One of the less known activities in Murchison Falls National park is sport fishing which requires a special permit from Uganda Wildlife Authority. Sport fishing are done at the bottom of river Nile and Nile Perch is the most common fish caught by anglers doing sport fishing on River Nile. The other types of fish caught are cat fish and tiger fish. Most anglers agree that sport fishing in the wild Murchison Falls is one of the most challenging and clients are always provided with expert guides for safety and for successful fishing. All fish caught during sport fishing is released back to the water. The best months for sport fishing are the dry months of December to March and June to October. Some of the world’s renowned anglers that have done sports fishing in Murchison falls at the base are Jeremy Wade (River Monsters presenter), John Wilson a UK TV presenter, and Zeb Hogan of Monster Fish National Geographic TV. Contact us if you are interested in sport fishing at Murchison falls

What to bring for a safari in Murchison Falls National park.

Murchison Falls National Park is one of the hottest national parks in Uganda due to its location. Below are the basics essentials to bring.

  • Cool and light clothing
  • Sun glasses to protect your eyes from the sun
  • Waterproof or plastic bags for cameras, phone and binoculars on the boat safari since it can pour anytime
  • A good insect repellent since insects especially tsetse flies can be a problem in the evening and when hiking around the river’s vegetation. You may also bring long sleeved shirts and long trousers for this purpose
  • Spare batteries for your camera since some places don’t have electricity all the time
  • Flush light

Accommodations in Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National park has different types of accommodation for every traveler from High end luxury safari lodges, mid range and budget lodges. Below is a list of some of the safari lodges

High end accommodations in Murchison Falls National park

Paraa Safari Lodge, Murchison Falls NP.
Paraa Safari lodge is one of the oldest safari lodges and was established in 1954. The lodge has perfect views of River Nile and is located in the Northern part of Murchison Falls National park where most of the activities like game drives, boat safaris and sport fishing take place. Each room at the lodge is en suite and has a private veranda. Some rooms have beautiful views of River Nile. It has a swimming pool, a restaurant and bar, a gift shop and a conference centre.

Chobe Safari Lodge.
This is a perfect safari lodge with a modern touch. There are 36 en suite rooms on one block each with a private bathroom and shower, a ceiling fan, hair driers and with a private balcony that offers stunning views of River Nile. Activities one can go for while staying at Chobe Safari lodge are fishing, safari game drives, boat safari on River Nile and a boat trip to the Nile Delta.
Other facilities at Chobe Safari lodge are a swimming pool, restaurant and bar, health club and spa and a conference center

Baker’s Lodge.
Baker’s Lodge is located on the southern bank of River Nile, a great location to explore the Murchison Falls. The lodge derives its name from English Sr. Samuel Baker. This exclusive private lodge has a fabulous setting with luxurious rooms, great food and service and it is in the middle of Murchison Falls National park.    The lodge has 8 spacious thatched safari suites each raised from the ground on decks, overlooking the Nile.  Each room has a fan, a mosquito net, locally crafted furniture, en suite bathrooms with solar hot water.       The restaurant, lounge and bar are raised on wooden decks too, allowing guests to have a sunrise kissed breakfast and a sunset in the evening over the river.
There are different multi course menus a visitor can choose from as well as good wine and other bar drinks.      Hot beverages are available throughout the day which are self served by the clients but can also be delivered to the cottage

Mid range accommodation in Murchison Falls National park

Pakuba Safari Lodge     Located at the Eastern bank of the Albert Nile, Pakuba Safari Lodge is tastefully designed and offers comfort to travelers who stay here while in Murchison Falls. Travelers can enjoy different activities of Murchison Falls National park which include game drives, hikes to the top of the falls, bird watching and boat safaris at the bottom of the falls.

The lodge has 46 rooms which are en suite with a private bathroom and flushing toilets.  The rooms are clean, comfortable and with mosquito nets.
The food is nice, and the stuff is excellent and friendly. Many animals especially giraffes come right to the lodge to graze.

Murchison River Lodge    Over looking Murchison Falls from the southern bank of River Nile, Murchison River Lodge is a comfortable and relaxing mid range lodge in Murchison Falls National park. It has accommodations for all budgets. It has en suite thatched cottages, self contained thatched safari tents, and comfortable camping tents. You may also bring your own tent to hitch.

The lodge has a swimming pool, a restaurant and bar. The accommodation is simply stunning and the restaurant is set on the most photogenic spot.

Fort Murchison lodge    Designed in a Swahili kind of style, Fort Murchison Lodge is located on the Eastern banks of River Nile. It offers money for value accommodation from mid range to budget options. The mid range rooms are 12 self contained with spacious bedrooms and comfortable beds. Each room has a private balcony

The restaurant has Swahili décor and guests are served 4 course menus. The bar on the roof top has great views and is perfect for a sun downer.

Budget accommodation in Murchison Falls National Park

Fort Murchison tents  Fort Murchison has a budget option and offers non self contained tents that have 2 single beds, mosquito nets, all linen, a bed side table and a power socket for charging your electrical equipments. The tents are under grass thatched roofs with a private terrace. Visitors who stay in tents have shared showers and flushing toilets

How to get to Murchison Falls National park

Road transport: It is about 7 and 6 hours from Entebbe and Kampala respectively to Murchison Falls National park. This time excludes breaks en route and the time at the Ziwa rhino sanctuary for those who include rhino tracking on their itinerary.

Air transport: Murchison Falls National park can also be accessed by air through charter and scheduled flights to Pakuba airstrip through Aerolink, our partners.

Bird’s Nest Safaris offers exciting Uganda wildlife safaris to this spectacular national park. We have already made itineraries for every traveler that can also be tailor made to suit the traveler’s interests, budget and time frame. We offer short to long safaris to Murchison falls as recommended below. Our short safaris are perfect for travelers with limited time but want to experience a typical Uganda wildlife safari

Our Recommended safari packages that include Murchison falls national park.

3 days Murchison falls national park

13 days Primates predators and wildlife safari

11 days gorilla, lions, Nile and wildlife safari

Kibale Forest National Park

Kibale National Park    (Things to do and see – Accommodation)
Kibale National park, this fascinating primate capital of the world, is 766 sq km and is located near Fort Portal and Kasese towns in Western Uganda. Kibale National park is about 325km and 6 hours from Kampala city. The forest is one of the lush and beautiful forests in Uganda, surrounded by Batoro and Balinga.
The park can easily be accessed from all corners of Uganda and a traveler can combine an extension Uganda safari to Semliki, Mountain Rwenzori, Queen Elizabeth and Bwindi impenetrable national parks. This park is popular for chimpanzee tracking safaris although chimpanzee tracking can also be done from Budongo forest, Kyambura gorge in Queen Elizabeth national park, and Kalizu forest which is managed by National Forestry Authority (NFA).

Kibale National park is home to Chimpanzees among other primate species. Chimpanzees are in the family of Hominidae with gorillas, orangutans and humans although they separated from humans about 6 million years ago. They share 98.8% DNA with man making them man’s closest cousins being members of the Hominia long with extinct species of the sub tribe Hominina. Male chimps are bigger than female chimps. They can stand up to 5.6 ft high and weighs about 150lbs. Chimpanzees also live 40 years in the wild and about 60 years in captivity. Chimpanzee’s arms are longer than the legs and they can walk with knuckles, or walk on all the legs and arms. They can also walk on two and hold things in their hands

The park can be visited all year round and is one of the last remaining expanses to contain both lowland and montane forests and forms a continuous forest with Queen Elizabeth National Park. It is a bird watcher’s paradise and the Green-breasted pitta which is one of the highly thought after birds, is here. You can book a bird watching safari with Bird’s Nest Safaris.

Apart from chimpanzees, there are about other 13 primate species which include the black and white colobus monkeys, red colobus monkeys, red tailed monkey, L’Hoest’s monkeys among others.  Colobus is a greek word which means ‘missing’. The colobus monkeys miss the 5th finger. Instead of chimpanzee tracking, a traveller may opt for chimpanzee habituation. With habituation, you spend the whole day with chimpanzees and this can prepare you for your gorilla trek safari.     The full day chimpanzee habituation is worth the money and the effort; you will feel like Jane Goodall. You only spend one hour with the chimps for the normal chimpanzee trek. You can combine the chimpanzee trek with a guided nature walk to Bigodi swamp, a community run activity.

How to get there:

By road: It is about 6 hours from Kampala to Kibale Forest National park and 1 hour from Kasese. We use customised safari vehicles to make your journey a comfortable one.

By air transport: A visitor can fly from Entebbe to Kasese town with our partners, Aerolink Uganda.

If you are interested in a chimpanzee tracking safari, contact us and our safari experts will work with you to organize one for you.

Activities to do in Kibale Forest National park.
Chimpanzee Tracking:   Chimpanzee tracking is one of the highlights that make a Uganda safari unique. What makes Uganda safaris more special is that you can go for chimpanzee and gorilla tracking in the same country. Kibale Forest National Park is with no doubt the best place in Uganda and in the world to see chimpanzees in their wild nature. The chimpanzee tracking starts at 8:00am from the park head quarters where visitors are briefed first. Then they are led to the forest by 2 ranger guides from Uganda Wildlife Authority. Many chimpanzee families call this forest home but its also a home to many other primates that include the red colobus monkeys, the grey checked mangabey, blue monkey, L’Hoest monkey among others.  There are also olive baboons and the nocturnal bush babies and pottos which may be seen on a night walk in the forest.

Chimpanzee Habitation: Chimpanzee habituation in Kibale Forest National park, a tropical forest is now popular and it is an experience like no other. Because chimpanzee trekking is very popular, another group is being habituated and visitors have an opportunity to participate in the chimpanzee habitation process at $220 per person. The price includes park entry fees; ranger guides fees and habituation fees. For a long time now, since the 1960s, a team of scientists have been habituating chimpanzees so visitors are able to go chimpanzee tracking. Chimpanzees are found in 19 African countries but they are endangered since their habitant is being destroyed by man. You will spend a whole day with chimps contributing to the habituation process with rangers and habituation experts from UWA.

Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary:     Bigodi Wetland swamp sanctuary is about 6 km south of Kibale National park and is run by the community surrounding the park. 200 bird species that include the great blue turaco, about eight different primates that include the grey checked mangabey, the blue monkey, the red tailed, the black and white colobus monkey among others, beautiful butterflies call this swamp home. The guided swamp walk takes bout 2 to 3 hours walking through beautiful grasslands and communities with children waving at you warmly. The scenery too is beautiful.

Bird watching:         About 370 bird species have been recorded in Kibale National park and surrounding area. What more can a bird watcher ask for? The breasted pitta is one of the highly thought after birds, and our bird watching itinerary includes birding in Kibale national park. Bird watching in Kibale National park can be done thought the year. The other best bird spot is the Bigodi wetland sanctuary that is home to the great blue turaco, black and white cascade hornbill among others.

Crater walk lakes:    With over 70 crater lakes found are the area, a visitor can go for a 2 to 3 hour crater walk or more and hike to the top of the world for stunning views. Some of the crater lakes that are due to volcanic activities and explosions ages ago are Lake Nyabikyere, Ndali and Kyaninga.

Visit to Palace:    On your way to Queen Elizabeth National park, one can decide to visit Toro palace to learn more about Toro kingdom which is one the 5 traditional kingdoms in Uganda and King Omukama Oyo Rukidi IV became the youngest king in the world in 1995 at the age of 3.

Cultural home stays.   It is also possible to visitors to do a home-stay at one of the homes in the communities and experience first hand how the local people go by their lives. You will also participate in going to the farms with them, preparing and enjoying traditional Ugandan food.  .

Night nature walk:    If booked early through the national park, one can go for a guided night walk to look out for bush babies, golden cats and pottos. Before the night walk, forest elephants that call Kibale Forest National park have to be monitored first for peaceful night nature walks

Differences between chimpanzee tracking and gorilla tracking
One of the differences is that chimpanzees spend more time in trees than on ground. They move from one tree canopy to another. Gorillas however eat and move around on the ground, although sometimes some of them will be in the trees. It is so fascinating watching the acrobat skills for chimpanzees moving from one tree to another. It is thus a bit hard to take photos of the chimpanzees in trees than take photos of the gorillas on the floor.

Chimpanzees are more vocal, noisy and pat hoot a lot making the whole experience lively while gorillas are quite.

The chimpanzee tracking is flatter compared to the gorilla trek is more tense in a mountainous lush region making it more strenuous.

Unlike gorilla tracking, because the chimpanzee treks are shorter, one can either go in the morning or in the afternoon for the trek. Any time is great. Gorilla tracking goes for a whole day depending on where the gorillas nested the previous night.

However, both gorilla tracking and chimpanzee tracking require permits and the total number of permits is limited. So it is always recommended to book the permits in advance since they are on first come first served basis

For both gorilla tracking and chimpanzee tracking, you will need to wear sturdy hiking boot to make the treks easy.

We also recommend gaiters if you have them or tuck your safari pants in your boots to stop safari ants from getting to you.

Gardening gloves are also recommended for both treks to avoid stinging nettles and thorns from hurting you.

Accommodation in Kibale National park

While in and around Kibale National park, there are many great accommodation options to stay. These range from High end to Budget accommodations. There is accommodation for every one.

Luxury accommodation

 Semi- luxe accommodation

 Mid range accommodation

  • Kibale Forest camp
  • Kibale Guest Cottages

Budget accommodation

  • Kibale Forest camp- Lazy camping

Other places in Uganda where you can go for chimpanzee tracking:

 Budongo forest in Murchison Falls National park: In Murchison Falls, one can for chimpanzee tracking in Budongo Forest. The forest costs about 50 chimp individuals. The forest is rich in biodiversity with 9 primates, 289 butterfly species without forgetting 130 month species, 465 tree and shrub species, and about 359 species of bird.

Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth National park: Chimpanzee tracking in Queen Elizabeth National park takes place in Kyambura gorge. There about 20 habituated individuals. Although the chances of seeing the chimpanzees in the gorge are 50/50, the gorge itself is very beautiful. A minimum requirement of fitness is required since the gorge is slippery and a bit steep.

Kalinzu Forest Reserve: This is located in Western Uganda near Queen Elizabeth National park with high chances of seeing the chimpanzees. A visitor can combine a savannah wildlife safari in Queen Elizabeth National park with a chimpanzee tracking adventure in Kalinzu forest

Our Recommended safari packages that include chimpanzee tracking activities:

3 days chimpanzee tracking Kibale forest national park
11 days gorilla, lions, Nile and wildlife safari
13 days Primates predators and wildlife safari
10 days Gorilla, chimps, Lions and wildlife safari (Uganda-Rwanda)

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park   (Gorilla tracking and Habituation, Top Things to do and see – Accommodation)

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda is famous for gorilla tracking, gorilla habituation and birding safaris. There are about 880 mountain gorillas in the whole world and half of these gentle Mountain gorillas call Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National park their home which was made a wildlife Reserve in 1932 and gazetted as a national park in 1991. The forest located in South Western Uganda bordering Rwanda and Congo. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is a world UNESCO heritage is close to other national parks in Uganda that include Queen Elizabeth National park, Kibale National park, Rwenzori Mountain National park and Semliki National park. This makes it easy for visitors on a Uganda – Rwanda safari to easily combine gorilla tours with chimpanzee and wildlife safaris in the national parks mentioned above.

How Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National park got its name according to locals

The name Bwindi derives from a local phrase “Mubwindibwanyinamuraki”. 500 years ago, Bwindi Impenetrable National park and Mgahinga Gorilla National park were one forest. People who came from Rwanda to settle in Kigezi highlands or gorilla highlands regions separated the two forests. One clan called Abarenjesettled in Rubuguri, the Southern part of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest who shifted from place to place looking for fertile soils to cultivate since they were cultivators. One day they were shifting from Rubuguri to Kayonza in the Northern part of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, through the forest until when they got to a boggy swamp in Ruhija (the Eastern part of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest). They tried to cross the swamp, and when they crossed it half way, it started moving with them. This movement of the swamp made them realize that they were going to die.      They asked the swamp spirits for guidance and they were told if only they sacrificed their most beautiful virgin daughter Nyinamukari, the family would cross the river peacefully. After two days of deliberation, the family decided that they could not turn back to Rubuguri in the South and so they threw the girl into the water to drown, the swamp accepted them to cross safely to the other side. When other people heard about the news of the sacrifice, they began to avoid the swamp calling it Mubwindibwanyinamukari – dark place of Nyinamuraki. The swap is still known as Mubwindi although the whole forest area is referred to as Bwindi- Thus the name Bwindi.

Mountain Gorilla families in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National park:

In April 1993, the Mubare gorilla family in Buhoma, the Northern sector of Bwindi was the first family to be habituated for gorilla tracking in Uganda

In Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, there are about eleven habituated gorilla families which include Mubare, Habinyanja and Rushegura (In Buhoma the Northern sector), in the Eastern Sector also known as Ruhija which is by the way the highest point of Bwindi impenetrable forest at approximately 2000 Meters above sea level are Bitukura, Oruzogo and Kyaguriro,  and Nshongi, Mishaya, Busingye, Bweza, Kahungye in Rushaga and finally Nkuringo Gorilla Family all in the southern sector of the park.

Bird life in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National park.

Bwindi Impenetrable National park is one of the hottest birding spots in Africa with about 350 bird species that include 23 Albertine Rift endemics, 14 of these only recorded here. The park is home to some of the globally endangered species like the African Green Broadbill, Shelley’s Crimson wind and Chapin’s flycatcher. Others are Mountain Masked and Collared Apalis, handsome Francolin, white bellied Robin chat, black billed Turaco, Regal sun birds among others.

Animal kingdom of Bwindi Impenetrable national park.

Apart from mountain gorillas, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest hosts 120 mammal species that include primates (chimpanzees and different types of monkeys) of which 7 are diurnal, forest elephants which are darker and smaller than their Savannah counterparts, forest buffalo, duikers, golden cat, giant forest hogs among others. There are also reptile species and amphibians that include frog specie which is still being researched about by scientists.

Butterflies of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Bwindi Impenetrable rain forest is home to approximately 300 species of butterflies that include swallowtails, one of the two endangered butterfly species

Trees of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National park.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, the Afro-montane forest is characterized by fern, vines and shrubs. The park has approximately 324 tree species, 10 of which are only found in Uganda

Activities to do in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National park.

There are many activities visitors can do while in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National park but gorilla tracking and gorilla habitation are the most popular activities:

Gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National park:

Gorilla tracking of the different habituated gorilla families ranks among one of the highlights of a safari to Africa for almost all travelers on a safari to Uganda. Tracking the endangered mountain gorillas gives one a feeling that is had to describe. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest national park, a UNESCO World heritage is home to half the Mountain gorillas. It is estimated that there are only 880 mountain gorillas left in world shared between Rwanda and Congo with half of them in Uganda.

A traveler needs a gorilla tracking permit to be able to track the gorillas. The permits are on first come first serve with a very high demand and can sell out many months ahead.

Permits can sell out months ahead. Bird’s Nest Safaris  will help you book your permits.

Gorilla Habituation:
Gorilla habituation is a process where wild mountain gorillas are made comfortable with the presence of man without charging. Instead of being with the gorillas for 1 hour as it is with gorilla tracking, one is with gorillas for 4 hours starting from where the gorillas nested the previous night.  You can only be part of the habituation process in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable forest, in Rushaga in the Southern sector. Two gorilla families Bikyingi and Bushaho are being habituated and visitors can part of the process with researchers. Gorilla habituation process takes three years to be completed and researchers keep visiting the wild family being habituated learning about each individual gorilla and how they behave. The research you will make with the researchers will be added into the data base, and if you like, you will get constant updates about the gorillas you habituated while you back home.

Bird watching safari in Bwindi Impenetrable National park:
With a size of 321sq.kms, and at an elevation of 1190 – 2607 meters above sea level, about 357 bird species have been recorded in Bwindi Impenetrable and birding watching in this forest should be on every birder’s itinerary on a birding safari to Uganda. Bwindi Forest is home to 10 of the 26 globally threatened bird species, with 5 vulnerable ones. It has 23 local Albertine Rift endemic species in the country like the Africa Green Broadbill, Chapin’s flycatcher and Shelley’s Crimson-wing found no where else in Uganda. The Forest was also named as Africa’s number one birding spot by Africa Bird Club. Gorilla Link Tours has specialized bird guides for a traveler birding needs and there are also bird guides on sites.

Forest walk to waterfall trail:
Apart from gorilla tracking and birding watching, a visitor in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National park can go for guided forest walks to the beautiful waterfalls.
During the waterfall trail, you will learn about Bwindi Forest’s trees, butterflies and the amazing bird life that decorate the forest. The forest nature walks normally take 3 hours or longer and may be moderately difficult. One can also go for the Buhoma – Nkuringo trail which takes about 3-4 hours, through Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National park with an armed ranger guide from Uganda Wildlife Authority. The time taken to get to Nkuringo depends on the pace of the traveler. The other one is the Rushura waterfall walk, a 14 km walk that takes approximately 7 hours and this too depends on the pace of the traveler. This walk goes through a forest which is shared between Uganda and Congo. And lastly, one can go for Muzubijiro loop that is 6km and takes place around Rukubira hill and offers amazing views of some of the Volcano Mountains

Buhoma Community Walk and Cultural Experiences
Travelers can go for optional guided community walks and cultural experiences after their gorilla trek or the next day. One needs at least two days in Buhoma to go for this village trail.

You will visit a hand craft place, learn how to brew Uganda waragi (war gin) and visit a traditional healer who will show you some of the traditional herbs used to as medicines and the natural Viagra plant.

The walk goes on to Mukono community school where you will meet the children and the teacher, proceeding to Bwindi Community hospital

Lastly, you will visit the Batwa Pygmy community who are the original people of Bwindi Forest. They lost their forest home when Bwindi Impenetrable National park was created. They will perform their traditional dances, show you forest survival skills like making fire and tell you stories about their lives in the forest

Mountain Hikes and bike rides
Most lodges around Bwindi Impenetrable Forest which is located on a hilly area can rent out bikes to you to be able to enjoy biking through some of the developed trails with a beautiful scenery of the area. Ride for A Woman, a community run project rents out bikes for Ivi River trail that starts from Buhoma park offices and takes you up to toIvi River.

Kigezi region where Bwindi impenetrable forest is located is a mountainous area with beautiful scenery. Most lodges have bikes you can rent per day to take on the special trails created in the community otherwise ask them for a project you can rent from. Ivi river trail from Buhoma park headquarters to Ivi river organized by ‘ride for a woman’.

How to book your permit for the gorilla trek and habituation experience
Get in touch with us to book your gorilla permits. Gorilla tracking and habituation permits are issued out by Uganda Wildlife Authority and we do recommend that you book your permits way in advance since there are on a high demand based on first come first serve basis but also they are very limited. Passport details are required in order to get the permits

A gorilla tracking permit costs 600 US Dollars and a gorilla habituation permit costs $1500 US Dollars. You don’t have to book a whole safari with us for us to book these permits for you. You will only pay us handling fees.

Only persons who are 15 years and above can go for gorilla tracking and habitation

What to bring for the gorilla tracking and habituation experience

  • Light rain jacket
  • Packed lunch and drinks (provided)
  • Camera and extra batteries
  • Long pants, long sleeved shirts, hats
  • Garden hand gloves
  • Hiking boots
  • Walking stick (provided)

Accommodation in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
There are many accommodations in Bwindi for every traveler. One can choose from luxury, mid range or budget accommodations in the different sectors of the park

Accommodation in Buhoma- Northern Sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

  • Buhoma Lodge– Luxury
  • Bwindi Lodge- Luxury
  • Gorilla Forest Camp- Luxury
  • Mahogany Springs- Semi luxury
  • Silver Back Lodge- Mid range
  • The Haven Buhoma Lodge- Mid range
  • Engagi Lodge- Mid range
  • Buhoma community camp- Budget

Accommodation in Ruhija- Eastern Sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

  • Gorilla Ruhija Lodge- Mid range
  • Gorilla Mist Camp- Mid range
  • Broadbill Forest Camp- Budget
  • Trekkers Haven- Budget

Accommodation in Rushaga- Southern Sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

  • Chameleon Hill Lodge- Semi-Luxury
  • Mutanda Lake Resort- Mid range
  • Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge- Mid range
  • Gorilla Safari Lodge- Mid range
  • Bwindi Jungle Lodge- Mid range
  • Rushaga Gorilla camp- Mid range
  • Gorilla Valley Lodge- Budget
  • Nshongi camp- Budget

Accommodation in Nkuringo, Southern Sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

  • Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge- High end
  • Nkuringo gorilla Lodge- Mid range

 

Gorilla Tracking Ethics

  • You must go for briefing at the park offices before the trek begins. Make sure to be in good health since gorillas get diseases from humans because of the DNA (97%) we share
  • When gorillas are seen, you will be required to leave all your bags and food. You will only get closer with your camera.
  • No flash photography is allowed. Make sure the camera you are using does not need a flash since there is no much light in the forest
  • Keep a distance from the gorillas, at least 7 meters away from the gorillas
  • Stay closer in your group when near the gorillas
  • Keep your voices low, although you can still ask your guide questions
  • Do not litter the forest and make sure you take your garbage
  • Do not reach out to try and touch the gorillas, it is not allowed to have any physical contact with them
  • Some times the gorillas may charge, do not run away and follow instructions from your guide as you crouch down slowly. Please do not look the gorilla in the eye
  • Children below 15 years are not allowed to track gorillas

How to Access Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National park is easily accessed and accessibility is from Entebbe or Kampala and even via Kigali

By road transport:
It takes about 8 or 9 hours respectively on road to get to Bwindi forest. The park can also be accessed from Rwanda and this takes about 3.5 hours from Kigali to the Southern Sector (Rushaga) of Bwindi

By Air transport:
Through our partners Aerolink, one can get to the park by scheduled and charter flights from Entebbe International airport to Kihihi  that connects to the Northern and Eastern sectors and to Kisoro airstrip to connect to Rushaga and Nkuringo; both in the Southern sector of the park

Suggested itineraries to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

Akagera National Park

Akagera National Park – (Best Things to do and see – Wildlife safaris – Accommodation)

Akagera National Park, named after Akagera River is located in North East of Rwanda bordering Tanzania. It is 1,122 sq km and it was gazetted as a national park in 1934. In 1997, Akagera National park’s size was reduced from 2,500 sq km to its current size. Much of it was re-allocated as farms. The park is now managed by Akagera Management Company.

Akagera National park is the only national park in Rwanda for big five safaris. It features forest fringed lakes, papyrus swamps, savannah plains and rolling highlands, making it one of the most beautiful and scenic parks in Africa. It has the largest protected wetland in Central Africa.

Travellers on safaris in Rwanda can combine a wildlife safari in Akagera National park with a gorilla trekking safari in Volcanoes National park and Chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe National Park.

The park is home to Sitatunga, Shoebill Stork, elephant, buffalo, topi, zebra, waterbuck, roan antelope and eland. Other antelopes include duiker, oribi, bohor reedbuck, klipspringer, bushbuck and impala. It is also a home to a number of primates such as olive baboons, vervet monkeys, bush babies seen on night game drives, and the shy blue monkey.

Predators in the park include leopard, hyena, side-striped jackal and the lion which was re-introduced to the park.

For the bird watching travellers, there are about 500 bird species that can be seen from this park; the shoebill is one of them, then the papyrus gonolek and countless other water birds that inhabit the wetlands.

Things to do and see in Akagera National park

Day Game drive Safaris
Akagera National park can be explored on game drives with a driver guide. One can go for half day or full day games from the Northern to the Southern part of the  cool national park.           If you choose to go for a self-drive in the park, make sure to hire a guide. You must hire one and make sure you have a 4 x 4 WD safari vehicle. You do not need to hire the guide before you visit the park. There are always available.

Experience a classic African Safari in beautiful Akagera National Park. With Lake Ihema in the background and cooler temperatures, this is a safari experience unlike any of Rwanda’s neighbours. A 7 seat 4 x 4 WD with open sides is also available for hire. All this information can be got from the information centre. But we can also assist you.

Nocturnal  game drives in Akagera National park          
If staying over in the park, go for a guided nocturnal game drive which is very exciting. There are quite many animals which come out only at night and cannot be seen on day game drives. Other animals are more active in the night than the day and these include leopards, civets, hyenas, and bush babies which are seen easily at night

Nocturnal birds such as owls and night jars can only be seen in the night

Boat  Safaris   
Boat Safaris in Akagera National park are very exciting and take place on Lake Ihema. Boat safaris are scheduled and can be booked upon arrival or before through emailing us before hand.

Boat safaris are one of the highlight safaris in East Africa and Lake Ihema has the largest number of crocodiles. Look out for crocodiles too that you normally find basking at the shores of the lakes.
There are so many water birds that can also be sighted on this boat safari and one of these birds is the shoebill stork.

Animals like elephants come to the lake to drink water. This is a great way to watch them up close.
Let us know if you are interested in a boat safari in Akagera National park.

Bird Watching in Akagera National  park  
Akagera National park is a great birding destination with over 750 bird species found here and surely cannot be seen in one day. It is the birder’s watcher’s dream place to see the popular shoebill stork. Other birds to look out for include raptors, papyrus gonolek, migrant birds such as the lesser kestrel and the great sniper, the Zambian arnot chat, suaza shrike and the long tailed cistola, and many other birds like White-headed, Black and familiar Chats, Carruther’s and Tabora Cisticolas, White-winged and Broad-tailed Warblers and Miombo Wren-Warblers.

Sport Fishing in Akagera National Park
Sport fishing in Akagera National Park is done on Lake Shakani. This can be combined with a game drive in the park or a boat safari on Lake Ihema. The method used for fishing here is catch and release although people can take the fish caught for a meal.

It is also possible for anglers to participate in a fishing tournament that takes place here.
All sport fishing activities are booked through the national park offices.

Guided Nature walks in Akagera National  Park
Nature walks in this beautiful national park give you an opportunity to get up close and personal with nature. You will see and learn about different bird and butterfly species which you may not see well in a car on a game drive. Nature walks here are a peaceful way to take in and appreciate nature at a close space.

The Behind the scenes     Experience
There is so much that takes place behind the scenes that a typical tourist may not know. Take part in the behind the scenes and learn more about the management of the park, law enforcement, how animals are collared and monitored by GPS, meet the staff of the park and hear about the day to day activities, meet the canine unit, meet the crowned crane conservation officers and other initiatives of the park. Learn about the efforts the management of the park are putting in to get surrounding communities get involved in the conservation of the park. Let us know if you are interested in this experience

Walk the  Line        
Akagera National Park is fenced and the fence line is walked everyday by fence attendants. With this activity, you will walk with them for a small part of 120km fence. The role of the fence is for conservation purposes. With a freelance guide from the surrounding community, you will take a 7km walk which takes about 2 hours depending on your pace. The walk is moderate to difficult. The walk starts from the entrance of the park, you then gently slope, meeting lots of singing birds and cattle herd’s men and farmers a long the way ready for the day’s activities. The fence goes up to the top of a hill along the ridge which offer beautiful views. There is also a stone fence known as the buffalo wall which was built to stop buffalos from crossing to people’s farms

Cultural Tours in Akagera National    Park
Cultural tours which show the daily lives of the people especially in Eastern Rwanda who are cattle keepers. You will learn how to milk long horned cows with your hands, how cow dung is used and the different art in the area.
You can also visit Kageyo village and see the different milk pots used in storing milk, drink warm milk from a traditional gourd and learn different rituals that surround milk.

On a lucky day, you will be able to visit a market where cows are being auctioned. This takes place once a month.
In this village, you will also get a chance to see local women weaving beautiful baskets.

Visit an Arts and craft workshop
You have an opportunity to visit a local workshop where local artisans make traditional imigongo art which can be used for decorations. You will learn are these are made and what they mean in Rwandan art. The imigongo have got black and white contrasts. You will try to make yours with your own hands.

You will also visit a blacksmith who learned this skill from generations back and who will pass on this skill to the next generation in his family, They use metal scraps to make traditional garden hoes, repair pots and so on. This activity will be wrapped up with a cultural dance. Of course you will participate and learn how to drum and dance like local Rwandese

Visit the Visitors Centre Museum in the park         
Visit Akagera National Park visitors centre museum and lean about its animals and dark past.
The museum has skulls of elephants, crocodiles and bones from other different animals that used to live in the park.

It also has different traps used by poachers and has information on what the park is doing to overcome this problem over the years.

Where to stay in Akagera National Park

Ruzizi tented lodge.     
This lodge was designed and built by the Akagera management company. It was opened in 2013 and has since been offering great accommodation for tourists visiting Akagera National park. It is an eco-friendly tented camp with only 20 beds. It is located at the shores of Lake Ihema and is decorated with African décor.

Akagera game lodge:      
Akagera Game Lodge was the only lodge in Akagera National park for a long time. It has comfortable rooms which tastefully furnished. It also has a restaurant, swimming pool, curio bar, tennis court, power supply, Wifi and a TV.

It is located inside the park which makes it very convenient to enjoy game drives

Karenge Bush Camp Akagera: 
Karenge Bush Camp is a seasonal camp which started in 2016. The camp is set up two times a year and removed out, and leaving no trace of its being. It is named Karenge which means a small foot in Rwandese because its aim is to leave a light foot print on earth. It is built with eco friendly materials which are all removed at the end of each season when the camp decomposes. It is a small camp with only 6 tents which can sleep only 12 people

Camping in Akagera National park:
Camping is perfect for the adventurous traveller. You will spend a night under the stars at the sounds of the bush.

Akagera National park has three campsites namely Muyumbu which is north of the park entrance. It is on a high ridge overlooking Lake Ihema and the hills of Tanzania at a distance and offers a beautiful sunrise early in the morning.
The second campsite is called Shakani located near a lake side. From this campsite, you will hear hippos and calls from different birds.

The third campsite is Mutumba which is located in the north characterised by game and rolling grassland hills. It is also the highest point of the park at 1,800 meters above sea level. It has basic facilities that include a small open rondavel shelter, firewood, stone BBQs and pit latrines. Two sites are fenced. No power and no running water is available and the sites are not staffed.

6-man canvas tents can be hired from the park (for Muyumbu and Shakani only) but all other equipment and supplies should be brought with you.

How to Access Akagera National park:         
The main entry into Rwanda is by Kigali international port. There are different airlines that fly into Kigali.
From Kigali, the park can be accessed by road which is about 2 hours on a good road. However, in the park strictly you need 4 x 4 WD vehicles. We use 4 x 4 WD safari vehicles for all our clients.

Helicopter flights to the park are also available for travellers who dread road transport.

Best Time to Visit Akagera National   Park:
The best time to visit Akagera National Park is during the dry season from June to September. This is the time when there is rain and offers some of the best wildlife spotting opportunities.

Game drive safaris in Akagera are not as nice during the rainy months

Suggested itineraries to Akagera National Park

8 DAYS GORILLA AND WILDLIFE SAFARI (RWANDA)

Introduction To Rwand National Parks

Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda – Best Things to do and see – Gorilla Tracking / Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park – Accommodation

Volcanoes National park also known as Parc National des Volcans is Rwanda’s most popular national park known mostly for mountain gorilla trekking. And although the stars of Volcanoes national park are mountain gorillas, it offers much more.

The park is located in the northern district of Musanze, was recognized in 1925, making it the oldest national park in Africa.

It is part of the Virunga Conservation Area covering 125 km² and which spans to Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, continuing to Virunga National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National park respectively and has five Virunga volcanoes that Sabyinyo (3.674 m), Gahinga (3.474 m), Bisoke (3711 m), Muhabura (4.127 m), and the Karisimbi which is the highest volcano at an altitude of 4.507 meters above sea level. All these five volcanoes are extinct and the active ones are in Congo with Nyiragongo which erupted in January 2002 and Nyamulagira in July 2002.

The Virunga is composed of 4 major vegetation zones that bamboo which is at the base altitude), Hagenia and Hypericum forest (2600-3300m), Sub-alpine (3300-4000m), and Afro-alpine (4000m).

It should be noted that this park was Dian Fossey’s base for a long time

Best Activities in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.

  1. Gorilla Trekking or Gorilla Tracking
    Gorilla Trekking or Gorilla tracking is the most popular activity in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Mountain Gorillas are highly endangered and can only be found in three countries in the whole world. These are Rwanda (Obviously), Uganda and DR Congo. Tracking Mountain gorillas on the slopes of the Virunga volcanoes is an experience that cannot be compared to another. The tracking is highly guided by a great team of rangers, guides and porters who make sure that you have a magical experience. The trek starts by a briefing at the park offices with a cup of Rwanda coffee and entertainment from the cultural dancers.

You are then led into the park, searching for the mountain gorillas. Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National park takes 2-7 hours before meeting the mountain gorillas. The time taken to see mountain gorillas depends on where these beautiful giant gorillas nested the previous night. Once you come face to face with them, you are allowed only one hour with them. The whole experience observing them how they interact with each other, feed and play is a once in a life time experience.

Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National park can be done on a 2 Days gorilla trekking tour (Day 1: Pick up from Kigali and transfer to Volcanoes National Park, Day 2: Gorilla tracking and transfer back to Kigali) or you can choose from the different suggested itineraries in Rwanda which can be tailor made to suit your tour needs and budget.

  1. Golden Monkey Trekking in Volcanoes National Park
    The other popular activity in Volcanoes National Park is golden Monkey tracking. Golden monkey tracking is a great experience as well and should not be missed out while visiting the park.

There are two habituated troops that can be tracked with the guidance of rangers and guides. The track allows visitors to come up close learning more about them and taking their beautiful photos.

The activity can be combined with gorilla tracking and or with other activities in the park. It starts in the morning at 8am with a briefing.

Golden monkeys are highly endangered and could face extinction. They can only be found in the Virunga mountain ranges of DR Congo, Mgahinga Gorilla National park in Uganda and Rwanda. They mostly live in the bamboo forests.
The largest habituated troop lives in the Sabyinyo are and has about 80-100 members and this is the most visited too.

There is no age limit for Golden Monkey tracking and can be done throughout the year.

  1. Golden Monkey Habituation
    Golden Monkey Habituation takes goes for a whole day and begins at 7am. The golden monkeys being visited here are very shy and not used to human presence and the habituation process is to prepare them for future treks.
  2. Iby’lyacu Cultural village
    After you gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National park, you can visit Iby’lyacu Cultural village. You will learn about the cultural of Rwanda that includes music and dances and learning about herbal medicine that the people used before modern medicine, learn ways of the ancient Rwanda Kingdom. Visitors will be welcomes by the beautiful sounds of drums and joyful dancers. Most of the dancers and performers at the village are ex-poachers. The activities at the center are interactive and can be enjoyed by visitors of all ages.
  3. Bird Watching
    Volcanoes National park is home to many birds and butterflies which can be explored on guided bird watching trails, by a knowledgeable bird watching guide.
  4. Bisoke Hike           
    Take a hike to Mount Bisoke, one of the Virunga Volcanoes. Although challenging, this hike offers great views especially of the beautiful Crater Lake at the top. Bisoke Mountain peak is at 3,000 Meters above sea level.
  5. Visit Dian Fossesy Grave
    Visitors staying around Volcanoes National park can hike the ‘Dian Fossey Tomb Trail’. She is very key in mountain gorilla conservation and did most of her research about mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National park but also in Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable National park and Congo’s Virunga National park.
  6. Visit the twin lakes:
    Go for a visit to the twin lakes Bulera and Ruhondo located a stone throw away from Volcanoes National park. They offer breath taking sceneries

Gorilla Families in Volcanoes National Park

There are about 5 habituated gorilla families in Volcanoes National Park that can be visited during gorilla trekking. These are;

  • Susa group has 35 individuals
  • Amahoro group has 11 individuals
  • Sabyinyo A – group has 13 individuals
  • Sabyinyo B – group has 4 individuals
  • Group 13 has 7 individuals

Some of the Gorilla trekking requirements in Volcanoes National Park

  • Sturdy hiking boots
  • Water proof trousers
  • Long sleeved Shirt/blouse
  • Water proof raincoat/jacket
  • Sun Cream
  • Gloves
  • Insect repellent
  • Backpack for carrying water/packed lunch
  • Camera

Cost of Activities in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda

The costs of the activities are per person.

  • Gorilla Trekking permit: US$ 1500
  • Dian Fossey Hike: US$ 75
  • Golden Monkey Tracking: US$ 100
  • Crater Lake Hike: US$ 75 Permits should be booked 3 to 6 months in advance, especially during Rwanda’s high season of June

Weather  conditions:       
Volcanoes National Park is at a high altitude and is generally very cold especially in the evening.
Gorilla trekking takes place throughout the year and all activities in and around the park can be done throughout the year.

Best time to visit Volcanoes National Park
Gorilla trekking and golden monkey trekking in Volcanoes National Park takes place anytime of the year.

March to May – These are long rainy months and gorilla trekking in Rwanda and golden monkey trekking is a bit challenging. Few travellers visit the park around this time and the advantage of this is it always feels like you own the whole park.

June to Mid-September – These are dry months which makes it the best time for gorilla trekking and golden monkey trekking. Hiking through the forest is much easier but you will still need a rain jacket, water proof shirts and hiking boots since it can rain anytime in the forest.

October to November – October and November are also rainy months but short rainy months. Trekking in the park may be a bit touch too.

December to Feb – These are also dry months and favourable for visiting Volcanoes National Park. This time is also the best time for gorilla and golden monkey trekking. So many birds can be seen around this time and most of the trees flower too.

The  vegetation is    still     very    green and the skies very      blue.
We recommend photography safaris in Rwanda around this time.

Accommodation in Volcanoes National Park

There are many accommodation options for each traveller. One can choose to stay in luxury lodges like Bisate Lode, Sabinyo Silverback Lodge, Viruga Lodge, Gorilla Nest Lodge and Five Volcanoes Lodge.

The mid-range lodges are Le Bamboo Lodge, Davince Lodge and Mountain Gorilla View Lodge.

And the budget lodges include Hotel Muhabura, Kinigi Guest House, Virunga Hotel among others.

Just let us know what your budget is and we will always get back with a customized itinerary quotation

How to access the park.
The park can be accessed by road transport. It is about 3 hours from Kigali aiport or town to Volcanoes National Park. We use 4 x 4 WD safari vehicles; either safari vans or        safari land    cruisers.         The park can also be accessed by charter flights and helicopters.

Interesting Facts about Volcanoes National Park
Below are some of the interesting facts about Volcanoes National park. When you visit, you find discover more which you can add to this list

  • Volcanoes National Park is the oldest national park in Africa. It was gazetted as a national park in 1925.
  • It is the only national park in Rwanda with mountain gorillas. So this is the best and the only national park to go gorilla trekking in Rwanda
  • The park has five of the eight Virunga Volcanoes namely (Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo). These can be hiked while visiting the park. The others are in Uganda and Congo
  • This is the smallest of Rwanda’s National Parks at 160km2. Imagine it being the smallest but housing five volcanoes.
  • The book “Gorillas in The Mist” by Dain Fossey was written based on mountain gorillas in this park. She spent most of her research time about mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park
  • The Park has been closed on more than two occasions in the last 25 years due to several security issues.
  • It has the least primate species compared to the other national parks in Rwanda.

How to secure Rwanda Gorilla Tracking Permits

If you are interested in Rwanda Gorilla Trekking safaris, you require a gorilla trekking permit.
A gorilla trekking permit for a foreign non-resident costs 1500USD dollars compared to 600 USD dollars in Uganda and 400 USD dollars in DR Congo.

There is also a special discount for a person visiting all the three national parks in the months of May to November to track gorillas for $1050 and $1275 for any delegate that is in Rwanda for conferences and meetings. There is also another offer of $5000 for 3 consecutive days Mountain Gorilla filming and professional photography then $12,000 for filming and photography crew per day (maximum 8 people).

When you book a gorilla trekking safari for Rwanda with us, we spare you the hustle of going back and forth with RDB to buy your gorilla trekking permits.

You can book your permits directly through this website. Simply mail us on:info@birdsnestsafaris.com and we should be able to respond to you within a few hours of time.

Suggested Itineraries for Volcanoes National Park

3 DAYS GORILLA TRACKING EXPERIENCE RWANDA

8 DAYS GORILLA AND WILDLIFE SAFARI (RWANDA)

3 DAYS RWANDA SPECIAL

5 DAYS EXCLUSIVE GORILLA SAFARI (RWANDA)

4 DAYS GORILLA TRACKING EXPERIENCE (RWANDA)

8 DAYS EXCLUSSIVE GORILLA,CHIMP AND PREDATOR EXPEDITION (UGANDA-RWANDA)

13 DAYS PRIMATES, PREDATORS AND WILDLIFE SAFARI (UGANDA-RWANDA)

Gorilla Habituation Experience in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Gorilla habituation is a process of making mountain gorillas to feel comfortable around human beings and not feel threatened by their Presence. Uganda Wildlife Authority introduced gorilla habituation in Bwindi Impenetrable National park in 2014 January. This means that travelers on a safari to Uganda can be part of the gorilla habituation experience in the park instead of doing the usual gorilla treks. Or more so can combine the two experiences together. It should be noted that in the whole world, the gorilla habituation experience can only be done in Rushaga sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
There are only two gorilla families that offer the gorilla habituation experience in Bwindi impenetrable Forest National park. They are Bushaho and Bukingi.

However, there about 14 habituated gorilla families in the park that are ready for the regular gorilla treks which are possible on our gorilla trekking safaris in Uganda and Rwanda.

What exactly is the Gorilla Habituation Experience?

With the gorilla habituation experience, visitors spend more time with the mountain gorillas compared to the normal gorilla trekking. Visitors spend about 4 hours following a gorilla family they are trying to habituate. For the normal gorilla trekking experience, clients are only allowed 1 hour with the gorillas, at a distance of 7 meters from where the gorillas are.

Visitors on a gorilla habituation experience in Bwindi Impenetrable wake up and have breakfast, at 7:00am they start the habituation process moving with researchers who habituate the gorillas. The gorillas being ‘followed’ for habituation are semi-habituated and are not yet comfortable with human presence, may hide or refuse to come out of the bushes. Sometimes the gorillas charge and the process may be stopped if the gorillas are much habituated. The process includes collecting data about the gorilla family being habituated, and this data is added to the data base and will always be available if you need updates on the family you habituated, even when you are back home.

Cost of the Gorilla Habituation experience in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

As per Uganda Wildlife Authority, the conservation body for Uganda national parks and wildlife reserves, the cost is $1500 US dollars per person per gorilla habituation permit. The money is worth it and you spend more time with the mountain gorillas compared to the one hour for the normal gorilla trekking whose permit costs $600

Minimum age for The Gorilla Habituation Experience.

Like it is with the regular gorilla trekking, the minimum age to go for the Gorilla habituation experience is 15 years old.

Best time for the Gorilla Habituation Experience.

The gorilla Habituation Experience can be done throughout the year. But people prefer to go in June-October and December to March when the area receives less rainfall and it is drier. This is also the time people have summer holidays. However, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National park is a rain forest, meaning it can rain anytime of the year and of the day. The forest is wet most of the time and that is why we recommend that you come with a rain jacket for gorilla trekking and gorilla habituation. During the wet months, mountain gorillas do not move very far to look for their favourite food.

How many people are allowed for the gorilla habituation experience?

Only 4 people are allowed to habituate a gorilla family per day. This means that a one needs to book their gorilla habituation permit as soon as they make a decision. We recommend that you book your gorilla habituation permits 4-6 months in advance so that you don’t miss one out.

How to book a gorilla habituation permit

The same procedure for booking normal gorilla trekking permits is used to book your gorilla habituation permit. You should book one through team Bird’s Nest Safaris. If you book the whole gorilla habituation safari through us on your Uganda safaris, we will not charge you for booking the permit. If you decide to book only the permit through us and not the whole safari package, we will only charge $ 50 US dollar as ground handling fees.

Fitness for the gorilla habituation experience.

Some level of fitness will make your gorilla habituation experience more enjoyable. When you decided on come for this activity, you should take some walks, hikes and go to the gym to prepare for the habituation.  We suggest that you hire services of the porters, who carry your back and give you moral support during the whole process

What to bring on your Gorilla Habituation Experience

  • Wear comfortable hiking shoes with good traction, suitable for climbing steep muddy slopes
  • Carry a packed lunch and plenty of drinking water (provided)
  • The weather can be unpredictable so carry rain gear, sunscreen lotion and a hat.
  • Wear or pack insect repellent.
  • Bring hand gloves.
  • Bring binoculars – or hire a pair from the Uganda Wildlife Authority office in the park
  • Bring spare batteries and an extra memory card for your digital camera. Using your camera flashlight is not permitted. If you are photographing using film, we recommend using 400-800 ASA film

Rules for Gorilla Habituation in Bwindi Impenetrable forest
The new rules for gorilla trekking apply for gorilla habituation and include keeping a 7 meter distance from the gorillas, don’t go if you are sick since mountain gorillas are closely related to human beings and catch diseases from us.

Read more about the rules via Rules for Gorilla Tracking

If you are interested in a gorilla habituation experience, get in touch now and we will tailor make a perfect itinerary for you.Contact us

Bird watching in Uganda Where to go birding in Uganda

Bird watching in Uganda is one of the most popular activities in the country. Uganda is a popular birding destination in the whole of Africa, well known for its diversity of bird species, with a number of them that cannot easily be spotted in any other part of the African continent, and some are endemic to Uganda only.

Great Blue Turaco
There are many birding destinations in Uganda, making the country one of the best birding destinations, with more than 1010 bird species that can be seen even on a classic Uganda safari. The 10 national parks of Uganda are the largest homes for most bird species in the country. The best time for spotting most of these birds is early in the morning and late in the evening.

Best Bird Watching Destinations in Uganda:

Queen Elizabeth National park
Queen Elizabeth National park is a habitat for 550 bird species, making it one of the most popular birding destinations in Uganda. The park is located in Kasese district in the Southern part of the country, covering a total land area of 1978 sq km, on an altitude of 900 meter. It is up to 1845 meters at the peak of the Western Rift Valley’s Eastern Escarpment. It has most semi-deciduous forest, moist thicket and riparian forest and a river-line bush land, open woodlands, rivers, open grassland, seasonal and permanent lakes as well as lakes, which all male a perfect habitat for birds that call this park home.

Queen Elizabeth National park.  has many water birds such as African fish eagle, long tailed cormorants, white faced whistling ducks, pick and white backed pelicans, spur winged plovers, African Jacana, squacco heron, water thick knee, yellow backed weavers, the black crake, knob billed duck, yellow billed and spoon billed storks, different types of king fishers like the pied and grey headed king fishers, and so on. These birds are commonly spotted from the boat safari a long the Kazinga channel which connects lakes Edward and George.
Other species of birds here include black-ramped buttonquail, Collard Pranticles, papyrus canary, verreauv’s eagle-owl, black bee-eater, squacco heron, African fish eagle, swamp fly-catcher, long-tailed cormorants, Martial Eagle, African Skimmer, White winged terns, White-winged Warbler, shoebill, African skimmer, papyrus gonolek, and the thin-tailed Nightjars

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is Africa’s number one birding spot and has a record of 357 bird species that include 23 of Uganda’s 24 Albertine Rift endemics, making the forest a birder’s paradise. Bwindi is located in South Western Uganda, on the edge of the Western Rift, 1,160 – 2,607 meters above sea level. Among these endemics include the highly globally threaten species like the Shelley’s Crimsonwing and the African Green Broadbill.
Other Albertine Rift endemics inlcude strange weaver, Archer’s Robin chat, Regal sunbird, purple breasted Sunbird, Red faced woodland wabler, Rwenzori double collared Sunbird, Dusky Crimson-wing, Lagden’s Bush shrike, Yellow eyed black Flycatcher, Grauer’s Rush wabler, blue headed sunbird, Rwenzori Batis, Neumann’s wabler, Montane Masked Apalis, Kivu Ground Thrush, Stripe breasted Tit, Red throated Alethe, Handsome Francolin, Yellow crested Helmet Shrike, Rwenzori Turaco, Rwenzori Night jar.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Mgahinga Gorilla National park is Uganda’s smallest national park at a size of 33.7 sq km, located in South Western Uganda bordering Rwanda and Congo forming the Virunga ranges.
The park is a bird’s haven with a record of 115 bird species, with 14 of the 24 species of the Albertine Rift Endemics, and 39 of the 88 bird species of Afro tropical highlands in Uganda.

Mgahinga Gorilla National park is not only a birding paradise, but like Bwindi Impenetrable National park, is also home to endangered mountain Gorillas, with one habituated gorilla family open for gorilla tracking.
Other wildlife like Golden monkeys which can also be tracked, forest elephants, bush bucks, jackals, Egyptian mongoose, spotted hynas, buffaloes and different types of special cats call this park home.

For active travellers, three volcanic mountains are found here. These include Mt. Muhavura at 4127 meters above sea level, Mt. Sabinyo at 3645 meters above sea level and Mt Gahinga at 3475 meters above sea level

Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon National Parkis located on the Uganda Kenya border and is an important water catchment for Nzoia River which flows into Lake Victoria and for Turkwel River that flows into Lake Turkana. It is 4,200 meters above sea level. The mountain has unique features like flat topped basalt called the Koitobos and lava tube caves.

The mountain has over 240 recorded bird species, making it one of the best birding destinations. These bird species include 3 of the eight Kenya Mountains Endemic Bird Area species, five of the thirteen species of the Sudan-Guinea biome species, 19 of the 43 Guinea Congo Forests biome species, 47 of the 70 species of the Afro-tropical biome, and quiet a number of the Sudan-Guinea Savannah biome species that occur in Kenya have been recorded here. The park is also home to Sharpe’s longclaw, a globally threatened species along with some regionally threatened and range restricted species; Gypaetusbarbatus, Stephanoaetuscoronatus, Francolinusstreptophorus, Sarothruraaffinis, Bubocapensis, Glaucidiumtephronotum, Indicatorconirostris, Phyllastrephusbaumanni, Kakamegapoliothorax, Sheppardiapolioptera,Campephagaquiscalina and Cisticolahunteri, Francolinusjacksoni respectively.

Mount Elgon vegetation is characterized by wet montane forest dominated by Oleacapensis and Aningeriaadolfi-friedericii grading into Olea, Podocarpusfalcatus forest, a zone of mixed Podocarpus and bamboo Arundinariaalpina, and the Hageniaabyssinica zone with giant heath Erica arborea and Erica trimeraelgonensis. Afro-alpine moorlands occupy the highest parts of the mountain, with tussock grasses such as Festucapilgeri, bogs of Carexrunssoroensis, giant groundsels and giant lobelias. Open wooded grassland with Erythrina and Combretum covers part of the lower, drier north-eastern slopes.

Among other activities in Mount Elgon is sport fishing on River Suam, mountain hiking and game viewing of Elephants, Buffaloes, Water bucks, monkeys, and giant forest hog among others

Lake Mburo National Park
Lake Mburo National parkis the smallest savanna park of Uganda’s national park at 260 sq km at an altitude of 1,280 – 1,520 meters above sea level
313 bird species have been recorded in Lake Mburo National park. It is situated in swamp finged lakes which provide a perfect habitat for countless birds that include the African finfoot and the Red-faced Barbet.

It has Acacia woodland that favours great savannah bird species. Birds recorded here include the elusive Shoebill stork and White-winged Warbler; other species to lookout for are; the Crested, Coqui, and the Red-winged Francolins, Blue-spotted Wood Dove, Brown Parrot, Barefaced Go-away bird, Harlequin and Blue Quails, Common Button Quail, White-headed and Black-billed Barbet, Greenwood Hoopoe, Common Scimitarbill, Blue-napped Mousebird, Blue-breasted and Shining-blue Kingfishers, Lilac-breasted Roller, African-grey Hornbill, the Nubian, Buff-spotted, Brown-eared, and the Grey Woodpeckers, Trilling, Stout, and Wing-snapping Cisticolas, Red-necked spurfowl, Black-bellied Bustard, Temminck’s Courser, African-wattled Plover, Rufous napped and Flappet larks, Rufous-chested Swallow ,Yellow-throated Longclaw, Black-winged Bishop, Chubb’s, Carruther’s and a number of other Cisticolas, the Lesser and Great Swamp Warblers, etc

The lake itself also home to animals like crocodiles, Hippopotamuses and birds like Pelicans, Black Crake, Common Squacco, Striated, Goliath, Purple, Black-headed, Grey, and Black-headed Herons, Great White and Pink-backed Cormorants, the African Fish Eagle, Shoebill stork among others.

Kibale Forest National Park
Kibale National parkis 766 sq km at an altitude of 920 – 1,590 meters above sea level and is located in South Western Uganda. 37 bird species have been recorded here that include the Green Breasted Pitta, which is one of the 10 highly thought after birds of Uganda. Kibale National park is also a habitat to Chubb’s Cisticola, Black-capped Waxbill, Africa Shrike-flycatcher, African Black-headed Oriole, African Emerald Cuckoo, African Green-pigeon, Black-crowned Tchagra, African Wood Owl,African, Rwenzori, Abyssinian Hill-Babbler, Alpine Swift, Ashy Flycatcher, Barn Swallow, Black Bee-eater, Black Cuckoo, Black Cuckoo-shrike, Black-and-white Casqued Hornbill, Black-and-white Mannikin, Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher, Black-billed Turaco, Black-billed Weaver, Black-faced Rufous Warbler, African Dusky Flycatcher, Black-headed Weaver, Black-necked Weaver, African Citril (Western Citril), Black-throated Apalis, Blue-shouldered Robin-chat, Blue-throated Brown Sunbird, Blue-throated Roller, African Blue Flycatcher, Bocage’ Bush-shrike, Bronze Mannikin, Zebra Waxbill, Bronze Sunbird, Brown Illadopsis, Brown-capped Weaver, Brown-chested Alethe, Brown-eared Woodpecker, Brown-headed Tchagra, African-pied Wagtail, Cameroon Sombre Greenbul, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Yellow-billed Barbet, Afep Pigeon, among others

Apart from bird watching, Kibale National park is popular for chimpanzee tracking and chimpanzee habituation. It is the primate capital of the world and apart from chimpanzees, it is also home to other primates that include GuerezaColobus, Olive Baboon, Grey-cheeked Mangabey, L’Hoest’s and Red-tailed Monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, among others.

The park is also home to forest elephants, bush pigs, buffalos, Pigs and Buffaloes and on rare occasion Blue, Harvey’s and Peter’s Duickers may be spotted.

On guided night walks, you may come across Potto, Bush Babies- Spectacled Demidoff’s and Thomas’s Galagos, Lord Derby’s Anomalure, African Civet, Kibale African Golden Cat, and Common Genet cat.

Murchison Falls National park
Murchison Falls National Parkis the largest national of Uganda and is located in North Western Uganda. It is 3,840 sq km at an altitude of 650 – 1,292 meters above sea   level. 460 bird species have been recorded in Murchison Falls National Park and it ranks 9th of Africa’s birding sports. It is named after the famous Murchison Falls which are with the park and are a result of the Nile River forcing through a narrow gorge.

Wholly Necked Stork

The banks of the river are donned with wildlife and birdlife. Wildlife include elephants, giraffes, crocodiles, African Cape buffalo, water buck that come to the river to drink water, but these can also be seen on during game drives on the Savannah plains of the national park.
The river is also flocked by birds that include pied and giant king fisher, African fish eagle, snake dada, bee eaters, among others.

In the Southern part of the park, there is Budongo Forest which is home to some primates that include chimpanzees. The Park is a habitat to 20 species from three non-qualifying biomes, 11 species of the Guinea Congo Forests, 6 species of the Afro tropical Highlands and 3 of the Somali Masai biome. A boat safari to the Nile delta is highly recommended for bird watchers. You are likely to be rewarded with the shoe bill stork, African skimmer among others.

Other birds in the park include the Silver Bird, Blue-napped Mouse birds, Grey-crowned Crane, Bluff-bellied Warblers, Goliath Heron, Black-headed Batis, Black-headed Gonolek, Green-winged Ptyilia, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weaver, Long-toed Plover, Vitelline Masked Weaver, Saddle-billed Stork, Spotted Mourning Thrush, Spotted and Verreaux’s Owls, Long-tailed and Pennant-winged Nightjars, standard-winged Nightjar, White-backed Night Heron and Pel’s Fishing Owl.

Other activities in Murchison Falls National Park include sunrise and night game drives, sport fishing of Nile Perch and tiger fish, guided nature walks in Rabongo Forest, hike to the top of the falls and chimp tracking in Budongo forest

Budongo Forest Reserve
Budongo Forest Reserve was gazetted as a Central Forest Reserve in 1932. It is a semi-deciduous moist tropical forest and it is a habitant to over 335 bird species. It is Uganda’s biggest forest reserve and the scond most important forest after Semliki National park. The forest is home to 24 small mammal species of which 9 are primates, 46 tree and shrub species, 289 butterfly species and 130 month species.

The rare bird species found here include Pubel’sIlladopsis, Nahan’s Francolin, and the Chocolate–Backed Kingfisher, White-headed Saw-wing, White Wagtail, Black-eared Ground-Thrush, Little Crake, Yellow-billed Barbet, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, African Paradise Flycatcher, Chin-spot Batis, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Lemon-bellied Crombec, African Moustached Warbler, Green-backed Eremomela, Yellow-throated Greenbul, African Citril, African Golden-breasted Bunting, Black-crowned Waxbill, Bronze Mannikin, Black-billed Bluebill, Black-winged Red Bishop, Yellow-mantled Widowbird, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Spectacled Weaver, Black-necked Weaver, Yellow-backed Weaver, Compact Weaver, Northern Brown-throated Weaver, Holub’s Golden Weaver, Red-headed Weaver, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Greater Blue-eared Starling, Purple Starling, Purple-headed Starling, Splendid Starling, Northern Puffback, Black-headed Gonolek, Tropical Boubou, Isabelline Shrike, Red-backed Shrike, Lesser Grey Shrike, Western Violet-backed Sunbird and many more.

Semuliki National park.

Semuliki or Semliki National park is 220 sq km, at an altitude of 800-900 meters above sea level, with a most semi-deciduous forest, mostly ironwood, with a swamp forest in some parts and forest streams and oxbow lakes
The park is a birder’s paradise with about 400 bird species recorded here.

Semuliki National park is located on the Uganda DRC border within the Western Rift Valley, covering the Eastern extension of Ituri forest, making it one of the richest parks for flora and Fauna in Africa, making it very favourable for birds found here that include some of Africa’s highly sought after birds such as the Long-tailed Hawk, Congo Serpent Eagle, Lyre-tailed Honeyguide, Black-wattled Hornbill, the Nkulengu Rail, etc. There is a single, unconfirmed report of the globally threatened Lesser Kestrel.

Other bird species to look out in Semuliki National Park include Blue Swallow, White-throated Blue Swallow, Swamp Palm Bulbul, Spotted Greenbul, White-starred Robin, Lowland Akalat, Red-throated Alethe, Fire-crested Alethe, Snowy-headed Robin-Chat, Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat, Red-eyed Puffback, White-tailed Robin-Chat, Northern Bearded Scrub-Robin, Capped Wheatear, Common Stonechat, Abyssinian Ground-Thrush, Oberlaender’s Ground-Thrush, Grey Ground-Thrush, Little Grey Greenbul, Toro Olive Greenbul, Mountain Greenbul, Yellow-throated Nicator, Western Nicator, Purple-throated Cuckoo-shrike, Petit’s Cuckoo-shrike, Black Saw-wing, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Long-tailed Hawk, Red-thighedSparrowhawk, Chestnut-flanked Goshawk, Grant’s Bluebill, Afep Pigeon, Blue-headed Coucal, Bates’s Nightjar, Swamp Nightjar, Cassin’ Spinetail, Sabine’s Spinetail, White-bellied Kingfisher, Shinning-blue Kingfisher, Gabon Woodpecker, Hairy-breasted Barbet, Yellow-billed Barbet, Double-toothed Barbet, Black-billed Barbet, White-headed Barbet, among others.

Apart from birds, 53 mammals species have also been recorded here, many of which are shy, elusive and nocturnal. These include Grey-cheeked Mangabey, Vervet, Red-tailed monkeys, Olive Baboon and GuerezaColobus, rare De Brazza’s Monkeys and Chimpanzees which are more heard than seen. The park is also home to some of the Nocturnal primates that include Pottos and Galagos. With luck, there chances of seeing Elephants, Bush pig, Water Chevrotain, Buffalo, Sitatunga, White-bellied Duiker or Dwarf Antelope, Beecroft’sAnomalure or Zenker’s Flying Mouse. There are also squirrels such as Fire-footed Rope or Red-legged Sun Squirrel, the Little Collard Fruit Bat and the Target Rat living in this forest

A number of butterfly species has also been recored here and these include 46 species of forest Swallowtails and Charaxes (75% of Uganda’s total) and at least 235 species of moths have been classified as restricted. There are also 305 species of trees recorded, of which 125 species are restricted to this park alone.
Tribes of people found here are The Pygmies “Batwa” who settled near the Ntandi some years ago, the Bwamba, Bakonzo, Babwitsi, Batooro, and Babutoku.

Kidepo Valley National Park
Kidepo Valley National Parkgazetted in 1962 to commemorate Uganda’s independence, is 1,442 sq km, at an altitude of 1,220 – 2,750 meters above sea level and has a record of 480 bird species. Kidepo Valley National park is in North Eastern Uganda, bordering Kenya and Sudan between the hills of Karamoja and Nageya Valley. Its vegetation consists of montane forest, grassy plains, open tree savannah, thick miombo-like woodlands and the rocky outcrops.

Kidepo Valley National parkis home to 28 bird species from the Somali-Masai and Sudan–Guinea Savanna biomes and these species are endemic to this area in the country. With a whooping record of 480 species in total, the park has the second-highest bird record of any Ugandan protected areas, after Queen Elizabeth National Park. It is also the only IBA located entirely within the Somali– Masai biome. It supports some of the rarest species in Uganda, such as Black-breasted Barbet and KaramojaApalis.

Birds to look out for include Silverbird and small bands of Yellow-billed Shrike, the Vinaceous Dove, Hoopoe, Nubian Woodpecker, Mosque Swallow, the Ruppell’s and Superb Starlings, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Little Weaver and Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, the Yellow-rumped Seedeater, Clapperton’s Francolin, Black Coucal, African Moustached and the Broad-tailed Warblers, Marsh Tchagra and Crimson-rumped Waxbill.

Other birds include the Common Ostrich, Secretary Bird, African Swallow-tailed Kite, Eastern Pale Chanting Goshawk, Pygmy Falcon, Fox Kestrel, Stone Partridge, Clapperton’s and Heuglin’s Francolins, Yellow-necked Spurfowl, Kori, White-bellied and Hartlaub’s Bustards, Violet-tipped Courser, Black-headed Plover, Four-banded Sand Grouse, Bruce’s Green Pigeon, Rose-ringed Parakeet, White-crested Turaco, White-bellied Go-away bird, White-faced Scoops Owl, Long-tailed and Standard-winged Nightjars, Little Green Bee-eater, Abyssinian and Rufous-crowned Rollers, the Abyssinian Ground, Eastern Yellow and Jackson’s Hornbills, Red-fronted and Black-breasted Barbets, Brown-backed Woodpecker, Singing Bush lark, Red-winged Lark, Ethiopian Swallow, the Pied, Isabelline and Heuglin’sWheaters, African Grey Flycatcher, Foxy and Red pate Cisticolas, KaramojaApalis, White-bellied Tit, Mouse-coloured Penduline Tit, Northern White-crowned and Yellow-billed Shrikes, Slate-coloured Boubou, Fan-tailed Raven, Superb Starling, Red billed Oxpecker, Eastern Violet backed, Pygmy and Beautiful Sunbirds, Rufous and Chestnut Sparrow, Yellow-spotted Petronia, White-headed and White-billed Buffalo Weavers, White-browed and Chestnut- crowned Sparrow Weavers, Grey-capped Social and Speckle-fronted Weavers, the Green-winged, Orange-winged and Red-winged Pytilias, Black-bellied and Black-faded Waxbills, Steel-blue and Strawtailed Whydahs, and the Brown-rumped Bunting, are just a few of the 480 bird species in Kidepo Valley National Park.

Kidepo Vallay National park also has 80 mammal species 28 of which are not found else where in Uganda and include Bat-eared Fox, Carcal, Cheetah and Klipspringer. Other animals include Lesser Kudu, Grant’s gazelle and Beisa Oryx have not been seen at all in recent times and were presumed to be locally extinct. The larger animals include the Elephant, Common Zebra, Buffalo, Bohor Reedbuck, Waterbuck and Kongoni.

Predators include the Spotted Hyena, Leopard and Lion which are frequently seen during morning and evening game drives. The Oribis are abundant in the Narus Valley, whilst the dry thorn thickets in the north are home to Guenther’s DikDik. The Senegal Galago and Sidestriped Jackal may be found in the rest camp at night and White-tailed Mongoose is common but more likely to be see on a night drive.

Botanical Gardens in Entebbe
Birding watching can also be done in the botanical gardens in Entebbe, the only national botanical garden in Uganda. The gardens were established in 1901, located at the shores of Lake Victoria.
The garden is home to different types of water, open country and woodland bird species which include the Pink-backed Pelican, Yellow-billed Stork, Eastern Grey Plantain-eater, Yellow White-eye, Purple-banded Sunbird, African Jacana, Lesser Jacana, Yellow-billed Duck, Glossy Ibis, African Open-billed Stork, Malachite Kingfisher, Blue-checked Bee-eater, Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Black Crake, Long-tailed Cormorant, Crowned Hornbill, Vieillot’ Black Weaver, Woodland Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, the Africa and Red-billed Firefich, Black-and-white-Casqued Hornbill, Senegal Coucal, Little Stint, Little Weaver, Striated Heron, Ruff, Gull-billed Tern, White-winged Tern, Klaas’s and Diederik Cuckoos, Northern Crombec, Tambourine Dove, Cameroon Sombre Greenbul, Little Grey Greenbul, Water Thick-knee, Madagascar Bee-eater, Egyptian Goose, Black-headed weaver, Slender-billed Weaver, Yellow-backed Weaver, Black-headed Gonolek, Ruppell’s Long-tailed Sterling, Grey-Headed Sparrow, the Spur-winged Lapwing, among others. The gardens are also a habitat to primates that include the black and white colobus monkeys, butterflies, and different plant species

Mabamba Wetland swamp.       
Mabamba wetland swamp is 2,424 ha at an altitude of 1,130 meters above sea level. It has a record of 260 bird species and no birder should miss birding here.  Mabamba swamp is the best place in Africa and in Uganda to see the elusive and bizarre looking shoebill stork which can be seen here any time of the day through out the year.  7 of the 12 Lake Victoria basin biome are also found here.

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Horseback safaris in Lake Mburo National park

Horseback safaris in Lake Mburo National park are without a doubt one of the most exciting and adventuresome on our Uganda safaris. They are run by Mihingo Lodge which has a concession to run horseback safaris inside the national park. The horseback rides offer an opportunity to travellers to see wildlife and interact with wild animals on beautiful horses. Animals that visitors see on the horse rides include zebras, buffaloes, giraffes, warthog, duikers, bush bucks, water buck, and different types of antelopes like the shy eland and the topi.

Some clients have been lucky to see leopards on a horse ride.

The number of different animals seen during the horseback rides depend on the time of year and the weather. Sometimes they move far in search of ‘greener’ pastures.

Watching wildlife from a horse is so peaceful and it is a totally different experience from being on a game drive in a safari vehicle.
Zebras, elands and other animals look on in a curious way at the horse without running away, but keeping a distance
beginners and inexperienced riders are only required to walk.

For the Advanced Riders (4-5   hours)
The ride for advanced horse riders is absolutely beautiful, taking a rider to some of the most stunning spots in the park.

There are lovely stretches and routes that advanced riders can trot through in the beautiful national park. Rides for experienced riders go for 4-5 hours through the grassy Warukiri range of hills that are situated in the middle of the park. Warukiri ridge offers beautiful 360 degree views of the surrounding hills and valleys in the Park. On another furthest hill, there is a waterhole which normally attracts some animals that include herds of buffalo. Riders will also get a magnificent view of the 9 out of 12 lakes surrounding Lake Mburo National Park.

Required weight for riding horses in Lake Mburo National park

The maximum weight of each rider is 100 kg, but most of the horses cannot carry more than 85kg.

Before each ride begins, riders are required to be weighed to ensure that the horses are not damaged by carrying riders who are too heavy. If riders are too heavy for the horses, their backs can be damaged.

Riders should not be offended if asked to be weighed first. At the moment, only a maximum of 6 riders is taken at a time. All the rides are guided by at least one experience horse guide but most times, each ride has two horse guides

What to wear for horseback rides in Lake Mburo National Park

  • Helmets and riding chaps – These are provided are adjustable to fit all sizes and the saddles are English style only.
  • Long trousers and strong shoes if possible with a heel, but trainers are also fine.

Overnight Horseback Safari in Lake Mburo National Park
Overnight horseback safaris are exciting and riders either camp in pitched tents at the shores of Lake Mburo or on top of one of the many hills of the park, spending the night in the park, gazing at stars.

Dinner is a 3 course menu and a heavy breakfast is also prepared in the morning.

For inexperienced riders, you can walk or trot while the experienced riders can canter besides zebras through the grassy plains between the hills of Lake Mburo National park.

A maximum of 6 riders at a time can go for this overnight horseback safari

Stables and Stables Team
The stables at the moment accommodate 6 thoroughbreds, 1 warm blood, 3 ponies and 4 thoroughbred/pony cross. The warm blood, Vallas, is the strongest horse in the stables who is able to carry the maximum 100kg.

The stables themselves are very open aired with larges boxes for the horses. Numerous paddocks surround them and reach down in to the valley affording the horses a large space to run around in. Only in the evenings do the horses enter their stable boxes for dinner and protection from the hyenas otherwise spending their day out grazing on fresh grass often alongside zebra and impala.

The stable team lives down at the stables with the horses. This team is led by Joseph who brought the first ponies and horse over from Kenya with Ralph and he has stayed ever since. Joseph is also from Kenya and is fantastic with the horses, having worked in racing stables for 15 years.

About the Horses
Originally from Namibia, Ralph and Suni bought him from another horseback safari outfit in Tanzania. The thoroughbreds and ponies all originated from Kenya. One of the ponies, Bahari, is of the little stallion who has successfully sired four young ones from two of the thoroughbred mares, Elgon and Gabbra. He is also one of the best ponies for children to ride on their safari experience.

Contact us for a horseback safari in Lake Mburo National park

Visit Uganda Wildlife Education Centre

 The Uganda Wildlife Education Centre also known as UWEC was founded in 1994, to provide leadership in educating Ugandans about the benefits of conserving the country’s biodiversity. It is located along the shoreline in Entebbe and offers different activities to visitors.

UWEC undertakes several conservation initiatives in Uganda that wildlife rescuing and rehabilitating animals; fully fledged veterinary hospital services; and captive breeding of endangered species of the area. The Uganda Wildlife Education Centre also contributes to scientific research and is committed to develop education programmes for the general public, with particular emphasis on instilling a conversation ethic and engaging young people.

Internship and volunteer programmes run on and off-site for Ugandans and foreigners.

Below are some of the activities that visitors can participate in at UWEC

“Behind the Scenes” Tour for USD70 per person
With the behind the scenes tour, the visitors gets an opportunity to observe the animals’ behaviour and experience first-hand, learn how the keepers feed the lions, carry out health checks, or bring them back to their holding facilities. It also gives you a chance to visit the food preparation areas, the pharmacy, and the exhibits, among others.

Chimpanzee Close-Up at USD 290.00 per experience
The chimpanzee close up experience gives visitors a chance to embark on a highly moving and unique experience to come up close, have direct contact with these chimpanzees, most of which were rescued. One will join the younger chimpanzees for part of their daily exercise routine in a stretch of natural forest.

Chimpanzees are found only in the forests of Africa, and their habitat is slowly disappearing as human populations increase and encroach on the forests throughout the region. They are highly endangered species and Uganda’s chimpanzee population decreasing, mainly due to human actions.

UWEC believes that education is key to avoid extinction of Uganda’s chimpanzees, offering you the Watch with amazement as they interact, curious to explore their visitors. Always playful, they may cling to you, climb all over you, or even explore your face with their human-like hands. This is a rare and unique opportunity to bond with man’s closest relative, not only will this be an experience of a lifetime, but you will also learn about the dangers they face in the wild, whilst supporting UWEC’s ongoing conservation efforts.

For this activity, there are health terms and conditions. Below are the health requirements by Uganda Wildlife Education Centre in order for one to take park in this activity.

Keeper for a Day for USD 150 per person
With this activity, visitors get an opportunity to join the UWEC keepers in the kitchen to prepare the food, then jump on the tractor moving from one exhibit to another and help feed different animals that include giraffes, lions, rhinos, rare birds among others. You will get a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes as you attend keeper briefings, participate in recording of animal behaviour, or maybe even get the chance to perform health checks or help feed and rehabilitate a rescued animal.

Please NOTE that this activity is subject to special inoculation clearance.

Keeper’s Guided Tour for USD 40 per person
The keeper’s guided tour offers one an opportunity to be guided by a keeper of Uganda Wildlife Education Centre, to give you a tour filled with exciting insight of the animals. With him or her, you get to learn about the different animals and their little quirks. Learn about the full story of the orphaned chimpanzee, and find out just why it is so difficult to feed a 4-month-old baby elephant. In just a few hours, you will learn facts and stories that will stay with you for life, and come away with a new appreciation of the intricacies of conservation work.

Health Requirements for Uganda Wildlife Education Centre
The following vaccinations and health checks are mandatory for an individual to participate in the following; the Chimpanzee Close up Experience and Keeper for a Day program. The vaccinations required executed at least two weeks before participation in the programmes are;

Vaccination/ boosters – please note the times noted in brackets denote the length of validity of each vaccination and to it is important to ensure validity is checked for each one.

  • Hepatitis A (20 years)
  • Hepatitis B (5 years)
  • Measles (MMR) (10 – 15 years)
  • Meningococcal meningitis (ACWY strains) (3 years)
  • Polio (10 years)
  • Tetanus (10 years) vaccine
  • Negative TB test or x ray is also required.

All the chimpanzees at UWEC undergo annual health checks and have been tested /vaccinated on the diseases possible and have also tested negative to the HIV and SIV virus. Please inform our personnel in event of cold or flu incidences in the last 48 hours as this could affect your interaction allowed with the animals.

Please note that some people will have some of these health requirements when traveling to Africa BUT generally not all and so it is vital to check your health records and act accordingly to avoid disappointment.

If you are interested in any of the above activities at Uganda Wildlife Education centre, inquire now