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18 Days Birding and Culture

18 Days Birding and Culture

Day 1: Arrival

Day 2: Birding Mabamba Swamp and afternoon transfer to Masindi

Day 3: Birding in Budongo Forest-Royal Mile and Busingiro Section

Day 4: Transfer to Murchison Falls National Park

Day 5-6: Birding, Game Drives and Afternoon Launch Trip

Day 7: Transfer to Kibale National Park.

Day 8: Chimpanzee tracking in the forest – Uganda

Day 9: Transfer to Queen Elizabeth National Park.

DAY 10: Game drive and afternoon boat cruise on the Kazinga Channel.

Day 11: Travel to Bwindi Forest national park

Day 12: Gorilla Tracking.

Day 13: Buhoma Village walk

Day 14: Transfer to Lake Mburo National Park

Day 15: Whole day Birding and game drive in the Park

Day 16: Transfer to Kampala

Day 17: Visit Kasubi Tombs, Uganda Museum

Day 18: Namugongo Shrine

 

Routes & Itinerary

18 Days / 17 Nights

  • Day 1: Arrival

Arrival at Entebbe Airport and transfer to your hotel of booking for an overnight. Anderita Beach Hotel

  • Day 2: Birding Mabamba Swamp and afternoon transfer to Masindi

Following an early breakfast, we drive towards the Mabamba Swamp which is 50 km west of Kampala. Stop over at Mpigi Swamo en route which is known for papyrus rarities. Swamp specialities including Yellow-backed Weaver, Northern Brown-throated Weaver, White-winged Warbler, and Blue-headed Coucal can be spotted.

We continue to the Mabamba Wetland. At the Swamp, most of the birding is done on a canoe, paddled by our local site guides. Watch out for the Shoebill both in the sky and down in the marsh. Also watch out for the; Swamp Flycatcher, African Purple Swamp Hen, African Water Rail, Common Moorhen, Lesser Jacana, African Jacana, African Pigmy Goose, White-faced Whistling Duck, Squacco Heron, Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Winding Cisticola, Goliath Heron, and Black Crake.

In the afternoon, we bird all the way to Masindi. Overnight will be at your lodge of booking.

  • Budget: Masindi Hotel
  • Meal Plan: Lunch, Dinner
  • Day 3: Birding in Budongo Forest-Royal Mile and Busingiro Section

We bird Budongo’s famous Royal Mile in the early morning. It is a wide forestry track considered by many to be the country’s premier forest birding locality. This is the best place in Uganda for Nahan’s Francolin, Cassin’s Spinetail, and Chestnut-capped Flycatcher. There are many confusing forest Greenbuls to test us including; Spotted, Xavier’s, White-throated, Red-tailed and Honeyguide Greenbuls. The canopy flocks support bird species like Uganda Woodland Warbler, Yellow-mantled Weaver, and Rufous Thrush. Under the canopies in the undergrowth area expect to spot species like Red-tailed Ant-Thrush, Yellow-browed Camaroptera, Yellow Long-bill, Fire-crested Alethe, Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat, Rufous Flycatcher-Thrush, Scaly-breasted, Brown and Pale-breasted Illadopses, and Grey-throated Tit-Flycatcher. We will keep an eye on any openings in the forest canopy such as; Cassin’s and Crowned Hawk Eagles, Cassin’s and Sabine’s Spinetails, and White-throated Bee-eaters are all possible. In the surrounding of the park headquarters, you can find the elusive Ituri Batis and is the only place in East Africa to spot them.

  • Budget: Masindi Hotel
  • Meal Plan: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Day 4: Transfer to Murchison Falls National Park

Following breakfast, we’ll head out to the Murchison Falls National Park which is the largest national park of Uganda covering an area of 3893 sq km. It protects a huge proportion of the savannah area which is bisected by the River Nile. Today it is part of the even much larger Murchison Falls Protected Area (5072sq.km) which includes the adjoining Karuma and Bugungu Wildlife Reserves. It is named for the dramatic Murchison Falls where by the World’s longest river explodes violently through a narrow cleft in the Rift Valley escarpment to plunge in a frothing pool 43 m below. It is one of Uganda’s oldest conservation areas; it was initially gazetted as a game reserve in 1926 to protect a savannah that Winston Churchill described in 1907 as ‘Kew Gardens and the Zoo combined on an unlimited scale. The park has more than 76 mammal species which includes the lion, leopard, hippopotamus, African elephant, Rothschild giraffe, Cape buffalo, oribi, Ugandan Kob, hartebeest, and warthog. Furthermore, the park accommodates more than 360 bird species.

  • Up-Market: Paraa Safari Lodge
  • Moderate: Fort Murchison Lodge / Murchison River Lodge/ Pakuba Lodge
  • Low Budget: Fort Murchison Lodge (Tents) / Murchison River Lodge (Tents)/ red chilli rest camp
  • Meal Plan: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Day 5-6: Birding, Game Drives and Afternoon Launch Trip

We’ll start off the day with a game drive to the rolling plains of Murchison where animals like lion, hartebeest, primate, mongoose, giraffe, and elephants are concentrated. Following lunch, an afternoon lunch cruise will be organized and in the waters you can psot large Nile Crocodiles and big Pods of Hippos. A wide variety of water birds like the Shoebill, Secretary bird, Pied Kingfishers, Abyssinian roller and Ground Hornbill can be spotted on this trip.

  • Up-Market: Paraa Safari Lodge
  • Moderate: Fort Murchison Lodge / Murchison River Lodge/ Pakuba Lodge
  • Low Budget: Fort Murchison Lodge (Tents) / Murchison River Lodge (Tents)/ red chilli rest camp
  • Meal Plan: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Day 7: Transfer to Kibale National Park.

After breakfast, we will drive to Kibale forest arriving in Fort Portal in the late afternoon. Kibale forest national park is the best safari destination for chimpanzee tracking in East Africa. Kibale has one of the loveliest and varied tracts among all the tropical forests in Uganda. The forest accommodates a total of 13 primate species including the chimpanzee. It is a habitat of close to 1450 chimpanzees, the largest of such concentration of these endangered primates than anywhere in the world. The forest is also home to the L’hoest’s Monkeya and the threatened Red Colobus Monkey.

Other primates that you may see include; the Black and White Colobus, Blue Monkey, Grey-cheeked Mangabey, Red-tailed Monkey, Olive Baboon, Bush baby and Pottos. Kibale forest cover predominates in the Northern and Central parts of the Park. Kibale is highest at the park’s Northern tip which stands at 1590m above sea level. The park is home to 325 bird species which include 6 endemic species which are native to the Albertine Rift region. The six species are, Dusky Crimsonwing, Purple-breasted Sunbird, Blue-headed Sunbird, Collared Apalis, Black capped Apalis, and Red-faced Woodland Warbler. If you are lucky you may also see; the African Pitta, Green-breasted Pitta, Black Bee-eater, Yellow-spotted Nicator, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Little Greenbul, Black-eared Ground-Thrush, Brown-chested Alethe, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Abyssinian Ground-Thrush, and the Crowned Eagle.

  • Luxury: Ndali lodge/Primate lodge/Kibale forest/Kyaninga lodge
  • Moderate: Mountains of the moon/Kibale forest camp
  • Budget: Rwenzori travelers/kibale forest camp/Chimpanzee forest guest house
  • Meal plan: Lunch, Dinner
  • Day 8: Chimpanzee tracking in the forest – Uganda

After an early breakfast we drive to Kibale National Park visitor center for briefing and chimp tracking. The activity may last from a few hours to several hours. Kibale forest is home to 13 primates of Uganda.

Birding in the afternoon along the main road may be productive. Depending upon the season and weather, the Bigodi wetland can be filled with riverine forest birds. Kibale is a perfect place for spotting a number of bird species that are hard to find elsewhere. These include Cabanis’s Greenbul and Joyful Greenbul, the Speckle-breasted Woodpecker, Grey Apalis, Olive-green Camaroptera and White-collared Oliveback, Joyful Greenbul as well as White-spotted Flufftail, Dusky and Olive Long-tailed Cuckoos, Lesser Honey guide, Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat, White-chinned Prinia.

  • Luxury: Ndali lodge/Primate lodge/Kibale forest/Kyaninga lodge
  • Moderate: Mountains of the moon/Kibale forest camp
  • Budget: Rwenzori travelers/kibale forest camp/Chimpanzee forest guest house
  • Meal plan: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Day 9: Transfer to Queen Elizabeth National Park.

After breakfast, we drive to Queen Elizabeth national park. The Park which is named after the Queen of England who visited it in 1954 is the second largest national park in Uganda. Queens Elizabeth National Park possesses the highest biodiversity as compared to any game reserve in the world which is evident by the presence of open savannah, dense papyrus swamps, rainforests, vast lakes etc. The park is home to almost 100 distinct mammal species as well as 612 remarkable bird species making it an authentic and diverse safari destination. Around the tourist village on the Mweya Peninsula, you can easily spot elephant, hippos, the elusive forest hog and Ugnda Kob. The peninsula boasts of a rich waterfront setting under the Rwenzori Mountain.

  • Lodge: Mweya Safari Lodge: Katara Lodge/ Jacana Lodge
  • Mid-range moderate: Bush Lodge (in rooms) / Simba Safari Camp in rooms/ Buffalo Safari Resort/ Enganzi Lodge/ Ihamba Safari Lodge
  • Budget facility: Kazinga Channel View Lodge/ Simba Safari Camp in tents/ Bush Lodge in tents
  • Meal Plan: Dinner
  • Day 12: Birding to Murchison Falls NP

Early breakfast, drive to Murchison Falls National Park birding on the way and carry packed lunch or have lunch at Hoima Kolping hotel. This is a long drive with less birding. Dinner and overnight at Paraa lodge/Nile safari lodge/Fort Murchison lodge.

  • Up-Market: Paraa Safari Lodge
  • Moderate: Fort Murchison Lodge / Murchison River Lodge/ Pakuba Lodge
  • Low Budget: Fort Murchison Lodge (Tents) / Murchison River Lodge (Tents)/ red chilli rest camp
  • Meal Plan: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • DAY 10: Game drive and afternoon boat cruise on the Kazinga Channel.

There will be a morning game drive searching for; Lions, Elephants, Buffaloes, Uganda Kobs, Waterbucks, Warthorgs and many more. After lunch, you have an exotic and exciting launch trip on the Kazinga Channel. The launch trip is one of the most exciting water activities in Uganda. The Kazinga channel is a narrow neck of water that connects Lakes George and Edward, with excellent photographic opportunities for waterside birds and abundant Hippopotamus, huge families of buffalos, and elephants. And you are likely to encounter some bird species as well.

  • Lodge: Mweya Safari Lodge: Katara Lodge/ Jacana Lodge
  • Mid-range moderate: Bush Lodge (in rooms) / Simba Safari Camp in rooms/ Buffalo Safari Resort/ Enganzi Lodge/ Ihamba Safari Lodge
  • Budget facility: Kazinga Channel View Lodge/ Simba Safari Camp in tents/ Bush Lodge in tents
  • Meal Plan: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Day 11: Travel to Bwindi Forest national park

You start early after breakfast, We will also drive through the Ishasha section where, if lucky, you may be able to view tree climbing lions and continue to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Bwindi Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to approximately half of the world endangered population of Mountain Gorillas. This vast reserve offers arguably the most productive montane forest birding in Africa and supports 23 of Uganda’s 24 Albertine Rift endemic bird species. At one point in time, it was part of a larger forest area which included the Virunga Volcanoes of Rwanda. Bwindi now is an ecological island with big conservation importance which is within a sea of human cultivation.

Forest birding in Bwindi ranks the best in Uganda. It is home to 23 highly localized Albertine Rift Endemics. Special birds include; Black-faced Rufous Warbler, Grauer’s Warbler, Banded Prinia, Black-throated Apalis, Mountain Masked Apalis, Red-throated Alethe, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Ashy Flycatcher, Dusky-blue Flycatcher, Chapin’s Flycatcher, Chin-spot Batis, Rwenzori Batis, Black-and-white-Shrike-flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Waxbill, Magpie Mannikin, Yellow-crowned Canary, Thick-billed Seed-eater, Streaky Seedeater, African Green Broadbill, Shelly’s Crimsonwing, Oriole Finch, Mountain Buzzard, Ayre’s Hawk Eagle, Handsome Francolin, Black-billed Turaco, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, African Wood Owl, Rwenzori Nightjar, Scarce Swift, Bar-tailed Trogon, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Black Bee-eater, Western Bronze-naped Pigeon, Red-chested Owlet, Tullberg’s Woodpecker, Elliot’s Woodpecker, African Broadbill, Western Green Tinkerbird, African Green Broadbill, Lagden’s Bush Shrike, Petit’s Cuckoo Shrike, Grey Cuckoo Shrike, Archer’s Ground Robin, Toro Olive Greenbul, Ansorge’s Greenbul, Equatorial Akalat, White-bellied Robin-Chat, Olive Thrush, White-tailed Ant Thrush, Grauer’s Rush Warbler, Short-tailed Warbler, Neumann’s Warbler, and Red-faced Woodland Warbler to mention but a few.

  • Lower Budget: Gorilla Valley Lodge/ Travellers Rest Hotel Kisoro)
  • Moderate: Gorilla Safari Lodge/ Chameleon Hill Resort/ Mutanda Lake Resort
  • Up-market: Volcanoes Mgahinga Lodge/ Rushaga Gorillas Safari Lodge
  • Meal Plan: Dinner
  • Day 12: Gorilla Tracking.

After breakfast, we shall assemble at the Park Offices for the briefing prior to this historic event. Gorilla tracking is a very captivating activity; It might take 1-8 hours which involves walking in the wilderness in search of these gentle giants. Gorilla tracking is often a challenging undertaking which requires a level of physical fitness. Each day, only eight people per group are permitted to entire the park. Even though the gorillas are elusive, on some days they can be found within an hour by the tracker guides. Once you found them, it’s best to sit under the trees and admire their daily activities and watch them play around. Gorilla Tracking is indeed a “once in a lifetime” experience that you must never miss. Each encounter with the gorillas is different and has its own rewards, but you are likely to enjoy the close view of adults feeding, grooming and resting as the youngsters frolic and swing from vines in a delightfully playful display.

  • Lower Budget: Gorilla Valley Lodge/ Travellers Rest Hotel Kisoro)
  • Moderate: Gorilla Safari Lodge/ Chameleon Hill Resort/ Mutanda Lake Resort
  • Up-market: Volcanoes Mgahinga Lodge/ Rushaga Gorillas Safari Lodge
  • Meal Plan: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Day 13: Buhoma Village walk

After the morning breakfast, a walking tour around the Buhoma Community will follow. We’ll visit the Batwa tribe community and observe their way of living life. The Batwa tribes were allocated government land after they were relocated from the forest. Most of their basic needs are well taken care of by the authorities. The money they receive out of the village walk is, therefore, used to buy clothes and food. They also use the money from sale of crafts for recreational purposes, reading and buying of alcohol. You will also observe how they go about the process of juice making. We will also visit the traditional healer and you will observe how he treats ailments using tree bark, leaves, and some animal material. He dresses in goat and cow skin to preserve the way traditional healers used to dress. You will also be taken through tea plantations and 10 sites that describe the way of life of the Buhoma Community.

  • Lower Budget: Gorilla Valley Lodge/ Travellers Rest Hotel Kisoro)
  • Moderate: Gorilla Safari Lodge/ Chameleon Hill Resort/ Mutanda Lake Resort
  • Up-market: Volcanoes Mgahinga Lodge/ Rushaga Gorillas Safari Lodge
  • Meal Plan: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Day 14: Transfer to Lake Mburo National Park

Lake Mburo national park is a gem of a park. Though the park is just 370 sq km in size, its landscapes are varied and even a short drive is alive with interest and color. As you search for the wealth of wildlife the park supports, you’ll pass through the gallery forests, open savannah, rocky protruding kopjes, acacia woodland, swamps (both seasonal and permanent). The open water of Lake Mburo is surrounded by a variety of vegetative habitats. The western side is dominated by a grassy escarpment which with moderate steepness rise above the shoreline covered with acacia forest and closed canopy Rubanga Forest. To the east and north of the lake, the grassy valley floor drain between the undulating hills. They find their way into the lake through the expanses of the wetland. Rock Kopjes are found along the eastern margins of the park. These varied habitats support an impressive variety of wildlife including 68 mammal species. These include some rarities.

Lake Mburo is the only park in Uganda to contain Impala and the only one in the rift region to host Burchell’s Zebra and Eland. In Uganda, the Topi antelope can be found only in Lake Mburo and Queen Elizabetn National Park. Other common wildlife species include lion, leopard, buffalo, oribi, Deffassa water buck, warthog, and reedbuck. In the lake hippos and crocodiles can be spotted with ease.

Common conspicuous birds we will encounter on our journey to Lake Mburo include; Crested Francolin, Emerald Spotted Wood Dove, Brown Parrot, Bare-faced Go-away Bird, Blue-napped Mousebird, Lilac-breasted Roller, Green Wood hoopoe, Common Scimitar Bill, African Grey Hornbill, Spot-flanked Barbet, Nubian Woodpecker, Trilling Cisticola, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Northern Black Tit, Chin-spot Batis, Greate Blue-eared Starling, and Marico Sunbird. The woodland in the immediate vicinity of Rwonyo also supports many of these widespread species.

  • Luxury : Mihingo Lodge/ Mantana Lake Mburo Camp/ Arcadia Cottages
  • Moderate: Lake Mburo Safari Lodge/ Rakobo Rock
  • Budget: Eagles Nest Camp
  • Meal Plan: Dinner
  • Day 15: Whole day Birding and game drive in the Park

After breakfast, we will have a morning game drive in the Park looking for mammals including; Zebras, Impalas, Elands, Topi and Buffaloes. In the afternoon, we will have a boat trip looking for bird specialties and other mammals in the Park.

  • Luxury : Mihingo Lodge/ Mantana Lake Mburo Camp/ Arcadia Cottages
  • Moderate: Lake Mburo Safari Lodge/ Rakobo Rock
  • Budget: Eagles Nest Camp
  • Meal Plan: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Day 16: Transfer to Kampala

After an early breakfast, we drive out of the park having our lunch on the way. We stop en route to visit the Mpambire Royal Drum makers. We also stop over at the Equator for photographs and continue to Kampala.

  • Budget: Metropole Hotel.
  • Meal plan: Dinner
  • Day 17: Visit Kasubi Tombs, Uganda Museum

Following the day’s breakfast, we drive towards the Kasubi Tombs which is globally recognized as an important cultural Heritage site. It is burial place of four former kings of the Buganda and a royal enclosure was first built in 1881. Large traditional reed and bark cloth buildings of the kings of Buganda Kingdom (known as Kabakas) are found in here. The Kasubi Tombs, otherwise known as Ssekabaka’s Tombs, are a set of four royal tombs each of which is the burial place of one of the Buganda kings. This site is a masterpiece of human creativity both in its conception and execution. It bears eloquent witness to the living cultural traditions of the Baganda. The spatial organization of the Kasubi Tombs represents the best example of a Buganda palace or architectural ensemble.

Displaying the finest traditions of the Ganda architecture and palace design, the tombs also reflect the technical achievements which are developed over many centuries. The site where the tombs are built constitute over 30 ha of hillside within the Kampala district. Most of the site is agricultural, farmed by traditional methods. At its core on the hilltop is the former palace of the Kabakas of Buganda, built in 1882 and converted into the royal burial ground in 1884. Four royal tombs now lie within the ‘’Muzibu Azaala Mpanga’’ the main building, which is circular and surmounted by a dome.

Kasubi Tombs is a major example of an architectural achievement in organic materials, principally wood, thatch, reed, wattle and daub. The site’s main significance lies, however, in its intangible values of belief, spirituality, continuity and identity.

Thereafter, we drive to the Uganda Museum. The Uganda Museum (founded in 1908) in Kampala has exhibits of traditional culture, archaeology, science, and natural history. It regularly presents performances of traditional music. It is a display of Uganda’s cultural heritage where one can see ethnological and natural-historical exhibitions. It is a vivid reminder of the country’s colorful past.

One of its most interesting features is the collection of traditional musical instruments, which one is free to play. The museum contains rich materials from Uganda and is a must see. The Uganda Society’s library is housed in one room of the Uganda National Museum. Started in the 1930’s by a group of scholars, the collection is comprised of approximately 3,000 volumes, maps, periodicals and photographs, all pertaining to African history and culture. It also contains documents on the turbulent political history of Uganda. In the period of 1971-1979, the Republic of Uganda was under the leadership of “Field Marshal” President Idi Amin Dada who wrecked the Ugandan economy almost beyond recovery. He expelled the Asians who were the backbone of the Ugandan economy.

This is the time when the Tourism industry in Uganda suffered a major stroke. The establishment and accommodation got plundered and Uganda officially became a “politically unsafe place” to travel to. Despite the turn of events, Uganda regained stability once the National Resistance Movement took over in 1986 and the tourism infrastructure was put back in place. Now, it is as safe as any other destination.

  • Budget: Metropole Hotel.
  • Meal plan: Dinner
  • Day 18: Namugongo Shrine

After an early breakfast, drive to the Namugongo Shrine. In the past, 22 young men were burnt alive in Namugongo on the orders from King Mwanga for refusing to denounce their faith in Christianity, which was fairly new back then in Uganda. They were executed on the orders of Kabaka Mwanga II in 1886. On the visit of Pope Paul VI to Uganda in 1969, the victims were canonized Martyrs and since then the shrine has become an important site for Uganda Christians and tourists. The site has been host to three Popes (1969, 1993 and 2015), and thousands of other religious, political and civic celebrities. To this day, every 3rd of June also known as the Martyrs” Day, Catholics from both within and outside Uganda make a pilgrimage to Namugongo to remember these young heroes known as the Uganda Martyrs. There are two churches built at the site; one for the Anglicans and the other for the Catholics.

Transfer to the airport for evening departure.

Included:

  • Airport transfers
  • Accommodation and meals as per itinerary
  • Chimpanzee permit
  • Bigodi walk
  • Game drives
  • En-route lunches
  • Gorilla permit
  • Visit Lake Bunyonyi
  • Bird watching
  • Visit Mabamba and Mubwindi swamps

Excluded:

The expenses of personal nature like:

  • Air fare
  • Uganda Visa
  • Luxury drinks
  • laundry
  • tips to local guides
  • telephone, and porter fee while trekking
  • personal insurance
  • personal shopping bills