12-Days Gorilla and Wildlife Safari Uganda
Uganda is known for its friendly people and incredible diversity of landscapes and activities. On this 12-Days Gorilla and Wildlife Safari Uganda journey, let us show you the best that Uganda has to offer from boat rides to the mighty Murchison Falls and safaris on the savannah plains of Queen Elizabeth National Park, to intimate meetings with the chimpanzees in Kibale Forest and mountain gorilla encounters along the canopy covered trails of Bwindi Forest. Accommodation is provided in some of the country’s very best lodges chosen for their good service and excellent location.
Day 1: Welcome to Uganda (12-Days Gorilla and Wildlife Safari Uganda)
Day 2: Travel to Murchison Falls NP
Day 3: Game Drive and Private Boat Safari to Murchison Falls
Day 4: Delta Boat Ride with Bush Breakfast & Game Drive
Day 5: Travel to Kibale Forest National Park
Day 6: Chimpanzee Tracking
Day 7: Travel to Queen Elizabeth NP
Day 8: Lion Tracking & Boat Safari in Queen Elizabeth NP
Day 9: Coffee Tour & Game Drive in Ishasha Sector
Day 10: Bush Breakfast & Travel to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
Day 11: Gorilla Tracking in Bwindi Forest
Day 12: Flight to Entebbe ( End of the 12-Days Gorilla and Wildlife Safari Uganda)
Day 1: Welcome to Uganda!
Arriving to a new and foreign place can be overwhelming. All your senses are operating in overdrive as you take in the unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells of your new surroundings. This is certainly the case for a first visit to Uganda. Your Umarella Voyage Safaris guide will be with you from the very beginning, welcoming you at the airport and navigating you expertly through the lively traffic, while you can lean back and watch your new world go by. If this is your first time traveling to Africa, you will never forget your first acquaintance with her.
The drive to your accommodation is about 1 hour. Along the way you will catch a glimpse of the shimmering waters of Lake Victoria on your right, see several matatus and boda bodas (local 4-wheel and 2-wheel taxis) weave daringly through traffic, smartly dressed residents in colorful fabrics negotiating the pot-holed streets, food stalls serving delicious Rolex and wooden carts heavily laden with our favorite staple food. This makes the beginning of your 12-Days Gorilla and Wildlife Safari Uganda.
Day 2: To Murchison Falls National Park
Your journey in Uganda will begin with one of the oldest conservation areas in the country; Murchison Falls National Park. The drive to Northern Uganda is long but rewarding, taking you through ever-changing landscapes, busy roadside markets and quiet rural villages.
Murchison Falls National Park is Uganda’s best-known and biggest nature reserve. Its most memorable feature is the Victoria Nile which cuts through the park, running along a series of rapids before shooting out of a narrow crack in an incredibly powerful waterfall. A boat safari during your stay will offer a closer look at the majestic falls while providing ample opportunity to see some of the incredible wildlife that the park is known for along the way.
Bakers Lodge is an intimate safari-style lodge ideally located on the southern bank of the Nile river. From the raised deck of your private safari suite you will have excellent views over the river. Bathing elephants and hippos are regularly seen here and you’ll have a good perch for bird watching. Sunset from the restaurant is particularly spectacular so make sure you find your way there for complimentary sundowners.
Day 3: Murchison Falls National Park
On your morning game drive, a professional ranger with extensive knowledge of the park and its inhabitants will join you in your vehicle. As this is a private game drive you can ask your guide to tailor your trip towards specific birdlife and/or wildlife if you like.
The park is especially known for its massive elephant population, wide array of bird species and big herds of buffalo. Giraffes, lions, antelope and waterbucks can also be spotted here and if you search the trees carefully, you may even spot one of the elusive leopards.
The afternoon boat safari towards Murchison Falls is a special highlight of the day. On this private 3-hour journey upstream on the Victoria Nile to the base of the falls you will pass by breath-taking scenery, as well as many crocodiles, hundreds of hippos, buffaloes, water birds, monkeys and other animals that come down to the Nile for a cool drink in the hot of the day. For your comfort, complimentary drinks will be served on-board. The boat will drop you near the waterfall for your hike (1-1.5 hrs) up to the top of the falls. Make sure you are properly hydrated for the walk and be prepared to be blown away by the amazing views from the top.
Day 4: Murchison Falls National Park
The Nile Delta is the area where the Victoria Nile flows into Lake Albert. The banks of the delta are home to hundreds of bird species including the rare and prehistoric-looking shoebill stork. If you are a keen birdwatcher this trip is a “must-do”, but this 20-kilometer voyage downstream is also a very nice opportunity to see beautiful landscapes, the daily routines of the local fishermen who catch tilapia from their wooden canoes in Lake Albert, and of course some wildlife. It is not unusual to see elephants and hippos bathing in the river, or crocodiles resting on the banks. Looking over in the treetops you may see the first signs of life from the lively Eastern Fringed Monkeys or Baboons. One of the highlights of the 5-hour boat ride is a stop along the banks for a superb bush breakfast served by your private chef.
In the afternoon you can choose to go on another game drive in the park, or to just relax and enjoy your last afternoon at the lodge. It’s your day.
Want to take a walk amongst the Rhinos at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary?
A nice way to break off your drive to Murchison Falls NP is to stop off at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary for a Rhino Hike. Uganda used to be home to a healthy population of both black and white rhinos. That was until civil war, widespread poaching and urbanization wiped out the species from our lands back in the 1980’s. In an effort to re-introduce the species to Uganda’s parks the Rhino Fund Uganda together with Uganda Wildlife Authority have set up a breeding program at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. To date there are 22 Southern White Rhinos roaming the 7000 hectares of land that comprise the sanctuary, many of which were born in the wild. On a visit to the sanctuary you will join an experienced ranger on a hike to find these magnificent creatures. This is a wonderful opportunity to see the endangered rhinos in the wild from a close range, while at the same time learn about the breeding program and the steps taken to involve the local communities in the conservation efforts.
This activity is optional at an additional cost of $60 per person.
Add an extra day in Murchison and go Chimp Tracking in Budongo Forest!
With an extra day in Murchison Falls NP you can visit the chimpanzees in Budongo Forest. This southern region of the park is home to the biggest mahogany forest in East Africa and habitat to the largest number of chimpanzees in Uganda. During your walk in the forest you may also come across other primates like the Blue Monkeys, Red-tailed Monkeys, Vervet Monkeys and Olive Baboons.
This activity is optional at an additional cost of $110 per person. (the costs for an extra night are not included in this price)
Have you always wanted to go on a hot air balloon safari?
Discover Murchison Falls NP from above! Sign up for this optional activity to experience the most amazing views of the Nile river, Lake Albert, the great Murchison Falls and of course to get a unique aerial view of wildlife below. The launch starts in the early morning, while it is still dark, so that you can see the sun rise over the park. Upon landing you will watch the park wake up while you enjoy a champagne bush breakfast (included).
This activity is optional at an additional cost of $380 per person.
Day 5: To Fort Portal & Kibale Forest
Your journey to Kibale Forest will be your longest drive on this tour, but possibly the most scenic. The drive will take you through tea plantations, lively village markets and over rolling hills of lush green countryside that is so characteristic of western Uganda.
Kibale Forest National Park itself is an extensive tract of dense tropical rainforest located just south of the town Fort Portal. The various ecosystems in this space are reputed to harbor the highest density of primates in all of Africa. The rare red colobus monkey as well as the black and white colobus are just some of the primates you may encounter on your forest walks here. The highlight of a trip to Kibale Forest is of course to spend some time observing the wonderfully entertaining chimpanzees.
In the midst of the gently rolling evergreen hills of the Great Crater Lakes region you’ll find Papaya Lake Lodge with its series of luxurious cottages dotted along the slopes of an extinct volcano. Here you can enjoy the breath-taking views of the turquoise waters of Lyantonde Lake in complete privacy. Papaya’s fine cuisine combines culinary traditions from all corners of the world, prepared with top quality produce. This lodge has been built with great passion, esteem for local culture and the highest attention to detail.
Day 6: Chimpanzee tracking in Kibale Forest
No other animal reminds us so much of ourselves as the chimpanzee. Besides many common features and mannerisms, chimpanzees also share 98% of our human DNA, making them our closest living relatives. It is not so surprising then that we find the habits and biology of these primates so fascinating to study.
While Chimpanzees can be found in 21 countries throughout Africa, they are most easily sighted in Uganda due to the high concentration of the species here. On a Chimpanzee Tracking experience in Kibale Forest you will have the opportunity to follow an experienced guide into the forest to observe these fascinating creatures at a close range. Watching them interact with each other and go about their daily routine of grooming, playing and foraging is an incredible experience.
While your chances of encountering chimpanzees are high during your tracking excursion, it is never 100% guaranteed. These are, after all, wild animals with wills and minds of their own!
In the afternoon you will have time to enjoy the lodge which boasts a pool with beautiful views of the surrounding landscapes.
Day 7: Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park is Uganda’s most visited game reserve and arguably the most scenic. The national park protects the vast savannah plains, bushland, wetlands and forests that lie at the base of the Rwenzori mountain range. Kazinga Channel, which flows through the park and connects Lake George in the east to Lake Edward in the west, attracts a rich array of animals and birds, including the infamous Nile crocodile and one of the world’s largest concentration of hippos. On your first game drive you will explore the park along a 200-kilometre network of well-maintained game viewing tracks.
Day 8: Lion Tracking & Boat Safari on Kazinga Channel
In the morning we offer you an opportunity to contribute to an important conservation program in Queen Elizabeth NP. On this unique Lion Tracking research trip you will follow a research team, off the safari jeep tracks and into the bush, in search of one of the lion prides in the park. A tracking device in the vehicle will leady you directly to the lions where you will spend some time observing these charismatic cats. The data collected by the researchers will further the conservation program in the park, while you get a unique and intimate insight into the lives and habits of these fascinating predators.
Later in the day when the sun is high in the sky and the animals make their way to the river for a drink, we will head to Kazinga Channel for a private boat safari. You will spot more hippos today than you can possibly imagine. Herds of elephants and buffalo will also wander down to the shoreline to bathe in the cooling waters. A boat safari is a fantastic way to get close to wildlife and for many visitors the boat safari is the highlight of their visit to Queen Elizabeth National Park
Do you want to explore the Valley of the Apes on this 12-Days Gorilla and Wildlife Safari Uganda?
If you find safaris to be a bit too sedentary for your taste, then a hike in the Kyambura Gorge is what you need to get your heart rate up. This stunning geological feature is known as “the Valley of Apes” and is another world unto itself. The view from the top is incredibly impressive with a deep sunken gorge covered in lush tropical vegetation. As its nick-name reveals, the gorge is home to several primate species including chimpanzees, the red-tailed monkey, black-and-white colobus, baboons and vervet monkeys. You will also see your fair share of colorful bird species. While the chances of spotting chimpanzees are not as high here as in Kibale Forest or Budongo Forest, this landscape is among the most impressive in Uganda and absolutely worth visiting. The additional cost for this optional activity is $50 per person
Day 9: Coffee Tour & Game Drive in Ishasha Sector
The beautiful place that you have been spending the past two nights used to be an old coffee store. The lodge is still very involved in the coffee industry in the area and this morning you will go on a Coffee Tour to explore the transformation of coffee bean into delicious Ugandan coffee. The process is all done by hand, by local community members. Sampling some of the coffee will make for a good start of your day and buying some coffee to take home will make a good souvenir as well as support the local community.
The southern part of Queen Elizabeth National park is our next destination. This area is famous for its tree-climbing lions. While you will often see lion cubs climbing trees for fun, adults very rarely do this. In Ishasha however, the lions like to spend the hot afternoons snoozing on a shaded fig tree branch. The raised elevation exposes them to a nice breeze as well as providing an escape from the bothersome tsetse flies below. While you are on the hunt for the tree climbing lions don’t miss the stunning scenery and excellent birdlife in this remote spot of the park. In the late afternoon you will enjoy sundowners arranged by your lodge at a secluded viewing point. Here you can savor the last views of the landscape before a stunning African sunset closes the chapter on this day.
Accommodation at booked lodge in Ishasha
Day 10: Bush Breakfast & Travel to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
Before you say goodbye to the savannah and head further south to the rainforest, we invite you to a bush breakfast in the wilderness, complete with a dining set-up and a personal chef. Enjoy your morning coffee as the first rays of sunshine come to rest on the plains.
While you won’t want to leave this beautiful place, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, the home of the Mountain Gorillas of Uganda, awaits. You will be staying in the northern part of the forest, called Buhoma. You will be introduced to the communities that live in the outskirts of the forest here and welcomed to support the locally founded and managed women’s empowerment initiative Ride 4 A Woman. Join these local women as they go about their daily lives and learn how to weave baskets, sew with traditional fabrics or cook a delicious Ugandan meal.
For the coming two nights you will stay at Buhoma Lodge, an intimate lodge with spectacular views over the forest, and one of only two lodges that is located within the park. You will stay in one of the ten chalets which are carefully and spaciously designed using locally sourced materials. Your private veranda with wonderful vistas, complimentary house drinks and massage will ensure a sublimely relaxing stay.
Journey Time 3 hours
Accommodation at booked lodge in Bwindi
Day 11: Gorilla Trekking
Encountering the rare and endangered Mountain Gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is an experience of a lifetime.
Half of the world’s population of gorillas lives under the mist-covered canopies of Uganda’s oldest and most biologically diverse rainforest. In the company of an experienced park ranger you will be tracking the whereabouts of one of the nine habituated family groups who live in the park. Your tracking experience will be an exciting, yet challenging, journey along forested (often muddy and slippery) slopes, tangled vines, thick vegetation and bamboo forests before you reach the territory of these gentle giants. En-route, your ranger will point out telltale signs of previous gorilla activity like dung, nests and chewed bamboo shoots. Depending on the location of the gorillas on any given day the walk can take anything from 2 to 7 hours. Once the family of gorillas has been located, settle in to your surroundings and enjoy the hour you have to quietly observe these fascinating primates whose habits and mannerisms remind us so much of our own.
Encountering the mountain gorillas in the wild is a truly humbling and emotional experience, one that you are sure to remember for the rest of your life.
Accommodation at booked lodge in Bwindi
Day 12: Transfer to Kihihi – Flight to Entebbe
Enjoy your last sunrise in this beautiful corner of Uganda. In the early morning your guide will drop you off at Kihihi airstrip for your domestic flight to Entebbe.
Departure time from Kihihi: 09.45 AM or 11.40 AM
Arrival time in Entebbe: 11.25 AM or 13:30 PM
* Kihihi flights are subject to prevailing weather conditions.
Accommodation for tonight is not included in the program. If you require one (or more) nights in Entebbe or Kampala please let us know and we can arrange it for you. Want us to book one (or more) nights in Kampala and/or Entebbe, please let us know.
Optional departure routes:
There is more than one way to get home! Discuss your preferred option and the additional costs involved with your personal Travel Consultant.
Drive to Entebbe via Lake Mburo
If you add a day to the program you can stop over in the beautiful Lake Mburo National Park, which is located about half-way between Bwindi Forest and Entebbe. With activities like bush walks, mountain biking and night game drives this is the perfect extension for those who don’t want their safari to end
Depending on the amount of travellers you travel in a regular size land cruiser (2-5 persons) or Extended land cruiser (6-7 persons).
4wd a Full-Sized Toyota Land cruiser
The Toyota Land cruiser is the most used safari vehicle in Africa, It’s strong, it’s high up and spacious. Of course it looks good, too! The car suits a maximum of 4 persons and has a pop-up roof for a perfect safari view!
4wd Extended Toyota Land cruiser
The extended Landcruiser is for some the ultimate safari vehicle in Africa. It’s 4wd, spacious, high up and strong. The extended land cruiser has even a cooler box on board and an open roof for an excellent safari view. The extended land cruiser is suitable for a maximum of 6 persons.
End of your 12-Days Gorilla and Wildlife Safari Uganda
Thank you for choosing and travel with Umarella Voyage Safaris “The Wild Professionals”