LAKES AND WILDLIFE (including Gorillas)

You will be amazed and thrilled by this 14 day tour which focuses on water and the life around it.

 

Water, unlike any other environment, attracts a rich diversity of animals, birds and plants, many of which are not seen anywhere else. Whether it is a gentle stream or a cascading torrent, fresh water or salt water, a vast lake with no horizons or a secret gem hidden amidst hills, icy cold or boiling hot, water is always fascinating and set in beautiful scenery, with ever-changing reflections, light patterns and ripples.

Uganda has no shortage of lakes, rivers, swamps and streams – a photographer’s paradise. Even though Uganda is a land-locked country, almost one fifth of it is water! Almost anywhere you go, whether across vast plains or up mountains, in forests or amongst the hills, you will find water.

Of course water is essential to all life. So you will see people walking by the roadsides carrying water in 20 litre yellow jerrycans on their heads (girls and women) – or strapped to bicycles or in wheelbarrows (boys and men). You will catch glimpses of people queueing, with yellow jerrycans lined up, waiting to pump water out of boreholes. Some have to collect water from muddy pools and lakesides. And you will see people fishing, using a variety of methods – in swamps, rivers and lakes.

 

This Tour includes visiting Bwindi Forest National Park, which means you can opt to track the rare Mountain Gorillas if you want to.

DETAILED ITINERARY

Day 1:     Arrival

Arrive today at Entebbe international airport where you will be met by your Driver-Guide. Depending on the time of arrival, you could change some money, be briefed about your tour and perhaps do some local sightseeing. Stay in Entebbe.

Day 2:     Entebbe – Lake Victoria and Mabamba Swamp

After an early breakfast, spend the morning in the nearby Mabamba swamp looking for a rich variety of birds, the most exciting of which is the rare and huge prehistoric-looking Shoebill.

 

After lunch, visit Entebbe Botanical Gardens and walk along the shores of Lake Victoria. Stay in Entebbe.

Day 3:     Entebbe to Lake Nabugabo

After breakfast, head south across the Equator where you can stop to take photos with one foot in each hemisphere! We can watch an experiment to show which way water runs down the plughole in the north and south hemispheres as well as on the Equator itself, and perhaps buy crafts and souvenirs.

Continue a short distance to Lake Nabugabo, a beautiful lake set within a swamp on the edge of Lake Victoria. We will stay in lovely surroundings with lawns and small sandy beaches where it is safe to swim. It is a good place for bird-watching.

 

Day 4:     Lake Nabugabo to Lake Mburo National Park

Continue south west to Lake Mburo National Park which has a markedly different fauna from other Parks and Reserves in Uganda and is the best place in the country to see large Elands, as well as Zebra, Topi, Impala and acacia-associated bird species.

The five lakes within the park attract Hippos, Crocodiles and a variety of water birds, while the fringing swamps hide secretive papyrus specialists, such as the Sitatunga Antelope and the red, black and yellow Papyrus Gonoleks. When entering the park, we will spot the Ankole long-horned cattle with their enormous horns.

After checking in, we will have an evening game drive.

 

Day 5:     Lake Mburo National Park

Lake Mburo National Park is one of only two parks in Uganda where it is permitted to go for a bush walk with an experienced, armed Ranger. Dawn is the best time to set off – this opportunity should not be missed! From footprints and animal droppings, the Ranger will be able to tell you which animal has passed by and how long ago. It is exciting to approach wildlife at such close range.

In the afternoon, you can relax at your lodge followed by a Game Drive (included). Optional extras include a boat trip, a mountain bike safari or a horseback riding safari.

 

Day 6:     Lake Mburo National Park to Lake Bunyonyi

After an early breakfast, we set off to continue driving south through the beautiful rolling hills and plains of Ankole before the long drive up into the spectacular, steep hills of Kigezi with amazing terraces from the fertile valleys to the tops.  In the far distance, you may even see the summit of Muhavura, one of the largest extinct volcanoes on the Rwanda/DRC border. You can stop for taking photos.

After a dramatically steep drive up the hills south of Kabale, we will get our first amazing view of Lake Bunyonyi which winds for miles between the steeply-terraced hills. It is dotted with islands, some of which we can visit if not actually staying on one of them – you can stay (for two nights) either on the shores of the lake or on one of the islands.

 

Day 7:     Lake Bunyonyi

Today, you can relax by the tranquil lake and enjoy one or more activities. The market on Mondays and Fridays is fascinating as hundreds of people come and go in dug-out canoes, their only form of transport, to bring their produce.

It is considered safe to swim in Lake Bunyonyi – many other lakes in Uganda have Bilharzia snails. If you are a strong swimmer, you may even want to swim across the lake. Birders will be delighted by such a wonderful variety of birds. A boat trip in a dug-out canoe is well worthwhile – you may even see Otters. You can hire a canoe and try paddling yourself – but it’s not as easy as the local Bakiga make it look! There are many possibilities for short or long walks and hikes, although they will always involve some steep climbs!

 

Day 8:     Lake Bunyonyi to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

We will enjoy another spectacular drive today along the valleys, over the hills of Kigezi and up into the Impenetrable Forest, with stops on the way to admire the views and take photos. Stay two nights in one of the comfortable lodges or superior camps on the edge of the forest.

 

Day 9:     Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

If you have booked a Gorilla Permit (currently $600), you will spend the day tracking gorillas. Permits are limited in number (88 per day). You will be allocated a particular Gorilla Group to visit, located in different areas of the Park, so the Permits need to be booked many months in advance, especially in the high season. Visit the ADVICE page.

After an early breakfast, you will have a briefing before starting the trek at 8.30am in a group of eight people. Once you have found the gorillas, you will spend a maximum of one hour with them. The trek can take between 3 and 8 hours, depending on where the gorillas have moved to. All visitors are expected back at the starting point by 7.00 pm at the latest. Being physically fit is recommended as the walking can be very long and strenuous, hacking through thick vegetation up and down steep mountain slopes, which is made more difficult if it is raining. Although seeing gorillas cannot be guaranteed, as they are wild animals which roam extensively through the forest, it is unlikely you will fail to see them as trackers first go out at dawn to locate them.

There are other activities and walks you can do instead of gorilla tracking, such as visiting a local village and community projects and guided birdwatching walks.

 

Day 10:     Bwindi Forest to the Ishasha Sector of the Queen Elizabeth National Park

We will drive through more beautiful scenery, villages and tea plantations as we leave  the mountainous forest and drop down into the plains of the Western Rift Valley. We will stay at Ishasha, close to the river which forms the Uganda-Congo (DRC) border and flows into Lake Edward. You will enjoy the feeling of being in the Heart of Africa surrounded only by wildlife. Go for a late afternoon Game Drive.

 

Day 11:     Ishasha to Mweya, Queen Elizabeth National Park

We will start the day looking for the famous tree-climbing lions early in the morning before driving north through the Park to Mweya Peninsula which has spectacular views over the Kazinga Channel and Lake Edward. We will keep stopping on the way to watch many animals and birds.

 

In the afternoon, you will go on a launch cruise along the Kazinga Channel and be thrilled by how close you can get to a variety of wildlife, including birds (Pelicans, Cormorants, Storks, Kingfishers) and animals such as Hippos, Buffalo, Crocodiles and Elephants which relax in the water during the heat of the day or come down to drink.

 

Day 12:     Queen Elizabeth National Park to Rubirizi (Bushenyi)

After an early breakfast, we will go on a Game Drive and visit some of the crater lakes (both freshwater and salt) in the Park. Hopefully, we will see Lions.

 

We will then cross the bridge over the Kazinga Channel and drive eastwards through the Park and up the escarpment where we will stop to admire the vast views of the Park spread across the floor of the Rift Valley. We will notice a complete change of landscape as we drive through villages and lush cultivation in Bushenyi District. We will also have time to stop and walk beside one of the many crater lakes scattered amongst the hills. You will stay two nights in one of the lodges on the escarpment.

 

Day 13:     Chimpanzee tracking in Kalinzu Forest Reserve

You will have a 95% chance of finding chimpanzees as you trek for about four hours through the forest, as well as a rich variety of birds and other primates. Return to your accommodation.

 

Day 14:     Bushenyi to Entebbe

After a wonderful tour of south western Uganda, visiting many lakes and seeing so much wildlife, it is time to head back to Entebbe with a wealth of vivid memories, stories to tell and hundreds of photos which will make everyone back at home so envious!

Depending on the time of your flight, you may need to stay in Entebbe tonight.

 

This is a sample itinerary. We can adjust the route, activities and type of accommodation according to your requirements and budget.

Where there is a choice of accommodation available, you can decide whether you want to stay in luxury, mid-range or budget lodges and hotels, or in superior or simple camping accommodation.