Birding Trip Report by Richard Jordan
Hello everyone ? and a Happy Birding New Year,
I have just returned from an 18-day birding tour in Uganda with group of 10 friends (I hasten to mention that I retired from the tour business 6 years ago ? I pay for my trips nowadays!).
We travelled with Herbert Byaruhanga of Bird Uganda Safaris, and I have to say it was an extremely impressive trip. Herbert is an outstanding birder with amazing detection skills, and the uncanny ability to mimic the calls of a wide range of species. He is also very sociable, and concerned for the welfare of his clients.
It is remarkable how many excellent bird guides there are in this small country -and most of them have got their start from Herbert’s guide training programme. I have birded widely in Africa in recent years, with more than a dozen trips to Ghana, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana and Namibia and, in my experience, Uganda has the best bird guides.
I won’t list all the bird species we saw (well over 400), but the iconic Shoebill was one of the highlights, and we had two of the birds in close proximity for some time. The Mountain Gorilla experience is also something that you should not miss. Physically it can be quite demanding, but to have one of the animals walk up and hold one’s arm, which happened to me, is very memorable. There is also a larger range of large mammals in the national parks than I expected ? after the disaster of the Idi Amin era.
We never felt threatened at any time on the tour, and met only friendly, helpful people. One of the group did have an iPod stolen when we stayed at Red Chilli Camp in Murchison Falls National Park, and this was somewhere I would probably not use again. All other accommodation was up to, or exceeded, our expectations. We were using budget/moderate cost places ? and the overall tour cost was around $200/day/person twin-share (including the Gorilla permit of $500, but excluding international air fares). We felt we had excellent value-for-money.
Herbert’s business was adversely affected in 2010 by an employee who diverted enquiries to his website to another business, which then defrauded a number of overseas birders. This person is now facing a stay in jail, and the matter is history.
The real negative about birding in Uganda, and a lot of the rest of Africa, is the ubiquitous mobile phone! There is reception everywhere, even in remote parks, and it is so cheap that everyone seems to be chattering constantly. If you go on tour there try to make sure that phones are turned off = at least when you are birding in the field or having meals. Good luck ? the suggestion will probably be treated as outrageous.
Please feel free to get in touch with me directly for more details of our tour, and any other aspects of travel to Uganda.
PO Box 449 Bellingen NSW 2454 ph 02 6655 9456.