Wildlife exploration and bird watching

Introduction

This is a specialized tour that brings you the best of Uganda’s hotspots for birding. This tour packs in some of Uganda’s finest and most diverse bird watching and other wildlife viewing sites including Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls National Parks, Semliki, Kibale as well as Africa’s best Shoebill location, the Mabamba Wetland. We shall take you to the best destinations, sites and spots for birding, and the best accommodation facilities that have the best reputation in ecotourism. The lodges and the hotels that we use are simple and luxurious in nature, strategically located to optimize the birding potential. With the help of a superb network of site guides that meet our standards, our experienced tour leaders will attend to the needs of each participant; whether one is a novice birder or someone with years of field experience; we shall work towards the satisfaction of all.

Leaders

This tour will be accompanied by one of the best bird guides and Members of Uganda Bird Guides Club, and driver guide/guides.
Accommodation and Meals

Full board accommodations in comfortable lodges or tented camps, packed lunches, drinking water are included in this holiday.

Chimpanzee tracking permits, boat hire fees and ferry, park entrance fees and services of all the guides and leaders.
Not included: Flight charges, Insurance, drinks tips, laundry and other items of a personal nature.

Transport

We use 8-seater 4WD Toyota land cruisers or omnibuses with open roof hatches for most of our tours. To minimize the seat rotation system, create enough space for Luggage and maximize the comfort of our clients, we seat a maximum of 6 people. With the help of the 5 window seats in each vehicle, there are equal opportunities for viewing and photographing the wildlife for all our clients.

Roads and Walkways

Most of our journeys connecting to the protected areas will be long and sometimes bumpy taking us through typical Ugandan patchwork scenery of fertile farmlands, numerous papyrus swamps and isolated pockets of woodlands and dense forests. Stops at some birding spots can be made to stretch legs and look at birds. As we take leisurely walks in the forests, some of the forest trails can be steep, muddy and uneven, so a good level of fitness is preferable if one is to get the most of this tour.

Weather

There are variations in weather due to the typically equatorial climate of Uganda. We can expect short showers that do not last too long to hamper the bird watching. Days are generally warm or hot and sunny; however, overcast conditions are frequent, particularly in the forest and mountain areas. Nights can be mild to warm, cooler at higher altitudes.

Day 1 Arrival. Stay at Entebbe Resort or Lindsay Cottages.

Day 2 Mabamba Bay

Today we visit Mabamba Village and its adjacent swamp, a labyrinth of channels and lagoons. The Swamp is about 52km from the Kampala. The road to Mabamba winds its way through areas of secondary forest and agricultural land attracting Red headed Lovebird, African Crowned Hornbills, and a range of sunbirds including the Green headed, Green, Red-chested, Collared, Marico and Scarlet chested. We shall stop over at Mpigi Swamp to look out for the Papyrus Gonolek and the White winged warbler. The road ultimately ends at a papyrus reedbed adjoining Lake Victoria. On the hand peddled canoes, we explore a maze of channels and mud flats for the majestic Shoebill. We should have a very good chance of seeing this magnificent bird, although as in all wildlife watching sightings can never be guaranteed! Mabamba also offers a large selection of other species which might include African Pygmy Goose, the rare Lesser Jacana, Carruthers’ Cisticola, African Fish eagle, Winding Cisticola, Fan-tailed Widow bird, Blue-breasted Bee-eater etc. The rare and Elusive Statunga antelope also occurs here but it is very shy and rarely seen. We also expect to encounter the spot necked Otter in one of the channels that we shall peddle through. O/n in Kampala/Lindsay

Day 3, 4 & 5 Queen Elizabeth National Park

After an early morning breakfast we shall begin our 7 – 8 hour dive to the renowned Queen Elizabeth National Park, birdwatching along the way.

Spanning the equator is the vast Queen Elizabeth National Park boasting impressive crator lake scenery, expansive grasslands, papyrus swamps and tropical forests, huge herds of elephant and buffalo, lions, leopards, and a diverse array of birds. It contains Uganda’s best game populations as well as some of Uganda’s best birdwatching, an incredible bird list of 610 species and an overwhelming record of 296 species in a single day, the highest in Africa! The illustrious boat cruise along the Kazinga Channel, which links Lakes George and Edward, is one of the most productive birding excursions on the planet. We shall check into Mweya Safari Lodge located on the Penisula that separates the Kazinga Channel from Lake Edward. We shall stay here for 3 nights.  If we have time, some late afternoon birding might produce African morning Dove, Grey headed Kingfisher, Black headed Gonolek, Slender billed, Yellow backed and Lesser masked Weavers, Pin-tailed Whydah and Black winged Pranticole.

One morning, we will make an early start for a bird and game drive towards the Kasenyi trail and Shoebill wetland. The drive takes through a productive area of grassy plains, which support large flocks of a variety of stork species including the Spectacular Saddle billed and Wooly necked Storks. Other species include the Bateleur, Grey Kestrel, Lappet faced, Ruppell’s Griffon, White backed and Palm nut Vultures, African Carake, Black Coucal, Common button, Harlequin and black rumped  Quails, Red necked Spurfowl, Rufous napped and Flappet Larks. Common Mammals include Uganda Kobs, Lion, Warthog, Bush buck, Deffassa Waterbuck, Spotted Hyena, Leopard and many others.

In the after noon we will take a launch tour of the Kazinga Channel which is a natural magnet for herds of Elephant, Giant forest hog, Buffalo, and the abundant Hippopptamus. Birding here is excellent with great photographic opportunities. We might be blessed with congregations of African Skimmers, Great white and Pink backed Pelicans, Great and Long-tailed Cormorants, Open-billed Stork, African Skimmer, White faced Whistling Duck, Marsh, Wood and Common Sandpipers, Malachite Kingfisher, African Jacana, African Wattled Plover, etc

Another morning, we shall bird to Maramagambo forest following the main trail. We shall visit the Blue Lake and Bat Cave where we expect to see a Rock Python that found its refuge in the Cave, and feasts on the Bats for its Breakfast, Lunch and Super!

Special Bird of this Forest include Narina Trogon, Rufous Flycatcher Thrush, White tailed Ant-thrush, Black Bee-eater, Grey headed Kingfisher and White breasted Negrofinch.

Late in the afternoon we will visit the spectacular Kyambura Gorge: a unique, deep and isolated chasm in the plains, where dense riverine forest offers a good selection of forest birds like the Red fronted Tinkerbird, the beautiful and thought after Black bee-eater, blue Breasted Kingfisher, Grey wood pecker etc.

Day 6 & 7 Rwenzori Mountains National Park

The Rwenzoris are regarded to be the legendary snow-capped Mountains of the Moon, described by Ptolemy in AD150. Reaching an elevation of 5,109m, it is also Africa’s tallest mountain range, exceeded in altitude only by the free-standing Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro. There are a variety of birds and large mammals inhabiting the lower slopes, but the Rwenzoris are more outstanding for their magnificent scenery and varied vegetation.

With a record of 217 bird species in the park, 18 restricted range species and Albertine endemics, the park rates as second best in Uganda to BINP which has 24 restricted range species. A few specialties include some rare and spectacular birds like the Rwenzori Turaco, Bamboo Warbler, Golden-winged Sunbird, Scarlet-tufted Malachite Sunbird and Stuhlmann’s Double-collared Olive-back Nesocharis ansorgei.

According to the current information from the guides by then, we shall explore one of the trails that lead through rainforest rattling with monkeys and birds, for our first day; we may choose to go back the next day and comb the area. For the two nights, we shall be sleeping in Kasese town.

Day 8 & 9 Semliki National Park

This is one of Uganda’s newest National Parks, rated as one of the richest areas for both flora and fauna in Africa (especially for birds). Semliki National Park is situated in the remote corner of extreme west of Uganda, in Bundibugyo District. It lies on Uganda-Democratic Republic of Congo border within the western arm of the East African Rift Valley. The park is an eastern extension of the vast Ituri Forest and forms part of the forest continuum during the climatic upheavals of the Pleistocene. The Park is about 50km from Fort Portal town which will take us two to three hours drive on the rough road towards Bundibugyo.

Semliki Forest represents the only example of Congo-Basin vegetation in Uganda. A large number of Guinea-Congo biome species reach their eastern limits here, which is one of the richest for forest birds in the country. Key species here include among others: Piping Hornbill, Capuchin Babbler, Blue headed crested flycatcher, Lyre-tailed Honeyguide, Black-wattled Hornbill, Nkulengu Rail, Congo serpent Eagle, Long tailed Hawk, Crested and Red-billed Malimbe.

We shall go birding on the way and reach late in the afternoon. We Check into Semliki Lodge. In the evening we bird in the savannah looking for nightjars and owls.

The next day we shall start after an early morning breakfast, carry packed lunch and head for a full day birding in the forest. Overnight at Atako.

Day 10 & 11 Kibale Forest National Park

This forested National Park protects a diverse array of primates from the minuscule, nocturnal Demidoff’s galago to our closest living relative, the Chimpanzee. Here we will take expeditions to observe the mentioned above and many other species of primates and birds.

This day we shall have a chance of birding the main road or one of the trails in the forest. We might come across the African Emerald Cuckoo, Purple headed startling, Black-billed Turaco, Yellow billed Barbet, Grey throated Barbet, Blue throated Roller, Narrow tailed Starling, Western Black-headed Oriole, Yellow throated and Yellow rumped Tinkerbirds. Choice of accommodation here is Ndali Lodge / Mantana Tented Camp.

The next day, we wakeup very early and assemble for briefing and thereafter enter the forest to look for our cousins, the Chimps. The activity takes 1 to 5 hours. In the afternoon, we may choose to go to Bigodi wetland or take one of the trails in the Park to look for the stunning Green-breasted Pitta, Fire Crested Alethe, Scally-breasted Illadopsis, colourful butterflies and other species of primates.

Day 12 & 13 Murchison Falls National Park

Today we leave early for Murchison Falls National Park. This is a rather longer drive but there are few birding spots.

The name of the park was derived from the incredible Murchison falls, where the Nile is forced through a 6-meter gap, forming the most powerful water surge on the planet. A boat cruise on the calmer Stretches will allow us to watch and photograph the birds and the animals which throng the banks, and we can expect to find one of the world’s pet birds, the peculiar Shoebill. We will also explore the park’s broadleaved woodland, dry grasslands and forests, including nocturnal expeditions to find the unrivaled Standard winged Nightjar. We will be staying in the magnificent Paraa Safari Lodge.

The next day we shall start early with packed lunch and take a boat trip birding to the bottom of the falls. Later this morning, we bird to the delta on a game drive. We relax later in the day and may opt for an evening drive for nightjars

Day 14 & 15 Budongo Forest

Budongo Forest Reserve is part of Murchison Falls Conservation Area and is the largest natural forest in Uganda and East Africa as a whole. It lies on the escarpment north-east of Lake Albert. It consists of a medium-altitude moist semi-deciduous forest, with areas of savanna and woodland. The reserve occupies gently undulating terrain, with a general slope north-north-west towards the Rift Valley. Specialties in Budongo Forest include among others; Sabine’s spine tail, Cassin’s Spine-tail(rare), Pygmy Crakes, Kingfishers( Chocolate-backed, Blue-breasted, Dwarf), White-spotted Fluff tail, Ituri Batis, Puvell’s Illadopsis, Brown Twin-spot, Cameroon Somber Greenbill, Cassin’s Hawk-eagle, Crowned Eagle, Yellow-crested Woodpecker, Forest Robin, Little Green Sunbird, Grey-headed Sunbird, African Dwark Kingfisher, Olive Green Camaroptera.

We shall start after an early breakfast at Paraa and bird on the way to Budongo Forest. We go birding the escarpment overlooking Lake Albert. We stay at Masindi Hotel, about 30 Km away from the forest. This is the nearest good accommodation here.

The next day, we have a full day birding on the Royal Mile, a dazzling forestry track rated as one of the premier forest birding sites in Africa; we will make an acquaintance with the first of many central African forest birds. Skulking Alethes and Illadopses sing from the undergrowth and we will work through mixed-species flocks of Greenbuls, Eremomelas, Crombecs, and Longbills, certainly top rate forest birding.

Day 16 Travel to Kampala/Entebbe. Today we may choose to bird Entebbe botanical gardens or visit Uganda Wildlife Education Centre. Overnight stay in Entebbe.

Day 17 Departure