This is a 17 Day Birding and Wildlife Safari that covers the Major National Park in Uganda Including Murchison Falls National Park, Kibale National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Lake Mburo National Park. Other Key areas will include Mabamba Swamp and Budongo forest Royal Mile.
Duration: 17 Days
Day 1: Arrival
Early arrivals may have optional birding in afternoon at the Entebbe Botanical Gardens. Situated on the northern shores of Lake Victoria, the Entebbe Botanical Gardens are virtually on the Equator, and covers an area of 40.7hectares. The gardens house a collection of species of plants of the tropical, sub-tropical and temperate zones, besides several shrubs and other plants which regenerated naturally over the years. The habitat has attracted a diverse array of birds (206 species) and monkeys. We shall look out for; Orange Weaver, Golden and Yellow-backed Weavers, Superb Sunbird, Bare-faced Go-away Bird, Ross’s and Great blue Turaco, etc. Later transfer to Entebbe Travellers’ Inn.
Day 2: Birding Mabamba or Kamengo and afternoon at Mpanga forest
After an early breakfast, we bird to Mabamba Kamengo Wetlands about 50km west of Entebbe area on the shores of Lake Victoria. This is one of the few remaining swamps in Uganda protected by the local communities – an extensive papyrus swamp with its labyrinth of channels and lagoons, classified as an IBA (Important Bird Area) and home to several pairs of Shoebills, Uganda’s most famous avian resident. This charismatic species, the only representative in its family, is certainly amongst the most sought-after birds in Africa and we’ll make special efforts today to find it by paddling through the channels by boat. There will of course be a good selection of classic East African water birds: Pink-backed Pelican, Long-tailed Cormorant, Goliath Heron, African Fish-Eagle, African Marsh-Harrier, Yellow-billed Duck, African Water Rail, Allen’s Gallinule, and Malachite Kingfisher along with slightly more local species such as Long-toed Plover, Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Blue-headed Coucal, Papyrus Gonolek, Papyrus Canary, Swamp Flycatcher, White-winged & Papyrus Yellow Warblers. Other areas in and around Entebbe/Kampala may produce; African Open-billed Stork, Grey Kestrel, Eastern Grey Plantain-eater, African Green Pigeon, Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher maybe the rare Weyn’s Weaver.
Day 3: Birds and Mammals of Murchison Falls National Park
After breakfast, we will depart for Murchison Falls National Park, stopping over in Masindi town for lunch. Murchison falls National Park is one of the most popular of our Uganda national parks. We will drive through the beautiful country side arriving in the evening. Special birds include; Cliff Chat, Yellow fronted Tinkerbird, Grey-headed Bush Shrike, Singing Cisticola, Namaqua dove, Green Winged Pytilia, Red-backed Shrike, Crested Francolin, Grey-headed Bush-shrike, Northern and Black winged Red Bishops, Black-bellied Fire finch, Black-faced Waxbill and March Tchagra.
Day 4 : Whole day birding trip in Murchison falls
After an early breakfast, we will have a morning game drive. In the lush Borassus grassland, you may be able to encounter Elephant, Buffalo, Giraffe, and a variety of antelopes, Lions and Leopards. After enjoying lunch, we will then have an afternoon boat trip to the Bottom of the falls. There are chances that you will also be dazzled with a variety of water birds including species like; the Secretary Bird, Abyssinian Roller and Ground Hornbill, Pied Kingfisher, Red-throated Bee-eater, Goliath Heron, Saddle-billed Stork, Sacred Ibis, Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Senegal Thick-knee, Water Thick-knee, Black-headed Lapwing, Long-toed Lapwing, Little Bittern, Osprey, Red-necked Falcon, Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Vinaceous Dove and Grosbeak Weaver. Other specialties include; Buff-bellied Warbler, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Bar-breasted Firefinch, Red-winged Grey Warbler, Spotted Morning-Thrush, Marabou Stork, Red-throated Bee-eater, Silver bird, Beautiful Sunbird, Black-headed Gonolek, Speckle-fronted Weaver, Golden-backed Weaver, White-rumped Seedeater, Pels Fishing Owl, White Crested Turaco, Bruce’s Green Pigeon, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow Weaver, Carmine Bee-eater, Night jars(Pennant-winged &Standard-winged), White-rumped Canary etc
Day 5: Birding safari to Budongo forest Uganda
Depending on the road conditions, there are chances of either birding through the escarpment or through Kanio Pabidi. The escarpment area is well known for its panoramic view of Lake Albert and the Rift Valley, and also being an open area it has quite a number of bird species. Kanio Pabide forest section is well known for its rare bird species including; the Puvell’s Illadopsis. Budongo forest is the largest natural forest area in East Africa. We can expect to find a wide range of other bird species such as; the Crested Guineafowl sporting their punk “hairdos”, White Crested Turaco, Rufous-crowned Eremomela, Yellow and Grey Longbills, Olive-bellied Crombec, Yellow-browed Camaroptera, Little Green Sunbird, and Red-headed Blue Bill among others. There are also many other special birds with a West African origin: White-thighed Hornbill, Green-breasted Pitta, Rufous-sided Broadbill, Blue-breasted, Dwarf & Chocolate-backed Kingfishers, Yellow-crested & Brown-eared Woodpeckers, Yellowbill, Western Black-headed Oriole, Yellow-spotted, Hairy-breasted & Yellow-billed Barbets, Green Hylia, Buff-throated, Black-throated & Black-capped Apalises, Black-eared Ground-Thrush, Rufous-crowned Eremomela, the elusive Lemon-bellied Crombec, Crested & Red-headed Malimbe and also various forest starlings among others. We will also be in a prime area for a wide range of primates such as Blue & Red-tailed Monkeys and Black-and-white Colobus – and if lucky Chimpanzees. There is also a wide variety of butterfly species in the forest. Budongo forest has recorded over 200 butterfly species hence you will also be in for a treat as we look out for these butterflies.
Day 6: Whole day bird watching in the Royal Mile
A short bird watching drive from the Hotel at dawn will take us to one of the best of Uganda’s birdwatching spots, the Royal Mile. This is Uganda’s historically known leisure spot for the traditional King, hence the name Royal Mile.
Here the forest has been cut back a few meters along the sides of the main trail, which makes it a particularly good viewing area in this excellent forest.
Uganda Special Bird species here include White-thighed and Black-and-white-Casqued Hornbills, Yellow-spotted and Yellow billed Barbets, Western Black-headed Oriole, along with Red-tailed and Blue Monkeys. Overhead, Sabine’s and sometimes Cassin’s Spinetails soar over the clearings.
As we walk quietly along the trail, Red-tailed Ant-Thrushes skulk in the shadows, as do Red-tailed Bristle bill, Scaly-breasted, Pale-breasted and Brown Illadopsis. Greenbuls are always a challenge and include; Cameroon Sombre, Slender-billed, Honey guide and Spotted Greenbuls, whilst other regular species are; Speckled Tinker bird, Yellow-crested Woodpecker, Green Crombec, Rufous-crowned Eremomela, Yellow-browed Camaroptera, Buff-throated Apalis, and both White-breasted and Grey-headed Negro finches.
Lower down we should see Chocolate-backed and African Dwarf Kingfishers, White-spotted Flufftails and the elusive Nahan’s Francolin, believed to be one of the most handsome of all Ugandan birds. Other possibilities here are Great Sparrowhawk, Cassin’s Hawk-eagle, Crested Guinea fowl, Tambourine Dove, Grey Parrot, African Emerald and Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoos, Yellow bill, White-throated Bee-eater, Yellow-throated Tinker bird, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Yellow-crested Woodpecker, Dusky Tit, Western Nicator, Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat, Forest Robin, Black-throated and Black-capped Apalis, Yellow-browed Camaroptera, Brown-crowned Eremomela, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Sabine’s and Cassin’s Spine tails, Wilcock’s Honey guide, Yellow and Grey Long bills, Jameson’s Wattle-eye, Blue-throated Brown and Little Green Sunbirds, Rufous Flycatcher Thrush, Yellow-mantled Weaver, Red-headed Malimbe, the Uganda Woodland Warbler and the Ituri Batis.
Day 7: Bird watching to Kibale forest.
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. It contains one of the loveliest and most varied tracts of all tropical forests in Uganda. It hosts 13 species of primates including the chimpanzee. It has 1450 chimpanzees and these represent Uganda’s largest population of this endangered primate. It is also home to the rare L’hoest’s monkey and East Africa’s largest population of 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 also boasts 325 bird species, including 6 that are endemic to the Albertine Rift region. They include; the Black-capped Apalis, Blue-headed Sunbird, Collared Apalis, Dusky Crimsonwing, Purple-breasted Sunbird 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.
Day 8: Chimpanzee tracking Kibale forest National Park 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 on the weather predictions, birding Bigodi wetland is also productive with riverine forest birds including; Speckle-breasted Woodpecker, Cabanis’s Greenbul and Joyful Greenbul as well as White-spotted Fluff tail, Dusky and Olive Long tailed Cuckoo, Lesser Honey guide, Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat, White-chinned Prinia, Grey Apalis, Olive-green Camaroptera and White-collared Oliveback.
Day 9: Bird Watching 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. In terms of diversity this park ranks among the best birding destinations in Uganda with over 610 species recorded, and a one day record of 296 species and these include; Harlequin Quail, Blue Quail, Small (Common) Buttonquail, African Crake, White winged Warbler, Martial Eagle, African Skimmer, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Papyrus Gonolek, Amur Falcon, Ovampo Sparrowhawk, Lowland Akalat, Greater and Lesser Flamingo, Shoebill, Black Bee-eater, Caruthers’s Cisticola, Terek Sandpiper, Secretary Bird, and Temminck’s Courser. Mammals include; African Elephant, Spotted Hyena, Leopard, Lion, Ugandan Kobs, Side-striped Jackal, Baboons, Chimpanzees, Bush and Water Bucks, Warthogs, Giant Forest Hogs to mention but a few.
Day 10: Game Drive in Queen Elizabeth N. Park Uganda
After breakfast, we will have a morning game drive around the park. The fact that Queen Elizabeth National Park has got a diverse eco system of savannah to rain forest, from dense papyrus swamps and brooding crater lakes to the vastness of Lake Edward is a major contribution to the fact that it boasts one of the highest biodiversity ratings of any game park or reserve in the world.
While on the game drive, with the massive Rwenzoris as a backdrop, you will have excellent opportunities to see; the Lion, Leopard, Giant Forest hog, Cape Buffalo, Elephant, Deffassa Water buck, Uganda Kob, Topi, and Bush buck.
Day 11: Travel to Bwindi National Park.
Today we head further South to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Forest Birding in Bwindi offers one of the best bird watching experiences in Uganda and Africa as well, having been voted as the Number One Hotspot in Africa by African Bird Club Members. It is home to over 23 highly localized Albertine Rift endemics.
Depending on the season we may choose to go through the southern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park, where there are chances of encountering the Tree-climbing Lions.
Packed lunch will be arranged in advance to enjoy later as we travel. Depending on the time of arrival, we may enjoy birding on the self-guided Munyaga trail.
Day 12: Gorilla Trakking in Uganda
After an early breakfast, you will report to the park headquarters for briefing prior to the gorilla tracking excursion. This activity may take anywhere between 1 hour and 8 hours so a reasonable degree of fitness is required. It is a wonderful experience to stare in to the eyes of these gentle giants; watch them in awe as they play and go about their daily activities. It is indeed a “once in a lifetime” experience that you must never miss. Each encounter 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.
Day 13: Whole day bird watching on the Main trail – Uganda.
Bwindi is generally at a higher altitude and therefore is cooler. Temperatures range between 10 and 18 degrees centigrade. Forest birding at Bwindi ranks the best in Uganda. It is home to over 23 highly localized Albertine Rift endemics.
Specialty birds include; Black-faced Rufous Warbler, Grauer’s Warbler, Banded Prinia, Black-faced Apalis, Black-throated Apalis, Mountain Masked Apalis, Red-throated Alethe, Yellow-eyed Black-flycatcher, Ashy Flycatcher, Dusky-blue Flycatcher, Chapin’s Flycatcher, Chin-spot Batis, Cassin’s Grey Flycatcher, Rwenzori Batis, Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher, White-bellied Crested-flycatcher, Pale-breasted Illadopsis, Mountain Illadopsis, African Hill-Babbler, Dusky Tit, Blue-throated Brown Sunbird, Blue-headed Sunbird, Northern Double-collared Sunbird, Grey-headed Sunbird, Mackinnon’s Fiscal, Sooty Boubou, Pink-footed Puffback, Doherty’s Bush-shrike, White-naped Raven, Montane Oriole, African Golden Oriole, Stuhlmann’s Starling, Narrow-tailed Starling, Waller’s Starling, Strange Weaver, Brown-capped Weaver, Black-billed Weaver, Dusky Crimsonwing, Yellow-bellied Waxbill, Magpie Mannikin, Yellow-crowned Canary, Thick-billed Seedeater, 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, 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.
Day 14: Birding to Lake Mburo National Park
After breakfast, we will transfer to Lake Mburo arriving in the late evening. Lake Mburo National Park is 260 sq. km and it has markedly different fauna from other reserves. It is the only national park that contains an entire lake. Situated in rolling hills and open grassy valleys, the park also consists of 4 other smaller lakes. Lake Mburo National park is covered in extensive open and wooded acacia savannah. This park is home to the largest diversity of both plant and wildlife of all Uganda’s national parks. It is also the best place to see the gigantic eland antelope as well as well as Zebra, Topi, Impala, the more uncommon Klipspringer, Burchell’s Zebra, Buffalo, Hippopotamus, and several acacia associated birds.
Day 15 : Whole day Birding in the Park including a boat ride
After breakfast, we will have a morning game drive. You will have greater chances of viewing several animal species including; Zebras, Impalas, Elands, Topi and Buffalos. You will also view the park’s sculptured landscape with rolling grassy hills and idyllic shorelines. We will then have a boat ride where you will be able to spot hippos, crocodiles and a variety of water birds like; the Great White Egret, Pied Kingfisher, and brilliantly colored Papyrus Gonolek, Papyrus Yellow Warblers, African Finfoot, African Fish Eagle, the Night Heron and many more.
Day 16: Transfer to Entebbe.
After breakfast, we will transfer to Entebbe via Kampala arriving in good time for your departure flight. Overnight at Entebbe Travellers.
Day 17: Departure Day.
Evening departures will have an opportunity to bird in the Botanical Garden.