Classic Birding in Uganda + Gorilla Trek – 20 Days
Length: 20 days
Best time of year: June – July, Dec – Feb.
Key Sites: Mabamba and Kamengo, Budongo Forest, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Semliki Forest, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Targets: African piculet, Dwarf Honeyguide, Short Tailed Warbler, Tabora Cisiticola, African Green Broadbill, to the large Handsome Francolin, Black-casqued Wattled Hornbill, Shoebill, Rwenzori Turaco, and Secretary Bird.
Our Hardcore Birding safari in Uganda was designed exclusively for the serious birders, twitcher, or avid lister. We provide you exceptional access to key birding sites where we scope out Ugandan endemics, rarities, and elusive, secretive bird species. Our guide will focus on getting you the birds that you need rather than on general wildlife. They are skilled in calling birds with their lip whistles and will do everything possible to meet your expectations. Target birds will range from the smallest African Piculet, Dwarf Honeyguide, African Green Broadbill, to the large Handsome Francolin, Black-casqued Wattled Hornbill, Shoebill, Rwenzori Turaco, and Secretary Bird. Bring your most-wanted bird list along!
Day 1-Arrival. This is an optional day for birding depending on the time of arrival for the birding safari. Some may choose to rest and shed off the jet lag, while others go birding in and around Entebbe or Kampala. Stay at Lindsay Cottages, Entebbe Travellers’ Inn or Sophie’s Motel.
Day 2: Uganda Birding safari – Mabamba Wetland and transfer to Lake Mburo National Park.
After an early breakfast, we drive to Mabamba Swamp, 50km west of Kampala, and stop en route at Mpigi Swamp for papyrus rarities. Keep your eyes open for the White-winged Warbler, Papyrus Gonolek, Yellow-backed Weaver, Northern Brown-throated Weaver, Blue-headed Coucal, and other swamp specialties.
At the swamp, most of the birding activity is by canoe, paddled by our local site guides. Look for the Shoebill both in the sky and down on the marsh. This most famous and bizarre avian creature is the only representative in its family. Prepare to be mesmerized by watching the bird as it preens, showing off its grinning, wooden clog-like bill. You may also have marvelous views of it as it soars on broad wings.
Also watch for the; Swamp Flycatcher, African Purple Swamphen, African Water Rail, Common Moorhen, Lesser Jacana, African Jacana, African Pygmy Goose, White-faced Whistling-duck, Squacco, Rufous-bellied and Purple Heron, Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Winding Cisticola, Goliath Heron, Black Crake, African Marsh Harrier, Hamerkop, Malachite and Pied Kingfishers, Common Waxbill, Yellow-billed Duck, Blue-headed Cuckoo, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Intermediate Egret, Osprey, Long-toed Lapwing, African Pied Wagtail, and Red-billed Fire-finch.
Later, we transfer to Lake Mburo National Park. The park contains an extensive area of wetland. The bird population is rich, including the most sought after birds of Uganda, Green-backed Woodpecker, African Finfoot, Brown-chested Plover, Southern Ground-hornbill, Spot-flanked, Red-faced and Black-collared Barbets; White-winged Warbler, Papyrus Yellow Warbler, Carruthers Cisticola, Papyrus Gonolek, Yellow-billed Oxpecker and Northern Brown-throated Weaver.
Stay in Mantana Tented Camp, Arcadia Cottages or Mihingo Lodge for 2 nights.
Day 3: Birding safari in Lake Mburo National Park.
After an early breakfast, we go on a birding and game drive following numerous tracks in Lake Mburo National Park. You have chances of viewing mammals such as Zebra, Topi, Elephant, Eland, Impala, Buffalo, Water Buck, etc. Birds you have chances of viewing include; Black-headed Oriole, White-backed Scrub Robin, Bateleur, Ruppel’s Long-tailed Starling, Common Bulbul, Brown Parrot, Ruppel’s Griffon Vulture, Grey Hornbill, White-browed Coucal, Lesser Masked Weaver, Water Thick-knee, Wood Hoopoe, Verreux’s Eagle Owl, Woodland Kingfisher, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Little Bee-eater, Chinspot, Tawny Eagle, Senegal Lapwing, Plain-backed Pipit, Greater Honeyguide, Sooty Chat, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Red-faced Crombec, Brown-tailed, Bronze-tailed Starlings, Northern Brubru, Grey Kestrel, Coqui Francolin, Broad-billed Roller, Grassland Pipit, and Golden-breasted Bunting.
Day 4: Birding safari to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda
Today, we shall spend most of our day driving to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to approximately half of the world’s endangered population of Mountain Gorillas. This vast reserve arguably offers the most productive montane forest birding safari experience in Africa and supports 23 of Uganda’s 24 Albertine Rift endemic bird species.
Once part of a much larger forest that included the Virunga Volcanoes in neighboring Rwanda, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is now an ecological island within a sea of human cultivation and therefore of immense conservational importance. Buhoma lies in the valley of the Munyaga River at 5100 ft and is bordered by steep, forested hills. Excellent forest birding, including the possibility of numerous rare and localized Albertine Rift endemics, makes this an exceptional birding experience.
Stay in Bwindi view Guest House, Gorilla Resort or Community Bandas.
Day 5: Uganda Birding safari in Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest.
Forest birding at Bwindi ranks as the best bird watching in Uganda plus it is ranked as the number one hot spot in all of Africa (by members of the African Bird Club). 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, 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, African Green Broadbill, Lagdens 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 6: Gorilla trekking safari in Bwindi impentrable national park.
Gorilla tracking will be an optional excursion and those not wishing to go can spend time looking for the excellent birds around the lower trails accompanied by a local bird guide.
For those wishing to do the trekking, after breakfast, we shall assemble at the park offices for briefing prior to this historic event. Gorilla tracking is a captivating pursuit; it involves walking in the wilderness in search of these great apes. On occasions the Gorillas prove elusive but often can be found within an hour by the tracker guides. 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. This once-in-a-lifetime experience is NOT TO MISS!
Day 7: Birding safari to Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Today, we shall start early after breakfast and drive to Queen Elizabeth National Park. Due to the unpredictable rain seasons that sometimes make the roads impassable, we may either drive through Ishasha sector popularly known for its tree climbing lions or drive through the beautiful sceneries of Rukungiri district. Birding on the way may produce species such as Grey capped Warbler, African Long Crested Eagle, Augur Buzzard, Mackinnon’s Fiscal, Black headed waxbill, Black and white Manikin, Senegal Coucal, Red Chested Cuckoo, and others.
The Park, which is named after the Queen of England who visited it in 1954, is the second largest national park in Uganda. The park’s excellent biodiversity ranks it as one of the best birding sites in Uganda with over 610 species recorded (the one day record was 296 species).
Specialty species in the park include: Harlequin, Blue, Small (Common) Button Quails, African Crake, White-winged Warbler, Martial Eagle, African Skimmer, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Papyrus Gonolek, Amur Falcon, Ovampo Sparrow-hawk, Lowland Akalat, Greater and Lesser Flamingo, rare Shoebill, Black Bee-eater, Caruthers’s Cisticola, Terek Sandpiper, Secretary Bird, and Temminck’s Courser.
While on your birding safari, little will you avoid Mammals such as; 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.
Stay in Mweya Safari Lodge, Jacana Lodge or Mweya Hostel.
Day 8: Birding in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Boat trip on Kazinga Channel.
After breakfast we set out for a bird watching safari and game drive in Queen Elizabeth national park. Later in the afternoon you have an exciting boat cruise on the Kazinga channel. This is a narrow neck of water that connects Lakes George and Edward, with excellent photographic opportunities for waterside birds and abundant Hippopotamus. The birds you are likely to encounter include: African Skimmer, Striated Heron, African Spoonbill, Water Thick-knee, Three-banded Plover, Marsh, Green, Wood and Common Sandpiper, Gray-headed Gull, Plain Martin Lesser Swamp-Warbler and Yellow-billed Oxpecker.
Day 9: Uganda Birding safari to Imaramagambo Forest, transfer to Kibale Forest.
After an early breakfast, we head for Imaramagambo Forest. A few specialties at this forest include; the Yellow-bellied and Jameson’s Wattle-eyes, Black Bee-eater, White-tailed and Red-tailed Ant-Thrush, Brown and Grey-chested Illadopsis, Shinning Blue Kingfisher, Brown-eared Woodpecker, Narina Trogon, Least Honeyguide, Grey Greenbul, Brown-chested Alethe, and the African Finfoot. The trail through the forest leads past a bat cave, which is rather impressive, and if we are lucky we may come across a Python that lives in the cave and feasts on the bats.
Later in the afternoon, we drive to Kibale forest National Park. Kibale forest is a good site for a number of birds that are hard to find elsewhere including; Speckle-breasted Woodpecker, Cabanis’s Greenbul and Joyful Greenbul as well as White-spotted Flufftail, Dusky and Olive Longtailed Cuckoo, Lesser Honeyguide, Blue-shouldered Robin Chat, White-chinned Prinia, Grey Apalis, Olive-green Camaroptera and White-collared Oliveback. Stay at Chimpanzee Guesthouse, Nature Lodges and Ndali Lodge for three nights.
Day 10: Birdwatching safari in Uganda, Kibale Forest National Park (optional Chimp tracking).
After an early breakfast we drive to Kibale Forest National Park visitor center for briefing prior to chimp tracking. Kibale Forest is known for its thirteen species of primates; Monkeys like the; Black and White Colobus, Red Colubus, Red Tailed and Blue Monkeys. Others are Olive Baboon, Chimpanzee, Pottos and Bush Babies. Our tracking may last for a few to several hours and we will conduct light birding along the way.
Bird watching in the afternoon along the main road may be productive. Depending on the weather predictions, birding Bigodi wetland is also productive with riverine forest specialties. Species include: Black headed, Grosbeak, Black-necked, Vieillot’s, and Black billed Weavers, Speckled Mouse-bird, Mosque Swallow, Blue Flycatcher, Black and White Mannikin, Red-eyed Dove, White-chinned Prinia, Little Grey and Joyful Greenbuls, Grey-winged Robin-chat, Lead-colored Flycatcher, Open-billed Stork, Olive-bellied Sunbird, White-throated Apalis, White-winged Warbler, Black-billed Turaco, White-spotted Flufftail, Alpine Swift, Collared Sunbird, Papyrus Sunbird, White-breasted Negro-finch, Superb Sunbird, Black-faced Rufous Warbler, Hadada Ibis, Senegal Plover, Purple-headed Starling, Toro Olive Greenbul, Black-crowned Waxbill, Brown-backed, White-crowned Scrub-robins, Ayre’s Hawk Eagle, Abdim’s Stork, Red-headed Bluebill, Black-headed Heron, Senegal Coucal, Spectacled Weaver, Cameroon Sombre Greenbul, Red-faced Cisicola, Bocages (Grey Green) Bush Shrike, Hairy-breasted Barbet, Black and White Casqued Hornbill, Yellow White-eye, Tambourine Dove, Dark-capped Yellow, Grey-capped Warblers, Shining Blue Kingfisher, Black and White Shrike-flycatcher.
Day 11: Birding Kibale Forest National Park – Uganda
After breakfast, we head once more into Kabale Forest looking for any species we may have missed the previous day. Our trip list needs will take us to either the Sebitoli section or the Kanyancu area. Here, we have chances of seeing the; Black-billed Turacco, Honeyguide Greenbul, Purple-headed Starling, Hairy-breasted Barbet, Green-throated Sunbird, Little Green Sunbird, White-tailed Ant-thrush, Mountain Wagtail, Narrow-tailed Starling, Superb Sunbird, Black and White Casqued Hornbill, African Grey Parrot, Black Weaver, Speckled Tinkerbird, Long-crested Eagle, and many others.
Day 12: Uganda Bird watching safari to Budongo forest. We take a long drive to Budongo, arriving late afternoon. If time allows, we may bird along the way at Busingiro section of Budongo Forest.
Stay in Masindi Hotel or Court View Hotel for three nights.
Day 13: Bird watching safari in uganda – The Royal Mile.
A short drive from the hotel at dawn will take us to one of Uganda’s best bird watching sites, the Royal Mile. The Royal Mile is so called because this has historically been a leisure spot for the traditional King.
Here the main trail in this excellent forest has been cut back a few meters along both sides which makes for particularly good viewing. Specialty birds in Budongo 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 Bristlebill, Scaly-breasted, Pale-breasted and Brown Illadopsis. Greenbuls are ever a challenge and include Cameroon Sombre, Slender-billed, Honeyguide and Spotted, whilst other regular species are; Speckled Tinkerbird, Yellow-crested Woodpecker, Green Crombec, Rufous-crowned Eremomela, Yellow-browed Camaroptera, Buff-throated Apalis, and both White-breasted and Grey-headed Negrofinches. Lower down we should see Chocolate-backed and African Dwarf Kingfishers, White-spotted Flufftails and the elusive Nahan’s Francolin. Other possibilities here are; Great Sparrow-hawk, Cassin’s Hawk-eagle, Crested Guinea-fowl, Tambourine Dove, Grey Parrot, African Emerald and Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoos, Yellowbill, White-throated Bee-eater, Yellow-throated Tinkerbird, 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 Spinetails, Wilcock’s Honeyguide, Yellow and Grey Longbills, Jameson’s Wattle-eye, Blue-throated Brown and Little Green Sunbirds, Rufous Flycatcher Thrush, Yellow-mantled Weaver, Red-headed Malimbe and Uganda Woodland Warbler, Ituri Batis.
Day 14: Birdwatching safari – Busingiro Section.
On this day, we bird in the Busingiro section of Budongo Forest. Specialties here include; Red-headed Malimbe, Sooty Flycatcher, Ituri Batis, Tit Hylia, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Buff-throated Apalis, Black-throated Apalis, Chestnut Wattle-eye, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Green Sunbird, Superb Sunbird, Tambourine Dove, Golden-breasted Bunting, Rufous Flycatcher Thrush, African Jacana, African Fish Eagle, Sabine’s Spinetail, White-rumped Spinetail, Pied Kingfisher, Angola Swallow, Purple-headed Starling, Hamerkop, White-headed Saw-wing, Cassin’s Spinetail, Osprey, Black-shouldered Kite, Senegal Coucal.
Day 15: Birding Safari – Murchison Falls National Park.
After breakfast, we drive northwards to Murchison Falls National Park birding through the Escarpment. Special birds include; Cliff Chat, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Grey headed Bush Shrike, Singing Cisticola, African Finfoot, Namaqua Dove, Green-winged Pytilia, Red-backed Shrike, Crested Francolin, Black-headed Bush Shrike, Northern and Black-winged Red Bishops, Black Bellied Firefinch, Black-faced Waxbill and March Tchagra.
Stay at Red Chill Camp, Sambiya River Lodge, Para Lodge and Nile Safari Lodge for 3 nights.
Days 16-17: Uganda Birding safari at the northern bank of River Nile,Launch trip to the bottom of Falls, and birding to the top Falls.
We start birding after an early breakfast. Depending on the information available from our site guides, we may choose to take a boat along the Victoria Nile or game drive to the delta.
Special birds to look for include; Shoebill, Secretary Bird, Abyssinian Roller and Ground Hornbill, Pied Kingfishers, Red-throated Bee-eaters, 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 specials 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 and Golden-backed Weavers, White-rumped Seedeater, Pel’s 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 18: Bird watching safari in Budongo Forest, Kanio Pabide section
After an early breakfast, we bird through woodlands southwards toward the Kanio Pabide section of Budongo Forest. Birding in the forest and along Masindi Road is impressively productive. Special birds at Budongo include; Rufous-sided Broadbill, the very rare Puvell’s Illadopsis, Red-tailed Ant-thrush, Yellow and Grey Long bills, Whistling Cisticola, Black Bishop, Red-headed and Red-billed Quelleas, Magpie Mannikin, Blue-throated Roller, Yellow-billed Shrike, Pigmy Sunbird, African Harrier Hawk, Blue Sunbird, Olive-bellied Sunbird, Chestnut Wattle-eye, Brown-eared Woodpecker, Rufous Flycatcher Thrush, Forest Robin, Red-headed Bristlebill, Paradise Flycatcher, Emerald Cuckoo, Double-collared Sunbird, Hairy-breasted Barbet, Little Greenbul, Slender-billed Greenbul, Buff-throated Apalis, Icterine Greenbul, Xavier’s Greenbul, Cameroon Sombre, Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo. The forest is also home to Chimpanzees.
Stay in Masindi Hotel or Court View Hotel.
Day 19: Birding safari to Entebbe – Uganda.
After an early breakfast, we embark on a long drive back to Kampala and bird along the way. Stay in Lindsay Cottages, Entebbe Travellers’ Inn or Sophie’s Motel.
Day 20: End of Uganda Hardcore Birding safari / Departure.