9 Days Birding and Gorilla Safaris in Uganda

  • Kisoro - Mgahinga Gorilla National Park - Ruhija - Bwindi Impenetrable Forest - Entebbe

Overview

Bird Watching and Gorilla Tracking East Africa Safaris

This impressive gorilla tracking and birding tour takes you to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in southwestern Uganda. Forest birding in this part of the country ranks the best in the country as it is home to over 23 highly-localized Albertine Rift endemic species. You will also have the chance to meet awesome gorillas and experience the Uganda equator along the way. This trip will definitely be an interesting and memorable one.

Highlights

  • Uganda equator experience
  • Birding tour in Mgahinga National Park
  • Nature walks in the Mubwindi and Kaaku swamps
  • Birding tour in Echuya Central Forest and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
  • Once in a lifetime Gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
  • 8 nights accommodation
  • Airport transfers
  • All daily meals

Group sizes

The maximum participants in the group is 8.

  • 8 activity days
  • English
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You will be accommodated either in single, double, or triple rooms. For the first night, you will be staying either at the Kisoro Travellers Hotel or Kisoro Tourist Hotel. For the second night, you will be staying at the Kisoro Travellers Hotel. From the third until the seventh night, you will be staying either at the Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp Uganda, Lake Kitandara Bwindi Lodge, or Buhoma Homestead. For the eighth and final night, you will be staying either at the Windsor Hotel or Sophie’s Motel in Entebbe.

Hotel

    Private single roomHotel

    Private double roomHotel

    Private triple roomHotel

    Day 1 - Arrival in Uganda and travel to Kisoro

    Upon arrival at Entebbe International Airport (EBB), you will be met by a birding guide with whom you will travel to the town of Kisoro in the southwestern tip of the country. You will have a stopover at the Uganda equator and proceed to Mbarara before heading further down to Kisoro, where you will have dinner and an overnight stay. You will spend the night at Kisoro Travellers Hotel or Kisoro Tourist Hotel.

    Day 2 - Birding in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

    After breakfast, you will head over to Ntebeko Camp in the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park where you will start a trek to probably the most scenic and protected area in Uganda. You will take the gorge trail that loops half way up Mount Sabyinyo and pass through a variety of mountain habitats looking for birds like the dusky turtle dove, Rwenzori turaco, Cape robin-chat, white-eyed slaty flycatcher, grassland pipit, and many more. You will spend the night at Kisoro Travellers Hotel.

    Day 3 - Birding in Echuya Central Forest Reserve

    On the way to the village of Ruhija, you will do birdwatching through the Echuya Central Forest Reserve, with a stop at a spent papyrus swamp on the outflow of Lake Bunyonyi to look for greater swamp warbler, papyrus yellow warbler, and papyrus canary. These birds are elusive and so a little bit of luck is needed. You will also look for Carruther’s cisticolas and little rush warblers. The drive will continue to Ruhija to look for birds including the handsome francolin, olive pigeon, western green tinkerbird, and more. You will spend the night at Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp Uganda, Lake Kitandara Bwindi Lodge, or Buhoma Homestead.

    Day 4 - Birding in Mubwindi swamp

    After breakfast, you will walk down to the Mubwindi swamp looking for birds like the black-billed turaco, western green tinkerbird, fine-banded woodpecker, African green broadbill, mountain greenbul, yellow-streaked greenbul, African hill babbler, mountain illadopsis, yellow-eyed black flycatcher, red-faced woodland warbler, Grauer’s warbler, Grauer’s rush warbler, and much more. You will spend the night at Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp Uganda, Lake Kitandara Bwindi Lodge, or Buhoma Homestead.

    Day 5 - Birding on the way to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

    You will be on a birding drive to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in search for birds including the tambourine dove, black bee-eater, red-throated wryneck, mountain wagtail, Toro olive greenbul, white-starred robin, olive thrush, Cassin’s grey flycatcher, red-faced woodland warbler, Grauer’s warbler, Chubb’s cisticola, banded prinia, mountain masked apalis, and many more. You will spend the night at Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp Uganda, Lake Kitandara Bwindi Lodge, or Buhoma Homestead.

    Day 6 - Birding in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

    After an early breakfast, you will start birding the main trail in search for species like the African goshawk, bar-tailed trogon, black bee-eater, white-headed wood-hoopoe, tinkerbirds, barbets, woodpeckers, African broadbill, assorted greenbuls, white-bellied robin-Chat, red-throated alethe, Chapin’s flycatcher, red-faced woodland warbler, black-faced rufous warbler, and many more.You will spend the night at Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp Uganda, Lake Kitandara Bwindi Lodge, or Buhoma Homestead.

    Day 7 - Gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

    After an early breakfast, you will set off for gorilla tracking to meet the amazing mountain gorillas. For those who prefer to continue birding, you will have an early breakfast and start birding the waterfall trail to look for species that may have been missed and, perhaps, to get better views of the ones you've seen from the previous day. You will be looking for birds like the red-chested owlet, black bee-eater, African broadbill, and white-tailed crested flycatcher. If you're lucky, you will be able to spot the Fraser’s eagle-owl. You will spend the night at Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp Uganda, Lake Kitandara Bwindi Lodge, or Buhoma Homestead.

    Day 8 - Birding in Kaaku swamp

    It will take you a whole day to drive to Kampala, arriving in the late afternoon. On the way, you will stop at Kaaku swamp for more birds including the rufous-bellied heron, Hottentot teal, purple swamp hen, lilac-breasted roller, striped kingfisher, and golden-backed weaver. You will then continue with the drive to Entebbe for an overnight stay. Overnight will be at Windsor Hotel or Sophie’s Motel.

    Day 9 - Departure from Uganda

    You will be transferred to Entebbe International Airport (EBB) for your flight back home.

    Practical advice to make your gorilla safari more enjoyable

    • For most travelers, trekking the mountain gorillas ranks among one of the absolute highlights of a trip to Uganda, and the spine-tingling feeling that you get being so near to one of man's closest relatives is hard to describe.
    • Mountain gorillas are one of the world’s most endangered apes and it is estimated that there are only 880 (November 2012) left throughout the world. Almost half of these can be found in Uganda, as well as in populations in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
    • According to The Ugandan Wildlife Authority, there is a 95% chance that you will come across the gorillas on your trek. Your journey will be an exhilarating one, cutting your way through dense jungle and thick bamboo, past local homesteads and up to forested hills. Tracking spans vary and can be anything from as little as 30 minutes to seven hours. Your efforts will be rewarded with your first sighting of the gorillas, as these gentle giants shyly approach you and you come face-to-face with one of nature’s greatest animals.

    Before you set off on your mountain gorilla tracking safari

    • Be in reasonable shape and have no communicable diseases, cold, or flu. If you need to cough, sneeze, or blow your nose, move your head away from the gorilla in order to keep the risk of infection to a minimum.
    • Be at least 15 years of age.
    • Always wash your hands before you head out to the gorillas.
    • Wear appropriate clothing. Since it is often cool there, a jacket might be helpful. Bring a light backpack where you can put your packed lunch, and wear proper boots to support your ankles.

    The mountain gorilla tracking experience

    • A maximum number of eight visitors may visit a group (family) of habituated gorillas in a day. This minimizes behavioral disturbances to the gorillas and the risk of their exposure to human-borne diseases.
    • Pack it in and pack it out. Do not leave rubbish in the park. Whatever you bring into the forest should be carried back with you since it would spoil it for the next visitors.
    • You will be taken to where the guides left the gorillas the day before. From there, you will follow the gorillas’ trail to find them. Look out for the gorilla nesting sites along the way.
    • When you approach the gorillas, the guides will inform you when to get your cameras ready.
    • Please always keep your voices low. This will ensure that you will be able to observe the beautiful birds and other wildlife in the forest.

    In the presence of mountain gorillas - your time with the gorillas

    • Keep a minimum distance of five to seven meters (15 to 21 feet) from the gorillas. This reduces the risk of transmitting diseases between humans and gorillas.
    • Keep your voices pretty low at all times, but it is okay to ask the guide questions.
    • Do not partake of food nor drinks in the presence of the mountain gorillas.
    • Sometimes, the mountain gorillas charge. Follow the guide’s example by crouching down slowly, and do not look the gorillas in the eyes. Wait for the gorilla to pass you by and do not attempt to run away as this will increase the risk of attack.
    • Flash photography is not allowed. When taking pictures, move slowly and carefully. Do not make lots of movements when taking pictures. Keep it calm.
    • Do not touch the mountain gorillas. Remember that they are wild animals.
    • The maximum time visitors are allowed to spend with the gorillas is one hour. However, if the gorillas become agitated or nervous, the guide will end the visit earlier.
    • After the visit, keep your voices low until you are at least 200 meters away from the gorillas.

    Health guidelines

    • Since mountain gorillas are closely-related to humans, they are susceptible to diseases carried by humans.
    • Always wash your hands before you head out to the gorillas.
    • If you're not well, let it be known and remove yourself from the gorilla tracking team.
    • If you need to cough, sneeze, or blow your nose, move your head away from the gorilla in order to keep the risk of infection to a minimum.
    • No smoking, eating of food, or drinking of beverages is allowed in the presence of the mountain gorillas.

    Acquiring Uganda mountain gorilla tracking permits

    The African mountain gorillas in Uganda are one of the main attractions to visitors of the country. Mountain gorilla tracking (trekking) permits are a much sought after commodity and with a small number of people allowed to track each day, it takes a lot of planning to ensure an opportunity of the tracking of mountain gorillas in Uganda. Since the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo is unstable presently, there is more pressure on mountain gorilla tracking permits in Uganda. Fortunately, there is also Rwanda that is just a hop across the border from Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and, at times, the Mgahinga Gorilla Park area.

    Saso Uganda Safaris can help you acquire and track a Uganda gorilla tracking permit even if you are coming from Rwanda, and also arrange transportation.Your best bet for obtaining a mountain gorilla tracking permit is to book a mountain gorilla tracking safari with Saso Uganda Safaris as a three-day safari or as part of a longer safari taking place in other Uganda national parks such as the Chimpanzees at Kibale, and the wildlife, birds, and chimpanzees at Queen Elizabeth National Park.

    The mountain gorilla trekking permits costs 600 USD each. You must be at least 15 years of age. Permits can be obtained for two different parks which are Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla Park. However, the situation in Mgahinga is a bit more fluid since the habituated mountain gorilla group there moves back and forth to Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    Since Saso Uganda Safaris is a tour operator and registered as such in Uganda, they have a better opportunity to meet your schedule and, if you book a mountain gorilla tracking safari with them, they are flexible to adjust the date of the gorilla tracking to fit into the overall safari itinerary they have for you. Most people going on a mountain gorilla tracking safari actually see them, since your guide is extremely knowledgeable about the area where your habituated group is located in.

    Upon completion of your successful tracking safari, you will be issued a certificate by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. The 600 USD may seem steep, but it’s worth it and upon completion, there will be no mention of the money - only a satisfaction of having seen these magnificent and rare animals.

    • Birding tour in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
    • Birding tour in Echuya Central Forest Reserve
    • Birding tour in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
    • Birding tour in Kaaku swamp
    • Birding tour in Mubwindi swamp
    • Gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
    • Visit to Uganda equator

    Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

    This forest lies in southwestern Uganda on the edge of the Great Rift Valley. Its mist-covered hillsides are blanketed by one of Uganda’s oldest and most biologically-diverse rain forests, which dates back to over 25,000 years and contains almost 400 species of plants. Also, more famously, it protects an estimated 320 mountain gorillas, which is roughly half of the world’s population, including several habituated gorilla groups which can be tracked.

    This biologically diverse region also provides shelter to a further 120 mammals, including several primate species such as baboons and chimpanzees, as well as elephants and antelopes. There are species of birds hosted in this forest, including 23 Albertine Rift endemic species.

    The neighboring towns of Buhoma and Nkuringo both have an impressive array of luxury lodges, rustic bandas, and budget campsites, as well as restaurants, craft stalls, and guiding services. Opportunities abound to discover the local Bakiga and Batwa pygmy cultures through performances, workshops, and village walks.

    Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

    This national park is yet another haven for the persecuted mountain gorilla. Located on the slopes of the Virunga Mountains in the extreme southwest corner of Uganda, the park has been set aside to provide a secure habitat for gorillas. It sits high in the clouds at an altitude of between 2,227 and 4,127 meters. As its name suggests, it was created to protect the rare mountain gorillas that inhabit its dense forests, and it is also an important habitat for the endangered golden monkey.

    As well as being important for wildlife, the park also has a huge cultural significance, in particular, to the indigenous Batwa pygmies. This tribe of hunter-gatherers was the forest’s first people, and their ancient knowledge of its secrets remains unrivaled.

    Mgahinga’s most striking features are its three conical, extinct volcanoes which are part of the spectacular Virunga mountain range that lies along the border regions of Uganda, Congo, and Rwanda. It forms part of the much larger Virunga conservation area which includes adjacent parks in these countries. The volcanoes’ slopes contain various ecosystems and are biologically diverse, and their peaks provide a striking backdrop to this gorgeous scenery.

    All daily meals, starting with dinner on the first night until dinner on the final night, are included in the price of this retreat.

    The following meals are included:

    • Breakfast
    • Lunch
    • Dinner

    The following dietary requirements are served and/or catered for:

    • Regular (typically includes meat and fish)
    (If you have special dietary requirements it's a good idea to communicate it to the organiser when making a reservation)
    • 1 gorilla tracking tour in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
    • 3 daily meals, except for the first and last day
    • 8 nights accommodation
    • All birding tours within the national parks
    • All park entrance and related fees
    • Birding tours at the Kaaku and Mubwindi swamps
    • Bottled drinking water on safari
    • Drinks during meal times
    • English-speaking driver and local guide
    • Private four-by-four ground transportation
    • Transfer from and to Entebbe International Airport (EBB)
    • Visit to the Uganda equator
    • Any additional activities, services, or tours
    • Departure taxes
    • International airfare cost
    • Laundry service
    • Other drinks and beverages
    • Tips and gratuities
    • Travel and medical insurance costs
    • Visa costs

    Arrival by airplane

    Please book your flight to arrive at Entebbe International Airport (EBB). Transfer from and to the airport is included. The organizer will pick you up from the airport.

    • A reservation requires a deposit of 50% of the total price.
    • The deposit is fully refundable if the booking is cancelled up to 12 days before the arrival date.
    • The rest of the payment should be paid 9 days before arrival.

    Testimonials

    • Review by Eli

      "What a fantastic trip with Saso Uganda Safaris! We went on a five-day tour visiting the gorillas in Bwindi, game drives in queen Queen Elizabeth National Park and chimpanzee and primate safaris in Kibale. Wilson had arranged everything to perfection. He had arranged excellent hotels, the best guides in the parks, and good lunch places. When the guide on the chimpanzee tour was about to give up on seeing chimpanzees on the ground, Wilson encouraged him to continue and make an effort so that we could see them (which we did). He was so flexible and easy going. He drove very safely in the chaotic Ugandan traffic. We felt safe all the time. If I’m ever going back to Uganda, I would absolutely go on another trip with Saso and I will definitely recommend it to my friends. Maybe it sounds like I’m exaggerating, but I have been traveling to about 60 countries, but this experience was definitely one of the best!"

      Saso Uganda Safaris website, edited

    • Review by Hannes

      "We went on a tour with Saso Uganda Safaris and I could not be more satisfied. We went on a gorilla safari, a game drive in Queen Elizabeth National Park, and a chimpanzee safari in Kibale. Our guide, Wilson, arranged everything to perfection. With his experience and knowledge, he made sure we got to see the gorilla family that is most used to humans. Because of that, we got really close to the gorillas, which was a truly amazing experience. Furthermore, the trip was affordable and all accommodations were of good standard. If you would like to go to Uganda on a vacation or a safari, I would recommend you to contact Saso Uganda Safaris. You will not be disappointed!"

      Saso Uganda Safaris website, edited

    • Review by Sempijja

      "This is the best trip we ever had! I would like to first and foremost thank Saso Uganda Safaris for the great time they gave me and my family. At the beginning of this year, my wife and I decided to take a trip to western Uganda to see the amazing animals in the game parks. Since we both work and live abroad, we decided that when we go back to Uganda for a vacation in June, we should get a safari company that will enable us make our dream come true. A friend of ours who has already went with Saso Uganda Safaris referred us to the company and assured us of having no regrets with them. We got to them and they treated us with a lot of care and comfort. We talked about the places we wanted to visit and how everything would go on. They introduced us to a gentleman by the name of Charles, who was to be our driver and guide. Charles knew his job very well, which helped us in enjoying the trip fully. He first taught us about the safety measures, which showed us that we were in the hands of the right person. We spent three days on the trip and he helped us so much with the animal names since he was so fond of them. He drove us so well and he took us to Queen Elizabeth National Park and Kidepo National Park. We really had fun and look forward to going with Saso for more educational and fun trips. Thank you so much once again."

      Saso Uganda Safaris website, edited

    • Review by Terry Johan

      "The three-day tour to Bwindi Bwindi Impenetrable National Park was quite fantastic. I and my family will always prefer to travel with Saso Uganda Safaris as we had the best tour guide. We were able to see the gorillas."

      Saso Uganda Safaris website, edited

    • Review by Namaalwa Gladys

      "The best travel agency that everyone would wish to travel with. Just love the way your people handled my safari."

      Saso Uganda Safaris Facebook page, edited

    • Review by Cherry Mill

      "Amazing personalized three-day trip! Saso Uganda Safaris gave me the tour of a lifetime! I was in Kampala on my own for work for the first time and had three free days to see the country. Saso Uganda Safaris created a personal tour which included gorilla tracking in the Bwindi National Park, chimpanzee tracking in Kisoro, and a safari wildlife tour across the Queen Elizabeth National Park, where we saw tree-climbing lions, elephants, hippos, baboons, buffalos, antelopes, monkeys, and some amazing birds close up, more than I could have dreamed of. It was also fascinating to drive across the country and see rural Uganda, the beautiful green countryside, including tea plantations and banana groves and African village life close up. Wilson, my tour guide, could spot and identify any animal at a great distance. We did not miss anything en route. He could answer any question about the animals and locations and knew all the rangers and staff in the parks and lodges, which meant he could adapt our itinerary on the fly and fit in as much as possible to make my trip the best he could. I felt totally safe at every moment of the trip. He was a first class driver and navigated the ‘African massage’ roads with amazing skill. I did not know much about Uganda before this trip. In three days, I saw and learnt so much. I have been on three other safaris in Africa and my Uganda trip was by far the best, thanks to Saso Uganda Safaris. It was very good value for money too. Highly recommended."

      Saso Uganda Safaris website , edited

    • Review by a traveler from Kampala, Uganda

      "It's highly recommended. Saso Uganda Safaris provides a superb experience."

      Saso Uganda Safaris Facebook page, edited

    • Review by Burt

      "I decided to visit Uganda after I read about it online and what really grabbed my attention was the term “Pearl of Africa”. I grabbed my bags and came over to Uganda to find out myself. I have to tell you, Wilson and his team at Saso Uganda Safaris did not disappoint at helping me to define that. Thank you, Wilson. God bless!"

      Saso Uganda Safaris website , edited

    • Review by a traveler

      "I was so amazed at how our guide told his stories about the wild nature while driving our 4x4 safari vehicle with so many skills. We enjoyed our safari and everyone still talks about it. Thank you guys! "

      Saso Uganda Safaris website , edited

    Kampala, Uganda

    Saso Uganda Safaris offers wildlife and gorilla tracking safaris and tours in the famous jungles of Uganda and Rwanda. They are passionate about nature and aim to deliver enriching travel experiences.

    Speaks English

    from --

    9 days / 8 nights

    Special discount

    Clients who book this safari in the months of April, May, and June 2017 are eligible for a special discount of 150 USD per person.

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