9 Days Birding and Gorilla Safaris in Uganda

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

9 Days Birding and Gorilla Safaris in Uganda

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

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

  • Covers all park entrance fees
  • 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
  • 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.

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.

  • 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.

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.

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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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