Summary : You push aside a tangled rope of vine, pressing through the maze of foliage, when at last you see them. Ten or twelve gorillas sit in a forest clearing, two more up in a tree. They stop munching for a moment to observe you, nonchalant. A few feet away you spy the big silverback. Twice the size of the young females, he sits on massive haunches, stripping leaves from branches. He’s close enough to hold your gaze with his liquid brown eyes. Something primal, inexplicable, connects the two of you in that moment, when the world exists only within this rarest of encounters. On this riveting wildlife expedition, meet mountain gorillas at close range and observe a host of other primates, too, including chimpanzees.
Activities : Birding, Hiking
Your Uganda tour begins in Entebbe, where you are transferred on arrival to the Protea Hotel Entebbe. If time permits, you may opt to visit the famous Entebbe Botanical Gardens. Established in 1902, the gardens house a fine collection of plants from the country's tropical, sub-tropical and temperate zones. Home to a wide variety of bird species, the gardens also offer an excellent introduction to Uganda’s many birds. Vervet and black-and-white colobus monkeys are commonly spotted here as well. Meet your Expedition Leader at a welcome dinner this evening.
Protea Hotel Entebbe
The drive to Kibale Forest traverses the verdant highlands of Uganda, where fertile volcanic soil supports a tapestry of tea, coffee and banana plantations. Arrive in time for refreshments around the pool and to watch the sun dip behind the Rwenzori Mountains. The following morning, a “swamp walk” through a wetland sanctuary reveals more than 100 species of birds. After lunch, meet your local trackers to begin your first chimp trek. This equatorial rain forest reserve has the highest concentration of primates in the world, including 500 chimpanzees. You may also see red colobus, black-and-white colobus, red tails, gray-cheeked mangabey and other monkeys. On your return, there's time to relax and enjoy the view from your accommodations at Ndali Lodge, a collection of eight thatched cottages perched on the rim of a crater lake.
After a morning forest walk in search of chimpanzees, drive to Queen Elizabeth National Park along the western Rift Valley to arrive at Mweya Lodge, sitting atop a peninsula that juts out into the Kazinga Channel. Every room overlooks the channel, which boasts the world's largest concentration of hippos. Guests also enjoy magnificent views of Lake George and Lake Edward, not to mention wild forest hogs grazing just outside the windows and an abundance of colorful local birds.
On a boat trip down the Kazinga Channel, find profuse numbers of crocodiles and hippos, and baboons frequently entertain from the banks. Elsewhere in the park, see an array of classic African wildlife, possibly spotting lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and antelope. The volcanic Rwenzori range, also called the “Mountains of the Moon,” provides a dramatic backdrop, their snowcapped heights rising over 16,000 feet. On the morning of Day 6, travel overland via a wildlife drive into the southern Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth Park, where you overnight at Ishasha Wilderness Camp.
Ishasha Wilderness Camp
This morning, explore the Ishasha region, home to Queen Elizabeth Park's famous tree-climbing lions—one of just two populations of such lions that climb trees as part of their day-to-day behavior (the other is found in Lake Manyara National Park in Tanzania). Though no one knows for sure, some speculate that these lions climb trees to protect themselves against the numerous biting tsetse flies that stay nearer the ground, whereas others believe they seek respite from the heat by availing themselves of cool breezes through the branches. Then, head westward to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, watching the scenery gradually change from open savanna to dense green rain forest on the mountain slopes. Time permitting, visit a school in a nearby village, then settle in at Mahogany Springs Lodge, a luxury camp on the side of a misty mountain, and your gorilla-trekking base.
Mahogany Springs Lodge
Rise early this morning in anticipation of a peerless experience: the chance to look into the face of a wild gorilla. The trail through the primeval rain forest is challenging, sometimes slick and steep, but full of rewards. Hike into the jungle that early explorers called the “Impenetrable Forest,” and the name feels apt. Bwindi is home to nearly half the world’s mountain gorillas—about 340—a population that is under severe threat. Three groups are habituated to human contact, and you hope to reach one of them by midday. Tracking them to their last known location, your guide looks for signs of their presence: broken vegetation revealing a night nest, stripped bark indicating feeding, and dung. Anticipation mounts as you climb over vines and foliage to approach the group. Your guide signals for silence, then proclaims your intentions with amiable grunts. You may see a range of ages: youngsters playing in the trees, mothers carrying babies, and the mighty silverback, patriarch of the troop. No wildlife encounter will surpass the thrill of meeting these magnificent primates, so much like us, in their own habitat.
Mahogany Springs Lodge
Your Uganda safari tour comes to a close today with a charter flight back to Entebbe where you'll have a farewell meal together before transferring to the airport for departing flights.
Itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Getting There & Getting Home:
Arrive in Entebbe, Uganda by 6 pm on Day 1 to attend a 7 pm welcome dinner. If you would like to visit the famous Entebbe Botanical Gardens, plan to arrive in Entebbe by 1pm. Travelers are encouraged to arrive a day or more early to rest from the plane trip. You are free to depart Entebbe after 4pm on the final day. Please contact ExpeditionTrips to confirm schedule before purchasing air tickets.
The strenuous (sometimes very strenuous) trek to the gorillas usually takes between two and five hours, but can take as short as fifteen minutes and as long as eight hours or more. It is best to be prepared for a full-day out in humid or sometimes even rainy conditions as the exact distance of the gorillas is impossible to determine ahead of time. The terrain is varied and oftentimes uneven as you traverse the forest floor, but you will travel at a pace to accommodate all hikers with a designated porter to assist each traveler. Travelers are not required to participate in all activities and are welcome to forego any portion of the program, but in order to take full advantage of the itinerary and in order to view the primates, one must be able to participate in the hikes. Travelers should be aware that if they turn around due to fatigue, illness or any other reason the remainder of the group, including the Expedition Leader, will go on. The returning traveler will be escorted by a local guide.
Charter flight from Bwindi to Entebbe, accommodations, airport transfers on Day 1 and final day, meals from dinner Day 1 to lunch final day, purified water, soft drinks, services of Expedition Leader, local guides, lodge staff, gorilla trackers, and one porter on gorilla treks, permits for two chimpanzee treks, most gratuities, all entrance fees and taxes.
Travel to and from start and end point of trip, permit fees for two gorilla treks (to be added to your invoice and subject to change through day of departure), alcoholic beverages, some gratuities, passport and visa fees, optional activities, items of a personal nature (phone calls, souvenirs, etc.), airline baggage fees, airport and departure taxes, optional travel insurance, and required medical evacuation insurance.
PHOTOS: © Richard Field, NHA (Gorilla); Suzanna Spencer, NHA (Young Gorilla); Matt Goddard, NHA (Elephant); Trista Gauge, NHA (Chimp); Patrick Endres, NHA (Travelers); Eric Rock, NHA (Lioness)