Uganda: Shoebills, Endemics, Gorillas & Chimpanzees

15 Days from
$9,595 USD
Land Tour
Highlights

Highlights

  • Wonderful birds including Shoebills and Albertine Rift endemics
  • Gorilla and Chimpanzee trekking
  • Spectacular scenery from Lake Victoria and the tropical lowlands and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to the Virunga Range
Map

Map

Tour Overview

Experience “the Best of Uganda”!  Uganda, once referred to as the pearl of Africa, has long been famed as a “Bird Watcher‘s Delight” supporting at least one thousand species and all within a small area. We will search for Shoebills, Albertine Rift endemics as well as many spectacular widespread species. We will also trek to find Gorillas and Chimpanzees, and visit the stunning Lake Victoria.

In only two weeks, we shall follow a circuit that encompasses a diverse selection of forest, savanna and wetland habitats. You can also expect to see a diversity of African mammals including zebras, elephants, lions and more.

This will be a truly marvelous and unforgettable birding and wildlife adventure!

Dates & Prices

DATES & PRICES

What's Included

Tour Price Includes

  • All meals and bottled water
  • All accommodation
  • Private 4 x 4 ground transportation
  • One EET guide plus a local guide with 4 - 12 participants
  • All park, conservation and entrance fees
  • Boat rides
  • Nature walk fees
  • Gorilla Permit Fees are included in the cost (if you opt out, you will receive a discount on the tour price of US$580)
  • Non-alcoholic drinks at meals
  • Gratuities to local guides, porters, driver and hotel staff

Tour Price Does Not Include

  • Optional Chimpanzee permit (subject to availability, $200) not included
  • Flights to and from Entebbe
  • Travel Insurance
  • Visa fee
  • Drinks
  • Other items of a personal nature
  • Optional gratuities to main guide

Itinerary

Day 1 - Arrival in Entebbe

After arrival at the Entebbe International Airport, you will proceed to our accommodation which is only a few minutes away. The full group will come together for a shared dinner to discuss our upcoming Uganda birding and wildlife safari. Night in Entebbe.

Shoebill

Day 2 - Mabamba

After an early breakfast we will proceed to Mabamba Wetlands. Here we board a motorized boat (~2-3 hours) and properly commence birding. We will be searching for birds, especially our priority, the otherworldly Shoebill. We should also see Long-tailed Cormorant, Squacco Heron, Yellow-billed Duck, Malachite Kingfisher, Long-toed Plover, Blue-headed Coucal and Blue-breasted Bee-eater.

Following the boat ride, we will take a short drive to Nkima Forest Lodge, where we will have lunch . After an optional refreshing siesta we shall continue our observations around our lodge until after sunset. Night at Nkima Forest Lodge.

Boat ride in Mabamba wetlands

Day 3 - Drive to Kibale

After breakfast, we will make our way to Fort Portal, birding along the way. After lunch, we will proceed towards our accommodation in Kibale. This is an excellent location for photography as there are lots of trees and flowers within the compound. We will be searching for many fine birds such as Great Blue Turaco, Ross’s Turaco, Eastern Plantain Eater, Double-toothed Barbet, Tropical Boubou, two tinkerbirds, Cardinal Woodpecker, White-browed Robin-Chat, African Blue Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Greenbul, Bronze Sunbird, Copper Sunbird, Green-headed Sunbird, Village Weaver, Vieillot’s Weaver and Brimstone Canary. Night in Kibale National Park.

A great blue turaco perched on a tree seen through palm foliage in Bigodi swamps near Kibale forest

Day 4 - Kibale National Park

We will have an early breakfast and then proceed to bird Kibale Forest, the best place in Uganda to watch Chimps with many additional primates present. A morning walk through the forest will combine chimp trekking with an array of shy and colourful forest birds. We will be looking out for speciality birds including Narina Trogon, African Emerald Cuckoo, Grey Parrot, Sabine’s Spinetail, Black-billed Turaco, Yellow-billed Barbet, Red-tailed Ant Thrush.

We should also encounter several other primates including: Blue Monkey, Black-and-white Colobus, Grey-cheeked Mangabey, Olive Baboon, Vervet Monkey, Red-tailed Monkey and L’Hoest’s Monkey. After lunch and a mid-day break, we will continue looking for birds in the area. Night in Kibale National Park.

If you opt out of the chimp trek, you have the option to do morning and afternoon nature walks in the forest.

Chimpanzees walking in forest

Day 5 - Bigodi then transfer to Fort Portal

After breakfast, we will take a walk through the Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary. This is another good spot for birding to fill in the any gaps of birds we haven’t seen. We will be looking for the White-spotted Flufftail, Great Blue Turaco, Speckled Tinkerbird, Yellow-throated Tinkerbird, Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher, African Shrike Flycatcher, Black-&-White Shrike Flycatcher, African Blue Flycatcher, Green Hylia, Blue Malkoha, Grey-throated Tit Flycatcher, Chestnut Wattle eye, Seimundi Sunbird, Grey-chinned Sunbird, Superb Sunbird, Purple-headed Starling, Splendid Starling, Compact Weaver, Red-headed Malimbe, Black Bishop, White-breasted Nigrita and Grey-headed Nigrita, among others.

We will return to the lodge for lunch and then transfer to Fort Portal, where we will be spending the night.

White-spotted Flufftail (Sarothrura pulchra centralis) adult walking in flooded forest

Day 6 - Semuliki National Park

After an early breakfast, we will drive about 2-3 hours to the start of the Kirumia trail for a whole day in the forest.

Here we will quietly search for some of the very special birds of this forest, a bird community representative of the ever more inaccessible moist evergreen forests of the Congo basin and of those few dwindling forests farther west in Africa.

Among those speciality species are : the secretive Hartlaub’s Duck and the equally shy and exceptionally localised Grey-throated Rail, the ultramarine and orange White-bellied Kingfisher and the well-named African Dwarf Kingfisher. Six species of hornbill including the exuberant White thighed Hornbill, the extremely raucous Black-casqued Hornbill, Eastern Piping Hornbill (Bycanistes sharpii), the highly distinctive Eastern Long-tailed Hornbill (Horizocerus cassini) and two tiny hornbills the red-billed Dwarf Hornbill (Lophoceros camurus) and the Eastern Little Hornbill (Horizocerus granti).

Several species of woodpecker and their allies occur in this forest including Buff-spotted and Speckle-breasted Woodpecker together with the distinctive Red-rumped Tinkerbird. Speciality western forest cuckoos which we might see here include the Yellow-throated Cuckoo.

We will hope to find the much sought after Rufous-sided Broadbill and the extremely shy Yellow-throated Nicator. Two bulbuls of the far west are the Swamp Palm Bulbul and Xavier’s Greenbul whilst two skulking ground babblers of this forest, the Scaly-breasted and Brown Illadopsis are far more often heard than seen.

There are many sunbirds visiting the arboreal flowers in the forest including the inconspicuous and highly insectivorous, and hence warbler-like, Grey-headed Sunbird and the stocky yet sharply iridescent Superb Sunbird.

Two dark weavers that are extremely local in East Africa occur: Maxwell’s Black Weaver and the black and red Crested Malimbe. We will check any of the smaller seed-eaters that we might see for three regional rarities of this forest, the Pale-fronted and the Chestnut-breasted Nigrita and Grant’s Bluebill.

There are so many beautiful species to search for here and who knows, if we keep our eyes and ears wide open we might even find the enigmatic African Piculet.

Blue-brested Kingfisher

Day 7 - Drive to Queen Elizabeth National Park

After breakfast, we drive to Queen Elizabeth National Park driving through the foothills of the Ruwenzori Mountains, through Kasese, and crossing the imaginary line of the equator. It should be a “packed game-drive” with the possibility of seeing lions, leopards, elephants, hyenas, Ugandan Kobs, baboon, giant hogs, and warthogs among others.

We will also be looking for raptors, Red-necked Francolin, Red-headed Lovebird, several cisticolas, Brown-backed Scrub-Robin, various larks, Pipits, Yellow-throated Longclaw, that fascinating corvid the Piapiac, Yellow-throated Leaflove, Splendid Starling and some sparkling sunbirds hopefully among many other species.

We will arrive in time for lunch at the lodge and then we will spend the afternoon birding along the border of Queen Elizabeth and the Lodge. Night in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Red-Necked Francolin

Day 8 - Queen Elizabeth National Park (including boat trip)

After breakfast we will depart for a morning’s game drive and some birding . Queen Elizabeth is the second largest national park in Uganda, and ranks highest with respect to overall diversity, with a bird species list exceeding 600.

Some impressive craters reflect the turbulent geological history of the area and large herds of African Elephants find a refuge in these natural enclaves. The elephant population is one of the most prolific on the continent. Mammals are much in evidence at Queen Elizabeth and we should find Vervet Monkey, Common Warthog, Uganda Kob, Nile Bushbuck, Defassa Waterbuck, Topi, Lake Chad Buffalo, Scrub Hare, Marsh Mongoose, Banded Mongoose, Spotted Hyena and Lion. We even have a good chance of encountering a leopard.

Birds we will look for include African Crake and the superb Brown-chested Lapwing, as well as Lanner Falcon, Red-necked Spurfowl, Collared Pratincole, Senegal and Crowned Lapwings, Ring-necked Dove, Black Coucal, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Olive (or Madagascar) Bee-eater, African Hoopoe, Common Scimitarbill, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Greater and Lesser Honeyguides, African Grey Woodpecker, Rufous-naped Lark, African (or Grassland) and Plain-backed Pipits, Banded Martin, Arrow-marked and Black-lored Babblers, Fan-tailed Grassbird, Trilling, Wing-snapping and Stout Cisticolas, Orange-breasted (or Sulphur-breasted) Bushshrike, Purple-banded Sunbird, Lesser Masked and Spectacled Weavers, Southern Red Bishop, Fan-tailed and White-winged Widowbirds, Green-winged Pytilia, Brimstone Canary and Golden-breasted Bunting.

We will return to the lodge for our lunch. In the afternoon we take a two-hour boat tour that plies the Kazinga Channel, watching a diverse selection of wildlife: hippos, Nile crocodile and many birds. We are looking out for birds like Yellow-billed Stork, Saddle-billed Stork, African Spoonbill, raptors, plovers and lapwings, White-browed Robin-chat, Rufous-naped Lark, Red-chested Sunbird, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, several shrikes, various weavers, Estrildid finches and other birds. Night in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

A side view of a group of African elephants, their trunks and tusks visible, as they surround and guard a young calf while walking through a grassy savanna in Uganda, with a dramatic sky in the background.

Day 9 - Birding our way to Bwindi

With picnic lunches we will drive to Bwindi (~7 hours) birding along the way. Birds may include Martial Eagle, three francolins, five barbets, chats, cuckoo-shrikes, several sunbirds, Fork-tailed Drongo, various cryptic larks and pipits colourful weavers, widow-birds, and some bishops. We will look out for mammals, of course, especially the handsome Topi and highly localised Uganda Kob, and for more sightings of big game such as waterbucks, buffaloes, elephants, those unmissable baboons and so forth. Night in Bwindi National Park.

Martial Eagle

Day 10 - Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is one of those nature's unspoiled National Parks found in south western Uganda covering an area of 331 sq. km. This National Park has vast diversity of mammals and bird species. The Impenetrable Forest is home to a number of endangered wildlife species and half the world's and also home to a healthy population of Eastern Gorillas. These Ugandan animals, which show shared characteristics of both lowland and mountain forms, could, in fact, be an endangered subspecies or even a full species in their own right.

Today we will go out with park staff to look for these spectacular creatures, an experience which generally involves from three to eight hours in the field, depending on where the gorillas are located. A close encounter with a group of these gentle giants is a profound experience which will make an indelible impression. The gorillas are fully protected in the park and you will be able to track a group of these marvellous animals through the dense, damp forest and thickets on the slopes of the mountain. The terrain can sometimes be steep and rough, but the guides will cut a path through the dense understorey of giant nettles and wild celery if necessary.

As you approach a group your guides will make strange grunting noises to reassure the gorillas that you are merely harmless tourists. These huge animals are surprisingly docile and often completely unconcerned by the presence of humans, so it is usually possible to get to within a few metres of them as they play, feed and rest. There is no need to say that this is an experience which you will ever forget!

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the only protected area in the world where Mountain Gorilas and Chimpanzees live together. We recommend you to wear good walking shoes and carry good rain gear and enough drinking water. Trekking can be tough and challenging and so we trust you are in reasonably fit condition. You will carry a picnic lunch with you into the forest and you will be thrilled to have seen these rare apes (no guarantee). The return journey could be easier. Night in Bwindi National Park.

If you opt out of the Gorilla trek, there is the option to go for a Nature Walk in the morning and Batwa Cultural Walk in the afternoon.

Dominant male mountain gorilla in the grass. Uganda. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.

Day 11 - Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park (the Buhoma Sector)

Today we will be birding the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest looking for western or Congo forest species: Black Bee-Eater, White-headed Wood-hoopoe, western tinkerbirds and barbets, evergreen forest woodpeckers, the African Broadbill, assorted greenbuls , White-bellied Robin-Chat, Red-throated Alethe, Chapin’s Flycatcher, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Black-faced Rufous Warbler, Grauer’s Warbler, Mountain Masked Apalis, Bocage’s Bush-shrike, Luhder’s Bush-shrike, Pink-footed Puffback, Petit’s Cuckooshrike, Starlings, Black-billed Weaver, Brown-capped weaver among several bird species that remain more widespread in East Africa.

At the same time we will keep a close look out for butterflies: Small Striped Swordtail, Albatross White, Bright Bush Blue, Pea Blue, Large White-spotted Skipper, the Friar, the Green-banded Swallowtail etc. Night in Bwindi National Park.

Northern double-collared sunbird (Cinnyris reichenowi) in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Day 12 - To Lake Mburo National Park

This morning, we will embark on the drive (~6-7 hours) eastwards through the verdant terraced hillsides of Kigezi and the open drier plains and rocky hillsides of Ankole. We will stop along the way to better savour the scenery and to look for birds! We’ll get closer views of the fabled Ankole long-horned cattle as we drive to Mbarara and then onto Lake Mburo.

Birding in Mburo National Park is a delightful experience, and often one of the highlights of a birding trip to Uganda. Look out for birds like Augur Buzzard, Crested Francolin, Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, Spot-flanked Barbet, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Lilac-breasted Roller, Black-headed Gonolek, severak starlings among many other species. Night in Lake Mburo National Park.

Bare-faced go-away-bird

Day 13 - Birding in Lake Mburo National Park (including a boat trip)

We will spend the whole day exploring Lake Mburo National Park looking for birds like unique Bateleur Eagle, Crested Francolin, Black-bellied Bustard, Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, Brown Parrot, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Blue-naped Mousebird, African Grey Hornbill, Red-faced Barbet, Spot-flanked Barbet, some terrestrial larks, a few pipit species, the Long-tailed Cisticola, Yellow-breasted Apalis and others.

Mammals should include the gorgeous Eland, Zebra, Impala, African Buffalo, Topi, Bohor Reedbuck, Defassa Waterbuck, Eastern Bushbuck, Hippopotamus and others. Of course we will look out for butterflies e.g. the Small Flame-bordered Emperor, Pearl Charaxes and Dark-banded Scarlet.

In the afternoon, we will take a boat trip (~3 hours) to look for African Finfoot and other Afrotropical waterbirds which we might not yet have found. Before dinner we will search for African Scops Owl and Swamp, Black-shouldered and Freckled Nightjars. Night in Lake Mburo National Park.

Boat ride in Lake Mburo

Day 14 - Exploring Lake Mburo National Park and return to Entebbe

After breakfast with bags packed, we will explore the area looking for Freckled Nightjar, Square-tailed Nightjar, Red-headed Lovebird, Striped Pipit, Golden-breasted Bunting, Copper Sunbird, Tropical Boubou, Black-lored Babbler, Green-winged Pytlia, among others before starting our return journey to Entebbe (~7 hours). Night in Entebbe.

Bateleur Eagle

Day 15 - Final day in Entebbe

After breakfast, we will leave our bags with reception and head out to bird the nearby Botanical Garden. We will return to our hotel for lunch. Our scheduled tour concludes after lunch. Please ensure you book your International Flights for this evening at the earliest.

What to Expect

Overview
On our Uganda birding tour, we often begin birding early in the morning, usually having breakfast before dawn. Days will usually start at first light to catch activity in the morning before the day warms up and activity slows down. We may rest for a mid-day ‘siesta’ on some days. We lunch at a local restaurant/lodge or take a picnic lunch into the field. During leisurely dinners we discuss the day’s activities and review the day’s list of sightings, and make plans for the next day.

Accommodations
We stay in mostly good quality accommodations, often in excellent birding localities; accommodations range from lodges to guest houses; all are comfortable, pleasant and safe.

Driving
We will be travelling in a Landcruiser with pop-up roof that seats 8 people including the driver. Roads are good for the most part, a little rough in some areas.

Walking
The optional Gorilla trekking in the Bwindi-Impenetrable Forest is challenging and a reasonable level of fitness is required. Please be advised that there is no guarantee of success although the Gorillas are rarely missed. Chimpanzee trekking and looking for Green-breasted Pitta can also involve quite a lot of walking. All are welcome to opt out of activities if not manageable. You will need to confirm whether you are going to do the gorilla and chimpanzee treks when you book on the tour.

Climate
Most days will be warm or hot, dry and sunny; cloudy weather are to be expected and there will likely be rain. At higher elevations temperatures can be cool. Occasionally humidity is an inconvenience.

 

Featured Wildlife

While we cannot guarantee sightings of the birds or mammals listed below, we believe that encountering these species is quite likely during this tour.

  • Shoebill
  • African Green Broadbill
  • Red-faced Barbet
  • Green-breasted Pitta
  • Black-billed Turaco
  • Mountain Illadopsis
  • Bocage’s Bushshrike
  • Black Bee-Eater
  • Ross’s Turaco
  • Shelley’s Crimsonwing
  • Grauer’s Rush Warbler
  • Gorilla
  • Chimpanzee
  • White Rhinoceros

Past Tour Checklists

View the list of birds and other wildlife we encountered on our past tours.

Tour Reviews