Best of Uganda (optional Rwanda extension)


Best of Uganda (optional Rwanda extension)

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 11 days
Type: GroupSmall group tours with a maximum of 12 travellers

Dossier

Uganda is known as one of the most stunning countries in Africa, and with good reason. On this tour we visit some of its most beautiful areas in search of incredible wildlife, much of which has long since disappeared from the rest of the continent. From the bustling capital Kampala, we see the source of the Nile and then head north to Murchison Falls National Park to search for elephant, lion and buffalo on game drives, then search for chimpanzees in the Kibale Forest. From there we head to the spectacular Queen Elizabeth National Park, with its plains, forest, swamps and lakes – a wide diversity of landscapes means that wildlife viewing here is varied. But the highlight of this trip is perhaps one of the highlights of all of Africa – tracking a family of gorillas in their natural habitat through the forests of Bwindi National Park. On our optional extensions you can spend more time with gorillas in Rwanda or search for more big game in little visited Kidepo National Park. Make no mistake; this is a truly astonishing wildlife experience that will leave you lost for words.


Tour Rating

Fitness ●●●●○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●●○○ | Culture ●●○○○ | History ●●○○○ | Wildlife ●●●●●

Tour Pace

Busy 

Tour Highlights

  • Visit the source of the Nile
  • Excellent game viewing at Murchison Falls National Park
  • Chimpanzee tracking in Kibale Forest
  • Wildlife cruise on the Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park
  • Track Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

Tour Essentials 

Accommodation: Mix of comfortable hotels and lodges
Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary
Group Size: Maximum 7
Start Point: Entebbe
End Point: Entebbe
Transport: 4WD safari type vehicle
Countries: Uganda with optional extension in Rwanda

Tour Itinerary Notes

While our intention is to adhere to the day-by-day itinerary as printed below, a degree of flexibility is built in. Overnight stops may vary from those suggested and on occasions alternative accommodation, of a similar standard to that named below, will be used.

Tour Guide

Our guides are a key strength, chosen for their knowledge of and passion for the areas in which they work. All of our guides are carefully hand-picked, and are not just passing through these countries, but are usually locally born. Unlike some companies it should be noted we do not send a guide or tour leader from Undiscovered Destinations in the UK as we have every confidence in our locally appointed representative who is responsible for operating the tour on our behalf. Where possible you will have the same guide throughout your trip but on occasions it may be necessary to change the guide at one or more points during the tour.

Day 1 – Entebbe / Kampala

Arrive in Entebbe and transfer to Kampala. Time permitting we will take a short city tour of Kampala. Overnight Hotel Africana or similar.

Kampala

Uganda’s capital Kampala was built on a collection of hills and was the political centre of the kingdom of Buganda. Its name comes from a corruption of the term ‘hills of the impala’, a reference to the species of antelope that was once found here in abundance. It was expanded by British settlers following the ratification of a treaty between the traditional king, or kabaka of Buganda and the colonialist and explorer Frederick Lugard, and developed into a trading centre from which animal produce such as skins and ivory were sent to Mombasa along a newly constructed railway. Kampala has few sights as such, but as a busy and bustling city provides a good insight into contemporary urban Africa. It has a great selection of restaurants, bars and clubs and has a fairly hectic and enjoyable nightlife. It’s worth making a trip to the Kasubi tombs, the burial places of former traditional rulers of Buganda which are still maintained by female relatives of the deceased today, where one can see royal artefacts from days gone by.

Day 2 - Source of the Nile and Sezibwe Falls

Transfer to the source of the Nile in Jinja, with excursions to Sezibwe Falls and Mabira forest. Return to Kampala. Overnight Hotel Africana or similar. (BL) 

Jinja

Jinja, situated on the shores of Lake Victoria, is in a spectacular setting surrounded by natural lush vegetation. It is a major station on the Ugandan Railway and a port for the Lake Victoria Ferries. The legendary source of the River Nile, the longest river in the world, is 4km away, first identified after much effort and controversy by the British explorer John Speke. Speke had however not seen the actual source, but based his assertion on a set of untested assumptions, which led to the mystery remaining unsettled until the great explorer Stanley confirmed it some years later. 

Day 3 - Kampala to Murchison Falls National Park

Drive to Murchison Falls National Park, where we visit the top of the falls to enjoy the magnificent views. Overnight Paraa Lodge or similar (BLD) 

Murchison Falls National Park

Uganda’s largest protected area and dissected by the Victoria Nile, Murchison Falls is named after its magnificent waterfall, caused by the Nile forcing its way through a narrow gap in the rocks, which in turn was named after Sir Roderick Murchison, president of the Royal Geographical Society at the time that they were ‘discovered’. Wildlife here suffered greatly during Uganda’s succession of bloody conflicts in the 1970’s and 1980’s, with various armies slaughtering game to either eat or sell, and during this time many animals, including rhino, became extinct. Today numbers are recovering and Murchison Falls has good numbers of elephant, lion and buffalo, among other species. Other animals to be found here are giraffe, various species of antelope including waterbuck and bushbuck, leopard, hyena and chimpanzees in the Rabongo Forest. The birdlife here is even greater, with approximately 460 species being recorded in the park, including the shoebill stork.

Day 4 - Murchison Falls National Park

Enjoy a half day game drive on the northern bank of the River Nile. Escorted by a game ranger you have the option for a game walk. Game in the area includes giraffe, elephant, lion, Ugandan kob and a variety of savannah and woodland birds. In the afternoon take a Nile cruise to view hippo and crocodiles. Overnight Paraa Lodge or similar (BLD) 

Day 5 - Murchison Falls to Kibale Forest

After an early breakfast we spend the day driving to Kibale Forest. Before arriving in Kibale we will take a beautiful walk to stretch our legs at Bigodi Swamp a community project where you will be accompanied by a local community guide. The swamp is an oasis for birdlife and it is also common to see different primate species on the walk. Overnight Kibale Safari Lodge or similar. (BLD)

Day 6 - Kibale Forest and Queen Elizabeth National Park

This morning we take a walk in beautiful Kibale Forest in search of chimpanzees and other monkeys. Later we take a beautiful drive towards Queen Elizabeth National Park. On arrival at the park we take a late afternoon game drive with the impressive Rwenzori Mountains as a spectacular backdrop. Overnight Mweya Safari Lodge or similar. (BLD)

Please note that long sleeves and trousers and robust walking shoes/boots are recommended in Kibale Forest

Kibale Forest and Chimp Tracking

Bordering Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kibale Forest is one of the best places in all of Africa to see chimpanzees in the wild. In addition to chimps it is also home to another twelve primate species, with around sixty mammal species in total, including lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and the giant forest hog although these tend to be difficult to see. The chimpanzees here are habituated to the presence of humans, and although sightings are not guaranteed, the chances of encountering them are good. Closely related to humans, chimpanzees live in large communities headed up by an alpha male. Although they eat mainly fruit, there have been cases of them hunting monkeys in groups as well as using tools to catch termites. Once widely spread throughout Africa, their habitat has been reduced by deforestation and the encroachment of human settlements, and chimpanzees can now be found in twenty one countries. 

Day 7 - Queen Elizabeth National Park

Today take an early morning game drive to the northerly parts of the park along the Kasenyi track, followed by an afternoon cruise on the Kazinga Channel, to view buffalo, hippo and other animals at the edge of the channel as they cool off. European migratory birds, including flocks of terns and gulls can also be seen in the area. Overnight Mweya Safari Lodge or similar (BLD)

Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park is almost two thousand square kilometres in size, pressed up against the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mostly made up of savannah grassland, it also contains forest, swamp and lakes. Almost 100 mammal species and a remarkable 606 bird species makes this superb safari territory, with elephant, a profusion of hippos, the elusive giant forest hog and handsome Ugandan kob all regularly sighted around the Mweya Peninsula. This boasts a marvellous waterfront setting in the shadow of the Rwenzori Mountains. Like Murchison Falls, the park’s wildlife declined dramatically in the 1970’s and 80’s but is now on the increase once more.

 Day 8 - Queen Elizabeth National Park to Bwindi National Park

Travel by road through beautiful mountain scenery often referred to as 'little Switzerland' to Bwindi. Overnight Silverback Lodge or similar. (BLD)

 Day 9 - Gorilla Tracking

After a briefing with the park ranger guides, we commence our trek to see the reclusive mountain gorilla. We generally start our search in an area where the gorillas were known to be the previous night. Nonetheless the trek can be strenuous and the terrain tough so you need to be prepared. On locating the gorillas we can spend up to one hour viewing in very close vicinity, before returning to the visitor centre.  This is one of the undoubted highlights of travel in Africa – to spend time with these unique and powerful creatures in their natural habitat is an experience not easily forgotten. This afternoon we take a spectacular road to Lake Bunyonyi close to the border with Rwanda and rightly thought of as Uganda’s most picturesque lake. Before sunset we will take a short boat trip on the lake. Overnight Bunyonyi Safari Resort or similar (BLD)

Please note that long sleeves and trousers and robust walking boots are recommended in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

Gorilla Tracking

Deep in the heart of central Africa, the volcanic mountains that straddle the border of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo are home to the last surviving mountain gorillas in the wild. Numbering roughly 650 in total, the population has dwindled due to pressure of a shrinking habitat, poaching, and the effects of war in the Congo and Rwanda. Today numbers appear to be stabilising, but the gorillas are still seriously endangered. Actually tracking the gorillas is an adventure in itself and can take all day. Please ensure you have the right hiking boots and clothing, are reasonably fit and able to walk in challenging terrain. Sightings are not guaranteed, although chances are good. Sitting high in the dripping forests just a few yards away from a family of mountain gorillas is a truly remarkable experience. Watching them feed is to feel an extraordinary bond with these hugely powerful creatures – the fact that they will calmly tolerate a group of humans nearby is a testament to their placid nature, and it engenders an extraordinary feeling of trust. At times it is easy to see how closely related we are, but you are always aware that you are in the presence of a group of completely wild animals; a knowledge that fills you with awe.

Day 10 – Kampala

This morning we have an early start and a long days drive back to Kampala, stopping en-route at Lake Mburo National Park for lunch with views over the savannah. We will also do a short game drive after lunch on our way back to the main road where we may be able to spot giraffe, zebra and various species of antelope. Arrive in Entebbe early evening and overnight at Boma Guest House or similar. (BL)

Day 11 – Entebbe

This morning you have the option to take an excellent community led swamp tour which is a must for those interested in birdlife. It is a good opportunity to see the strange looking Shoebill.  Those departing early will be transferred to the airport. For those departing on late flights day use rooms will be available close to the airport. (B)

Tour style: Traveller

Inclusions:
Arrival and departure transfers
All accommodation
Services of English speaking guide / tour leader
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary
Gorilla Permit (USD $600 per person)
Chimpanzee Permit (USD $200 per person)

Excluded:
International flights
Items of a personal nature
Any airport taxes
Travel Insurance
Visas
Drinks
Tips (discretionary)


RWANDA EXTENSION

Day 10 - Lake Bunyonyi - Volcanoes National Park 

Travel from Lake Bunyonyi in Uganda across the border into Rwanda and drive to Volcanoes National Park. Overnight Le Babou Gorilla View Lodge or similar (BLD)

Day 11 - Gorilla Tracking - Volcanoes National Park

We start early and after a briefing at the park headquarters and registration we begin our trek to encounter the magnificent mountain gorillas. Trackers leave before the tourist groups so the rangers usually have a good idea where the gorillas are located. However one must still be prepared for a tough trek in difficult terrain. Once the gorillas are located we can spend a magical hour watching them interact. Later return to the lodge. Overnight Le Babou Gorilla View Lodge or similar (BLD)

Day 12 - Golden Monkeys - Volcanoes National Park

Today you will enjoy a different trek into the forest, this time to encounter the playful and endangered Golden Monkey. Generally the walk to find these animals is easier than the gorilla trek and there are 2 habituated groups of monkeys each with around 80 family members. The monkeys are generally very lively making photography challenging but nevertheless, an amazing wildlife experience. You are permitted to spend one hour with the monkeys. Overnight Le Babou Gorilla View Lodge or similar (BLD)

Day 13 - Dian Fossey trek - Transfer to Kigali

This morning trek through the forest from the park headquarters to see the resting place and former research centre of Diane Fossey, who was dedicated to preserving the status of the mountain gorilla and who was murdered in her cabin in 1985. She is buried with some of the gorillas she served to protect. A very moving experience. Later return to the park headquarters and transfer to Kigali where the tour ends with a transfer to the airport. (BL)

Inclusions:
Departure transfer
All accommodation as per itinerary
Services of English speaking guide / tour leader
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary
Gorilla Permit (USD $1500 per person)
Golden Monkey Permit

Excluded:
International flights
Items of a personal nature
Any airport taxes
Travel Insurance
Visas
Drinks
Tips (discretionary)

KIDEPO NATIONAL PARK EXTENSION

Day 12 - Kampala - Gulu via Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

Pick up from your hotel after breakfast and drive to the Ziwa Rhino and wildlife sanctuary situated in Nakasongola district. The sanctuary is home to 15 southern white rhinos. After visiting the sanctuary we continue to Gulu. Overnight Boma Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

The sanctuary is a 7000 ha ranch situated around 170km from Kampala. It currently contains around 15 southern white rhino and also some smaller game species. The rhinos can be tracked in the company of a ranger.

Gulu

Gulu is a town with a traumatic recent history. It is the largest town in Northern Uganda and one of the hardest hit during the conflict with Joseph Kony's Lord’s Resistance Army. Gulu is now recovering from its scars and is a town in transit with a real hustle and bustle. There are few must see attractions but its makes for a convenient stop en-route to Kidepo National Park.

Day 13 - Gulu - Kidepo National Park

After breakfast we drive on to Kidepo National Park. This afternoon enjoy your first game drive in this little visited National Park in the north east of Uganda. Overnight Nga Moru or similar (BLD) 

Kidepo National Park

This remote national park lies within the far Northeast of Uganda. Despite it being less visited than other national parks like Murchison Falls or Queen Elizabeth, the rugged scenery and exceptional game viewing make this place a worthwhile addition to any trip to Uganda. The park has an altitude range between 914m and 2750m above sea level. The park boasts over 70 species of mammal and over 400 species of bird. Some species such as cheetah and caracal are found in no other Ugandan national park. 

Day 14 - Kidepo National Park

Morning and afternoon game drives in Kidepo National Park. Overnight Nga Moru or similar (BLD)

Day 15 - Karamojong Community Walk

After an early morning game drive you will have breakfast and then check out of the lodge. We then make the journey back to Gulu stopping off to visit a Karamojong community on the way. Overnight Boma Hotel or similar (BLD) 

The Karamojong

The Northeast of Uganda is home to the Karamojong ethnic group. The Karamojong are nomadic pastoralists and cattle herders sharing similar roots as the Masai in neighbouring Kenya. Many of the Karamojong live by traditional methods and wear traditional dress. The women often adorn beautiful beadwork.

Day 16 - Gulu - Kampala

We drive back to Kampala where your extension services will end with a transfer back to the airport for your onward flight. A day room is available for those with a late flight (B)

Please note that it is also possible to fly from Kampala to Kidepo National Park if you wish to do a shorter extension. Please contact us for details and prices.

Inclusions:
Airport transfers
All accommodation as per itinerary
Services of English speaking guide / tour leader
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary

Excluded:
International flights
Items of a personal nature
Travel Insurance
Visas
Drinks
Tips (discretionary)