On arrival at Entebbe International Airport we will meet you and transfer you to your nearby boutique guesthouse for a welcome drink and a briefing on your ultimate primate safari.
Your accommodation for the night, Boma Guesthouse, is a rustic 16-room hotel about 5 minutes drive away from the airport. Owned by the Wood family, and located in a leafy suburb of Entebbe, the guesthouse is itself endowed with an extensive garden which hosts a phenomenal array of birdlife. A cosy dining room and bar by the poolside completes the welcome that Boma offers.
We move west to Kibale National Park near the Congo border. Travelling by air from Entebbe to Kasese Airstrip, we stay at Kyaninga Lodge for a total of three nights.
Kibale Forest is the natural habitat for an amazing 13 primate species, and contains the highest primate density of any area on earth. Some of the trees are 50 to 60 metres (150 to 180 feet) in height, and provide a majestic canopy for the profusion of rain forest life, including 325 bird species.
Whilst here, you are likely to see numerous bird species as well as black and white colobus, red colobus, grey-cheeked mangabey, red tailed monkey, vervet monkey, and L’Hoest’s monkey.
This morning we will set off for some chimpanzee trekking and return to the lodge for lunch, after which you are free to relax for the afternoon in luxury surroundings.
We will take a walk in the Rift Valley, through local villages and enjoy a picnic lunch. A great idea for the afternoon is to take a wild swim in the natural crater lakes of the area.
After an early breakfast, we drive to Kasese Airstrip and board a flight to Bwindi. We are transferred by road to our lodge, climbing through the Kigezi Highlands that form part of the eastern wall of the Albertine Rift. We pass small villages, plantations and fields on the way, through one of Uganda’s most densely populated regions. As we near the end of our climb, we will begin to see the mountainous, mist covered forest of the park, located more than a mile above sea level. Our base will be Gorilla Forest Camp, widely acknowledged to be the best camp in the northern section of Bwindi.
The 331 square-kilometre (128 square-mile) Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is comprised of both montane and lowland forest. The forest is one of the richest ecosystems in Africa, with some 120 species of mammals, 348 species of birds, 220 species of butterflies, and over 27 species of reptiles and amphibians. Bwindi is amongst the most diverse forests in East Africa, with more than 1,000 flowering plant species including 163 species of trees and 104 species of ferns.
On our first full day in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park we will have a cultural experience with the Batwa. This is a living history encounter like no other. Step back in time to see how the Batwa lived for millenia in the Bwindi, one of the most beautiful jungles on earth and home of the famous mountain gorillas. Enjoy a hike in the rainforest with Batwa guides, see how the Batwa lived and hunted, learn about medicinal plants, and watch for animals and birds.
In the afternoon we can relax at the camp and reflect on the cultural experience.
Today we will have our first day of gorilla tracking. Once the gorillas are located, our small group will be allowed a maximum of one hour with them. Gorilla trekking is one of the world’s truly memorable wildlife experiences – a look into one of these magnificent creature’s eyes brings home the bond that exists between them and us. The hour is often over all too quickly, and we slowly make our way back to our lodge to recount the day’s adventures.
The mountain gorillas in Uganda are part of a worldwide population of just 800 individuals. The gorillas we are permitted to visit belong to either one of ten family groups, habituated for gorilla trekking.
For up to five years each, these groups have undergone an extremely delicate process that has gradually brought them to tolerate the presence of humans for a brief period every day and allow a few privileged visitors to interact with them in the wild. The gorillas are by no means tame, and are completely wild animals. However, experienced guides will accompany us on our tracking, and will help us locate the group’s whereabouts. The time taken to track the gorillas can vary enormously – from one to seven hours.
For the next stage of our tour we travel by road across the border to Rwanda and Volcanoes National Park with a stop in Kisoro for lunch.
The Virunga Volcanoes, a rugged chain of eight peaks, rise as high as 4,500 metres in places, and five of these mountains are protected in Rwanda. The slopes of each mountain are covered with thick rainforest, which gives way to montane grassland and alpine moorland higher up.
On our first full day in Rwanda we go golden monkey tracking in the bamboo forests of the Virungas.
This little known primate offers a chance to track an equally fascinating endangered species. You will set off on your trek to find them, accompanied by experienced rangers, in a small group of no more than eight people. The monkeys have been habituated to the presence of the rangers and guests, and once we locate them, you will spend up to an hour observing their charming antics, as they leap from branch to branch.
Today, we track mountain gorillas once more. Experienced guides will accompany us on our tracking, many of who have been involved in habituating the gorillas themselves.
The time taken to track the gorillas varies, and once the gorillas are located, our group will be allowed a maximum of one hour with them. This is one of the world’s truly memorable experiences – a look into one of these magnificent creature’s eyes brings home the bond that exists between them and us.
In the afternoon we can drive into Gisenyi to explore on the edge of the incredible Lake Kivu.
We take a private helicopter transfer from Volcanoes National Park to the Nyungwe Forest in southern Rwanda.
Nyungwe Forest National Park is one of the largest, most primal and biodiverse forests in all of Africa. This rich mosaic of habitats ranges from bamboo groves, open marshes, tracts of giant lobelia and dense jungle vegetation. It is the primary water catchment area for the region, and Nyungwe contains the famous Congo-Nile Divide.
On this day we will go on a forest hike. Whilst there we will go on a short canopy walk providing a stunning view of the rainforest below. The canopy bridge hangs 60 metres above the forest floor and is East Africa’s only such walkway.
Today is spent hiking forest trails in Nyungwe Forest. The national park hosts a rich floral diversity, and is home to a staggering number of Albertine Rift endemic bird species, as well as 13 different types of primate. This includes chimpanzees, L’Hoest monkeys, golden monkeys, as well as the largest troops of black and white colobus found anywhere on the continent – a habituated group of up to 400 individual members are resident in the forest.
This morning, we will enjoy a hike to Nyungwe’s most famous attraction – East Africa’s only canopy walk – a suspended walkway that hangs above the treetops for a bird’s eye view of forest life. After lunch, we can return to the forest for a guided hike along one of the many trails, to enjoy birding, butterflies, waterfalls and forest scenery.
Today we drive back to Kigali ready for you to catch your international flight.
Kyaninga has achieved legendary status in Uganda as a labour of love for owner Steve Williams. Since he first bought the land in 2004, Steve, a master carpenter who moved to Uganda from the UK, has crafted this sublime lodge into a masterpiece of detailing and finishing.
Located near Fort Portal on the edge of extinct volcanic Lake Kyaninga, the main building is perched on a rocky ridge, with the generously proportioned log cabins strung out on either side.
The view from the dining and rooms looks down onto the lake, and then on to the Rwenzori Mountains, the fabled ‘Mountains of the Moon’ in the distance.
From the lodge, clients can track chimpanzees and other primates in the nearby Kibale Forest National Park, about an hours drive away.
Relaxing and soaking in the the enchanting scenery of rural western Uganda, or hiking around the nearby crater lake are also options.
Overlooking the Munyaga River, Sanctuary Retreats’ Gorilla Forest Camp is the accommodation of choice for the northern sector of Bwindi National Park.
Your spacious tent, with two queen beds, a polished wooden deck, rock-faced shower, and bathtub open to the forest will provide an impossibly romantic base from which to explore the surrounding forest. The dining room, similarly, faces the forest. While you enjoy your breakfast, you can often hear the cry of colobus monkeys, with the occasional distant screams of a chimpanzee hunting party.
Gorilla tracking often commences from the park headquarters 5 minutes away, and if you are very lucky, you may actually be visited by one of the mountain gorilla families which periodically pass through the camp, depending on the season. Evenings are spent round the camp fire with a gin and tonic in hand, recounting the day’s events.
Nyungwe Forest Lodge is the first up market accommodation to be built in this remote and ethereal national park in southern Rwanda.
As befits the park, the lodge is outstanding, consisting of 20 luxurious rooms and two suites, each equipped with a viewing deck. After a day’s hiking one of Nyungwe’s eight trails in search of the rare animals and plants found in the forest, guests are treated to an outdoor heated swimming pool, a relaxation retreat with two treatment rooms, and a fitness centre.
Local materials and construction methods were used to the greatest extent possible when the lodge was built, and the buildings blend with the landscape. The resulting spaces are comfortable and elegant, celebrating the site with views over the tea plantation, to the forest and beyond.
One of several lodges nestled at the foot of the volcanic Virungas range of mountains, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is a joint initiative between the Sabyinyo Community Lodge Association (SACOLA) and Governors Camps. Governors built and manage the lodge, and pay the local community a fee for every bed night utilised.
There are five stone cottages, two suites and one family suite, roofed with locally made terra cotta tiles, each with its own fireplace, bathtub, shower and double sink. The rooms are adjacent to the main dining and lounge areas, which themselves are luxuriously furnished with overstuffed sofas and hardwood furniture, all making for intimate and exclusive surroundings in which to spend your evenings.
The lodge is at the top end of the scale for accommodations around the Virungas, and offers unsurpassed service for this part of Rwanda. It is one of the most comfortable places from which to track the Volcanoes National Park’s eight habituated mountain gorilla families.
A comfortable, intimate little hotel, the Boma Guesthouse is conveniently located 5 minutes from Entebbe International Airport, and is a great place to stop over at the beginning or end of your Uganda tour.
The 16 rooms are simply, but elegantly furnished, and the extensive gardens, created by renowned Kampala landscape architect Roger Wood, are home to an incredible variety of birdlife. The gardens offer hidden nooks and crannies for guests wanting to curl up with a good book away from the main buildings, or to enjoy a spot of private dining away from other guests.
The service is typically Ugandan in its smiling and efficient delivery, and the kitchen produces hearty and well prepared meals. The pool area offers the best respite from an overnight flight or a dusty safari, depending on which way you’re travelling, and the easy pace of the guesthouse will make you feel right at home.