Our 8-day Uganda Gorilla And Chimpanzee Trekking Safari combines the country’s excellent great ape tracking opportunities with two stunning lodges: Kyaninga Lodge and Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp. Visit chimpanzees in Kibale National Park, which has one of the highest density and diversity of primates in all of Africa - before heading south to the highlight of the itinerary – spending two days with the gentle giants of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park – the critically endangered mountain gorillas of Uganda.
You arrive at Entebbe International Airport, where we will meet you and transfer you to your nearby boutique guesthouse for a welcome drink and a briefing on your Uganda primate safari.
This morning, after breakfast at your hotel, we will transfer back to Entebbe Airport for a scheduled flight to Kasese. Met by the lodge vehicle, you will enjoy a private transfer to the stunning Kyaninga Lodge, a fairy-tale-like construction perched on the edge of a cobalt-blue volcanic crater lake. The entire lodge is constructed in the style of log cabins, and is the result of six years of labour by master carpenter and owner Steve Williams.
After lunch at the lodge, set out on a guided crater hike. Choose from following the rim of the crater, on tracks that pass through local community land using for traditional crops such as maize and matoke bananas, offering panoramic views of the lake; or take the lakeside option, passing through forest and spotting butterflies, monkeys and ancient volcanic lava tubes as you go. At the end of your walk, there is the invigorating option of wild swimming in the crystal-clear waters of the lake from the lodge’s private swimming pontoon.
Kibale Forest is the natural habitat for an amazing 13 primate species, and contains the highest primate density of any area on earth. Here, we will spend a full day with the chimpanzees in a unique chimpanzee habituation experience, watching these fascinating primates from dawn to dusk. Some of the trees are 50 to 60m (150 to 180 feet) in height, and provide a majestic canopy for the profusion of rain forest life, including 325 bird species.
On your tour, 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 reconvene at Kibale Forest headquarters for another opportunity to go chimp tracking. Our guides will help us try to find the chimps, and if we are lucky, we will spend up to an hour observing a chimpanzee family feeding, playing and resting amongst the trees.
After lunch at a nearby lodge, we will drive through a beautiful area of crater lakes and rolling hills to the small village of Rubona, where we will visit the basket weaving association for a demonstration of how they use natural pigments to dye the grasses used in their colourful creations. The ladies will also demonstrate their weaving techniques and there are always some excellent examples of their work in the association gift shop. Over the road, we can also pop into a local honey co-operative, where a tour of the premises explains the process of harvesting honey – if it’s season you may get the chance to taste fresh honeycomb. Those with a creative bent, may fancy trying their hand at molding their very own beeswax candle to take home.
After an early breakfast, we drive to Kasese Airstrip and board our scheduled flight to Bwindi. We are met at the airstrip and 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.
Once we reach the lodge, we enjoy lunch and spend the afternoon relaxing, preparing for tomorrow’s great adventure with the gorillas.
Along with the numerous primate species and endangered chimpanzees, the most notable inhabitants of the park have to be the 408 critically endangered mountain gorillas, which live in family groups of between seven and 25 individuals. A number of these families have been habituated over a period of five years each to tolerate human presence for a brief period every day. Only eight visitors per day are allowed to track each gorilla family.
On each morning we go gorilla tracking, we will have an early start to get to the briefing point at park headquarters, where we receive information about our gorilla trekking experience and select our porters for the day. Then we’re off to the trailhead nearest our appointed gorilla family – the drive to the trailhead can take anything from 10 minutes to 2 hours – before we start our hike to find the gorillas. The walking can be strenuous because of the steep slopes and the high altitude. Initially, we will hike along established paths, our ranger coordinating with the advance trackers by radio to guide us in to the gorillas last know location. As we get to where the gorillas are, we will leave the paths and begin hacking our way through the slippery underbrush. Our porters will stay back as only our privileged party of 8 and our ranger approach the gorillas to spend our magical hour with them. The hour passes all too quickly, and then it’s time to reluctantly make our way back to our waiting vehicles.
On this, our last full day we will enjoy a second encounter with the mountain gorillas. No two visits to these gentle giants are the same. There are up to eleven habituated groups currently available to track in Bwindi, with five of these situated in Northern Bwindi: Rushegura, Habinyanja, Mubare, Oruzogu and Bitukura. Each will have their own territory, in a slightly different location, with its own variety of ages and individual characters, giving every family its own unique group dynamic.
After breakfast this morning, we transfer you to the nearby Kihihi Airstrip where you will take the scheduled flight departing for Entebbe. Upon arrival, you are met by our driver and vehicle who will transfer you to a guesthouse in Entebbe, where you can enjoy lunch and some well-deserved relaxation, before transferring to Entebbe International Airport for your flight out.
Day rooms are available on request.
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 hour’s drive away. Relaxing and soaking in 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.
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.