Welcome to Birdquest
Birdquest's Ultimate Uganda birding tour is a classic African bird and wildlife adventure, featuring some amazing birds as well as the incomparable Gorillas of Bwindi, close encounters with Chimpanzees and many other mammals. Our Ultimate Uganda tour provides the most comprehensive coverage of this beautiful and bird rich country, including its famous Albertine Rift endemics, the strange Shoebill and the gorgeous Green-breasted Pitta. There is also a short extension to visit Nyungwe Forest in neighbouring Rwanda, home to Ruwenzori Turaco, Red-collared Babbler, Kungwe Apalis, Ruwenzori Double-collared Sunbird and other special birds.
Tuesday 3rd July —
Sunday 22nd July 2018
Rwanda Extension: Sunday 22nd July — Thursday 26th July (5 days)
Leaders: Dani López-Velasco and Livingstone Kalema
Group Size Limit: 9
Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part and comfortable or very comfortable accommodations
Winston Churchill described Uganda as a fairy tale land, calling it the ‘Pearl of East Africa’. Here the ancient kingdoms of Buganda, Bunyoro and Ankole flourished long before the first European explorers came in search of the source of the Nile. In colonial times it was regarded as the most beautiful and potentially the richest country in East Africa. Now, after many years of civil turbulence under Idi Amin and Milton Obote, Uganda has settled down once more under the rule of President Museveni and has rebuilt its important wildlife tourism industry.
Uganda is indeed a beautiful country: a green and fertile land of high plateaus, luxuriant forests, papyrus-fringed lakes and great swamps. It is also a land of contrasts. Here one can see the vast inland sea known as Lake Victoria, the source of the White Nile, and papyrus swamps where the bizarre and endangered Shoebill can still be found. On the open plains of Queen Elizabeth National Park, antelopes, buffalo and elephants can be watched against a backdrop of the mysterious Rwenzori range, Ptolemy’s fabled ‘Mountains of the Moon’. In the west there are great forests which cover huge areas and are home to many Chimpanzees and Gorillas, as well as one of the most exciting selections of forest birds in Africa. Uganda is undoubtedly the friendliest country in East Africa and offers visitors the opportunity to experience unspoilt African wilderness at its best.
Ours is the most comprehensive tour available to one of the richest countries in Africa for birds, appealing to all those who dream of seeing the amazing Shoebill, the exciting forest species of the ‘Albertine Rift’ and, of course, the incomparable Gorillas.
This superb tour takes us first to the shores of Lake Victoria around Entebbe where we will be looking in particular for the extraordinary Shoebill, as well as the migratory Blue Swallow.
Next we will explore Mabira Forest near Jinja, at the Source of the Nile, in search of a number of forest specialities including Forest Wood-Hoopoe, Yellow-eyed Bristlebill, Sooty Boubou and Weyns’s Weaver.
From Jinja we head for northwestern Uganda, where we will explore both the splendid Murchison Falls National Park, where the White Nile flows into Lake Albert, and the Masindi area, both of which are very rich in birdlife. Here we will see a marvellous variety of birds, including Heuglin’s Francolin, the spectacular Pennant-winged Nightjar, Foxy Cisticola and Puvel’s Illadopsis, as well as hordes of Hippopotamus and many other large mammals.
Nearby, the rich Budongo Forest teems with birds, including the rare Nahan’s Francolin and Ituri Batis, and also a good selection of primates.
Moving southwards through western Uganda, we come to the superb forests of Kibale National Park. This is one of the best places in Africa to see Chimpanzees, and a fantastic selection of forest birds including the rare, elusive and beautiful Green-breasted Pitta. We will have three mornings here to search for this gem, giving us a better chance of success than those having only one or two attempts. Other key birds here include Joyful Greenbul, Lowland Masked Apalis and the attractive Grey-winged Robin-Chat. We even have chances for Red-chested Owlet and the pretty White-collared Oliveback.
Continuing southwards past the Rwenzori Mountains we reach the open plains and impressive craters of Queen Elizabeth National Park with its rich array of both large mammals, with likely species including Lion, huge number of Hippos and the impressive Giant Hog. There is even a good chance of coming across a Leopard. QEII, as it is known, also has a rich avifauna and in addition to specialities such as African Crake and Brown-chested Lapwing, we are also likely to find a wide range of more widespread African birds, including the impressive Goliath Heron to the magnificent Martial Eagle.
Eventually we travel onwards to the remote southwestern corner of Uganda and the great Impenetrable Forest. Here the Gorillas have their stronghold and the forests at Buhoma are rich in bird species that are endemic to the Albertine Rift, such as the characterful Neumann’s (or Short-tailed) Warbler, Chapin’s and Yellow-eyed Black Flycatchers, Kivu Ground-Thrush, Red-throated Alethe and the strange Jameson’s Antpecker (split from Woodhouse’s), while specialities of broader distribution include the handsome White-bellied Robin-Chat.
After spending some time at lower altitudes we will climb up to Ruhija, where another suite of specialities await us, including Handsome Francolin, the stunning Grauer’s (or African Green) Broadbill, Stripe-breasted Tit, Grauer’s Warbler, Archer’s Ground Robin, the gorgeous Regal Sunbird, Purple-banded Sunbird and Strange Weaver.
Finally, before our Ugandan adventure draws to a close, we will visit the dry bush country, woodland, lakes and swamps around Lake Mburo, where we will look for the rare and localized Red-faced Barbet, as well as African Finfoot and with luck White-backed Night Heron.
During the optional extension we will visit neighbouring Rwanda, a country that has come a long way beyond its troubled past and is now one of Africa’s success stories, with one of the fastest rates of economic growth on the continent. Here we will visit Nyungwe Forest, the best remaining Albertine Rift forest habitat in the country, and even richer in Albertine Rift endemics than any of the better-known sites in Uganda. The star attractions here are a suite of Albertine Rift endemics, including the extraordinary Ruwenzori Turaco, the stunning Red-collared Babbler, Kungwe Apalis and Ruwenzori (or Stuhlmann’s) Double-collared Sunbird. In addition, there are slim but real chances for Albertine Owlet and Shelley’s Crimsonwing.
Birdquest has operated tours to Uganda since 1994 and to Rwanda since 1986.
Livingstone Kalema will accompany the tour in Uganda.
What makes Birdquest’s Ultimate Uganda special: This is not only the most comprehensive Uganda tour there is, but it is also one of very few tours that feature three days at Kibale Forest to maximise the chance of seeing the fabulous, much-wanted but sometimes difficult Green-breasted Pitta.
Chimpanzee Tracking at Kibale: Unlike many bird tour companies, we include the cost of a Chimpanzee Tracking Permit in our tour cost. The reason for this is simple. Firstly it is usually the case that everyone in the group opts to go tracking the Chimpanzees, as this is one of the great highlights of a visit to Uganda, but far more importantly we have on some occasions only seen Green-breasted Pitta during the Chimpanzee tracking session! While it is true that we sometimes see Chimpanzees during searches for the pitta, views are usually brief and we are not allowed to follow the Chimpanzees by the accompanying ranger, ever-conscious that only fee-paying visitors are allowed to track these apes. As a result the experience does not compare with a dedicated tracking session, which often allows sustained and close encounters with these marvellous creatures. When we go tracking we morph an early morning pitta session into a Chimpanzee tracking session, thus obtaining the best of both worlds.
Gorilla Tracking at Bwindi: Usually everyone in the group opts to go to see the Gorillas at Bwindi as this is such a mega-highlight of any birding tour to Uganda. The optional gorilla tracking involves part or all of one day in the Impenetrable Forest. Please bear in mind that whilst the gorillas can usually be located within an hour or so, without more than easy to moderate grade hiking involved, it can rarely take up to three hours of more demanding hiking to find them (and a similar time to return), although the skilled tracker-guides and porters manage to make this less of a challenge than it would first appear. Very rarely, in spite of all the efforts of the tracker-guides, the gorillas prove elusive (but they have never been missed on any Birdquest tour to date). If you opt not to go Gorilla tracking you will be able to go birding with one or both leaders instead, but it is unlikely that you will see any additional bird species as a result.
Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/lodges are mostly of a good or very good standard, only occasionally being medium standard. Road transport is by specially adapted 4x4 safari vehicle with oopening roof hatch and roads are mostly good.
Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, but occasionally moderate and there is an optional fairly demanding hike to search for African Green Broadbill. See also Gorilla Tracking at Bwindi.
Climate: Most days will be warm or hot, dry and sunny but overcast conditions are fairly frequent and there may well be some rain. At higher altitudes temperatures range from cool to warm.
Bird/Mammal Photography: Opportunities are good.
Uganda Tour Prices: Prices in Uganda, in common with some of the other ‘safari’ countries of eastern and southern Africa, are very high by the general standard of tour costs in ‘less developed’ countries. There are two main reasons for this. In the first place ‘safari travel’ appeals to a very well-heeled audience from across the globe, not just to birders and wildlife enthusiasts, and the high quality of many of the safari lodges (which are often wonderful places to stay to be sure) and a limited supply of places to stay results in extremely high prices. In most areas there are no mid-range accommodation options available. Secondly, the only comfortable way to go ‘on safari’ is to use specially modified 4x4 vehicles, typically Landrovers or Toyota Landcruisers. Import taxes and running costs for these vehicles in Uganda are very high, and the vehicles take only a small number of people in each, so costs per person are correspondingly steep. The cheaper alternative, still used by some bird and wildlife tour operators, is to put folk into a small minibus (passenger van) that usually has no 4x4 capability and which can struggle to pass muddy or rutted sections of road (conditions regularly present in Uganda). If you see a Uganda tour description and it does not specify 4x4 Landrovers or Landcruisers, check with the tour operator in case they are going to have their clients travel in minibuses/passenger vans.
Gorilla Tracking Permit at Bwindi: As of the time of writing, permits cost a remarkable US$600 (approximately £460 or €540) per person. The Gorilla Tracking Permit price is subject to change and is not included in the tour price. Please be sure to inform us on booking if you want a permit. We need to obtain your permit at the time of booking. The final cost of the permit, exactly as charged in US dollars by the Ugandan authorities, will be billed to you when the tour is invoiced. If you are paying in Pounds or Euros we will convert the cost at the bank exchange rate prevailing at that time.
Chimpanzee Tracking Permit at Kibale: As of the time of writing, this permit costs US$150 (approximately £115 or €135) per person and is included in the tour cost. See explanation above.
These are provisional prices
Tour Price: £7480, €8740, $9350 Entebbe/Entebbe. Rwanda Extension: £1990, €2330, $2490 (ending in Kigali).
Price includes all transportation (including the Entebbe-Kigali flight), all accommodations, all meals, bottled water, some drinks, all excursions (including Chimpanzee Treacking Permit), all entrance fees, all tips for local drivers/guides and for accommodations/restaurants, leader services.
Single Room Supplement: £760, €888, $950. Extension: £252, €294, $315.
Deposit: £900, €1080, $1170. Extension: £250, €300, $330. (Additional deposit if you would like a Gorilla tracking permit: £460, €540, $600. Permit fees are not refundable.)
Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.
Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate
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