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Birdquest's Shoebills & Gorillas of Uganda tour is a classic African birding and wildlife adventure, featuring some amazing birds as well as the incomparable Gorillas of Bwindi, close encounters with Chimpanzees and many other mammals. Our Shoebills & Gorillas of Uganda tour is a wonderful distillation of the extraordinary birdlife of this beautiful country, including the strange yet wonderful Shoebill, the sole member of its family, the famous Albertine Rift endemics (including Grauer's or African Green Broadbill) and the gorgeous Green-breasted Pitta.
Thursday 26th July —
Sunday 5th August 2018
Leaders: Nik Borrow and Livingstone Kalema
Group Size Limit: 6
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.
This is a superb and diverse tour to one of the richest countries in Africa for birds, appealing in particular to those who dream of seeing the amazing Shoebill, the exciting forest species of the ‘Albertine Rift’ and, of course, the incomparable Gorillas and Chimpanzees.
Our travels take us first to the shores of Lake Victoria around Entebbe, where we will look for the extraordinary Shoebill, as well as Lesser Jacana, Grey-capped Warbler and much else besides.
We then head westwards to Kibale Forest in Kibale National Park, which is one of the best places in Africa to see Chimpanzees, as well as many forest birds, including the rare and beautiful Green-breasted Pitta, Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo, Black-billed Turaco, Joyful and White-throated Greenbuls, Chubb’s Cisticola, Lowland Masked Apalis, Scaly-breasted Illadopsis and Grey-winged Robin-Chat.
Continuing southwards past the Rwenzori Mountains we reach the open plains and impressive craters of Queen Elizabeth National Park with its rich array of large mammals, including Lion, Leopard, African Elephant and numerous Hippos. There is also a marvellous variety of birds, which includes African Crake, African Skimmer, Black Coucal, Papyrus Gonolek, White-winged Swamp Warbler, Trilling and Carruthers’s Cisticolas, Red-chested Sunbird, Black-chinned Quailfinch and, in season, the smart Brown-chested Lapwing.
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 are rich in bird species that are endemic to the Albertine Rift such as Short-tailed (or Neumann’s) Warbler, Jameson’s Antpecker and the rare Grauer’s (or African Green) Broadbill.
Many other Albertine endemics and other interesting birds are likely or in a few cases possible here, including Handsome Francolin, Mountain Buzzard, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Ruwenzori Nightjar, Dwarf and Willcocks’s Honeyguides, Tullberg’s (Fine-banded) and Elliot’s Woodpeckers, Ruwenzori Batis, Lagden’s and Doherty’s Bushshrikes, Mountain Sooty and Willard’s Boubous, Petit’s Cuckooshrike, Mountain Oriole, White-tailed Blue Flycatcher, Stripe-breasted Tit, Olive-breasted Greenbul, White-browed Crombec, Grauer’s Warblers, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Grauer’s Swamp Warbler, Black-faced Prinia, Ruwenzori, Mountain Masked and Chestnut-throated Apalises, Mountain Illadopsis, Ruwenzori Hill Babbler, Grey-chested Babbler (Illadopsis), Stuhlmann’s Starling, Kivu and Oberländer’s Ground Thrushes, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Chapin’s Flycatcher, Red-throated Alethe, White-bellied and Blue-shouldered Robin-Chats, Archer’s Ground Robin, Equatorial Akalat, Grey-headed, Blue-headed, Purple-breasted and Regal Sunbirds, Strange Weaver, Dusky Crimsonwing, Red-headed Bluebill, Dusky Twinspot, Kandt’s Waxbill and Western Citril.
Uganda is undoubtedly the friendliest country in East Africa. Join us for this wonderful adventure that concentrates on the very best birds and mammals of this remarkable land.
Birdquest has operated tours to Uganda since 1994.
Important: Our Shoebills & Gorillas of Uganda tour is limited to just one safari vehicle, which means our small group will be together all the time, both when on foot and when in the parks where one can only occasionally bird on foot. A much superior experience to birding safaris with two vehicles and a much larger group size when birding in forest habitats.
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 opening 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: £4290, €5060, $5620 Entebbe/Entebbe.
Price includes all transportation, all accommodations, all meals, bottled water, some drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees (including Chimpanzee Tracking Permit), all tips for local drivers/guides and for accommodations/restaurants, leader services.
Single Room Supplement: £490, €578, $642.
Deposit: £550, €660, $720. (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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