The Ultimate In Birding Tours

Africa (and its islands)

SHOEBILLS & GORILLAS OF UGANDA – Plus Green-breasted Pitta, Albertine Rift Endemics and Chimpanzees


Birdquest’s Shoebills & Gorillas of Uganda birding tours are classic African bird and wildlife adventures, featuring some amazing Ugandan avian specialities, as well as the incomparable Eastern Gorillas of Bwindi, close encounters with Chimpanzees and many other mammals. Our Shoebills & Gorillas of Uganda birding tours are 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.

This is a superb and diverse Uganda birding tour featuring 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 magnificent Gorillas and Chimpanzees.

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 that 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.

Our Shoebills & Gorillas of Uganda birding tour will first visit 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 the best place in Africa to see the rare and beautiful Green-breasted Pitta. It is also a great place to see Chimpanzees, as well as many other forest birds, including 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 Savanna 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 and, in season, the smart Brown-chested Lapwing.

Eventually, our Shoebills & Gorillas of Uganda birding tour travels 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 Neumann’s (or Short-tailed) 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 and Elliot’s Woodpeckers, Ruwenzori Batis, Lagden’s and Doherty’s Bushshrikes, Montane Sooty and Willard’s Sooty 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 Uganda birding tours since 1994.

What makes the Birdquest Uganda: Shoebills & Gorillas birding tour special? Firstly, our group size limit is much smaller than for most Uganda birding tours. There is a lot of forest birding in Uganda and having a smaller group size makes for a superior birding experience for our group members.

Secondly, we do not compromise on accommodations. Uganda lodges are very expensive (even by already high East African standards), but we simply will not go down the cheaper accommodations route in a country like Uganda, where trying to reduce the price results in a big drop in quality.

Finally, the most comfortable and ‘up-market’ option for any Uganda birding tour is to use specially modified 4×4 vehicles, typically Landrovers or Toyota Landcruisers, like we always do. The cheaper alternative, still used by some Uganda birding tour operators, is to put folk into a small minibus (passenger van) that usually has no 4×4 capability and which can struggle to pass muddy or rutted sections of road (conditions regularly present in Uganda). If you see a Uganda birding tour description and it does not specify 4×4 Landrovers or Landcruisers, check with the tour operator in case they are going to have their clients travel in minibuses/passenger vans.

Green-breasted Pitta and Chimpanzee Tracking at Kibale: Unlike many Uganda birding tour operators, we include the cost of a Chimpanzee Tracking Permit (currently $200) in our tour cost. The reason for this is simple. Firstly it is usually the case that everyone in the group wants 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 merge an early morning pitta session (which also involves an extra fee to the park) into a Chimpanzee tracking session, thus obtaining the best of both worlds.

Gorilla Tracking at Bwindi: Usually most people in the group opt to go to see the Gorillas at Bwindi as this is such a mega-highlight of any Uganda birding tour. The optional gorilla tracking involves part or even 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 go Gorilla tracking you are, based on past experience, unlikely to miss any Albertine Rift endemic bird speciality as a result. There is enough time to see both.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/lodges used in Uganda are mostly of a good or very good standard, only occasionally being medium standard. Road transport is by specially adapted 4×4 safari vehicle with opening roof hatch and roads are mostly good.

Walking: The walking effort during our Shoebills & Gorillas of Uganda birding tours is mostly easy, occasionally moderate. There is one optional fairly demanding hike to search for Grauer’s Broadbill. See also Gorilla Tracking at Bwindi.

Climate: Most days in Uganda 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 during our Shoebills & Gorillas of Uganda birding tours are good.


  • A close encounter with the incomparable and totally bizarre Shoebill!
  • Starting off before dawn to locate the jewel-like Green-breasted Pitta in Kibale Forest.
  • A very special hour spent in the company of a family of ‘Mountain’ Eastern Gorillas.
  • Often extremely close encounters with wild Chimpanzees in Kibale National Park.
  • A boat trip on the Kazinga channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park allows close approach to a wide selection of waterbirds and most notably African Skimmer.
  • Catching sight of the tiny Neumann’s Warbler that has a voice disproportionate to its size!
  • Birding Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, from the recently-described Willard’s Sooty Boubou and dowdy Grauer’s Warbler to the glorious Doherty’s Bushshrike and Regal Sunbird.
  • The trek down to Mubwindi Swamp where the rare and beautiful Grauer’s Broadbill breeds.


  • Day 1: Evening tour start at Entebbe airport.
  • Day 2: Mabamba Swamp and Shoebill. Overnight at Entebbe.
  • Day 3: Drive to Kibale.
  • Day 4: Kibale Forest National Park.
  • Day 5: Kibale Forest, then drive to Queen Elizabeth II National Park.
  • Day 6: Queen Elizabeth II National Park, including Kazinga Channel boat trip.
  • Day 7: Queen Elizabeth II National Park, then drive to Buhoma.
  • Days 8-9: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Overnights at Buhoma.
  • Day 10: Transfer to Ruhija in upper section of Bwindi Impenetrable.
  • Day 11: Ruhija area of Bwindi Impenetrable.
  • Day 12: Return to Entebbe airport for evening tour end.

To see a larger map, click on the square-like ‘enlarge’ icon in the upper right of the map box.

To see (or hide) the ‘map legend’, click on the icon with an arrow in the upper left of the map box.

To change to a satellite view, which is great for seeing the physical terrain (and for seeing really fine details by repetitive use of the + button), click on the square ‘map view’ icon in the lower left corner of the ‘map legend’.


Birdquest Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

We also include all tipping for local guides, drivers and accommodation/restaurant staff.

We also include a Green-breasted Pitta/Chimpanzee Tracking Permit at Kibale: See explanation above.

Deposit: 20% of the total tour price (plus Gorillas permit fee if you want an optional permit – see below). Our office will let you know what deposit amount is due, in order to confirm your booking, following receipt of your online booking form.

Cancellation Charges: For this tour, the cancellation charge for cancellations made 6 months or less before the tour start date is 100% of the total tour price.

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates)

Gorilla Tracking Permit at Bwindi: As of the time of writing, permits cost a remarkable US $725 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 included on your tour invoice. The additional deposit (due at the time of booking) if you would like a Gorilla tracking permit is $725 or equivalent. Permit fees are not refundable for any reason.

The single supplement will not apply if you indicate on booking that you prefer to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available.

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.


Shoebills & Gorillas of Uganda: Day 1  Our tour begins this evening at Entebbe airport, situated on the shores of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake. We will transfer to our hotel nearby, where we will stay for two nights.

Shoebills & Gorillas of Uganda: Day 2  Today we will visit Mabamba Swamp, adjacent to Lake Victoria, and take a boat trip through an extensive papyrus swamp where we will be wanting in particular to observe the strange Shoebill or Whale-headed Stork. This extraordinary bird, which is placed in a family of its own, is confined to papyrus swamps and has its main stronghold in the inaccessible swamps of southern Sudan and central Zambia, although there are still good numbers in Uganda.

Other likely species at Mabamba include White-breasted and Reed (or Long-tailed) Cormorants, Little Egret, Squacco Heron, Hamerkop, African Openbill, Yellow-billed Duck, African Fish Eagle (with its call that is so evocative of the African wilderness), Lesser Jacana, Long-toed Lapwing, Grey-headed Gull, Gull-billed and White-winged Terns, Pied and Giant Kingfishers, the tiny Malachite Kingfisher, Winding and Red-faced Cisticolas, the confiding Swamp Flycatcher and Black-and-white Mannikin. The uncommon Lesser Jacana sometimes occurs.

We will also encounter a good variety of open country and woodland birds today, such as Western Cattle Egret, Black-headed Heron, Hadada Ibis, Yellow-billed Kite, African Marsh Harrier, African Harrier-Hawk, Shikra, Lizard Buzzard, Palm-nut Vulture, Grey Kestrel, Red-eyed Dove, Blue-spotted Wood Dove, African Green Pigeon, the impressive Great Blue Turaco, Eastern Grey Plantain-eater (constantly uttering its strange call), White-browed Coucal, Mottled Spinetail, Little, White-rumped and African Palm Swifts, Speckled Mousebird, Woodland Kingfisher, Broad-billed Roller, Crowned Hornbill, African Pied Hornbill (the form here is sometimes split as Congo Pied Hornbill), the grotesque-looking Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill, African Pied Wagtail, Angola Swallow, Dark-capped Bulbul, African Thrush, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Grey-capped Warbler, Pied Crow, Splendid and Rüppell’s Long-tailed Starlings, Olive-bellied and Red-chested Sunbirds, the gorgeous Orange Weaver, Black-headed, Northern Brown-throated, Yellow-backed, Vieillot’s Black and Slender-billed Weavers, Northern Grey-headed Sparrow, Bronze Mannikin and Yellow-fronted Canary. If we are lucky, we will also see the nomadic Weyns’s Weaver and even the migratory BlueSwallow.

Shoebills & Gorillas of Uganda: Day 3  Today we will drive westwards through central Uganda to Kibale Forest National Park for a two nights stay.

First, we will bypass the busy capital Kampala which, like Rome, was built upon seven hills, and then drive through farmland interspersed with papyrus swamps and patches of woodland where herds of Ankole cattle with their magnificent horns are commonplace. We will come across a good selection of widespread Ugandan birds during the journey and will stop for anything of particular interest.

As we approach Kibale, situated in the Fort Portal region of western Uganda, we will get our first views of the distant Rwenzori Mountains. We will arrive in time for some initial exploration at Kibale Forest.

Shoebills & Gorillas of Uganda: Day 4  Some of our birding at Kibale Forest National Park will be done from the wide road which bisects the forest, but most of our time will be spent on the network of small trails which pierce the forest interior.

Here the magnificent Crowned Eagle soars over the canopy striking terror into the troops of monkeys and flocks of Purple-headed Starlings gather to feed in fruiting trees where we may discover some subtly-plumaged Afep Pigeons.

Star attraction of Kibale is the jewel-like Green-breasted Pitta. Once a rarely-seen bird, the habits and location of this mega-bird are now much better known and so we have a good chance of seeing this very special African bird during our stay. (Kindly note that while most of our encounters have been during a dedicated early-morning search for the pitta, open to all participants, occasionally the only sighting of this species has been during the optional chimpanzee tracking excursion.)

Among the other birds we will look for are the restricted-range Green White-eye as well as White-spotted Flufftail (difficult to see as opposed to hear), Tambourine Dove, African Emerald, Dusky Long-tailed and Red-chested Cuckoos, Blue Malkoha (or Yellowbill), Black-billed Turaco, Narina Trogon, Alpine Swift, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, the splendid Black Bee-eater, White-throated Bee-eater, White-headed Wood Hoopoe, Speckled, Yellow-rumped and Yellow-throated Tinkerbirds, Hairy-breasted, Yellow-billed and Yellow-spotted Barbets, Thick-billed Honeyguide, Cassin’s Honeybird, Mosque and Lesser Striped Swallows, White-headed Saw-wing, Mountain Wagtail, Plain, Joyful, White-throated and Honeyguide Greenbuls, Western Nicator, the delightful Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat, Fraser’s Rufous Thrush, Brown and Scaly-breasted Illadopsises, Green Hylia, White-chinned Prinia, Lowland Masked and Buff-throated Apalises, Green Crombec, Grey-throated Tit-flycatcher, the striking Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher, Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher, Western Oriole, Velvet-mantled Drongo, Pink-footed Puffback, Petit’s Cuckooshrike, Chestnut-winged Starling, Grey-chinned (or Green), Collared, Western Olive, Green-headed, Blue-throated Brown, Green-throated, Superb and Copper Sunbirds, Black-necked, Dark-backed and Vieillot’s Black Weavers, Red-headed Malimbe, Grey-headed Negrofinch and Black-crowned Waxbill.

If we are very fortunate we will find the rare White-naped Pigeon, perhaps watching one perched up high on an exposed snag, or come across a Red-chested Owlet being mobbed by angry passerines. We may also come across African Wood Owl.

During the evening, African Wood Owl may put in an appearance near our accommodation.

Kibale is home to no fewer than eleven species of primates and we should see Central African Red and Guereza Colobuses, Olive Baboon, Grey-cheeked Mangabey, and L’Hoest’s and Red-tailed Monkey.

We will also visit a nearby swamp in search of the restricted-range White-winged Swamp Warbler, as well as Grey Crowned Crane, Ross’s Turaco and Thick-billed (or Grosbeak) Weaver. With a bit of luck, we will also encounter the delightful but erratic White-collared Oliveback.

Furthermore, Kibale Forest is one of the best areas in Uganda to see Chimpanzees. Local forest rangers keep a close watch on the activities of the various families and we will arrange to track Chimpanzees on one of our mornings here. There is a very high chance that we will encounter a troop of these most human of primates and it is often possible to have a good length of time with them (it all depends on how co-operative they are). We are sure to hear their deafening, blood-curdling screams echoing through the forest and we should enjoy wonderful views of these fascinating cousins of ours. We have even encountered Green-breasted Pitta on occasion during our Chimpanzee sessions!

Shoebills & Gorillas of Uganda: Day 5  This morning we will return to Kibale Forest and afterwards we will drive to Queen Elizabeth National Park for a two nights stay.

Our route takes us through the foothills of the Rwenzoris. This mountain range is one of the wettest in the world and the snow-capped summits, including Mount Stanley (5109m), are usually hidden behind a cape of low cloud and mist. If we are lucky and the weather is clear we may catch a glimpse of the equatorial snowfields above the layers of cloud.

Shoebills & Gorillas of Uganda: Day 6  Queen Elizabeth National Park is very varied, with a mixture of West African-type tropical forest and open savanna that is more typical of East Africa. It boasts a bird list of over 550 species, the largest of any protected area in Africa!

Some impressive craters reflect the turbulent geological history of the area and large herds of African Elephants find refuge in these natural enclaves. The elephant population is one of the most prolific on the continent; virtually all the females have calves and seem determined to redress the destruction that took place here during the lawless period under Amin and Obote. Mammals are much in evidence at Queen Elizabeth and we should find Vervet Monkey, Common Warthog, Kob, Bushbuck, Waterbuck, Topi, African Buffalo, Scrub Hare, Marsh Mongoose, Banded Mongoose, Spotted Hyaena and Lions. We even have a good chance of encountering a Leopard. We also have a modest chance of encountering the impressive Giant Hog (which used to be easier to see here than anywhere else in its range, but which has become much more elusive in recent times).

The park is bisected by the Kazinga Channel, which flows between Lake Edward and Lake George, and this swampy waterway teams with Hippopotamuses and Nile Crocodiles as well as an excellent variety of birds, including Great White and Pink-backed Pelicans, Great Egret, Grey, Purple and Goliath Herons, Saddle-billed and Yellow-billed Storks, African Sacred and Glossy Ibises, Egyptian Goose, Black Crake, African Jacana, Black-winged Stilt, Water Thick-knee, Spur-winged and African Wattled Lapwings, Kittlitz’s and Three-banded Plovers, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Brown-throated Martin, the elegant Rufous-chested Swallow, Lesser Swamp Warbler, Carruthers’s Cisticola and Papyrus Gonolek, all of which we are likely to see during an enjoyable boat trip or while exploring the area by vehicle. In addition, African Skimmers are often present.

A widespread but often hard to see species that we often encounter in the park is African Crake. Common and Black-rumped Buttonquails also occur in the lush grasslands but are usually hard to observe. The superb Brown-chested Lapwing migrates here from further west to spend the non-breeding season, typically being present from July to December. At night we may find Square-tailed (or Gabon) Nightjars feeding around the lights of the lodge.

Other new species we may well encounter at Queen Elizabeth include Marabou Stork, Black-winged Kite, Hooded, White-backed, Rüppell’s, Lappet-faced and White-headed Vultures, Brown Snake Eagle, Bateleur, Gabar Goshawk, Wahlberg’s, Tawny, Martial and Long-crested Eagles, Lanner Falcon, Helmeted Guineafowl, Black-bellied Bustard, Red-necked Spurfowl, Collared Pratincole, Senegal and Crowned Lapwings, Mourning Collared, Ring-necked and Laughing Doves, Diederik Cuckoo, Black and White-browed Coucals, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Blue-naped Mousebird, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Olive (or Madagascar) and Little Bee-eaters, African Hoopoe, Common Scimitarbill, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, White-headed Barbet, Lesser Honeyguide, African Grey Woodpecker, Rufous-naped and Flappet Larks, Yellow-throated Longclaw, African (or Grassland) and Plain-backed Pipits, Banded Martin, Red-breasted Swallow, White-browed Robin-Chat, Sooty Chat, Arrow-marked and Black-lored Babblers, Moustached Grass Warbler, Fan-tailed Grassbird, Trilling, Stout and Zitting Cisticolas, Northern Crombec, Buff-bellied Warbler, Western Black-headed Batis, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, African Paradise Flycatcher, Fork-tailed Drongo, Northern and Grey-backed Fiscals, Black-headed Gonolek, Black-crowned and Marsh Tchagras, Orange-breasted (or Sulphur-breasted) Bushshrike, Red-shouldered Cuckooshrike, Violet-backed Starling, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Purple-banded and Scarlet-chested Sunbirds, Compact, Lesser Masked and Spectacled Weavers, Red-billed Quelea, Southern Red Bishop, Fan-tailed and White-winged Widowbirds, Green-winged Pytilia, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, Red-billed Firefinch, Common and Fawn-breasted Waxbills, Pin-tailed Whydah, Brimstone Canary and Golden-breasted Bunting.

Shoebills & Gorillas of Uganda: Day 7  We will spend much of the day exploring the Ishasha section of Queen Elizabeth, which is famous for tree-climbing Lions.

Afterwards, we will continue to the lower section of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park for a three nights stay at Buhoma. As we approach Buhoma we will see forested mountains stretching as far as the eye can see towards the Congo border.

Shoebills & Gorillas of Uganda: Days 8-9  The Impenetrable Forest is one of the largest in East Africa and has a remarkable altitudinal range of continuous forest from 1160m to 2650m. This splendid forest is considered to be the richest in East Africa for plant, mammal, bird and butterfly species: over 330 bird species have been recorded here, for example. The Impenetrable is a wonderfully evocative name and often appears in the ornithological literature for Africa. The forest was so named not because it was any more densely vegetated than other forests, but because of the steepness of the hills which made progress almost impossible. Fortunately, it is possible to see most of the special birds of this wonderful area by walking along the roads or along gently sloping tracks. On only a few occasions will we have to take to the steeper trails.

At lower levels, the forest is easy to work and at Buhoma there is an excellent trail that passes through some magnificent forest. Western Bronze-naped Pigeons and Olive Long-tailed Cuckoos call from the dense canopy, sedate Bar-tailed Trogons sit quietly overhead and weird-looking Grey-throated Barbets inspect dead trunks and boughs, but the real prizes of this forest skulk in the undergrowth and we will need patience to get views of the highly elusive Grey-chested Babbler (formerly Grey-chested Illadopsis but now reclassified as a member of a small bird family consisting of this species, Dapple-throat and Spot-throat). Other great undergrowth birds here include Red-throated Alethe (which often attends ant swarms), Equatorial Akalat, White-bellied Robin-Chat, Black-faced Rufous Warbler and the unique Neumann’s (or Short-tailed) Warbler. Fruiting trees often attract an interesting selection of starlings including Slender-billed, Waller’s, Narrow-tailed and Stuhlmann’s. If we are lucky we will come across one or two of the rare inhabitants of the forest, which include Willard’s Sooty Boubou, Jameson’s Antpecker and Oberlander’s Ground Thrush.

Other species we may well see in the forest include Black (or Great) Sparrowhawk, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Willcocks’s Honeyguide, Cardinal and Elliot’s Woodpeckers, African Broadbill (a bird with a remarkable display), Ansorge’s, Little, Slender-billed, Cabanis’s, Red-tailed Greenbul, Kakamega Greenbul, Red-tailed Bristlebill, the gorgeous but secretive Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat, White-tailed Ant Thrush, Black-throated, Grey and Mountain Masked Apalises, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, White-browed Crombec, Olive-green Camaroptera, Dusky Tit, Sooty, African Dusky, Dusky-blue, Yellow-eyed Black and the rare Chapin’s Flycatchers, White-bellied Crested Flycatcher, Chestnut Wattle-eye, Many-coloured, Lühder’s and Bocage’s Bushshrikes, Grey-headed, Little Green, Blue-headed and Northern Double-collared Sunbirds, and Black-billed and Brown-capped Weavers. Exposed perches at the forest edge are favoured by Blue-throated Roller, while in the cut-over clearings we may find duetting Chubb’s Cisticolas, Cape Wagtail, Brown-backed Scrub Robin, Mackinnon’s Fiscal and Western Citril.

The Impenetrable Forest is also home to a healthy population of Eastern Gorillas. These Ugandan animals, which show shared characteristics of both lowland and mountain forms, could, in fact, be an endangered subspecies or even a full species in their own right. Those who want to will be able to go out with the park staff to look for these spectacular creatures during our second full day here, an experience which generally involves from three to six hours in the field, depending on where the gorillas are located.

A close encounter with a group of these gentle giants is a profound experience which will make an indelible impression. The gorillas are fully protected in the park and you will be able to track a group of these marvellous animals through the dense, damp forest and thickets of giant bamboo on the slopes of the mountain. The terrain can sometimes be steep and rough, but the guides will cut a path through the dense understorey of giant nettles and wild celery if necessary. As you approach a group your guides will make strange grunting noises to reassure the gorillas that you are merely harmless tourists. These huge animals are surprisingly docile and often completely unconcerned by the presence of humans, so it is usually possible to get to within a few metres of them as they play, feed and rest. There is no need to say that this is an experience which you will never forget!

Other mammals are generally inconspicuous, but we may well come across the attractive L’Hoest’s Monkey.

Shoebills & Gorillas of Uganda: Day 10  After two full days at lower levels we will transfer to the higher section of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, passing through ‘The Neck’, a narrow corridor of forest that connects the two forest blocks, on our way to Ruhija for a two nights stay.

We will spend some time birding along the winding track at intermediate altitudes where flowering Leonotis often attract Bronze and Variable Sunbirds and other possibilities include African Goshawk, Augur Buzzard, Scarce Swift, Double-toothed Barbet, Red-throated Wryneck, Black Saw-wing, Yellow-throated Leaflove, Cassin’s, White-eyed Slaty and African Blue Flycatchers, Brown-crowned Tchagra, the glorious Doherty’s Bushshrike, White-naped Raven, Baglafecht Weaver, Yellow Bishop, African Firefinch, Yellow-bellied Waxbill, and Black-throated and Streaky Seed-eaters. If we are lucky we shall find the little-known Dusky Twinspot.

Shoebills & Gorillas of Uganda: Day 11  In the higher parts of the forest the mist lingers in the valleys until late morning and this perpetual dampness is reflected in the profusion of hanging mosses and epiphyte-encrusted branches. These Central African mountains are a centre of avian endemism which developed around the Albertine Rift, an ancient branch of the Great Rift Valley that runs through Uganda, the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi.

A number of birds are unique to this region including Handsome Francolin, Archer’s Robin-Chat, Ruwenzori Apalis, Grauer’s Warbler (with its insect-like song), Ruwenzori Batis, Stripe-breasted Tit, Regal Sunbird, Strange Weaver, Dusky Crimson-wing, the uncommon but unbelievably-plumaged Purple-breasted Sunbird and the uncommon and hard-to-find Kivu Ground Thrush (sometimes split from Abyssinian Ground Thrush).

We have a good chance of seeing most of these exciting birds during our stay and shall also make a long trek uphill and downhill to Mubwindi Swamp where we will hope to locate the rare Grauer’s Swamp (or Grauer’s Rush) Warbler (a species confined to high altitude swamps in the Albertine Rift) and of course the most sought-after bird of the Impenetrable Forest, the Grauer’s (or African Green) Broadbill. We have a fair chance of seeing this little-known species which, until relatively recently, had been seen by few living ornithologists.

Among the other birds that we will look for in the forest are Mountain Buzzard, Ayres’s and perhaps Cassin’s Hawk-Eagles, African Olive Pigeon, the uncommon Brown-necked Parrot, Barred Long-tailed and Klaas’s Cuckoos, Ruwenzori Nightjar, Western Tinkerbird, Tullberg’s Woodpecker, Rock Martin, Mountain (or Montane) Oriole, Ruwenzori Hill Babbler, Mountain Illadopsis, Grey Cuckooshrike, Olive-breasted and Yellow-streaked Greenbuls, White-starred Robin, Abyssinian Thrush, Chestnut-throated Apalis, Evergreen Forest, Cinnamon Bracken and Mountain Yellow Warblers, Chin-spot Batis, White-tailed Blue Flycatcher, White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, the skulking Montane Sooty Boubou, Northern Puffback, Sharpe’s Starling, Kandt’s Waxbill, Thick-billed Seed-eater, Oriole Finch and Yellow-crowned Canary. Chimpanzees and Gorillas also occur in this section of the forest, but they are hard to see in this difficult terrain.

Shoebills & Gorillas of Uganda: Day 12  Today we will return to Entebbe, where our tour ends at the airport this evening.


by Nik Borrow

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Other shorter Africa birding tours by Birdquest include: