In modern times a “safari” means cameras, not guns, are used to shoot wildlife. It also means an overland journey, often involving great distances and requiring special preparation. It is in this broader spirit that we embark upon an exotic journey to equatorial Africa to connect with distant, unfamiliar cultures, and to seek out a species of primate that is almost “family,” and that is in danger of extinction.
Uganda’s star attraction is the endangered mountain gorilla, the bulkiest of living primates, and among the most peaceable. The total population of mountain gorillas living in the wild is now less than 900 individuals. Within Uganda, five habituated gorilla troops can be visited by only a small group of tourists daily. Uganda is also home to man’s closest relative, the chimpanzee, whose evocative pant-hoot call is a definitive sound of the African rainforest. Monkeys are exceptionally well represented here, boasting the greatest primate variety and density in East Africa, with five or six species likely to be observed over the course of a single afternoon walk.
On this safari, we also cross the border into Rwanda. Divided by great peaks up to 9,842 feet which run across the country from north to south, Rwanda is equal to its neighbor as a habitat protecting mountain gorillas. Whether you’re a first time safari-goer or a seasoned Africa traveler, Uganda and Rwanda, with their unique blend of savannah and forest creatures, and their wealth of mountain and lake habitats, are simply dazzling.
Our visits to these countries support the protection and conservation of the mountain gorillas. A part of your tour cost is also designated for supporting the work of SMUG (Sexual Minorities Uganda), which is the leading advocate for establishing gay rights in Uganda. Our tourist dollars will only be spent in establishments which are supportive of the gay community.
Arrange your international flight to leave your home city sometime today, arriving in Kampala, Uganda tomorrow night or the following day. Entebbe International Airport (airport code EBB) lies 25 miles from Kampala and is serviced by several international airlines, including KLM/Northwest, SN Brussels, British Airways, South African Airways, Kenya Airways, Air Tanzania, Rwandair Express, Egypt Air and Ethiopian Airlines. Please arrange to arrive in Uganda by the afternoon of Tuesday, March 27th, at the very latest. Since there are no direct flights from the U. S. to Uganda, you will most likely be connecting through a European capital, where you will arrive tomorrow morning. (Meals Aloft)
After landing in whichever European capital serves as a hub for your chosen airline, connect onward to Entebbe. You may have a substantial layover, since most flights to Uganda leave in the evening, arriving at Entebbe Airport the next morning. However, a few flights do leave during the daytime and arrive in the evening. If your flight arrangements enable you to arrive in Uganda today, you will need to book an extra night at our hotel. Our tour officially begins in Kampala tomorrow, so an extra charge will apply if you arrive today. (Meals Aloft)
Upon arrival, collect your luggage and go through customs. A guide will meet you and transfer you to our gorgeous hotel in the center of Kampala. The day is entirely free for you to rest up from the long journey, explore the environs of the or swim in the beautiful pool. We gather this evening for cocktails and to get acquainted with one another before proceeding to the restaurant for a Welcome Dinner. (Dinner included)
Embark on a sightseeing tour of Kampala, commonly referred to as “a city on the hills” due to its location on seven hills that provide key points of orientation and identity. Some of these hills are closely linked to colonial history, and others are dedicated to the Catholic, Protestant or Moslem faiths, the country’s oldest university, diplomatic missions, and the Kabaka Palace. Our sightseeing today includes the Uganda Museum, town markets, Makerere University, the National Theater, and Namugongo Uganda Martyrs Shrine. We enjoy a special dinner this evening with members of SMUG, an organization leading the fight for gay rights in Uganda. (All Meals)
We drive north of Kampala into the Nakasongola District, making our first stop at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, where guides lead us on foot to track the northern white rhinos. Proceed to Murchison Falls National Park, the country’s oldest and largest conservation areas. The waters of the Nile River plunge through a narrow gorge only 23 feet wide before plunging the height of a 15-story building. The Nile bisects this massive park for 71 miles, making it a sanctuary for 76 different species of mammals, as well as Uganda’s largest population of crocodiles. We check into our lodge and have a free evening. (All Meals)
Start with a morning game drive in the northern circuit of the park, known as the delta region, where we can view giraffes, lions, elephants, buffaloes, and baboons. This afternoon we take a boat to the bottom of Murchison Falls for spectacular views. The banks of the Nile are home to many species, including the huge, indigenous Nile crocodiles, large groups of hippos, monitor lizards, buffaloes, elephants and many more. We transfer to another part of the national park and check in for an overnight stay. (All Meals)
Board a charter flight to the Kasese airstrip in the Crater Lakes region, where we spend the next two nights at a lodge on a volcano rim with spectacular views. Settle into your private cottage and enjoy a free evening to luxuriate in the amenities of the lodge and a spectacular sunset over the Ruwenzori Mountains. As darkness descends the howling of black-and-white colobus monkeys and wood owls provides accompaniment to a sumptuous candlelight dinner. (All Meals)
Early this morning we head into the Kibale Rain Forest, which has the greatest diversity and highest density of primates in all of Africa. On the Kanyanchu Primate Walk you may see up to thirteen different species, including the blue monkey, red colobus, black-and-white colobus, mangabey, and chimpanzee. After tracking, we proceed to a Tinka villager’s home to sample local African cuisines for lunch. We return to our lodge for a free evening. (All Meals).
We begin our day with a crater walk in one of the extinct volcanoes of the area. Marvel at the stunning biodiversity, from plant life to primate species and large mammals. Transfer to Queen Elizabeth National Park in western Rwanda. It is renowned for its wildlife, including chimpanzees, Congo lions, elephants, leopards, hippos, Cape buffaloes, crocodiles, and over 500 species of birds. Our lodge is situated above a peninsula, overlooking the Kazinga Channel which connects Lake Edward and Lake George in the park. (All Meals)
Embark on a morning game drive to the shady plains of the park, where we may see herds of Uganda kobs, lions, African elephants, hippos and many others. This afternoon we take a boat cruise along the famous Kazinga Channel to view enormous hippos, Nile crocodiles, elephants, and buffaloes, as well as hundreds of bird species along the water’s edge. Time permitting, we will have a sunset game drive to see different animal species as they begin to come out of foliage as night falls. Dinner and overnight at our lodge. (All Meals)
Enjoy a morning game drive in the open savannah of the Kasenyi area, before transferring to the Ishasha sector of Q.E. National Park. We will have lunch at our wilderness camp, followed by a relaxing afternoon. As the sun begins to set, we embark on a game drive in search of the tree-climbing lions, who nap in the branches after gorging on a kill. We may also see elephants, buffaloes, and some primates. We return to our camp for dinner and a free evening. (All Meals)
We continue our wildlife sightings today as we travel through the southern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park on our way to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in the far southwestern corner of Uganda. Keep your eyes attentive for more tree-climbing lions! Upon arrival at our gorilla forest camp, enjoy dinner and an evening free to relax in preparation for tomorrow’s big adventure. (All Meals)
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is home to more than half of the total population of mountain gorillas left in the wild. The morning begins with a briefing by specialized guides about how to deal with the gorillas when they get up close-and-personal. We are then divided into smaller groups, depending on which gorilla family you have been allocated to track. Undertake a mountain trek to where your gorilla family is located. This can be strenuous, and it is possible to hire porters to carry you if you are not able to climb in this rough terrain. Once in the presence of our family group, we enjoy a full hour of interactions and snapshots and videos clips with these giant and gentle gorillas, which many describe as a life-altering experience. We may also encounter other primate species as well as a variety of birds. We return to our wildlife camp for a free evening. (All Meals)
We travel across the border today into Rwanda. Our journey proceeds through the deep valleys of the Albertine Rift and climbs into higher elevations with ancient volcanic peaks, with a stop for lunch along the way. Once we reach Kinigi (more rustic sprawl than actual village), we will have climbed to 7,700 feet above sea level. We proceed a little further beyond the town center and arrive at our lodge in late afternoon. After a briefing from our guide about our next day’s gorilla trek, the rest of the day is at leisure. (All Meals)
After breakfast, proceed to the park headquarters at Kinigi for a briefing about our gorilla tracking experience. Our ranger guides lead us into the forest in search of our designated gorilla family. Once united with them, enjoy another hour of sheer magic observing babies playing, watched over by protective mothers and a huge silverback dad. Volcanoes National Park is part of the Virunga Conservation Area. There are five extinct volcanoes here, the highest having an altitude of 14,700 ft. This is where famed zoologist and primate researcher Dian Fossey lived, and the location for “Gorillas in the Mist,” a movie about her life which you will want to see again before setting out on this adventure. We return to our lodge for a free evening. (All Meals)
We track another endangered primate species this morning, the golden monkeys. Volcanoes National Park currently has two troops of these primates that are available for visiting by tourists. Like with the gorillas, we are briefed and then divided into small groups for the visit. Golden monkeys are very active – jumping from tree to tree – which makes for interesting viewing and challenging photography! We transfer to Kibuye, a resort town on the eastern shore of Lake Kivu. Upon arrival, enjoy a boat cruise on the lake, surrounded by attractive uplands which are home to many birds and other aquatic animals. Our evening is free. (Breakfast)
This morning we proceed to Rwanda’s capital Kigali (KGL) , where we enjoy a city tour of the main sites. In late afternoon, we drive to our hotel where day rooms await for our comfort. We will have a Farewell Dinner at the hotel and then a transfer to the Kigali International Airport for our late-night flights home. Let us know if you wish to spend more time in Kigali. (Breakfast / Dinner)
Arrive in one of Europe’s capital cities and connect with onward flights bound for the U.S. Most airline schedules allow you to arrive back home sometime today. (Meals Aloft)