21 DAYS: FALLS, BIRDS, BIG GAME and GORILLAS
A spectacular 21 day tour around the waterfalls and plains, forests and savannahs, mountains and lakes of Uganda, taking in six National Parks. How can we choose one photo to represent this amazing tour of such rich diversity?! If the chimpanzee tracking doesn’t enchant you, perhaps the hundreds of hippo crowding the banks of the Kazinga Channel will. If that’s not good enough, try the tree-climbing lions of Ishasha, mountain gorillas at Bwindi or zebras and common eland at Mburo. If that doesn’t do it, we give up!
Soroti - Sipi Falls - Murchison Falls - Kibale Forest - Semuliki - Queen Elizabeth - Bwindi Forest - Lake Mburo
Day 1: Arrival
Arrive at Entebbe and transfer to your hotel in Entebbe or Kampala. Depending on your time of arrival, you may be able to change some money and perhaps see something of Entebbe or Kampala.
Day 2: Entebbe/Kampala to Mbale for Sipi Falls
After breakfast, we start our drive to Mbale and Sipi in the foothills of Mount Elgon, through ever-changing cultivated landscapes. From Mbale, as we drive up into the foothills of Mt Elgon, we have spectacular views of the plains on one side and the mountains on the other, catching glimpses of amazing waterfalls plummetting down cliff faces.
Day 3: Sipi Falls
A guided walk to one or more of the three dramatic waterfalls (depending on how energetic you feel) is included. Some of the routes are very steep and it can get hot in the middle of the day, but you will be rewarded by amazing views and splashing in the river or standing in the spray behind one of the waterfalls.
After lunch and a rest, you will be taken to a local home to be shown how they grow, harvest and process Arabica coffee, considered the best kind of coffee. After helping them roast and grind the coffee by hand, you will be able to drink your own coffee and buy some to take home.
If you prefer to opt out of these included activities, you can pay extra to abseil 100m down a sheer cliff beside the lowest of the waterfalls.
Day 4: Sipi to Soroti in the region of Teso
Come down from the foothills of Elgon and onto the plains of Teso which you saw yesterday from Sipi. Drive part of the Great North Road which goes all the way from Cape Town to Cairo. Although Teso is not spectacular, it has a beauty of its own, with lakes and grassy swamps, plains with amazing rocky outcrops where huge boulders appear to balance precariously, and grass-thatched homesteads surrounded by cultivation. The people are amongst the friendliest in Uganda and are keen to share their way of life and culture with visitors. Your first experience of their hospitality will be joining a family for lunch where you will be given traditional African food.
After lunch, choose between listening to one of the elders of the community tell some of their traditional stories or a guided walk around a homestead and their cultivated fields.
A guide will then take you to see the ancient ROCK PAINTINGS
up Kapir Hill, an easy 10 minute scramble up rocks to the top where you will see some ancient rock paintings on huge overhanging boulders. Enjoy views all round 360 over the lakes, swamps and plains, with isolated mountains in the far distance.
Drive on to Soroti where you will stay for two nights.
Day 5: Experience cultural activities in Teso
You have a choice today of one or two main activities. Click on CULTURAL ACTIVITIES IN TESO
to see the wide range of activities and experiences you can choose from.
Day 6: Birdwatching in the wetlands of Teso
Visit one or more of the lakes and swamps of Teso (Bisina, Opeta or Kyoga) to look for the rare and prehistoric-looking Shoebill as well as Fox’s Weaver (endemic to Uganda and found only in Teso) and many other birds.
On your last evening in Soroti, you will be entertained by a music group singing and playing traditional instruments (adungu, akogo etc) and a dance group performing the dramatic Ajosi stick dance - an evening you will never forget. They rarely perform now, so you will be able to witness and encourage a tradition which is in danger of dying out.
Day 7: Soroti to Murchison Falls National Park
We make an early start to Murchison Falls National Park. This is the largest park in Uganda, covering almost 4000 km2
, and is one of the most spectacular Parks in all of Africa. It takes its name from the incredible falls where the vast River Nile is forced through a narrow gap only 7m wide. Habitats vary from rolling hills of open savannah dotted with borassus palm trees, from forests to muddy pools, from swamps to the open delta region where the Nile flows into Lake Albert and then out again on its journey northwards to the Mediterranean. Because of this rich variety of habitats, there is an equally diverse and rich abundance of wildlife and birds, from the very small to the largest on earth. Nothing compares with the excitement of seeing your first wild animals even though you will so many more later on, including giraffe, elephants, buffalo, Jackson's hartebeest, oribi, hippos, crocodiles, waterbuck, warthog, Uganda kob, olive baboons and Patas monkeys.
Day 8: Murchison Falls National Park
A full day of game viewing in the Park. We begin with a morning game drive. When we reach where the Nile flows into Lake Albert, it is safe to get out and walk near the water to watch hippos grunting in the water as the day heats up. If you are very lucky, you may see lion, leopard, hyenas and jackals.
In the afternoon, we take a relaxing three hour boat trip upstream towards the 43m high Murchison Falls. This is a good opportunity to spot a few of Murchison’s 460 bird species as well as many hippos and crocodiles. Other animals, such as elephants, come down to the swampy edge of the river to feed and drink.
Day 9: Murchison Falls to Kibale Forest National Park
After an early breakfast, it’s a long 7 hour journey to our accommodation near Fort Portal or Kibale Forest National Park.
Day 10: Kibale Forest National Park
Kibale Forest is one of the best in East Africa for birds and primates, including chimpanzees, some of which have been habituated. We start early to go through the forest tracking chimpanzees.
Look out for L’Hoest’s monkeys, red colobus, blue monkeys, red-tailed monkeys and grey-cheeked mangabeys, as well as birds.
In the afternoon, go on a community guided walk round Bigodi Swamp looking for birds and primates.
Day 11: Semuliki National Park and Sempaya Hot Springs
A very different day as you take the spectacular road from Fort Portal round the 'back' of the majestic Rwenzori mountains to Bundibugyo and Semuliki National Park to visit the hot springs at Sempaya, close to the Congo (DRC) border. The forest is unique in Uganda as it is part of the vast Central African rainforests, so you will see birds not seen anywhere else in Uganda or East Africa.
Return to your hotel in Fort Portal.
Day 12: Fort Portal to Queen Elizabeth National Park
Drive south through lovely scenery to Queen Elizabeth National Park. There will be an opportunity for an evening game drive with views of one of the crater lakes.
Day 13: Queen Elizabeth National Park
An early morning game drive across the plains of the Park should hopefully provide us with wonderful sightings of wildlife, including Uganda kob, buffalo, lions and elephants.
After lunch at the lodge, take a two hour boat trip along the Kazinga Channel which joins Lake George with Lake Edward. This is for many, a highlight of their Ugandan trip. The quantity of hippo, buffalo and birds is outstanding. Elephant are also usually common as they come down to the water to drink and bathe.
Day 14: Queen Elizabeth National Park to Ishasha
Drive south to the Ishasha sector of the Queen Elizabeth National Park for another day of game drives and a search for the famous tree-climbing lions. Hippos wallow in the Ishasha River which is the boundary between Uganda and the Congo (DRC). There will be plenty of time for birdwatching before settling for the night at Ishasha Wilderness Camp (or similar).
Day 15: Ishasha to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
If you weren't lucky enough to see the tree-climbing lions yesterday, you will have another opportunity this morning before setting off for Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. You will drive up from the hot plains of the Rift Valley into the hills, passing through beautiful scenery with tea plantations before entering Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Bwindi Forest National Park is a lush highland rainforest, filled with primates and exotic birds.
Day 16: Bwindi Forest
The highlight of many safaris is tracking the rare mountain gorillas although it can be very tiring. Begin the day with an early breakfast, followed by a briefing from the Ugandan Wildlife Authority staff. Make sure you bring your rain jacket, trousers, drinking water, snacks and walking boots. The guides will lead you inside the forest to see the shy primates. Being physically fit is recommended as the walking can be very long and strenuous, hacking through thick vegetation up and down steep mountain slopes. Although seeing gorillas cannot be guaranteed, as they are wild animals which roam extensively through the forest, it is unlikely you will fail to see them. The tracking may take between 3 and 8 hours, but it is well worth the effort. For more information, click on: ADVICE FOR GORILLA TREKKING.
If it has been a long trek, you will want to relax when you get back to base! But if you get back by lunchtime, you may like to visit a local community (such as a Batwa community) or go for a gentle birdwatching walk.
Day 17: Bwindi Forest to Lake Mburo National Park
The beautiful and varied drive from Bwindi Forest to Lake Mburo National Park will take about 5 hours, leaving time to go for an evening game drive before it gets dark.
Day 19: Lake Mburo National Park
Up early for a morning game drive or a guided walk with an armed ranger, only one of two Parks where this is allowed. There are great opportunities to see zebra, topi, impala and maybe the elusive eland.
In the afternoon, go for a boat trip on Lake Mburo along the papyrus which fringes the lack and is home to many secretive and unusual birds. You may be able to buy some fish from a passing fisherman to throw into the water below where a fish eagle is perched so that you can watch it dive down and pick up the fish in its powerful talons.
Day 20: Lake Mburo National Park to Entebbe via Mabamba Swamp
An early start to enable stops on the way at the Equator (where you can buy souvenirs) and a visit to Mabamba Swamp where you can go out in a canoe to look for birds, including the Shoebill if you haven't already seen it elsewhere. You will stay in Entebbe.
Day 21: Entebbe
Depending on the time of your flight home, we can take you straight to the airport or to a craft market, ideal for gifts and souvenirs, or even to Mabamba Swamp instead of yesterday; or you can have a birdwatching walk by Lake Victoria and through Entebbe Botanical Gardens.
This is a sample itinerary. We can adjust the route, activities and type of accommodation according to your requirements and budget. Where there is a choice of accommodation available, you can decide whether you want to stay in luxury, mid-range or budget lodges, hotels or guest houses. Click on: HOW TO PLAN YOUR HOLIDAY.