24 DAYS: THE BEST OF BIRDING IN UGANDA with Wildlife
This specialised safari demonstrates exactly how Uganda is ‘Gifted by Nature'. For 24 days, you will explore Uganda’s top birding and wildlife destinations with the help of a superior network of bird guides. Our experienced tour guides will accompany you through six beautiful and biologically diverse National Parks, as well as other Reserves and Wetlands, including Africa’s best Shoebill bird location, Mabamba. Each night, you will rest comfortably in your choice of accommodation (ranging from luxury to budget and glamping), strategically located to optimize the birding potential.
Day 1: Arrival at Entebbe
Upon arrival you will be met by one of our professional guides and transferred to your hotel of choice. Depending on the time of arrival, we may start our safari with bird watching around the shores of Lake Victoria in Entebbe.
Day 2: Entebbe to Lake Mburo National Park via Mabamba swamp
We leave early to travel south, visiting Mabamba Bay and its adjacent swamp. The road to Mabamba winds its way through areas of secondary forest and agricultural land attracting Red-headed Lovebird, African Crowned-Hornbills
, and a range of sunbirds including the Green-headed, Green, Red-chested, Collared, Marico and Scarlet-chested Sunbirds
. We will stop briefly at Mpigi Swamp to look for the Papyrus Gonolek and White-winged Warbler
. The road ultimately ends at a papyrus reedbed adjoining Lake Victoria, where we will explore by canoe a maze of channels and mudflats for a reliable resident, the majestic Shoebill. Although sightings can never be guaranteed, we should have a very good chance of seeing this magnificent bird in Mabamba.
The Mabamba birding site also offers a large selection of other bird species which might include African Pygmy Goose
, the rare Lesser Jacana, Carruthers’ Cisticola, African Fish Eagle, Winding Cisticola, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Blue-breasted Bee-eater
, etc. The rare and elusive Sitatunga Antelope also occurs here but it is very shy and rarely seen. We also expect to encounter the Spot-necked Otter in one of the channels that we paddle through.
We continue our journey to Lake Mburo National Park, crossing the Equator where we can stop for some souvenir shopping and to watch the demonstration of which way round water drains down a plughole in the different hemispheres.
Common birds encountered whilst driving through Lake Mburo National Park towards Rwonyo Camp, the Park Headquarters, include:Red faced Barbet, Tabora cisiticola, Green backed wood pecker Crested Francolin, Emerald spotted wood Dove, Brown Parrot, Barefaced Go-away -bird, Blue-napped Mousebird, Lilac-breasted Roller, and Green Wood-hoopoe, Common scimitarbill, African Grey Hornbill, Spot-flanked Barbet, Nubian Woodpecker, Trilling Cisticola, Yellow-Breasted Apalis, Northern Black Tit, Chin-spot Batis, Greater Blue-eared Starling and Marico Sunbird
Day 3: Lake Mburo National Park
Today we will enjoy a game drive as well as a boat-ride on Lake Mburo giving us a chance to see animals like buffalo, waterbuck, bushbuck, zebras, topi, warthogs, impalas, hippos and crocodiles. If we are very lucky, we may see a leopard, banded mongoose or eland. We will have a chance of seeing birds like the African Finfoot
, a very shy bird, white-backed night heron
, plus other water birds such as the Goliath Heron and African Fish Eagle
Day 4: Lake Mburo National Park to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
We drive south west through ever-changing and beautiful landscapes to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. The Conservation Area lies in the rugged Kigezi highlands of south western Uganda, protecting a continuum of forest that ranges from montane to lowland areas. It is this altitudinal variation, combined with its location within the Albertine Rift, that results in Bwindi Forest being the richest forest in East Africa in terms of its trees, butterflies and birds. Bwindi is also home to over 360 mountain gorillas, half of the world’s population.
Days 5, 6 and 7: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
Bwindi is a bird watcher's haven, with 347 species of birds. With three days in the Park, we have a wonderful opportunity to explore all the different habitats. The forest has 10 of the 26 globally threatened species in Uganda, five of which are vulnerable, and 23 of the locally Albertine Rift endemic species in the country; some, such as African Green Broadbill, Chapin’s Flycatcher and Shelley’s Crimson-wing
have limited distributions elsewhere in their range.
Bwindi National Park has 76 of the 144 Guinea/Congo forest biome species that occur in Uganda, recorded especially in the northern sector. The Park also boasts 68 of the 86 Afro-tropical highland biome species. It is blessed with 90% of all Albertine Rift endemics many of which are difficult or impossible to see in any other part of East Africa; it also has seven IUCN red data listed species. An experienced birder watcher can identify over 150 species in a day.
Ruhiija is likely to be one of the highlights of any bird watching safari to Uganda with excellent birding in spectacular surroundings. There are so many birds here and somehow easy to see - many species associate in mixed feeding flocks that are active throughout the day. Early starts offer the best chance of finding the striking Handsome Francolin, African Green Broad-bill, Cinnamon-chested bee-eater, western Green Tinkerbird, Mountain and yellow-streaked Greenbuls, Regal Sunbird, Black headed waxibill, Grauer’s warbler, Dusky Crimsonwing, White starred robin, Rwenzori Night jar, Mountain marked and chestnut-throated Apalises, Rwenzori batis, white-tailed crested Flycatcher
and many more.
You will see various primates in the forest. You can also opt to spend one of the days tracking mountain gorillas. However, the cost of the permit, which we can book for you well in advance, is extra.
Day 8: Bwindi Forest National Park to Queen Elizabeth National Park
After an early breakfast, we begin the long drive northwards and down into the Albertine Rift Valley to the renowned Queen Elizabeth National Park, stopping frequently for birding along the way. Going through the Ishasha sector of the Park will give us a chance to look for the tree-climbing lions.
The Queen Elizabeth National Park boasts a range of habitats and landscapes including impressive crater lake scenery, expansive grasslands, acacia woodland, large lakes, papyrus swamps and tropical forests. It contains Uganda’s best game populations as well as some of Uganda’s best bird watching sites with an incredible list of 610 bird species and an overwhelming record of 269 species in a single day, making this area the best birding site not only in Uganda but in Africa! It is home to large herds of elephant, buffalo and Uganda kob as well as many other animals, both big and small. You should see lions although leopards are only seen occasionally.
Depending on time of arrival, some late afternoon birding might produce views of the African Mourning Dove, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Black-headed Gonolek, Slender-billed, Yellow-backed and Lesser-masked Weavers, Pin-tailed Whydah and Black-winged Pratincole
Day 9: Queen Elizabeth National Park
We have an early start for bird watching and a game drive in the Park, including the Kasenyi trail. The game drive takes us through a productive area of open plains which include the Bateleur, Grey Kestrel, Lappet-faced, Ruppell’s Griffon, White-backed and Palm-nut Vultures.
Mammals include Uganda kob, lion, warthog, bushbuck, Deffassa waterbuck, buffalo, elephants, spotted hyena, jackals, leopard and others.
In the afternoon we take a launch trip on the Kazinga Channel which attracts herds of Elephant, Giant Forest Hog, Buffalo, Monitor lizard, Crocodiles and the abundant Hippopotamus. Birding here is excellent with great photographic opportunities. We might be blessed with congregations of African Skimmers, Great-white and Pink-backed Pelicans, Great and Long-tailed Cormorants, Open-billed Stork, White-faced Whistling Duck, Marsh, Wood and Common Sandpipers, Malachite Kingfisher, African Jacana, African Wattled Plover,
a variety of stork species including the spectacular Saddle-billed, Woolly necked and Yellow-billed Storks
Day 10: Queen Elizabeth National Park to Kibale Forest National Park
Kibale Forest National Park protects a diverse array of primates, from the minuscule, nocturnal Demidoff’s Galago to our closest living relative, the Chimpanzee. Here we will take expeditions to observe the Chimps and many other species of primates and birds. We have a chance of birding the main road or one of the trails in the forest. We might come across the African Emerald Cuckoo, Purple-headed Starling, Black-billed Turacco, Yellow-billed Barbet, Grey-throated Barbet, Blue-throated Roller, Narrow-tailed Starling, Western Black-headed Oriole, Yellow-throated and Yellow-rumped Tinkerbirds.
Day 11: Kibale Forest National Park
The next day, we wake up very early and assemble for briefing prior to Chimpanzee Tracking and thereafter enter the forest to look for our cousins, the Chimps. The trek takes 1 to 5 hours. In the afternoon, we may choose to go bird watching in Bigodi Wetland or take one of the trails in the Forest to look for the stunning Green-breasted Pitta, Fire-crested Alethe, Scaly-breasted Illadopsis,
colourful butterflies and other species of primates.
Day 12: Kibale Forest National Park to Budongo Forest Reserve
On this day, we set off early driving towards Budongo Forest Reserve. This is a long drive but there are a few birding spots along the way. This forest is part of Murchison Falls Conservation Area and is the largest natural forest in Uganda and East Africa as a whole. It lies on the escarpment northeast of Lake Albert. It consists of a medium-altitude, moist, semi-deciduous forest, with areas of swamp, savanna and woodland. The reserve occupies gently undulating terrain.
Days 13 and 14: Budongo Forest Reserve
We will be at Budongo’s famous Royal Mile by early morning – a wide forestry track considered by many to be the country’s premier forest birding locality. Specialties in Budongo Forest include among others; Sabine’s spine tail, Cassin’s Spine-tail(rare), Pygmy Crake,Kingfishers (Chocolate-backed, Blue-breasted, African Dwarf), White-spotted Fluff tail, Ituri Batis, Puvell’s Illadopsis, Brown Twin-spot, Cameroon Somber Greenbul, Cassin’s Hawk-Eagle, Crowned Eagle, Yellow-crested Woodpecker, Forest Robin, Little Green Sunbird, Grey-headed Sunbird, Olive Green Camaroptera.
This is the best place in Uganda for Nahan’s Francolin, Cassin’s Spinetail, and Chestnut-capped Flycatcher.
Here we will find many confusing forest greenbuls
to test us, including Spotted, Xavier’s, White-throated, Red-tailed & Honeyguide Greenbuls
. Canopy flocks support Yellow-mantled Weaver, Rufous Thrush and Uganda Woodland-Warbler
. Undergrowth alongside the track holds numerous skulkers including Scaly-breasted, Brown & Pale-breasted Illadopses, Fire-crested Alethe, Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat, Rufous Flycatcher-Thrush, Red-tailed Ant-Thrush, Yellow-browed Camaroptera, Yellow Longbill and Grey-throated Tit-Flycatcher.
We will keep an eye on any openings in the forest canopy as Cassin’s and Crowned Hawk-eagles, Cassin’s and Sabine’s spinetails, and White-throated Bee-eater
are all possible. The area around the Park Headquarters is the only site in East Africa for the elusive canopy-dwelling Ituri Batis
. In the afternoon, we transfer to the Busingiro section of the forest for yet another awesome bird-watching session.
Day 15: Budongo Forest to Murchison Falls National Park
Today we leave early for Murchison Falls National Park, a short drive northwards.
The name of the Park was derived from the incredible Murchison Falls, where the vast River Nile is forced through a 6 metre gap, forming the most powerful water surge on the planet. We will stop near the top of the Falls and take a short walk for some breathtaking views.
If there is time in the afternoon, we can take a walk looking for birds or even go for a game drive.
We will stay in one of the lodges near the River Nile which runs through the Park. Most of the big animal sightings are north of the Nile.
Days 16 and 17: Murchison Falls National Park
We will start the day with an early game drive in the northern half of the Park, including the shores of the Nile and Lake Albert. There are chances of seeing animals like Giraffes, Elephants, Oribi, Elephants, Lions, Spotted Hyenas, Grass Hare, Warthogs, leopards, buffalos and many birds.
Special birds to look for Murchison Falls National Park include Shoebill, Secretary Bird, Abyssinian Roller and Ground Hornbill, various Kingfishers, Goliath Heron, Saddle-billed Stork, Sacred Ibis, Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Senegal Thick-knee, Water Thick-knee, Black-headed Lapwing, Long-toed Lapwing, Little Bittern, Osprey, Red-necked Falcon, Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Vinaceous Dove and Grosbeak Weaver. Other specials include Buff-bellied Warbler, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Bar-breasted Firefinch, Red-winged Grey Warbler, Spotted Morning-Thrush, Marabou Stork, Red-throated, Blue-breasted and Northern Carmine Bee-eaters, Silver Bird, Beautiful Sunbird, Black-headed Gonolek, Speckle-fronted and Golden-backed Weavers, White-rumped Seedeater, Pel’s Fishing Owl, White Crested Turaco, Bruce’s Green Pigeon, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow Weaver, Pennant-winged & Standard-winged Nightjars, White rumped canary, Black-headed Gonolek, Spotted Dikkorp
In the afternoon, a boat cruise on the calmer stretches of the Nile will allow us to watch and photograph the birds and the large animals which throng the banks, and we may have chances of finding the world’s most peculiar prehistoric-looking bird, the Shoebill. We will also explore the Park’s broad-leaved woodland, dry grasslands and forests, and possibly include a nocturnal expedition to look for Nightjars.
Day 18: Murchison Falls National Park to Kidepo Valley National Park
It is a long, and sometimes rough, drive to Kidepo Park, but well worth it as the Park contains one of the most exciting fauna of any Ugandan National Park.
Days 19 and 20: Kidepo Valley National Park
Along with the neighboring Karamoja region, this Park is home to many species found nowhere else in Uganda, including the greater and lesser kudu, eland and cheetah. Carnivores include lion, leopard, spotted hyena and black-backed and side-striped jackals. Other large species regularly seen here are elephant, Burchell’s zebra, bushpig, warthog, Rothschild’s giraffe, Cape buffalo, bushbuck, bushduiker, Defassa waterbuck, Bohor reedbuck, Jackson’s hartebeest and oribi.
The Park boasts an extensive bird list of around 475 species, making it second only in Uganda to Queen Elizabeth National Park. A few species of note are the Ostrich, Kori Bustard, Karamoja Apalis, Abyssinian Roller, Abyssinian Scimitarbill, Black Breasted Barbet, Northern Carmine Bee-eater, D’Arnaud’s Barbet, Fox Kestrel, Golden Pipit, Jackson's Hornbill, Purple Grenadier, Pygmy Falcon, Red-throated Bee-eater, White Bellied Go-away bird
Kidepo is notable for its birds of prey. 14 of the 56 species recorded, including Verreaux’s Eagle, Egyptian Vulture and Pygmy Falcon,
are believed to be endemic to the Kidepo and Karamoja region. There has, however, been no comprehensive survey of birds in Kidepo and visitors stand a good chance of adding to the current list.
Day 21: Kidepo Valley National Park to Soroti, Teso
Another long, rough day of travelling. If you want to avoid the long drives from Murchison Falls National Parl to Kidepo and from Kidepo to Soroti, it may be possible to fly.
Days 22 and 23: Lakes and swamps of Teso (and possibly Pian Upe Reserve)
Teso is home to Uganda's only endemic bird - Fox's Weaver. It can be found only on Lake Bisina and Lake Opeta. We will go out on the lakes in small local boats, paddling quietly along the fringes, through the swamps and amongst beautiful water-lilies looking for a wide variety of water birds, including the Shoebill.
In the evenings, you may be able to watch a local music or dance group perform with traditional instruments and costumes.
Day 24: Soroti to Entebbe
If we set off early, we can make several stops on the way to look for birds in swamps and Mabira Forest.
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, superior camping or guest houses. Click on: HOW TO PLAN YOUR HOLIDAY.