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July 16, 2018


Written By Richard Kabazzi

This safari tour intends to introduce you to Uganda’s finest forests; rare Rhinos, Chimps and Gorillas .It involves birding in the richly endowed forests of Mpanga, Budongo, Kibale and Bwindi not forgetting Mabamba swamp.

It also includes tracking the Rhinos at Ziwa Rhino sanctuary, tracking the chimpanzees in Kibale forest and trekking the mighty mountain gorillas in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park.

Safari highlight,

  • Birding in Mabamba, Mpanga, Kibale, Bigodi swamp and Bwindi impenetrable forest
  • Rhino tracking at Ziwa Rhino sanctuary
  • Chimpanzee tracking in Kibale forest
  • Gorilla trekking in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park


Day 1: Travel from Entebbe, Birding in Mabamba swamp and Mpanga forest

The guide picks and drives you south west to Mpigi town and branch off to Mabamba ramsar site for birding and more specifically to search for the prehistoric shoebill. The distance to Mabamba takes about one and half hours.

Mabamba is an extensive marsh stretching through a long narrow bay, fringed with papyrus towards the western main body of Lake Victoria in Mpigi District. It has the status of unprotected area with bird categories, globally threatened species and Lake Victoria Basin biome species. This Important Bird Area (IBA) is one of the best marshy areas along the northern shores of Lake Victoria for bird watching: it is the closest place to Kampala.

While looking for the shoebill, boats are used to paddle through the channels of the swamp. Generally; it takes between two to three hours to locate the Shoebill. The shoebill is normally spotted while standing waiting to catch its prey such as frogs, lungfish and water snakes.

Other species of water birds like the African Jacanas, Yellow billed Ducks, White faced whistling ducks, Long toed Plovers, Village Weavers, Purple Swamphens, Northern brown throated weaver, Malachite king fisher, Grey headed gulls, Gull billed terns, White winged warbler, Papyrus Gonolek, African darter, Rufous bellied heron can be seen.

After conducting this memorable birding experience at Mabamba, proceed to Mpanga forest in search of forest birds such as Little Greenbul, Lesser Honey Guide, Grey headed Nigrita, White breasted Nigrita, Western black headed Oriole, White spotted Fluff tail, Red tailed Bristtlebill, Fire crested Alethe and so many different forest bird species.

These birds can be seen while feeding, perching, displaying, mating while others can be seen establishing their colonies.

Mpanga Forest is a small patch of natural equatorial rainforest covering about 453 hectares. It is found in Mawokota- Mpigi District about 37 kilometers southwest of Kampala and is conveniently located along the Kampala – Masaka highway.

Despite of its small size, it supports an impressive biodiversity for such a small forest. It has 500species of trees and shrubs, 300 species of birds, 97 butterflies, and 112 moths. Three species of monkeys can be seen in the forest such as Red-tailed monkey, Black-and-white colobus monkeys and Vervet monkeys. There are also a number of small mammals including Pottos, Pangolins and Bushabies. Spending a night in this forest therefore gives you an opportunity to spot these rare nocturnals.

Mpanga Forest is surrounded by a community of traditional drum makers who frequently and illegally enter the forest looking for the soft trees that are suitable for the drum making.

On the way back to Kampala, visit and encounter with the drum makers at Mpambire. The drum was/is a musical instrument used during the traditional functions for example traditional weddings, coronations among others especially in the central region of Uganda.

Day 2: Travel from Kampala to Ziwa Rhino sanctuary then Masindi town

Early morning after breakfast, transfer to Ziwa for Rhino tracking and birding. While on the way, enjoy the beautiful views of the varied landscapes and vegetation. Ziwa rhino sanctuary is the first sanctuary in Uganda with over 22 White Rhinos .It was founded in 2005 for the protection of the Rhinos and is the only place in Uganda where rhinos are tracked in the wild. The Rhino tracking exercise begins with the briefing from the specialized site ranger who then guides you through the sanctuary. This activity normally takes between 30minutes to an hour depending on where the rhinos are located in the sanctuary.

After rhino tracking, have lunch from Amuka lodge.

In the afternoon, go for birding in the sanctuary. Expected birds to be spotted from this sanctuary include, White –crested turaco, Bruce’s green pigeon, Thick billed cuckoo, and White winged tit and so many other different species of birds. On a lucky day, the shoe bill stork can be spotted.

Later on, proceed to Masindi for dinner and overnight stay.

Accommodation: Masindi Hotel

Day 3: Birding in Budongo forest

After breakfast, drive to Budongo forest- the largest forest in Uganda for birding expedition. Budongo forest found in Masindi is an ideal place for birding with lots of special species of birds which are also found in Congo. Spend the whole day in Budongo and the expected birds to be spotted from this forest include, Chocolate Backed kingfisher, Dwarf kingfisher, Shinning Blue kingfisher, Blue breasted kingfisher, Chestnut wattle Eye, Ituri Batis, Chestnut capped Warbler, Lemon bellied Crombec, White thighed Hornbill, Eremomela to mention but a few. Return to the lodge in the evening while birding.

Arrive late in the evening, have dinner and overnight at your lodge.

Accommodation at  Masindi Hotel

Day 4: Travel to Kibale forest National Park

Early morning, transfer to Kibale forest taking Hoima- Kagadi road. It is a 7 hours’ drive up to Kibale forest National Park. The whole day is generally spent on travel. However, there are occasional stop overs for beautiful views of the rift valley escarpments as well as farming plantations along the way. Have lunch enroute in Fort portal town.

Kibale Forest National Park is one of the most attractive national parks in Uganda with varied tracts of tropical rain forests and several animal species.

The park covers 795 km2 of rain forest, swamps, rivers and few areas of grassland. Forest cover, interspersed with patches of grassland and swamp, dominates the northern and central parts of the park on an elevated plateau.

It is home to more than 1,450 chimpanzees protected inside the park and in total, thirteen primate species. Children have to be 12 years and above to able to track the Chimpanzees, children below 12 years can only engage in an educative forest walk.

The park boasts of more than 375 species of birds which include Green-breasted pitta, White-naped pigeon, crowned eagle and many others.

Reach Kibale forest in the evening, check in at your hotel for dinner and overnight stay.

Accommodation at Chimpanzee Guest house

Day 5: Birding and Chimpanzee tracking in Kibale forest national park

Early morning, go for briefing where the tracking guidelines are passed on by the specialized site guide/ranger. After briefing, walk into the forest with the specialized ranger and your guide in search of Kibale’s special- the Green breasted Pitta and chimp tracking. On a lucky day, you can see the pitta displaying.

Chimp tracking is an adventurous activity that is also part of this day. Chimpanzees are the most closest relatives to man with 98.7%DNA.

When chimps are located, you are allowed to spend a maximum of one hour within their vicinity and then after, exit the forest.

Return to the lodge for lunch and in the afternoon, head to Bigodi swamp for yet another amazing excursion. The expected birds of this activity include, Green Crombec, Little Greenbul, Tooro olive greenbul, Grey capped warbler, Western black headed oriole, White spotted fluff tail, Afep pigeon, White napped pigeon, Olive pigeon, Cassin’s grey flycatcher.

Also, apart from the chimpanzees, other primates that can be seen in Kibale forest national park include, Red colobus, Black and white colobus, Uganda Mangabey, olive baboon, Blue monkey, Vervet monkeys among others.

Accommodation at Chimpanzee Guest house

Day 6: Transfer to Bwindi impenetrable forest

Start the day by travelling to Bwindi forest by taking Kasese- Queen Elizabeth route through the Ishasha sector. This route consists of areas that are habitats to wildlife including the tree climbing lions which are likely to be seen as you drive through the Ishasha sector.

On your way, you can make occasional stopovers for some birding to enrich your birding list.

On arrival in Bwindi -Buhoma, check in at your accommodation for overnight stay and prepare for the next day’s activities of gorilla trekking and birding.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park which lies in southwestern Uganda on the edge of the Rift Valley has mist-covered hillsides that are blanketed by one of Uganda’s oldest and most biologically diverse rainforests, which dates back over 25,000 years and contains almost 400 species of plants. More famously, this “impenetrable forest” also protects an estimated 400 mountain gorillas – roughly half of the world’s gorilla population, including several habituated groups, which can be trekked.

This biologically diverse region also provides shelter to a further 120 mammals, including several primate species such as baboons and chimpanzees, as well as elephants and antelopes. There are around 350 species of birds hosted in this forest, including 23 Albertine Rift endemics.

Accommodation at Buhoma Haven lodge,

Day 7: Gorilla trekking and birding in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park

This day’s activities start very early in the morning. Start this day’s activity with briefing by the site ranger for gorilla trekking. After briefing, proceed through the dense bush to trek for these endangered animals. This wonderful and memorable activity can take between 2- 7 hours while searching in the jungle forest.

For conservation purposes, time allowed with the Gorillas after being located is one hour. This is an awesome and thrilling experience not worthy forgetting.

After trekking, return to your lodge and rest.

In the afternoon, go for birding in Bwindi forest in search of the Albertine rift endemics such as, Chapin’s Flycatcher, Black billed weaver, Short tailed warbler, Bar tailed trogon, Black faced Rufous warbler, Red throated Alethe, Mountain Illadopsis, Dusky long tailed cuckoo, Tulbergs wood pecker, Banded Prinia, Elliot’s wood pecker, Dwarf honey guide, Brown capped weaver, Pink footed puff back, Purple breasted sunbird, Blue shouldered Robin chat among others.

Accommodation at  Buhoma Haven lodge

Day 8: Birding in Buhoma – Ruhija sector

Buhoma-Ruhija sector is yet another great birding zone. It’s part of Bwindi impenetrable forest. This day’s activity involves birding along the route that lies between Buhoma and Ruhija. It is a span that is likely to take you 2 -3 hours of driving.

On your way to Ruhija passing through the forest, different species of birds can be seen and these include, Black collared Apalis, Buff throated Apalis, Masked Apalis, Mountain Apalis, African black duck, Black bee eater, Grey cuckoo shrikes, Many coloured bush shrikes, Black billed Turaco, White tailed Blue Flycatcher, Regal Sunbird among others.

Arrive in Ruhija in the afternoon, have lunch then after, go for evening birding.

Accommodation at Gorilla Mist Camp

Day 9: Birding in Bwindi forest- Ruhija sector

This day’s birding activity is conducted in Mubwindi swamp. Mubwindi swamp is a swamp adjacent to Bwindi impenetrable forest very rich in birds and best place for bird watching. This swamp has almost all the Albertine endemics including the African green broadbill and will greatly enrich your birding list.

Expected birds to be seen from here are, Greater swamp warbler, Lesser swamp Warbler, Stripe breasted Tit, Rwenzori Batis, Strange Weaver, Handsome francolin, African hill Babbler, Cinnamon breasted bee-eater and so many others. This is a whole day activity.

After, return to the lodge for dinner and overnight.

Accommodation at Gorilla Mist Camp

Day 10: Drive to Kampala

After breakfast, check out, drive to Kampala and this brings to an end your trip. Stop and take in a visit to the Equator that runs through Uganda. It’s marvelous to have pictures taken underneath the Equator Sign.

Generally, people tend to carry out nonscientific experiments, most of them are manipulated illusions and not authentic, but fun to watch. Arrive in Kampala in the evening then proceed to Entebbe International Airport for your flight back home.

The tour price includes,

  • Accommodation
  • Ground transport
  • Gorilla trekking permit
  • Chimpanzee tracking permit
  • Rhino tracking
  • Lunch enroute
  • Services of an English speaking guide
  • Park entrance fees
  • Vehicle entrance fees
  • Birding fees
  • Bottled water in the safari vehicle

This tour price excludes,

  • Visa fees
  • All extras at the accommodation and any other optionals
  • Flight tickets
  • Tips for the guide
  • Charges by the porters during the gorilla trekking
  • Insurance
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About Author

Richard Kabazzi

Richard Kabazzi

Am a Ugandan tour operator and very passionate about taking people to see amazing places in Uganda. I manage a safari company with a team of professional guides and we work diligently to ensure excellent service delivery. When you travel with us, we take you to places that enable you appreciate the beauty that lies within Africa.

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