• Islands of Lake Bunyonyi Uganda

Best of the West

The ultimate trip to the south-west combining primate tracking, savannah game drives and scenic landscapes. Trek through the rainforest of Kibale National Park to seek out a chimpanzee family and hike in the fabled ‘Mountains of the Moon’, one of the sources of the river Nile. Explore the savannah of both Queen Elizabeth and Lake Mburo National Parks to spot tree-climbing lions, elephant herds, zebras and giraffes with game drives and a walking safari. Of course you will also meet a rare mountain gorilla family in the rainforest of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and marvel at the stunning vista of Lake Bunyonyi with its terraced farmed hillsides, inlets and many islands dotting the lake.

Itinerary

Day One

Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary

Transfer from Entebbe to Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary. Estimated journey time: 7 hrs

Explore the tranquility of Magombe Swamp in the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, situated on the edge of Kibale National Park. Here you’ll meet a local guide who will take you on your walk around Magombe Swamp, a protected RAMSAR site. The path meanders along the edge of the swamp and along a raised boardwalk through dense clusters of papyrus, taking a couple of hours to complete. This community run project offers the chance spot up to 138 bird species including the Great Blue Turaco, a variety of butterflies and perhaps what the swamp is best known for; its population of monkeys. As you ramble around the swamp your guide will be able to identify the local flora and fauna as well as the seven species of monkey found here including red colobus, grey-cheeked mangabey, L’Hoest, vervet, black and white colobus, blue monkeys and baboons. 

Estimated excursion time: 2 - 3 hrs

 

Day Two

Chimpanzee Tracking & Explosion Crater Drive

Meet with your Uganda Wildlife Authority tracking team for a briefing on tracking the chimpanzees in the rainforest. Kibale National Park is one of Africa’s premier destinations to chimp track with a 95% successful tracking rate. This ancient rainforest is also home to one of the highest concentrations and diversities of primates found anywhere on the continent. The tracking team will be escorting you throughout your time in the rainforest and will be able to identify and give more information on the species found here including the 325 species of bird, 250 tree species and over 80 species of mammals as you trek. Groups of chimps live in communities containing between 10 and 100 members and once you’ve found your group, amongst the dense rainforest you will spend one hour with them. You will be able to observe their natural behaviour in the rainforest as they play, eat, socialise and display their prowess. Before making the return hike along the rainforest paths to meet your driver / guide.

Estimated excursion time: 2 - 3 hrs

Transfer from Kibale NP to Queen Elizabeth NP. Estimated journey time: 3 hrs

Drive onto the savannah to take a game drive through the explosion crater-lake fields, one of the most stunning vistas in Queen Elizabeth National Park. The pools that you’ll see dotted across the northern region of the park are a reminder of the violent formation of the rift valley, as massive chunks of rock were hurled out of the volcanoes creating these craters. The game track meanders along the crater lake rims giving fantastic views into some of the pools below. As you drive through the lakes you’ll be able to spot a variety of species such as elephants, Uganda kob, bushbuck until you finally stop off at the Baboon Cliffs spot the baboon troops they have made their home here.

Estimated excursion time: 3 hrs

 

 

Day Three

Hiking in the Mountains of the Moon

Begin your hike into the ‘Mountains of the Moon’ by walking 2km from Kilembe to the ranger’s border post to enter the national park. This takes about one hour to complete at which point you will give you a briefing on the park by the rangers. On entering the park the first 2km of your hike climbs steadily through montane forest, followed by a stepper climb up the ridge. The forests are untouched, with a wide variety of trees, plants, many species of birds and chameleons found here. Over the next few kilometres the trees become taller and straighter, here it is common to see and hear many types of primate calling across the mountain side, you may even hear troupes of chimpanzee echoing around the valleys. Particularly around your lunch spot at 2,570m it is possible to see troupes of 15 to 20 black and white Colobus monkeys as well as blue monkeys dashing through the trees. A few hundred meters beyond the lunch spot the bamboo zone commences and you climb up another half kilometre to a small cave which was previously used by poachers. Here you can take a short rest before returning to the rangers post and completing the hike back to Kilembe.


Estimated excursion time: 5 - 7 hrs

 

Day Four

Kasenyi Plains Savannah & Kazinga Channel Water Safari

Explore the savannah of Kasenyi Plains on a game drive, set to stunning views of the Rwenzori Mountains or ‘Mountains of the Moon’ running along the skyline. These plains are home to a number of leks or breeding grounds for Uganda kobs, where they carry out their battles for mating rights. The vast herds of Uganda kobs found here graze the grass keeping it short allowing easy viewing of species such as elephants, buffalo, warthogs, bushbuck and waterbuck grazing amongst the euphorbia tree dotted-landscape. The large game herds make the area a prime location to track prides of lions, which hunt the herds found here. You’ll be joined by a Uganda Wildlife Authority ranger who are experts in tracking the lions and offer you the highest chances of tracking them down and are very knowledgeable about the savannah. 

Estimated excursion time: 3 hrs

Embark on a water safari from the docks on the Mweya Peninsula to explore the Kazinga Channel. This channel connects Lakes Edward and George and flows through the heart of the park and is an excellent place to view a variety of savannah mammals and birds from. As you meander your way along the river banks you will have the chance to spot elephants, buffalo, warthogs and waterbuck as they come down to the water's edge to cool off in the heat of the day. The channel is also a prime location to view crocodiles, hippo pods and a plethora of bird species that live here. After a couple of hours on the water you’ll reach a fishing village at the end of the channel where the river enters Lake Edward and you’ll then make your return to the docks on the Mweya Peninsula. 

Estimated excursion time: 2 hrs 30 mins

 

 

Day Five

Tree-climbing Lions

Transfer from Kasenyi Plains to Ishasha Plains. Estimated journey time: 3hrs

The Ishasha Plains cover the southern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park and are particularly known for their iconic population of tree-climbing lions. Lions are only recorded to exhibit this behaviour in a few locations across Africa, believed to be a learned behaviour specific to a few prides. It’s been speculated this behaviour is to avoid the hottest part of the day to catch the cool breezes in the trees and to dodge the biting insects found in the grass below. On entering the savannah you will track through the African bush on a wildlife drive with a Uganda Wildlife Authority ranger to seek out these impressive cats. These rangers are based on the plains and track the lions daily giving you the best possible chance of finding the lions. You’ll be looking for them in the branches of huge fig trees, as they laze away in the shade, sheltered from the heat of the day. If you still have time after tracking the lions you can explore the various game circuits for other wildlife species found on savannah here including elephants, Uganda kob, buffalo and hyenas.

Estimated excursion time: 3 hrs

Transfer from Ishasha Plains to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Estimated journey time: 3hrs

Day Six

Mountain Gorilla Tracking

Experience Uganda’s greatest natural wonder, an intimate meeting with one of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park’s gorilla families! Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is an incredibly important conservation site as it protects around 320 mountain gorillas, roughly half of the population left in the wild. Dating back over 25,000 years, Bwindi is one of Uganda’s most biologically diverse and most ancient rainforests, with an amazing 400 species of plants present and 350 species of birds, including 23 Rift Valley endemic species recorded. The rangers accompanying you will be able to identify the local plants, birds and wildlife as well as the general ecosystem of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park as you trek. 

This morning you will rise early and your driver / guide will escort you to the trailhead into the rainforest. Here you will receive an orientation on tracking the gorillas from the Uganda Wildlife Authority rangers who will then guide you through the dense forest. The trek length varies, depending on where the gorillas spent the night, ranging from thirty minutes to seven hours. Once you find these incredible creatures you will spend one hour with them. We think you’ll agree - to experience this unique family feed, socialise, nurse their young, patrol and display their prowess - is the most magical experience you can see in nature. After tracking you will make your way back to the edge of the rainforest where you’ll meet your driver guide.

Estimated excursion time: 2 - 8 hrs (including 1 hr viewing)

Transfer from Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to Lake Bunyonyi. Estimated journey time: 2 hrs

 

Day Seven

Relax at Lake Bunyonyi

Spend some time relaxing at Lake Bunyonyi. From your accommodation there are canoes available so you can explore at your own pace, as well a motorboat available to you to venture deeper into the lake (for an additional cost*). Of course you can also swim or sit back and relax with a good book, however you choose to spend your afternoon you will truly unwind at one of the most stunning lakes in the Kigezi Highlands.

Day Eight

Lake Mburo Savannah Forest & Nocturnal Game Drive

Transfer from Lake Bunyonyi to Lake Mburo. Estimated transfer time: 6 hrs

Lake Mburo National Park presents mix of rolling hills, acacia woodland and rocky outcrops that offer a stunning backdrop to view the parks game herds. On your game drive you will get the chance to spot some species rarely seen in other parts of Uganda including Burchell’s zebra, and eland; Africa’s largest antelope species which are only found here and in Kidepo Valley National Park in the north-east. Here you’ll see (unless you are incredibly unlucky), the countries only population of impala. You will also be able to spot the more common species grazing on the grasslands including warthog, buffalo, oribi, waterbuck, reedbuck and with a bit of luck the Rothschild giraffes, which were reintroduced to the park landscape from Murchison Falls National Park in 2015. This small population of giraffe is thankfully growing to further protect this endangered subspecies.

Estimated excursion time: 3 hrs

After darkness falls across the savannah set out to explore the network of tracks criss-crossing the landscape to observe the secret lives of our wildlife. Few people get to experience such animal behaviour in the wilds of Uganda’s national parks. You’ll be with a Uganda Wildlife Authority ranger, who will be scanning the savannah forest with their spotlights to search for a variety of species including the genet cat, bushpigs and hippos grazing amongst the scrub. This nocturnal game drive also gives you an excellent opportunity to seek out some of the parks top predators including spotted hyena and one of the highest chances of seeking out the solitary leopards of anywhere in Uganda! After several hours scouring the park you’ll be returned to your lodge for the evening.

Estimated excursion time: 2 - 4 hrs

 

Day Nine

Walking Safari

During the cooler hours of the day you will be driven into the heart of the park to meet a Uganda Wildlife Authority ranger. Your knowledgeable guide will be escorting you throughout walking safari in Lake Mburo National Park and be able to give you detailed information on the wildlife inhabiting the park. You’ll have the option of walking along the banks of Lake Mburo itself or out onto the savannah plains of the park. Walking safaris are an excellent way to view the park and get up-close-and-personal with the animals which includes warthogs, zebra and impala. If you’re lucky you will also be able to find the small group of giraffe which were introduced to the park in 2015. Tracking on foot and watching these graceful animals grazing on the acacia trees will give you a different perspective than game driving in your vehicle and is a truly special experience. 

Estimated excursion time: 2 - 3 hrs

Transfer from Lake Mburo to Mabamba Wetlands. Estimated journey time: 6 hrs

Day Ten

Shoebill Tracking & Transfer

Meet your guide at the jetty, a local expert in finding the Shoebill and very knowledgeable about the plethora of bird species found in Mabamba Wetlands. You will then take to the water in a local canoe with your guide punting the boat along the narrow channels cut through the swamp. As you glide through the water you will be struck by the lush green vegetation, dotted with bright purple water lilies and feathered papyrus flowers swaying over your head. You will spend several hours exploring the swamp with you main goal to seek out the infamous Shoebill a prehistoric looking bird. Reaching 140cm tall they spend their time wading through the swamp fishing in a very slow manner, making them almost look like statues. Shoebills are typically a solitary species but if you’re lucky you will find a breeding pair together nesting. While in the swamp you will also be able to spot a variety of bird species such as the Grey Crowned Crane, Uganda’s national bird, Saddle-billed Stork, African Fish Eagle and Malachite Kingfisher. After several hours you’ll return back to the jetty where you’ll find your driver guide waiting for you.

Estimated excursion time: 2 - 3 hrs

Transfer from Mabamba Wetlands to Entebbe. Estimated journey time: 2 hrs