• A Pied Kingfisher at Lake Mburo National Park, Uganda.

Savannah Birds of Uganda

Experience Uganda’s top birding destinations and seek out a plethora of birdlife found on golden savannah plains. With your expert local birding guides to share their wealth of knowledge as you explore the savannah of Murchison Falls, Kidepo Valley, Queen Elizabeth and Lake Mburo National Parks. Allowing you to seek out sought after species such as the Karamoja Apalis, Cut-throat Finch and Red-faced Barbet and explore the Mabamba Wetlands system and Victoria Nile delta to seek out the Shoebill! Combined with your top birding experience you will also be seeking out Uganda’s savannah wildlife with the chance to view the ‘Big 5’ on your birding safari adventure!

Read more about our bird guide and our birding tech here.

Itinerary - Savannah Birds of Uganda [TACP038]

Day One

To Mabamba Swamp

Transfer from Entebbe to Mabamba Swamp. Estimated journey time: 1-2 hrs

On completing immigration and collecting your luggage you will be met by your driver / guide at arrivals in Entebbe International Airport. They will help you with your bags and they will drive you the short distance across Entebbe town to reach the Nakiwogo-Buwaya ferry crossing. Here you will take to the water on a vehicle and passenger ferry and make the short trip across the inlet on Lake Victoria and then continue to drive a short distance to reach Nkima Forest Lodge.

Day Two

Shoebill Tracking

Meet your guide at the jetty on the shores of Mabamba Wetlands, a protected RAMSAR site. Take to the water in a motorised canoe to spot a variety of wading species. 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 your 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. While in the swamp you will be able to spot a variety of other bird species such as the Saddle-billed Stork, Papyrus Gonolek, Lesser Jacana, Purple Swamphen.

Key species: Shoebill, Lesser Jacana, Papyrus Gonolek, Purple Swamphen, Garganey, African Pygmy-goose, Purple Heron, Blue-headed Coucal, Blue Swallow, Northern Brown-throated Weaver, Weyns’s Weaver, White-backed Duck.

Estimated excursion time: 3.5 hrs

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


Day Three

A Game Drive, a Water Safari & a Birding Walk

Lake Mburo National Park’s mix of rolling hills, acacia woodland and rocky outcrops offers a stunning backdrop to view the parks abundant bird species and savannah mammals. You will drive onto the plains and wind your way along the bright red mud roads with your expert local guide and ranger as you make your way to popular birding sites such as the shores of Lake Mburo and Rwonyo. You will have several hours to explore the park at your own pace as you keep watch to spot bird species such as the Crested Barbet, Red Faced Barbet and Martial Eagle which are all found here.  You’ll also get the chance to spot a variety of game species such as zebra, eland, topi, impala and warthog and if you’re lucky the small group of giraffes recently reintroduced to the park. 

Key Species: Red-faced Barbet (higher chances around Rwakobo Rock Lodge), Striped Crake (when the ponds are dry, the chances are low), Crested Barbet, Black-collared Barbet, Martial Eagle, Blue-naped Mousebird, Common Scimitarbill, Long-tailed Cisticola.

Estimated excursion time: 2-3 hrs

Drive down to the shores of Lake Mburo itself for a water safari and a briefing on the Lake Mburo-Nakivali wetland system. The lake is known for its high diversity and populations of birdlife with 350 different species recorded as living along the shores including African Finfoot, White-backed Night-Heron, Papyrus Gonolek, Shining-blue Kingfisher, Giant Kingfisher, which you’ll have the chance to spot from the boat. The lake is also home to a large of hippo population numbering around 300 individuals, dwarf crocodiles and monitor lizards, which you’ll have a good chance of spotting before to return to the lakes shore.

Key Species: African Finfoot, White-backed Night-Heron, Papyrus Gonolek, Shining Blue Kingfisher, Giant Kingfisher, White-winged Warbler, African Fish Eagle, African, Marsh Harrier, Sedge Warbler.

Estimated excursion time: 2 hrs

Meet your Uganda Wildlife Authority ranger for a briefing on your walking safari on the savannah of Lake Mburo National Park. With your ranger and bird guide you will follow a series of tracks through the park, some made by the larger wildlife species living here including hippopotamus, eland, zebra, topi and warthog. You will be able to wander through the savannah at your own pace with walks lasting from 2 to 4 hours. This will give you plenty of opportunity to spot species such as the Crested Barbet, Red Faced Barbet and Martial Eagle as you explore the park’s savannah forest and grasslands dotted with acacia trees.

Key Species: Red-faced Barbet, Striped Crake (when the ponds are dry, the chances are low), Crested Barbet, Black-collared Barbet, Martial Eagle, Blue-naped Mousebird, Common Scimitarbill, Long-tailed Cisticola.

Estimated excursion time: 3hrs

Day Four

Transfer to Queen Elizabeth National Park

Transfer from Lake Mburo to Queen Elizabeth National Park. Estimated journey time: 6 hrs

Depart from the savannah forest of Lake Mburo National Park and drive north passing herders grazing their cattle on the park boundaries to rejoin the main road. Journey on passing Mbarara town, rolling tea fields and banana plantations until you reach Kichwamba Escarpment on the southern border of Queen Elizabeth National Park. This viewpoint offers stunning views across the savannah to the Rwenzori Mountains or ‘Mountains of the Moon’ in the distance. You will then drive down the escarpment and onto the savannah plains of Queen Elizabeth National Park below.

Day Five

Savannah Plains & a 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 kob leks or kob breeding grounds for Uganda kobs, where they do battle for mating rights.  The large game herds make the area a prime location to track prides of lions, which hunt the game herds found here. On your game drive you’ll be searching for a variety of bird species Collared Pratincole, Black-rumped Buttonquail and White-tailed Lark. Once you’ve crossed the plains you will make your way to the salt lake where you have the chance to spot the Lesser Flamingo which is seasonally found here.

Key Species: Collared Pratincole, Lesser Flamingo, Black-rumped Button-quail, White-tailed Lark, Little Bee-eater, Blue-naped Mousebird, Buff-bellied Warbler, Martial Eagle, African Fish Eagle, Black Coucal.

Estimated excursion time: 4 hs

Embark on a water safari to explore the Kazinga Channel to view vast flocks of African Skimmers as well as the chance to spot the Saddle-billed Stork, White-fronted Plover and Goliath Heron. This channel connects Lake Edward and Lake George, flowing through the heart of the park and is an excellent way to view a variety of savannah wildlife. As you meander your way along the river banks you will also 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 and hippo pods. 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, where a large number of birds often congregate sunning themselves on the river banks from where you will make the return boat trip to the docks on the Mweya Peninsula. 

Key Species: African Skimmer, Saddle-billed Stork, White-fronted Plover, Great White Pelican, Goliath Heron, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Little Stilt, Common Greenshank, Black Crake.

Estimated excursion time: 3 hs

Day Six

Transfer to Hoima

Transfer from Queen Elizabeth National Park to Hoima town. Estimated journey time: 8 hrs

Depart from the savannah of Queen Elizabeth National Park and drive north following the Rwenzori Mountains or ‘Mountains of the Moon’ to reach Fort Portal town. From where you will drive along the edge of the rainforest of Kibale National Park, on reaching Kyenjojo trading center you will turn off the main road and follow an unpaved road through western Uganda. The scenery as you meander through rural Uganda is stunning, as you journey through vast tea fields which blanket the hills, small villages and forests. You will be moving at comparatively slow pace due to the road conditions but this gives you all the more time to enjoy the scenery until you arrive at Hoima town.

Day Seven

Butiaba Escarpment

After a briefing from you guide on the species you can expect to spot today you will depart from Hoima town. From here you will drive along the Butiaba Escarpment which is a ‘migration corridor’ between August to April. This gives you great chances to spot  Cliff Chat, Cut-throat Finch, Wood Warbler, Willow Warbler, Olivaceous Warbler, amongst other key species as you drive through this birding hotspot. When travelling out of these months you will also still have the chance to spot Cliff-chats, Bronze-tailed Starling, White-rumped Seed-eaters. You will follow the escarpment and drive down onto the flatter plains which border Lake Albert to reach the savannah plains of Murchison Falls National Park. 

Key Species: White-rumped Seed-eater, Shelley’s Rufous Sparrow, Scaly-Throated Honeyguide, Bronze-tailed Starling, Red Winged Pytilia, Cut-throat Finch, Orange-winged Pytilia, Cliff Chat, Cut-throat Finch, Wood Warbler, Willow Warbler, Olivaceous Warbler, African Hawk-Eagle, Orange-Winged Pytilia, Foxy Cisticola

Estimated excursion time: 5 hrs

Day Eight

Savannah Drive and Falls Cruise

Explore the game tracks of Murchison Falls National Park with stunning views over the savannah, as wind your way through Acacia scrub and grasslands dotted with palm trees. You’ll be joined by a knowledgeable ranger to give your highest chance of tracking down the lions and leopard. They will help you track down the Rothschild giraffe, elephants, buffalo, Jackson’s hartebeest, and bushbucks grazing on the savannah. Of course you will predominantly be searching for a variety of bird species, with 451 having been recorded in the park including the Denham’s Bustard, Abyssinian Ground-Hornbill and Grey Crowned Cranes. Towards the end of your game drive you’ll be able to stop off at the hippo pool on the Victoria Nile delta where you’ll see the hippos wallowing in the shallows and calling to each other across the water. If you are lucky, you might even see a Shoebill here!

Key Species: Secretary Bird, Shoebill, Speckle-fronted Weaver, Black-bellied Firefinch, Martial Eagle, Rupell’s Griffon Vulture, Dark Chanting-Goshawk, White-fronted Black Chat, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Black-billed Barbet, Grasshopper Buzzard, Northern Carmine Bee-eater, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Red-winged Grey Warbler.

Estimated excursion time: 4 hrs

Embark on a water safari on the river Nile and cruise upstream to the base of Murchison Falls waterfall. Also known as Kabalega Falls, this is one of the most popular activities in the park and offers fantastic wildlife viewing opportunities. As you cruise up the river you will be able to view giant Nile crocodiles basking in the sun, hippo pods calling to each other across the water and a multitude of bird species living and nesting on the riverbanks. Species such as the African Darters, Cormorants, Pied and Malachite Kingfishers, Fish-eagles, Giant Kingfishers and Goliath herons.  As you pass Nyamusika cliffs you should also be able to spot the Red-throated and Northern-carmine bee-eaters and towards the base of the falls you may find the Rock Pratincoles. A variety of game species such as buffalo, waterbuck, elephants and Uganda kob can also be viewed on the riverbanks as they come down to the drink and cool off in the heat of the day. After three hours you will reach the base of the thundering falls where the White Nile surges through a 7 metre wide gap in the rock face, cutting through Fajao Gorge and falling 43 meters to continue its journey through the park.

Key Species: Egyptian-plover, Rock Pratincole, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Giant Kingfisher, Red-throated Bee-eater, Northern Carmine Bee-eater, African Darter, African Fish Eagle, Saddle-billed Stork, Senegal Thick-knee.

Estimated excursion time: 2-3 hrs

Day Nine

Transfer to Kidepo Valley National Park

Murchison Falls to Kidepo Valley National Park. Estimated journey time: 4 hrs

Depart from the savannah of Murchison Falls National Park and follow the parks northern border as you drive east to reach the hustle and bustle of Gulu town, which has become the hub of northern Uganda. Continue your journey on as the landscape becomes more arid as you wind your way through villages, farmland and crossing over dry riverbeds to reach Kitgum town. You will then complete your journey by driving through stunning rock formations to reach the wilderness of Kidepo Valley National Park.

Day Ten

Kidepo Valley Birding Drive

Rise early to begin your game drive to the northern limits of Kidepo Valley National Park. Your route takes you north, following the Narus Valley through rolling savannah in the soft morning light. This is an excellent time of day to spot a variety of game herds including Burchell’s zebra, Jackson’s hartebeest, oribi, African buffalo and Grant’s gazelle as you drive. Before you reach the Kidepo riverbed you will be able to seek out the Four-banded Sandgrouse, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weaver, White-browed Sparrow-weaver which are all found around the rivers southern banks. You’ll then pass drive over the seasonally dry Kidepo riverbed and continue through a Borassus palm tree forest, with the clatter of palm throngs filling the air. After winding through the forest you will reach the savannah scrub to reach northern reaches of the park, to an area home to the Yellow-necked Spurfowl, Karamoja Apalis and Secretary bird. If you have time you’ll also be able to stop off at the Kanangorok hot spring which are located where the Narus and Kidepo Valleys meet.  This area is also particularly for the flocks of ostrich found in the region, the only place in Uganda you can view these fantastic birds which you will seek out with your experienced ranger.

Key Species: Clapperton’s Francolin, Secretary Bird, D’Arnauds Barbet, Superb Starling, Eastern Chanting-Goshawk, Brown-backed Woodpecker, Red-billed Oxpecker, Speckle-fronted Weaver, Red-winged Lark, Beautiful Sunbird, Four-banded Sandgrouse, Karamoja Apalis, Common Ostrich, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weaver, White-browed Sparrow-weaver, Yellow-necked Spurfowl.

Estimated excursion time: 12 hrs

Day Eleven

Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

Transfer from Kidepo Valley National Park to Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. Estimated journey time: 5 hrs

Explore the savannah woodlands of grasslands dotted with acacia trees protected by Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. While primarily the home to protected rhinos the sanctuary is also home to 40 species of mammal and reptiles, as well as in excess of 300 birds recorded here. You will follow the paths and secondary roads through the sanctuary with your guide to seek out species such as the Common Scimitarbill, African-crowned Eagle, African Black-headed Oriole, Bruce’s Green-Pigeon, and White-crested Turaco. While this is primarily a walking trip you can also use your vehicle to cover the sanctuary to visit the different habitats found here with your expert guide.

Key Species: Bruce’s Green-Pigeon, White-Crested Turaco, Beautiful Sunbird, African Hoopoe, Western Banded Snake-eagle, African Black-headed Oriole, Common Scimitarbill, Crested Francolin, Black-headed Gonolek, Black-headed Weaver, African Crowned Eagle.

Estimated excursion time: 4 hrs

Day Twelve

Shoebill Tracking

You will rise early to meet your guides who will take you out on to Lugogo Swamp. A strict 06:00 departure is compulsory, which gives you the best chance of spotting as many bird species as possible and allows you watch the beautiful sunrise over the swamp. You will drive through the African bush for 45 minutes to reach the edge of the swamp. You then will take to the water in a local motorised canoe to glide through the water to seek out this rare and prehistoric looking species, with trips into the swamp taking approximately 4 hours. Aside from the Shoebill you will also have the chance to stop some of the other +300 species living here including the Malachite Kingfisher, Rufous-bellied Heron and from the swamp walk; Black Crake and Common Squacco Heron. On return to dryland you will also be able to take a walk along the swamp edge, depending on the water levels, giving you further opportunities to tick more species off your list. You will then drive back through the African bush to your lodge.

Key Species: Shoebill, Woolly-necked Stork, Black Crake, Rufous-bellied Heron, Common Squacco Heron.

Estimated excursion time: 4 hrs

Transfer from Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary to Entebbe. Estimated journey time: 5 hrs