Get close to the rare mountain gorillas of Uganda on this intimate and unforgettable adventure
Only 2 departures for 2018: 15 July 2018; 18 November 2018; maximum group size of 8
The feeling of laying eyes on a family of rare mountain gorillas in the wild is a hard one to describe. Crouching in primeval forest as a mother plays with her babies close by is an experience few humans ever get to have, and for good reason. There are only about 700 mountain gorillas left in the world, and half of them can be found in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Led by a local driver/guide, join a small group of eight travellers on this special expedition into the untouched Ugandan wilderness. Spend two full days trekking in the park to see the gorillas, learning about the important conservation work of local rangers and wildlife organisations and falling asleep to the sounds of the forest. You’ll also explore Queen Elizabeth National Park – home to elephants, tree-climbing lions, buffalo and Ugandan kobs – on exciting game drives. If you’re after a truly wild and unforgettable adventure, this is it.
- Spend two days trekking (with an optional third) through Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to get close to Uganda’s rare mountain gorillas. With plenty of time in the park, you’ll get to see two different gorilla families interacting in their natural habitat.
- Both Gorilla Permits are included in the trip price!
- Travelling in an intimate group of maximum eight passengers allows for greater mobility and more face time with your local guide and expert conservationists.
- With all transfers done by 4×4 or plane – including a flight from Entebbe to Queen Elizabeth National Park – you’ll spend less time on the road and more time exploring Uganda’s wildlife-rich wilderness.
- Enjoy a bush breakfast and keep an eye out for elephants, antelope, birds and famous tree-climbing lions on game drives through Queen Elizabeth National Park.
- Wake up to spectacular views of the forest canopy during a four-night stay at Buhoma Lodge in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
- Sit down to dinner with a local park ranger, learning about life in the wilderness and their special relationships with the mountain gorillas. This is one dinner conversation you’ve likely never had before!
- Meet with a representative of Gorilla Doctors and gain insight into their important veterinary and conservation work. Their international team of veterinarians are the only group providing these critically endangered animals with direct, hands-on care in the wild.
Day 1: Entebbe
Jambo! Welcome to Uganda. On arrival into Entebbe, meet your representative and transfer to your guesthouse. (D)
Day 2: Queen Elizabeth National Park
Transfer to the airport to catch a flight to Kihihi Airstrip. On arrival at the airstrip, the group will jump into 4×4’s with the driver/guide and transfer to our camp, situated within the Southern Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park on the Ntungwe river.
En route to your camp, enjoy a game drive through the park. Recently designated a Biosphere Reserve for Humanity by UNESCO, Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of Uganda’s most outstanding treasures. Covering around 2,000 square kilometres, it encapsulates a remarkable variety of eco-systems, from semi-deciduous tropical forest to green meadows, savannahs and swamps.
It is the home of the famous tree-climbing lions, the Uganda kobs and other antelopes as well as elephants, buffalo’s, hippos, baboons, leopards, and chimpanzee. Over 500 species of bird have been recorded here making it a prime target for birdwatchers.
After the game drive, settle into your camp and enjoy dinner with the group. (B, L, D)
Day 3: Queen Elizabeth National Park
Early this morning head back into Queen Elizabeth National Park on another game drive, keeping your eyes peeled for elephants, tree-climbing lions, buffalo and Uganda kobs. The park is also home to other antelopes, hippos, baboons, leopards and chimpanzees, as well as over 500 species of birds. Afterwards, make your way back to the camp for lunch.
Later in the afternoon, head out on another game drive and enjoy a relaxing, scenic sundowner in the middle of the African wilderness. As usual, dinner will be served back at the camp. (B, L, D)
Day 4: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
This morning, share a bush breakfast with the group before departing Queen Elizabeth National Park and heading towards Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
Check into Buhoma Lodge, your home for the next four nights and the feature stay of this trip. The lodge commands spectacular and uninterrupted views of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, which is home to the rare and elusive Mountain Gorilla. Situated within the park, the lodge is a short distance from the meeting point for gorilla tracking and other activities in the area.
Accommodation is in spacious cottages, each with its own private porch, allowing wonderful views of the forest canopy. Inside you’ll find comfortable beds and an ensuite bathroom with flushing toilet and hot shower.
This afternoon, put on your boots and enjoy a walk to some waterfalls inside the forest. (B, L, D)
Day 5: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
An early morning wake-up call comes in the form of hot tea or coffee delivered to your cottage this morning. After breakfast, take a short walk to the park headquarters where you’ll be briefed on the gorilla trek by the Uganda Wildlife Authorities.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest was declared a World Heritage site in 1994 because of its incredible biodiversity. This small pocket of primeval forest in the Virunga Mountains protects about half of the world’s remaining 700 mountain gorillas, as well as chimpanzees and several species of monkeys.
Gorilla trekking is highly controlled, with only 24 gorilla trekking permits available each day. Once a trekking group encounters one of the gorilla families, only one hour is granted in the presence of the great apes before trekkers must leave, however reluctantly. Be aware that the trek can be strenuous and may reach altitudes of almost 2,000 metres above sea level. Depending on weather conditions, some of the paths can be slippery and these paths themselves can change depending on the location of the gorillas. Therefore it is very hard to predict how long you will need to walk for, but a very good level of fitness is recommended for this trek.
You can usually get very close to the mountain gorillas, and seeing their movements is like seeing a mirror image of yourself. From a safe distance, watch them eat, sleep, groom and play – the giant silverback surveying the scene. Enjoy a picnic lunch in the wilderness.
After the trek, head back to the lodge for dinner, where the group will be joined by a local ranger from the Uganda Wildlife Authority. Rangers have some of the most important roles in conservation – protecting the gorillas and their habitat from the wider world and acting as the eyes, ears and voice of the forest. In an often harsh environment, they manage to build intimate, lasting and life-saving relationships with the animals. Tonight’s dinner presents a great opportunity to ask questions about gorilla conservation and the life of a ranger. (B, L, D)
Day 6: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
Rise early for another day of trekking to see these incredible animals – this time with a different gorilla family. This evening we’ll have the opportunity to meet with a representative from Gorilla Doctors.
Gorilla Doctors operate in all three countries where mountain and Grauer’s gorillas live: Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Their veterinarians monitor each and every habituated mountain gorilla living in these parks on a routine basis. They are only able to monitor and treat gorillas in habituated groups—groups that have grown accustomed to the presence of humans. Luckily for the veterinary team, most of their patients are easy to find and comfortable being observed at close range.
In addition to monthly visual health checks, Gorilla Doctors relies heavily on the observations of trackers working for the national parks and organisations like the Karisoke Research Centre of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. The trackers see the gorillas every day and are trained to look for any behavioural changes and other signs that could indicate illness and injury. (B, L, D)
Day 7: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
Enjoy a bit of a sleep in today before enjoying a late breakfast. Afterwards, drive on to Kanyonza tea factory. The factory’s manager will explain the steps involved in picking, processing and packing tea. Tea is one of Uganda’s major export products.
Head back to the lodge in the afternoon, where you may like to enjoy a complimentary massage to loosen up any stiff or tired muscles. Dinner will be at the lodge in the evening. (B, L, D)
Day 8: Kampala
Today is a long travel day. Check out of the lodge and depart Bwindi Impenetrable Forest for Kampala, stopping over at the equator on the way. The group should arrive into Kampala sometime in the early evening.
Uganda’s capital has evolved into a thriving modern hub. Head outside of the city’s chaotic centre up Nakasero Hill and you’ll find peaceful streets lined with trees, embassies, shops and exclusive restaurants popular among the expat community.
Check in to your boutique hotel and enjoy one last final dinner with the group, perhaps exchanging contact details and reminiscing about your Ugandan wildlife adventure. (B, L, D)
Day 9: Kampala
Your adventure comes to an end today after breakfast. (B)
8 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 8 dinners
4×4 Safari Vehicle, Plane
Lodge (4 nights), B&B (1 night ), Suite (1 night), Wilderness Camp (2 nights)
Images courtesy of Intrepid Group