18 Days Classic Birding

Departure Date

Daily

Duration

18 Days

Views

678

14 Days Bird Finder

DAY 1

On your arrival at Entebbe International Airport

Our driver guide will transfer you to the Hotel. Depending on the time of arrival, we bird Entebbe Botanical Gardens for an introduction to Ugandan birds. Situated on the northern shores of Lake Victoria, the gardens are virtually on the Equator and cover an area of 40.7hectares. The parking lot trees here typically offer great patch spots for Eastern Plantain-eaters. Plantain-eaters belong to the Turaco family, which has fascinating species that leave fresh Uganda birders in extreme excitement. Splendid Starlings, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, and Common Bulbul also like to show up at the same spot. Shikra flies over this space and the bottle–brush tree nearby tends to act like a bird magnet for Red-chested, Green-throated, Olive-bellied, Mariqua, Purple-banded, Collared, and the Scarlet-chested Sunbirds. African Yellow White-eye and African Thrush also frequent this same tree. We should also expect Gray parrot, Crowned and Black-and-white-casqued Hornbills, Hooded Vulture, Woodland Kingfisher, Lizard Buzzard, African Harrier-Hawk, the colorfully striking Black-headed Gonolek, White-browed Robin-chat, Double-toothed Barbet, Ross’s Turaco, Speckled Mousebird, Yellow-fronted Canary, Black-headed Heron, Yellow-fronted Canary, a couple of Weavers that included, Orange, Weyn’s, Golden-backed, Black-headed, Village, Northern Brown-throated, Vieillot’s and Slender-billed should be among those to be seen.
DAY 2

Mabamba Bay (Shoebills)

We have an early breakfast and do an hour-and-a-half drive to Mabamba, a Ramsar site, and an Important Bird Area. The Mabamba wetland is one of the top two places in the world to find the Shoebill which is an uptick bird for so many birders on earth and Africa’s number one and highly sought-after; Mabamba offers over 80% chances for seeing this alien-looking-like bird the (Shoebill). As we drive there, we might get African Green Pigeon, Great Blue, and Ross’s Turaco; they like patching high on the snags by the roadside. The wetland here is one of the top community-based initiatives in the country, and when we get there, we take community members’ used engine-powered boat that is big enough to carry a motorcycle. While looking for the Shoebill, we should expect a collection of typical African water and nearby habitat birds like Malachite Kingfisher, Long-toed Lapwing, Blue-breasted Bee-eater, African Jacana, and Yellow-billed Duck. Here are also high chances for African White-backed Duck, Lesser Jacana, Papyrus Gonolek, Blue-headed Coucal, African Marsh Harrier, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Common Waxbill, Grey-capped Warbler, Madagascar, and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater depending on the season and several others. After searching for the Shoebill, we will drive to the Equator, which is along the way for illustrations and photography experience. When we continue with the drive along the highway, we should expect the stunning Lilac-breasted Roller, Wahlberg’s and Long-crested Eagles, Eurasian Kestrel, Gray-backed Fiscal, and Bare-faced Go-away-bird. At the dirt road, as we approach the park and our accommodation, we will look for Red-backed Scrub-Robin, Red-faced, and Singing Cisticolas. Occasionally, this stretch can be perfect for Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Red-necked and Crested Francolins, Emerald-spotted Wood-dove, Crowned Lapwing, Brown Snake-Eagle, and beautiful African Black-headed Oriole. A few mammals that included Zebra, Impala, Topi, Waterbuck, Dwarf Mongoose, the gigantic Common Eland, and Common Warthog show up sometimes.
DAY 3

Lake Mburo National Park to Ruhija sector of Bwindi National Park

The morning will be spent exploring the open savanna and wetland habitats of Mburo National Park, which resembles the stereotypical savanna environments of Kenya’s Masai Mara, but with many thornier acacia thickets. There are quite a few species that are very localized in Uganda, and which only occur here. Our top avian target will be the Red-faced Barbet, which has a small range in Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, and Tanzania, to the west of Lake Victoria. Other targets will include Trilling Cisticola, Tabora Cisticola, African Moustached Warbler, Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove, Green-capped Eremomela, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, and Spot-flanked Barbet. Lake Mburo is also an excellent park for mammals, including Spotted Hyena, Leopard, Warthog, Eland, Zebra, and Impala. It is not all safari vehicle birding; we will take a boat to search for Sun-grebe, the rare and elusive African Finfoot, and we may even find a White-backed Night-Heron. In the afternoon, we drive up into the misty mountains of Bwindi National Park, whose dense cloud forest provides a complete change of scene from Mburo’s savanna.
DAY 4

Gorilla tracking (optional) in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Those who opt for gorilla tracking this morning are in for one of the world’s great natural history experiences. You don’t just watch these soulful animals; they watch you too. We work it so we have our group assigned to a family of gorillas that we spend time with, and the wildlife authority limits the experience to one group with each gorilla family, so it is an incredible experience you can never forget and the vast majority is so glad they went tracking and want to do it again. It is hard to stress just how good this is, so unless you are absolutely opposed to a moderate walk from ½ an hour to 4 hours, you need to do this. They even have porters to help carry all your gear for only $20 a day, so this is within the physical capabilities of the vast majority of our participants. People who decide not to track gorillas will spend this morning birding. The group will be reunited in the afternoon, and make an easy walk along a broad path, looking for Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Collared Apalis, Grauer’s Warbler, Gray Cuckoo-shrike, Black-billed Turaco, and many more other montane species.
DAY 5

Full day of birding in Bwindi National Park

We have a full day to search out the avian wonders of Bwindi, which often ranks as the top favorite place on the whole tour. A lot is often said of Albertine Rift species without explaining what this is. This area is so interesting because the western branch of the geologically very recent Great East African Rift System, the Albertine Rift, has the higher plateau of the Tanzanian Craton with Lake Victoria to the east, and the west is separated from the vast Congo basin by a mountain chain including the Ruwenzori’s; this has resulted in a swath of endemic a restricted-range bird, mammal, and reptile species. In these mountains there are large mixed-species flocks, the habitat is beautiful, and the climate is wonderfully comfortable. In the morning, we’ll make our way downhill to the swampy habitat favored by the enigmatic African Green Broadbill, though finding this little gem will take some luck. Working forest roadsides and trails, we expect to find endemics such as Ruwenzori (Collared) Apalis, skulking Red-crested Alethe, and Archer’s Robin-Chat. The spectacular but skulking Doherty’s Bushshrike may be coaxed out of a thicket, or we may encounter a flock of babbling White-headed Wood hoopoes. The comical echoes of Great Blue Turacos resound across the valleys, and honking calls may alert us to the presence of Black-and-white-casqued Hornbills nearby. Some of the commoner species in Bwindi include Mountain Sooty Boubou, Yellow-eyed Black-Flycatcher, Ruwenzori Hill Babbler, Red-faced Woodland, Neumann’s, and Grauer’s Warblers, Black-faced Apalis, White-tailed Blue-Flycatcher, Purple-breasted, Blue-headed, and Regal Sunbirds, Stripe-breasted Tit, Dusky Crimson-wing, and Strange Weaver. Rare gems we’ll hope to see include Kivu Ground-Thrush, White-bellied Robin-Chat, and Dusky Twinspot. Many primates roam the canopy including chimpanzees, Guereza Colobus, and Blue and L’Hoests Monkeys.
DAY 6

Ruhija to Buhoma, Bwindi National Park

After breakfast, we head west to the lower-lying Buhoma sector of Bwindi National Park. Along the way, we’ll pass through “The Neck”, a narrow strip of forest that connects the southern and northern portions of the national park. This forest system is the eastern extension of the vast Congo forests combined with a series of restricted-range species of the Albertine Rift. This forest which extends into DR Congo, is far more accessible and very safe to visit, making this the perfect area for birders to see a range of species that are otherwise logistically very difficult to see. Here we have our first chance to find some specialties of lower elevation rainforest, which include Cassin’s Flycatcher, Black Bee-eater, Western Bronze-naped Pigeon, Petit’s Cuckoo-shrike, Tiny Sunbird, and a bounty of difficult-to-identify greenbuls. By the afternoon, we will arrive at Buhoma for a two-night stay.
DAY 7

Full day of birding in Buhoma, Bwindi National Park.

This mid-elevation sector of the national park has a very different flavor from the higher Ruhija section. Some of our targets during our full day of birding the park’s trail system include Bar-tailed Trogon, White-bellied Crested Flycatcher, Willcock’s Honeyguide, Black-billed Weaver, Sooty Flycatcher, and many species of starlings, sunbirds, and greenbuls. This is one of the best sites for the recently described Willard’s Sooty Boubou, which has pale blue eyes, unlike the more widespread Mountain Sooty Boubou.
DAY 8:

Buhoma to Queen Elizabeth National Park

As we head north, the habitat quickly transforms from montane forest to more open savanna, though of a different variety from that in Mburo National Park, having a similar appearance to the flat-topped tree savannas familiar in Kenya and Tanzania, as well as having savannas dominated by Candaleras, which are euphorbias that look similar to cacti. It is a strange sight to see cactus-looking trees surrounded by lush grasslands. We will pass through the Ishasha section of Queen Elizabeth, which is famous for its tree-climbing lions. It’s also rich in birds including Blue-throated Roller, Sooty Chat, Red-necked Francolin, Black-and-white Shrike Flycatcher, and many others. We will arrive at our luxurious lodge on a peninsula between Lake Edward and the Kazinga Channel by the late afternoon. The lodge gardens are full of birds like Northern Black Flycatcher, Black-headed Gonolek, Red-chested Sunbird, and Slender-billed Weaver.
DAY 9:

Full day in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park is both a mammal and bird haven. While it offers an opportunity to view typical African megafaunas such as Hippos and Elephants, it also has Buffalo, Kopi (which replaces Impala), and many Waterbuck and Bushbuck; it is also a waterbird magnet, a wide diversity of which can be seen in a short time. We will spend the morning doing an extended “game drive” through the park’s euphorbia-studded savanna, seeking out birds like African Wattled Lapwing, Temminck’s Courser, Martial Eagle, African Crake, Flappet Lark, and Moustached Grass Warbler. I’ll take a boat trip on the Kazinga Channel in the afternoon This trip ranks among the most astounding birding and photographic experiences in Africa. There are usually masses of big mammals and waterbirds in close proximity. We normally see the regal Gray Crowned-Crane, the strange Hamerkop, and dainty African Jacanas trotting over lily pads next to the boat. Sometimes there are large flocks of birds including African Skimmer, Gull-billed Tern, and Gray-headed, and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.
DAY 10:

Queen Elizabeth National Park to Kibale National Park

After breakfast, we take the long road to Kibale, where we overnight. The open country and waterbird birding on the route is excellent. If time allows, we will make an afternoon visit to the community-run Bigodi Swamp, an excellent place to search for primates like Gray-cheeked Mangabey and Central African Red Colobus, and birds like Speckled Tinkerbird, Speckle-breasted Woodpecker, White-spotted Flufftail, Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat, Bocage’s Bushshrike, and Western Nicator. Patches of papyrus support the incredibly shy White-winged Swamp Warbler.
DAY 11:

Full day in Kibale National Park

Chimp Tracking (optional) and Birding. We awake well before sunrise on a quest for one of Africa’s ultimate avian prizes, the Green-breasted Pitta. This “mega” has recently become available, though finding it still takes a good measure of luck. Kibale is also famous for its Chimpanzees, and those who opt for this activity will join an official park chimp tracking session a bit later in the morning. The chimp tracking is on flatter ground than the Gorilla tracking, though we go off-trail following the chimps as they move along much more gracefully than we will be, trying to swerve around vines and over logs. It is fun though, and when we finally find the chimp group resting or feeding in the trees, we will get a sense of accomplishment. Even those who don’t track chimps are certain to hear their haunting wails and screams in the forest. Bird flocks hold the dainty Forest Robin among scores of illadopses and alethes. Black-bellied Seedcracker inhabits the forest edge, while the canopy holds various vermilion and black malimbes as well as the crisp Black-collared Apalis. Gray-throated, Yellow-spotted, and Yellow-billed Barbets build nests in dead snags, while fruiting figs attract the massive Great Blue Turaco, a cartoon-like bird.
DAY 12:

Kibale to Masindi

This is the longest driving day of the trip, all the way to Masindi, which is the gateway to Budongo. We will be birding along the way at multiple locations, and many clients enjoy this drive as it is not along main roads, and passes through rural Uganda, where you get a real sense of what life is like here. If we arrive in time, we may have time to work the woodlands south of town for White-crested Turaco and Gray-headed Olive back.
DAY 13:

Budongo Forest

We have a full day to explore the delights of the impressive Budongo Forest, a massive block of lowland rainforest, and the most readily accessible Congo rainforest anywhere in the world. We spend time at the amazing Royal Mile, which is a public, but very lightly used road, where the forest authorities have cleared the shrub growth for 20 feet on either side of the road, leading to superb views of both undergrowth bird species as well as making canopy views better than most lowland rainforests; canopy species that are normally obscured by undergrowth and mid-canopy trees are visible and scope able. This forest is the best place in Uganda for Nahan’s Francolin, Cassin’s Spinetail, and Chestnut-capped Flycatcher. We’ll also search for the stunning Chocolate-backed and African Dwarf Kingfishers. The forest is full of Illadopsis and Alethe, and the diversity of greenbuls here is simply amazing. But for those who don’t fancy cryptic birds, there are plenty of more colorful species like the White-thighed Hornbill and Black Bee-eater.
DAY 14:

Masindi to Murchison Falls National Park

En route to Murchison Falls National Park, we stop at the Butiaba escarpment. Although it’s not far from the Budongo rainforest, it holds completely different arid savanna landscapes, and species like Mocking Cliff-Chat, Foxy Cisticola, and Brown Babbler. We will pass through lots of wild country with an open palm savanna, unlike any other in East Africa, and along the way, we may find birds like Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Senegal Lapwing, White-rumped Seedeater, and the weird Piapiac. We reach the edge of the Nile in the late afternoon. The lodge is on the White (or Albert) Nile, which goes from Lake Albert to Khartoum where it joins the Blue Nile and flows to the Mediterranean. The other stretch of the Nile in the park is the Victoria Nile which joins Lake Victoria, plunges spectacularly over Murchison Falls, and flows into the northern edge of Lake Albert. We spend two nights in Murchison Falls National Park.
DAY 15-16:

Murchison Falls National Park

We spend a full day exploring Murchison Falls National Park, where we search for Silverbird, Buff-bellied Warbler, Black-headed Batis, Black-headed Gonolek, and the very local White-rumped Seedeater. The riverine thickets hold White-crested Turaco, Double-toothed Barbet, Heuglin’s Francolin, and many others. In the afternoon we take a boat to the base of the Murchison Falls where the Victoria Nile narrows and plunges spectacularly over the escarpment with unfathomable might. As well as being visually spectacular, it is also really good for birding, and we expect to get close to the normally very difficult Rock Pratincole. The next day we do a separate boat trip downstream to where the Victoria Nile enters Lake Albert and makes a delta with tributaries and papyrus marshes. This array of habitats is great for Shoebill in case we missed it earlier, as well as many other waterbirds and arboreal species like Red-throated and Northern Carmine Bee-eaters.
DAY 17:

Murchison Falls National Park to Kampala

This morning we may make an early stop at Kaniyo Pabidi, where we can track (optional) Chimps if we failed to find them elsewhere on our trip. This is also the best place in East Africa to look for the local Puvel’s Illadopsis. After lunch in Masindi, we return to Kampala where we spend the final night.
DAY 18:

Lake Victoria

Depending on departure flight schedules, we may try to squeeze in some final forest birding just a little east of Kampala. It is unlikely that we will add many more species this day, but it will be a great opportunity to get better looks at some of the species that may have been difficult to find earlier in the trip. The tour is completed with international departures in the late afternoon or evening from Entebbe International Airport.

Transport

We will use Toyota Land cruisers for this tour. Each vehicle has sufficient window seats for the whole group to have one, although we would ask that you rotate around the vehicle to give everyone the opportunity to have a seat towards the front of the vehicle. A good amount of our time will be spent away from the vehicles on bird walks.

There is a good amount of luggage space in the vehicles, however, it is preferable if you can bring soft-sided luggage as this is easier to pack in, and keep your packing to a sensible, practical minimum.

At Mabamba Swamp and Queen Elizabeth National Park, we will also use boats or canoes to view birds from the water. Life jackets are available and it is recommended that these are worn throughout the boat trips.

Weather

A typically equatorial climate ensures that the weather will be varied, and you are likely to encounter some rain on tour. Showers should not last too long and will not hamper the birdwatching. Days will generally be warm or hot and sunny; however, overcast conditions are frequent, particularly in the forest and mountain areas. Nights will be mild to warm, cooler at higher altitudes.

Group Size

This tour can be accompanied by an International tour leader together with a local field ornithologist, and a driver. The minimum group size is 1 pax and the maximum group size will be 14 pax. Group size determines the number of field guides leading a tour. For example, if the group size is 14 pax we 2 field guides with 2 vehicles participate in the trip. If a big group opts to travel in one vehicle, we use a mini coaster. All the two transport options are perfect for your tour.

Food & accommodation included in the package

All accommodation and meals are included in the cost of this holiday trip, drinking water will be available in the tour vehicles during the day throughout the trip. Please bring a water bottle, so that you can refill it from the larger containers.

We use a combination of comfortable lodges, tented camps, and guesthouses on this tour. Whilst standards are improving in Uganda, some of the accommodations can be quite simple in nature. All rooms are clean, however, with private facilities and should be perfectly adequate for the group’s needs. If you experience any problem with your room, please let your local guide know and they will always endeavor to rectify the problem with the lodge. A number of lodges operate generators for electricity, which are only run during the day so keeping a torch by your bedside is useful in case you need to get up at the night.

The Package Price Includes

Park entrance for vehicles and clients, Accommodation and Meals, drinking water on the road, Gorilla permits, Chimpanzee permits, Field bird guides, driver guides, Park rangers, Nature walks, boats, fuel, and Ground transport in 4WD safari vehicles.

The Package Excludes

Visas, air tickets, laundry, tips, items of a personal nature, gifts, government taxes, and other services are not mentioned on the trip.