6 DAYS BIRDING IN THE ALBERTINE RIFT

The Albertine Rift is an area of lakes, mountains and forests, which stretches from northern Uganda along its borders with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Several species endemic to this area are found in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Semliki National Park, Rwenzori Mountains and Mgahinga. These include Green Broadbill, Grauer’s Swamp and Neumann’s Warblers, Shelley’s and Dusky Crimsonwings, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Strange Weaver, Rwenzori Double-collared, Regal, Purple-breasted and Blue-throated Sunbirds, Rwenzori Turaco, Handsome Francolin, Stripe-breasted Tit and several others. In the papyrus swamps around Lake Victoria and other lakes, the enigmatic Shoebill can be found, as well as specialities including Papyrus Yellow and White-winged Warblers, Carruther’s Cisticola, Papyrus Gonolek, Swamp Flycatcher and Orange Weaver.

Tour highlights

  • Birding in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
  • Birding in Semliki National park
  • Birding in Rwenzori Mountains
  • Birding in Mgahinga Gorilla National park

Day 1: Arrival

Upon the arrival at Entebbe Airport, our company guide will pick you and drive you to Kampala and you can encounter a good range of bird species on your journey within a few hours in Entebbe Botanical Gardens and Kampala. The driver will take you up to your hotel in Kampala. Dinner and overnight at Avesta hotel/Rochester hotel/Speke hotel.

Day 2: Transfer to Semliki National park

Take your early morning breakfast and set off to Semliki national park in Bundibugyo which is about 379km and takes around 4 to 5 hours via Mbarara-Masaka road with stopover at the Uganda Equator for photo shooting, you will encounter the spectacular forests, lakes, mountains and wetlands/swamps. On reaching the park, have your lunch and after lunch, go for bird watching into the park.

Semliki has over 441 recorded species and the list is expanded by the riverine habitat and a fringe of grassland in the east of the park. Five species are endemic to the Albertine Rift ecosystem. Species to look out for here include the Nkulengu Rail, Yellow-throated Cuckoo, Piping Hornbill, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, Black Dwarf Hornbill, White-crested Hornbill, Black-casqued Wattled Horbill, Red-rumped Tinkerbird, African Piculet, White-throated Blue Swallow, Yellow-throated Nicator, Leaf-love, Swamp Palm Bulbul, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Maxwell’s Black Weaver, Crested Malimbe, Red-bellied Malimbe, Blue-billed malimbe, Chestnut-breasted Negrofinch, Orange-cheeked Waxbill. Dinner and overnight at Sempaya Rest Camp.

Day 3: Transfer to Rwenzori Mountains

Have your morning breakfast and then transfer to Rwenzori Mountains which covers a distance of about 58km and it takes around 1hour driving, and on this journey you will be rewarded with the spectacular vegetation from the windward side of Mountain Rwenzori to its leeward side in Kasese where the Rwenzori Mountains national park is located. Birding opportunities are greatest in the montane forest; few species choose to make their home in the inhospitable world of the high Rwenzori. Relax and have your lunch and proceed with bird watching in the afternoon.

You will encounter bird species like Bee-eaters, Robins, Sunbirds and Barbets which are some of the 217 species found in Rwenzori Mountains National Park. Other species to watch include the Rwenzori Turaco and Long-eared Owl, while higher up on the slopes, Bearded Vultures, Swifts and Black Eagles may be seen circling for prey. Dinner and overnight stay Rwenzori Turaco view campsite.

Day 4: Transfer to Bwindi Impenetrable forest.

Enjoy your morning breakfast and start the journey to Bwindi Impenetrable national park which covers a distance of about 162km and takes around 2 to 3hours driving from the Rwenzori Mountains. Bwindi a varied habitat which is Uganda’s oldest forest and it is the ideal home for a variety of birds, with 350 species recorded, including 23 endemics. Relax a bit and enjoy your lunch.

In the afternoon, proceed to where birding takes place along the main trail, the Buhoma Waterfall Trail and along the bamboo zone and Mubwindi Swamp trail in Ruhija. You will be reward with a number of bird species such as the Short-tailed Warbler and Blue-headed Sunbird, the African Emerald Cuckoo, Common Bulbul, African Blue and White-tailed Blue Flycatchers and Red-headed Bluebill. Dinner and overnight at Sanctuary Gorilla forest lodge.

Day 5: Transfer to Mgahinga Gorilla National park.

Take your morning breakfast and start the journey of about 51km and takes around 1:30hours via Kisoro-Bunagana road from Bwindi Impenetrable forest to Mgahinga Gorilla national park. The best birding in Mgahinga also takes in some of its most beautiful scenery in the gorge between Mount Gahinga and Mount Sabinyo, through the bamboo forest, and in the montane forest, where the beautiful Rwenzori Turaco may be observed. Have your lunch and proceed for birding in the park.

In the afternoon, go for 3 to 4 hour Gorge Trail between Gahinga and Sabinyo which provides a spectacular sightings of the Dusky turtle Dove, Cape Robin-chat, Kivu-ground Thrush, Olive Thrush, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Bronze Sunbird, Regal Sunbird, Blue-headed Sunbird, Rwenzori Batis, Black-headed Waxbill and Streaky Seedeater, and the other good birding areas are at the bamboo belt and the tall montane forest. The Rwenzori Turaco is mostly sighted at around 2,700m. Along the Uganda-Congo border and on level ground, the Chubb’s Cisticola, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Banded Prinia and Doherty’s Bush-shrike are vocal yet inconspicuous inhabitants of the tangled vegetation at the forest’s edge. Dinner and overnight at Mount Gahinga lodge.

Day 6: Depart to Kampala.

After your early morning breakfast, begin your journey back to Kampala which is approximately 484km and takes around 8 to 9hours driving from the park, with a stopover in Mbarara for lunch at Shaheen restaurant/Food Mart/Café Havana. After lunch continue with the journey to Kampala where you proceed from to Entebbe Airport for your departure flight.

END OF SAFARI

 

NO. OF PAX
1 2 3 4 5 6
COST ($)
3,280 3,240  3,190  3,130  3,060 2,980

 

Tour Inclusions

  • Park fees
  • Transportation a 4×4 vehicle with fuel
  • English speaking drivers/guides
  • Full board accommodation
  • Tour activities per the itinerary
  • Meals per the itinerary
  • Bottled drinking water in the safari vehicle

Tour Exclusions

  • Flight fares
  • Insurance costs
  • Personal expenses
  • Laundry costs
  • Extra food and drinks
  • Extra activities not in the itinerary
  • Tips

Commonly Visited Gorilla Destinations

Bwindi Impenetrable national park a large primeval forest located in the South Western part of Uganda is a home to over half the worlds 1,000 mountain gorillas.

mountain-gorilla-in-bwindi-impenetrable-national-park

Bwindi Impenetrable national park

BWINDI IMPENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK

Bwindi Impenetrable National park is found in southwestern Uganda in Kanungu district. It covers an area of 332kms. When we talk of gorillas in Uganda, we talk of Bwindi and this is Africa’s oldest rainforest, it hides much more than just gorillas but more other wild animals but when gorilla tracking became an activity it made it even more appealing. Bwindi is commonly known for its 400 endangered gorillas with many families, Batwa trails, the Batwa are the first and last forest people who anciently lived in the forest for a long time also known as hunters, gatherers and fierce warriors and 350 bird species. Buhoma as one of the gates apart from gorillas it’s the right place for bird watching.

ACTIVITIES
Bwindi impenetrable National Park is found in southwestern Uganda in Kanungu district, when we talk of gorillas we talk of Bwindi, but it not being the only activity, Bwindi has a variety of activities all incredibly good and as Gorilla Trips Africa here are some of the activities

Gorilla Tracking
Gorillas in Bwindi are habituated making them less dangerous and this is one of great activity done, the tour guides guide tourists through the forest on their way to track gorillas, gorillas act more like humans which keeps you wondering about God’s will, you can interact with them offer them yellows and even can have pictures with them creating memorable moments. Bwindi has a number of gates for example Buhoma gate with three gorilla  groups habituated, Nkuringo gate with two groups , Ruhija with four groups of gorillas habituated, and Rushaga with the most habituated groups and others are still under habituation with six groups

Gorilla Habituation Experience
During habituation Gorillas are tamed to be more of human, not to be dangerous around people, tour guides will take you through the process they go through while habituating the gorillas, it’s a terrifying experience but worth to go through and this is so because the gorillas are not yet fully habituated, this is most popular at Rushaga gate it being with the large gorilla habituation

Batwa Trail
Experience the ancient life of Batwa people. The Batwa trail is a celebration of the forest first people and still they are the last forest people who are also known as hunters, gatherers and fierce warriors. When you get a chance to see them you can see the forest in their lives and all through their eyes, this trail is guided by the Batwa guides who provide insights into their traditional forest life and culture. It runs  from the lower slopes of the muhavura and Gahinga volcanoes and ends in the Batwa community, throughout the trail you will be surprised all through for example showing you how incredibly  they made fire using friction of sticks, having a taste of the wild berries which they used to eat before going to hunter, seeing the huts the built using the tree leaves lastly after reaching the Batwa community you will get the unforgettable performance of your life since the Batwa are well known for their music and dance.

Nature Walks
Tourists who have a short time for nature walk usually do it near river Munyanga and river Ivy on the way you get an opportunity to see baboons, monkeys and birds. And if you continue to the Batwa pygmy community you will be surprised by the energetic dance of the Batwa, you will meet woman making craft giving you and opportunity to buy craft from the Batwa. Nature walk to the Mubwindi swamp is the right spot for the birders and if you use the path of the forest descending through the majestic rainforest it will give you great scenery of the green nature. Amazingly the name Bwindi came from Mubwindi swamp.

Bird watching
Bwindi is one of the best birding destinations in Uganda the pearl of Africa, it being the oldest forest in Uganda surely means it’s the ideal habitat for the variety of bird species, Bwindi is estimated to have around 350 bird species for example Jameson’s Antpecker, pink-footed puff back, Waller, crested Guinea fowl, Barred long-tailed cuckoo, Grey crowned crane, White headed saw wing and so many more. Migratory birds are present from November to April and if you want the main spot for bird watching is along Buhoma waterfalls trails.

gorilla-in-mgahinga-gorilla-national-park

Mgahinga Gorilla national park

MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is in the southwestern corner of Uganda, located in Kisoro district although the volcanoes stretch to the far parts of Rwanda and DRC. Mgahinga National Park was gazzetted in 1991 despite it being declared an area of game sanctuary in the early 1930s by the British Administration and it covers 33.9 square kilometers. As the name “Mgahinga” suggests, the park was mainly established to protect gorillas that inhabit the depth of the forest, other than that the park has a significance to culture “the Batwa culture”. Most importantly Mgahinga National Park has great features which are the beautiful extinct volcanoes, a great fauna, primates which include mountain gorillas and golden monkeys, bird species include handsome francoin, red throated alethe, Rwenzori batis, collared apalis, mountain masked apails, stripe-breasted tit, blue- headed sunbird, strange weaver, red –faced woodland warber, regal sunbird, Rwenzori turaco among others.

Top Activities Done At Mgahinga National Park

Gorilla Trekking

Mgahinga National Park is the right place for gorilla trekking and that’s so because it has half of the world’s Gorillas thus making it the most popular activity done at Mgahinga, it has one habituated gorilla family called “Nyakagezi Gorilla family” and this family at times moves to the parts of Rwanda and DRC. Gorilla trekking at Mgahinga usually starts from 8:30 in the morning and it takes 3-8 hours, trackers take visitor through the routes to the place they had left Gorillas a day before and that’s where they begin the trekking from, Gorillas are habituated making them less dangerous to humans. All in all Gorillas trekking is best done in dry seasons because it makes the hikes easier for tourists.

Golden Monkey Trekking

Mgahinga National Park is the best place for Golden Monkey trekking and it’s among the most interesting activities done for primate safari, the estimated number of golden monkeys at Mgahinga is 3000-4000. If you participate in this activity you will have an excitement of your life time since it offers you an opportunity to view, take pictures of the monkeys before heading back to the lodges.

Volcano Hiking

At Mgahinga Gorilla National Park despite Gorilla trekking visitors have an opportunity for hikes to the summit of Mountain Muhabura which requires more than one day to hike it but still tourists who prefer a one day hike can opt Gahinga trail aa their best and this takes 6 hours. During this hikes you will come across various bird species, also have a view of the famous extinct volcanoes.

Batwa Trail

Batwa are also known as the forest people. While at Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, the Batwa trail begins from the Muhavura cave with the Batwa guides who will give you an insight of their ancient life and culture in the forests where they lived in harmony with the gorillas. Batwa people lived as hunter-gatherers, built houses using tree leaves but later they were displaced from the park although some are still with in the park taking part in tourism as tour guides and others as porters.

Bird Watching

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the ideal place for birders because its blessed and enriched with over 180 bird species all unique in one way or the other and these birds can be spotted in the wetland areas , forests, Buffalo wall among others. These unique bird species include Rwenzori turaco, regal sunbird, strange weaver, mountain masked apails, stripe-breasted tit, handsome francoin, red throated alethe, collared apalis among others.

Garama Cave Exploration

Beneath a plateau northern edge of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park you will come across the great Garama Cave lying on the length of 342meters and this believed to have been used as a retreat and council for the Batwa where they met to solve conflicts and problems among Batwa members.

gorilla-in-volcanoes-national-park

Volcanoes national park

Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park also referred to as Parc National des Volcano in French and Pariki y’Igihugu y’Ibirunga in Kinyarwanda local language. The park is situated in the north-western province of Rwanda in a small town called Musanze formerly Ruhengeri.

The park is the oldest national park in the African continent and harbors the endangered Mountain Gorillas of Rwanda. Gorilla tracking is Rwanda’s main tourism activity. Volcanoes National Park borders Virunga National Park in DRC and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in south-western Uganda. Besides its huge population of Mountain Gorillas, it also harbors the endangered Golden Monkeys, primate specie that apparently offers the best diverse tourism activity within the national park at the moment.

Volcanoes National Park also shelters five of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga massifs which are: Mount Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo: covering over 160 km2 of rain forest and bamboo. The park acted as a base for American zoologist Dian Fossey.

Fauna of the forest in addition to endangered species of mountain gorilla includes: golden monkeys, buffaloes, black-fronted duiker, hyenas then bushbucks. A few reports also clam that a small number of elephants can be found at the park but on very rare occasions. The bird life spans at 178 species, with about 12 of the main species and 15 of the subspecies being endemic to the Virunga conservation area and the great Ruwenzori Mountains.

The Volcanoes National Park is one of the three other only habitats for Mountain gorillas on the planet and the only possible destinations for Mountain gorilla trekking expeditions in Rwanda. The rainforests are at a higher altitude and temperatures are generally lowest in the African region. The tropical sun brings with it effects of heat, evaporation of vapor and rain forming. In Volcanoes National Park, it rains at any time regardless of the season. Factor is the volcanic soils that are fertile and very rich in plant mineral content, resulting in an evergreen rain forest; some parts have bamboo trees, small patches of shrubs and grassland areas, swamp and wetland vegetation in the valleys, and heath on the tips of the volcanoes. These are the ideal conditions for the survival and the existence of the Mountain gorillas and other unique wildlife species.

Mammal species

Volcanoes National Park is a rich ecosystem, a habitat with vibrant and unique mammal species. Mountain gorillas and Golden monkeys are most recognized than other wildlife species because the Virunga volcanoes region is their only habitat on earth. There is high mammal presence in the park, though harder to spot because of hilly and rugged terrain, coupled with  a thick and enclosed rainforest. The mammals in such habitat adapt to a solitary or pair lifestyle, shy away from intruders and are very aggressive if cornered. Save for rare physical encounters, there are signs that indeed show Forest elephants, buffaloes, bushpigs, bushbucks, giant forest hogs, spotted hyenas, bushbucks, duikers, vervet and colobus monkeys and other primate species reside in the park. Volcanoes National Park is very popular as a Rwanda gorilla trek and Golden monkey tracking destination. There are other Rwanda travel destinations to easily spot and have maximum interaction with the rest of mammal species.

Predominant activities include:

Gorilla tracking, Golden Monkey tracking, twin lakes visit, mountaineering, visiting Dian Fossey’s tomb, Iby’Iwacu cultural village and other community visits.

Rwanda is an exciting destination with a number of national parks in addition to the famous Volcanoes national park; say the Akagera and Nyungwe national parks plus Lake Kivu for water excursion.