Having just returned from an amazing recce in Uganda I was HUGELY impressed – the ultimate wildlife odyssey – if it’s not on your bucket list, it really should be.
There are many countries which we visit which offer fantastic wildlife viewing and there are certainly other countries in Africa where you can see the BIG 5 and huge numbers of savannah wildlife.
That said Uganda must be our no.1 wildlife trip as we believe it offers the most diverse experience.
Despite its very troubled past Uganda has managed to keep many protected areas and whereas wildlife numbers (such as elephants) are diminishing in many other African countries – here numbers are growing significantly.
Add to that the lower tourist numbers, friendly Ugandan people, a stunning green and fertile land – Uganda has it all.
There is a good variety of game lodges to suit all budgets. We stayed at some exceptional 4 * properties with some stunning views.
So firstly the safari’s – Murchison Falls National Park (NP) and Queen Elizabeth NP are one of the few safari destinations where you can go on game drive in the morning followed by an afternoon boat safari .
We saw numerous elephants, lion, giraffes, buffalo, kob, warthogs and baboons on the game drive whilst on the boat drive we saw more of these as well as hippos, Nile crocodiles (in Murchinson they can grow up to 6m long!) waterbuck and thousands of kingfishers. On the way back to the lodge at QE NP we were led back by a leopard – another amazing experience.
Uganda is a birdwatchers dream – the sheer number and variety is astonishing. And there are so many large interesting birds to excite even non bird enthusiasts from the prehistoric looking African Shoebill to the beautiful crested crane.
In our 10 day trip we saw more species and different landscapes than you would believe possible.
Take Kibale NP for instance – the density and diversity of primates here is the highest in the whole of Africa. The most well known of its 13 species are the chimpanzees, and it is home to the largest group of habituated chimpanzees therefore is the best place to almost guarantee their viewing on a jungle trek. It really is a magical experience being in the heart of the chimpanzee pack as they come down to ground to feed, play and walk just meters from you.
I haven’t even touched on the main reason we went to Uganda – the Gorillas! After lots of research we had decided that Bwindi Impenetrable Forest was the best place to see gorillas in their natural habitat. Bwindi has nearly ½ the worlds population of mountain gorillas – approx. 480 (the others being in the Virunga NP which is split between Rwanda, DRC and Uganda). That said only 10% of this population are habituated –visited by tourists – so it only offers 24 permits a day (8 people are allowed to visit each gorilla family for 1 hour every day) , so you feel very special
The experience of trekking with these gentle giants is something that will stay with you forever.
I took some of my friends on this recce and here is the from Penny which was posted on facebook daily..
We’ve arrived to the sun and had a fab drive to Kampala. Saw marabou storks lots of goats and cows at the side of the roads checked into our hotel and lay out by the pool till the rains came it is rainy season – early start tomorrow.
What an amazing day! Our 6 hour drive turned into 11 hours door to door but how amazing after negotiating our way out of Kampala and viewing the slums and the traffic jam sellers we drove through the country to a stop for lunch at Masindi seeing cows, goats pigs and birds. We had a quick stop to rescue a chameleon from the middle of the road and a monitor lizard . We saw the majestic Murchison falls where the Nile is squashed through a 7m gap in the rocks – saw wart hogs water bucks & Ugandan kobs. We arrived at the Nile to cross on the ferry to be greeted by a hippo closely followed by a giant crocodile and 4 more hippos – loving our adventure.
What an amazing day early start at 6.45 to drive out for a 5 1/2 hour game drive. One of our first sights was a solitary elephant ripping up a palm closely followed by a giraffe with wart hogs, Ugandan kobs, dik diks and other antelope a plenty. We were treated to more giraffe and elephants and even a squirrel- the birds were so varied with vultures eagles and storks to name but a few – back to the hotel for lunch and g & t’s at the swim up bar then off to the base of murchison falls on the Nile on the African queen on a 3 hour boat trip – countless hippos in and out of the water a herd of elephants and baby crocodiles, birds a plenty again and the falls –albeit slightly less impressive from the base . Another quick g&t in the pool then off to pack for tomorrow’s adventure – an amazing and truly breathtaking day.
Today we set off for an 11 hour trip to Kibale- we caught the 7am ferry and were greeted by 2 hippos, 2 baboons and 3 antelope. I bought my book but struggled to read any of it as so much too see and I have to wave at every child we pass – we’ve seen black faced, red tailed and colobus monkeys – we’ve seen markets, schools and churches and Ugandan way of life. We were told we were visiting in the rainy season but were lulled into a false sense of security with only 5 min showers. Today it started raining at 3 and hasn’t stopped – bit of a scary off roading trip to reach our amazing Eco lodge overlooking the lake with Nandy the dog.
Well we thought it couldn’t get better – then we spent 4 1/2 hours trekking with chimpanzees. We set off with our guide through the jungle after an hour we were scared witless by some loud barking – our ranger’s face lit up and she had the widest smile and said follow me – off we went we could see 10 of them feeding, sunbathing, playing and copulating (for all of 7 seconds lucky lady) we waited for an hour and a half for them to come down from the trees and we followed them through the undergrowth till they stopped and posed – suddenly the ranger said stay where you are as one brushed passed me – within 10 CMS of me – lots of tears – loving.
What another amazing day following a lie in and a couple of hours by the pool we set off again for our next adventure – we crossed the equator from the northern hemisphere to the southern and toasted it with gin and ginger then headed to Queen Elizabeth national park where we saw buffalo, kob, wart hogs and water Buck then a pride of 7 lions – what could top that? As we drove to the lodge in the dark we were led in by a leopard – definitely my favourite of the big cats so majestic and with beautiful markings – as I sit writing this I’m on our balcony watching the lightening light up the planes and hearing some very loud elephant noises- going to move inside now.
Queen Elizabeth National Park – game drive this morning, then a boat trip around Lake Edward. Lots to see today, sleepy lions (including one sleeping up a tree!), elephants, and a fresh elephant placenta on the side of the road . A brief encounter in the hotel grounds with a warthog was unexpected but amazing. The afternoon boat trip bought us crocodiles, hippos and more elephants. A few hours of chilling now before dinner, and then an early start in the morning on our drive to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest – gorillas here we come!
We set off at 7 am and were seen off the premises by a troupe of 22 mongoose – as soon as we had started off we saw 3 elephants lots of monkeys and troops of baboons- one stalked us and jumped on the bonnet . We saw a mother with a new born baby. Teresa treated us to some amazing bird facts as we headed on down the bumpiest of roads to Bwindi ( everyone’s fit bits gave them kudos for completing their days steps ). When we reached the impenetrable forest the heavens opened and the rain was torrential. We watched the mist climb up the mountain – as we drank g&ts on the terrace. The rains cleared and we were visited by the Biwindi community orphans and vulnerable centre – who sang and danced for us then sold us pictures and carvings needless to say we are many dollars lighter now and have had very emotional big day. Tomorrow GORILLAS.
Well what a finale to the trip of a lifetime. Following our briefing we were allocated the Habinyanja family to trek with they are the largest of the 3 habituated groups – there is one silverback called Makara which means charcoal – We were driven for 45 minutes then dropped at the bottom of a steep road we met our porters and started off – small local children waved and said hello – we gave them our mosquito bracelets- almost as soon as we left the road / path after about 45 mins we were told to be quiet as the silver back had been spotted – oh my god – tears fell and it was unbelievable- we saw the young ones playing in the trees and a mother and a 3 month old baby – Makara had an orphan beside him who kept up with him the whole time – we slipped and slid down the mountain and followed them along a valley. My porter was called Francis – he held my hand and stopped me falling as we continued to trek with the gorillas up the mountain further into the impenetrable forest he pulled me up. A rather stern looking ranger with a hooked machete pulled me up for a better view when a mum and her baby on her back passed within a metre of me. We carried on back to where we’d left the path. A picnic completed our adventure before we descended a lot quicker back to our trucks before we set off for lake Buyoni. This road was a little scary as part of the journey was with a sheer drop of 300 metres with no barrier – we arrived at lake Buyoni safely – what an amazing view.
Last day – left lake Buyoni at 6.45 in the pitch black travelling to Entebbe to catch our flight – 2 quick stops to pick flowers ( toilet break ) on the 2nd one we crossed the equator from south to north where we saw the water go clockwise, anti clockwise, and straight down in the space of 10 metres – we carried on soaking up the last of Uganda, waving at children and spotting the majestic Marabou Stork – and reached the airport at 13.45- we had an emotional goodbye with our amazing guides Harryson & Bryan – after some coconut gin & Ugandan Coffee amongst other purchases and our last Nile Special in the bar we left the Pearl of Africa and headed for Dubai. Becky, Teresa, Catherine, Laura, Laurenne, Jane and Katherine – thank you for being part of a trip of a lifetime -Pioneer Expeditions- thank you for your skill and expertise in arranging an unforgettable experience -MSC forever.
See further information and the full itinerary of the trip :