Hot air balloon safaris in Murchison
You won't regret casting your fate to the wind in this sightseeing tour of Uganda's biggest National Park. From the comfort of a spacious basket which can accommodate six likeminded people, you will behold a birds’ view of contrasting wild landscape and watch thousands of wildlife roaming in the plains.
From start to fish, you will be in the safe hands of a friendly captain/pilot. He is well experienced having flown hundreds of times here before. He will take the adventure to the next level with his wealth of information about how the different geological features were formed; canyons, rift valleys, lakes and different rock formations. You will float silently above lush savannahs and thunderous waterfalls.
Even those who fear heights will love every minute of this one hour adventure. This is partly because it is not a bumpy flight as it takes place early morning, a time of the day when the wind isn’t turbulent. Thanks to this early timing, you will behold beautiful colors, and watch the sun rise in all glory over the horizons. Through the magnifying lens of binoculars, you will see lions teaming up to besiege target prey such as Uganda kobs.
The clear blue skies provide enough light for viewing of the most of the thunderous rapids of river Nile. Even if it is cold, you won't freeze up there as the balloon drifts. Why? The captain will fire up the balloon with the burner thus keeping it warm. One of the things you will love is how quiet it is up there. You might even hear elephants trumpeting from more than 100 meters below you. It is amazing how they look so tiny despite the fact that they are the world’s biggest land mammals. On the other hand, the Rothschild giraffes thrice as shorter than they are in real life.
It is such extraordinary views that make this adventure much more exciting than a helicopter tour of the park.
The adventure will be crowned with a smooth landing at a random part of the park where you will be picked by our driver—ahead of your next adventure.
Cycling in tea plantations
Uganda is renowned to produce some of Africa's most tasty tea, and nowhere else does tea growing excel better than Toro. It is a peaceful kingdom in the shadows of Mountain Rwenzori, Uganda’s highest landmark-standing at 5,109meters above sea level.
Siting at an altitude of 1,200m above sea level, Fort Portal has some of the oldest tea plantations established during British occupation. Here, you will have an informative experience on what happens behind the scenes of tea growing during this half day tour. It partly entails riding through a beautiful sight to see loads of hills around Kibale National Park covered in tea trees.
The greenery of the estate is relaxing and tranquil, and the air has a countryside freshness. The plantations are divided into patterns to allow the workers to collect the tea leaves after harvest. Looking this scenic setting from a distance, you are bound to think it is a green carpet spread over rolling hills.
You will have stopovers to take pictures or better still, join farmers harvesting as you learn more about their cultures.
It is fun seeing how quickly the locals use both their hands to pluck the leaves from the tea plants—before stuffing them in their harvest baskets. They are very welcoming and will dress you like them for memorial photos. They will lend you their big hats and harvesting basket as you get a first-hand experience of traditional harvest.
The tour is a farm to cup experience that ends with sampling the different classes of tea as you enjoy cool weather at homes of local farmers. Whether you are a big fan of black tea or not, you will love this experience as the tea has a unique taste from any you have ever tasted. Best of all, the area produces enough tea for the international market. As such, you can take some home to enjoy for a while.
The tour also features free factory tour where you will see freshly picked tea being processed to its final drinkable stage. Not so far from it are warehouses that still have their old beauty.
One of the things that amaze people from this tour is the realization that Black Tea, Oolong Tea and Green Tea all come from the same plant. What differentiates them is the way they are processed.
The ride up some steep hills is a tiny bit stressful, but luckily, there are lots of alternative routes you can journey through if you have weak knees.
Gorilla habituation in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
If you love to get your heart pumping, this experience is for you. You will get to witness preparations that happen behind the scenes before mountain gorillas are opened for tourism.
The half day adventure has been well researched and organized to wow you with lots of encounters that—people miss out on during gorilla tracking. For instance, you will walk on paths that no tourist has used before. This doubles your chances of bumping into wildlife that don't hand along trails, like forest elephants and forest buffalos.
Even though your group will comprise of up to eight tourists, you will feel like the ranger guide is just there for you. He will answer all your questions and fire up your tour will timely jokes about the lifestyle of gorillas in comparison with that of humans.
Night forest walk in Kibale National Park
You can't go wrong with this experience if you want to see the various nocturnal animals of Kibale National Park. Situated in Kabarole and Kamwenge Districts of Western Uganda, Kibale is the only park in Africa known to have up to 13 primate species; chimpanzees, L’hoest monkeys, bushbabies, olive baboons, bushbabies, vervet monkeys, black and white monkeys, blue monkeys, red colubus, grey cheeked mangabey. Though most of these can be seen during the morning chimp trekking excursions, others like the bush babies are mostly seen at night as they are nocturnal mammals.
The best part of the story is that its trails you will use have lots of boardwalks. By the same token, the log bridges over the rivers are routinely maintained. As such, you don't have to wallow your shoes in mud to get through. This eases accessibility to different parts of the park during the night forest walk.
It will starts as early as 6pm so as to enable you witness chimps as they build their nests in the canopy. They do this by tightly interlocking flexible branches for a firm support. This acts as the frame and rails of the beds for the night. In an effort to make them more comfortable, they stuff leaves into them for a spongy feel like a mattress.
As you hike through the forest with the aid of your touch for light, you will be advised to observe silence. This will double your chances of encountering shy wildlife like bush babies and civet cats.
The forest has a mix of both gentle and steep trails, so wear good hiking shoes and a pair of gardening gloves.
Tag along with warm clothing. Being a tropical forest, Kibale is quite cold at night.
Canoe ride on Lake Mulehe and Lake Mutanda
This sightseeing experience is definitely one for the 'must experience' box. It is a very relaxing ride in two scenic lakes that are not crowded with boats and humans. These are Lake Mulehe and Lake Mutanda, both of which are found in Kisoro District, not so far with Uganda’s border with Rwanda. The adventure is safe as the lake doesn’t have beastly wildlife like crocodiles and hippos.
For two hours, you will enjoy the comfort of a traditional dug-out canoe as a local tour guide rows it forward using wooden paddles. He will navigate to different Islands—that double as vantage points from which you can get unmatched views of the surrounding. This includes views of the seven volcanic mountains of Virunga region. They are beautifully laid out along the borders of Uganda, Congo and Rwanda. If it’s a clear evening, you will watch bright sparks of lava from active volcanoes light up the sky with the bright orange glow. As the day drifts by, the Lake will wow you with a spectacular reflection of white clouds hovering over cone-shaped mountains with crater lakes at their top. An example is Mountain Muhavura of the neighbouring Mgahinga National Park.
Although this is not a party boat, there are drinks are available on board, a perfect cherry for you as make friends with fellow travelers.
Having been born in this area, the local captain is full of information about the history of the social, political and historical events that have shaped the area's present outlook. He loves their motherland land wants to make it better place by conserving the ecosystem of its swamp.
He will tell you stories about the river, and villages within vicinity. If bird watching makes you happy, brace yourself for sightings of Uganda’s national emblem, the grey crowned crane. Over 120 bird species have been recorded here, several of which come from the neighbouring Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Lion tracking experience in Queen Elizabeth National Park
Carnival experience and lion tracking experience. If you want 100% chances of encountering lions in the wilderness but time isn't on your side, this experience is for you. It permits you to drive off track in the company of veterinary doctors at the forefront of conserving lions in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Situated in Western Uganda, along the same road that leads to Bwindi National Park, Queen Elizabeth is a wonderland that has it all; gorges, huge valleys, mountain ranges, forests and blue lakes. The cherry on the cake is 95mammal and 600 bird species.
The park is so big, and so is its variety of ecosystems—most of which can be seen during boat cruises, game drives and nature walks.
The most unforgettable memory of this lion tracking adventure is watching charming cubs following their mother in the tall grass. If patient, you will witness them making their way into the branches of acacia trees to rest in the shade. All this while, they will be stalking prey roaming in the plains. At a perfect time when their target prey is distracted, they will descend down the tree and take them by surprise.
Having a local driver guide will take a lot of strain out of the trip. This will allowing you to sit back and admire the park's grasslands, dense forests and speedy rivers. Proceeds from the adventure as used to fund operations of the Uganda Carnivore Program (UCP). It is a multi-disciplinary organization, devoted to the research and conservation of Uganda's large carnivores, including lions, leopards, and hyenas. This follows their endangered status as caused by inter human wildlife conflicts.
Hike to the top of Murchison falls National Park
Murchison falls National Park has the only known sport where the world’s longest river creates an extremely powerful waterfall. It flows in great volume through a seven meter wide cleft and plummets over 40meter drop, landing with a bang.
You cannot imagine how powerful it is till you have seen it in person.
This hike offers you an opportunity of getting different perspectives of this dramatic scene that attracts over 500,000 tourists every year. It starts from the foot of the river, not so far from a shoreline infested with crocodiles. In the end, it climaxes at the highest summit overlooking the falls. The astonishing hike takes an average of two hours—a long a zigzagging trail that is clean and well maintained.
In not exaggeration, there is no better view on earth than sitting atop the vantage point. From here, you will watch the sunrise up the falls with its orange glow on your right hand side. On the left hand side, you will watch mist hover over the valley in which the river flows. At the actual mouth of the falls, you will experience glistening green freshness after a rain shower. Prepare to get wet as you draw close to the mouth of the falls. Its spray will cover you and wash away your stress. Truly astonishing.
If the setting is not enough reason to plan a visit, then then the two hours boat cruise that precedes it will leave you breathless. It offers excellent sightings of wildlife relaxing at the river banks. These include giraffes, buffaloes, lions, elephants, Uganda kobs. The boat aboard which you will ride is lovely and well looked after. Both its upper and lower deck is pretty basic but comfortable and bigger than anticipated. It has extensive shade cover to protect you from burning sun rays. It was built with without windows to allow plenty of breeze into the boat. It is ensuit with a bathroom and mini bar where cold Ugandan beers and sodas are sold.
Don't forget to carry with you sunscreen and insect repellent, especially if you have a sensitive skin. Murchison is located at a part of the country that experiences hot sun.
Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
From the moment you set foot in this hidden gem, you will feel deeply relaxed and privileged.
At this sanctuary found in Central Uganda, your probability of finding wild rhinos is 101%. This is thanks to the 24/7 protection they get. This follows an uncontrolled poaching that led to their extinction in 1980s. To this effect, Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary was established in 2005 as a private, non-profit, animal sanctuary. It strives to re-populate rhinos ahead of their re-introduction into the national parks.
At present, ziwa has a crash of over 20 rhinos, over 10 of which were born here. To observe one of the families here, you will hike over completely flat terrain in the company of a ranger. You will quietly walk up into the jungle and track them using their dung. The fresher the dung, the closer they are.
Although the rhinos here are habituated, they are still wild in nature unlike domesticated animals in a zoo. For that, you will keep a safe 15 m distance from them during the one hour you will dwell in their presence.
Nshenyi Cultural Village
Nshenyi is a must for anyone visiting Bwindi National Park or Queen Elizabeth National. It is found in Ntungamo, a district found between these two parks of western Uganda. It gives a great introduction of the history of Ankole kingdom, as shown through music, dance, and traditional food. During its homestay experience, you will be immersed in the African cultures of this tribe of tall cattle keepers.
The performers put up an energetic and engaging show, telling of the migration of the Ankole people and their long horned species of cattle. Their passion, enthusiasm and enjoyment of the traditional dances is infectious. Their performances are fired up by loads of rhythm from local instruments like engalabi, a long drum used to grace royal festivals.
Nshenyi further demonstrates the customs of the Banyankole tribe in a cultural village replica, showing DOs and DON'Ts of traditional marriage ceremonies.
The experience is backed by delightfully entertaining and informative story telling. In the end, you will participate in the making of traditional dishes and later join in the feast. Most of the dishes are flavored with fresh cattle products such as eshabwe, a ghee source.
You will crown your day with a peaceful night in eco-friendly huts whose design date back to the 16th century. They have a cozy interior and warm lighting.
Swimming in beautiful natural ponds of Bwindi
Bwindi has lots of beautiful natural pools where you can cool off after a gorilla trekking adventure. They are awe-inspiring and crystal clear, like a scene taken out of a story. The jungle surrounding them is refreshing, lush, and well maintained by Mother Nature. They are in a kind of environment you would want to dwell in forever, and there is no better way of doing so than by swimming in them. This experience will offer you an impressive contact with nature—in an environment that is not crowded.
The temperature of the water is perfect for all age brackets. You don't have to worry about succumbing to hypothermia as it is not so cold. No, you won’t drown even if you don’t know how to swim. The pools are spacious but shallow.
The best part of the story is that they are safe to dive in as they don't have any venomous creatures, and neither do they have Bilharzia.
You can’t go wrong with Murchison regardless of whether you visit it in the dry season or wet season. It meets your imagination of Africa in its purest form, with plentiful wildlife roaming in its 3,840km² expanse. In this case, it has 76 mammal and 451 bird species.
Found at the Northern edge of the Albertine Rift Valley, it comprises of Lake Albert, River Nile, Budongo forest and a lively savannah. All these landscapes have cozy eco-friendly lodges where wildlife can be seen with ease.
The Park doesn't have sharks or zebras, but it has thousands of elephants, buffalo, Uganda kobs, hundreds of lions, leopards and millions of spectacular birds. Umoja Motherland Safaris is privileged to have guides who know them all, and where to find them at different times of the day.
Before spot hunting was banned here, it used to attract huge number of spot hunters from different corners of the earth. This includes the 26th president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt who visited the park in 1909.
Thanks to undivided conservation efforts, park's wildlife populations has shot up over the years. At a time it is so hard to come by Rothschild giraffes across most of Africa's parks, Murchison has over 1,200 of these endangered animals. You will have seen at least 80 by the end of your four hour game drive.
While it is true that these elegant animals are the tallest land mammals, their 16ft height is no match to that of Borassus palm trees that tower over the park. The park once had less than 20 of these trees. Today, they can be seen at almost every turn. This growth is thanks to dispersal efforts by elephants families that have lived in the park for over five centuries now.
At first glance, you are bound to mistake the elephants here for huge ant hills due to their enormous size. It’s not by mistake that they have earned a top spot among the world’s largest land mammals.
Although Murchison is one of the three most visited parks in the country, it is still an immaculate setting. This is partly because the tour operators respect the no off-roading rule and don’t harass animals. Best of all, poaching its almost unheard of thanks to the patrol efforts by the rangers. As such, you are guaranteed of encountering even endangered species, like leopards.
Game Drives and Boat cruises
Game drives in Murchison take place in the Northern section of the park's natural bush-land. Some stretches of the road is bumpy, but that adds to the pleasure. You won’t have a hard time maneuvering over them as our cars are custom made for off-road adventures.
On the other hand, boat cruises take place at 24kilometer stretch of river Nile that dissects that park into two major territories, North and South. Stretches of white water rapids dot the river beautiful. They are created as a result of the resistance that the river encounters as it forces its way down past static rocks to get downstream.
The shoreline is alive with lots of lush vegetation that provide lions a perfect camouflage—as they wait to ambush prey. This shoreline is an immensely wildlife-rich expanse and there is no better way to see them than by pursuing a two hours boat cruise headed for the mouth of the falls. The boat is lovely and well looked after. It has extensive shade cover to protect you from burning sun rays. Both its upper and lower deck is pretty basic but comfortable and bigger than anticipated. It was built without windows to allow plenty of breeze into the boat. This swift machine is ensuit with a bathroom and mini bar where cold Ugandan beers and sodas are sold. You cannot imagine how powerful this waterfall is till you have seen from the boat and subsequently from a vantage point that faces it. It flows in great volume and plummets over 40meters drop, landing with a bang.
For better views, a hike from its bottom to summit is much recommended. It takes about one hour along a zigzagging trail that offers a gentle climbing challenge. The experience climaxes with unobstructed view of the only spot where the world’s longest river squeezes its self through a seven meter wide cleft. Don't forget to carry with you sunscreen and insect repellent, especially if you have a sensitive skin.
Chimp trekking in Budongo Forest
Here, you will find the second largest population of wild chimps in Uganda, over 600 individuals. The best way to discover what makes them 98.7% human is by pursuing a guided chimp trekking adventure.
Fast forward, Budongo is a rain forest with the oldest mahogany trees in East Africa, lots of which are over 250 years old. If you have ever dreamt of seeing enormous trees that are as wide as 9 average sized men combined, Budongo will bring your dreams to life.
Although the forest experiences lots of rains, its floor is usually in a passable state. This is thanks to the network of rivers that drain its water. The result is a beautiful setting perfect for a nice long leisurely walk. In case you don't have a binoculars, our team will provide you with one enhance the enjoyment of viewing chimps that are high in the canopy. In this exquisite wild place, you will also find lots of forest elephants, Rothschild giraffes, and forest buffaloes. There leopards, too, but being a shy animal species, they prefer to spend much of their time in extremely dense parts of the forest where no tourist can disturb their peace.
Budongo is not any forest, it is a world wonder that started out as a hunting ground for the Kings of the most authoritative Bantu kingdom in Uganda. Prior to being opened for tourism, it was a research ground for Dr. Jane Goodall in her 55 year study of chimpanzee behavior.
If bird watching makes you happy, Budongo’s checklist has over 360 bird species, 60 of which central African birds. It is the second easiest place to find Guinea Congo species after Semuliki National Park. Budongo is also one of the only two places in East Africa where you can find Yellow-footed flycatcher and Puvel's illadopsis. Other specials include Lemon-bellied crombec, Blue-breasted kingfisher, African dwarf kingfisher, Ituri batis, Cassin's hawk eagle, Chestnut-capped flycatcher, White-spotted flufftail, Chocolate-backed kingfisher, Yellow-footed flycatcher, Grey-headed sunbird, crowned eagle.
Migratory bird species can best be seen from November to April.
If you have limited time and want to see great wildlife diversity in a beautiful ecosystem, you should be here. Situated in Western Uganda, along the same road that leads to Bwindi National Park, Queen Elizabeth is a wonderland that has it all; gorges, huge valleys, mountain ranges, forests and blue lakes. The cherry on the cake is 95mammal and 600 bird species.
The park is so big, and so is its variety of ecosystems—most of which can be seen during boat cruises, game drives and nature walks. You need at least three days to enjoy its diverse offerings. These include some of the world’s most beautiful crater lakes, Kazinga channel, Kyambura Gorge
The morning and night game drives here are absolutely magical and the landscape so beautifully laid out. All the cars we have dedicated to game drives are customized with pop-up roofs so as to give you the pleasure of viewing elephants, cape buffalos, Uganda kobs, giant forest hogs, antelopes, bushbabies. Of all encounters, the most unforgettable memory is watching charming cubs following their mother in the tall grass. If patient, you will witness them making their way into the branches of acacia trees to rest in the shade. All this while, they will be stalking prey roaming in the plains. At a perfect time when their target prey is distracted, they will descend down the tree and take them by surprise.
To stand better chances of spotting leopards during game drive, pay close attention to brown vegetation. You might spot one standing so near that you can almost touch it. If you are first enough, you might get a photo of it before it dashes out of sight. Such close up experiences will live with you even in your afterlife.
Kazinga was formed by the emptying of Lake Albert into Lake George at the place where an ancient lake once sat prior to the ice age. This constant flow of water from Lake George to Lake Albert attracts a conglomerate of wildlife, providing lots of photographic opportunities. The tour provides an enjoyable way to experience an African sunset and its radiant fiery colours. The guides are passionate about their jobs and are always delighted to help, and share in your excitement of new discoveries. If you love birds, you will see nearly 90% of the 600 species to which the park is home. Don’t be surprised to find all kind of birds inclusive of fierce ones that eat the most deadly snakes like the black mamba. In addition, you might spot crocodiles clashing with hippos to protect their territories. Special bird sightings range from African skimmer, White-winged tern, Grey-winged robin-chat, African finfoot, Shoebill, Black-rumped buttonquail, Collared pratincole, Crab-plover, Pel’s fishing-owl, Palm-nut vulture
Chimp trekking in Kyambura Gorge, an underground forest
If you are big on primates, there is one place on earth you can't afford to die without visiting. Kyambura gorge is what we call it, a pristine tropical underground forest with over 20 wild chimpanzees. Found in the North of the park, Kyambura is a paradise of sorts, with freshwater rivers and over countless tree species that have been around even before Africa was colonized. It is full of birds with soothing calls and stunning plumage. As it is a sunken forest in a rift valley, kyambura offers a tough climbing challenge. Altogether, these strong points make trekking chimps, here an experience one can’t forget, even in their afterlife. It is such a delightful experience to finally spot the chimps after trekking for an average of two hours. They are quite used to human presence and thus go about their own business of eating and napping. They couldn’t care less about you being few meters away.
You will spend a remarkable one hour with the chimps as you compare and contrast their human-like ways of life.
Tree climbing lions
There are less than five national parks in Africa with tree climbing lions. Queen Elizabeth is among them, with over 50 of these kings of the jungle. The best time of the year to see them is the wet season, especially around April. During this time, they spend much of their time in the trees as opposed to the ground, as it is wet. Besides, the grass is overgrown and obstructs them from seeing short prey that easy to catch, like antelopes. Trees offer the perfect vantage point to spot them thanks to their towering heights.
There may be many places physically closer to heaven, but none of which really captures the spirit as Queen Elizabeth. And one of the reasons why is the diversity of crater Lakes found here and yes, If you searched the internet for the most beautiful crater lakes in the world, chances are high that you will come across at least one found in this park.
Queen Elizabeth has close to 10 crater lakes, each with a fascinating shape, some in the shape of body organs like the kidney, heart, pancreas... The view of the rainbows that curve over them is really one of a kind Words can’t describe the surreal feeling of rounding their edges. It is breathtaking to the eyes and easy on the muscles, allowing them stretch back to normal.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park was gazzetted as National park in 1991 and declared a UNESCO natural world heritage site in 1994. Mubare gorilla group was the first to become available for tourism in Uganda in April 1993. Bwindi is located in the south western Uganda on the edge of the rift valley and covers an area of 331sqkms. It is the source of five major rivers which flow into Lake Edward. Its major tourist attraction is gorilla tracking with 4 gorilla tracking trailheads, 9 groups that are habituated for tourism and one for research purposes. 8 tourists are booked per group per day.
The park is about 530km from Kampala and can be accessed on several roads. The Kampala –kabale-kanungu- Buhoma road is (5-6hrs journey) while the Kampala- Ntungamo_Rukungiri-Kihihi-Buhoma road is (5hrs journey).
Bwindi with its mist covered hillsides, this impenetrable forest is the oldest and most biologically diverse rainforest with over 120 mammal species, 346 bird species and 27 frog, chameleons and geckos among others. The species to expect in the park are the gorillas, birds like Black-faced Rufous Warbler, Grauer’s Warbler, Banded Prinia, Black-faced Apalis, Black-throated Apalis, Mountain Masked Apalis, Red-throated Alethe, and Yellow-eyed Black-Flycatcher and Ashy Flycatcher and Dusky-blue Flycatcher.
The park is blessed with forest trails that lead to various attractions that include rivers, waterfalls, wildlife concentration and swamps. Birding is another attraction in the park that provides a wide opportunity to venture in various Albertine rift such as the short- tailed warbler. Other activities are Mountain biking and Nature walks to the falls and part of the forest, wonderful hikes along the hills crest and rivers.
Bwindi Impenetrable main activities are:
Gorilla Tracking is an experience worth to remember since its challenging and one needs to be reasonably fit enough to go venturing. The activity commences at 08:00hrs with briefing at the receptions and then tracking begins at 8:30hrs and can last for 2hours to a whole day depending on where the gorillas were left the previous day.
The other activities are the Nature walks arranged to depart in the morning at 9:00am or afternoon at 1415hrs.the walks include Munyanga River trail, water fall trail, Rushura hill trail as well as Muzabajiro loop trail and River Ivi trail and this will give you an opportunity to see different bird species, trees and butterflies.
Buhoma village walks
The village walks are managed by the local community and lasts for three hours. It introduces the tourists to rural homesteads, traditional healers, banana beer demonstrations and cultural performances in the evening.
Bird watching is held at Bwindi Impenetrable NP since the park harbors over 346 bird species and 90% of the Albertine Rift species difficult or impossible to see in East Africa. The species available include African green broad bill, dwarf honey guide, kivu ground thrush, lagden’s bush shrike, yellow eyed flycatcher, the montane double-collared sunbird and the dusky twinspot.
Mountain Bike rides; these are available for rent with prior notice and are done around the forest and villages on well maintained bikes.
Peak periods for mountain-gorilla trekking are the 2 dry seasons of (Jun–Sep & Dec–Feb). Mandatory gorilla-viewing permits are often cheaply obtained during the quieter rainy seasons (Mar–May & Oct–Nov), though trekking conditions tend to be more difficult at this time.
While at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park you will stay at Buhoma lodge and Ruhija Gorilla safari lodge for luxury stay, Buhoma community rest camp, Bwindi guest house and Nkuringo Gorilla for a budget stay.
Bwindi’s Gorilla trekking experience will awaken your sense of wonder
By Agnes Mirembe
If you love indulging in gems that nature has been generous to, the Gorilla trekking experience of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park will leave you with tears of joy.
Found in the picturesque highlands of Western Uganda, Bwindi is a well conserved UNESCO World heritage site packed with 400 plant species, 120 mammal and 350 bird species. Its 25,000 year old forest is endowed with awe-inspiring waterfalls and towering trees that inspire a sense of mystery, awe and fascination. In here, you will find over 40% of the world's last surviving population of mountain gorillas (over 440). Sure, there are lots of forest buffaloes here, so they say….and even chimpanzees and elephants, but seriously, who cares…Bwindi is all about the biggest primate species in the world, gorillas!
Gorilla permits here are still at $600, compared to Rwanda's Volcanoes National park where it was recently doubled to $1,500. That is something that many tourists like about this destination that soars at an altitude of 1,160m-2,607 meters above sea level. However, what they really love is that one has a 95% probability of encountering the gorillas even in peak rainy months like April. This is partly thanks to the abundance of edible floras and variety of wild fruits that are spread over the park's 321Km2 surface area.
Personally, among the things that keeps me coming back here is the fact that the gorilla tracking experience is intimate. Tourists intending to see the 17 habituated gorilla families are clustered into small groups, comprising of a maximum of eight people. As such, you can take lots of pictures during your time in the forest--without much interference from tourists.
In the interest of ensuring you have a quality experience, your pursuit to encounter the gorillas will start early morning. At this time of the day, gorillas are in their most active state, searching for food, playing, harvesting fruits and swinging from one branch to another with ease like spider-man.
Your adventure off-the-beaten path will be guided by two enthusiastic Ranger guides who have done this over 200 times. As such, they know the most scenic routes through which to take you as different animals roll around in the sun.
Apart from being very knowledgeable about the park's eco-system, they are patient. They will set a gentle pace thereby allowing you get over steep stretches without pushing yourself to a breaking point. This pace will allow have a fruitful photography tour full of enchanting sights and sounds of nature, inclusive of rivers with crystal clear water.
There will be lots of stopovers where you can recharge your batteries in case your energy levels have run low. Better-still, porters are available for hire in case you want extra support while ascending and descending over challenging stretched of the terrain. For just 15USD, they are happy to carry your luggage throughout your adventure thus enabling you to travel light.
Duration of adventure
It takes an average of two hours of hiking before encountering gorillas. Nonetheless, bear in mind that there is no fixed route to find these wild animals. They have unlimited freedom to wander, unlike animals in a zoo. As such, pursuing them feels like heading out for a treasure hunt, except that in this case you have a 95% chance of encountering your target.
All habituated families have 9-36 members belonging to different age-brackets ranging from infants to blackbacks to adult females, all of whom are submissive to their guardian silverback. This full composition allows you to analyze how gorillas behave as they go through different stages of growth.
Having been habituated, the gorillas are accommodative to human presence for as long as they don't feel threatened. Looking these peace-loving beasts in the eyes arouses shattering sensations of fear and excitement. Unlike their close cousins’ chimpanzees, gorillas never seem oblivious to your presence. They blaze their eyes into yours, making your face dark with desire to know more about them. The one hour you will spend with them will not just pass by. It will fly by, but the experience will linger for a lifetime. See, it is full of spectacular national geographic moments that make the hair on your back of your neck stand up. You will be at a loss of words in case an infant gorilla excitedly crawls up to your feet to figure out why your legs are longer than your arms, unlike theirs.
Main Difference between Bwindi and other parks where gorilla trekking takes place like Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park and Congo's Virunga National Park
The park isn't called Impenetrable by mistake. It is an untamed jungle divided into four wings, each with at least three habituated gorilla families. Brace yourself for some steep, muddy climbs over wild jungles that frequently demand machetes to hack a way through the vines, thorns and shrubs. That said, the park also has its share of gentle tracks that favour people with weak knees and persons with disabilities.
What to pack
Your yellow fever certificate.
Good hiking boots and waterproof jacket to protect you from rain. Due to its status as a tropical forest, Bwindi experiences spontaneous rain even in dry seasons. By the same token, tag along with a waterproof bag to protect your gadgets and filming equipment.
Best time to visit
Although gorilla tracking in Bwindi takes place every day all year, the peak rainy season of May isn't recommendable especially if you want good pictures. The park gets quite messy at this time. To this effect, the dry months between June-August and Nov-end of March are a better choice.
Gorilla families in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
This group is exactly what you dream of when you think of gorilla safaris. It comprises of 12 members inclusive of 6 Adult Females, 1 juvenile and 3 Infants. It comprises of very friendly members, this explains why it was the first Ugandan group to be opened for tourism, in 1993. Then, the group was still led by Ruhondeza, a fierce fighter who had zero tolerance for anyone who was a threat to his Kingship.This character prompted him to kill over three blackbacks that were aspiring to takeover the group's leadership.
In the long term, Ruhondeza's dictatorial nature didn't work in his favour. Afraid for the worst, several of his members began deserting the group as he aged towards 50 years. This background facilitated the rise of Kanyonyi (21)as the new group leader in 2011.
He is deeply cherished by many tourists for having restored the lost glory of Mubare group. Well knowing there is strength in unity, he successfully persuaded over 5 members from the Katendegyere gorilla family to leave Congo and join Mubare in 1998. He couldn't have done it without the help of his brother and sister, .
Alas! Kanyonyi's reign was brought to an end in December 2017.
Barely a week after he had sustained fatal injuries on one of his forelegs having fallen off a tree, he was attacked by a rival silverback, Malaya. This solitary alpha male took advantaged of Kanyonyi's injured state to fight him to death. It was impossible for his victim to win the fight as gorillas are more dependent on their forelegs than hind when it comes to fighting. During the same fight, one of Mubare's infants was also ripped apart, dying instantly.
This 17 member group is led by Makara, a very protective silverback that never hesitates to fight off anyone who threatens to physically harm his family. Though this has often left him with injuries and broken bones, it hasn't weakened his spirit as nothing makes him happier than seeing his loved ones safe and happy. In an effort to save Makara from infections that could arise from the injuries, veterinary doctors of Uganda Wildlife Authority monitor and treat him throughout the year. Habinyanja comprises of 1 black-back, 5 adult females, 6 infants, 1 sub-adult and 3 juveniles. If you plan to see gorillas in Uganda as opposed to Rwanda, this is one of the groups to look out for.
Led by Kabukojo silverback, this group has 16 members inclusive of 4 blackbacks, 4 babies, 4 adult females and 3 juveniles.
No matter the time of the year you chose to visit this family, you have a 95% chance of meeting them. This follows their permanent settlement in Buhoma, unlike several gorilla groups in Virunga National Park--that keep migrating. Their preference for Buhoma is thanks to its diversity of vegetation with relatively high protein content and low fiber content.
That aside, Buhoma is surrounded by farms with lots of edible plants such as corn/maize, bananas, sweet potatoes. These act as a substitute meal for Rushegura family whenever they are bored by the park's routine offerings. This is one of the groups that has made gorilla tracking in Bwindi popular worldwide.
Katwe is one of the new groups that were opened for tourism last year. It s made of a dominant silverback, 2 babies and 4 adult females who live in the Northern part of Bwindi, Buhoma. Like all the other families in Uganda, the permits to see them cost $600 to foreign tourists-$450 for foreign residents and 250000 UGX. The group is named after one of the oldest salt mines in Queen Elizabeth National Park. If you wish to visit it during your Uganda mountain gorilla tours, we are delighted to add it to your list as the park is on the way to Bwindi.
It is very unusual for a gorilla group to have more than two silverbacks. If it has, they spend much of the time fighting each other in an effort to have unlimited mating rights with females in their group. Ironically, not only does this family have 4 silverbacks, they live in harmony.
According to scientific findings by Uganda Wildlife Authority, this tolerance for one another is caused by the ability of their team leader to negotiate peace talks. The group has 13 members inclusive of 4 adult females, 2 juveniles and 3 infants and 4 silverbacks.
This group spends much of its day in the lower section of the forest as it doesn't have much undergrowth. This enables them to see rival groups from a far, allowing them to make sufficient preparations for a good fight. If their setting was bushy like Nkuringo, they would have been taken by surprise thereby making them easy to defeat. Gorilla viewing in Uganda is unforgettable because of groups like this one.
So many infants in this group love attention. They are very playful and often climb high in the trees to show off new climbing skills they have learn't. They are extra inquisitive and often sneak up to visitors to figure out why they look so much like with them yet so different. For instance, why humans the hands of humans is shorter than their legs.
It was habituated in 1995 and once had 20 individuals. This made it one of the most populated group until 2016 when they split for two groups, Kyaguliro A as led by Rukara and Kyaguliro B as led by Mukiza, the official heir to Rukina's throne.
Despite having gone separate ways, the two groups still have a deep appreciation and respect for one another. Why? They had so many special moments together. Uganda gorilla watching starts here.
In Uganda, Children are mostly named after the season in which they were born, or a particular locality where they stay. This group is of 17 members is named after Orugoto, a plant species which is prominent in their locality. It is made of two silverbacks, 2 black backs, 5 adult females, 2 sub-adults, 5 infants and 1 juvenile, all of whom are under the competent leadership of Bakwate, a dominant silverback.
They are one of the easiest groups to find as their movement is are not quite spontaneous. They like to follow routine, grazing at particular spots in the forest where they had defining moments and created special memories. For instance, spots in which their babies were born.
Rushaga region -Southern Bwindi Forest.
Gorillas are very heavy, weighing as much as 136 to 195 kg (300 to 430 lb) for males, adult females weigh about half 68–113 kg. As such, they prefer to spend much of their day at the floor of the forest rather than canopy. However, Mishaya is different. It is full of dare-devils that love to swing from one branch to another, just like Spider-man. This offers you a more spiced up adventure as opposed to being bored out watching gorillas on the floor all the time. The group of 7 members is named after its highest ranking alpha male, Mishaya. If you are wondering about where to see gorillas in Uganda, this might just be it.
Nshongi used to be one of the most adventurers groups in Bwindi. There is no corner in the park they haven't visited. However, things have started to take a different turn in their lives following the birth of over three infants. They now prefer to spend much of the year in the home territory to avoid exposing their babies to risks of possible bacterial infections from other groups. The good news here is that you now have excellent chances of meeting them whenever you are ready.
The group is named after the Nshongi River where they were first discovered over two decades ago. It is headed by Silverback Bweza and made of one Silverback, 3 adult females, i infant, 1 sub-adult and 1 juvenile.
Kahungye and Busingye family
You will be amazed at how organized these two groups are. Having suffered so many attacks that left them with fatal injuries, the males of the group have beefed up their defense skills and are always prepared to overcome anything that comes their way.
They do this by forming a ring around their most vulnerable loved ones; the mothers and infants. This makes it hard for intruders to break in and injure them, thereby allowing the successful transition from one generation to the next. As the group grazes on the ground, one of its members is always up in the trees to get clear views of their surrounding, with the intent of spotting any forthcoming danger.
While Kahungye is headed by silverback Rumanzi and has 17 members including 3 silverbacks, 3 adult females, 3 blackbacks, 2 infants, 3 sub-adult and 3 juveniles. Busingye has 9 individuals inclusive of 3 infants and a sub-adult gorilla teen.
Like most of the gorilla groups in Bwindi, Bweza is composed of members of all age brackets, ranging from babies that are few weeks old, to silverbacks that have fathered over two generations of gorillas. There are also ambitious juveniles aspiring to settle down and start family.
This mix will give you the pleasure of getting a deeper understanding of how gorillas behave as they go through different stages in life.
Bweza Gorilla family is led by the Silverback Kakono and has 12 members; 2 silverbacks, 4 blackbacks, 2 infants, 3 adult females and 1 sub-adult.
Don't forget to wear shoes with good treads when coming to see this family. They love to stay in higher altitudes as it always has abundance of their favourite delicacies, soft bamboo shoots. To access them, you will pass via a trail that is relatively steep and slippery. Porters are available for hire if you need an extra push whenever faced with exhaustive climbs. Using their local knowledge of the park, they will guide you into smoother paths. They will also carry your luggage thereby enabling you to travel lighter.
Nkuringo is under the leadership of a Silverback called Rafiki. It has 12 members; 2 of whom are silverbacks, 1 a blackback, 2 adult females, infants, 2 sub-adults and 3 juveniles.
This is one of the two groups that were recently opened to visitors. It is made of 9 members. Having undergone a two month habituation process which was purposed to make them more accommodative to tourists, they don't mind you dwelling in their presence.
It is possible for persons with disabilities to see this group. This can be achieved using a special stretcher bed upon which they can be carried to a random location where Christmas is foraging.
If you want an adventure more exciting than gorilla tracking, gorilla habituation is a great idea, and this is one of the groups that are worth a top spot in your itinerary. It is made of 15 individuals; 1 silverback-2 sub adults-5 adult females-5 infants and 2 juveniles. During this half day adventure, you will witness what happens behind the scenes before gorillas are opened for tourism. The hike has been well researched and put together to wow you with lots of encounters people miss out on during gorilla tracking. For instance, you will walk on paths that no tourist has used before.
This group was formed by 8 members who broke off from Nkuringo Group. They were led by Bahati, a quiet silverback with an inspirational mode of leadership. One of the things that make him a favorite of his team is that he is democratic and liberal and thus easily approachable. Th group is made of 3 adult females,1 blackback,1 sub-adult-1 juvenile and 1 infant. It is named after Bushaho, alocality where they have been living for over 5 years now. The ranger guides who will take you to see this group love what they do, and it reflects in the professional yet personable experience they offer.
Lying at 1,220m-1,828m above sea level, this park in Western Uganda is one of Uganda’s Top 3 bird watching havens, it possess 350 recorded species.
It has a wonderful combination of tranquil lakes, thriving papyrus jungles, endless grassland and pristine woodland where giraffes crane their neck to eat leaves.
Mburo has over 5,000 zebras. Watching them cross from one side of the park to the other is like witnessing a live migration. The energy, the sound and the stampede they cause is such a national Geographic spectacle. You will love every minute of it!
The buffaloes here play a vital role in feeding the impala, eland, defassa waterbuck, oribi and warthogs. They do this by grazing on tough parts of grass, and leaving the soft parts for the mentioned herbivores.
The nature walk here doesn’t always deliver quantities of lion sightings that one may experience in Masai Mara or Serengeti, but the quality is on a different level. You will encounter a dizzying range of enthusiastic zebras, bushbucks, buffaloes and topi.
If you prefer game drives, our cars have a mini bar that is stocked with cold drinks to refresh as you take in sights and sounds of the park. You will get so close to animals without worrying about being attacked. Why? You will be in the company of an armed ranger-guide. His work is to defend you from wildlife by scaring them off.
Bird watching boat cruise
Mburo doesn't have elephants any more, but it has and millions of spectacular birds, some of which stay in its forests, others in its savannah, but most in its shoreline. In total, it has 350 recorded species inclusive of southern species at the northern limit of their range, like southern ground hornbill and black-collared barbet and. Thanks to its thriving acacia woodland, it is the best place for acacia-dwelling birds.
The park’s lake system has six papyrus endemics, including the mighty blue-headed coucal and papyrus gonolek. Other notables include Shoebill, Red-faced barbet, Yellow-rumped tinkerbird, African finfoot, Greater painted-snipe, Hairy-breasted barbet, Papyrus yellow warbler, Tabora cisticola, Brown-chested lapwing…the list is endless.
Most of these birds can be seen as you pursue vitalizing boat cruises in the park's fresh water environs. The boat is in excellent technical condition for the adventure and ensuit with bathrooms. It comprises of both a lower and upper deck where you can take pictures hippos and crocodiles without any obstruction.
Alongside other nature lovers, you will enjoy the ride in the company of a guide with an encyclopedic knowledge about the geology and the myths surrounding the formation of the geographical features here. He will share the anecdotes with some humor and with, you will thoroughly enjoy.
Exploring a national park by car is good as it allows you to explore so much distance in such a short distance. However, it has its downside. For starters, you miss out on seeing many timid animals (like elands) which shy away upon hearing the noisy engines of cars. That aside, cars are not allowed to drive off track due to the possibility of riding over elements that are vital to the normal functioning of the eco-system. In contrast, horseback rides and cycling experiences present an unforgettable way to see wildlife up-close without scaring them off.
During this guided tour, you will see almost all the mammals to which Mburo is home; warthog, zebra, topi, bushbuck, impala, duiker, waterbuck and giraffes. The guys who ride with you, genuinely love and care for the horses. As such, they are always in perfect shape to trot or canter as first as you want.
They are also gracious and have a sense of humor. Most importantly, they understand the history of park and know where to find wildlife at different times of the year. They will control the pace of the horses, allowing you take pictures of whatsoever interests you along the way. It could be birds or even skeletons of dead animals.
Best time to visit
No matter the time of the year you visit Mburo, you are guaranteed of seeing over 60% of its wildlife species. However if perfection is what you are after, the dry months of June to August/September present Lake Mburo in its most beautiful state. You will take clear pictures of wildlife and clear blue skies.
You will leave this 1,442km² park very impressed by the plethora of animals that live in it; 77 mammal and 475 bird species. Situated in North Eastern corner of Uganda, its open savannah plains is extensive and dotted with jagged mountains, towering borrassus palm trees and clear blue skies. Before this semi-arid park was gazetted in 1962, it used to be a hunting ground for the Ik, a tribe of nomadic pastoralists.
Due to its 700km distance from Kampala (Uganda’s Capital), it comes across as the least-explored wildlife estate, and that's the beauty about visiting it. There won’t be game viewers blocking your view at a sighting.
Most unique aspect
Kidepo is the only Ugandan park where you are assured of finding wild cheetahs, greater and lesser kudu, Guenther's dik-dik, caracal, mountain reedbuck and aardwolf. Of the five primate species found here, the patas monkies and olive baboons are the easiest to see. Despite their ability to camouflage with the savannah, they are so playful and restless.
What it's like to be in Kidepo
For much of your stay here, you will feel like you are in a planet that God specially created for the fiercest fighters among the Big 5, Cape Buffaloes. The park has over 10,000 of them, a reason as to why it’s nicknamed the Buffalo Capital of East Africa. Ironically, many as they are, these huge herbivores can't stand the sight of the park's estimated 120 lions. One loud roar from these Kings of the jungle is enough to make them flee at 57kilometers per hour (35 miles). The same can't be said about the park's other predators like bat eared-fox, side-striped jackal, leopard and black-backed jackals. Their relatively small size makes it them easy for these 800kg beasts to knock them out. This explains why they prefer at night, a time when the buffaloes are also taking advantage of the cool weather to feed. Being large animals, they spend of the day resting as their body can easily overheat and shutdown.
You can't go wrong with a night game drive if you wish to discover how predators with extraordinary senses hunt. Imagine watching fierce, fast and furious leopards as the leap 6m forward through the air while chasing their target prey at 58km/h. It could be any of the 12 antelope species to which the park is home; jackson's hartebeest, oribi, klipsringer, Uganda kob and eland, all of which have more tender meat compared to huge browsers like buffaloes.
Anytime you visit this multi-award winning destination, you are assured of encountering the huge herds of elephants. Brace yourself to watch them match in one direction like soldiers headed for a parade. Our driver guide will go the extra mile to help you find one standing on its two hind legs—in an attempt to harvest tamarind fruits in distant branches. In the wet seasons, you are likely to find them playing at a seasonal river after which the park was named Akidep. It’s a word in Nyakarimojong language which means picking. It is in reference to how this neighboring tribe used to harvest ripe coconuts from the surrounding forest of borassus palm trees.
At the waterholes found along Narus valley, you will find warthogs enthusiastically wallowing in the mud to cool off the heat. On the other hand, the giraffes have a preference for zones with their favourite delicacies in abundance, acacia trees. To be exact, zones in open savannah where they can catch sight of any lions preparing to ambush them. Thanks to this vigilance, their population hasn't dropped below 34 in over a year. In an effort to facilitate their re-population, 10 Rothschild giraffes were recently translocated to it from Murchison falls national park.
On the part of bird watching, Kidepo knows how to impress without trying so hard. It has 77 species inclusive of the biggest bird species on earth, ostritches. Kidepo’s notables include Abyssinian roller, Rufous chatterer, Jackson's hornbill, Northern carmine bee-eater, Abyssinian scimitarbill, Purple grenadier, Chestnut weaver, Golden pipit, Pygmy falcon, D’Arnaud's barbet. Kidepo is a dream-come-true destination for spotting raptors, with 56 species on record. The best time to see migratory birds is November to April.
Best time to visit
The dry season from November to February offers the biggest wildlife sightings. During this time, the park undergoes controlled burning. This makes it easily to see animals that are miles away. During this time, they mostly stay in valleys with water holes, like Narus and Kidepo valley. In the wet seasons from April to August, they prefer to stay higher ground and rocky outcrop.
What a majestic piece of heaven this forest is. It is the only park in Africa known to have up to 13 primate species; chimpanzees, L’hoest monkeys, bushbabies, olive baboons, bushbabies, vervet monkeys, black and white monkeys, blue monkeys, red colubus, grey cheeked mangabey.
The park is green throughout the year, and there is a reason: it receives rain for much of the year thanks to its location in the tropics. The best part of the story is that its trails have lots of boardwalks. By the same token, the log bridges over the rivers are routinely maintained. As such, you don't have to wallow your shoes in mud to get through. This eases accessibility thereby making chimp trekking a sweet pleasure.
The chimp trek here is a life altering experience that brings chills of excitement to recall. The forest has a mix of both gentle and steep trails, so wear good hiking shoes and a pair of gardening gloves.
Please note that there is no fixed route to find the chimps as they roam freely, unlike animals in a zoo. So brace yourself for anything from a 20 mins to 5 hours. As you hike deeper off the beaten path, the rangers will be clearing and opening a path with machetes.
Eventually, your endurance will pay off. You stand high chances of seeing a large family group of chimps, comprising of alpha males, teenage chimps, females and babies. It is such as astounding encounter.
Having undergone habituation, most of the chimps are totally chill and not nervous around people. On the contrary, they are so free. Don’t freak out in case their young ones try out newly learnt intimidation techniques.
The guides are always happy to go the extra mile, ensuring you will see as much wildlife as possible, some of which you have never seen before.
You can't go wrong with this adventure especially if you want a more intense experience than chimp trekking. It will show you what happens behind the scenes as ranger guides prepare chimps for tourism. It half day adventure is such a fun and educational trip!
After being briefed on the DOs and DON'Ts of the adventure at the park headquarters, you will embark on a moderately challenging hike through the park’s jungle. Along the way, your guide will help scout for animal sightings and share with you intriguing aspects of unique flora.
If lady luck is one your side, you might come across as many as five different families as you hike through the forest. Their vocal hoots and screams provide the sound track to the forest. They developed unique adaptations to fit their forest life. Whenever deficient of proteins, they hunt for black and white monkeys or fish termites from hills by poking their nests with sticks. You will appreciate how easy the guides are to talk to. They are patient and will let you walk at your own speed without feeling under pressure.
You can't go wrong with hiking this mountain if you are crazy about geology or seeking to reconnect with nature. All you need is a good set of lungs and strong legs but most importantly, a positive attitude. Fast forward, Rwenzori is a snow-capped mountain that straddles the Equator at the heart of our beloved motherland, Africa. Standing at altitude of 5,109meters above sea level, Rwenzori is a World Heritage Site. It is 110km long and 50km wide. It was formed after a block of ancient rock was tilted and thrust up during developments of the Albertine Rift Valley, and then deeply carved by river and repeated growth of glaciers.
The trail provides a good balance of easy and challenging walks. The guides provide an excellent service, attentive to particular requests and trekking abilities. Their thorough understanding of the park's ecosystem gives you lots of unforgettable encounters.
From the bottom, Rwenzori looks like it is made of one massive mountain. It is until you have set foot on it that you realize it is a complex of hundreds of mountain ranges that are separated by deep valleys. The six main mountains include Mounts Stanley(5,109m, 16,763ft.), Mount Speke (4,889m, 16,042ft.), Baker (4,842m, 15,889ft.), Gessi (4,715m, 15,470ft.), Emin (4,791m, 15,720ft.) and Luigi di Savoia (4, 626m, 15, 179ft.).
Each of this mountains are easily accessible thanks to the well-developed network of trails that connect them. Hiking through them is an uphill and downhill experience. In some instances, you will jump down or slide down some larger rocks.
If you are crazy about botany or photography, the greenery from the forest zone to the glacier zone is astounding and remote. In the forest zone (1,800-2,500meters above sea level), you will find the Red stinkwood, wild bananas. In contrast, the Bamboo zone (2,500-3,000m) features giant lobelia, bamboo forests, giant heathers and lots of herbaceous like Rubus dogetti, Arisoema ruwenzoricus and Amaryllid among others.
It takes the average person 6 days to hike to and fro the highest peak of the mountain, through Central circuit trail. On the other hand, the Kilembe Route takes an average of 9 days as it is relatively steeper. No matter which one you opt for, you are guaranteed of encountering crater lakes with a jaw-dropping beauty.
Each day, you will hike for an average of 8 hours, at the end of which you will retire to well insulated huts. Throughout the night, you will have constant supply of Ugandan Coffee and tea to keep you warm.
The different vantage points will give you a preview of what you will discover as you ascend or descend the mountain. From each summit, you will behold marvelous flora and fauna that have mastered the art of camouflaging with the montane environment.
The guides are knowledgeable about the routes and will wow you with explanations about how the different scenery changes with the seasons.
Don't underestimate the need for adequate footwear, preferably hiking boots that are designed for winter.
Carry enough warm clothing with you. Rwenzori’s experiences sudden drop in temperatures, sometimes extremes like -10 Degrees Celsius.
The best time to go mountaineering is the dry season from Mid-November-March.
Mount Elgon National Park is 234 kilometers east of Kampala and can be accessed through the tarmac roads of Jinja to Mbale in the west before reaching Kapchorwa in the North West. The park covers an area of 1,110 square kilometers it is named after Mount Elgon, an extinct shield volcano on the border of Uganda and Kenya. It is a home for over 300 species of birds and endangered mammals. Joining with the fauna and flora, the park has a variety of attractions that includes cliffs, caves, waterfalls, gorges, mesas, calderas, hot springs, and the mountain peaks. The most popular areas are the four explorable, vast caves where frequent night visitors such as elephants and buffaloes come to lick the natural salt found on the cave walls. Kitum cave, with overhanging crystalline walls.
Activities done in Mount Elgon National park
Mountain Biking takes about 1.5hours and provides a scenic view of the water falls.
Birding is a brilliant exploration through forest and thick scrub that support, African Goshawk, Chubb’s Cisticola, White-chinned Prinia, African Blue Fly-catchers, Chin-spot Batis, MacKinnon’s Fiscal, Doherty’s and Luhder’s Bush-Shrikes and Baglafecht Weaver.
Mountain Climbing; visiting Mount Elgon presents an interesting alternative of climbing to the peaks with milder climate and lower elevation.
Hiking; The Forest has three trails ranging between 3 and 7 km. These trails offer an excellent opportunity to experience Mt. Elgon’s unique plants and wildlife. A fourth trail has recently been opened to reach the enormous Tutum Cave, 11 km from the center. This trail offers an opportunity to see wildlife such as Black and White Colobus Monkeys and a variety of birds. The other activities present are Mountain biking, Nature walks which exposes you to flora and fauna, Sport fishing and Rock climbing as well as cultural encounters such as the Embalu cultural dance and their livelihood.
Accommodation facilities are available in the park as well as outside include Sipi River lodge positioned outside sipi trading center along Kapochrwa road for luxury stay, kayegi hotel for standard stay and Mt Elgon View hotel, suam guest house and Lacam lodge for budget accommodation.
Best Season; although the park is open all year round, the best months to visit are the dry months of June- august and later from December to February.
Made up of three enormous mountains that lie at Uganda's border with Congo and Rwanda, Mgahinga is an enchanting destination for outdoor adventure. It is naturally gifted with four montane vegetation zones, endemic bird species, stunning crater lakes and two critically endangered primates, golden monkeys and mountain gorillas.
How it was formed and mountain climbing
The park is made up of four vegetation zones that are immensely endowed with unique flora and fauna; forest zone, bamboo zone, moorland zone and heather zone. All of these lie upon a lava rock that was formed over 1,000 years back as a result of a massive volcanic eruption.
On the part of mountaineering, each of Mgahinga's three mountains offers a distinctive experience to remember. They all lie in the rift valley and soar at an altitude between 3,474, 3,645 and 4,127 meters above sea level .They are, Mgahinga, Sabinyo and Muhavura all of where formed as a result of volcanic eruptions.
Your hike to the summit of Mountain Sabinyo will reward you with a lifetime opportunity of being in Rwanda, Congo and Uganda at the same time. See, the borders of these three tropical countries intersect here. You can have your feet in one, your left arm in the other and your right arm in the last.
If you are passionate about conquering hiking challenges that seem impossible to overcome, Mountain Mgahinga will rock your world. It has a perfect mix of gently sloping ranges and steep gradients. In an effort to make your hike less frustrating, there wooden ladders laid down to assist with the ascent over steep stretches.
Upon the summit of Mountain Muhavura, you will find a scenic crater lake that is partly in Rwanda and partly in Uganda.
The guides have an exceptionally comprehensive knowledge of the three mountains and the countless varied trails through which you can summit them. To this effect, he will help you chose one in matches your level of physical fitness. Having trekked for close to 20 years, they possess skills you need in overcoming any obstacle in your way.
In an effort to reduce on your chances of getting knocked out by altitude sickness, you will walk at a gentle pace, allowing your body to acclimatize to the four climatic zones of the mountain. If you need help with carrying your luggage, we are happy to hire for you a porter.
Mgahinga is home to Nyakagezi, a habituated gorilla family comprising of 11 members ranging from infants to aging silverbacks that are over 30 years. Encountering them is an absolutely fascinating experience, u won’t bother to visit a zoo to see primates after the one hour you will spend with them as you take photos and observe their human-like behavior. Although they are 100% wild, they are quite used to human presence and couldn't care less about you being few meters away from them. They will go about their own business of eating, grooming one another, mating and napping.
Their stomachs are split into chambers that can digest plant species that are known to be poisonous to other primate. They are very accommodative, a reason as to why they spend the better part of their day eating. During your gorilla excursion here, you will pass by stretches of scenic tropical woodland, rocky hills and dribbling rivers.
The trails are a good place to treat yourself to as you meditate and reflect back on how far you have come. If you wish to have a less exhausting adventure, the guides will choose mainly descending trails, thus limiting the intensity of the hike. If you prefer something more challenging, they will provide you with ones that boost moderate intensity.
As lava poured over Mgahinga during its formation over 1,000 years back, it created a spacious underground cave, Ngarama caves. Over the years, it was enveloped by vegetation of the forest zone. As the forest continued to thrive thanks to good weather and fertile soils, it attracted the full time occupation of lots of edible wildlife, like duikers and buffaloes. This prompted the Batwa, a tribe of hunters and fruit gatherers to migrate into Mgahinga.
The only problem here was the abundance of forest elephants which often raided their huts, as built out of reeds and bamboo zones. As a solution, they turned to living in tree houses, but it wasn't safe enough. Many a time, the branches supporting the houses broke off upon being weighed down by more weight than it could carry. This left them with fatal injuries. In an effort to save their King from falling victim, they took advantage of the caves strategic location, turning it into a palace for their royal family. Here, they lived happily ever after, until their eviction from the park in 1994. This followed the gazzetting of the park.
Despite having moved out of the park, they still have a deep love for the environment and this is demonstrated in the way they look after it. They are charming and packed with entertaining stories related to their past, cradle of their mankind and spiritual powers of their worshipping sites in the park.
During this guided tour, they will show you how they used to harmoniously co-exist with gorillas. How used to hunt aggressive wild animals using simple tools like spears. How they used to make bark clothes from the bark of fig trees. The tour is crowned with their energetic dances. The entire performances is well choreographed to give you an idea of their historical day-to-day life. Best of all, everything they do has an educational character for you to take home.
Mgahinga is home to Nyakagezi, a habituated gorilla family comprising of 11 members ranging from infants to aging silverbacks that are over 30 years. Encountering them is an absolutely fascinating experience, u wont bother to visit a zoo to see primates after the one hour you will spend with them as you take photos and observe their human-like behavior. Although they are 100% wild, they are quite used to human presence and couldn't care less about you being few meters away from them. They will go about their own business of eating, grooming one another, mating and napping.
Semuliki National Park is located in Bwamba County, a remote part of the Bundibugyo District, in western Uganda. It was made a national park in October 1993 and is one of Uganda's newest national parks. It covers an area of 220sqkm and has two major roads that lead to the park, Kampala- Fort portal via Mubende is 180km (4-5hrs) which is the shortest route and the other one is Kampala- Fort portal via Masaka, Mbarara and Kasese 456km (7-8hrs) longer but offers more stopovers along the way, you can stop at Lake Mburo NP, Kyanbura Wildlife reserve, Rwenzori Mountains NP and Queen Elizabeth Np.
There are numerous activities that can be taken at this park.
Birding is one of the activity that is so rewarding to birders who make it there as some of the African best forest birding destination. Sempaya and Ntandi harbor have excellent view of birds like the white crested hornbill, red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, piping Hornbill, yellow-throated Nicator, greater blue and Ross’s turaco.
Hot springs is a 30 minutes trail that goes through the palm forest to the inner spring dominated by boiling geyser where eggs and green plantain can be cooked. This trail leads through the forests where you can sight the red-tailed monkey, grey –cheeked mangabeys and black and white colcbus monkeys to the tree house that provides an aerial view.
Game Drives is done across the savannah grassland to Toro semuliki Wildlife Reserve where smaller and larger savannah elephants are seen along with buffaloes, waterbucks, crocodiles, warthogs and Uganda Kobs. With luck you may have a chance to see the pygmy hippopotami’s, leopards and bush babies.
While at semuliki you will stay at kyaninga lodge for (luxury) and semuliki guest house, Ruwenzori view guest house, Hotel Vanilla, Picfare guest house for (budget).
Best Season to travel to semuliki national park is from December to February and from June to July