If you thought Gamewatchers Safaris only organised safari tours in Kenya, think again! We can arrange safaris right across Africa and last month our UK based Safari Consultant, Wayne Hammond, continued his recent travels through East Africa, this time spending 11 days in Uganda. Here are Wayne’s thoughts on the experience …
Uganda is best known for being home to around half of the world’s remaining population of endangered Mountain Gorillas, but as I found out on my recent visit, there is a lot more to Uganda than just gorilla trekking. Uganda is home to all of the so called ‘Big 5’, has some superb Primate viewing (with around 20 species present), and also offers some of the most spectacular scenery to be found anywhere in Africa.
Having arrived in Entebbe, on the shores of Lake Victoria, my own trip included visits to some of Uganda’s most important National Parks including Kibale Forest, Queen Elizabeth and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. And by spending a little longer in each location I was able to enjoy a wide range of activities. These included nature walks around some of western Uganda’s beautiful Volcanic Crater lakes, visits to Community ecotourism projects such as the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, Boat trips through the Kazinga channel that connects Lakes George and Edward, and of course Chimpanzee and Mountain Gorilla trekking.
After a day to relax in Entebbe I headed west on the 5 hour drive to the town of Fort Portal. The most well known attraction in this part of Uganda is Kibale Forest National Park, home to some of the best Chimpanzee viewing to be had anywhere. Kibale is also home to a significant number of other primates as well as great bird viewing with over 300 bird species recorded in the Forest.
During my two days in the area I was able to enjoy a morning Chimpanzee trek, visit Tinka’s Homestay to experience a Traditional lunch, and visit the Bogodi Wetland Sanctuary, a community led project that provides visitors with the chance to walk the 4.5km trail through the Magombe swamp, with a local guide helping you spot the many birds, butterflies and monkeys that make their home here. All the fees paid by visitors are ploughed back into community projects such as a local secondary school.
I then travelled onwards to Queen Elizabeth National Park. Here the open plains were filled with Uganda Kob, and many other species of plains game such as Buffalo, Waterbuck and Elephant.
Lions were also seen well and, like in some other parts of East Africa, in Queen Elizabeth they have developed a particular fondness for climbing trees.
One of the most welcome aspects of the trip was the ability to enjoy many activities beyond the usual safari game drives. So while in Queen Elizabeth I enjoyed a 2 hour boat ride through the Kazinga channel, providing for some excellent sightings of elephant, hippo and of course many water birds such as African Fish Eagles. A range of walks were also possible from my Lodge including to the Kyambura Gorge and to a local community project to see how locally grown coffee beans are processed into delicious Ugandan coffee.
After 3 nights in Queen Elizabeth I headed south on the 3 hour drive to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, home of the mighty Mountain Gorillas. While many people spend just a couple of nights in Bwindi, I had decided to dwell longer and spend 4 nights in the area split between two of the different sectors in the park. My first stop was the most popular trekking area of Buhoma in the north of the park.
Like much of Uganda there are a range of activities on offer in addition to trekking the gorillas, and there are opportunities to enjoy a range of walks, wander around the local village, and visit schools or the local hospital that have been helped financially by gorilla tourism – 20% of the money paid by visitors to trek the gorillas is spent on community projects, providing a major incentive for the local population to help conserve the gorillas and their forest home.
The next morning I Ieft the lodge early for my first gorilla trek. We were entertained by some local school children performing a song and dance before being briefed by a Park Ranger on the gorillas and our hike into the forests to meet with them.
About 2 hours after commencing our walk we were invited into a dense patch of foliage to see a huge Silverback, relaxed and eating his breakfast completely unmoved by our presence. Under the guidance of our Park Rangers we slowly moved around this gorilla family’s temporary breakfast bar and were able to get incredibly close to a few other members of the family including a baby that clinged tightly to its mother.
After exactly one hour with these peaceful creatures we began the walk out of the forest arriving back at the lodge for a late lunch and a well-earned relaxing afternoon.
My final destination was also in Bwindi, in the south western sector of the Park near the village of Nkuringo. This time, rather than drive to my new destination I decided to walk.
Accompanied by armed Park Rangers I left Buhoma shortly after 0800 for the 18km walk through the forest, initially in deep shade on a nice flat walking track, later crossing streams that flowed through the forest and onwards to a much tougher final leg involving an uphill stretch that took me from 1500 metres above sea level to over 2100 metres.
It was hard going as the day warmed up, but as I climbed scenery revealed itself that took your breath away far more than the uphill hike could. As we reached the end it really did feel like we were on top of the world.
On my last day in Uganda I wanted to see the gorillas again, but this time I chose the recently introduced option to trek a group in the process of being habituated.
The Gorilla Habituation Experience involves trekking a gorilla family that Park Rangers have been in the process of habituating for around two years. They are still not fully relaxed around humans and so they were less tolerant of their visitors, so the experience involved a lot more walking through the forest as we followed the gorillas as they regularly moved on. Nevertheless it was an interesting experience and enabled me to spend four hours with the gorillas. And the youngest member of the gorilla family still gave us some great viewing!
From the southern end of Bwindi, not far from the border with Rwanda, I took the flight back to Entebbe to connect to my homebound flight, bringing to a close my 11 days in Uganda. The trip reminded me of what a beautiful country Uganda is, filled with amazing wildlife and scenery, welcoming and friendly people, and plenty to do for even the most active and curious of visitors.
There is certainly much more to Uganda than the Gorillas, so maybe you should try it for your next trip to Africa?
During his trip Wayne stayed at the following properties:
• Entebbe – The Boma Hotel
• Fort Portal – Ndali Lodge
• Queen Elizabeth National Park – Kyambura Gorge Lodge
• Queen Elizabeth National Park – Ishasha Wilderness Camp
• Bwindi Forest – Bwindi Lodge
• Bwindi Forest – Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge
He also visited and viewed a number of other lodges/camps in these areas visited.
Click here to view our Uganda Tours & Itineraries
If you would like us to help you plan a safari in Uganda then please contact us using our online enquiry form or contact Wayne directly by email: email@example.com or telephone him in the UK on +44 (0) 7986 978985 and he will be happy to discuss ideas and prices with you.