The 10 Days Uganda Gorilla, Chimpanzee and Wildlife Safari features the destination of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park which is the greatest mountain gorilla habitat on earth with almost a half of their world population 459 out of 1063. Uganda is one of only three countries in the world where the mighty mountain gorillas can be reliably tracked on foot and other countries being Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
There are over 19 habituated gorilla groups in Uganda spread between four trailheads: Buhoma, Ruhija, Nkuringo and Rushaga but the Nyakagezi is a resident of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The park comprises of dense forest undergrowth with mature trees that form the canopy while standing on a rugged hilly landscape with deep saddles which combine to justify it as an impenetrable forest.
This natural setting makes the gorilla trekking encounter in Bwindi to go beyond only gorillas. Trekking to see the fabled mountain gorillas is something everyone should get to experience at least once in their lifetime. Gorilla permits are certainly not cheap ($700) and the hour you get to spend with these gentle giants goes by in a flash, but the experience will linger for a lifetime.
When a family of gorillas permits you to enter their safety zone and their leader the silver back allows your group of eight privileged tourists to sit quietly in their presence, it’s an ultimate honour. Even though I’ve trekked to see the gorillas on many occasions, this meaningful encounter with other sentient creatures is an experience of a lifetime.
Aside from the chance to chill with our distant relatives, Bwindi is an excellent place to see localized forest mammals, indeed it is the only place where I have seen the bizarre yellow-backed duiker and the one place in Uganda where you regularly encounter the handsome L’Hoest’s monkey. The birdlife is also stunning; with a checklist of 350 species that includes a full 23 Albertine Rift endemics.
Indeed, the forest trails around Buhoma, the most established of the park’s four trailheads, and the best equipped when it comes to upmarket lodges, ranks among my favourite birding spots anywhere, reliably offering sightings of rarities such as bar-tailed trogon, black bee-eater and a profusion of forest green bul, finches and warblers.
Elsewhere, for adventurous and fit walkers, the remote Mubwindi Swamp for which the park is named is home to herds of forest elephant and the beautiful African green broad bill, an Albertine Rift endemic only otherwise recorded in an inaccessible part of the DRC.
While on this self drive in Uganda the gorilla safari can also covers Queen Elizabeth National Park stretches over the western arm of the East African rift Valley for 1,978km2 overlooking the mystical Rwenzori Mountains. True, the wildlife may not be as plentiful animals as some Kenyan or Tanzanian parks, but the Big Five are all here aside from rhinos. Although the best place to see lions is around Kasenyi Plains with their well-stocked larder of kob, the tree-climbing lions in Ishasha are a special sight.
A boat trip along the Kazinga Channel stretching between Lakes George and Edward is a must for any bird lover within 30 minutes we saw at least 40 different species. Impressively, the Park is as diverse as its residents, lying in the shadows of the Rwenzori Mountains on the floor of the Albertine Rift Valley, with myriad crater lakes scattered around along with areas of open Savannah and the tropical Maramagambo Forest, home to several primates.
Explore Kibale Forest National Park a primate capital for the chimpanzees. After an initial briefing, the assembled tourists are assigned into several groups each under the guidance of a ranger and one security personnel. To reach the chimpanzee group assigned, we had to drive a short distance in our own vehicle to arrive at the starting point of the walk.
Kibale Forest National Park, being an evergreen rain forest has tall trees forming a dark green canopy over head while the ground is covered with vegetation fallen leaves and branches. All these require one to keep an eye on where he or she is stepping.
The ranger was in touch with the trackers and after a short walk we came across a male chimpanzee lying on the ground. This allowed us to approach it and see it from the closest picture. A minimum distance is required to be maintained from any chimpanzee and should one approach the human group, it is advised to ensure maintain their distance.
It turned out that the chimpanzee lying on the ground was the leader of the group that we were supposed to watch. After allowing us to watch him for a while, the chimpanzee got up and without any care in the world walked right through our circle. Needless to say, we gave him a passage as was possible under the circumstances.
Thereafter, we followed the chimpanzee group who we mostly on the top of the trees. Once a while, one in the group would come down the tree. The trek ends with returning to the starting point, where individual certificates of completing the trek is handed over.