South Africa and Uganda Luxury Safari: Big Five, Gorillas and Chimpanzees

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Total Trip:

13 Days
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Countries Visited:

Uganda, South Africa
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Places Visited:

Timbavati Private Game Reserve, Greater Kruger, Kruger National Park, Entebbe, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Ishasha

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Departure Dates:

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
The Big Five and the big primates, an epic safari that takes you from South Africa’s Kruger to the enigmatic forests of Uganda. In 13 days, you combine the wildlife highlights of a continent, immersed in the beauty of the Big Five, then baffled by the antics of gorillas and chimpanzees. Tailored for first-time visitors to the continent, this is a luxury journey that celebrates the wild wonder of both South and East Africa, with tree-climbing lions and hippo cruises among the extras.

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Day 1

Johannesburg to Timbavati Private Game Reserve – Relaxing into the Luxury of South African Safari

Safari is excitement. It is thrilling encounters and exhilarating moments absorbing the drama. But few appreciate just how relaxing it can be, elephants and buffalo roaming past as you lounge on a private terrace. While safari activities like game drives are the highlights of each day, so much charm can be enjoyed from the tranquility of your lodge. Early in the day, you change planes in Johannesburg O. R. Tambo International Airport and fly to Kruger, where you will be staying in Timbavati, a private game reserve that shares an unfenced boundary with Kruger National Park.

A small reserve like this offers an exclusive safari experience, and you will find the same animals as in the nearby national park. Guides can take you off the trails, and they maintain an incredible understanding of the locale, knowing where resident lions and leopards like to hide. It is easy and relatively compact, a single game drive enabling you to encounter the Big Five and another dozen or more species. After lunch, you start exploring, bumping through the bush as the dreamy images of wild Africa start to become a reality.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 2

Timbavati Private Game Reserve – Discovering the Big Five: Lions, Leopards, Elephants, Rhinos and Buffalo

A cacophony of hoots perforates the still morning air. Within two minutes, the guides have whisked you into the safari vehicle. They know what is happening. It is baboons, and they are shouting aggressively. But there is nothing the troop can do to stop the leopard, who is wandering away with a limp young baboon in its jaw. The commotion has scared others, and you see springbok skipping wildly; zebras’ muscles powerfully rippling as they depart the scene, and elephants emitting long trumpeted calls as if calling for serenity. You keep driving, and the guides have brought breakfast, coffee and a small picnic served with a view over giraffe and a herd of rumbustious buffalo.

Later in the drive, you find the lions, a mane smeared in the blood of a recent kill. Vultures circle the carcass, and jackals are already on the scene, searching for scraps before larger predators make their move. You are watching limbs being discarded, oblivious to what is happening on the other side of the safari vehicle. Behind you are white rhinos, graceful giants that complete your list of the Big Five. The Greater Kruger area is the best in Africa for experiencing this list of the most famous animals, the five that were first famed because they were the only ones that would charge back when hunted by humans. Fortunately, their power is now admired for different reasons. After lunch at the lodge, an afternoon and nighttime game drive then continue your discovery of the savannah.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 3

Timbavati Private Game Reserve – Discovering That Safari is About Far More Than the Famous Five

It is the legend of the Big Five that draws so many to Africa. But it is often other animals you remember most. Hippos fill the waterholes, yawning to reveal humongous jaws. You follow a cheetah, her den home to a small spotted cub. Zebra herds compel, springbok and kudu are just the start of the antelope, and somewhere in the day, you are engrossed by hyenas. Back at the lodge, you are amazed by how close the giraffe come. Spending three days in a private reserve allows you to try out the different activities. Take a walk, and you are immersed in the behavior and beauty of the ungulates. Drive at night, and there is a haunting ambiance to enhance the experience. And when the fire crackles long into the evening, you watch animals deftly illuminated by the soft glow of the moon.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 4 - 5

Kruger National Park – Exploring the Exhilarating Scale of the Kruger Ecosystem

Timbavati is a sublime safari introduction: lots of animals and diversity, all incredibly close. As you move into one of Africa’s largest national parks, you celebrate the mind-boggling scale of the wilderness. You do not see just two rhinos. You see 20, maybe 30. By traveling long distances, you cross through the kingdoms of many different lion prides and leopards. Some sections of the savannah feel empty, bar the methodical plodding of an elephant herd. Others are packed, especially when you get close to the waterholes that sustain life in every savannah. These two days take you on a real adventure, bumping into the corners of Kruger National Park, and celebrating the rhythm of life in a land that has been carefully preserved by successive civilizations.

Surprise dominates. You cannot predict what scenes will be found in the big crazy space that is Kruger. And you no longer search for animals. You are searching for the scenes. You hear the resounding crack as two male buffalo clash heads in quarrel. Elephants herds peacefully wait their turn at the waterhole, a baby chasing a warthog away. Lionesses are on a slow prowl, and then a male lion sends out a haunting grunt to ward off rivals. On this two-day game drive safari, you stay at boutique camps in the park, piecing together the scenes and subtly changing habitats in this famous ecosystem.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 6

Johannesburg to Entebbe – New Direct Flight Connection Takes You to Uganda and the Shores of Lake Victoria

From the far south of Kruger, you fly back to Johannesburg, elephants, and buffalo scattered on the plains as you approach the airstrip. It is a short flight to O. R. Tambo International, followed by a new daily service between Johannesburg and Entebbe in Uganda. Touch down, and after this day of travel, you relax along the shores of Lake Victoria, dinner served on the terrace of the country’s most famous five-star hotel. Uganda’s famous primate encounters are found in the far west of the country, in the geographical heart of Africa, where the forests are evocative and enigmatic. This will be your destination tomorrow.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Accommodation

included

Flight

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 7

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park – Flying Over the Plains and the Traditions of Rural Uganda

You will quickly recognize the change in atmosphere between South Africa and Uganda. The colors are different, orange earth beneath your feet upon landing in the west of the country. The people look different, and the villages are more akin to typical preconceptions of Africa’s traditions. You take in the views of mud-brick huts and vibrant home-sewn clothes. You are in awe of the rural lifestyles, a self-sufficiency that is being eroded by capitalism but remains a source of inspiration. You are greeted at the airport by a local guide and spend the day amid the rural landscapes of Western Uganda. Take your time, accept the invites from the locals, then spend the rest of the day relaxing at the lodge where the sunset often brings the panorama that was the basis for the name of Dian Fossey’s book: Gorillas in the Mist.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Flight

included

Tour

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 8

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park – Exquisite Gorilla Trekking

Beneath the canopy live the giants. Their arms ripple, as thick as the trunks of the surrounding trees. Their brows furrow one minute then break into serenity the next. Without making a noise, they communicate, gestures and messages shown in every glance. Only around 1,000 remain in the wild, more than half of these found in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. And 12 – 20 of these are all around you, a troop of wild mountain gorillas going about their day. At first, you are inspired by difference, like their power and jet-black fur. But soon, you are engrossed in similarities, finding that the gorillas are incredibly close the much more populous human primates.

Trekking to the troop is part of the experience, traveling into the thick forest and appreciating the sheer remoteness of their realm. You have an hour with the gorillas, and it passes relatively slowly, even if there is almost too much to take in. While officially you can come within seven meters of the gorillas, often the primates above your head are much closer than that. Admire all their behaviors, and you find that some of the troop are mischievous and curious, as if they want to communicate with you through their eyes and expressions. It can be a long day, but it is always rewarding. And a bubble bath awaits you back at the lodge, along with a quiet evening in the forest.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 9

Queen Elizabeth National Park – Tree-Climbing Lions and Admiring the Hippos

Travel through the foothills of the volcanoes today, weaving a path north through Queen Elizabeth National Park. Most of the drive is a game drive, crossing the savannah of Ishasha Sector. Lions climb trees here, a surreal phenomenon that can only be seen in a small handful of parks across East Africa. Sometimes a whole pride fills the branches, with large herds of Ugandan kob down below. You arrive at a luxury camp along the river in mid-afternoon, transferring straight to a boat for a cruise along the Kazinga Channel. Now it is the hippos that enchant, hundreds of them watching you pass with a grunt and a groan. Spend the night overlooking the river, watching a succession of animals, including many subspecies that you cannot see in South Africa.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 10

Queen Elizabeth National Park to Kibale Forest National Park – Morning Walking Safari and Onward Toward the Chimpanzees

Compared to Kruger, the animal cast has changed. The atmosphere contrasts and the feeling of the wild is different from what you have experienced before. This national park is just an interlude on your journey between the forests, another chance to embrace the thrills of the African wilderness. This morning, it is a walking safari, followed by lunch and the short journey north to Kibale Forest, home to the greatest population of wild chimpanzees in Africa where more than 500 of them live in the trees. Tomorrow, you will be meeting them.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 11

Kibale Forest National Park – Unique Chimpanzee Habituation Experience

One looks at you. Now another. Three give you a peculiar look as they rip fruit from the trees. The chimpanzees are above you, a whole troop of them habituated to human presence. Similarities are so nearly complete that you start looking for differences between you and them. The feet are certainly far nimbler and adapted for life in trees. And although you could be treated to the rare spectacle of a chimpanzee walking on two feet, the limbs are clearly made for more crawling and less walking. In the eyes and expressions, there is so much to admire, the ability to communicate so alive in these remarkable primates. Like in Bwindi, the trek is part of the experience, and you spend an hour with the chimpanzees, admiring all the behavior and interactions of a troop.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 12

Kibale Forest National Park to Entebbe – Walking Tour of the Colonial Capital and Sunset on Lake Victoria

Before you return home, you take in a little more culture. Fly back to Entebbe, and take a walking tour of the old Colonial capital, where once whitewashed buildings are partially coated in the orange dust. The guide takes you into buildings closed to the public, and the setting feels mostly unchanged since the city was erected back in the early part of the 20th century. The afternoon is at your leisure, and there are various markets to visit if you are looking to purchase souvenirs. Then you depart on a cruise on Lake Victoria, a final memory to bring this journey through South Africa and Uganda to an end, and a final African sunset to leave an impression of the continent.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Flight

included

Tour

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 13

Entebbe – Departure

Enjoy full use of the hotel’s facilities before your departure to Entebbe International Airport nearby.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Breakfast

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Trip Highlights

  • Marvel at the intensity and intimacy of a gorilla trekking experience, enjoying an hour with a wild troop in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
  • Get close to the complete Big Five in Timbavati Private Game Reserve, leopards and lions among those in abundance in this western swathe of the Greater Kruger ecosystem
  • Find yourself in a mysterious forest surrounded by chimpanzees, a habituation experience in Kibale evoking enchantment and excitement
  • Discover the complete profusion of life in Kruger with two days in South Africa’s famous national park, home to huge populations of the savannah animals
  • Uganda is filled with unique wildlife experiences, and you stop for a day in Queen Elizabeth National Park, searching for rare tree-climbing lions and taking a boat cruise past hippos
  • Five days of safari in South Africa allows you to mix the activities and experiences and nighttime game drives and game walks present new perspectives on the famous savannah
  • Journey back in time, exploring the traditions of rural Uganda and taking a peek at the old Colonial capital on the shores of Lake Victoria
  • Daily flight connections now connect South Africa and Uganda, a four-hour journey connecting two very different countries with contrasting wildlife experiences 
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Detailed Description

For a first-time visit to Africa, there can sometimes be too many iconic experiences to fit in. Gorilla trekking is only possible in Uganda and Rwanda. Big Five safari might be seen across the continent, but only in South Africa can you realistically encounter large populations of rhinos. Lions must be part of the experience, of course, but not all lions are the same. Some climb trees and others feast on zebra herds. And then there are the other primates, rare chimpanzees among those that make you smile in the forests of the continent’s interior. So, do you choose East Africa or  Southern Africa? It is not just the wildlife that changes, but the entire safari experience and the countries are very different from each other.

With this first-time safari, you discover both major safari areas of the continent. New direct flights connect South Africa with Uganda in just four hours, so it is easier than ever to mix the big-game beauty of the savannah with the mystery of the forests. Start with several days in the Greater Kruger. The first days are in Timbavati Private Game Reserve, an easy and compact destination for a first-time safari experience. All the famous savannah animals can be found, and the Big Five are just the start. You can get incredibly close by going off the trails, and a mix of activities allows you to discover from new perspectives and you quickly settle into the cadence of the wild. The next days spent in Kruger National Park showcase the thrilling enormity of untouched Africa, endless swathes of savannah populated by a remarkable wealth of wildlife residents. Do not think about counting. You will see tens of thousands of wild animals on the adventurous game drives.

Fly to Uganda, and head to a hotel on the shores of Lake Victoria. Then onward, discovering some of the country’s rural traditions before a priceless gorilla trek. With less than 1,000 of the world’s largest primates still alive, there is always exclusivity found during the gorilla trekking experience. Traveling through the volcanic foothills of Western Uganda, you cross the Ishasha safari plains and safari by boat past the hippo pods. Next, you are tracking a habituated chimpanzee troop, such intimacy and intensity to be found during your experience with these remarkable characters. Before traveling home, there is time for a piece of Ugandan history in Entebbe and a cruise on Lake Victoria, another spot on the list of Africa’s most iconic destinations. 

Are you planning your dream vacation to Uganda? Consider browsing our Uganda safaris page to add other essential Uganda experiences and activities.

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Starting Price

$12995 per person (excluding international flights)

This trip is customizable for your private travel.
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What's Included

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.

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