Classic Uganda Safari 2019

A 9 day trip to Uganda 
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The “Pearl of Africa” glistens with natural wonder. Gorillas enchant, lions climb trees, and elephants use trunks as snorkels. This 9-day signature safari connects Uganda’s unique highlights from gorilla trekking to discovering untamed nature. Journey into redolent forests, where mist swirls and chimpanzees are among the residents. Game drive across iconic East Africa savannah, where giant mammals make haunting calls. Fly across a mystical landscape by light aircraft, and then settle into exquisite lodges deep in the wilderness. 

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General Information

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Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Entebbe, Lake Victoria, Kibale National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kazinga Channel, Rwenzori Mountains, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Entebbe – Arriving in the Pearl of Africa

Touch down in Entebbe, and within moments, you’re gazing out over Lake Victoria, absorbed by the serenity of the water. Surreal colors mix across the panorama, the lake fringed by shimmering boulders and stunning greenery. The odd swirl of red dust leaves an indelible imprint, and its enigmatic hue is going to be constant over these nine days. You’ll be greeted at the airport and spend the night at Lake Victoria Serena Resort & Spa, a glamorous accommodation with the ultimate lakeside setting. A one-hour treatment at the spa is included, salubriously shaking off any travel fatigue as you look forward to exploring the Pearl of Africa.

What’s Included: accommodation at Lake Victoria Serena Resort & Spa, airport transfer

Day 2: Kibale National Park – Immersed in the Exotic Forest

Soar above Uganda in a light aircraft and you watch as the dusty red roads meander through a rainbow of green. This rustic red earth remains an iconic tone that ties the diverse landscapes together. After just over an hour, you land in Kibale National Park, the realm of the chimpanzee and home to ten other primate species. Mangabeys and colobus monkeys are your neighbors; their ebullient faces and echoed calls filling many moments at the lodge. A vast array of butterflies flutters around, their exotic colors contrasting the darkened green beneath the canopy. Over 300 bird species fly about and many vibrant sets of wings land on your balcony.

Kibale is Uganda’s most diverse tract of tropical forest, and a 2-day stay is likely to encounter a huge range of wildlife. After lunch at the lodge, you go on an afternoon forest hike around the Bigodi Forest swamp, where sitatunga antelope and bush pigs are joined by bushbucks and otters. Perhaps half a dozen primates are seen, and you’ll come to notice the differences in behavior, from the baboons scavenging on the ground to the colobus monkeys that bashfully hide high in the canopy. Spend the evening at Kyaninga Lodge, which is elegantly positioned to take in the charming local residents. You’re deep in the wilderness, where the barks of baboons pierce the silence. Yet there’s also a contemporary luxury here, and Kyaninga provides some sublime dining.

What’s Included: accommodation at Kyaninga Lodge, transfer, domestic flight, tour, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 3: Kibale National Park – The Unique Domain of the Chimpanzee

It’s an early start today as you follow the trail of the chimpanzees. They like to feed high in the trees, swinging about and yapping from up high. Yet sometimes they descend to the forest floor, walking on two legs in a remarkable display. One glance and it’s easy to be confounded by the similarities. Fingers curl, nimbly opening nuts or wrapping around stone tools. Eyes are glazed with emotion as if you can read their minds by looking into their faces. The communication never stops, and you watch the chimpanzee family exchanging messages and greeting; sometimes it’s through resonant calls, other times through flamboyant body gestures.

This chimpanzee habituation experience visits a troop that has grown accustomed to human presence. They’re still very wild, and it’s taken many years to habituate the troop. It allows a full hour with the chimpanzee family, giving you time to take photos and then absorb the beauty of the experience. Often the chimpanzees surround you, covering the canopy as you stand on the forest floor. But it’s definitely not uncommon to find curious young chimpanzees getting closer. Similar to tracking gorillas, the hike is an indelible part of the experience, a chance to explore a virgin rainforest. You’ll spot various other primates along the way, and whether it’s 30 minutes or two hours to the chimpanzees, the trek is a wonderful submersion in the mystique of Uganda.

What’s Included: accommodation at Kyaninga Lodge, tour, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 4: Queen Elizabeth National Park – Iconic Big Game Safari

After a one-hour journey by road, you swap the forests of Central Africa for the famous savannah of East Africa; it’s remarkable how such contrasts in the landscape can be found so close to each other. Elephants roam across the scorched yellow of the plains, hippos bathe in the rich waters of the Kazinga Channel, and there are tens of thousands of Ugandan kob covering the panorama below. Tucked into the Great Rift Valley, Queen Elizabeth National Park offers a safari that has many angles. Rise to look out points and watch the herds moving along the migratory corridor. Then follow the giants onto the savannah and come within a few meters of elephants and buffalo herds. Lions bask in the open, and your heart rate rises as a lioness walks around the vehicle.

This park provides a classic East Africa safari experience, with predators chasing the prey and every corner bringing another wildlife sight. Spend the morning on a game drive, the guide seeking out tree-climbing lions and beautiful leopards. Spotted hyenas are commonplace while herds of topi are on the dinner menu of the cats. You’ll take a bush picnic to a lookout point, where there’s a premium vista over Uganda’s premier safari destination. Then check into Ishasha Wilderness Camp, a sublime base that blurs seamlessly into its surroundings. Your senses are gently engaged here; lions and elephants emit echoed calls, fine dining tantalizes the nostrils, antelope are regularly grazing next to the camp, and there’s a real sense of escaping into the world of the wildlife. Completing the day is a sunset cruise along the Kazinga Channel, which will deliver intimate moments with hippos and whoever is drinking along the banks.

What’s Included: accommodation at Ishasha Wilderness Camp, transfer, safari, tour, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 5: Queen Elizabeth National Park – The Mammal Abundance of the Plains

Under the cloak of sunrise, lionesses make their move, blending into the grass then separating a young Ugandan kob from the herd. You watch with hands over the eyes, as a 30-minute hike is followed by a few seconds of drama. Dust clouds rise and when the air settles you find the large male ripping through fur. The scene isn’t over, and already you notice the hyenas getting closer. They’re not just scavenging; they’re inspecting the distraught herd for easy pickings. A little later and it’s buffalo that grab your attention, the horns of fierce burly males clashing with a haunting thud. Uganda’s largest elephant herds are also found in this park, and they’ll be a regular sight on the morning drive.

After lunch at the camp, you have an hour or two of downtime. Read a book on the verandah, eyes occasionally coming off the page as topi wander past. Snooze in the sun then wake to the elongated trumpet of a nearby elephant. In mid-afternoon, you set off on a longer boat cruise, following the curves of the Kazinga Channel while circumnavigating the large pods of hippos. Everything must come for a drink, so a river cruise is always filled with wildlife encounters. Usually, it’s all unexpected and unpredictable. For 20 minutes, you might not see anything, but around another bend, there are up to a thousand animals huddled together, practicing the theory of safety in numbers but attracting the yelping hyenas. As always, expect a relaxing evening with some exquisite cuisine.

What’s Included: accommodation at Ishasha Wilderness Camp, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 6: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park – Sublime Aerial Safari Over the Lush Ugandan Hills

Eastern Uganda is a spectacular sight. Volcanic mountains rise majestically, some of them high enough to be coated in snow, others topped by perfect cones. Forests flow freely down the slopes, while rich swaths of hillside are canvased in rice paddies and maize plantations. The flight from Queen Elizabeth to Bwindi isn’t just a way to save a whole day driving; it’s a beautiful aerial safari and a chance to appreciate the landscape’s grandeur. It also ensures that your immersion in the wild isn’t interrupted. You hop from national park to national park, constantly surrounded by the sights and sounds of Uganda’s animals. Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp has an unrivaled location, nestled deep inside the forest. From the luxury tented suites, there are supreme views of the canopy, which often dances with misty clouds. Open-air dining is followed by a crackling campfire and the next three days are all about enjoying one of East Africa’s most remote sanctuaries.

What’s Included: accommodation at Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp, transfer, domestic flight, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Days 7 – 8: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park – Gorilla Encounters in the Enigmatic Forest

Of all the angles in the Pearl of Africa, encountering wild mountain gorillas is the most unique. It’s perhaps the most intimate wildlife experience anywhere on the planet; there is only one other destination where gorilla trekking is possible. You enter their realm, and that’s why the hike is so important to the experience. You have to work for it, following the trackers on a challenging journey through the thick muddy forest. Sometimes it’s 30 minutes. But it could be three hours (porters can be hired to carry belongings and to carry people should the need arise). The hike helps you appreciate just how remote and unique these animals are, for they’re hidden deep in the trees. Trackers radio the troop’s location, so your guide knows exactly which way to walk, but the latter part of the journey isn’t on a marked trail, it’s through undergrowth that must be sliced clear by the guides.

The gorilla troop is habituated to human contact. For most of the time they’re just going about their day; feeding from the trees, watching over infants, leaving a scent for the silverback, communicating in deep guttural tones. But you’re not invisible. When you first encounter the gorillas, they stare back at you. Sometimes a baby might reach out, or an adult female might wave her arms, indicating just whose realm you have entered. From a distance of up to seven meters, you can spend an hour with this gorilla troop, marveling at everything that’s going on. Admire the power of the silverback, plus the shimmering fur that illustrates his age. Watch infants climb trees and fall in love with comical individuals that seem intent on mischief.

The first gorilla trek passes in a flash. It’s far too much to take in, especially if you also want to take great photos. A second gorilla trek doesn’t have the same edgy adventure, yet it has a wonderful calm. You’ll meet a different habituated troop and can compare their behaviors. Each family is unique, and that’s certainly the case in the world of wild mountain gorillas. After each trek, you return to the camp, where tranquility reigns, and you have the chance to recreate the experience in your mind. So much happens in these hours, and so many snapshots are taken away, from the glint in an inquisitive eye to a silverback beating majestically on his chest.

What’s Included: accommodation at Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp, trekking, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 9: Bwindi to Entebbe – Day Room on Lake Victoria and International Departure

A relaxed morning helps you recount the drama of the last two days and the encounters with gorillas. You fly back from Bwindi to Entebbe and return to the Lake Victoria Serena Resort & Spa, where you have a day room before your evening flight. All transfers are included, as is lunch at the Serena Resort.

What’s Included: airport transfer, domestic flight, breakfast, lunch