Hidden Uganda: Safari to East Africa’s Untouched Destinations

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Total Trip:

14 Days
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Countries Visited:

Uganda
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Places Visited:

Entebbe, Kidepo Valley National Park, Semuliki National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, Bulago Island, Lake Victoria
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Departure Dates:

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
Chimpanzees walking on two legs, wild dogs hunting down waterbucks, lions basking on the desert savannah; Uganda may be famous for gorillas, but its mystical array of national parks celebrate the unique and exotic of an African safari. This 2-week adventure connects the country’s hidden destinations, from Kidepo Valley in the northeast to the Semuliki rainforest and a deserted island in Lake Victoria, without forgetting an evocative gorilla trek in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. 

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Day 1

Entebbe – The Charms of the Colonial Capital

The broad boulevards of Entebbe are an ode to a distant era. They’re flanked by crumbling colonial townhouses, many of which stand in a redolent state of partial ruin, juxtaposing the vivacious trees that arc over the pot-holed tarmac. These boulevards run down to Lake Victoria, where a light breeze reveals why Entebbe was chosen as the colonial headquarters. It’s all a huge contrast to the modern national and commercial capital, Kampala.

Your international flight lands at Entebbe International, a short transfer away from the Lake Victoria Serena Resort & Spa, your base for the first day of this Ugandan adventure. Entebbe is filled with charms, and an insider’s tour opens up buildings that are usually closed to the public. You’ll explore the insides of the townhouses, where there’s a quaint sense of forgotten grandeur. It’s a leisurely tour, mostly done on foot, followed by a relaxed dinner overlooking the colors of the lake.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Tour

included

Dinner

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Day 2

Entebbe to Kidepo Valley National Park – Safari in Uganda’s Northeastern Frontier

Kidepo Valley butts up against South Sudan, and the national park incorporates thousands of square miles of remote, desert savannah. Dust swirls and the sense of wilderness is absolute. Spotted hyenas drift around, wild dogs hunt in wild, raucous packs, while the buffalo herds number hundreds of individuals. Best of all, there’s a chance you’ll be the only visitors in the entire park. After the two-hour private air charter, you check into Apoka Safari Lodge, a luxurious base that completes the feeling of old-world Africa. Then it’s a game drive along the Kidepo River, the oasis that supports such a profusion of wildlife in such a dry desert land. Eagles soar, cheetahs chase oribis, and leopards ambush duikers along the water. If you’re fond of dramatic wildlife encounters, Kidepo Valley National Park will feel like a private playground.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 3 - 4

Kidepo Valley National Park – The Big-Game Magic of East Africa’s Hidden Destination

An African safari on the Kidepo Valley savannah is one where the sights are always unexpected. Hold your breath as a cackle of hyenas battles with bachelor lions for a recently killed oribi. Watch in astonishment as an alpha male lion takes down a zebra, confounding the preconceptions that it’s only the lionesses that hunt. Track a leopard that uses dust as camouflage, admiring how it deliberately creates flumes from the scorched landscape. Sometimes all goes quiet. Minutes tick by. As you cross the savannah, it begins to feel like an empty desert. Then you turn a corner and discover 400 to 500 buffalos creating a big burly ball along the riverbanks.

Game drives are flexible here, and you’ll have a private guide who tailors each day to your mood. There are very few rules and hardly any trails. It’s pure adventure, bumping across the virgin savannah in search of the unruly predators. There’s simply not enough food in the desert to support all the carnivores. So they battle each other, cheetahs chased away by the antics of a wild dog pack, lions contesting territorial boundaries on a regular basis. This is a destination where you’re as likely to see predator versus predator as you would predator versus prey. During your stay, it’s easy to change the pace with an unobtrusive visit to an Ik tribal community, remote mountain people that maintain a very traditional way of life.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 5

Kidepo Valley to Semuliki National Park – Sublime Aerial Safari Across Uganda

Flying across Uganda is a beautiful experience. Habitats collide in this large country, each of them connected by the distinctive ochre color of the earth. Today you soar over the desert, and then cruise above the riverine forest of the Nile, onwards towards the majestic volcanic mountains of the west. Thick rainforest carpets the slopes as iconic cones reach high above the clouds. You touch down beside Semuliki National Park then transfer to Semuliki Safari Lodge, where the afternoon and evening are at your leisure. You can take a number of self-guided walking trails, where a tropical cast of birds fight for your attention and genets and servals are among the animals spotted amongst the trees.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 6 - 7

Semuliki National Park – On the Trail of the Walking Chimpanzees

In a forest clearing, the similarities are astonishing. Finger curl around branches, frowns and smiles occupy faces and every set of eyes glimmers with emotion. Chimpanzees are the closest relatives to homo sapiens, and every encounter causes your hairs to stand on end. Yet there’s usually something more in Semuliki National Park. The chimps are walking upright, crossing the forest clearings on two legs. Such behavior isn’t unique to the chimpanzees of Semuliki, but it’s almost impossible to witness in any of East Africa’s other parks. On most chimpanzee treks, the primates are encountered in thick forest, most of them occupying the canopy. But here, they’re found on the ground, walking around.

You’ll spend two days in the park, going on chimpanzee treks through the forest. Sounds guide you as wild hooting indicates the location of the troop. The maximum trekking group size is six, although there’s a good chance you’ll have a privately-guided trek. Spending two days maximizes the opportunity to witness their rare walking behavior, which has hardly been featured even on wildlife documentaries. It also helps encounter different segments of a troop that is often scattered into smaller family units. A mother cradles a hairless baby to her bosom; males use sticks to dig and forage, and the encounters provide some of Africa’s most intimate wildlife moments. Note that trekking time can really vary here, anywhere from 20 minutes to three or four hours through the forest.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 8

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park – From Tropical Rainforest to Tropical Rainforest

A sublime road winds beneath the forest canopy, leading you across panoramas of ochre dirt and shimmering green forest. You pass remote villages, where women strap babies to their backs with a vibrant cloth. Then see swathes of rice paddies and maize plantations, which cling to the hills in defiance of gravity. There’s an opportunity to stop at a local village en route, or you can head straight to the luxury of Cloud Mountain Gorilla Lodge, where epic vistas greet you at the hilltop. This serene lodge is ideal for resting the legs, especially when a log fire burns after sunset and swirls of mist are illuminated by the moon. As always, all meals and a wide selection of soft and alcoholic drinks are included.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 9

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park – Evocative Gorilla Trekking Experience

Slowly and carefully, you trek through the thick Bwindi forest, javelins of light piercing the canopy to guide your journey. Forest elephant trails are followed, overgrown branches are slashed away, and you’re deep in the heart of gorilla territory. Suddenly a glimpse, a ball of black fur crawling on four knuckles. Keep walking, your heartbeat racing as you hear the troop communicating. Then a gorilla comes into full view, flapping her arms and returning your gaze with a fierce stare. While you’re visiting a habituated gorilla troop, the primates like to ensure that everyone is aware of whose territory is being entered. For most of the hour, you’ll watch the gorillas casually going about their day – playing, feeding, and interacting, but for the first few minutes, there’s an exhilarating connection as your eyes meet theirs.

Officially you can come within seven meters of the gorillas, although that’s hard to observe when there are two swinging in the trees above your head, three picking berries behind you, and another eight scattered across a clearing. A silverback emerges, more than double the size of the females, the earth shuddering as he wanders with gargantuan shoulder muscles. A youngster finds entertainment by ripping off twigs and throwing them through the air. So much is happening that you don’t know where to look. It’s easy to spend half the hour focused on a single gorilla, following the redolent facial expressions and poetic eyes. Or you dart from scene to scene, trying to take in the intimacy of the experience. After the hour, you return to the trailhead and transfer back to Cloud Mountain Gorilla Lodge, where the rest of the afternoon is spent watching the mist dance through the trees.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 10

Lake Mburo National Park – Horse Riding Safari Through Big-Game Country

Halfway between Bwindi and Entebbe, Lake Mburo National Park evokes the magic of an African safari. Zebra and impala herds wander across green plains; hippos create commotion in an otherwise serene lake, hornbills squawk whenever they spot one of the park’s leopards. This is a national park that really connects you with nature, and you spend the afternoon on a horse-riding safari, following the different antelopes as they graze on the lush plains. Rather than an abundance of predators, this is a park for getting incredibly close to a huge range of herbivores. Canter alongside a zebra, surround yourself with oribis, stop beside the yawning hippos, and ride a horse across a mystically green landscape. You’ll transfer here by road and have lunch at Mihingo Lodge, before an afternoon in the saddle.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 11

Lake Mburo National Park – Exclusive Lake Mburo Walking Safari and Nighttime Drive

As the day breaks, you head out on foot, wandering across the plains as duikers and zebras skip around. Tracing prints in the sand, you follow different antelopes to their pastures, watching them graze just a few meters away. By moving quietly, a walking safari helps you get much closer than a game drive. It’s the normal way to explore here, rather than the exception. And there’s a wonderful sense of freedom as you cross the plains and immerse yourself in a wildlife world that sees few visitors. After lunch, there’s the option for an afternoon walking or horseback safari, followed by a nighttime game drive. This is when you seek out the unknown animals, like a serval on the prowl, or a golden cat lurking in the grass.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 12 - 13

Bulago Island – Pure Serenity on a Deserted Island in Lake Victoria

After 11 days of adventure, you don’t need to travel to the coast for some waterside rest and relaxation. Take a boat onto Lake Victoria and head out to the Bulago Islands, a remote paradise that’s hidden from the rest of Uganda, never mind from the rest of the world. The small Pineapple Bay Resort is draped along the water, shaded by coconut palms, and as tranquil as you could imagine. These two days are completely at your leisure, and it’s easy to snooze away the afternoons along the shore. A boat is at your disposal for romantic journeys around the island or across the lake, while cocktails can be served to your chalet at any time of the day. There’s not much to do here, and that’s the attraction. Following the expedition across hidden Uganda, a couple of days on Lake Victoria are an idyllic way to unwind.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 14

Bulago Island to Entebbe – Departure

After a relaxed morning, you take a boat across Lake Victoria, returning to Entebbe, where you have day-room use at Lake Victoria Serena Resort & Spa. Later in the evening, you’ll be transferred to Entebbe International Airport for your departing flight.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Breakfast

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Trip Highlights

  • Discover one of Africa’s final frontiers with evocative big-game safari in Kidepo Valley National Park, a distant savannah that’s visited only by 3,000 visitors a year
  • Trek through the Semuliki Forest in search of chimpanzees walking upright, something that is almost impossible to find anywhere else in Africa
  • Feel the goosebumps rise as you spend an hour with a wild gorilla troop in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
  • Horse ride and walk through the big-game country of Lake Mburo, a charming and intimate national park that’s all about close experiences
  • Escape into the serenity of Bulago Island, a hidden enclave in the heart of Lake Victoria
  • Savor the charms of the old colonial capital with an insider’s tour of Entebbe
  • Soar across Uganda in a light aircraft, enjoying sublime aerial views of one of Africa’s most beautiful, yet most misunderstood nations
  • Settle into the luxury of Uganda’s best lodges, each enhancing your immersion in the magic of nature
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Detailed Description

Uganda’s wild mountain gorilla population is famous across the world. Yet this underappreciated East African nation has many more unique wildlife treats. This is a land where life has adapted, and every encounter comes with an air of mystery and magic. Remote dusty savannahs see dramatic battles between predators. Chimpanzees walk on two legs across distant forest clearings. Horseback and walking safaris are the standard way to discover the big game of Lake Mburo. Islands stand untouched in Lake Victoria, providing an escape that could rival any oceanic island. These hidden charms remain unknown to the world and are rarely visited. Most trips to Uganda involve gorilla trekking. If there’s an add-on, it’s to Murchison Falls, Kibale, or Queen Elizabeth national parks. Journey to the country’s remote corners and you’ll uncover wildlife scenes that have yet to feature on wildlife documentaries.

This 2-week Ugandan safari connects the hidden destinations, taking you to the corners of a country that delights in surprising its visitors. A major part of the appeal is the inaccessibility. These destinations take days to reach along bumpy and dusty roads, keeping them off most itineraries. Yet with a private aerial charter, they become firmly within the realms of possibility. To put the parks into perspective, consider that Tanzania’s famous Ngorongoro Crater receives almost 600,000 visitors a year. Compare that with Kidepo Valley National Park in the far northeast of Uganda, which has just reached 3,000 annual visitors for the first time.

You’ll start in Entebbe, with an insider’s tour of the old and crumbling colonial capital. Then fly north for three days in Kidepo Valley, a dramatic desert savannah that is home to a huge array of predators, yet not quite enough prey. Stretching for thousands of square miles, this is where you’ll find astonishing big-game scenes that defy what researchers and filmmakers have discovered before. From here, you’ll fly to the southwest of the country and a scattered rainforest along the border with the DRC. On a chimpanzee trek, there’s a very good chance of seeing the primates in a clearing, walking on two legs; in other places in Africa, they’re usually spotted high in the forest canopy. It’s worth spending two days because it’s such a rare and remarkable sight.

Gorilla trekking is Uganda’s showcase attraction, not to be missed. You’ll be here for a couple of days, spending an hour with a wild mountain gorilla troop, deep in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. A short drive west then brings you to Lake Mburo, where walking and horseback safaris bring a wonderful intimacy with the animals of the savannah. Beautifully remote, this national park celebrates the exclusivity that can be found when you journey off the beaten track in East Africa. After 11 days of adventure, you then cruise onto Lake Victoria and complete the trip with the utter serenity of Bulago Island, a private enclave hidden from the world. 

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Starting Price

$6995 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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