Hidden Uganda: A Safari to East Africa's Best Kept Secrets

A 11 day trip to Uganda 
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Take a private flight across the wilderness on this 11-day safari to East Africa’s secrets. Kidepo Valley is the land of giant game and exhilarating savannah encounters. In the Semuliki forest, you will find chimpanzees that walk on two feet. Encounter newly habituated gorilla troops in Bwindi, then embark on unique horseback and mountain bike safaris in Lake Mburo. Handcrafted for those who want adventure and luxury, this safari travels to exclusive parks that delight in their impressions of raw and redolent Africa. 

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General Information

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Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Entebbe, Kidepo Valley National Park, Semuliki National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Lake Mburo National Park

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Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures. 

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Entebbe – Arrival and Lake Victoria Sunset Cruise

Within an hour of landing in Entebbe, you are looking out over Lake Victoria, the serene water that stretches over the heart of East Africa. Along the shore is the old Colonial capital, the whitewashed buildings softly crumbling as they gather dust. Some of the broad boulevards feel like a ghost town as if they have not changed since the early part of the 20th century. Take a short walking tour in the afternoon, then embark onto a private boat, sailing along the shores of Lake Victoria as the sunset turns the waters golden. Tomorrow, you will be heading into the wilderness, and a night of contemporary comfort helps get you ready for your adventure after the international flight.

What’s Included: airport transfer, accommodation, tour, dinner

Day 2: Kidepo Valley National Park – The Drama of Africa’s Most Remote Big-Game Savannah

Fly north, and there is little beneath the wingtips, just miles of emptiness without roads or villages. Butting up against the border of South Sudan is a wild savannah where only the fittest survive, a savannah where the sound of clashing herds reverberates all around. Kidepo Valley is one of Africa’s most remote safari destinations, at least a two-day drive from Entebbe. With a private plane, it is reached in less than two hours, the first of your chartered journeys into Uganda’s national parks. Inaccessibility is one reason the park is tailored towards luxury tourism, with an excellent camp standing in the heart of the savannah. You have a bathtub open to the wildlife drama, and a suite that absorbs the atmosphere of this alien world.

On a first game drive, the sights come quickly. Buffalo herds look at you with an intensity that brings goosebumps. Elephants wander, their tusks outstretched and their ears flapping. Zebras skip past and Grant’s gazelles are scattered over the plains. Next comes a Beisa oryx, impressive horns pointed your way. Of course, there are predators, spotted hyenas plentiful on the savannah. They scurry past, an ugly snarl on their face. Then you will find the lions, a pride of them lounging on the rusty ochre of the earth, a mane fluttering in the breeze. As the day wears on and the temperature cools, the interactions between all these mammals become more apparent, the scent of predator and prey a huge part of the allure in Kidepo Valley National Park.

What’s Included: accommodation, domestic flight, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 3: Kidepo Valley National Park – Natural Reactions from the Giants of Africa

Just over 5,000 annual visitors make it to this park, a tiny fraction of the more than 650,000 that visit Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The wildlife is not habituated to vehicles, and their reactions are as authentic as they come. Larger mammals assert their authority. Elephants stamp their feet, male lions growl, buffalos kick up dust, and there can be some tense standoffs. Other animals glance at you with curiosity, like reedbucks and waterbucks who inspect their visitors before cantering off. On a full-day game drive, you are always encountering these natural reactions, as well as appreciating the enormous scale of the park. A decade from now, the experience may be very different, as leopards, lions, and elephants become used to the regular vehicles. In its current state, this is one of the great immersions in Africa’s most untouched state.

What’s Included: accommodation, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 4: Semuliki National Park – Monkeys and Mangabeys of the Volcanic Forests

Fly west to Semuliki, the plane offering a window onto the raw beauty of Uganda. Kibale is the more popular forest to see chimpanzees. Semuliki is harder to reach, further up the slopes of volcanic mountains. Strange primates live here, like the mona monkeys that swing through the trees around the lodge. Bushbabies call from the trees and grey-cheeked mangabeys are spotted on your primate walk. You are accompanied by an armed ranger, as forest buffalos and elephants are among those that create trails in this darkened forest. Various routes can be taken as you go in search of the eight different primate species today, from a two-hour loop to a five-hour adventure into a Congo Basin forest that delights in its mystery.

What’s Included: accommodation, domestic flight, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 5: Semuliki National Park – Finding Walking Chimpanzees in the Forest Clearings

Semuliki’s most famous residents are the chimpanzees. Compared to Kibale, they are a little harder to find, requiring a longer trek through the forest. But this effort is rewarded by the sight of very rare chimpanzee behavior. Large troops cluster together, sometimes 50 or more in the trees, gazing at you with impish grins. Then one descends, has a look around, before sitting back against a tree trunk. Two more come down from the trees, then cross the forest clearing, walking on two feet. Humankind’s closest relative is even more similar when they are walking upright, a remarkable show that few people ever get to witness. Spending around an hour with the chimpanzees, you are immersed in their actions, admiring all their interactions. Foreheads frown, faces smile, eyes are painted with emotion, and their enhanced level of communication is clear to see.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 6: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park – Another Stunning Private Flight and Relaxed Afternoon in the Forest

Today is very relaxed, and you will enjoy some downtime as an interlude to the adventure. After two days of trekking in volcanic forest, take a bath at the lodge with a view of the colobus monkeys swinging in the trees above. Enjoy breakfast with a view of vervet monkeys and duiker. Then depart on a charter flight towards Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, soaring alongside Africa’s highest mountain chain, feasting your eyes on the green forests down below. It is an hour transfer by road to your lodge which is surrounded by the atmosphere of the rainforest. Over the next two days, you will be gorilla trekking. This afternoon is a time to sit back and watch the mist swirl.

What’s Included: accommodation, domestic flight, transfer, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Days 7 – 8: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park – Trekking to Africa’s Most Recently Habituated Gorilla Troops

One look from a gorilla and you are hooked. You want to see more. The intimacy of the experience almost makes you want to reach out to shake a hand. Then the gorilla waves her arms, muscles rippling beneath the black fur and a disconcerting look on her face. It is as if she knew what you were thinking and wanted to show that you will just be visitors to this world. Bwindi is home to two-thirds of the world’s wild mountain gorillas, the largest of all primates. Conservationists have recently habituated a number of troops to human presence, in addition to the handful that has been habituated for more than a decade. These are the gorillas that are used to human presence but have not been witnessed by many, those still growing accustomed to the daily arrival of trekkers.

It makes for an astonishing experience. A silverback beats on his chest, the drumroll echoing into the distance. A mother nurtures her infant, an adorable scene that can make any heart flutter. Two growing males are fighting playfully, testing their strength and feeding their imagination for the future. Some troops have around ten gorillas, perhaps because they recently split from a larger troop. Others can have upwards of 20 individuals, offering so much to see that you do not know where to look. Trekking toward them adds another dimension to the experience, a real adventure along trails laden with mud and forest elephant dung.

With two full days in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, you trek to two different troops. With each trek, you have around an hour with the gorillas, from an official distance of seven meters. Curious gorillas are not aware of this distance limit and may start getting closer to you, crawling past just a couple of meters away or hanging from the branches above. You may even feel something land next to your feet, nuts or fruit thrown out of the canopy by a mischievous member of the troop. Regarded as the finest luxury lodge in the country, your accommodation maintains the atmosphere of the forest, engulfed by the mist that often swirls throughout the evening.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast, lunch dinner

Day 9: Lake Mburo National Park – Downtime with Zebra, Buffalo, and Hippos

Take a short hop east this morning, another charter flight that celebrates the landscapes of Uganda. You soar alongside the tangled forests and watch how one twisting road dissects endless miles of ochre-red savannah. Lake Mburo is the final safari destination, a landscape without lions or elephants. Rather than a detraction, this makes for a new experience, the lack of dangerous mammals enabling you to become part of the savannah on horseback and mountain bike activities. But that is for tomorrow. Today, you relax at the lodge and set off on foot, wandering towards the herds of zebras, passing the elands that graze, sharing the space with large herds of impala.

What’s Included: accommodation, domestic flight, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 10: Lake Mburo National Park – Horseback and Mountain Bike Safari with the Ungulates

At first, you go at a walking speed, a jackal scurrying away as you pass. Buffalos are on the trail, and you inch forward, waiting for the herd of females to let you pass. Riding further into the savannah, you pick up the speed, cantering over to a herd of zebra before following the impala herds on their morning journey. Down at the lake, you find the hippos clustered in the water, grunting and groaning to their hearts’ content. On a mountain bike safari, you get just as close, following a series of trails that zigzag across one of Africa’s most picturesque parks. All the animals appear to be much larger when you are on their level, giving these two unique safari activities an additional element of thrill. You can customize the day’s program to your choosing with experienced horse riders having the opportunity to go on full-day expeditions through the park.

What’s Included: accommodation, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 11: Lake Mburo National Park to Entebbe – Departure

Your final chartered flight is a short one, the tiny plane skirting the shores of Lake Victoria before touching down in Entebbe where you transfer onto your international departure.

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