Diversity defines the Ugandan experience. Trek to see gorillas and chimpanzees, take a horseback ride with the herds, cruise by boat and walk to see the big game of the savannah, and discover tree-climbing lions. The country’s destinations are wildly different, and there is always a fresh angle to uncover, from nighttime game drives, safari walks, and rare monkeys that surround your lodge. Encompassing five national parks, this two-week Uganda safari celebrates diversity, mixing the iconic with...
Entebbe – Sunset Cruise on Lake Victoria and the Equator
African sunsets are magical, the sun appearing larger than usual, burning orange as it dips towards the horizon. It sends out layers of color, washing the waters of Lake Victoria with colors of yellow and ochre red. It only takes one sunset to appreciate how much closer to nature you are in Africa and to understand that Africa is unlike any other continent you may have visited before. Land in Entebbe today, and you are transferred to a five-star hotel on the shores of Lake Victoria. After taking a few hours to relax, you head out on a sunset lake cruise, where you watch the sunset from the equator, the colors mingling along the water. Back at the hotel, you have dinner along the shore, listening to the soft sound of waves created by the lake breeze.
Murchison Falls National Park – Aerial Safari
Admire Uganda from the air as you fly north to Murchison Falls National Park, a light aircraft taking you across hundreds of empty miles. You follow the curves of the River Nile, appreciating how it brings green colors to a landscape that is mostly dominated by rustic red tones. Touch down and the safari starts immediately, elephants and giraffe among those regularly seen close to the airstrip. The aerial perspective is complemented by a view from the water, a boat safari taking you along the River Nile, passing raucous pods of hippos bathing in the shallows.
So much can be seen along the riverbank, from large herds coming to drink to stealthy lions laying an ambush. The boat safari takes you to Murchison Falls itself, where the Nile is constricted into a seven-meter-wide crash of tumbling water. You will then cruise back to the lodge, inspecting the buffalo herds coming for a drink, and spotting hundreds of Ugandan kob tentatively sipping next to a clearing. The afternoon provides a choice of safari activities, allowing you to explore on a game drive or to choose a walking safari. Both provide exceptional first impressions of the East African savanna, one that’s home to four of the continent’s famed Big Five.
Murchison Falls National Park – Game Drives with Africa’s Giants
An elephant stands high above the vehicle, trunk swinging, tusks curling beside melancholy eyes. It is an old bull, a big male who is now lonely. Later on the drive, you spot a big herd, two infants playfully fighting beneath their mothers’ gaze. Sometimes the driver must stop, a herd of elephants or buffalo blocking the trail. And sometimes you go closer, winding onto open savanna until you are just a few meters from a healthy pride of lions. The cats stare back at you, circling the vehicle before wandering off to the water. Drives are the main part of today’s itinerary, but there is flexibility, and you can also include boat and walking safaris.
Leopards may be spotted from the vehicle, especially when you continue the drive after dark. Nighttime game drives have only recently been introduced to this national park, and there is a sense of rawness to the experience. The animals are not used to encountering vehicles after dark, and they react very naturally. When you see lions or buffalo beneath the moonlight, you get to really feel how big and impressive they are. Elephants stamp their feet, herds of antelope can be heard galloping, and the roving spotlight picks out a big cat on the prowl. There are new animals as well, particularly small predators emerging from their burrows, providing something different from the drives in the day.
Kibale National Park – The Mystique of the Equatorial Forest
After a relaxed morning, you drive west, winding along rugged roads toward the volcanoes and forests of Uganda’s western frontier. Kibale Forest is vastly different than the savanna of Queen Elizabeth, an entirely new cast of animals found beneath the thick canopy. Owl-faced monkeys hide in the canopy, grey-cheeked mangabeys are seen on the walking trails, and you hear the 700-strong colobus monkey troops long before you see them. This forest is home to 13 primate species, mostly contrived of species from the Congo Basin. After lunch, you will walk through the forest, where you are likely to encounter six or seven of the forest’s primate species; seeing the huge colobus monkey troops feels like something from a dream.
Kibale National Park – Authentic Encounters with Chimpanzees
Yesterday’s walk was all about exploring. Today’s walk has a destination, a troop of chimpanzees whose location has been radioed in by local trackers. On the way, you keep encountering the different primates. You will discover L’Hoest’s monkeys and Uganda mangabeys. Bushbuck and blue duikers skip past, and there is a great chance that you will spot the forest-dwelling sitatunga. Several habituated chimpanzee troops occupy this forest, and you are virtually guaranteed to see them. They jump around, nimbly connecting the trees of the upper canopy. Some descend to ground level, inspecting you with their emotive eyes. Chimpanzees always create a sense of intimacy, as you notice the many similarities they share with you. Toes curl, fingers grasp at trees, and faces say so much without uttering a word. You spend an hour with a troop, watching them go about their day, admiring the social structure they display. Then you walk back to the lodge, likely to see some more of Kibale’s primates en route.
Queen Elizabeth National Park – Tree-climbing Lions
Drive south, leaving the forest behind and returning to the dusty yellow colors of the savanna. Queen Elizabeth is Uganda’s most visited big-game park, a land where predators thrive, and you are continually surrounded by the drama of the wild. Check in to the lodge then take a boat safari along the Kazinga Channel, another chance to explore the life along Africa’s waterways. Hippos yawn, their gaping jaws perfect for the camera. Elephants and buffalo drink, the large herds packed with intricate details. Some of the park’s lionesses are seen from astonishing proximity.
On the afternoon game drive, you discover that these lions are different from elsewhere. They climb the trees; whole prides draped across the branches with an uninterrupted view over the savanna. They are far from the only predator here, and you also follow the antics of hyenas, circling vultures, and the elusive predatory steps of a leopard. Best of all, these encounters are all connected. Every animal is interacting, and there is a great chance of seeing battles between predator and prey, along with quarrels amongst the predators. Sometimes you are close enough to watch an impish jackal trying to steal a meal from a lion pride, or two hyenas snarling and crackling with menace.
Queen Elizabeth National Park – Flexible Safari Day
There are many angles to Uganda’s flagship savanna and this safari day is left flexible, enabling you to create an itinerary based on your interests. Follow herds of kob and zebra on a walking safari, keep tracking the big cats on a game drive, or feel the atmospheric tension on a boat safari at dawn. Elephants rumble past and baboons hoot from afar. When night falls, you continue the adventure; a nighttime game drive helps you encounter the full range of savanna wildlife. The array of activities helps Queen Elizabeth feel like multiple parks, each with its own ambiance. It is always special to encounter an elephant, but the pachyderm seems much bigger when you view it from the water. And even when an elephant is far away, it seems larger than anything when you are on foot.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park – Lions Chasing Antelope and into the Gorillas’ Realm
The land journey to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is one of the finest in Africa, first crossing a vast savanna of tree-climbing lions and large herds of Ugandan kob. It is a game drive, stopping to see the wildlife en route. There is a soft national park boundary, and you might continue to see animals after leaving the park as the road winds alongside an increasingly imposing collection of volcanic peaks. Arrive in the gorillas’ realm for lunch, followed by a free afternoon at the lodge. After all the recent safari adventure, this relaxed afternoon helps ensure you are fully prepared for the next two days of gorilla trekking.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park – Up-Close with an Entire Gorilla Troop
The gorillas are the ultimate natural highlight in this country of endangered wildlife. The troop seems to greet you, all the gorillas stopping to return your gaze. They are looking at you, with eyes full of intensity and their faces subtly displaying emotion. Then the gorillas relax and return to their day, eating from the branches, pulling down trees, gnawing at bark, and playfully communicating. Infants are nurtured by their mothers while bulky young males cower at a single glance from the silverback. Some sit back and lounge in the green, content in a state of repose. Others wander on two legs, the upright stance a majestic show of power. Almost all of them are seen walking on four knuckles, the back curved, the shoulders bulging impressively. You spend a whole hour with a wild mountain gorilla troop, enjoying the intensity and intimacy of every moment. You feel as though you are much closer to them than the permitted seven-meter proximity.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park – Second Gorilla Trekking Experience
Every gorilla troop is different. And so is every gorilla trek. This morning you walk to another gorilla family, comparing their behavior with everything you witnessed yesterday. Deep-set black eyes provide the endearing welcome, arms are waved and gestures are made, then you look up to find two gorillas jumping through the trees above your head. You don’t just see them. You smell them and you hear them, notably when a silverback beats on his chest or an infant yelps when crashing out of a tree. Gorilla trekking is too unique to do just once. There is always too much to take in, from the thrilling first encounter to the moments spent focusing on one particularly gorilla. With a second trek, you not only see a different troop but also get double the time to savor the atmosphere of being in the wild with the world’s biggest primates.
Lake Mburo National Park – Walking with the Antelopes
Descending from the forest, you drive along the south of Uganda, returning to the ochre and green-colored landscapes. Lake Mburo is the prettiest of all the country’s parks, with lush habitats stretching out from a picture-perfect central lake. The predators are not seen here, which opens up the opportunity to walk deep into the bush. On the afternoon walking safari, you explore places that vehicles can’t penetrate, tracking zebra and different antelopes into their grazing pastures. There are no barriers and no interruption to your immersion, every few steps taking you deeper into the world of the animals. The animals do not run. They stop and stare, facing you down from across the grass. Every sound is appreciated, from the rumble of hoofs to the rustling of zebra couples. Smells change and with them, you notice the change in atmosphere. Experiences like this are a great way to explore the details, and they are the real specialty of Lake Mburo National Park.
Lake Mburo National Park – Cantering with the Herds on Horseback
Out on the plains, the zebras start to run. You follow, your horse cantering alongside its black and white cousins. A little later you encounter a herd of buffalo, their fierce stares ensuring you maintain a respectful distance. When you see the impala and eland, you can get closer, a horseback safari allowing you to ride amongst the herds. Down at the lake, you canter past dozens of bathing hippos, while out on the plains, you spot jackals and warthogs scurrying about. You are just another mammal now, the horseback adventure allowing you to see the park at its most authentic. Horseback safaris can cater to all levels of rider, although beginners will be restricted to a walking pace. More experienced riders can canter and sometimes gallop with the herds, an exhilarating connection with the wildlife. It is also possible to swap the horseback safari for a walking safari or a game drive today.
Entebbe – Back to the Serene Lake
Rise early for a final safari activity, a dawn expedition to find hippos out of the water and antelope herds on the move. Then drive back to Entebbe, a five-hour journey that is punctuated by a stop for lunch at a local town en route. Returning to the colonial capital, you have a final afternoon along Lake Victoria, with the option for a boat cruise to some of the lake’s islands. After all the safari adventure, you may prefer to relax at the lodge and watch the sunset from your veranda. Dinner at the hotel is included, and you have so many safari memories to recount this evening.
Entebbe – Departure
After a relaxed morning, you are transferred to the airport for your international departure. Enjoy a late checkout and full use of the hotel’s facilities before your airport transfer.
- Trek into a dense jungle and spend an hour with a critically endangered gorilla troop
- Explore the scorched East African savannah on game drives, admiring tree-climbing lions and the intense drama provided by predators
- Discover Africa’s big game from a relaxed perspective with boat safaris along the River Nile in Murchison Falls National Park, as well as along the Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park
- Canter along with the herds on a horseback safari in Lake Mburo National Park
- Go chimpanzee trekking in the Kibale Forest, admiring the similarities between yourself and these remarkable characters of the trees
- Feast your eyes on rural Uganda with an aerial safari, a chance to savor the colors of the savannah where you will touch down on an airstrip surrounded by wildlife
- Go gorilla trekking a second time, meeting a different troop, and admiring the intricate behaviors of individuals
- Wander across the big-game savanna and soak up the feeling of the wild with walking safaris in different national parks
- Cruise across Lake Victoria, crossing the equator while taking in the charms on Africa’s largest lake
$14,275 per person (excluding international flights)
- In-country transportation
- Some or all activities and tours
- Expert trip planning
- 24x7 support during your trip
Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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