Uganda Gorillas and Chimps: The Iconic One-Week Safari

A 8 day trip to Uganda 
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No two primate encounters are ever the same. Journey into Uganda’s remote jungle and the intimacy is exquisite, the world’s rarest primates surrounding you on all sides. You will have unapparelled experiences with mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, mangabeys, and rare chimpanzees walking upright. This handcrafted safari combines the country's exclusive primate highlights in just one week of luxury travel, bringing intense and evocative scenes with the jungle’s remote inhabitants.  To learn more, consider browsing our other Ugandan safari vacation itineraries for more ideas for your own adventure.

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General Information

Photos
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Entebbe, Kibale National Park, Semuliki National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Entebbe to Kibale National Park – Into a Rainforest of Mangabeys and Monkeys

Expressions of color greet you at Kibale National Park, the conflicting greens of the Congo Basin enveloping you on all sides. It feels instantly exotic, the sights accompanied by strange sounds and lush smells. Four grey-cheeked mangabeys casually swing past, unperturbed by your presence. Colobus monkeys watch you with an air of serenity, peering down from the canopy’s highest branches. The lodge is deep inside this equatorial rainforest, blending into its surroundings with a rustic elegance. From your balcony, you watch and listen, scanning the trees for some of Africa’s rarest primates. There are a dozen primate species to find here, along with a smattering of antelopes and other four-legged forest dwellers.

Earlier in the day, you land at Entebbe International Airport and transfer onto a domestic flight to Kibale, a light aircraft taking you westwards across open, ochre-colored landscapes. Volcanoes become prominent on the horizon as the plane descends into the forest, where it is a short transfer to the lodge within the national park. Your first afternoon in Uganda is at your leisure, and some short walking trails around the lodge can be accessed with a local guide and are perfect for getting your eyes and legs accustomed to this striking rainforest. Drinks and snacks are served at the lodge before sunset, followed by a luxurious dining experience, both in terms of the cuisine and the unusual sounds heard nearby.

What’s Included: airport transfer, accommodation, dinner

Day 2: Kibale National Park – Trekking with Kibale’s Chimpanzees

Many years from now, it’s the first glimpse of a chimpanzee that you’re likely to hold as today’s most pertinent memory. Go chimpanzee trekking in Kibale, and you will spend a whole hour with a habituated troop, admiring all their intricacies from just a few meters away. But it is the first eye contact that really lingers, that poignant expression of time and space produced when two distinctive primate groups meet for the first time. The chimpanzees see you, and they stare, inspecting their primate cousins. They run their eyes across your habit of walking on two legs, and the strange shiny object you have pointed at them; the metallic gleam of cameras and phones fascinates many chimps. In this first inspiring moment, you realize that experiences with Uganda’s primates are not one-way affairs but fully involve both parties.

It could be one, ten, or more than 30 that provide the initial encounter. Then you keep walking forward, coming face to face with the entire troop. Trekking groups are a maximum of eight people, yet there could be more than 40 chimpanzees. There will be eyes carefully watching you, that you are yet to see. After the first heart-racing moments, the experience settles down. Slowly you admire all the details, from the curled hairy hands to the gestures and expressions offered by each of the chimps. One hour feels long enough. It’s certainly long enough to take plenty of photos, then put the camera down and soak up the atmosphere of the experience. These are man’s closest cousins, and it’s remarkable how close you can get.

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

Day 3: Semuliki National Park – Rare Animals of the Savannah and the Forest

Forest elephants create the walking trails in Semuliki, a remote national park in the far west of Uganda. It’s less visited than Kibale, and the animal encounters are more unpredictable, despite the two parks having a similar collection of wildlife. The monkeys and mangabeys are joined by forest antelopes and the surprisingly small elephants, who send resounding hoots echoing through the trees. You will be driven here from Kibale, a beautiful two to three-hour journey that is part safari and part cultural immersion. It is classic Congo Basin rainforest, and it feels like you are traveling into the heart of a lost, mystical land. Your lodge is very remote, but it offers contemporary luxury, helping you feel at ease in this exotic world. Like in Kibale, there is a range of walking trails that you can explore with a local guide.

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

Day 4: Semuliki National Park – Witnessing Exclusive and Elusive Behavior on a Second Chimpanzee Trek

Semuliki chimpanzees provide one of the world’s rarest animal encounters. Although chimpanzees can be tracked in half a dozen parks across East Africa, it’s only in Semuliki that they can be regularly witnessed walking on two legs. They live much lower here, coming down from the forest canopy to occupy ground level. Whole troops cross forest clearings on two legs, a behavior that is so real, it becomes surreal. You only need to glimpse one of these two-legged journeys to appreciate fully just how similar the chimpanzees are to humans. Just like in Kibale, you will trek along forest elephant trails towards the troop, which are found deep within the national park. It could be an hour of walking, or it could be three or four hours dependent on the troop’s location. Stand transfixed at the first encounter, then settle into the experience, enjoying an hour with your primate cousins.

A strange grin is shared between two infants, who proceed to start a food fight with figs and seeds. The mother steps in and the youngsters scamper off, faces full of amusement. A large male chimp explores a tree then beckons to his siblings, gesturing evocatively with rolling arms. In some eyes, you see joy and exuberance. Others suggest sorrow, even an unexpected solemnness. Much like most of the human population, the chimpanzees wear their emotions on their faces, and you can read so much into every expression. Going chimpanzee trekking twice gives you time to appreciate the behavior of individuals, as well as the socializing that takes place within the troop. These are wild animals, and there are no fences, the chimpanzees often surrounding you on all sides, and even above your head. Intimate and moving, it is an experience that helps makes Uganda such a unique travel destination.

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

Day 5: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park – Cruising Over the Volcanic Mountains and Golden Monkey Trekking

The flight to Bwindi gives a wonderful impression of Uganda’s wilderness, passing a line of high volcanic peaks, connecting the thick tracts of the Impenetrable Forest. Gaze out towards the Congo, then down to the rugged hills of Uganda, so many shades of green blurring together. Land in Bwindi, and spend the afternoon in search of golden monkeys, a rare species with strange blue faces and peculiar facial expressions. They are usually found close to your luxury lodge, which occupies a place within the national park, practically surrounded by all manner of monkeys and primates. Gorillas have been known to venture through the lodge grounds, a fabulous surprise when you’re sipping on cocktails and watching the sunset paint colors across the sky.

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

Day 6: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park – Unique Gorilla Trekking

Today you will have the opportunity to meet the giants, the icons of Uganda in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Around two-thirds of the world’s wild mountain gorillas are found here, their population thought to be around 700 individuals. Various troops have been habituated to human presence, a careful multi-year process that has also provided a detailed scientific insight into the behavior of the world’s largest primate species. You’ll be trekking to one of these troops, but it’s not uncommon to meet other gorilla troops en route. Trackers radio in your troop’s location and the guide slices a path using a machete, each step taking you deeper and deeper into a forest that’s aptly named Impenetrable. As with the chimpanzees, it is the first glimpse that is forever memorable, the moment of recognition that occurs when you come face to face with the gorillas for the first time.

A mother nurtures her infant child, perhaps cradling it to her bosom or carefully watching over it from a distance. Young males are focused on eating, foraging on the forest floor and in the canopy. Some are climbing trees, although they are not natural climbers like the chimpanzees, given the bulk they must carry around. There is a loud crack, and you turn around to see a gorilla on the ground, a branch having snapped as he was climbing it. In every troop, there is a silverback, and some troops have more one. This gargantuan male is seemingly double the size of the rest, and his silver back hair shimmers in the low light of the forest. It is this giant that provides the most iconic of gorilla encounters, beating on his chest in a show of pride and power. But there are so many other memories to take away from an hour with a wild mountain gorilla troop.

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

Day 7: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park – Intimate Encounters with a Second Gorilla Troop

Your legs may be tired, but there’s no way you would forego a second gorilla trek, even if it meant another four hours of walking. This morning you trek towards a different troop, following the curves of the rainforest to new encounters. You are probably a little more prepared for the first glimpse, but it can still come as a shock, especially when a pair of gorillas jumps around on two legs, waving their arms in a furious show of authority. Creep a little closer, and you see the troop that they are protecting, a large one with close to 20 individuals. You don’t know which way to look, with three gorillas exploring the branches above your head and another dozen scattered across a clearing.

No two troops are the same, so the behavior you witness is unique to each gorilla trek. Even the same troop on a different day will provide a contrasting experience. A first gorilla experience is a whirlwind of new impressions and interactions; the second is more relaxed, giving you time to appreciate just how close you are. It also means more time to put the camera down and savor the authenticity of every moment; or, for some, more time to get the kind of photos that could adorn the cover of National Geographic. It is also another thrilling trek through the rainforest, and a second opportunity to explore the intricate details of the gorillas socializing. Each stolen glance and every momentary frown are redolent gestures that seem to capture the essence of the atmosphere. Like yesterday, you take a packed lunch on the trek, although you may return to the trailhead before lunch. After the trek, it is a short transfer back to the lodge and a very leisurely afternoon and evening, with fine food and drinks served throughout the day.

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

Day 8: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park to Entebbe – Departure

Your final Ugandan experience comes on an aerial safari, a light aircraft soaring over forested hills that are often shrouded in morning mist. You will fly back to Entebbe, where you connect with your international flight.

What’s Included: flight, airport transfer, breakfast

Price

Starting Price 

$3,995
This trip is customizable for your private travel.

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.