17 Days Albertine Birding Safari

Tour At-A-Glance; Length: 17 days Best time of year: May - August and Jan to March Key Sites: Bwindi Forest, Kibale forest and Semliki. An Overview of the tour:  The Albertine Rift region straddling along the borders of DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania, and stretching over a North-south distance of 1,000 km, supports one of Africa's unique montane forest biome with a very high degree of endemism.

The Albertine Rift is home to more than half of Africa's bird species and nearly 40 percent of the mammals in Africa. There are more endemic mammals, birds and amphibians here than any other site in Africa. Although the Albertine Rift covers 1 percent of the continent's landmass, it contains 14.5 percent of its plant species. Mountain Gorillas are one of the flagships of this area. Other species of special concern include chimpanzees and the elephant. The Albertine Rift is important not only for its biological diversity, but also for the ecological processes and services it sustains. The snow-capped Ruwenzori Mountains form one of the largest and most significant catchment areas in Uganda, and the most permanent source of the White Nile.

Targets Species:

  • African Green Broadbill,
  • Dwarf Honey Guide,
  • Archer's Robin Chat,
  • Purple Breasted Sunbird,
  • Handsome Francolin,
  • Green Breasted Pitta
  • Red Billed Dwarf Hornbills
  • Black Billed Dwarf Hornbills
  • Leave Love
  • Chestnut Breasted Negrofinch
  • African Crowned Eagle

Day 1: Arrival for the tour.

Meet your professional bird guide and transfer to the hotel for overnight stay. Early arrivals may wish to go birding in the botanical gardens at Entebbe. Stay in Lindsay Cottages or Fairway Hotel.

Day 2: Birding tour to Kibale National Park.

We make an early start for Kibale National Park, where more than 335 rainforest species have been recorded. Superb birds and primates combined with easy access, a good infrastructure and a variety of interesting activities make this forest a "must-see."

Kibale harbors the greatest variety and concentration of primates found anywhere in East Africa and is famous for its Chimpanzees. Kibale protects a remarkable 13 primate species, including the very localized Red Colobus and L'Hoest's Monkey, Galagos, Blue monkey, Red-tailed and Vervet Monkey.

Kibale Forest has the highest number of recorded sightings of Green-breasted Pitta, which is another sought after bird of Uganda. Other birds include: African Pitta, Grey-winged Robin, Red-winged Francolin, Joyful Greenbul, White-napped Pigeon, Abyssinian Ground Thrush, Red-chested Flufftail, White-bellied Crested Flycatcher, Uganda Woodland Warbler, White-collared Oliveback, Leaf-love, African Broadbill, Willcock's Honeyguide, White-winged Warbler, White-spotted Flufftail, Scaly-throated Honeyguide.

Kibale Forest is also home to Elephants, Buffalos, the Giant Forest Hog and Antelopes. Stay in Chimpanzee Guesthouse, Nature Lodges or Ndali Lodge.

Day 3: Birding in Kibale National Park (with optional Chimpanzee Tracking)

Kibale's major attraction is the opportunity to track habituated Chimpanzees. These delightful apes are more closely related to humans than to any other living creature, and they are tremendously entertaining to watch as they squabble and play in fruiting trees.

After an early breakfast we will head for the Park visitor center to assemble for a briefing before Chimpanzee tracking. Kibale, with its towering forest, has a well-established Chimpanzee-tracking program with a high success rate. Other primates that may be found include Red & Guereza Colobus, Olive Baboon, Grey-cheeked Mangabey, L'Hoest's Blue, Vervet and Red-tailed Monkey. Bush Pig and Buffalo, Bushbuck, Blue, Harvey's and Peter's Duikers are other shy inhabitants of the forest interior.

A morning walk through the forest combines chimp trekking with a selection of forest birds. In this excellent medium-altitude forest we'll search for the many dazzling sunbirds this area supports. We may see Black-throated Apalis, Forest Robin, Dusky-blue Flycatcher, African Shrike-flycatcher, Brown and Scaly Breasted illadopses, Fire Crested alethes. Black-bellied Seedcracker inhabits the forest edge, while the canopy holds Red Headed malimbe, Gray-throated, Yellow-spotted & Yellow-billed Barbets, White-naped & Afep Pigeons, Red-chested Owlet and White-headed Wood-hoopoe.

After lunch you will probably bird the forest along the main road, looking out for species such as Crested Guinea Fowl, Narina Trogon, African Emerald Cuckoo, Grey Parrot, Sabine's Spinetail, Black-billed Turaco, White spotted Flufftail, Chestnut Wattle-eye, Red-tailed Ant-Thrush, Blue-shouldered Robin-chat, Red Chested Owlet and more.

Day 4: Birding tour to Semuliki

After an early breakfast, we proceed to Semliki Forest, which represents the only example of Congo-Basin vegetation in Uganda. A large number of Guinea-Congo biome species reach their eastern limits here, which is one of the richest for forest birds in Uganda. Semliki forest marks the Eastern extension of the great Ituri Forest. This therefore makes it the best place in Uganda with high chances of encountering some of the West African species that cannot be easily accessed from other places. This site is ranked number 2 in Uganda Birding spots. Specialties here include Congo Serpent Eagle, Black-throated Coucal, Grey-throated Rail, Nkulengu Rail, Long-tailed Hawk, Spot-breasted Ibis, Capuchin Babbler, Yellow-throated Nicator, Northern Bearded Scrub Robin, Red-chested Owlet, Western Bronze-napped Pigeon, Black-collared Lovebird, White-bellied Kingfisher, Red-rumped Tinkerbird, Lyre-tailed Honeyguide, Zenker's Honeyguide, White-throated Blue Swallow, Bate's Nightjar, Yellow- throated Cuckoo, Orange-tufted Sunbird, Black-winged Oriole, Red-billed Helmet Shrike, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Rufous-sided Broadbill, Icterine Greenbul, Swamp Palm Bulbul, Crested Malimbe and Blue-billed Malimbe, Fiery-breasted Bush-shrike, Pale-fronted Negrofinch and Piping, Red-billed Dwarf, Black Dwarf, White crested, Black-casqued Wattled and White-thighed Hornbills. Stay in Vanilla Hotel or Semliki Safari Lodge.

Day 5: Whole day birding tour in Uganda on the Kirumya Trail

We start at dawn after an early breakfast and set off with our packed lunch. We spend the whole day bird watching the Kirumya Trail or any other part of the forest depending on the reliable information from or site guides. The Forest is home to some of the Congo biome species. These include Red-billed, Black-wattled, Black-billed and White-crested Hornbill, African Piculet, Zenkel Honey-guide, Black-chested Cuckoo, Red-rumped Tinkerbird, Rufous-sided Broadbill, Nkurengu Rail, White-bellied, Dwarf, and Pygmy Kingfishers, Piping, White-thighed, Black and White-casqued, and African Pied Hornbills, Fire-crested Alethe, Red-bellied and Blue-billed Malimbe, Swamp Palm Bulbul, Forest Scrub Robin, Green-tailed Bristlebill, Leaf Love, Red-breasted Sparrowhawk, Long-tailed Hawk, Pale-fronted and Chestnut-breasted Negrofinches, Black-winged Oriole, and others.

Day 6: Morning birding tour, transfer to Fort Portal

On this day, we have a morning birding session in Semliki forest, thereafter we transfer to Fort Portal. Stay in Magherita Hotel in Kasese.

Day 7: Whole day birding tour in Rwenzori National Park

After breakfast, with packed lunch, leave for Rwenzori National Park. Special birds of the day include Purple-breasted Sunbird, Abyssinian, Red-faced, Shelly's and Dusky Crimson-wing, Red-bellied Seed-cracker, Woodhouse Ant-pecker, Stripe-breasted Tit, Forest Flycatcher, Grey Apalis, Ayres and Cassin's Hawk-eagle and many others. Back to the Magherita Hotel in Kasese.

Day 8: Birding Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Today, we shall start early after breakfast and drive to Queen Elizabeth National Park. The Park, which is named after the Queen of England who visited it in 1954, is the second largest national park in Uganda. In terms of diversity this park ranks among the best birding destinations in Uganda with over 610 species recorded, and a one-day record of 296 species.

You will be treated to special birds of this park that include Harlequin Quail, Blue Quail, Small (Common) Buttonquail, African Crake, White winged Warbler, Martial Eagle, African Skimmer, Verreaux's Eagle-Owl, Papyrus Gonolek, Amur Falcon, Ovampo Sparrowhawk, Lowland Akalat, Greater and Lesser Flamingo, Shoebill, Black Bee-eater, Caruthers's Cisticola, Terek Sandpiper, Secretary Bird, and Temminck's Courser. Mammals include African Elephant, Spotted Hyena, Leopard, Lion, Ugandan Kobs, Side-striped Jackal, Baboons, Chimpanzees, Bush and Water Bucks, Warthogs, Giant Forest Hogs to mention but a few. Stay in Mweya Safari Lodge or Mweya Hostel.

Day 9: Birding Queen Elizabeth National Park.

We'll do a morning game drive/birding after breakfast, returning to the lodge for lunch. In the afternoon we take a a two-hour boat trip on the Kazinga Channel. Mammals prominent here include Lion, Leopard, Spotted Hyena, African Elephant, African Buffalo, Giraffe, Uganda Kob, Common Bushbuck, Hippopotamus, Common Warthog and the spectacular Giant Forest-Hog, the largest and undeniably least attractive pig on earth.

There are many key bird species in the area: White-faced Whistling & Knob-billed Ducks, African Spoonbill, Open-billed & Saddle-billed Storks, Collared Pratincole, Water Thick-knee, Spur-winged & African Wattled Plovers, African Skimmer, Martial Eagle, Gabon & Slender-tailed Nightjars, Black-rumped Buttonquail, Common Quail, Malachite Kingfisher, Verreaux's Eagle-Owl, Black Bee-eater, White-tailed Lark, Fan-tailed Grassbird, Black-headed & Papyrus Gonoleks, Winding & Carruther's Cisticolas, Red-chested & Scarlet-chested Sunbirds, Swamp Flycatcher, Grey-capped & White-winged Warblers, Yellow backed & Slender-billed Weavers, Papyrus Canary.

Day 10: Birding Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Today we head further South to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Depending on the season we may choose to go through the southern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park, where there are chances of encountering the Tree-climbing Lions at Ishasha sector. Packed lunch will be arranged in advance to enjoy later as we travel.

Depending on the time of arrival, we may enjoy birding on the self-guided Munyaga trail. Forest Birding at Bwindi provides some of the best bird watching in Uganda and Africa as well, having been voted as the Number One Hotspot in Africa by African Bird Club Members. It is home to over 23 highly localized Albertine Rift endemics.

Special birds include Black-faced Rufous Warbler, Grauer's Warbler, Banded Prinia, Black-faced Apalis, Black-throated Apalis, Chestnut-throated Apalis, Mountain Masked Apalis, Red-throated Alethe, Yellow-eyed Black-Flycatcher, Ashy Flycatcher, Dusky-blue Flycatcher, Chapin's Flycatcher, Chin-spot Batis, Rwenzori Batis, Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher, White-bellied Crested-flycatcher, Pale-breasted Illadopsis, Mountain Illadopsis, African Hill-Babbler, Dusky Tit, Blue-throated Sunbird, Blue-headed Sunbird, Northern Double-collared Sunbird, Grey-headed Sunbird, Mackinnon's Fiscal, Sooty Boubou, Pink-footed Puffback, Doherty's Bush-shrike, White-naped Raven, Montane Oriole, African Golden Oriole, Stuhlmann's Starling, Narrow-tailed Starling, Waller's Starling, Strange Weaver, Brown-capped Weaver, Black-billed Weaver, Dusky Crimsonwing, Yellow-bellied Waxbill, Magpie Mannikin, Yellow-crowned Canary, Thick- billed Seedeater, Streaky Seed-eater, African Green Broadbill, Shelly's Crimsonwing, Oriole Finch, Mountain Buzzard, Ayre's Hawk-eagle, Handsome Francolin, Black-billed Turacco, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, African Wood-Owl, Rwenzori Nightjar, Scarce Swift, Bar-tailed Trogon, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Black Bee-eater, (Western) Bronze-naped Pigeon, Red-chested Owlet, Tullberg's Woodpecker, Elliot's Woodpecker, African Broadbill, Western Green Tinkerbird, African Green Broadbill, Lagdens Bush Shrike, Petit's Cuckoo-shrike, Grey Cuckoo-shrike, Archer's Ground Robin, Toro Olive-Greenbul, Ansorge's Greenbul, Equatorial Akalat, White-bellied Robin-chat, Olive Thrush, White-tailed Ant-Thrush, Grauer's Rush-warbler, Short-tailed Warbler, Neumann's Warbler and Red faced Woodland-Warbler. Stay in Gorilla Resort, Buhoma Homestead and Gorilla Forest Camp.

Day 11: Whole day birding safari in Bwindi, Buhoma.

We start after breakfast, and explore the Buhoma Forest section. We may see; Yellow-bellied Waxbill, Magpie Mannikin, Yellow-crowned Canary, Thick- billed Seedeater, Streaky Seed-eater, African Green Broadbill, Shelly's Crimsonwing, Oriole Finch, Mountain Buzzard, Ayre's Hawk-eagle, Handsome Francolin, Black-billed Turacco, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, African Wood-Owl, Rwenzori Nightjar, Scarce Swift, Bar-tailed Trogon, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Black Bee-eater, (Western) Bronze-naped Pigeon, Red-chested Owlet, Tullberg's Woodpecker, Elliot's Woodpecker, African Broadbill, Western Green Tinkerbird, African Green Broadbill, Lagdens Bush Shrike, Petit's Cuckoo-shrike, Grey Cuckoo-shrike, Archer's Ground Robin, Toro Olive-Greenbul, Ansorge's Greenbul, Equatorial Akalat, White-bellied Robin-chat, Olive Thrush, White-tailed Ant-Thrush, Grauer's Rush-warbler, Short-tailed Warbler, Neumann's Warbler and Red faced Woodland-Warbler.

Day 12: Gorilla tracking safari in the forest

We set off early with packed lunch to the park headquarters for a briefing prior to Gorilla Tracking. Prepare for one of the most exciting experiences of your lifetime!

Gorillas are gentle animals and it is an unforgettable experience to photograph them as they interact, and to gaze into their intelligent eyes. Watch them in awe as they play and go about their daily activities. Each encounter is different and has its own rewards; you are likely to enjoy the close view of adults feeding, grooming and resting as the youngsters frolic and swing from vines in a delightfully playful display.

Day 13: Bird watching through the "Neck" to Ruhiija

We will spend a whole day birding on the road to Buhoma through the "Neck." Key species include: Mountain Wagtail, Red-tailed and Shelley's Greenbul, Cassin's Flycatcher, Black Duck, Banded Prinia, Grey-throated Barbet, Common Buzzard, Tree Pipit, Chin-spot Batis, Black-billed Turacco, Fine-banded Woodpecker, Dwarf Honeyguide, Red-tailed Greenbul, and we should come across bee-eaters including Black Bee-eater and Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Bronze-naped Pigeon, Many-coloured Bush-shrike, Ayres's Hawk-eagle, Bronze-naped Pigeon, Narina Trogon, Honeyguide Greenbul, Red-throated Alethe, Gray Apalis, African Shrike-flycatcher and Red-headed Malimbe; and in areas of dry fern vegetation, we expect to watch the Dusky Twinspot.

Other birds here include Mackinnon's Fiscal, Yellow-billed Waxbill, Black Saw-wing, Chubbs' Cisticola, Grey Apalis, Augur Buzzard, Petit's Cuckoo Shrike, Pink-footed, Northern Puffbacks, Red-tailed, Little Grey Greenbuls, Chestnut-throated Apalis, Red-throated Martin, East African Swee (Yellow-bellied Waxbill), Yellow White-eye, Dark-capped Bulbul, Yellow-bellied Kite, Yellow-rumped, Speckled-rumped Tinkerbirds, African Stonechat, Grey Cuckoo Shrike, Stripe-breasted Tit, Montane-masked Apalis, Red-faced Woodland, Montane Yellow Warbler, Regal Sunbird, Northern Double-collared Sunbird, Rwenzori Hill Babbler, White-tailed Blue Flycatcher, Yellow-whiskered Greenbul, Yellow-throated Leaf Love, Crested Guinea Fowl, African Crowned Hornbill, Lead-colored Flycatcher, Black-necked Weaver, Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher, Yellow-spotted Barbet, African Harrier Hawk. Stay in Trekker's Tavern or Ruhiija Hostel.

Day 14: Birding safari to the Mubwindi Swamp

After breakfast we head for a whole day's birding to the Mubwindi Swamp. The 4 km trail to Mubwindi Swamp drops from 2350m to 2050m and is the best place for some of the most difficult to find of all rift endemics including Grauer's (African Green) Broadbill the beautiful Regal Sunbird and Archer's Robin-Chat.

Mubwindi Swamp is home to Dwarf Honeyguide, Stripe-breasted Tit, Ruwenzori Apalis and African Hill Babbler (sometimes treated as a separate species), Rwenzori Hill Babbler), the rare and localized Grauer's Scrub-Warbler and Carruthers' Cisticola, including very difficult to see species Fraser's Eagle-Owl, African Green Broadbill, Grauer's Rush Warbler, Purple-breasted Sunbird, Blue headed Sunbird, Regal Sunbird, Grauer's Broadbills, Archer's Robin-chat, Eastern Mountain-Greenbul, Strange Weaver, Black-headed Waxbill, Bar-tailed Trogon, White-headed Woodhoopoe, Waller's Starling, Stuhlmann's Starling, Ludher's Bushshrike, Handsome Francolin and Montane Nightjar.

Day 15: Birding tour in the Bamboo Section.

Birding along the main road through the bamboo area for more chances of Albertine Rift and Highland Endemics is productive.

Day 16: Birding to Entebbe via Kampala.

We shall have several stops on the way in order to stretch legs and look at some interesting birds. Stay in Lindsay Cottages, Lake Victoria Hotel, Botanical Beach Hotel.

Day 17: End of Albertine Birding in Rift Uganda.

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