17 Days Uganda Primates and Birding Safari

This is one of Uganda’s best birding tours as we are targeting most of the highly sought after species, my experience has proven that the Broadbill is breeding around this time and probably more activity takes place in the savannah around as we are just from a rainy season the trees are flowering and many birds in their beautiful breeding plumages.

The grassland savannahs are so green and the mammals are at their best views. We shall be highly looking out for the Shoebill Stork, Puvell’s Illadopsis, Chocolate Backed Kingfisher, Lemmon Bellied Crombec, Guinea-Congo Biome endemics in the Semlik a territory rarely visited by tour groups. Here are a whole range of very special West African forest birds known in Uganda basically only from this one location. This should be a very thrilling and matchless "interweave" to our tour.

The Green Breasted Pitta, Lots of Nightjars and owls, we will have a show of some the 23 Albertine Rift Endemics the major target being the African Green Broadbill and the Grauer’s Rush Warbler an option of the mountain gorillas which will be the guaranteed primate of our trip and this is the biggest animal encounter you should never miss on the African continent.

Our last national park will be Lake Mburo which has unique species within the southern savannahs and hosting a range of different birds and animals our main targets here will be the Red Faced Barbet, Tabora Cisiticola, Coqui Francolin, African Finfoot easily seen here in the whole of Africa and the White Backed night heron. At the end of this tour, we shall have visited Uganda’s most productive birding sights and expect the best out of this. Primates expected include among others the De Brazza’s Monkey, Red Tailed, Blue, Varvet, Red Colobus, Tantalus, Black and White Colobus, L’Hoest’s Monkey, Bush Babies, Grey-Cheeked Mangabey, Olive Baboon, Patas Monkey, East African Chimpanzee and the Mountain Gorilla.Mammals and cats we might see on this trip include Loose societies of Giraffes, big families of African Elephants, Banded Mongoose and Dwarf Mongoose Oribi, Hart beast, Bush and water buck; Common Zebra; Hippopotamus; Common Warthog; Eland; Bohor Reedbuck; Impala; Uganda Kob, Oribi; and Topi. Just outside the park, Lion, Leopard, Serval cat, Hyeana, African Civet, Jackals among others.

Day 1: Arrival and Birding the Entebbe environs.

Our arrival is at Entebbe International Airport followed by a transfer to Lindsay Cottages or Cassia Lodge. Depending on the arrival time, we can have optional birding in Entebbe, especially on the lush grounds of the Entebbe Botanical Gardens, where we’ll see both forest and lakeshore birds. Our first birds could include Palm-nut Vulture, Great Blue Turaco, Eastern Gray Plantain-eater, African Pied Hornbill, Splendid Glossy Starling, Orange and Slender-billed Weavers, Golden Backed, orange weaver or the other birding option will be around the Lindsay Cottages along the Lweza Lincoln trail. Keep eyes open in the evening for the Bat Hawk around this place.

Day 2: Birding Murchison Falls

After breakfast in the morning we transfer to Masindi where we shall have our lunch via the Luwero triangle passing through undulating grasslands and mosaic woodland where we drive watching out for the White-crested Turaco, Bronze-tailed Starling, lesser Blue and Great Blue Eared Starlings, Black, Yellow Mantled and Black Winged Bishops, White Headed Barbet, Cardinal and Nubian Woodpecker, Lesser and Greater Honeyguide. Dinner and overnight at Paraa Safari Lodge.

Day 3: Birding Murchison Falls

A highlight of the visit will undoubtedly be the boat trips to the bottom of the falls and to the delta area, and of course the one bird that will be on everyone’s mind is the Shoebill while at the delta. Superb views can be had of this wonderful bird. There will be other birds including the Red-throated and Northern Carmine Bee-eater mammals such as Rothschild’s Giraffe, Cape Buffalo, Elephant, Waterbuck and many others will be viewed. Other birds to look out for include the Saddle-billed, Yellow Billed and African Open Billed Stork, African Finfoot, Hauglins Falcon, Senegal Thick-knee, Rock Pratincole, Giant, Woodland, Grey Headed, Malchite, Pygmy and striped Kingfishers. On the game drive we look out for Heuglin’s Francolins Black Billed Barbet, Northern and Red Faced Barbet, Swallow-tailed and Blue-breasted and Northern Carmine Bee-eaters, Abyssinian Rollers, the giant Abyssinian Ground Hornbills, Black Winged and Northern Red Bishops. The Pata Monkey will be the primate to look our for on this day. Dinner and overnight at Paraa Safari Lodge. A night drive today is very advisable looking out for nocturnal mammals and birds.

Day 4: Birding To The Northern Sector Of Murchison Falls National Park

Today we start early and drive through Budongo Kaniyo Pabid area in search for the Puvel’s Illadopsis, after this we bird the grassland as we head to Masindi Hotel for our dinner and over night stay.

Day 5: Birding Budongo- Royal Mile And Busingiro

Depart early for the nearby Budongo Forest, birding along the Royal Mile, a truly spectacular road with forest canopy towering far overhead. There is a good system of trails in the forest, today we expect skulking birds like the Nahan’s Francolin, excessively noisy White-thighed Hornbill, graceful Cassin’s and Sabine’s Spinetail, Blue-throated Roller, Yellow-browed Camaroptera, Forest Flycatcher, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Ituri Batis, Lemon Bellied Crombec, Tit Hylia, Uganda Woodland Warbler, Forest Robin, Yellow Billed, Grey Throated, Hairy Breasted and Yellow Spotted Barbet, Great Blue and Black Billed Turaco, Dusy Long Tailed Cuckoo, Spotted, Plain, Slender Billed, White Throated, Little Grey and Little Greeenbul, Red Tailed Bristlebill and Black-capped Apalis among others. Lookout for the Blue, Red Tailed and the black and white Colobus monkey. On lucky days the chimps cross the trail.

Day 6: Birding To Kibale Forest National Park

The drive today is long, we shall only have a few birding stops, we drive via Hoima there are a few papyrus swamps where specialties such as White-winged Warbler and Papyrus Gonolek can be found, while the surrounding scrub may harbor, Double-toothed Barbet, Black-bellied Seed cracker and Gray-headed Olive back. Dinner and overnight at Primate Lodge of Nature Lodges for two nights.

Day 7: Kibale National Park – Chimp Tracking And Birding

Kibale is home to 13 species of primates and there. This is where we have bigger chances of Chimpanzee tracking. Birding in the forest is also very rewarding and you could encounter White-naped Pigeon, African Gray Parrot, Black Bee-eater, Hairy-breasted, Yellow Spotted and Yellow Billed Barbet, Chestnut-winged and Purple-headed, Waller’s and Narrow Tailed Starlings, Blue-throated Brown and Superb Sunbirds, White-collared Olive back among others.

Day 8: Birding To Semliki

Semliki Forest marks the eastern extension of the West African Forest. This makes it the best birding place in East Africa as we encounter some of the Guinea Congo Biome endemics not easily seen in other East African destinations. Specialties include Congo Serpent Eagle, Bate's Nightjar, Yellow-throated Cuckoo, Orange-tufted Sunbird, Black-winged, Rufous-sided Broadbill, Icterine Greenbul, Black-throated Coucal, Nkulengu Rail, Long-tailed Hawk, Spot-breasted Ibis, Capuchin Babbler, Yellow-throated and Western Nicator, Northern Bearded Scrub Robin, Red-chested Owlet, Western Bronze-napped Pigeon, Black-collared Lovebird, White-bellied Kingfisher, Red-rumped Tinkerbird, Lyre-tailed and Zenker's Honeyguides, White-throated Blue Swallow, Swamp Palm Bulbul, Crested Malimbe, Blue-billed Malimbe, Fiery-breasted Bush-shrike, Pale-fronted and Chestnut Bellied Negrofinch, Black Dwarf, Piping, Red-billed Dwarf, Black-casqued Wattled , White Crested, and White-thighed Hornbills African Piculet among others. We spend out night at Semliki Safari Lodge a night drive today will be very rewarding

Day 9: Birding To Semliki National Birding To Queen Elizabeth National Park

Have breakfast very early in the morning and proceed for birding along the Sempaya trail. We try out what was missed the previous day, Palm Swamp Bulbul and the Leaf Love, Rufous Bellied Negrofinch, Black Bellied Seed Craker, are easily seen in this area. After this we drive to Queen Elizabeth National Park which is Uganda’s second largest protected area on the shores of Lake Edward. We check in at Mweya Safari Lodge or Mweya Hostels then head for and early evening game drives looking for numerous birds that inhabit the surrounding scrub and lakeshore like the African Hopoe, Green Winged Pytilia, African Golden Breasted Bunting and later in this drive we look out for the Black Shouldered, Swamp, Square Tailed and Pennant-winged Nightjars back to the lodge or hostel for dinner and over night stay.

Day 10: Whole Day Birding Queen Elizabeth National Park

Today we immensely explore Queen Elizabeth National Park. Birds on this drive are numerous and may include among others the Wahlberg’s, Brown Snake, Short Toed Snake and Martial Eagle, Red-necked Spurfowl, Black-rumped and Common Buttonquails, African Crake, Hollub’s Golden and Lesser Masked Weavers, Black Coucal, Black Lored and Arrow Marked Babbler, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl Copper, Scarlet Chested and Red-chested, Broad Tailed and African Moustached Warbler. In the afternoon we do a boat ride along the Kazinga Channel looking out for water birds that roost in between the Edward and George lakes. Close encounters with the biggest schools of Hippos in Africa and some crocs many migrating species like the Gulls and Terns are here, after this ride we Dinner and overnight at Mweya Safari Lodge or the Mweya Hostel

Day 11: Queen Elizabeth To Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Have breakfast then transfer to Bwindi Impenetrable forest birding enroute. Today we have a chance to go though the Ishasha sector which provides chances of viewing the tree climbing lions and other game, lookout for grassland birds including the pipits Larks, African Cuckoo Hawk, Black Cuckoo, White Winged Tit, Ovambo Sparrow Hawk e.t.c we continue to Ruhizha where we have Africa’s no.1 birding spot according to the African Birding Club. We stay at Trekker’s Turban.

Days 12 And 13: Gorilla Tracking And Birding

If tracking we shall have early breakfast then assemble at the park headquarters for briefing about this breath taking activity. Time spent tracking depends on where the gorillas spent the night and their feeding range or encounter with other groups which might be wild forcing them to move long distances so be prepared for a whole day activity. Once found you spend an hour with them, seeing these gentle giants interact is awesome and the marvelous wildlife encounter on the African continent and an unforgettable. Birding Ruhizha e start after breakfast and go out birding looking out for the Black-billed and Rwenzori Turaco, Western Green Tinkerbird, Olive, Elliot’s and Fine-banded Woodpecker, African Green-Broadbill, Mountain, Yellow whiskered and Yellow-streaked Greenbul, African Hill Babbler, Mountain Illadopsis, Grey Cuckoo Shrike Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Grauer's Warbler, Mountain Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-throated Apalis, Collared Apalis, Stripe-breasted Tit, Rwenzori Batis, Montane Sooty Boubou, Blue-headed Sunbird, Regal Sunbird. Back to the lodge for dinner and over night stay.

Day 14: Birding From Bwindi To Lake Mburo National Park

Today birding will be done enroute, depending on the route we use either the Ishasha or the Rukungiri each has birds of interests and we shall stop at different interesting spots. While in the lake we shall look out for mammals like the Zebra, Eland, Topi, Impala, Cape Buffalo, Warthog etc, today we target the boat ride along lake Mburo where we hardly miss the African Finfoot, White Backed and Black Crowned Night Heron, Giant Kingfisher. A night drive always produces good views of the Black Shouldered, northern Tanzania Fiery Necked Nightjar, nocturnal mammals and Bush Babies. We stay at Mihingo Lodge or Arcadia Cottages.

Day 15: Birding Lake Mburo To Kampala

After breakfast we start early in search for special savannah birds like the Yellow Bellied Apalis, Green Capped Eremomela, Buff Bellied Warbler, White Winged Tit, Red Billed Wood Hopoe, the special birds for today’s drive will be the Tabora Cisticola, Red Faced Barbet and Coqui Francolin. Brubru, Sulpher Breasted Bush Shrike, Red Headed Weaver, Green Backed and Uganda Spotted Woodpecker, African Black Headed Oriole. Over night at Cassia Lodge or Lindsay Cottages

Day 16: Birding Kampala- Mabamba Islands- Mabira Forest

After an early breakfast we do birding to Mabamba in search for the Shoebill then later transfer to Mabira Forest where we have an over night stay at Mabira Rain Forest Lodge.

Day 17: Airport Transfer

After breakfast we start by looking out for the Red Caped Robin-chat around the Logde then hit the trail to try and find Weyn’s Weaver, Olive Green Cameroptera, Tit Hylia, African Pied Hornbill Grey and Yelloe Long Bill, Forest Wood-Hoopoe, Blue-breasted, White-bellied, Dwarf and Shining-blue Kingfishers, Soty Flycatcher, Yellow-throated, Yellow Rumped and Speckled Tinkerbird, Yellow Crested Woodpecker, Toro Olive Greenbul and Green-tailed Bristle bill, Fire-crested Alethe, Forest Robin and Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat after this beautiful show we transfer to the airport for flight back home.

Recommended readings Stevenson, Terry and John Fanshawe. A Field Guide to the Birds of East Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. Academic Press, 2001.

The Safari Companion - A Guide to Watching African Mammals by Richard D Estes. illustrated by Daniel Otte, (Russell Friedman Books, JHB 1993) This book has been described as the tool to make us all instant experts in animal behavior, and it should quickly assert itself as the principal reference on animal behavior for game rangers, safari guides and nature lovers. The book will enable safari-goers to recognize and understand interesting behavioral displays such as courtship rituals, territorial marking, aggression and care of young. Only recommended for serious naturalists, as the book is heavy on detail, much of it presented in 'hard -to-digest' scientific format, with frequent use of symbols and icons.

Land Mammals of Southern Africa: a field guide by Reay Smithers (Macmillan) 229 pages. If you're going to buy only one mammal field guide for southern Africa, it may as well be this one. Based on the late Reay Smithers' comprehensive mammal handbook, this excellent little guide, delightfully illustrated by artist Clare Abbott, covers 197 land mammal species most likely to be seen, with clear distribution maps. Scholarly and accurate, yet concise, this book is interesting and very readable. A revised edition of this book - co-ordinated by Peter Apps - is now available.

Field Guide to the Mammals of Southern Africa by Chris and Tilde Stuart (2nd edition Struik 1993). A good companion to the above field guide. The Stuarts' book, which is copiously illustrated with an excellent array of photographs, and clear distribution maps, also contains a section on marine mammals. Southern, Central and East African Mammals: A Photographic Guide by Chris & Tilde Stuart, 1992. This well-illustrated, compact guide suffers from inadequate research: the selection of mammals & the reserves in which they can be seen is inconsistent. Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Africa by Dorst & Dandelot. 1990. Collins Field Guide to Mammals of Africa including Madagascar (Haltenorth & Diller, 1992). The Behavior Guide to African Mammals by Richard Estes. (University of California Press 1991 (hard cover) 1992 (paperback). A more detailed version of Estes' Safari Companion, this book is on the heavy side, but considered by many to be the best African mammal guide.

Guide to Southern African Game & Nature Reserves by Chris & Tilde Stuart (Struik, 2nd Ed, 1992) The book contains detailed, practical information on more than 400 reserves in southern Africa. If you're going to spend more than just a week or so in southern Africa, this book will help you make the most of your journey. It contains many maps, opening and closing times, information on accommodation and facilities offered and many references to birds and mammals to be seen.

EQUIPMENT: You should pack a pair of binoculars in good repair, along with a belt pack or backpack (for carrying books, sunscreen, extra film, etc.). As a precaution, it is a good idea to pack your binoculars, a change of clothing, toiletry items, medication, and travel documents in your airline carry-on bag. Your leader will have a spotting scope; however, if you have one and wish to bring it, you are encouraged to do so. You will want to pack an alarm clock, a water flask or canteen, a strong flashlight, a washcloth, film and batteries for your camera, and between-meal snacks such as trail mix. A small daypack for carrying essentials in the vehicles on game drives and bird walks is useful. Insects are generally not a problem. Bring your preferred insect repellent and plenty of sunscreen. You should also bring a supply of indigestion and diarrhoea medicines in case they are needed.

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