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Black-headed gonolek, Uganda

Albertine Rift Endemics Birding Safari - 12 Days

Overview
Itinerary
Accommodation
Inclusions
Overview

Albertine Rift Endemics Birding Safari - 12 Days

This trip is one of the most interesting for our kin birding clients as most of the locations are ecological hot-spots and relatively within the wealthy Albertine Rift Valley which is not only Uganda but Africa’s richest zone for most endemic and globally threatened species of birds and other animals like the mountain gorillas.

Not only this but a host to more than 7,500 species of endemic plants and animals and approximately 35% of all biodiversity in Africa.

The tour takes us to Mgahinga, Bwindi and most especially Ruhija (the No.1 birding site in Africa), Rwenzori and finally Semliki. These are so far the best birding spots in Uganda and have different ecosystems and each attracting a species different from the other.

  • Day 1: Arrival in Kampala or Entebbe
  • Day 2: Birding in Echuya Forest and Kisoro
  • Day 3: Birding Mgahinga National Park
  • Day 4: Birding to Ruhija
  • Day 5: Birding to Mubwindi Swamp
  • Day 6: Birding to Buhoma via the Neck
  • Day 7: Birding Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
  • Day 8: Birding to Kasese
  • Day 9: Birding the Rwenzori then transfer to Fort Portal
  • Day 10: Birding to Semliki
  • Day 11: Whole day birding Kirumia Trail
  • Day 12: Birding to Entebbe
Itinerary

Day 1: Kampala or Entebbe

Arrival for our Albertine Rift birding safari where we spend a night in Kampala or Entebbe.

Overnight at Papyrus Guesthouse Entebbe or Forest Cottages Kampala.

Day 2: Birdwatching in Echuya Forest

Transfer to Kisoro where we bird Echuya Forest at a later point in the day towards Kisoro.

Overnight at Rushaga Gorilla Camp.

Day 3: Birding in Mgahinga National Park

We start early after breakfast and with picnic lunch. Drive to Ntebeko Camp from where we shall start our birding as we trek to one of the most scenic areas in Uganda.

We take the gorge trail that loops halfway up Mt. Sabinyo, through a variety of montane habitats harbouring the dusky turtle dove, Rwenzori turaco, cape robin-chat, Kivu ground thrush, white-eyed slaty and white-tailed blue flycatcher, olive wood-pecker, white-starred robin, mountain yellow warbler, white-napped raven, Lagden’s bush-shrike, yellow-crowned canary, streaky and thick billed seedeater

On our birding today we shall have a bigger focus on the shy Shelly’s crimson-wing among other birds.

Dinner and overnight stay at Travelers Rest Hotel or Chameleon Hill Lodge.

Day 4: Birding to Ruhija  

After breakfast, we start our birding in the Rift Valley Area.

We will have a stopover in a nearby swamp towards Echuya forest mostly to look out for the little rush warbler plus the Grauer’s rush warbler one of the rare Bradypterus warblers within the Albertine rift zones also

Continue birding to Ruhija with numerous stopovers expecting birds like the augur and mountain buzzard, yellow bellied waxbill, dusky crimsonwing, dusky twinspot, common stonechat among others birds.

Towards the camp headquarters we look out for the handsome francolin, olive pigeon, western green tinkerbird, Archer’s robin-chat, chestnut throated apalis, white-browed crombec, stripe-breasted and dusky tit, Rwenzori batis, Doherty’s bush-shrike, black-headed waxbill and much more.

We stay at Trekker’s Tavern or Ruhija Gorilla Friends for two nights. Full board.

Day 5: Birding to Mubwindi Swamp

Today our birding will start early and our main focus will the beautiful leafy looking broadbill, Black-billed Turaco, Olive, Elliot’s and Fine-banded Woodpecker, African Hill Babbler, Mountain Illadopsis, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Mountain Greenbul, Grey Cuckoo Shrike, Red-faced Woodland and Mountain Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-throated Collard and Black Throated Apalis, Stripe-breasted Tit, African Green-Broadbill, Mountain, Shelley’s and Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Rwenzori Batis, Regal Sunbird among other birds.

We later get back to our place of stay. Full board.

Day 6: Birding to Buhoma via the Neck

After breakfast, start the drive to Buhoma in the southern part of Bwindi birding en route.

On our drive and the stopovers we make, expect to see the Black Bee-eater, calling out the Red-throated Wryneck and finding it would be a great addition, Mountain Wagtail and the Cassin’s Grey Flycatcher, White-starred Robin, Olive Thrush, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Grauer’s Warbler, MacKinnon’s Fiscal, Collared, Mountain Masked Chestnut-throated, and Grey Apalis, Stripe-breasted Tit, Sharpe’s Starling, the elusive Regal and Purple-breasted Sunbird, Strange Weaver, Dusky Twinspot etc.

Dinner and overnight at The Engagi or Buhoma Community Rest camp for two nights. Full board.

Day 7: Birding in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Today we explore the Bwindi Buhoma area looking out for birds like the Pink-footed Puffbuck, Yellow Billed Barbet, Bocage’s Bush-Shrike, Bar-tailed Trogon, Black Bee-Eater, Cassin’s and Scaly throated Honey Guide, White-headed Wood-hoopoe, Western Green Tinkerbird, Short Tailed Warbler, African Broadbill, White-bellied Robin-Chat, Red-throated Alethe, Mountain Illadopsis, Red Faced Woodland Warbler, Equatorial Akalat, Chapin’s Flycatcher, Black Faced Rufous Warbler, Mountain Masked Apalis, Dusky Tit, Many Coloured and Luhder’s Bush-shrike, Black Billed Turaco, Petit’s Cuckooshrike, Blue Throated Brown, Blue-headed, Northern Double Collard and Green Sunbird, Black-billed Weaver, Red-fronted Ant-pecker, Magpie Mannikin among others.

Full board.

Day 8: Birding to Kasese

After breakfast, with packed lunch, leave for Rwenzori National Park.

While there we look out for special birds like the purple breasted sunbird, Abyssinian, Red faced, Shelly’s and Dusky Crimson-wing, Red-bellied seed cracker, Woodhouse Antipecker, Stripe-breasted Tit, Forest Flycatcher, Grey Apalis, Ayres and Cassin’s Hawk-eagle and many others.

We stay at the basement of Mount Rwenzori.

Day 9: Birding the Rwenzori then transfer to Fort Portal  

We have another day of birding in the morning before we transfer to Fort Portal where a number of rare and highly localized birds may be found. African Long-eared Owl, sometimes considered non-specific with the Holarctic Long-eared Owl. This is one of only two sites in East Africa [the other being Mt. Kenya] where this bird has been recorded.

Similarly the Greater Double-collared Sunbird [sometimes considered a separate species, Stuhlmann’s Double-collared Sunbird] is endemic to the Rwenzori Mountains and is reportedly fairly common in areas of bamboo and heath. Rwenzori Turaco another common and easily seen here than elsewhere.

There are recent sight records of the rare Grauer’s Cuckoo-shrike we keep fingers crossed for these amazing species. Dinner and

Overnight at the Mountains of the Moon Hotel. Full board.

Day 10: Birding to Semliki

After an early breakfast, bird to Semuliki National Park getting there in time to bird the trails around the hot springs.

This gives us a great introduction to the Semliki birds like the Hornbills, Chestnut Breasted Negro Finch, Black Bellied Seed Cracker and others then transfer to Bundibugyo.

Overnight at the Rainbow or Vanilla Hotel. Full board.

Day 11: Whole Day Birding on the Kirumia Trail

After breakfast, proceed for a whole day birding on the Kirumia Trail.

Depending on the weather condition today we have some of the best birding within the East African region as many species are of West African origin.

Look out for birds like Black-casqued wattled, White thighed, Piping, Red-billed dwarf, White crested and Black dwarf Hornbill, Rufaous Sided Broadbill, Blue Billed and Crested Malimbe, Blue-headed Crested-flycatcher, Leaf Love, Swamp palm Bulbul.

Rarely seen are the Capuchin Babbler and African Piculet small bird of its own related to the woodpeckers and the Lyre Tailed Honey Guides among other birds.

Dinner and overnight as before. Full board.

Day 12: Birding to Entebbe

After breakfast, bird your way to Entebbe.

 

 

Accommodation

Rushaga Gorilla Camp

Rushaga Gorilla Camp deck

Rushaga Gorilla Camp is a mid-range facility located in the Rushaga Sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Its within a walking distance from the Park Headquarters in the Rushaga Area of Bwindi.

Offering free WiFi and a sun terrace, Rushaga Gorilla Camp is located in Bugambira. Rushaga Gorilla Tracking (Nshongi Group) is 6 km away.

It offers 6 luxury tents, 6 self-contained rooms (twin/double), and and ample camping site. All units feature a seating area. Some units have a terrace and/or balcony with garden views.

Guests can enjoy a meal at the on-site restaurant or a drink at the bar. The property also offers packed lunches.

Bike hire is available at the property and the area is popular for cycling.

Travellers Rest Hotel

Travellers Rest Hotel

Not only is it one of Uganda’s oldest hotel, this is a hotel with a deep history. It was once run by the so-called father of gorilla tourism, Walter Baumgärtel, and Dian Fossey called it her ‘second home’. Through various thoughtful touches such as Congolese crafts, this otherwise simple place has become a lovely little oasis. The garden has lots of shade, and an atmospheric bar with fireplace.

Travellers Rest Kisoro consists of 11 en-suite rooms, each with a private bathroom with shower, sink and toilet., tastefully decorated with a unique selection of Congo art. The spacious rooms overlook a well groomed courtyard and have the magical Virunga volcanoes as a backdrop.

Chameleon Hill Lodge

Chameleon Hill Lodge, Uganda

Chameleon Hill’s biggest leverage are the best views imaginable – from up the lush highlands, to the magical Lake Mutanda and its lush islands below and the sprawling highlands all around it, and to crown it off with a perfect backdrop of the Virunga Volcanic Mountains. The most visible of the volcanoes are Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabinyo whose peaks are cloudy most of the time. On clearer days, other Virunga volcanoes from Rwanda and D.R. Congo can be sighted. At night, there is a good chance of spotting magma spilling in the air from the active volcano Nyiragongo, its epic!

The lodge has a unique style of multiple colors; each building painted a different color of the rainbow, which makes it so colorful and stand out beautifully.

Facilities and Services

  • The Lobby – housed by the main castle, is comfy with colorful cushions. On arrival, it is here the lodge manager warmly welcomes you, served a glass of juice to refresh and briefed before proceeding to check into your room.
  • The Restaurant – serves 3 meals a day, that is, breakfast, lunch and dinner, of both local and international delicacies. Lunch and dinner are served 3 courses (starter, main course and dessert). A daily menu for the main meal course is displayed. Visitors that require special consideration for meals or an alternative from the day’s menu make prior communication with the manager.
  • Tea/Coffee is available in the restaurant throughout the day.
  • A Bar – located right next to the restaurant, has a good collection of renowned international wines and spirits in addition to the local beer brands.
  • The Lounge, offers comfort on quality seats, sofas with cushions, and magnificent vistas of Lake Mutanda and the impressive landscape. Even better it has a fireplace to make your evenings cozy.
  • A Library – placed in the lounge, has a good collection of travel information and books including field guides of birds, trees and shrubs, etc.
  • A large deck, extending from the main house (that houses the restaurant, bar and lounge) overlooks the magnificent scenery – Lake Mutanda, the lush highlands and cloudy Volcanoes.
  • Evenings are kept entertained with traditional folklore by the local dancing group
  • Electricity is provided by a generator, switched on from 7:00pm to 10:30pm.
  • Laundry services are available at small cost.

Accommodation at Chameleon Hill Lodge

The lodge has a total of 10 chalets that include 5 doubles and 5 twins. Odd numbers are doubles while even numbers are twins.

Each chalet comprises of 1 large bed for the doubles, 2 beds (not as large as those in the doubles) for the twins. In the twins, beds can be pushed together to form a double. An extra bed can be added in the double room on request, for instance to accommodate a child. Mosquito nets over the bed, in spite of this being a mosquito-free area/zone.

Other extras in the room include extra thick blanket for the colder nights; bottle of drinking water per day; wardrobe; a safe; umbrella, a patio with excellent views over Lake Mutanda, highlands NS Volcanoes

In the en suite bathroom you will find, Linen and bath towels, a toilet, shower, and a wash bowl. Hot shower are available 24/7.

In between chalets is a fencing to ensure maximum privacy.

Trackers Lodge Buhoma

Trekker's Tavern Cottages is located at the hilltop in Ruhija overlooking the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park Ruhija side, one of the most famous parks and home to more than half of the world population of mountain gorillas.

The lodge is very eco-friendly and has a lovely cozy atmosphere with 5 spacious cottages all with en suite bathrooms with hot showers and flush toilets.

A place of infinite calm surrounded by untamed majesty and commanding panoramic views of the Virungas on a clear day, the beautiful sunrise, Lake Edward and Bwindi Forest in the south. It is around 15 minutes walk from the Ruhija park headquarters.

The lodge is a perfect place for bird watchers as a variety of Albertine Rift endemics and other special birds can be viewed from the verandas of the cottages. A day walk to the mines offers a bird watcher a chance to see the spotted eagle owl in a day roost, Doherty's bushshrike, Mackinnon's bushshrike, red throated wryneck, dusky twinspot, a variety of waxbills and many others.

Inclusions
  • Private/exclusive transportation using a 4x4 safari vehicle
  • Services of a skilled English-speaking birding guide
  • All park entrance and birding fees in the visited places
  • Accommodation with all meals during the tour
  • Airport transfers

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