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Uganda Gorilla Trekking & Chimps, Rwanda Golden monkeys and Congo Nyiragongo Volcano Hike - 8 Days 

Gorillas and Wildlfe Safaris Hall of Fame Trip Advisor RecommendedExcellent combination of Uganda, Rwanda and Congo DRC with Uganda gorilla trekking & chimps, Rwanda golden monkeys and Congo Nyiragongo volcano hike. The tour considers more primate visitation in Kibale National Park, canoe trekking in Bwindi and lots of local indigenous cultural experiences. We ensure the highest level of safety for our clients, more especially in the Congo where we even have armed escorts for your trip. The tour can begin on any day of the year. We can start/end in Uganda (Entebbe Airpot) or Rwanda (Kigali Airport). This Uganda Rwanda and Congo safari tour combinations also goes through some of the most memorable scenery on earth along the journey. We also help arrange the Congo tourist visa for the tour.

Overview
Itinerary
Inclusions
Overview

Uganda Gorilla Trekking, Rwanda Golden monkeys and Congo Nyiragongo Volcano Hike - 8 Days 

  • Day 1: Kibale National Park
  • Day 2: Chimpanzee Tracking in Kibale National Park
  • Day 3: Drive to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
  • Day 4: Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
  • Day 5: Canoeing in the morning, Transfer to Rwanda Volcano National Park
  • Day 6: Golden monkeys tracking &  trader to Lake Kivu, near border with Congo
  • Day 7: Climbing mountain Nyiragongo
  • Day 8: Descent and Drive back to Kigali Airport in Rwanda for departure flight.
Itinerary

Day 1: Start the Uganda Safari with driving to Kibale National Park, 

Our guide meets you from your hotel in Kampala or Entebbe at 08:00AM (or airport but arriving before 11am). You will get a brief about the holiday experience ahead of you before starting the drive westwards towards Fort Portal to the Kibale Forest National Park (about 5 hours).

Traveling on both asphalt and unpaved roads, you pass through traditional Ugandan villages where you see people at work tending their traditional crops of millet, sorghum, beans and maize. The lush rolling hills of this region provide good photo opportunities.

As you approach Fort Portal in the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains, you enter Uganda's famous tea plantation region. A carpet of green spreads before you, as far as the eye can see, and seems an unusual contrast to the countryside through which you have just passed.

In the afternoon we visit a nearby forest swamp that is excellent for viewing primates and other forest animals. At the Eastern edge of Kibale forest is Bigodi Wetland sanctuary which is maintained by the local community. You will expect birds like the great Blue turaco, blue monkeys, baboons, otters, mongoose, bush bucks, bush pigs and among others. 

You arrive at Fort Portal, then, continue toward Kibale Forest, one of the great African rainforest research reserves.

Accommodation options available (all on full board basis)

Up-market: Kyaninga Lodge | Crater Safari Lodge | Ndali Lodge

Moderate: Isunga Lodge | Kibale Forest Camp (ensuite safari tents)

Low Budget: Kibale Forest Camp (Tents)| Chimpanzee Forest Guesthouse (ensuite rooms in the main house )

Day 2: Chimpanzee Tracking in Kibale National Park & Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary

Assemble at Kanyankyu River camp at 08:00 hours to go for the most popular activity in this park which is chimpanzee tracking.

Chimpanzees are man’s closest cousins though they are one of the most threatened primate species. More primates like black and white colobus monkeys, L’Hoest monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabey, red-tailed monkeys, bush babies, pottos and many bird species like the yellow spotted nicator, rumped tinker bird, little greenbul, green breasted pitta, the crowned eagle, black bee-eater and mammals like elephants can be seen in this walk.

Kibale National park, which averages about 3,300 feet in elevation, is an extension of the great rainforests of central Africa. It is inhabited by three large communities of chimps, each numbering more than 100 individuals. Each community has a complicated social structure. The big adult males dominate the group and defend the community territory against incursions by male outsiders; the females usually wander in small family groups.

Typically, we locate the chimps by listening for their pant-hooting calls, then hustle to the area from which they are calling. We get to observe them as they feed in fruiting trees, lounge, and socialise with each other, or even, occasionally hunt.

Accommodation options available (all on full board basis)

Up-market: Kyaninga Lodge | Crater Safari Lodge | Ndali Lodge

Moderate: Isunga Lodge | Kibale Forest Camp (ensuite safari tents)

Low Budget: Kibale Forest Camp (Tents)| Chimpanzee Forest Guesthouse (ensuite rooms in the main house )

Day 3: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Depart early morning for Bwindi for your gorilla trek.

Seasons allowing, you will drive through the Ishasha sector hoping to spot wildlife along the way. It is common to spot elephants, buffalo, tree-climbing lions and many antelopes species along the way. Alternatively you can pay the park's entrance fee ($40) to enjoy a full-scale game drive.  Arrival in Bwindi is in the late afternoon.

Uganda Gorilla Trek Accommodation options  (all on full board basis)

Up-market: Mahogany Springs Lodge | Buhoma Lodge |Chameleon Hill Lodge 

Moderate: Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge| Engagi LodgeSilverback Lodge Bwindi |  Gorilla Mist Camp

Low Budget: Gorilla Haven Lodge RushagaRushaga Gorilla Camp | Ruhija Gorilla Friends Camp |  Gorilla Conservation Camp

Day 2: Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Today enjoy gorilla trekking in Bwindi.

After breakfast, proceed for the morning briefing before enjoying the highlight of the trip - gorilla trekking, which may last the entire day. We trek the gorillas through the rainforest and bamboo covered slopes, accompanied by a guide and gorilla trackers, in search of a mountain gorilla family. The walking can sometimes be tough and long, but when you catch a glimpse of the magnificent silverback, any discomforts will be quickly forgotten. When the gorillas are sighted, visitors will be guided to within 6 metres from the gorillas, sit around them for a whole hour while gazing into their big round eyes.

Gorilla trekking is unpredictable. It's difficult to foresee how many hours you will hike. The gorilla tracking excursion can take from 2 up to 8 hours. Expect to walk along distance in steep and muddy conditions, sometimes with rain overhead, before you encounter any gorillas. A good physical condition is recommended. For conservation purposes, time spent with the gorillas is limited to one hour. A ranger will brief you on how to behave with the gorillas.

While most of today's forests are no more than 12,000 years old, Bwindi's vegetation has been weaving itself into tangles over at least 25,000 years, in the process accumulating a lengthy species list. This includes 310 species of butterfly, 51 reptiles, 200 trees, 88 moths and an exceptional 120 types of mammal including 10 primates. The latter includes chimpanzee, L'Hoest's, red-tailed and blue monkey, black and white colobus, baboon, and Bwindi's most famous resident, the mountain gorilla.

Bwindi is a prime destination for birdwatchers. Its 350 species include seven which are IUCN red data listed and 90% of all Albertine rift endemics, species which are difficult or impossible to see in any other part of East Africa.

Uganda Gorilla Trek Accommodation options available (all on full board basis)

Up-market: Mahogany Springs Lodge | Buhoma Lodge |Chameleon Hill Lodge 

Moderate: Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge| Engagi LodgeSilverback Lodge Bwindi |  Gorilla Mist Camp

Low Budget: Gorilla Haven Lodge RushagaRushaga Gorilla Camp | Ruhija Gorilla Friends Camp |  Gorilla Conservation Camp

Day 3: Half Day Canoe Trekking on Lake Bunyonyi, Transfer to Rwanda 

After breakfast, we drive to Lake Bunyonyi. On arrival, set out for a 5-hour canoe trek as well as bird watching on the beautiful Lake Bunyonyi, traversing to the gorgeous Kyabahinga peninsula. Here you will be gladly welcomed with songs plus dances by the resident school children. You will enjoy with the locals at least a cup of “Obushera” which is a local brew. You will ascend the Kyabahinga slopes having a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the birdlife and the verdant terrain. The view is very breathtaking! The guide will certainly brief you about the history of the area.
Among the bird species you will see are the Dusky Tutle Dove, the Handsome Francolin and Alpine Chat. A renown herbalist who is a tradition healer -Omugurusi Jeremiah, based on the hill top will disclose to you some of the secretes about the flora on the tropical highland. 

You will then cross the border via Kyanika post.

Located in the far north-west of Rwanda, Parc des Volcans is home to the steep slopes of this wonderful mountain range – home of the rare mountain gorilla – and the rich mosaic of montane ecosystems, which cuddles evergreen and bamboo forest, open grassland, swamp and heath.

Accommodation options available

Up-market: Mountain Gorilla View Lodge | Five Volcanoes Lodge

Moderate: Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge 

Low Budget:  Muhavura Hotel

Day 6: Golden Monkey Tracking in Volcanoes national park , Transfer to Lake Kivu (DRC-Rwanda Border) 

An early morning go to park headquarters pick your guide and go to track Golden monkey and in the afternoon, drive to the border of Rwanda and DRC, enter the country via Goma town, and proceed to your hotel check in.

Accommodation options available

Up-market: Lake Kivu Serena Hotel

Moderate: Paradise Malahide

Low Budget:  Paradise Malahide 

Day 7: Climbing Mount Nyiragongo Volcano 

We depart from the hotel to the border  Goma, overnight on the volcano and return to Goma at the Grande Barriere border crossing by 7:00 am and check-in with Virunga tourism office by 8:00 am on the morning of the scheduled trek. The tourism office is conveniently located in the Grande Barriere border post building, opposite passport control. During check-in, guests will be provided with a volcano trek permit that must be presented before climbing.

Once check-in is complete, guests will be transported to Kitabi Ranger Post, starting point for the Nyiragongo volcano trek. The ascent up the volcano starts around 10:00am with most climbing groups reaching the summit by 5:00pm. 

On arrival to Kibati, guests will receive a briefing and will have the opportunity to hire porters. The climb up the Nyiragongo volcano will take around four to six hours and trekkers will overnight on the summit.

The party will be lead and escorted by a set of rangers/guides and a small contingent of porters.

For the first two hours of the walk, you will traverse a lush pristine forest, where towering trees offer a welcome shelter from the sun until you emerge from the forest onto a small plateau with commanding views that stretch towards the infinite horizon, with Lake Kivu, Bukavu, Rwanda and Burundi at your feet. You are now standing on the lava flow remnants of Mount Nyiragongo’s 2002 eruption.

From here on, the climbing trail becomes firmer and the forest gives way to several swathes of recovering heath with vegetation dominated by ferns, sedges, heather and everlastings.  Shortly afternoon, you will reach Mount Nyiragongo’s crater and your overnight cabins.

The remainder of the afternoon will be spent exploring the crater's edge and soaking in the surrounding views and Mount Nyiragongo's’ bewitching lava cauldron. Fortunately, your guides know exactly how to reach the best observation and photogenic spots safely.

When everyone has had enough, the party will return to camp to settle into their cabins, rest and enjoy an early supper.

At 18h00 you will return to a designated spot at the crater's edge to gaze and appreciate again Mount Nyiragongo’s molten lava lake. In the dark of night, one is able to appreciate better the dark crusty surface of lava, spliced and splitting into ever-changing plates. As the plates separate, bright orange lava fill the cracks and a fantastic spider-web pattern emerges. Every now and then fountains of lava flare-up disrupting these pretty patterns, but adding a surge of dynamism and power to this spectacular sight.  Sometimes, fountains appear throughout the crust like a collection of campfires, creating yet another fascinating show.

Day 8: Descent from Mount Nyiragongo, Transfer to Kigali departure flight back home (about 3.5 hrs drive).

After a rather early cup of tea/coffee, you will be summoned back to the crater’s rim at dawn for one last peek. Wrapped in warm clothing you greet the new day as the intense red and yellow glow of the lava below mixes with a backdrop of blue and indigo skies.   

After breakfast, the party will commence its descent from to Kibati. The descent generally takes 2-3 hours. Back at Kibati, your transport will be waiting to take you back to Goma before crossing back into Rwanda.  It will be about 3 hours of driving before we arrive Kigali International Airport from where you catch your departure flight.

 

Inclusions
  • gorilla trek permits
  • Kibale Chimps/ primate trek permit
  • Meals indicated on programme
  • Drinking water
  • Services of an experienced English-speaking safari guide
  • Accommodation as per safari programme
  • Park fees for the various parks
  • Private transport using a 4x4 safari vehicle
  • DRC Tourist Visa
  • Border assistance at Goma (DRC Border post)

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Enquire about this safari and tour prices.

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THE MOUNTAIN GORILLA TREKKING EXPERIENCE

Mountain gorillas are wild animals and, as such, sightings cannot be guaranteed. However, for the last 14 years, no one has trekked the gorillas and failed to see them in Uganda. Certainly, you won't be the one with bad luck! On the trek, once you find the gorillas, you will be allowed an hour with the gorillas and you can only go not more than 6 meters from them.  As the gorilla tracking can sometimes take a full day, you will need to go with your packed lunch and lots of drinking water when trekking to the gorillas.

Gorilla trekking timings and conditions vary tremendously as the gorillas move continuously through the rain forest. It is good to be prepared and remember the weather can change with very little warning. The terrain is often steep and through areas where there are no marked paths.

TIPS FOR THE BEST GORILLA TREKKING EXPERIENCE IN UGANDA

 Secure Gorilla Trekking permits early

Gorilla Trekking is the most popular foreign tourist activity for Uganda. On every single day, only 128 tourists can trek the gorillas in Bwindi. Uganda has the cheapest gorilla permits prices at USD600 (or USD700 beginning July 2020) for safe gorilla tracking as Rwanda's gorilla permits cost USD1500. This means the competition is quite high for the few gorilla permits in Uganda and it becomes hard to secure gorilla trekking permits a few days to your Uganda gorilla tour (although it is often possible with luck more so in the green season months of October, November, April and May).  It is best to have your gorilla trek permit fully confirmed at least 4 months in advance.

Assess your fitness levels 

There is a likelihood you could walk for 3-6 hours on a gorilla trek. Gorillas are located deep in Bwindi forest with thick undergrowth over several steep volcanic slopes. Gorilla groups keep roaming this forest looking for their favorite food. They are never stationed in the same place over days. Your gorilla trek will follow this same trend and it is quite unpredictable knowing how long or tough your gorilla trekking shall be. The longer trek is not necessarily a problem, just something to be prepared for.  A bit of moderate physical fitness is needed for gorilla trekking in Uganda.

Guides & Porters for the gorilla trek

You will be guided through the forest on your gorilla tracking by a Uganda Wildlife Authority guide whom you will meet at the departure point in the morning of your trek. Your guide can help you book a porter (or two!) so that you can track without having to carry the few essential items listed below in a day pack which you should bring with you. The porters are from the local community and very used to the local conditions and can assist in pushing, pulling and supporting you during your trek to the gorillas. They are usually an additional fee, over and above your safari cost, and you should budget on approximately USD15-20 per porter per day as a fee with additional tipping being optional.

As the porters do not have tracking permits they will be stopped a short distance from the point you will be viewing the mountain Gorillas. Please remember to take whatever you may need from your bag to view the gorillas and rather leave valuables at the lodge/camp.

You will be allowed up to one hour for viewing of the gorillas from when they are sighted by your group. This is to ensure that the wild animals are not overexposed to human presence. Whilst in their presence you will also be required to keep minimum distances from them – generally between 5-7 metres and your guides will ensure this is enforced.

What to pack on gorilla trekking

• Plenty of water – 1-2 litres per person
• High energy snacks in addition to your packed lunch provided by the lodge/camp
• Spare film and batteries for videos and cameras
• Gloves (gardening type are good)
• Waterproof bag to protect photographic equipment
• A hat, sunscreen, mosquito repellent and band-aids might be useful
• A lightweight waterproof jacket/poncho
• Walking sticks are made available at the start of the trek for some of the steeper and more slippery tracks and may prove to be very handy.

Gorilla Trekking Age Limits

The age limit for gorilla trekking is 15 years and the authorities are very strict on this! With special written permission however, a 14yr old might pass.

Videos & Photography for Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

In Uganda, it can be difficult to capture good photos under the dark canopy of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, as the name suggests! If you are very lucky, you may encounter your gorilla family in a clearing.

Here are a few tips for photographing the gorillas in Uganda:

  • If you’re taking photos using a standard point-and-shoot camera, then make sure your camera is fully charged.
  • Always take extra memory cards.
  • Remember that flash photography is not allowed when you are with the gorillas. Make sure you have your camera manual with you so you know how to disable the automatic flash and automatic focus light functions.
  • We recommend a good SLR camera. The best lenses are those with a wide aperture such as f2,8 which allow in max light and are best in gloomy conditions.  A 24 – 70 mm and a 70 – 200 m is a good combination. If you have space then consider a 300mm and a wide angle but it’s a steep walk so consider hiring a porter. A 50 mm 1.4 lens is also ideal for low light shooting and something to consider as a standard lens.
  • Professional filmmakers require permission and need to purchase filming permits in advance from UWA (Uganda) or RDB (Rwanda).
  • Keep your camera and/or phone in a waterproof bag (such as a large Ziploc bag). Cue: you’re in the rainforest.

Professional photographers, film makers or media should advise us at the time of booking as special procedures are required as well as costs to be incurred for photographing and filming.

CAMERA SETTINGS FOR GORILLA PHOTOGRAPHY

File format

Shooting in RAW format is the way to go. A jpeg is smaller in size because it discards a lot of information and so information cannot be retrieved if your exposure is slightly out. If you are shooting in jpeg, make sure your camera is set to the largest file size and also set your white balance according to the light conditions.

ISO and shutter speed

It can get dark in the forest – very dark. And gorillas are very dark subjects. If you have a Nikon D3x or D800 you can shoot at ISO 3200 and get away with it very well. My recommendation however is to try to keep in the range of IS0 800 to 2000 for maximum quality of image. High ISO gives a faster shutter speed but can affect quality and cause noise. Keep ISO as low as possible without getting blurred images. A rule of thumb is don’t shoot below 1/200th of a second with a 200mm lens. If you are using an 80 mm lens then you can shoot at slower speeds of say 1/80th and so on. If the gorillas are on the move you should up your shutter speed to 1/1000th of a second or more.

Metering and priority settings

A good default setting is to use centre weighted metering, aperture priority and an aperture of f5.6 or so. If there is a lot of dark gorilla in the viewfinder you will need to underexpose by up to two stops of light – 2 using your AE +/- button or you will overexpose your image. It is also a good idea to consider manual shooting if you are in fairly consistent lighting conditions. Your camera likes shooting subjects where the differences in exposure are not too extreme and its for this reason that cloudy or shady conditions are often best for shooting dark subjects like gorillas.

Focus

Single point focus is usually always best – you don’t want the camera focusing on the tree instead of the gorilla and usually you will want to lock your focus on the eyes. If you have a group of gorillas that you want to keep as much in focus as possible then focus about 1/3 into the picture. You may want to change focus to multi -point if you have lots of moving subjects but suggest single focus points will give you more control.  You will probably shoot on single shot, but may want to change your focus settings to continuous focus and rapid fire if they are on the move and playful.

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS SHOOTING TIPS

When you are with the gorillas there is a 7 meter buffer rule between you and animals. The reason is that their DNA is so close to ours that it is very easy for them to pick up flu and colds. Gorillas don’t know this rule and so don’t be surprised if they do approach closer (and be ready for it with a wide lens available), but if the guides ask you to move away then always do so smartly.

Your time with the gorillas is precious. Don’t shoot away wildly. Plan your shots. Close ups, wide shots, angles and framing. Think about your options. Also don’t forget the wide shots of Make sure that you don’t spend the whole time looking through the lens. Sit and watch and consider the fact that you are watching one of the gentlest and most fascinating creatures on the planet.

As with all wildlife photography it’s about the moment. Try to catch the little moments such as when the gorillas are interacting or when the sun catches their eyes. Also why not video your friends as soon as its over and let them tell you about their experiences of this fantastic experience.

NYIRAGONGO VOLCANO TREKS

Nyiragongo is a beautiful stratovolcano that features the world’s largest lava lake. The volcano’s forested lower slopes are home to a variety of animals, including chimpanzees, monkeys, and bushbuck. Nyiragongo’s summit rim is largely devoid of vegetation and is sometimes dusted with snow. From the rim, visitors can peer down into a churning lava lake and see and hear hot gases exploding up though a mosaic of molten lava. Although predictable and therefore safe for tourists, Nyiragongo is greatly feared during eruptions. Because of the low silica content of its lava, Nyiragongo’s lava flows are extremely fluid. During the 2002 eruption, some of Nyiragongo’s lava flows were clocked at 100 km/hr (62 mph) and reached all the way to Lake Kivu.

Treks to the summit of Nyiragongo volcano begin at the Kibati patrol post. Park rangers lead all treks and porters (unaffiliated with the park) are available for hire. The time required to reach the summit depends on the average fitness of each group, but typically takes 4 – 6 hours. Altitude sickness can be an issue for some because the climb begins at 1989m (6,525 ft) and ascends to 3470m (11,382ft) in a short time. Proper hydration is the best way to adapt to the change in altitude. People prone to Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) should speak to their physicians about taking preventative measures before making the climb. It is possible for fitter people to climb up and descend in one day, but the vast majority choose to overnight in the basic accommodations available at the top (included in the permit fee) because the best time to view the lava lake is at night.

IMPORTANT NOTES:

1. All climbs begin promptly at 10:00 am. Late arrivals will not be allowed to climb and permits are non-refundable. For security reasons, there will be no exceptions. The Kibati ranger station, which is the trailhead for Nyiragongo, is approximately 30 minutes from Goma by car. Kibati is approximately 45 minutes from Bukima Tented Camp and Mikeno Lodge by car. All climbers must check-in at the Kibati station by no later than 9:15 am on the day of their climb. Climbers typically descend the volcano at between 6:30 – 7:00 am the next morning and arrive back at Kibati station by 11:30 am. If one intends to fly out of Kigali on the same day, please make sure not to schedule your departure flight before 6 pm.

2. Trekkers are strongly advised to bring full rain and cold weather gear (moisture-wicking base layer, sweater or fleece, jacket, rain resistant pants, long underwear, warm socks, hat, and a 0°C/32° – rated sleeping bag). Temperatures at the summit are routinely below freezing. Although most people arrive at the summit sweating from the steep climb, this sense of warmth quickly gives way to cold. A complete change of base layers is a must. Failure to bring proper gear will lead to hypothermia. Please do not endanger yourself and others by coming unprepared for these conditions.

3. All guests can arrange packed meal service and gear rental for the trip at an additional charge at checkout. Packed meal service includes snacks, lunch, and dinner on Day 1 and breakfast and snacks on Day 2. Water is also included for both days. The gear package includes a sleeping bag, jacket, fleece top, hat and rain poncho. Porters can be hired at the base of the climb to carry loads for $24 round trip (gratuity not included). The maximum weight that porters are authorized to carry is 15 kg. Porters can be arranged by speaking with a Virunga National Park ranger at the Kibati station.

4. Packed meal plan includes snacks, lunch, and dinner on Day 1 and breakfast and snacks on Day 2. Water is also included for both days.

The gear package includes a sleeping bag, jacket, fleece top, hat and rain poncho. Porters can be hired at the base of the climb to carry loads for $24 round trip (gratuity not included). The maximum weight that porters are authorized to carry is 15 kg. Porters can be arranged by speaking with a Virunga National Park ranger at the Kibati station.