Gorilla trekking in Uganda; Shoebills, Wild Chimps and Mountain Gorillas on one spectacular safari
Gorilla trekking in Uganda – Shoebills, Wild Chimps and Mountain Gorillas on one spectacular bespoke Gorilla Safari.
Shoe Bill tours in Uganda
Your eyes are blinded by the equatorial sun as you step off the plane at the ‘compact’ but friendly Entebbe international airport in Uganda. It’s a welcome relief to see your smiling Uganda wildlife guide waiting with a board with your name on it and after a quick visit to a foreign exchange booth and clutching a large wad of Ugandan shillings, it’s time to get in the Landcruiser and head to your first wildlife destination. Trying to avoid the worst of the Kampala traffic, we take the bypass and with windows open and dreams in our heart we breath in the real ‘raw’ Africa; smells, sounds, colours, smiles and a feeling that you are really escaping from life back at home. An hour passes on the road and you find yourself at a flat, open, wetland; with old wooden dugout canoes that appear to have enjoyed better days; yes, that’s your private boat for the Shoebill safari and before long with the push of a long pole, you are heading out into the famous Mwamba wetlands. The Shoebill is easiest seen in the morning when they stalk their main prey, fish or frogs, but they can be spotted all day. For those looking for a more leisurely start to their Uganda gorilla trekking holiday, we recommend the beautiful boat tour across Lake Victoria to reach the wetlands. With luck on our side we may get to see one or two shoebills ‘close up’ fishing, or maybe after they have taken off in the air looking for the next best fishing grounds.
Chimp trekking in Kibale national park
By mid-morning we are back in the vehicle and heading north to the world famous Kibale national park. In 5 hours, we go from treeless wetlands, to one of the best preserved forests in Uganda. To make sure that you are fully immersed in the habitat, we choose Primate Lodge, which is literally a 5 minute walk to the forest gate and surrounded by beautiful secondary tropical forest. Enjoy bird watching and maybe even primate watching from your tent, as you get an early nights sleep, in preparation for the chimp trekking in Kibale booked for the following morning. Early risers get the worn, so you ‘bounce’ out of bed and assemble by the entrance gate to Kibale. After a quick, but important briefing on what to expect with the chimp trekking experience, you start you walk with a designated park guard and try to avoid falling over the omnipresent tree roots, while scanning the trees for primate action at the same time. The heat and humidity do not make the chimp trekking in Kibale easy or comfortable, but it is all worth it when your guide suddenly stopped and points up into the canopy. Amazing, a family of chimps with close to 100 members and if we are extremely lucky we may get to see them up close and personal. Taking photos of primates high in the canopy is a challenging proposition, as exposure levels on your camera are very tricky. However, after 10 minutes of neck ache and hopeful photography, we witnessed an amazing ‘mass descent’ of the chimp family to the forest floor and started to be concerned about chimps landing on our heads. This was simply a stunning wildlife spectacle and to be right in the middle of the action was a privilege and we didn’t know whether to freeze like statues, or move quickly to the side, so we were not to close to these most charismatic of primates.
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi impenetrable national park
We drag ourselves away from Kibale and choose to stop off en route to Bwindi at Queen Elizabeth national park. We have time here to take a boat safari on the beautiful Kazinga Channel and then drive around the famous ‘Leopards Loop’ in the hope of some late afternoon/early evening big cat action, before driving back to our wildlife lodge. Some of us may have chosen to drive 2 hours further south to the Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth national park; which is famous for its unique and beautiful tree-climbing lions. The first time we visited this area in 2005, we were lucky enough to see both a female and male lion on two separate huge fig trees, as they escaped the hear of the midday sun.
We arrived into Bwindi and quickly settled into our spectacular Bwindi jungle lodge. With incredible views from the restaurant down into the thick jungle, we knew where our gorilla trekking would take us the following day. The gorilla trekking debrief is important, as they need to ascertain if everyone due to trek is physically able and not suffering from viral colds/flu; which could easily be passed on to one of our closet relatives. After the debrief, you will either get into vehicles to drive to the nearest trailhead or start from the Bwindi park headquarters themselves. If you start from the base, you are likely to face a tricky 45 minutes to 1 hour walking up steep, vegetated slopes before the gradient starts to even out and for sure, this will be the most challenging part of the gorilla trek from a physical point of view. Once the gorilla family has been spotted by the advance party of gorilla trackers, you will be asked to drop your bags and food and only ‘walk-in’ with your cameras and videos. You will then experience more ‘animal magic’ and intense physical emotions, than you may have ever experience in your life. The walk back to the lodge will just be a blur as your emotions reach a different high.
For more information on our very personal and bespoke gorilla trekking holidays please visit the website, or contact Allan on WhatsApp – who has visited this amazing country multiple times and had the honour of going gorilla trekking 3 times.