Shoebills, Tree Climbing Lions and the Mountain Gorilla
Mabamba Swamp – Shoebills
The Mabamba Swamps west of Entebbe is one of the best and most convenient places to see the elusive Shoebill. After a few minutes in a small canoe the papyrus reeds opens up into a flat grassy wetlands where a number of Shoebill can regularly be seen. The bird is easiest seen in the morning when they stalk their main prey, the mudfish or frogs, but may be spotted all day.
They may stand absolutely still for long periods awaiting the movements of their prey and then suddenly strike with speed. Although one can reach Mabamba by road we highly recommend the boat tour across Lake Victoria. Reaching Mabamba by boat, rather than by car, gives you an opportunity to see many of the birds that you may otherwise miss. Sometimes even the shoebill may elude you in the canoes only to be seen as you approach, or leave, by the bigger boat.
Birding in the Mabamba Bay wetland (a Ramsar site chosen as a wetland of international importance in 2006) offers birders a very high prospect of seeing other papyrus specialist birds like the African Jacana, Malachite Kingfisher, Saddle-billed Stork, and the Long-toed plover. Some of the special swamp birds in Mabamba include the Papyrus Gonolek, White-winged Warbler, Blue-headed Coucal, Northern Brown-throated Weaver, and the yellow-backed weaver. Globally threatened birds such as the Papyrus Yellow Warbler and the Blue Swallow are also possible for the keen birder. Although not common. Sitatunga Antelope can also be seen in the swamp
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Tree Climbing Lions and Chimpanzees
Queen Elizabeth National Park is understandably Uganda’s most popular tourist destination. The park’s diverse ecosystems, which include impressively vast savanna, shady, humid forests, sparkling lakes and fertile wetlands, make it the ideal habitat for big game, ten primate species including chimpanzees and over 600 species of birds. Set against the backdrop of the jagged Rwenzori Mountains, the park’s magnificent landscapes include dozens of enormous craters carved dramatically into rolling green hills, panoramic views of the Kazinga Channel and the endless Ishasha plains, whose fig trees hide lions ready to pounce on herds of unsuspecting Uganda kob. As well as its outstanding wildlife attractions, Queen Elizabeth National Park has a fascinating cultural history.
There are many opportunities for visitors to meet the local communities and enjoy storytelling, dance, music and more. The wide bio-diversity of habitats means that Queen Elizabeth National Park contains the most astonishing number of species – almost 100 types of mammal and 606 different birds! The Kasinga Channel alone is said to contain the world’s largest concentration of hippos, but interestingly enough not many crocodiles! Other wildlife includes warthogs, buffalo, rare aquatic sitatunga antelope, giant forest hog, beautifully horned Uganda kob, topi, waterbuck, elephant and leopard.
There are no giraffe, zebra, impala or rhino. Kyambura (or Chambura) Gorge on the north-east boundary of the park, is real Tarzan territory with thick treetop canopies and vines dangling down to the soft forest floor. The terrain comes complete with chimpanzees who crash about and chatter high up in the branches. If they don’t feel like being seen, they just keep one step ahead of the out-of-breath visitors. The Maramagambo Forest, south of the Kasinga Channel is also home to large numbers of chimps, plus a number of other monkey species.
Queen Elizabeth National Park Specialities
Sunset over the water
Warthogs and hippos mowing the lawn at Mweya Lodge
Boat ride on the Kasinga Channel
Chimpanzees in Kyambura (Chambura) Gorge
Beautifully positioned safari lodges
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in southwestern Uganda in East Africa. The park is part of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, and is situated along the Democratic Republic of Congo border next to the Virunga National Park and on the edge of the Albertine Rift. It comprises 331 square kilometres (128 sq mi) of jungle forests and contains both montane and lowland forest and is accessible only on foot. The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site. The forest is one of the richest ecosystems in Africa, and the diversity of species is a feature of the park.
The park provides habitat for some 120 species of mammals, 348 species of birds, 220 species of butterflies, 27 species of frogs, chameleons, geckos and many endangered species. Floristically Bwindi is amongst the most diverse forests in East Africa, with more than 1,000 flowering plant species including 163 species of trees and 104 species of ferns. The northern (low altitude) sector is rich in species of the Guineo-Congolian flora. These include two species internationally recognised as endangered, the brown mahogany and Brazzeia longipedicellata. The park is a sanctuary for colobus monkeys, chimpanzees and many birds (such as hornbills and turacos). It is perhaps most notable for the 400 Bwindi gorillas, just under half of the world’s population of the critically endangered mountain gorillas. There are four habituated mountain gorilla groups open to tourism: Mubare; Habinyanja; Rushegura near Buhoma; and the Nkuringo group at Nkuringo.
The park is inhabited by a population of about 400 individual mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei), known as the Bwindi population, which makes up almost half of all the mountain gorillas in the world. The rest of the worldwide mountain gorilla population is in the nearby Virunga National Park. The current total population estimate in Africa is at around 880 gorillas.
The 4 groups available to trek are: The Mubare group with 16 gorillas and 1 silverback, The Habinyanja group which has about 23 gorillas with 2silver backs, The Rushegura group with 9 gorillas and 1 silver back. The latest of all the gorilla groups in is the Nkuringo group which has about 20 gorillas and 2silver backs. Only 8 people per group are permitted to track the gorillas at any one time. Research on the Bwindi population lags behind that of the Virunga National Park population, but some preliminary research on the Bwindi gorilla population has been carried out by Craig Stanford. This research has shown that the Bwindi gorilla’s diet is markedly higher in fruit than that of the Virunga population, and that the Bwindi gorillas, even silverbacks, are more likely to climb trees to feed on foliage, fruits, and epiphytes. In some months, Bwindi gorilla diet is very similar to that of Bwindi chimpanzees. It was also found that Bwindi gorillas travel further per day than Virunga gorillas, particularly on days when feeding primarily on fruit than when they are feeding on fibrous foods. Additionally, Bwindi gorillas are much more likely to build their nests in trees, nearly always in alchornea floribunda (locally, “Echizogwa”), a small understory tree. Mountain gorillas are an endangered species. Disease and habitat loss are the greatest threat to the gorillas. Poaching is also a threat. There are no mountain gorillas in captivity. In the 1960s and 1970s, mountain gorillas were captured in order to begin a population of them in captive facilities. No baby gorillas survived in captivity, and no mountain gorillas are known to live in captivity.
Enquire about this tour
Prices start from £5000 per person.
Tour is 12 nights and 13 days.