AFRI TOURS AND TRAVEL - SHORT TOURS - MULTI DESTINATION PRIMATES, CULTURE AND WILDLIFE
TOUR CODE 009 - THE BEST OF BIRDING IN UGANDA
(including Murchison Falls, Royal MIle Bigodi Wetland, Semuliki Valley, Queen Elizabeth, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (8 - 10 days, 7 - 9 nights)
The diverse habitats of Uganda make the country an ornithologist’s paradise. Water, wetlands, swamps, mountains, tropical rainforests, savannah, semi-arid dessert make it possible for one to find half of the African continent’s bird species in the Pearl of Africa. Over one thousand species have been recorded. The challenge is, “How many might you sight in this eight or ten day safari?!”
DAY 1: From Kampala, travel to Masindi early morning, passing traditional farms and villages where numerous birds might be sighted including Great Turacos, Ross's Turacos, and Crowned Hornbills. After lunch, proceed to Kaniyo Pabidi, a section of the Budongo forest in Murchison Falls National Park for an afternoon of birding. This forest is home to the Purvel’s Illadopsis (the only place in Uganda to see this wonderful babbler!), White-thighed Hornbill, Black & White Casqued Hornbill, Chocolate-backed Kingfisher, Cardinal & Buff-spotted Woodpecker, Red-tailed Rufous Ant Thrush, Fraser's Rufous Thrush, White-crested Turaco, Black-billed Turaco, Narina's Trogon, Rufous-sided Broadbill, Fire-crested Alethe, Yellow Longbill and many more!
If time allows, tour the Top of Murchison Falls, where the River Nile crashes through a 6 meter gorge and falls 45 meters.The Bare faced Go-away Bird, Pel’s Fishing Owl and Rock Pranticole as well as hundreds of the tiny insect eating bats which come out of the bat caves between 7:20-7:30 have been sighted here. On the way back to the Lodge one has a good chance of seeing Nightjars (Pennant-winged and/or Standard-winged, depending on the time of the year). Dinner and overnight at picturesque Sambiya River Lodge.
(Note: Park rangers have stated that there are more bird species around Sambiya than any other location in the Park! Please refer to the attached Murchison Falls National Park birding list. Be sure to allow enough time to go birding around the Lodge environs!).
Some of the birds recorded around Sambiya River Lodge include: The Red-billed Hornbill, Trilling Cisticola, Nob-billed Duck, Green-backed and Black-headed Herons, African Spoonbill, various Storks (Abdim’s, Saddle-billed, Wooly-necked), Grey-headed & White-helmeted Bush-Shrikes, Black-bellied Bustard, Crested & Heuglin’s Francolins, Falcons, Dark chanting Goshawk, Kestrels, Palm-nut Vulture, White-crested Turaco, Red-throated Bee-Eater, Red-checked Cordon Bleu, numerous Coucals, Cuckoos, Doves, Eagles, Kingfishers, Owls, Warblers (Red-winged, Red-winged Grey, Mustached Grass, Sedge, Grey-backed Camaroptera) and Weavers; Black-crowned & Three-streaked Tchagras, Pin-tailed Whydahs, Yellow-mantled Widowbirds, African Paradise & Black-headed Paradise Flycathers, and Silverbirds.
DAY 2: Awake early in the morning for birding to look for Nightjars and then cross the River Nile by ferry and set off on an early morning quest to sight as many of the spectacular bird life (over 450 species have been reported in the Park) as possible. Your guide helps spot various Eagles, Abyssinian Ground Hornbills, African Hoopoes, Bustards (Denhams, Kori, & Buff-crested), White-rumped Canary, various Vultures, Helmeted Guinea Fowls, Barbets (Black-billed, White-headed, Bishops (Black-winged, Northern-red & Yellow), Grey-headed Oliveback, as well as numerous groups of various Cisticola, Crombecs, Sunbirds, Waxbills, Falcons, Hawks, Goshawks & Shikra. Note: For a comprehensive list, please refer to the attached “Checklist of Birds of Murchison Falls National Park”. Elephant, giraffe, Cape buffalo, Uganda kob and lion may also be seen along the way.
After lunch, take a boat cruise to the base of the majestic Murchison Falls. Some of the Water/Wetland birds found along the River Nile are the numerous Storks (including the rare Shoebill Stork), Red-fronted Parrot, African Jacana, Pranticoles, numerous Bee-eaters (Northern Carmine, Little, & Red-throated), Plovers (Egyptian, Senegal, African Wattled, Caspian, Long-toed just to name a few!), Herons (Black, Grey, Goliath, Night, Purple & Squacco), and various Thick Knees (Senegal, Eurasian, Spotted & Water). Return to the comfort of Sambiya River Lodge for dinner and overnight.
(Note: You may prefer to get off the boat at the base of the Falls and walk up to the Top of the Falls. This needs to be determined before one gets on the boat & Park Authorities notified. Your driver will then meet you at the top and drive you back to Sambiya River Lodge.)
DAY 3: Early morning breakfast then cruise to the Delta area of the Nile in search of the rare Shoe Bill Stork and many other birds that come along the river: various Waders, Snipes, Lapwings and Plovers. After the cruise, drive to Busingiro to bird watch along the famous “Royal Mile”, lunching enroute. The Royal Mile (the south western section of Budongo forest) is considered by many birders as the single best bird watching site in Uganda. Bird species missed in Kanyano Pabidi may be sighted here. Some of the birds recorded include: the African Dwarf Kingfisher, Cabanis’s Bunting, Crested Malimbe, Yellow- spotted Barbet, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Blue-breasted & Chocolate-backed Kingfishesr, Blue Throated Roller, Spotted Greenbul, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo, Sabine’s & Cassin’s Spinetails, Rufous-crowned Eremomela, Brown’s Twinspot & Buff-throated Apalis. Dinner and overnight at Nyabyeya Forestry College’s self-contained rooms. (B)
(Note: If the Shoebill Stork is seen on Day 2, the Delta cruise can be omitted and birders can proceed directly to the Royal Mile for more time there.)
DAY 4: Early morning departure to Fort Portal, birding on the way. Some of the birds you might look for include the Purple-banded Sunbird, Black & White Flycatcher, Striped Kingfisher amoung others. Dinner and overnight at Chimp Guest House (B, self-contained).
DAY 5: Leave early morning for birding in the Bigodi Wetlands (Kibale National Park), this swamp is home to the White-tailed Ant-thrush, Purple-headed Glossy Starling, Brown Illadopsis, Green- breasted Pitta, White-napped Pigeon, Mashed Apalis, Toro olive green bul, Blacked-billed Turaco, Buff-spotted Woodpecker, Green Crombec, Great Blue Turaco as well as many Kingfishers and Hawks. After the day’s birding, dinner and overnight at Mt. of the Moon Hotel (M).
(Note: Instead of a whole day of birding, one may choose to go chimp trekking in the morning and birding in the Wetlands in the afternoon).
DAY 6: After an early breakfast depart for Semuliki Valley National Park for a morning’s birding adventure (Not all areas are easily accessible, especially during rains). This park is famous for rare birds including: the Capuchin Babbler, Swamp Palm Bubul, Fiery-breasted Bush-Shrike, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Black-throated Coucal, Congo Serpent Eagle, Long-tailed Hawk, numerous Hornbills (Piping, Red-billed Dwarf, Black Dwarf, White-crested, Black-casqued, Wattled & White-thighed), Spot-breasted Ibis, White-bellied Kingfisher, Black Collared Lovebird, Yellow-throated Nicator, Northern Bearded Scrub-Robin, Western Bronze Napped Pigeon, Red-rumped Tinkerbird, Lyre-tailed & Zenker’s Honeyguides, White-throated Blue Swallow, Bate’s Nightjar, Yellow-throated Cuckoo, Orange-tufted sunbird, Black-winged Oriole, Red-chested Owlet, Red-billed Helmet-Shrike, Rufous-sided Broadbill, Icterine Greenbul, Crested & Blue-billed Malimbes, Grey-throated & Nkulengu Rails, Waxbills (Yellow-bellied, Black-faced, Black-checked, Common, Crimson, Fawn-breasted), and Finches (Red-billed, African Fire, & Pale-fronted Negrofinch). After a packed lunch, depart for Queen Elizabeth National Park, a few of the birds that you might see along the way include the White-tailed Lark, Brimstone Canary, the Southern Red Bishop, and the African Penduline Tit. Overnight at Jacanna Safari Lodge situated on the outskirts of Maramagambo Forest. This forest is home to the Black Bee-eater, Shining-Blue Kingfisher, as well as the Grey-winged & Red-capped Robin-Chats and many more.
DAY 7: Your day begins with the excitement of a sunrise bird/game drive in Queen Elizabeth National Park (over 611 bird species have been reported). Too numerous to list all, some of the special birds include the Lesser Swamp Warbler, Black-rumped Buttonquail, Martial Eagle, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl and Yellow-billed Ox-pecker. If time allows, tour the volcanic area of the park with its many salt lakes and extinct craters. Depending on the time of the year, tour Lake Katwe to check on the Lesser Flamingos depending on the season (present December-April).
After lunch take an afternoon boat trip along Kazinga Channel between Lakes Edward and George, home to the African Skimmer, Green Backed Heron, Grey-headed Gull, African Spoonbill, African Crake, Water Think Knee, Three-banded Plover, and numerous Sandpipers (Marsh, Green, Wood & Common). Dinner and overnight at the beautifully situated Jacana Safari Lodge. (M)
DAY 8: After breakfast, depart Queen Elizabeth National Park for Kampala while birding along the way. Some of the birds you may possibly see include the Long-crested Eagle, various Swallows and Rollers.
End of Service.
Itinerary for a Two Day Extention to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (a World Heritage Site) for more forest birding (over 350 bird species have been reported) and gorilla trekking.
Day 8: After an early breakfast, depart for Bwindi via Ishasha to look for Tree Climbing Lions and more birds! Arrive Buhoma. If you arrive early in the afternoon, you can go for forest birding on the River Ivi Trail. Some of the birds to look for include: the African Green Broadbill, Black Bee-Eater, Ansorge’s Greenbul, Brown-capped Weaver, Equatorial Alcalat, African & Green-breasted Pitta, Piping Hornbill, Gauer’s Warbler, Ludher’s Bush-Shrike, Narina Trogon, Oriole Finch, Red-throated Alethe, White-browed & Short-tailed Warblers, White-bellied Robin Chat, Western Bronze-napped Pigeon. Dinner and overnight at Engagi Lodge (M) or Buhoma Community Rest Camp(B).
Day 9: After an early breakfast, enter the sanctuary at dawn and enjoy the beauty and freshness of the forest, home of the mountain gorillas. After a short briefing by your guides, proceed through the dense bush to trek for these endangered animals. Other primates also live in the forest including the black and white Colobus monkey, red-tailed monkey and chimpanzee. Enjoy a packed lunch enroute and time permitting, visit the cultural village of the Batwa pygmies. Interact with their traditional healers, see how they make a local “brew” out of bananas and watch their traditional dances. Alternatively, you may decide to go on one last birding adventure, taking the Munyaga River Trail.
(Note: Trekkers must be at least 15 years of age. For gorilla trekking it is good to bring light rain gear, water bottle, backpack and warmer clothes for cooler nights at higher altitudes. Please see additional notes on the Afri Tours website and rules for gorilla trekking published by Uganda Wildlife Authority.)
Day 10: Return to Kampala after breakfast, driving north-east through the Kigezi Highlands, known as the “Switerland of Africa”. The trip takes you through banana plantations and drives you through herds of Ankole cattle, with their incredible long horns. Cross the Equator, through savannah grasslands and swamps. You may see the Martial Eagle, Black Crowned Crane, Sacred Ibis, Crested Eagle, Lizard Buzzard, Grey Heron and many more along the way!
1. This safari can be extended if you feel that you would like to spend more time in any of the above destinations or additional destinations.
2. The (B) after an accommodation stands for Budget (i.e., Shared toilet & shower facilities), the (M) after and accommodation stands for Mid-range (i.e., Up market & self-contained toilet/shower facilities). The accommodations we have suggested above are our favorites; considering the facility, the environs for birding and the routes of travel. If you would like a quotation for an itinerary staying at luxury accommodation, just ask!
3. Birding in Uganda is good throughout the year, but you may want to take the following into consideration when booking your safari:
a) Although the global weather patterns are changing, traditionally it rains in March, April, May, August & September. In many parts of Uganda it will rain and then the sun will come out. In other parts of Uganda like Bwindi, Mt. Elgon, and Semuliki it may rain whole days.
b) January and February are dry months and there are fewer leaves on the trees, so it is easier to sight birds.
c) If you do not want to see migrant birds, June – October are good months to come birding in Uganda. Migrants are present November – February.
d) Many birders consider birding in Uganda the best October – April. March & April are when the immature birds can be sighted.
4. Remember to bring: good bug spray, good binoculars, lightweight long sleeved shirts & pants, sleeveless jacket with pockets, sturdy hiking shoes, a lightweight collapsible stool if desired, and an African bird book of your choice. See recommendations below.
Birds of Africa South of the Sahara: A comprehensive illustrated field guide (2003) by Ian Sinclair & Peter Ryan. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
Birds of East Africa: Kenya Tanzania, Uganda Rwanda, and Burundi (2002) by Terry Stevenson & John Fanshawe. Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton N.J.
Bird Sound CD’s:
“African Bird Sounds” by Claude Chappuis (2001). 15 CDs covering some 1460 species. Various bird sounds on CD’s are referred to and cross referenced in Sinclair & Ryan’s bird book above.