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Great Ape Safari Itinerary

On this safari, you will visit Kibale Forest with habituated groups of chimpanzees, track gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, cross the equator and visit Queen Elizabeth National Park and the Kazinga Channel, Kyambura Gorge and its population of chimpanzees, Ishasha Wilderness Area with tree climbing lions, and more. Then you will cross the border into Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park where, apart from mountain gorillas, there are golden monkeys and other rare fauna and flora endemic to this region. You will have an option to hike to Dian Fossey's original Karisoke Research Station, and more.

 

Be sure to bring along your hiking poles; they will definitely be useful.

Day 1: Arrive in Entebbe, Uganda

Accommodations: Lake Heights Hotel

Meals: Dinner

Upon arrival in Entebbe, you will be met by your safari guide at the airport and transferred to your hotel where you can relax. Dinner (around 8PM) is included, and you will be briefed on the safari and given more details about the schedule for the following morning.

Day 2: Entebbe-Kibale Forest

Accommodations: Primate Lodge

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After breakfast, travel to Kibale Forest National Park in Western Uganda. The park is rich with fauna and flora, with over 370 species of bird and a record-breaking 13 species of primate including Uganda's biggest single population of chimpanzees. After arriving at the hotel in the afternoon and freshening up, enjoy an educational session focusing on the ecology of Kibale Forest and its inhabitants, and learn about your trek to see chimpanzees the following morning. Particulars of the hike, and what to expect, will be discussed.

Day 3: Chimpanzee Habituation Experience

Accommodations: Primate Lodge

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Wake up early and go on a chimpanzee habituation experience where we trek deep into the forest to meet a group of wild chimpanzees. Spend the day following the troop on their daily routine with our resident experts who have a deep understanding and keen knowledge of all aspects of this remarkable forest. Follow the chimps from dawn until dusk, quite literally a day in the life of a wild chimpanzee troop! If you brought hiking poles along, this is a good opportunity to use them. While the terrain in this area is mostly flat, there is a lot of underbrush that makes it more challenging than walking on a lawn, for example. Hiking difficulty: Easy to moderate.

Day 4: Kibale - Queen Elizabeth National Park

Accommodations: Queen Elizabeth Bush Lodge

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After breakfast, travel to Queen Elizabeth National Park, crossing the equator where we will have the opportunity for a photo stop. Shortly thereafter, we will take a break in the park to enjoy our packed lunch. As we proceed through the park and on the way to the lodge, you may encounter some of the amazing wildlife endemic to the park, such as Ugandan Kobs, lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo, and more. In the late afternoon, enjoy a game drive for several hours in the park before returning to the lodge to relax as the sun sets on a wonderful day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included. Note: The "African Tea" that they serve here is wonderful - have it spiced with ginger for a treat that is reminiscent of chai!

Day 5: Chimpanzee Tracking and Boat Trip

Accommodations: Queen Elizabeth Bush Lodge

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Join local guides at Kyambura Gorge, a forested canyon within the Queen Elizabeth National Park. Spend up to 3 hours tracking a group of wild chimpanzees and learn the subtle differences in behavior that this isolated population displays, versus the group tracked a couple of days earlier. This is another good opportunity to use hiking poles. The hiking terrain is steep at times and may also be slippery if it has rained recently. Hiking difficulty: Moderate to difficult. Later, return to the lodge for a relaxing lunch where we can discuss the morning’s activities. In the afternoon, enjoy a boat trip on the Kazinga Channel. This is a passage of water that connects Lake George and Lake Edward. On the boat trip, expect to see a plethora of bird and mammal species in all their glory so make sure you have your camera handy!

Day 6: Ishasha - Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

Accommodations: Buhoma Community Camp

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After breakfast, travel to the remote wilderness of Ishasha, an area famous for abundant wildlife and most notably, a unique population of the tree climbing lions. We will take a game drive through the park for a few hours in the hopes of seeing elephants, buffalo, Topi, Uganda Kob, many species of birds, and tree climbing lions. After enjoying our packed lunch at the park, the drive will continue to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park with it's population of half of the remaining mountain gorillas.

Day 7: Gorilla Tracking or other activities

Accommodations: Bumoa Community Camp

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Note: If you wish to track the gorillas on this day, it will add an additional $600 to your final tour price. Otherwise, we have a couple of other options that can also be explored:

 

1. Gorilla Tracking (add $600): After breakfast, assemble at the briefing point to learn about the day ahead by the ranger guides who have a deep knowledge of the forest where chimpanzees and gorillas reside. This will be an experience of a lifetime. Time taken to track the gorillas varies from under 1 hour to 8 hours, depending on where the group slept the night before. After locating the gorillas, we spend some time with them and slowly return to our lodge to recount our stories and enjoy a well earned rest. This is a good opportunity to use hiking poles; if you do not have your own, you can rent them here. You can also hire a porter to help carry your backpack and camera equipment. Hiking difficulty: Easy to moderate - depending on where the group is on that day.

 

2. Munyaga Waterfall Trail option: Enjoy a guided forest walk in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest which is home to several endemic bird species (as well as mountain gorillas and chimpanzees), and butterflies as well as rare plants, some of which have medicinal value. Enjoy viewing several waterfalls on this trail, forest views, and views of the Munyaga River. The final waterfall has a vertical drop of 108 feet (33 meters).

 

3. Village Walk to See Community Projects option: Immerse yourself in the culture of Uganda! Visit the Amagara Project, which helps the local community with organic farming practices. The project also helps market locally grown food. Next, visit the Bwindi Community Hospital. This hospital began as a health clinic under a tree! It now provides vital medical and educational services to over 60,000 people. The village walk also lets you discover the traditions of local people, including the Batwa Pygmies who live in the community around Bwindi Forest.

Day 8: Bwindi-Rwanda-Musanze

Accommodations: Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After breakfast, travel from Bwindi Impenetrable Forest across the border into the neighboring country of Rwanda, through stunning scenery with the magnificent Virunga Volcano range, the home of Rwanda’s population of mountain gorillas as a backdrop. We will stop at a scenic location for lunch during our drive between countries. Our destination today is Musanze (formerly called Ruhengeri) at the foothills of Volcanoes National Park. Time permitting, we will also stop at the Traveller's Rest, a quaint hotel in Uganda near the border with Rwanda where Dian Fossey often used to stay when she was not at her research station. 

Day 9: Gorilla Tracking or other options

Accommodations: Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

There are a couple of options on this day; gorilla tracking is included. If you choose one of the other activities, subtract $250 from the price.

 

1. Hike the slopes of the Virunga Volcanoes to track a group of mountain gorillas, part of the population made famous through the work of primatologists such as George Schaller and Dian Fossey. These volcanoes are part of the Virunga conservation area which is shared between Uganda, the DRC and Rwanda. This mysterious and beautiful national park is also home to the rare and charismatic golden monkey, not to mention a variety of bird species like the Rwenzori Turaco which are endemic to the Albertine Rift Valley. After a short briefing with your guide, there will be a drive to the forested park where you will begin the hike. Time taken to locate and track the gorillas group varies from a few minutes to 8+ hours. Please note that this can be a very difficult hike, especially if it has rained. You may hike from an elevation of about 6,000 ft above sea level to 10,000+ ft above sea level, depending on where the group you are tracking happens to be located on that day. After locating the gorillas, spend some time with them, then return to the lodge. You will be given a packed lunch to bring for the hike, though you are also welcome to eat lunch at the lodge if your hike finishes by lunch time. This is another excellent opportunity to use your hiking poles, or to rent one. You will also have the option to hire a porter to help you with your belongings.

 

2. Track golden monkeys. After breakfast, experienced guides will take you on a search for the elusive Golden Monkey! Just like gorilla tracking, be prepared that it could be a full day out in the field. We cannot guarantee a sighting as these are wild animals. Hiking difficulty: Moderate to very difficult. Be sure to bring or borrow hiking poles for this activity.

 

3. Visit and take a tour of Imbabazi, the former orphanage (and current pre-school and museum) that was started by American Rozamund Carr, who lived in East Africa for the majority of her life. Horrified by the 1994 genocide, Mrs. Carr started the orphanage on her own property, and orphans were housed on site until 2013. Mrs. Carr passed away in 2006 and is buried on site. The land is now run by a trust. Mrs. Carr owned 54 hectares of land (roughly 100 acres), and much of the land is still used as a flower and vegetable garden, raising most of the food served to the children who study here. Over the course of its history as an orphanage, hundreds of children were helped even during the toughest of times. The beautiful Virunga Mountains are clearly visible from this property. Some of the scenes from the movie "Gorillas in the Mist" were filmed here on location. Rozamund Carr and Dian Fossey were both friends and Dian sometimes visited her at the property. Enjoy lunch on premise, followed by a cultural dance to finish you experience.

Day 10: Karisoke Station and Gorilla Doctors

Accommodations: Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

There are a couple of options for the day. Either option is included in the tour price.

 

1. Hike to the Karisoke Research Station where Dian Fossey initiated her studies into the lives of mountain gorillas. The original buildings have long since been abandoned, but you can still see where they used to be; this is definitely a good hike for those who are great admirers of Fossey's work. Her grave is also located here. Note that the Karisoke Research Center still exists today, but the offices are now located in Musanze. Note that this hike is difficult. You can hire a porter and borrow hiking sticks, or bring your own hiking poles for this experience. You will hike from an elevation of about 6,000 ft above sea level to 10,200 feet above sea level. The total hiking time, depending on fitness level, can take anywhere from 4 - 8 hours total.

 

2. Spend the morning visiting Lake Ruhondo and Lake Bulera, known as the twin lakes. This area offer peaceful, quaint views where you will be surrounded by nature at it's finest. Enjoy a peaceful boat ride and learn more about this lovely area.

 

After your morning activity (either hiking to Karisoke or visiting the lakes), we will take a break for lunch, and then we will also visit the headquarters of the Gorilla Doctors in Musanze. These veterinarians work in collaboration with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund to monitor the gorillas that live here. They intervene when necessary (freeing gorillas from snares, vaccinating gorillas when medically necessary, etc.), saving the lives and protecting the hundreds of gorillas that live here. Meet them and be inspired by their work!

 

In the evening, we will visit a local cultural group to learn about their lifestyle, to learn some of their history, and to see some amazing song and dance performances; it's a lovely way to cap off the day.

Day 11: Kigali

Meals: Breakfast

After breakfast at the lodge, drive to Kigali and continue a short distance to the airport for your onward flight. Time permitting, enjoy a city tour including a stop at the Hotel des Mille Collines (where the true story of Hotel Rwanda took place), visit the genocide memorial and museum to learn more about Rwanda's greatest tragedy, and take some time to enjoy some local coffee and lunch at a cafe in this surprisingly modern city. 

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Tour price includes:

  • Pick up from the airport in Entebbe

  • Accommodations as listed above 

  • Meals as listed above

  • Gorilla tracking permit for Rwanda

  • Vehicle transportation (includes gas and mileage)

  • Transfer to the Kigali airport or your hotel in Kigali at the end of the tour

  • All park entrance fees 

  • Bottled water on all drives

  • Guides/Drivers who will accompany you throughout the tour

 

Not included in the tour price:

  • International airfare to/from Uganda and Rwanda

  • Gorilla tracking permit in Uganda (add $600 for this permit -- price accurate as of July, 2015)

  • Personal expenses

  • Souvenirs

  • Tips for service

 

Be sure to bring:

Sturdy hiking rain boots, hiking poles, mosquito repellent, sunblock, rain jacket, and a sense of adventure!

 

Call (678) 243-0080 or fill out the form below to customize your tour!