Explore the verdant, mysterious rainforest homes of the great apes of Africa. This trekking adventure will take you to some of the most beautiful places on the continent, and you will meet some of the most interesting inhabitants.
Landlocked but overflowing with lakes, nestled on a plateau and rimmed by mountains, Uganda is a vibrant, verdant paradise with wonderful scenery, wildlife and cultures to explore and encounter. Undoubtedly one of the absolute highlights of the African continent, the majestic great apes are found in the Ugandan rainforests. Although they make for fascinating study, with their surprising intelligence and complex behaviour, this safari caters for you if you wanted a quick trip to see the clever chimps and the majestic gorillas. If you want to see more, this could easily be extended to a two week safari by adding other elements from the gorilla-specific or chimp-specific tour.
Being largest of the great apes, gorillas have an imposing presence, but these herbivorous giants tend to be calm and gentle. Typically they travel in small groups watched over by one silverback, and young females often change groups a few times before they choose the silverback male that suits them. Although they have a smaller brain to body mass ratio than chimps, gorillas do still have significant brains and display a number of complex behaviours including some tool use.
Quite a bit smaller, but with relatively bigger brains, chimps are the curious, clever characters of the rainforest. They tend to range in bigger groups than gorillas, and this contributes to more variety in the complex dynamics within their groups. The chimps offer a slightly different but equally entertaining experience to the gorillas.
Also worth noting is that these rainforests are lush and beautiful, filled with other monkeys and tropical birds, and offer delightful trekking even without the bonus of seeing the great apes! The parks we've chosen for this safari also offer the perks of a traditional safari experience, including the tree climbing lions of the Queen Elizabeth Park, and scenic boat cruises. As aforementioned, this tour is structured for a quick 8 days, but could very easily be extended to add in more gorilla trekking, or the beautiful crater lake region. Alternatively, more chimp trekking is also a great idea, perhaps venturing to the fantastically remote Mahala National Park in Tanzania. This tour also combines very well with a week on the fabled plains of the Serengeti. Feel free to discuss all the possibilities with us by clicking 'contact'.
Tucked away in the section of the Albertine Rift Valley that runs through western Uganda, slap bang on the equator, Queen Elizabeth National Park is an extraordinarily diverse and beautiful reserve that encompasses golden savannah plains, lush green woodland, mystical rainforests, wetlands and round volcanic craters. Situated between Lake Edward and Lake George, with the dramatic Rwenzori Mountains as a backdrop, it is clear to see why the park is Uganda’s most popular tourist destination. The varied range of habitats has allowed an equally varied range of wildlife to flourish. 95 species of mammal can be found here, along with an incredible 611 bird species – the second highest number of any national park in Africa. Classic safari experiences can be had in the Kasenyi, North Kazinga and Ishasha sections of the reserve, where sightings of buffalo, elephant and antelope are virtually guaranteed on guided game drives. The Ishasha section is especially famous for its prides of tree-climbing lions, which laze in large fig trees watching the endemic Uganda Kob antelope grazing on the open plains.
Established in 1925, Volcanoes National Park is one of the oldest parks in Africa, and attracts a constant flow of tourists from around the world. Stretched across the forested Virunga volcanic mountain range on Rwanda’s western border, the park’s main attraction is its population of mountain gorillas. Watching these gentle and peaceful giants at close quarters is without a doubt one of the most thrilling and poignant experiences in the world of wildlife. The 16 000 hectare park encompasses six extinct or dormant volcanic peaks. Bamboo forests cover approximately 30% of this area, and during the bamboo shooting season from September to November, the gorillas spend most of their time here. Eight gorilla groups have been habituated to humans, and are undisturbed by the presence of hikers. The magnificent golden monkey is the park’s other primate, living almost exclusively in the bamboo forests. Forest antelopes, elephant, buffalo, spotted hyena, genets and rodents also live in the dense rainforests, but are generally extremely shy and difficult to spot.
Mweya Safari Lodge is a classy African-style lodge spectacularly perched above the Kazinga Channel in the beautiful Queen Elizabeth National Park, surrounded by the mystical Rwenzori Mountains. The lodge offers a wide range of rooms, suites, tents and cottages, as well as good facilities and activities ranging from chimp trekking to boat cruises.
The elegant restaurant is a romantic setting to savour the lodge’s chef-prepared menu of local and international dishes. Saturday nights are made particularly memorable by a open air barbeque, accompanied by traditional dancing. Another special feature is a spectacularly positioned swimming pool surrounded by vast wooden decks, loungers and umbrellas. The Mweya Health Club has everything needed to soothe the body and soul, with facilities include a fully-equipped gym, a luxuriant spa, sauna and hair salon.
With the wide, animal-attracting channel winding below, offset by a dramatic mountain backdrop, the lodge commands one of the most stunning settings in the park. Guests can enjoy fabulous views from the balconies or verandahs. Those who appreciate independence are well placed for self-drives to all of the park’s best attractions, while guests itching to do more can expect a wonderfully varied experience encompassing guided drives, boat cruises, chimp trekking, bush breakfasts, cultural encounters and hot air ballooning.
The Kazinga Channel bisects the park from west to east, connecting Lake Albert to Lake Edward. Boat cruises along the channel are a wonderful way to enjoy a laidback safari. The boats launch from the Myewa Peninsula, which showcases stunning views over the channel and surrounding savannah. The dramatic Katwe Explosion Crater, which marks the reserve’s highest point at 1 350 metres, is a short hop from here too, as are the dozens of smaller explosion craters, carving out round basins in the terrain.
Visitors can track chimpanzees in the Kyambura Gorge or the Maramagambo Forest, looking out for some of the nine other primate species that occur here too. In addition to a mouth-watering array of birds, Maramagambo also features a bat cave with a viewing room that allows visitors to watch the comings and goings of these erratic avian mamals. East of Kyambura Gorge, the Kyambura Wildlife Reserve features beautiful crater lakes with a splendid array of nesting water birds. Lake George, a Ramsar wetland site, has scenic papyrus swamps that are home to the elusive Sitatunga antelope and the much sought-after Shoebill Stork.
In addition to its incredible wildlife attractions, the park has a fascinating cultural history, offering many opportunities for visitors to engage with the local communities, experiencing their energetic dances, hard-working demeanours and friendly attitudes.
The park has two rainy seasons, occurring from March to May and September to November. Although visits can be made throughout the year, the dry seasons are the best times for game viewing, as animals gravitate towards rivers and waterholes.
Nestling in the foothills of the dramatic Virunga mountains, conveniently placed close to the gorilla trekking trails of the Volcanoes National Park, Sabinyo Silverback Lodge has gained an international reputation for excellence, offering great accommodation in Rwandan-style suites, cottages and a family cottage. The lodge offers equal doses of style, adventure and natural beauty, whilst treating guests to all-encompassing service and top-class cuisine.
All areas of the lodge are built from stone, with earthy colours and patterned fabrics merging with contemporary influences. The main lodge has large couches in front of a roaring fireplace, and a variety of board games and books will keep guests entertained on rainy days. The eight lodgings all have fireplaces in the large sitting areas, as well as sheltered verandahs, dressing rooms and en-suite bathrooms with sizable bathtubs, showers and twin basins.
Most guests at Sabinyo Silverback Lodge are there to enjoy a luxurious base for treks to see the gorillas. Tours depart daily from the Volcanoes National Park headquarters. Various hikes, forest walks and a trail to see the grave of Dian Fossey also depart from here, a does a trek to look for golden monkeys. You can ask the lodge staff about a variety of other excursions to places of interest, including lakes, colourful towns and hidden sacred forests. If you plan to be out for the most of the day, a delicious picnic lunch can be packed for you.
The lower altitudes of Volcanoes National Park are covered in dense forest broken up by open areas with grass and bush. The Hagenia – Hypericum forests are spectacular, comprising tall, straight-trunked trees and massive hygenias with gnarled trunks and spreading branches. Higher up, the closed forest gives way to the Subalpine Zone, a bush-like habitat dominated by striking Giant Lobelias and Giant Senicios. Above 4 000m, the landscape changes again into a desert-type topography scattered with a few small shrubs.
While watching mountain gorillas is the number one attraction in the park, several hiking trails have been developed that will lead hikers to the summits of most of the volcanoes, where they can enjoy spectacular views over Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, numerous lakes and mountain ranges. The duration of hikes vary from between a few hours to several days, and due to the steepness of the slopes and the muddy nature of most trails, hikers need to be accompanied by a guide at all times.
Volcanoes is situated about 110km from the capital city of Kigali and the nearest town is Musanze. A relatively good tarmac roads link these two towns, while another navigable tar road links Musanze to Kinigi – the place where all activities in the park start. Gorillas are exceptionally sensitive to human diseases, so strict regulations have been put in place to minimise the risk of transmission, something that all visitors need to take note of.
Average temperatures hover between 11 degress and 19 degrees Celcius. The dry seasons (from June until September and January to February) are certainly the best times to visit.
This safari commences and ends in
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