Mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, white rhinos and tree-climbing lions – when it comes to wildlife, Uganda has a lot to offer. Last year, Sales Team Leader Joe Abbott was lucky enough to spend some time out there, researching for our ‘Great Apes of Uganda’ tour. We asked him to share a little of his diary from the trip, as well as a few top tips on what to expect (and what to pack) for a trip to Uganda.
Day 1: Roaming with rhinos
On our first full day, we journeyed to the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary in central Uganda. The sanctuary is home to 19 rhinos, and we were lucky enough to spot six on our trek. All six were female – usually the males will head off in search of food and come back every so often to check on their families. From the rhino sanctuary, it was a four-hour drive to Murchison Falls, where we stayed for the night.
Day 2: Waterfalls and wildlife spotting
It was an early start for a game drive in Murchison Falls National Park. We were out of our lodge by 5.30am to catch the 6am sunrise. Our hope was to find the park’s lions – they tend to hunt their prey at this time in the morning before they head to the river for water. During our four-hour drive, we managed to spot a whole family of lions, as well as two leopards (very rare!), elephants, buffalo and even a python.
After returning to the lodge for breakfast, we headed out on a two-hour boat ride along the River Nile to the magnificent Murchison Falls. There was an option to trek to the top of the falls, which I took. It was a fairly tough trek due to the heat and the steep incline, but the hour’s walk was worth it to find a permanent rainbow over the top of the falls! The views were incredible, too.
Day 3: Chimpanzee trekking
Today was devoted to chimpanzee trekking in Kibale National Park. The forests here are home to the largest number of endangered chimps in Uganda, and they’re some of the best places in the world to spot them.
Before heading out we had a 10-minute briefing from the rangers. We were then split into groups (a maximum of six people, plus a ranger) to begin our trek. Within 15 minutes, we found a chimp family including a female, baby and alpha male. We followed them through thick forest vegetation, where we were lucky enough to see them playing and grooming each other.
Day 4: Looking for lions
The Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park is the only place in the world where you can find tree-climbing lions. The high grasses here make it difficult for the lions to see prey, so they adapted and learnt to climb trees in order to get a better view of their surroundings. We enjoyed a four-hour game drive here, spotting a number of lions lounging around in branches!
From here, it was around two and a half hours’ drive to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the setting for the trip’s highlight: gorilla trekking.
Day 5: In search of mountain gorillas
Today we set off to see if we could find mountain gorillas. Sightings of these incredible creatures are one of the high points of a visit to Uganda. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park boasts the biggest gorilla population in the world (more than 400 reside here), and this is where we were based for our trek.
After spending a couple of hours walking through the valley, we were lucky enough to find a family of eight. The family included a baby (Julius) who was only a few months old. They were in the trees looking for fruit – when they found it, they knocked it down and came down to eat. One gorilla ran past one of the people in the group and playfully tapped their leg!
Seeing mountain gorillas in their natural habitat was a real once-in-a-lifetime experience, and one I’ll never forget. It was such a privilege to be in their company. If you’re thinking of doing the same, here are a few top tips on preparing for your trip…
- You can tailor your trek to your level of fitness – they tend to be between two and nine hours long.
- I’d highly recommend hiring a porter – they will carry your backpack and assist you throughout your trek.
- Walking boots are essential – regular trainers won’t cut it in this terrain.
- Make sure you take enough water with you – I’d suggest at least 1-2 litres.
- Wear long-sleeved t-shirts and trousers in neutral colours.
- Pack a waterproof in case of rain (you are in the tropics, after all!).
- Spray yourself with plenty of insect repellent before your trek.
- Use the walking sticks provided.
Discover Uganda’s wildlife for yourself on our ‘Great Apes of Uganda’ small-group tour.