“Our gorilla trek with AFS was truly a once in a lifetime experience! Our breath was taken away when we came upon a 17-member gorilla family in the jungle. (The huge silver back “charged” us but we lowered our heads and he was satisfied to leave us observing.) We watched in awe as toddlers swung on branches, youngsters wrestled and mothers nursed newborns. One playful toddler approached and tugged on my pony tail! None of us slept that night recalling such an amazing experience. Uganda was so lush and verdant compared to other African countries I visited. Of the 5 AFS trips, this was my favorite!” Janina D. “Nothing can prepare one for the thrilling impact of encountering a full grown silver-back gorilla, up to three times the size of man, yet remarkably peaceful and tolerant of human visitors.”
Join us on a once in a lifetime journey into the heart of Africa. High in the mountain jungles, 16 of you fortunate travelers will live the ultimate safari dream in tracking the elusive mountain gorillas in the wild. This is a Livingstone type adventure in itself, but the greatest reward comes from being able to get close as to these great apes as Diane Fossey did. Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, UNESCO World Heritage Site of 200 square miles, is one of the last remaining refuges for these endangered human-like creatures. As of this printing, there are just 602 left on earth. There’s nothing more humbling than being charged by a silverback or watching the playful suckling infants. Just one moment will take your breath away. As you follow the footsteps of your professional tracker, it takes patience and stamina but the payoff is unforgettable.
It’s a photographer’s dream here with lush mountain slopes, emerald lakes and dense rainforests. You’ll enjoy multiple game drives in Queen Elizabeth National Park. See a wide array of wildlife from leopards to zebras as well as the famous tree climbing lions. This region holds 126 species of mammals, 346 species of birds, 202 species of butterflies and 163 types of trees. Along the way you will experience cultural immersion with friendly villagers and you will collect some unique handicrafts. There’s opportunities for horseback riding, boating on Lake Mburo, an orphanage visit, and colorful markets.
Our past groups rave about this trip, but this year we’ve added even more. Enjoy a boat ride over Lake Victoria to Ngamba Island to visit the Chimpanzee Sanctuary supported by The Jane Goodall Institute and later trek chimpanzees in the scenic Chamburu Gorge. You’ll be pampered throughout with fine hotels and lodges that serve delicious local cuisines.
December is the perfect time to go. Gorilla and Chimp permits are limited to only 18 tourists per day with reservations 2 years out. (I was lucky to secure 16 permits 24 months in advance by wire transfer of $11,200.) This vacation not only benefits you, but also aids the poor local economy and helps to sustain and protect these threatened animals. Now is the time to book this epic adventure for the rarest encounter in the world!
We have countless testimonial on file over the twelve years of offering this adventure. Here is one from Gina:
“This gorilla experience far exceeded my greatest expectations. Wild Frontiers and their local staff did such an amazing job, they must be commended. The accommodations were lovely and the Uganda people, so friendly to us. I am now sponsoring two children through Bwindi Education and will return for another visit next year. I have photos of a lifetime on a disc I will send you. Thanks you for this incredible trip, Suzy!” Gina N.Book Now!
Depart USA for overnight flight to Entebbe, Uganda
Arrive at Entebbe International Airport. To accommodate different air schedules, we will have three different transfer times. You will be met by a Wild Frontiers representative and transferred to Lake Victoria Hotel.
Entebbe is a small, quiet town located on the shores of Lake Victoria and is easy to explore on foot or local transport on motorbikes known as “boda bodas”. Visit the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre where you can see and learn about Uganda’s native wildlife, local markets to buy clothes and crafts, curio shops for souvenirs, and the Botanical Gardens on Lake Victoria where you can walk among beautiful trees, watch monkeys moving through the canopy above, and spot many native bird species. Entebbe has a wide variety of restaurants serving many different cuisines as well as several bars and clubs where you can sample the local beer, catch a game of football and chat with the local Ugandans, known for their open and friendly nature.
Spacious and elegant, the classic colonial-style Lake Victoria Hotel is a true oasis of tranquility. It nestles in lush tropical gardens, amidst majestic Royal Palm trees, while its verandas and terraces overlook the calm beauty of Lake Victoria. It is conveniently located only 5 minutes from Entebbe International Airport.
The rooms are stylishly decorated and appointed with luxury amenities, including soft cotton bathrobes, in-house music, mini bar and complimentary safes in the rooms. Each room houses an armoire and sitting area. Furniture is upholstered in bright, tropical colors to give the room a Ugandan feel. All the rooms are fully air-conditioned and provide a good outside view.
Overnight: Lake Victoria Hotel B
Leaving from Entebbe, travel by speed boat or traditional motorized canoe to Ngamba Chimpanzee Sanctuary (www.ngambaisland.comchimps) located on beautiful Lake Victoria. Officially opened in 1999, Ngamba Island was created to offer permanent sanctuary to orphaned chimpanzees, victims of illegal trade and habitat destruction. This sanctuary gives chimps a secure home to live out their lives since a return to their natural habitat is not possible. Now home to more than 48 chimps, the island serves as a tourist destination for local and international travelers offering an opportunity to learn about the species and the importance of conserving their fragile forest habitat.Enjoy a guided tour of the sanctuary and a close-up experience with the chimpanzees as they come to the boundary area for their morning or afternoon feeding.
Lunch is included. Ngamba and the island has a unique gift shop with a wide range of local crafts and sanctuary related t-shirts and products. Your visit and purchases directly support the project with proceeds going towards operating costs of the sanctuary, ensuring the well-being of the chimpanzees.
This afternoon, we visit the Uganda Wildlife Education Center (UWEC) for an intimate tour of this conservancy and the positive work it is doing.
UWEC was formed as a trust to revive the neglected Entebbe Zoo and provide leadership in educating Ugandans about the benefits of conserving the country’s biodiversity. They undertake several conservation initiatives in Uganda including wildlife rescue and rehabilitation; fully fledged veterinary hospital services; and captive breeding of endangered species in the area.
Going beyond these hands-on roles, UWEC contributes to scientific research and is committed to develop education programs for the general public, with particular emphasis on instilling a conversation ethic and engaging young people.
We will get up close and personal on our ‘Keeper’s Guided Tour’ filled with exciting insight. Benefit from your keeper’s experiences here.
Get the full lowdown on the individual animals and all their little quirks. Put away your binoculars as he talks the rhinos over to the fence, listen as he tells the story of the chimpanzee that arrived yesterday and find out why it’s so difficulty to feed an orphaned animal. In just a few hours, you will learn facts and stories that will stay with you for life, and come away with a new appreciation of the intricacies of conservation work.
Overnight: Lake Victoria Hotel B, L
Depart Entebbe and drive to Queen Elizabeth National Park (approx. 6 hours)
Queen Elizabeth National Park spreads over 1,978 sq. km in the western arm of the Great Rift Valley and is home to a wide variety of wildlife including elephants, lions, hippos, buffalo, baboon, and many species of birds. With both a riverine and savannah habitat, the park includes the southern Ishasha area with its tree climbing lions and Maramagambo, one of the largest surviving natural forests in Uganda.
The northern Mweya area, traversed by the equator and dominated by the scenery of crater lakes, is often occupied by large flocks of flamingos. A boat trip from Mweya along the Kazinga Channel, which joins Lakes Edward and George, provides one of the most memorable experiences offered by the park.
Our lodge, Mweya Safari Lodge (www.mweyalodge.com) is located on a peninsula overlooking the Kazinga Channel on one side and the Rwenzori Mountains on the other, this positioning provides some of the best accommodations and service facilities in western Uganda. Amenities include a swimming pool, the Tembo bar and an elegant air-conditioned restaurant with global cuisine. Breakfast is served on the lodge’s outdoor terrace with views of the Kazinga Channel below.
Overnight: Mweya Safari Lodge B, L, D
Experienced guides and trackers will accompany your party on a trek into the forest to view wild chimpanzees and several other species of primates in their natural habitat. You may have an opportunity to be within meters of these amusing and social apes, experiencing their day-to-day activities. Chimpanzees, our closest cousins, are extremely endangered with only an estimated 5000 remaining in Uganda.
Please note: tracking may be fairly strenuous as the chimpanzees are highly mobile as they search for food throughout the gorge. Also, chimpanzees are wild animals and sightings cannot be guaranteed. However, with success rates being around 50% overall - the forest walk is fantastic!
Enjoy a leisurely boat cruise along the Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park. You may encounter herds of elephant, buffalos and antelopes, families of warthogs, large groups of hippos, and crocodiles basking on the shore. Kazinga’s shores are a haven for numerous birds, including many migratory species as they make their way south to warmer climates.
The cruise also provides a spectacular view of the beautiful Mweya Peninsula and life in local fishing villages set along the banks.
Overnight: Mweya Safari Lodge B, L, D
The Mweya area of Queen Elizabeth National Park is rich with wildlife. Visitors will find vast numbers of Uganda’s unique and strange Euphorbia, or “candelabra” tree. The many nearby crater lakes and mountain ranges provide a beautiful backdrop for your journey.
In the afternoon, drive from Queen Elizabeth National Park to Bwindi National Park (approx. 3-4 hours)
Bwindi National Park, located in south western Uganda on the edge of the Great Rift Valley, is considered the most diverse forest in Uganda. The area, one of the few large expanses of forest in East Africa, where lowland and mountain habitats meet, contains a dense ground cover of herbs, vines, and shrubs. Home to over 120 mammals, 345 species of birds, 200 species of butterflies, and 160 species of trees, Bwindi is one of the richest ecosystems in East Africa. The park contains almost one half of the world’s population of the endangered Mountain Gorilla, making it an extremely valuable conservation site. Bwindi is also home to several endangered bird species with very limited ranges, and acts as an important catchment area for many rivers, supplying water for agriculture in the surrounding region.
During our drive from Ishasha to Bwindi, time permitting, visit a Community Project on the border of Queen Elizabeth National Park. Here the local people allow you to enjoy some time in their homesteads, as well as see some of the crops and curios they produce, and visit the local elephant trench project – which stops elephants coming into the village and raiding crops.
Buhoma Lodge (www.ugandaexclusivecamps.com) is situated on the slopes of the Forests of Bwindi, adjacent to the national park and offers uninterrupted views of the pristine rain forest canopy. The lodge has 10 beautifully appointed and spacious cottages situated along the mountainside, each with its own private veranda. Large comfortable beds ensure a good night’s rest following an exhilarating day of gorilla tracking. En suite bathrooms are spacious and equipped with flushing toilets and piping hot showers. Meals are wholesome and freshly prepared in a variety of international dishes and local specialties such as matoke and g-nut sauce. Unlimited hot beverages are available all day on a self-serve basis and are delivered to your cottage with early morning wake up calls upon request, allowing guests to watch the sun rise over the forest from their own private verandas. Lighting and heating throughout the lodge is solar powered and the lodge’s inviting upper level lounge, bar and dining area, where guests can relax, dine and discuss the day’s events, offers cozy fireplaces providing warmth and comfort in the cool evenings.
Overnight: Buhoma Lodge B, L, D
Following breakfast at the lodge, travel to National Park Headquarters to meet your guides for the day and begin your gorilla trekking experience. (Your $700 permit is included in cost gorrilla & chimps together) Experienced guides and trackers will accompany your party on an early morning trek into the dense rain forest on the mountain slopes.
The journey, through dense foliage and up steep climbs, is abundantly rewarded with the lifetime experience of viewing these extremely rare massive primates. Usually you smell the apes before seeing them. Suddenly from the silence, you’ll hear their grunts. You may see a range of ages in the family including the silverback, patriarch of the group. You will get within meters of the family and be privileged to spend time among them. Mountain gorillas are extremely rare with only an estimated 880 remaining in the wild. This is an experience you won’t soon forget!
Please note: tracking may be fairly strenuous with treks up to 6 hours or longer, at high altitudes, not uncommon. Also, mountain gorillas are wild animals and sightings cannot be guaranteed. However, viewing success rates are over 90%.
To complete your Bwindi experience, you are guided on two additional walks to meet the locals – in the rainforest and surrounding villages. Take a walk-on-the-wild-side in a Tropical Rainforest Walk (1-2 hours) to soak in the sights, sounds and views of this amazing ecosystem. Your experienced wildlife guides will point out unique foliage, reptile, insect and bird species and identify the many types of monkey species that glide through the canopy above.
You will also check-out the ‘neighborhood’ on a Community Walk (3-4 hours) through the local villages surrounding Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Activities may include visits to a traditional home, local orphanage or school, banana brewing demonstrations and even meeting traditional medicinal healers. This intimate walk is tailored to your groups schedule & interests.
Overnight: Buhoma Lodge B, L, D
Depart Bwindi National Park and drive to Lake Mburo (approx. 4 hours), arriving at Mihingo.
Lake Mburo, gazetted in 1982 as Uganda’s fourth national park, consists of 260 sq km of grassland, wetland, and acacia woodland habitat. At the center of the park lies Lake Mburo which, along with 14 other lakes in the area, forms part of an extensive wetland system. Lake Mburo National Park is home to several animal species including topi, eland, klipspringer, zebra, buffalo, oribi, sitatunga, leopard and a variety of water and acacia savannah bird species such as the marabou stork, bronze tailed starling, and Uganda’s national bird, the beautiful grey crowned crane.
Your stay at Lake Mburo will provide opportunities to experience the park’s vast wildlife in a variety of settings including morning and afternoon game drives, guided walks, and boat rides around the lake. Your schedule and itinerary will be personalized based on your party’s individual preferences, interests, and time available.
Today, enjoy a thrilling Boat Cruise on Lake Mburo (approx. 2-hour). You always see hippo, crocs and many bird species and with a lot of luck you might even see the elusive leopard from the boat.
Then our game walk starts at the Lodge with an official UWA Ranger Guide. This walk takes you down the valley that you see from Mihingo, past the water hole and to a rocky kopje facing Mihingo. The walk takes between 2 and 3 hours. Time permitting, we will visit a local village.
Optional Horseback Ride (approx. $40)
Horseback safaris are an exciting way to see the wildlife around Mihingo Lodge. You feel part of nature and often get the chance to see the more timid animals. We sometimes see eland and buffalo and nearly always warthog, topi, impala, duiker, bushbuck, waterbuck and zebra on our horseback safaris, although this depends very much on the time of year and the rain fall in the area. Experiencing game from horseback is very special; zebra come towards you to check out the strange relative without stripes. Even the normally very shy eland curiously look at the horses without running away, just keeping their distance.
Optional Game Walks from Mihingo Lodge available for additional fee.
Mihingo Lodge (www.mihingolodge.com) is a peaceful and exclusive retreat adjacent to Lake Mburo National Park. It features ten rooms which are built on wooden platforms with stilts, covered by a thatch roof. Suspended under the thatched roof is a spacious and comfortable tent equipped with en-suite bathrooms with stunning views, including hot and cold running water, showers and flush toilets.
Each luxury tent is nestled on a private piece of the lodge's property, enabling guests to enjoy the tranquil environment in complete seclusion. Placed in various settings, some rooms are situated in a forest, some with a lake view, and some on rocky outcrops.
The main dining area is a large thatched structure built of rocks, the wood of dead, weathered olive trees found on the land, and native grasses. Below the dining area, an infinity swimming pool stretches out from the rocks and seems to disappear into the vast landscape beyond.
From the dining and pool area, guests can enjoy the view of a westward oriented valley and its stunning evening sunsets over Lake Mburo National Park.
Overnight: Mihingo Lodge B, L, D
Depart Bwindi and drive back to Enttebbe (approx. 4 hours). It's a beautiful ride with stops along the way. Guide will suggest anything to do if free time allows.
Overnight: Lake Victoria Hotel B, L
Depending upon flight times, we may need to arrange day rooms for those of you not flying until later in the evening.
Some of you may want to extend your trip to Rwanda. It's costly but you can contact [email protected] if you are intereseted.
Special Notes: Yellow fever & malaria pills are required.
For gorilla/chimp trekking it is imperative that you are healthy and free of any disease or virus – officials do have the right to refuse entry if you are found to have or show any signs of communicable illnesses.
Travel insurance is compulsory.
Lake Victoria Hotel
Mweye Safri Lodge
1. I regularly jog, take long (8+ miles) hikes and or do aerobics. I consider myself to be physically active.
An $800** deposit will secure your space. ($700 is non-refundable deposit for gorilla permit) Limited to only 16 participants and space will fill fast. Book Now!
**Deposit is non-refundable after Jan 15, 2017
Land Price: $3975 + $700 Gorilla & Chimp permits
Includes all stated above: 7 night accommodations, meals as stated, National Park entrance fees, private safari vehicles, Lake Mburo boat cruise, Kazinga boat cruise, rangers and local guides.
Not Included: Uganda Visa ($100) and gratuities
Air: Due to group size, no group air will be provided, but it’s easy to arrange own round-trip air to Entebbe.
AFS Trip Tips will detail everything that you need to know.
Please review AFS Terms and Conditions as well as Heading Abroad with AFS. Group air - Airlines may add surcharges to offset fuel inflation or taxes. The total ticket cost is not final until we receive your final payment and are ticketed. If doing own air, airport transfer may or may not be included depending on your air schedule. Do not buy air until we either group air is set or we advise - dates can change! Itineraries are prepared often a year in advance. Though not likely, AFS and our suppliers reserve the right to change or modify such to meet local conditions. Although rare, hotels can change – all hotel rooms are run of the house. Our prices are based on current taxation structures. In case any revision in taxes, sudden fluctuation in currency levels, change in Visa fees or increase in fuel charges, we will amend our prices and inform you accordingly. Land price is based on minimum number of trip participants.