February 2019

Hike to the top of the falls – Murchison Falls National Park

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This two hour hike at Murchison falls National Park offers different perspectives of the most powerful waterfall along the world’s longest river, River Nile! It starts from its river bank and climaxes at a ridge that overlooks a seven meter wide cleft where the entire river squeezes itself.

This two hour hike at Murchison falls National Park offers different perspectives of the most powerful waterfall along the world’s longest river, River Nile! It starts from its river bank and climaxes at a ridge that overlooks a seven meter wide cleft where the entire river squeezes itself. This dramatic explosion drops over a 41 meter valley wall and lands with a bang you have never experienced before. This will make you realize you that you have a sense of rejuvenation to a degree you hadn’t thought existed.

This trip offers a perfect way to escape the masses of cars that crowd the park especially during the morning game drive. It focuses on physical and psychological wellbeing in a beautiful serene experience that never disappoints.

As you start ascending, you will encounter an abundance of birdlife in the jungle by the shores of the river.

Standing at Baker’s point (300 meters above the valley floor), the beauty, spirit and freshness of the falls will first attract you. But it is the force with which it explodes like a volcano that will leave you at a loss of words. Brace yourself for wide panoramic view of the two thunderous waterfalls that take the beauty of Murchison to the next level.

A descent to the lower level of the vantage points gives you a much better photo of the crocodiles at the banks compared to the one you get at top.

In choosing to visit these falls, you will join the company of Queen Elizabeth who stood here in her 1952 visit to Africa. Other world famous people who have pursued this experience include President Roosevelt-Ex President of U.S, Sir Winston Churchill-Ex Prime Minister of Britain, Kanye West, Bill Gates, John Travolta…..the list is endless.

Crater Lakes Tour of Uganda

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This tour is full of wow moments. You will enjoy a thrilling open-vehicle game drive as you compare and contrast Ugandan crater Lakes that are ranked among the world’s 10 most beautiful. They are over 50 and spread across Districts and National Parks in Albertine rift valley, in Western Uganda.

This tour is full of wow moments. You will enjoy a thrilling open-vehicle game drive as you compare and contrast Ugandan crater Lakes that are ranked among the world’s 10 most beautiful. They are over 50 and spread across Districts and National Parks in Albertine rift valley, in Western Uganda.

If you have limited time, we shall concentrate on the ones in Queen Elizabeth National Park and Kibale National Park as they are a perfect place to get those iconic pictures you have always dreamed of. They owe their beauty to a warm tropical climate and geologic luck of the draw. They showcase some of water’s most charming qualities, from enchanting ripples and reflections of clear blue skies to crystalline clarity.

Their shallow shores are known for a superb game viewing all year round as it doubles as a salt licking ground. Here, you might be lucky to spot the shy and elusive leopards among other wildlife species.

As you connect from one to another during a guided bushwalk or game drive, you will treated to views of pristine woodland, blooming savannah plains. You will be astonished by the sight of awe-inspiring ranges of Rwenzori, a snow-capped mountain that prides in being Africa’s third highest landmark.

After experience the lakes, you will continue via the Ishasha route, as there is always a possibility of seeing wildlife along the way, inclusive of tree climbing lions.

Community Walks in Kibale National Park

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During this village walk in a community adjacent to Kibale National Park, you will see how life unfolds in a typical Ugandan village. You will mix and mingle with locals as you discover their rich cultural heritage. Brace yourself for an overdose of fun as you witness and groove to traditional dances that date back to the 18th century.

During this village walk in a community adjacent to Kibale National Park, you will see how life unfolds in a typical Ugandan village. You will mix and mingle with locals as you discover their rich cultural heritage. Brace yourself for an overdose of fun as you witness and groove to traditional dances that date back to the 18th century.

This Western part of Uganda has its’ special foods that which, furthermore, makes this tour a must; especially if you love treating your palate right. This is the hub of ghee and butter. Commonly known as the land of milk and honey, you will get foods made out of milk here. One such is Eshaabwe, a ghee sauce made by old women in a room—where they have to keep quiet. See, it is the believed that talking makes the delicacy which is served in clay pots turn out uninviting. On the other hand, the accompaniments such as Oburo(millet bread), mashed matooke, cassava, g-nuts, are served in hand woven basket plates.

There will be lots of organically grown fruits to tickle your taste buds; bananas, pineapples, sugarcane, wild berries, passion fruits.

The tour will end with a visitation of a community owned bee project at the boundaries of Kibale National Park and five communities surrounding the park namely Kabugerire, Busabura, Kahondo, Kivima and Kyabakwerere. It features 500 beehives lined at elephant crossing points along the park boundary. It was established in August 2013 to end of 2015 to stop forest elephants from escaping out of the park to ravage foods of local. This setback that was laying a foundation for inter human-wildlife conflicts and thus endangering lives of animals.

Preliminary findings indicate that while there were 44 incidences observed in 2012 and 12 in 2013. There were only three incidences last year.

Even better, the project hasn’t only been beneficial to the communities. It has deterred instances in which the community’s domestic animals would encroach into the park for grazing. This has played a pivotal role in tackling the spread of communicable diseases from animals to humans and vice versa.By the same token, the kids who once used to protect the gardens are now able to attend school uninterrupted.

The project which cost roughly $3,000 was funded by well-wishers of the park especially organizations at the forefront of conservation like Cleveland Metroparks, Sacramento zoo and National Geographic. It has 281 beneficiaries.

Comparison of Gorilla Trekking Uganda Vs Rwanda

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According to a gorilla census jointly done by about 20 conservation organizations in May 2018, there are 1,004 gorillas left in the world. This includes both habituated individuals and wild ones, some of which are reserved for research purposes). Of these, 604 live in Africa’s oldest National Park, Virunga. The rest live in Bwindi National Park, Mgahinga National Park and Volcanoes National Park.

Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park vs. Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

  1. Probability of seeing gorillas

The probability of seeing gorillas in all the three parks is over 90 %, even in the rainy seasons. Prior to the start of your gorilla trekking excursion, an advance team of trackers survey the parks to find out the direction towards which the gorilla families are moving. On finding them, they will call the ranger leading your team to guide him on which trails to follow to get to them. This will save you from moving in circles or walking into the forest blindly.

  1. Ease of accessibility

If you wish to trek gorillas and fly out on the same day, it is wiser to fly in and out through Kigali International Airport of Rwanda. It is the nearest International Airport to all the three countries. From here, Volcanoes National Park is 2 hours’ drive away and Uganda’s Bwindi is 5 hours away. On the other hand, Virunga National Park is 7hrs drive away. However, you are likely to take 8 hours due to the relatively lengthy procedures of clearance with immigrations department at the border with Congo. Simply, Volcanoes National Park is a better option if time isn’t on your side.

If not in a rush, you can fly in through Uganda’s Entebbe International Airport and connect to Bwindi within two hours’ time using Aerolink. It is a domestic safari Airline with scheduled daily flights to Kihihi/Savannah Airstrip of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Upon arrival, our driver guide will pick you up in time and drop at your hotel ahead of your gorilla adventure the next day. When your adventure is done, he will pick you up for the next agenda on your itinerary.

If you prefer to access Bwindi by road, we are happy to organize a road trip for you from Entebbe or Kampala, Uganda’s Capital. From here, Bwindi is 9 hours’ drive away. The adventure won’t be as exhausting as it sounds as it is not an express drive. On the contrary, there will be lots of stopovers at the respective attractions along the way, inclusive of museums, cultural villages, equator, national parks and dine outs.

  1. Price of gorilla trekking

Although all the three parks have the same species of gorillas, their gorilla permits are priced differently. In Rwanda’s case, it used to be $750 two years back, but is now $1,500 for all tourists regardless of their nationality. This follows Rwanda’s rebranding as a high end destination.

On the other hand, Gorilla permits to Uganda’s Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga is still at $600 for foreign non-residents, $450 for foreign residents and $250 for East Africans. On the part of Congo’s Virunga National Park, it costs $400 per person for non-nationals, $150 for Congolese residents and $200 for SADC nationals. The respective mentioned fees are inclusive of park entry fees and guided gorilla trekking by game rangers.

  1. Which park has more gorilla families?

According to a gorilla census jointly done by about 20 conservation organizations in May 2018, there are 1,004 gorillas left in the world. This includes both habituated individuals and wild ones, some of which are reserved for research purposes). Of these, 604 live in Africa’s oldest National Park, Virunga. The rest live in Bwindi National Park, Mgahinga National Park and Volcanoes National Park.

However of the four parks, Bwindi has the highest number of habituated families, totaled at 17, Volcanoes has 10, Virunga has 8 and Mgahinga 1. Each group has 7-42 members belonging to different age brackets.

  1. Where is it easier or harder to trek gorillas?

While Virunga lies at an elevation of 4,880 meters above sea level, Volcanoes is at 2500 meters above sea level and Bwindi ranges from 1,160m – 2,607m above sea level. Simply put, the terrain of Bwindiis relatively gentler than that of Virunga and Volcanoes. The most recommendable zone of Bwindi is Buhoma and Rushaga. They offer a perfect balance between tough climbing challenges for travelers in need of something unusual, leisurely walks and people who wish to push themselves to limits close to breaking.

  1. Is it possible for Persons with Disability to Trek Gorillas?

Absolutely Yes! Both Bwindi and Volcanoes improvise comfortable bamboo stretcher beds with wooden handles and creatively built steel-base, sedan chairs with handles. Upon these structures, persons with disabilities can be ferried by four able-bodied men into a part of the forest where gorillas are dwelling. In the interest of safety, the sedan chair has functional seat belts.

  1. What type of accommodation can one expect?

Following Rwanda’s rebranding as a high end destination, most accommodation options in volcanoes National Park have upgraded their facilities to meet the needs of a luxury traveller. Uganda on the other hand has vast options for all kinds of travellers, up-market, mid-range and budget.

  1. Is it safe to go gorilla trekking?

For over two decades, Democratic Republic of Congo has been faced with on-and-off guerilla wars. As such, most clients prefer trekking in Uganda and Rwanda because they are safe to visit, even with family. This safety has been reinforced through the creation of Police units that specifically focuses on the safety of tourists. They are called Tourism Police.

Do you have any other inquiries about gorilla trekking in Rwanda, Congo and Uganda, Gazelle Safari Company is just an email away, ann@gazellesafaricompany.com.

Having been organizing trips to the three countries for close to a decade, we have all the answers you are looking for.

Chimp tracking in Kyambura gorge

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A visit to this underground forest of Queen Elizabeth N/P provides an exceptional encounter with man’s genetically close relatives, Chimpanzees. The family that lives here comprises of over 10 members belonging to different age brackets. This offers one an understanding of how chimps behave as they get through different phases in life, from infancy to teenage age and eventually adulthood.

A visit to this underground forest of Queen Elizabeth N/P provides an exceptional encounter with man’s genetically close relatives, Chimpanzees. The family that lives here comprises of over 10 members belonging to different age brackets. This offers one an understanding of how chimps behave as they get through different phases in life, from infancy to teenage age and eventually adulthood.

The half day tour we shall organize for you will start early so as to enable you see chimps at a time they are most active. As the day gets hotter, they start to take things slow.

If you are not big walkers or hikers, the ranger will tame down this guided tour to your benefit. You will navigate an easier trail in the forest with a long wooden bridge. Below it flows a river with a rich concentration of hippos. When most of the water holes have dried up in the dry season, buffaloes and elephants flock this river in big numbers to quench their thirst. On the day of your visit, you might find warthogs wallowing in mud to protect their delicate skin from scorching sunlight.

At first, you might have difficulty in finding the chimps—if you are noisy. They keep shifting away from noisy settings. Everything starts to change for the better the minute you start observing silence. They relax and start hollering to each other as you watch from underneath the canopy.

Some might even climb down to the floor of the forest. A walk by the river that bisects the forest will reward you with fruitful sightings of schools of hippos.

Don’t forget to keep your camera on standby mode; a troop of chimpanzees might suddenly surround you as they search for food. You are free to take advantage of the proximity to get exceptional photographic opportunities. One of the things that draws primate lovers here is that watching chimps is far more entertaining than watching gorillas. They don’t just sit by and watch the day drift by. They are much more active and reactive. You will watch them whoop each other, play hide and seek and swing swiftly across branches like acrobats.

Best time to visit: All year round

Chimp Habituation in the Gorge-Semuliki

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Before wild chimps are opened to visits by tourists, its resident chimps undergo a two year habituation phase that makes them friendlier to tourists. During this guided adventure in a gorge at the heart of Semuliki National Park, you will experience what happens behind the scenes as rangers’acquaint these primates with human behavior.

Before wild chimps are opened to visits by tourists, its resident chimps undergo a two year habituation phase that makes them friendlier to tourists. During this guided adventure in a gorge at the heart of Semuliki National Park, you will experience what happens behind the scenes as rangers’acquaint these primates with human behavior.

The scenery in the gorge is stunning with a mix of riverine forests, ancient mahogany trees and lush thickets that have yet to be opened by forest elephants. On the outside, it is surrounded by Lake Albert on one side and a golden-brown grass savannah on the other (side). The trails you will follow are well maintained—thus making it possible to do adventures even in rainy seasons like April.

If you don’t register luck in seeing the chimps the first time, you will be given an opportunity to come back the next morning 6.30am for another trial. The forest has very few people, you feel alone in the park.

The park doesn’t have litter and you do see armed rangers on foot patrolling to protect animals from poachers. They are friendly and happy to offer you tips on areas where they have seen lots of wildlife on that day.

Canoe cruise on Lake Mulehe Southern Sector of Bwindi

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Over 20,000 years ago, volcanic eruptions set Virunga region on fire, creating tranquil crater lakes that nature has continued to beautify. One such is Lake Mulehe, a scenic freshwater lake in Kisoro District, not so far with Uganda’s border with Rwanda.

Over 20,000 years ago, volcanic eruptions set Virunga region on fire, creating tranquil crater lakes that nature has continued to beautify. One such is Lake Mulehe, a scenic freshwater lake in Kisoro District, not so far with Uganda’s border with Rwanda. Here, you can sit back and meditateduring a guided canoe ride experience that offers a feast for the senses. Its strategic location within few minutes’ drive from both Bwindi and Mgahinga National Park makes it a perfect adventure to do before or after your gorilla adventure in either of these two parks.

As the small boat glides onto the reeds, you will see soaring ranges of beautiful volcanoes, terraced gardens and clusters of villages. Having been born here, the local guide knows this area by heart and it is a delight to listen to his stories and tour around with him.

Despite knowing that the lake doesn’t have any troublesome hippos or beastly carnivores like Crocodiles, our crew pays great attention to safety and improvise life-jackets that are in top notch shape. This make the two hour adventure safe, allowing you to have peace of mind as you listen to relaxing songs of birds and feel all smells of nature.

The dugout canoe in which you will ride is a traditional boat made from a hollowed trunk of an African teak tree.It is totally different from what you know. It looks like it could bust open any minute yet it is super resilient as it is made of wood that is lightweight and rot resistant. It is propelled with a paddle and pointed at both ends with consideration to aerodynamics. This allows water to flow smoothly around the boat without resisting acceleration.

Your adventure will start off in high gear with an exploration of water pathways. You will float under wider expanses filled with beautiful flowery vegetation and water lilies.

As the boat drifts past papyrus jungles, you will are likely to come across over 50 birds, inclusive of Uganda’s National Emblem, the grey crowned crested crane. The sight of the seven mountains towering over the borders of Uganda, Congo and Rwanda will make happiness radiate from you in waves. Your eyes will glitter or soak up with tears of joy. As the guide paddles your way past small islands, you won’t hear anything at all apart from the water splashing at the bottom of the boat.

What to carry

Sun screen is indispensable due to the glaring sunlight.

Bush breakfast in Murchison Falls National Park or Queen Elizabeth National Park

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If you want a fulfilling outdoor culinary encounter that blends modern dining with old ways in the middle of the bush, we can make that dream come true as you explore Murchison falls National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park or Lake Mburo National Park.

If you want a fulfilling outdoor culinary encounter that blends modern dining with old ways in the middle of the bush, we can make that dream come true as you explore Murchison falls National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park or Lake Mburo National Park. All the lodges we partner with in these parks are located in the middle of wild untamed settings. Places along River banks with hippos and crocodiles. Places in jungles where a variety of herbivores hangout, inclusive of elephants, giraffes, buffaloes.

This presence of animals in the background adds a fanciful touch to the morning feast. It is a family friendly because there is plenty of space for little ones to wander. That aside, your table will be set at a safe distance from the animals. This cozy nature of the experience further makes it also suitable for couples or a group of friends.

The surrounding atmosphere is so relaxing and beautified with sweet songs of birds dwelling in the nearby trees/jungle. Take time to let your eyes wander along the trail that leads to the natural bush setting by the river side….you will get a rejuvenating feeling of being out in nature!

The experience is authentic and lots of farm fresh fruits make a re-appearance on the menu. This variety of dishes makes it an unforgettable treat that you can’t miss to try out. The chef prides in providing a well thought out menu each day to cater for both meat lovers and vegetarians. Gluten free options are available and complete with lots of tasty Ugandan coffee, tea and cakes. You will also be blown away with the super help received from the waiters catering for your morning. They will deliver all the yummy goodies to your table, everything clearly labelled. What else would a breakfast lover want! A piece of your heart will stay here.

Budongo forest (chimp trekking and bird watching)

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Budongo has an extensive trail system that stretches to a length of 115 km. It is well maintained and evenly spread throughout the forest. This eases accessibility of the different corners of the reserve where forest walks, chimp tracking and birding excel.

Over view

A visit to the Southern part of Murchison falls national park is incomplete without an exploration of this 115 kilometer ancient forest. It is gifted with 465 species of towering indigenous trees that offer refuge to 24 species of small mammals, 9 species of primates, 280 butterflies and over 100 species of birds inclusive of endemics like Nahans francolin.

Except for Kibale National Park, nowhere else do you find as many wild chimpanzees as Budongo, over 600 individuals! And that’s where a chimpanzee trekking excursion comes in. It offers a high probability to spotting this primates that share a DNA that is 98.7% common to that of man.

Budongo has an extensive trail system that stretches to a length of 115 km. It is well maintained and evenly spread throughout the forest. This eases accessibility of the different corners of the reserve where forest walks, chimp tracking and birding excel.

Other primates you stand great chances of meeting here include Black-and-White Colobus Monkeys, Red-tailed Monkeys, Grey-cheeked Mangabeys, Blue Monkeys and Olive Baboons.

Chimp trekking

Gazelle Safari Company looks forward to getting for you a professional guide who isgood at detecting animals. He will fire up your chimp trekking excursion with his wealth of knowledge about the forest’s flora and fauna. Having interacted with the chimps for over 20 years, he has developed a great rapport with them to the extent of literally becoming a part of their community. Thanks to this prior exposure, he is able to interpret for you what the different behaviors and loud vocalizations of the chimps mean.

You will explore an area of the forest that has a community of about 70 -90 habituated chimps. After trekking for an average of two hours, you will find them high in the tree tops searching for food or even hunting for black and white monkeys, a meaty source of protein.

If it’s a dry season, a time when the forest floor is dry, you might find them affectionately grooming each in an effort to make up after a fight.

Nothing beats the thrill of watching their cute babies learn how to fish termites by poking anthills in the forest using thin sticks. Everything seems to be in their favour until that minute when they stuff the insects into their mouths, only to get stings and bites. This twist of fate will leave you in a mixed bag of emotions. You will want to cry and laugh at the same time.

Birdwatching in Budongo

Roughly 360 species of birds have been recorded in Budongo’s Royal Mile that extends from Nyabyeya Forestry College to a research station. They include the rare Puval’s Illadopses which is endemic to the region. Others notable species include Cassin’s Hawk Eagle, Chestnut Crowned Eremomera, Crested Malimbe Dusky long-tailed Cuckoo, African Emerald Cuckoo, Yellow-browned Camaroptera, Western Black-headed Oriole,  Black-headed Paradise Flycatcher, Yellow and Grey Longbill, Slender-billed Greenbul, Forest Robin, Lemon-bellied Crombec, White-spotted Flufftail, , Little Green Sunbird, Yellow-mantled Weaver, and Chocolate-backed Kingfisher among others.

The somber call of the chocolate backed kingfisher dominates the hike but there is no guarantee that you will see it as it is shy and elusive.

Best time to visit: All year round.

Bird watching in Semuliki Reserve

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Formed 22–25 million years ago, Semuliki is a convergence of extensive miles of well conserved habitats. These include moist semi deciduous forests, aquatic arenas like ox-bow lakes, iron wood-dominant woodland, open savannahs, mountain parks and patches of swamp forest.

Every year, over 10,000 avid birders come to this 220 sqkms Reserve with great expectations. In the end, they leave with a broad smile following a rewarding otherworldly experience. Not only does it have more than 460 recorded species, it offers nature lovers excellent encounters with them throughout the year.

Found in the Western arm of the East African Valley, a complex rift system that was formed 22–25 million years ago, Semuliki is a convergence of extensive miles of well conserved habitats. These include moist semi deciduous forests, aquatic arenas like ox-bow lakes, iron wood-dominant woodland, open savannahs, mountain parks and patches of swamp forest.

This diversity attracts all sorts of bird species that can prosper at an elevation between 670-760 meters above sea level; forest birds, near endemics, montane birds, savannah birds and lake dwelling birds.

The reserve prides in having Africa’s most stunning and sought-after birds like Lyre-tailed Honeyguide, Congo Serpent Eagle, Black-wattled Hornbill, Long-tailed Hawk and Nkulengu Rail. Semuliki is one of the places in Africa with easy sightings of African crake, Standard-winged nightjar, Double-toothed barbet, Green wood-hoopoe, Moustached warbler, Red-throated bee-eater, Broad-billed roller, Piapiac and Black-chinned quailfinch among others.

The difference between a game park and a reserve is that unlike in the former, in the latter you don’t have to stick to the roads. Semuliki is a reserve, so our driver guide will take you super close to the varied habitats that you don’t need a zoom lens to be able to see birds. That aside, you do not have to worry about multiple vehicles to spoil the fun as there is a limit to the number of cars that get in per day. Semuliki has regular sightings of 131 species associated with the Congolese rainforest and all the usual tropical birds like Great white pelican, Abyssinian ground hornbill, Malachite kingfisher and African openbill among others.

If you wish to see Uganda’s most sought bird, the shoebill stork, we shall organize for you an ideal early morning boat cruise in Lake Albert.

Best time to visit

Migratory birds are best seen from November to April.