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For JustinaL re:Uganda

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Hi Justina,
Could you tell me a little more about your previous trip(s) to Uganda? Where did you go/stay? What time of year and what was the weather like? Did you do any chimp tracking/habituation last time? Thanks!

Looking forward to a report of your April trip too!

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    Hi Patty,

    Thanks for starting a new thread! I'll get the Fodor etiquette right eventually!

    My previous safaris to Uganda have been:
    August 2002
    August 2004
    October 2004 (this was the rainiest visit I've had!)
    May 2005
    September 2005

    My September 2005 itinerary was:

    Arrive Entebbe (one night)
    Drive to Murchison Falls (three nights at Paraa Lodge)
    Drive to Kibale (two nights at Kimbla-Mantana Camp)
    Drive to Queen Elizabeth (one night Mweya Lodge)
    Drive to Bwindi (three nights Kimbla-Mantana Bwindi Camp)
    Drive to Lake Mburo (one night Kimbla-Mantana Lake Mburo Camp)

    We did chimp tracking in September, and it was my best one yet. Every time prior, I had seen the chimps high up in the trees, which makes it difficult to get a really good look at them, let alone get any photos. In September, we found the chimps on the ground right in front of us! How incredible. And how absolutely incredible that I didn't take my camera with me (this one time!!!) because they had always been impossible to photograph before. Major lesson learned... never, ever leave your lodge or camp without your camera as you never know what might be waiting to be photographed. I'm still angry with myself now! Anyway, we initially came upon two males sitting on the ground in front of us, who more or less just kind of sat there and then casually walked off. We followed them and they led us to several more chimps (mostly females) who were all sitting on a fallen tree in a clearing grooming each other. It was absolutely amazing to be that close (and to see so clearly) wild chimpanzees. It was good to have binoculars with me as I was able to look at hands and faces much more closely. Unfortunately, we could clearly see where some of the chimps were missing fingers, which is caused by snares.

    You can actually read more about the snare problem for the chimpanzees at:

    http://www.janegoodall.org/news/article-detail.asp?Entry_ID=370

    There is also a "night primate walk" at Kibale, which allows you the possibility of seeing some of Kibale's nocturnal primates. Even if you don't see anything (I've only managed to see bush babies so far), it is fun walking in the forest at night (with a UWA ranger of course).

    I have always found the weather in Uganda to be fairly consistent... it is humid in Kibale and Bwindi (they are rainforests, after all), and you do warm up a bit while trekking either the chimps or the gorillas. As with Kenya and Tanzania, it does get cool in the evenings when the sun goes down (and mornings are cool as well), so having a light jacket or a sweater is a big help.

    I've been really fortunate (knock on wood) so far with all of my chimp and gorilla treks - no rain so far during my walks. It has always tended to rain in the late afternoon/evening or overnight.

    Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth, and Lake Mburo are much more like a lot of the parks and reserves that you'll find in Kenya and Tanzania... dry and warmer... and again, it always cools off when the sun goes down, although I do have to say that it stayed pretty warm at Murchison Falls at night in September.

    This April will be my first time doing the chimp habituation program (which is more or less why I'm going in April as I've really been looking forward to doing this).



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    Your comemnt about rain is funny. I was in Bwindi in August 2003 and it poured on our way to the headquarters and continued to rain until we set off on foot -- then it stopped, not to start up again until we got back in the van.

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    Thanks, Justina! Don't worry about etiquette. I'm frequently guilty of taking threads way off topic!

    How long was the drive from Murchison to Kibale and from Kibale to QENP? Can you compare/constrast Murchison and QENP? If having to chose between the two, which one would you pick? Would it be a mistake to skip Lake Mburo altogether (I think it's often included for logistics/distance reasons)?

    Has all of your chimp tracking been in Kibale? Have you tried tracking in Kyambura(sp?) gorge or elsewhere? If so, any success?

    With the chimps, you're also allowed to spend up to an hour (if not doing the habituation), is that correct? What a treat that you were able to see them up close!

    How was Mantana camp in Kibale when you stayed there in Sep? I've read some mixed reports. How far is the camp from where you start the night walk and chimp tracking (I believe the camp is located just outside the park, right)?

    Thanks for your help.

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    I hiked the Chamburra Gorge (sp?) in QENP and while we heard chimps, we didn't see any. QENP wouldn't be my first choice if seeing chimps was a priority. Lions, buffalo, puku, hippo, forest hogs aplenty, but not one chimp.

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    Hi Justina,

    I would love to hear how this upcoming April trip goes--please post when you return.

    And, if you don't mind, who do you book with? Or do you cobble it together yourself?

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    The drive from Murchison to Kibale is about seven hours and the drive from Kibale to QENP about three to four hours, give or take.

    I think there is no way to compare Murchison and QENP as they are so different.

    The wildlife that I've seen at Murchison has been so much more varied than that found at QENP... giraffe, buffalo, elephant, hippos, and crocs by the boatloads, lion, hartebeest, Uganda kob, oribi, bushbuck... the scenery at Murchison is that of rolling hills dotted with palms (got to think that an ele pooped in every spot you see a palm tree). The falls are spectacular (though in a very, very different way from Victoria Falls). We even saw a large python there in September (probably ten to 12 feet long), as well as a fairly large group of Patas monkeys on the savannah (they inhabit open woodlands and savannahs and are apparently the fastest of the terrestrial primates). And, for bird enthusiasts, there's the shoebill stork, which I was able to see on one trip by taking the boat trip down to the delta.

    On the other hand, QENP has the Kazinga Channel, which is incredible and beautiful as well. Elephant, hippo, crocs, buffalo, waterbuck, topi, hyena... and again, excellent bird life. I haven't done as much game driving overall at QENP, although we did see a duiker in September, which we were all thrilled over. So small! And then there's the Ishasha section of QENP on the way to Bwindi to see the tree-climbing lion... awesome.

    They do have leopard at both Murchison Falls and at Queen Elizabeth, but I haven't seen them there yet!

    How to choose between the two? Almost impossible for me. They really are so different landscape-wise and are both very beautiful parks offering completely different experiences.

    You are correct that Lake Mburo is often included only for logistical reasons as it is a nice half-way point between Bwindi and Kampala or Entebbe. It is, however, the only park in Uganda where impala are found, and they do have some large herds of eland, as well as the occasional shoebill stork. On my very first trip to Africa in 2002, I had my best African sky experience there. I was there on a new moon and it was completely pitch black - I couldn't see my hand in front of my face when all of the lights were out. I could hear the zebra walking around my tent, chewing, and whinnying/barking... pretty cool.

    I have trekked at Kyambura/Chambura Gorge twice and have not seen or heard the chimps either time. It is a beautiful gorge, but chances are much higher (every time for me) that you'll see the chimps at Kibale. I also have to say that I think that the UWA rangers at Kibale are more knowledgeable than those at Kyambura Gorge.

    Correct that, as is the case with the gorillas, you can spend up to one hour with chimps at Kibale once you have found them - when doing the "regular" primate walk at Kibale.


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