Uganda itinerary help requested

Jun 18th, 2012, 05:45 AM
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Uganda itinerary help requested

I'm just starting to get responses from tour operators for a trip to Uganda for summer 2013. My priority is the gorilla trek. Can anyone advise on strong or weak points of this itinerary? I will need to ask that a second gorilla trek be added but other than that are there any other suggestions? Oh, I also have to ask what lodging that would include in Lake Mburo NP.

Does it seem like chimp trekking in both locations is a good idea? I've read that sometimes the chimps are elusive or hard to see -- is doing 2 treks a good way to make sure to see them or is it a chance at being twice frustrated?

We've been in Botswana & South Africa on safari so we don't feel huge pressure to see any certain animals. Also I would add we're not birders in particular. And as far as accomodations I've requested we not go too rustic but also I don't have a sky's-the-limit budget so we have to keep that in mind.

Any thoughts would be most appreciated!

Day 1: Overnight Entebbe @ Boma guesthouse

Day 2: Drive to Ziwa and overnight Amuka Lodge

Rhino trek plus swamp boat ride, possibility of Shoebill stork

Day 3: Drive to Murchison Falls, overnight Paraa Lodge for 2 nights

PM: Nile boat cruise

Day 4: AM game drive, PM game drive

Day 5: AM game drive then Nile cruise (Delta) for Shoebill Stork, up-river to Murchison Falls themselves, hike up side of Murchison Falls (amazing views!), road transfer to Budongo Eco Lodge for overnight

Day 6: AM: Chimpanzee trek in Budongo Forest. PM: Return to Entebbe for overnight, Boma Guesthouse.

Day 7: Drive to Fort Portal area, overnight Kyaninga Lodge

Day 8: Chimp trek, Kibale Forest, PM drive to Mweya (QENP) 2 nights Mweya Lodge

Day 9: Kazinga Channel cruise, pm game drive?

Day 10: Drive via Ishasha to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, 2 nights Mahogany Springs Lodge

Day 11: Gorilla trek - Bwindi

Day 12: By road to Lake Mburo National Park. Overnight.

Day 13: Return to Entebbe.
Leslie_S is offline  
Jun 18th, 2012, 07:36 AM
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hi Leslie,
0n Feb 25, 12 at 9:37am u wrote that u purchased a tour to Burma with Odysseys unlimted. Did u go? what was your experience?
we r looking into a trip to Burma too
when is a good month to go?
zipzip is offline  
Jun 18th, 2012, 10:32 AM
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Haven't gone yet - the trip is in November. From what I've read that's a good time to go.
Leslie_S is offline  
Jun 18th, 2012, 10:35 AM
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hmmm...puzzled by why zipzip would sign up today and ask such a random question as their first and only and on this Uganda thread....
Leslie_S is offline  
Jun 19th, 2012, 01:32 AM
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Hi Leslie,

I've not been to all of the places you mentioned, but I did have a few questions/comments about pieces of your itinerary:

--I've stayed at the Boma, it's nice, not rustic.

--Do you know the name of the swamp near Ziwa where you'll be looking for shoebill? I'm curious, and I didn't know there was an area near there where they could be found.

--Do you know where the boat is going for your Day 3 Nile boat cruise? I'm assuming that it's going up the river to see Murchison Falls, since you mention a later delta cruise. If so, it looks like you'll be doing the upriver cruise to see the falls twice (on days 3 and 5), and if this is the case, I wouldn't do that cruise more than once. The Uganda Wildlife Authority cruise took 3 hours--maybe yours will go faster, but I didn't find it interesting enough to do twice. I haven't hiked to the top of the falls from the bottom of the canyon, but I have seen the falls from the top. You can drive to it much more quickly, perhaps on the way to transfering to Budongo or when leaving the park. It's a neat view, but I don't think it's worth a long-ish boat ride plus a hike.

--I haven't done the Budongo chimp trek, but did do the one in Kibale. It took us about 30 minutes to find chimps--it seemed very easy. I personally wouldn't do 2 chimp trek tours AND a gorilla tour. I think your chances of seeing chimps in Kibale are very high, and if you miss them, you'll more than likely see the gorillas.

--I'm very curious to know why they have you going clear back to Entebbe, then up to Fort Portal, rather than going from Murchison to Fort Portal. It's about a 1/2 day drive from Murchison to Entebbe, and another 1/2 day from Entebbe to Fort Portal. The road between Murchison and Fort Portal isn't good, but in my opinion it beats backtracking so much. At the very least they could have you stay in Kampala rather than Entebbe. It's a good 45-60 minute drive from Entebbe to exiting Kampala, depending on traffic.

--I hear Mweya is very nice (I've not stayed there), but it's rather far from the prime game-viewing. It is very close to the Kazinga boat cruises. I would try to do the game drives as early in the morning as possible, we had much better luck (including lions!) in the mornings. Since you mentioned being to South Africa and Botswana, I would tell you that I found Murchison to have better game viewing than QENP (but I didn't go to Inshasha).

I think you'll really like your trip. If you get to drive from Murchison Falls NP to Fort Portal, you'll get to go off the beaten path and see a side of Uganda that you may not see from the paved roads you'd otherwise be taking.
Gritty is offline  
Jun 19th, 2012, 02:09 AM
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Hi Leslie,

I'm recalling my drive between Masindi (just outside Murchison) to Fort Portal--I did not go there as part of a tour, and I would be surprised if a tour company would indeed take people through that route. The road between Masindi and Hoima was almost completely flooded at one point. So, you could ask your tour company if they could take you from Murchison to Fort Portal rather than overnight in Entebbe, but I would call it a deal-breaker if they don't. However, I would be more insistent on having them overnight you in Kampala rather than Entebbe. Less time on the road.
Gritty is offline  
Jun 19th, 2012, 06:24 AM
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Hi Gritty -
Thanks a lot for your comments and suggestions.

I did ask about the backtracking from Murch. Falls to Entebbe Day 6 and then on to Fort Portal Day 7 and haven't heard back yet what his reasoning was. Someone from Uganda on the tripadvisor forum pointed that out and said there's a direct shortcut from Murch. Falls past Lake Albert and down to Kyenjojo which takes about 5 hrs. I wonder if that's the same road you're talking about which is possibly prone to flooding. But we'd be going in dry season so maybe that wouldn't be an issue then.

I also already questioned doing 2 chimp treks and suggested just one in Kibale would probably be enough for us.

I will ask about the two Nile cruises and why we should do that twice. I'll also try to find out the name of the swamp around Ziwa. I think the point of the hike up the side of the falls is add in some physical activities (along with the gorilla and chimp treks, and rhino!) to add that element vs. spending most of our time in vehicles.

I really appreciate your feedback and will come back with what I learn about the above issues. Thanks again!
Leslie_S is offline  
Jun 19th, 2012, 06:56 AM
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I did the chimp trekking in Kyumbura Gorge which is part of QENP and we did whilst staying at Mweya lodge. One option would be to make sure you have enough of a window in your itinerary to add in an extra chimp trek from Mweya if you want to. That way if you miss them in Kibale, or you enjoy it so much you want to do it again, you could add in another one while you're there. I didn't get the impression the permits were in particularly high demand so I imagine you've got a good chance of organising it last minute. I really enjoyed the chimp trekking- more than the gorillas, in fact, and permits for Kyumbura Gorge are pretty cheap at $50.
stokeygirl is offline  
Jun 19th, 2012, 07:19 AM
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Thanks for that info stokeygirl. I'll keep that in mind for our time at Mweya. Can I ask what you enjoyed about chimp trekking more so than gorilla?
Leslie_S is offline  
Jun 19th, 2012, 12:58 PM
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I think I enjoyed it as there was more of a feeling of actually tracking them whereas for the gorilla trek we were very much led to where the gorillas had already been found. With the chimps, they were on the move and we were following them in the forest but never quite knew when (or if) they would appear. I had one slightly hairy moment when I had crossed the stream at the bottom of the gorge (using a fallen tree) and I was waiting for the rest of the group who were crossing or on the other side, when I noticed everyone waving at me. When I turned around (sloooowly) I found a chimp had come down from the trees right behind me! Overall, although I think the chimp experience is a lot less guaranteed than the gorillas in terms of getting a good close up view, it was more fun, partly due to the uncertainty of it. I think we were lucky in that we did have good close encounters but the cost was a fraction of the cost of the gorilla tracking so if you're unlucky it won't have cost a fortune.

I had a look at UWA's website and noticed the chimp trek at Kyumbura gorge is only $50 whereas Kibale is $150. I don't know if that's a reflection of the relative chances of having good sightings but if you have the time to spare, at $50 I think a second trek at Kyumbura would be well worth including. If you are at Mweya and have a choice between another game drive in QENP and doing the chimp trek, I would choose the chimps hands down. The boat trip on the Kazinga channel was very good but I don't remember the game drives being that productive.
stokeygirl is offline  
Jun 19th, 2012, 04:01 PM
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Looks like a nice trip. Ask for drive times between locations so you will be prepared.

Why 2 boat trips at Murch Falls?

One is to falls itself and other focuses more on wildlife in early am with best chance at shoebill. Here is more detailed info from my report.

The Various Water Activities at Murchison Falls:
1. The walk to the top of the falls. As mentioned above, it is best in the afternoon and you drive to it from the south side of the Nile. It is also possible to do this as part of the boat ride to the bottom of the falls. You’d get out of the boat when it nears the bottom of the falls and walk for an hour or two up a trail to the top of the falls. I saw others do this, but did not do it myself.

2. Boat ride to the bottom of the falls. Afternoon is the best time for this, too, for the nicest light and our trip departed at 2:00 pm. Depending on the boat, the round trip takes about 2.5 hours with a slow wildlife watching trip to the falls and a faster one back. Paraa has its own boats for the guests’ enjoyment, which are included in the cost of the stay. One is a double-decker boat that holds about 40 people and the upper deck is uncovered. Another is a long covered motorboat that holds about 12.

When boarding from the front of the boat and walking to the rear, the right side is closer to shore so you see more and that’s where I sat. There were about 40 passengers, most of whom were staying elsewhere, the day I went. Some of them came from a lodge on the southern side of the river and those people got picked up first. I think the idea was not to inconvenience the Paraa guests and have them board early just to do a pick up run. But that meant these other folks got first pick of the seats. There were not that many who boarded from across the river, but there might have been, and if you were very particular with where you sat or had lots of camera gear, it might be worth your while to board early, grab your seat, and resign yourself to making the pickup run.

When it was our turn to board at 2:00 pm, near where the ferry stopped, there was somewhat of a mob. I give Abraham credit for hustling me onto the boat so I could choose a good seat. There were too many people for him to go too.

I don’t think there are always that many people, just luck of the draw. I also saw other smaller boats that seemed to be able to maneuver to the sides of the river better. They were swifter and reached the areas where the crocs were sunning themselves before we did. Often the crocs were still in the water by the time we arrived after the quick boats. Wild Frontiers was one company I noticed in case you wanted to book your own smaller 12-passenger (or so) boat. But some days Paraa might use their smaller boat if there were fewer passengers.

The boat’s motor was never shut off, and along with the current, it made photos a bit of a challenge, but I still got some great open mouthed hippos. Be sure to bring water and binoculars. A lot of the people did not and were complaining. Some thought you could buy soft drinks on the boat. You couldn’t. No bathrooms either as I recall (but I could be wrong) and we made no stops.

The scenery was beautiful and we had some dramatic skies, a few raindrops, and a rainbow. There was a spotter/guide on the boat which helped a lot. The rare red throated bee eaters were common sightings. We also saw a colobus monkey, fish eagles, crocs, waterbuck, Goliath herons, thicknees, saddlebilled storks, crocs, pied kingfisher, hippos, buffalo, single elephants, and a distant herd. Do not expect to see the shoebill stork on this trip. As you get closer to the falls, big gobs of froth start covering the river. The falls themselves were beautiful. We approached no closer than about two city blocks.

Just about everybody who visits Murchison Falls does this trip as a highlight of their visit.

3. Boat ride to the delta. You need a 3-night stay to fit this approximately 5-hour cruise in, unless you opted for no game drives and spent all your time in a boat, which would be a mistake. A morning departure is best to see the most animals. We departed 7:00 am and enjoyed lots of wildlife activity early in the ride and then it got very quiet by about 10:00 am, which is to be expected. I was on the covered 12-passenger boat along with the captain, Ranger George, and Abraham for a lucky private tour. There were lots of life jackets visible.

As you face forward and look out across the bow of the boat straight ahead, the right side was the best because it was closest to the shore. With just me as a passenger, I moved around sometimes, though.

The wildlife in the river and on the side of the river, the papyrus, and the general scenery was fantastic. The captain quieted the motor for sightings like big crocs sunning, but I don’t think he liked to turn it off and on a lot. The smaller boat was shakier than the big one.

We made two pit stops and on one of them met a ranger who had quite a tale. He had encountered a mother leopard and three 6-month old cubs while in the river filling his jerry can. Mother Leopard was not pleased and the ranger had to make himself appear formidable by wielding his jerry can as a force of deterrence. The ranger and his jerry can prevailed. We knew the family he was talking about, having seen the cubs at a distance on a previous drive.

The re-entry to the boat after the pit stop was tricky without a dock and I required some hoisting of my ballast to get me over the steep sides. If I had encountered the leopards, I probably could have managed alone.

We saw bushbuck, waterbuck, warthogs, single elephants, buffalo, hippo, crocs, a purple heron, Goliath herons, baboons, a black crake, a malachite kingfisher, fish eagles, pied kingfishers, and a giant kingfisher (a highlight). And we heard the elusive papyrus gonolek. I’m enough of a birder to be happy we heard it, but not so much of a one to be upset that we didn’t see it. Odds of seeing a shoebill are higher on this trip than the ride to the falls but the best bet is to drive in a vehicle on land to the delta region and search.
atravelynn is offline  
Jun 20th, 2012, 06:45 AM
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stokeygirl -- your hairy moment (good pun) must've given you pause being on that side alone. I hope that awful story about the woman here who had her face ripped off by a pet chimp isn't clanging around in my head the whole time we're there!

I've noted the Kyumbura gorge is a good choice v. a second game drive. It was interesting to hear the reason you enjoyed that - thanks a lot. I agree that tracking would make it feel more like an adventure than being basically led.

atravelynn --
Sorry to be dense but to make sure: I think you're explaining why 2 boat trips would not be too many and that in fact if we're hiking up the side of the falls that would be a good idea to do both and it wouldn't be repetitive?
We won't have time there to do the longer Delta cruise.

I've taken notes of your tips on where to sit in the boat and what to bring. I think finding a new pair of binocs will be part of the prep for this trip. The pair I bought for our first safari are strong but very heavy. I'll make my husband use that pair
Leslie_S is offline  
Jun 20th, 2012, 05:14 PM
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Yes, the two type of boat trips are good and not similar. If no time for the longer delta cruise and you'd like try to see a shoebill, seek one out from the vehicle. In 8 hours of boat riding I did not see a shoebill in Murch Falls, but did see one from the vehicle that was along the shore.

Your itinerary has lots of variety.
atravelynn is offline  
Jun 21st, 2012, 04:12 AM
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atravelynn - I re-read your last trip report yesterday - so many good tips and great story-telling. How amazing to get to do so many primate treks on one trip! Thanks a lot for your advice on our itinerary.
Leslie_S is offline  
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