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Ultimate Gorilla Photo Safari

13 days with Natural Habitat Adventures   Rating: Deluxe

Itinerary
Click for Dates and Prices
Day 1: Entebbe, Uganda—Botanical Gardens
Arrive in Entebbe and transfer to the Protea Hotel. If time permits, you may opt to visit the famous Entebbe Botanical Gardens nearby. Established in 1902, the gardens house a diverse plant collection from tropical, sub-tropical and temperate zones. Also home to a wide variety of birds, the gardens offer an excellent introduction to Uganda’s avian species. Vervet and black-and-white colobus monkeys are commonly spotted here as well. Meet your Expedition Leader at a welcome dinner this evening, where we'll have a full orientation to our gorilla tour.
 
Days 2–4: Kibale National Park—Chimpanzee Trekking
A day's drive across Uganda’s green highlands takes us to Kibale, the equatorial rain forest reserve that is home to one of the world's most prolific primate populations, including 1,300 chimpanzees. On two different occasions, trackers help us spot chimps and monkeys, which we'll have plenty of time to watch and photograph as our Expedition Leader offers tips on how to capture the best shots in the low forest light. We may also see up to 100 different bird species during a wetland sanctuary walk, and we'll have the option to hike to one of the crater lakes near our lodge, with magnificent views from the rim. On our final afternoon, we focus on honing our photography skills with our Expedition Leader’s guidance in anticipation of what is to come. Overnight in thatched cottages at Ndali Lodge.
 
Day 5: Queen Elizabeth National Park
Rise early this morning to depart by road for Queen Elizabeth National Park, skirting the western Rift Valley. Stretching from the crater-pocked foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains along Lake Edward to the remote Ishasha River, the park's mosaic of habitats includes savanna, wetlands and lowland forest. On the Kazinga Channel, take a boat ride among the world’s largest concentration of hippos, as well as crocodiles, baboons and myriad birds—the park boasts more than 600 different avian species. It is also home to lion, buffalo, elephant and antelope, all of which offer exciting photography opportunities. After lunch, we continue our wildlife drive to the southern sector of the park, reaching Ishasha Wilderness Camp to spend the night.
 
Day 6: Queen Elizabeth / Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
On a morning game drive in Queen Elizabeth National Park, we may be fortunate to see the park’s famous tree-climbing lions—a captivating subject for any wildlife photographer. Continuing into the western mountains, visit a local school (time permitting) before reaching Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and our gorilla-trekking base in the rain forest, Mahogany Springs Lodge. The park, whose name aptly references the dense forests it encompasses, is home to roughly half the world’s remaining mountain gorillas. Though best known for its outstanding gorilla tracking, it also provides refuge to chimpanzees, monkeys, elephants and various small antelope. Bwindi is also a key Uganda birding destination, with 23 of Uganda’s 24 Albertine Rift endemics, including threatened species such as African green broadbill and Shelley's crimson wing.
 
Days 7 & 8: Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi UNESCO World Heritage Site
Within the World Heritage Site that is Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, discover one of nature travel’s peak experiences: a visit with wild gorillas in their natural habitat. About 880 mountain gorillas remain in the world, half of them in this preserve. Our safari includes two chances to spend time among the gorillas, maximizing prospects for extraordinary photographs, often at very close range. Early in the morning, we depart on a trek through the dense rain forest on a quest to locate one of the "habituated" family groups. Our local guides are expert trackers, reading signs of the gorillas’ recent presence in the undergrowth. Finally we hear and see them, and watch, enrapt as they sit in the trees chewing leaves, babies clinging to mothers’ backs, juveniles swinging from branches and a big male silverback surveying it all. It’s hard to tell who is more captivated, the gorillas or us! If time permits, we’ll visit Conservation Coffee, a local co-op of farmers who grow, process and roast beans to sell at a premium that benefits gorilla conservation. We may have a chance to walk through the coffee fields, pick some beans, and see firsthand how this sustainable community enterprise unfolds.
 
Day 9: Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
Leaving Bwindi, we descend to the Rift Valley floor, driving past local villages and coffee plantations. Entering Rwanda, continue to Parc National des Volcans—Volcanoes National Park—named for the string of jungle-draped volcanoes inside its borders. Our destination, Five Volcanoes, is a deluxe boutique lodge ideally situated as our base for the next three nights. Set seamlessly into its lush surroundings with panoramic vistas of the mountains beyond, the lodge is just a short drive from the national park headquarters, where all gorilla trekking expeditions depart.
 
Days 10 & 11: Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park
After breakfast, we drive to park headquarters for a briefing from our guides. This area is where Dian Fossey made her groundbreaking studies on mountain gorillas before she was killed in 1985, and her grave is nearby. Several habituated gorilla families live in the park, and we learn how important our ecotourism presence is to their survival before we trek in search of them. We set out early each morning along paths into the forest, eventually leaving trails behind as our trackers follow signs that lead them to the gorillas' current location. The altitude is above 8,200 feet, so while our pace is unhurried, the hike is tiring, lasting from 30 minutes to several hours. But what a reward: our destination is a specific group of habituated gorillas which have become used to visitors and behave normally, nonchalant about human presence. With a full hour to sit with a gorilla troop, we are able to capture extraordinary photographs.
 
Day 12: Golden Monkey Trek / Kigali
While gorillas are the highlight, even without them Volcanoes National Park would be fascinating. Its varied ecosystems harbor elephant, buffalo, giant forest hog, bush pig, bushbuck, duiker and hyena, as well as a habituated group of endemic and highly endangered golden monkeys, which are our focus today. On a much less strenuous hike, we look for these agile entertainers that swing through the forest canopy and delight us with their antics. Our Expedition Leader is on hand to offer tips for capturing shots of the active primates in this low-light environment. This afternoon, we depart for Rwanda’s capital, Kigali.
 
Day 13: Kigali / Depart
This morning we visit the Kigali Memorial Center, a deeply moving tribute to the 800,000 people killed in Rwanda's 1994 genocide. Following a farewell lunch, our gorilla safari comes to a close as we transfer to the airport for departing flights.
Map
All This Included
To trek into the rain forest and sit with a family of wild mountain gorillas, looking into the eyes of a huge silverback at close range, watching babies cling to their mothers, laughing at youngsters playing in the trees...it's a life-enhancing experience for a wildlife lover. To capture amazing photographs of such encounters lets you relive these rare moments in enduring images. Our Expedition Leader is both a primate naturalist and accomplished photographer whose expertise on both fronts helps you go home with photos you could only dream of beforehand. Your visit with endangered mountain gorillas and other primates in their natural habitat in Uganda and Rwanda may also be a life-changing experience for these species, as ecotourism is the main hope for protecting their future. 
  • Activities
  • accommodations and land transfers as detailed in the itinerary
  • Airport transfers on Day 1 and the final day
  • Meals from dinner on Day 1 to lunch on the final day when staying in our preferred accommodation
  • Drinking water throughout the trip
  • Non-alcoholic drinks at camps and in vehicles
  • Services of NHA Expedition Leader (specific leader subject to change)
  • Local guides
  • Lodge staff
  • Gorilla trackers and one porter on gorilla treks
  • Permit for one golden monkey trek
  • Most gratuities
  • All other park permits, entrance fees and taxes
Highlights
  • Four separate gorilla tracking expeditions—two each in Uganda and Rwanda—maximize photo opportunities with the last of the world's endangered mountain gorillas.
  • Look for golden monkeys, too, and complete the primate experience in Kibale National Park photographing wild chimpanzees and colobus monkeys.
  • Join NHA’s top Expedition Leaders as we track the famed primates, plus traditional African plains game and predators on the savannas of the western Rift Valley.
Accommodations
Entebbe: Protea Hotel Entebbe
Kibale Forest: Ndali Lodge
Queen Elizabeth National Park: Mweya Lodge, Ishasha Wilderness Camp
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest: Mahogany Springs Lodge
Volcanoes National Park: Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel
Kigali: Kigali Serena Hotel
Pre and Post Add-ons
Custom Kenya Safari Camp Extension
A fly-in extension to your choice of Kenya's most out-of-the-way safari camps in the Maasai Mara, Samburu, Amboseli and more.
Year-Round, From $2395
 
Custom Tanzania Safari Camp Extension
Extend your safari with at one of Tanzania's secluded safari camps in the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Selous, Ruaha and more.
Year-Round, From $3225
Notes
  • Group Size Limit: Approximately 9 Travelers.
  • Not Included: Travel to and from start and end point of trip, permit fees for two gorilla treks (to be added to your invoice and subject to change through day of departure), alcoholic beverages, some gratuities, passport and visa fees, optional activities, items of a personal nature (phone calls, souvenirs, etc.), airline baggage fees, airport and departure taxes, optional travel insurance, and required medical evacuation insurance.
  • Mandatory Insurance: Since the areas we travel to on this trip are remote and wild (that's why we go there!), we require medical evacuation insurance for our guests' safety. If you decline the medical evacuation insurance coverage offered by Natural Habitat, we request that you send us documentation of the independent coverage you have selected. We will add the cost of a medical evacuation policy to your tour invoice until you provide our office with proof of coverage including your insurance company's name, contact number and your individual policy number. Thank you for understanding that our policy exists exclusively in the interest of our guests' safety.
  • Physical Requirements: Moderate to Difficult. The strenuous (sometimes very strenuous) trek to the gorillas usually takes between two and five hours, but can take as short as fifteen minutes and as long as eight hours (we’ve had a few treks take even longer than that). It is best to be prepared for a full-day out in humid or sometimes even rainy conditions as the exact distance of the gorillas is impossible to determine ahead of time. The terrain is varied and oftentimes uneven as we traverse the forest floor, but we will travel at a pace to accommodate all hikers with a designated porter to assist each traveler. Travelers are not required to participate in all activities and are welcome to forego any portion of the program, but in order to take full advantage of the itinerary and in order to view the primates, one must be able to participate in the hikes. Travelers should be aware that if they turn around due to fatigue, illness or any other reason the remainder of the group, including the Expedition Leader, will go on. The returning traveler will be escorted by a local guide. Additionally, there are long hours sitting during transfers and sometimes bouncing around during wildlife drives and while we don't consider this strenuous, it can be a different type of physical demand on the body. You must be able to climb into and out of these raised 4x4 trucks that serve as our safari vehicles, as well as walk to and from your safari accommodations. We recommend that travelers have an adventurous spirit, as they will often enjoy the closest animal encounters.
  • We ask that you arrive Entebbe, Uganda by 6 pm on Day 1 in order to attend a 7 pm welcome dinner. For those who would like to arrive in Entebbe in time to visit the botanical gardens (plan to arrive Entebbe by 1pm), please inform your Adventure Specialist if you would like to participate in a guided group excursion to the gardens at 3 pm on the afternoon of Day 1. We encourage travelers to arrive a day or more early to rest from their plane trip. You are free to depart from Kigali, Rwanda after 3 pm on the final day.
  • 2019 dates and prices are tentative and may vary.
  • Please ask your Vacations To Go travel counselor for more information.
Terms and Conditions
For Natural Habitat Adventures terms and conditions, please click here.

* The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines.