13 Days: Great Ape and Big Game Safari Photo Tour

This is a 2 week trip of Photography mainly for Primates and Big Game. The tour covers the major iconic primates of Africa Mountain Gorillas, Chimpanzees and Golden Monkeys. All these are habituated and one needs to trek for at least one hour in order to get to them. Average time with the primates is usually one hour for the Gorillas and slightly more for the Chimpanzees and the Golden Monkeys.

All the Primates are found in Rain forests which are also home to some of Africa's most sought after birds like Green breasted Pitta in Kibale National Park, Gruer's Broadbill in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and other Albertine Rift Endemics. Where required services of the local guides will be used for those birder's on the trip.

Evening photography Work Shops for photo critque and  tutorials in Photoshop, and lightroom are included, these will be conducted the tour leader.

Arrive in Entebbe and transfer to the Protea Hotel Entebbe. 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.

A day's drive across Uganda’s green highlands takes us to Kibale, the equatorial rainforest reserve that is home to more primates, including 500 chimpanzees, than any other place in the world. 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 for what’s yet to come, with our Expedition Leader’s guidance. Overnight in thatched cottages at Ndali Lodge.

We rise early this morning to depart by road for Queen Elizabeth National Park, skirting the western Rift Valley. Stretching from the crater-dotted foothills of the Ruwenzori Mountains along Lake Edward to the remote Ishasha River, the park's mosaic of habitats includes savanna, wetlands, gallery and lowland forest. On the Kazinga Channel we take a boat ride among the world’s largest concentration of hippos, as well as crocodiles, baboons and myriad birds—the park boasts 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, making our way to Ishasha Wilderness Camp to spend the night. Overnight at Mweya Safari Lodge in Queen Elizabeth 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 dream subject for a nature photographer! Continuing into the western mountains, we 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, named for 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.

Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi UNESCO World Heritage Site Within the World Heritage Site that is Bwindi, we discover one of nature travel’s peak experiences, a visit with wild gorillas in their natural habitat. Fewer than 700 mountain gorillas remain in the world, half of them in this preserve. Our safari includes two chances to spend time among the gorillas, maximizing our 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: they sit in the trees and chew leaves; babies cling to mothers’ backs; juveniles swing from branches; the big male silverback surveys all, including us. It’s hard to tell who is more captivated, them or us!

Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda Leaving Bwindi, we descend to the Rift Valley floor, passing local villages and coffee plantations. Entering Rwanda, we 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, it's just a short drive from the headquarters of the national park, where all gorilla trekking expeditions depart.

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 trekking in search of them. We set out early each morning along paths into the forest, eventually leaving them 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 to human presence. With a full hour to sit with a gorilla troop, we are able to capture extraordinary photographs.

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 who swoop 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.

Kigali / Depart This morning we visit the Kigali Memorial Center, a deeply moving tribute to the 800,000 people killed in the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Following a farewell lunch, our gorilla safari comes to a close as we transfer to the airport for flights home.

  • International flights and applicable airport departure taxes
  • All passport and visa fees
  • Single entry visas as well as East African visas (between Uganda | Rwanda | Kenya) are currently available directly upon arrival at Entebbe Airport at a cost of US$100 (same cost for both types). Please be advised that Uganda is moving towards an online visa system and may announce online visa application requirements with little notice. We will keep you informed to the best of our ability. However, to avoid any potential issues, may we recommend that clients obtain an East African visa (as detailed above) upfront and prior to travel from their nearest available Embassy (see http://www.embassy-worldwide.com/country/uganda/). When officially in place, the visas will be applied for online: https://visas.immigration.go.ug/).
  • Amref Flying Doctors emergency evacuation – can be arranged @$24 per person per 31 days
  • Trip cancellation, travel delay or baggage insurance.
  • Charges incurred as a result of delays beyond our control.
  • All statutory increases beyond our control.
  • Meals not specified (including lunch and other meal stops between properties on overland sectors)
  • Drinks where not stipulated in itinerary
  • Items of a personal nature: fax, telephone, etc.
  • Laundry in Entebbe/Kampala
  • Gratuities for guide/driver/hotel staff
  • Any extras and additional activities not mentioned in the itinerary
  • Travel/medical insurance
  • Amref Flying Doctors emergency evacuation – can be arranged at USD24 per person per 31 days
  • For adding another Gorilla Track we shall charge $650 per person per Gorilla permit