Holidays to dream of – Primates and more in Rwanda and Uganda
In the safari world, Rwanda and Uganda are best known as places to track mountain gorillas. Both have small populations of the endangered animals, and gorilla tracking is an undoubted highlight. What is not so well known is how much more there is to enjoy – with a host of other safari activities adding to the experience in either Rwanda or Uganda.
Tiny, landlocked Rwanda – also known as ‘The Land of a Thousand Hills’ – offers an experience of tropical Africa at its most lush and exuberant.
There is superb gorilla tracking in Parc National des Volcans with a good range of lodges to choose from. If you prefer luxury accommodation, Singita Kwitonda or Bisate Lodge would be our top picks, while Virunga Lodge, a little less opulent, is a long time Aardvark Safaris’ favourite and a very comfortable choice.
Away from the gorillas, Akagera National Park is a good one to add to the list. On the border with Tanzania in the north east, this pretty park contains some of East Africa’s most scenic savannah. It is home to one of Africa’s highest hippo densities, some very large crocodiles, rare sitatunga and over 500 bird species. Teeming with plains wildlife, Akagera now also boasts a healthy population of lion and black rhino. Magashi Camp is a wonderful spot, where locally inspired interior design and architecture grace six luxurious tents overlooking beautiful Lake Rwanyakazinga.
The high-altitude rainforest of Nyungwe National Park counts 13 primate and over 300 bird species within its boundaries and is another of Rwanda’s safari gems. It’s possible to track chimpanzees here as well as Mangabey and Colobus monkeys. There are some wonderful walking trails and an awe-inspiring treetop walkway which gives a unique bird’s eye view of the rain forest below. One&Only Nyungwe House is a perfect forest hideaway – encircled by rolling hills and ancient rainforest and is the sort of place you’ll feel completely castaway from the day-to-day humdrum.
Gorillas are Uganda’s big wildlife draw and are found in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga National Park. The greater population is in Bwindi, around six hours by vehicle, or a short light aircraft flight, from the capital Kampala. The lush rainforest vegetation means tracking can be a little tougher than in Rwanda but the reward of an hour’s face to face with one of our closest living relatives is well worth the effort. Of places to stay, Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge sits in a prime position within a five minute walk of the Nkuringo trail head which is home to three habituated family groups. Other good choices are Bwindi Lodge and the stylish Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge which has magnificent views over the national park.
Away from the gorillas’ rainforest home, Uganda’s terraced hillsides, numerous lakes, waterfalls, mighty rivers, volcanoes and snow-capped mountains also offer really good general wildlife viewing. In fact, it’s arguably a more complete safari destination than it is given credit for.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is Uganda’s most visited and with elephant, lion, buffalo, hippo and leopard it’s the park most like those in neighbouring Kenya and Tanzania. There are chimps in Kyambura Gorge and in the far south there are the famous tree climbing lions of Ishasha. With some 610 bird species – possibly the most in any African park – it’s a bird watching paradise. Among our favourite lodges here are Mazike Valley Lodge which is a great base from which to explore and Ishasha Wilderness Camp, a classic tented camp in a remote spot to the south of the park.
Another of Uganda’s gems is Kibale Forest National Park, a real primate hot spot with 13 species recorded here including nearly 1,500 resident chimpanzees. It is possible to track chimps here and there are even more chimps in lovely Semliki where you can also spot pygmy hippo, forest elephant and myriad butterflies and birds including the shoebill. Both Ndali Lodge and Kyaninga Lodge offer chimp tracking along with a range of other activities.
Murchison Falls, Uganda’s largest national park, lies astride the Nile as it plunges through the falls into Lake Albert. It’s remoteness means it’s often overlooked on an itinerary which is a great shame since there are few reserves in Africa that have such diversity of habitat. All this makes fantastic wildlife viewing which includes the extraordinary shoebill, elephant, buffalo, lion, Nubian giraffe, Uganda kob, hippo, crocodile and plentiful birdlife. Baker’s Lodge, overlooking the River Nile, is an excellent choice for all that is on offer here.
We would be delighted to help you plan a dream holiday in Rwanda or Uganda. Our team of experts has travelled widely throughout Africa and the Indian Ocean and can offer expert advice on every type of safari from family and beach holidays to riding and primate safaris. Do get in touch – chatting to people by phone or email is what we do best. We listen, we explain, we answer all sorts of questions even those you didn’t know to ask, and finally we make suggestions. If this is your first time to Africa or your twenty first, we have a team standing by to help make the planning easy and the journey the best ever. Please get in touch whatever stage you’re at.