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UGANDA AND RWANDA

9–30 July 2022

The Albertine Rift Valley and Rwenzori Mountains are famous for their high level of endemism and of the 42 species of birds; nearly 30 endemics are possible on this tour. On this fantastic new trip we go from the stunning Murchison’s Falls in Uganda with Shoebill to the Queen Elizabeth N.P. and all their mammals all the way down to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest with their Mountain Gorillas finishing in the Nyungwe Forest in Rwanda.

Day 1 Arrival at Entebbe international airport port and check in at Victoria View guesthouse for relaxation and later evening birding at the botanical gardens which is adjacent to Lake Victoria. The area is dominated by huge trees some being festooned with hanging creepers and flowers. Here the birds expected include: Gaber Goshawk, Lizard Buzzard, African Harrier-hawk, Black (Yellow-billed) Kite, Black-and-white-casqued, Crowned and Piping Hornbills, Egyptian Goose, Little Egret, Pied and Woodland Kingfishers, Little and Orange Weavers, Great and Long-tailed Cormorants, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Rüppell’s Starling, Grey Parrot, Great Blue and Ross's Turacos and many more bird species then return to the lodge for dinner and overnight.

Day 2 After an early morning breakfast we will transfer to Mabamba Bay swamp. We will take a boat out onto the lake where our main target will be the iconic Shoebill, probably one of the most bizarre-looking birds in the world and also known as Whale-headed Stork! If we have early success we will bird the edges of the marsh where other birds may include White-faced Whistling-duck, Yellow-billed Duck, African and Western Marsh-harriers, African Fish-eagle, African Swamphen, African and Lesser Jacanas, Long-toed Lapwing, Common Sandpiper, Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Papyrus Gonolek, White-winged Swamp Warbler, Malachite Kingfisher and Northern Brown-throated and Weyn’s Weavers whilst around the cultivations Northern Black-flycatcher, Red-chested Sunbird, Red-backed Scrub-robin, Sooty Chat, Whinchat, Yellow-throated Longclaw, African Pipit, Baglafecht and Vieillot’s Black Weavers, Red-eyed Dove, Brown-crowned Tchagra and many other species can be found. After a late lunch, we will drive to Soroti for a two-night night stay.

Day 3 There is just one endemic bird in Uganda; Fox’s Weaver, and we will spend the day looking for it around Lake Bisinia together with the highly localised Karamoja Apalis.

Day 4 After an early breakfast, we will drive to Murchison Falls National Park with maybe a stop or two en route for Marabou Stork, Piapiac, Yellow-throated Leaflove, Grey-backed Fiscal and Marsh Widowbird. After lunch we will take a boat trip out onto the Nile where a small population of Shoebill can be found in Papyrus and can sometimes be closely approached. We will finish the day by visiting the spectacular top of the Murchison Falls. Overnight, Murchison National Park.

Day 5 After an early breakfast again, we will take a game drive in the park in search of the ‘big five animals’ as well as many species of birds including and some birds like Abyssinian Ground-hornbill, the highly-localised Dusky Babbler, Red-winged Grey-warbler, Gambaga flycatcher, Northern Red Bishop and White-browed Sparrow-weaver amongst many others. Following the drive, we will head to Masindi for dinner and a two-night stay.

Day 6 After an early breakfast, we will head to Budongo Forest where we will look for Brown and Puvel's Illadopsis, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Dusky Crested-flycatcher, African Forest-flycatcher, Crested Malimbe, Nahan’s Francolin, Rufous-sided Broadbill, Uganda Woodland-warbler, Brown-chested and Fire-crested Alethe, Black-capped and Buff-throated Apalis, Grey Longbill, Western Nicator, Forest Robin, Ituri Batis, Brown Twinspot, Little, White-throated and Xavier’s Greenbul, Toro Olive-greenbul, Grey-headed and White-breasted Nigritas and many other species. At dusk we will look for Black-shouldered Nightjar before returning to Masindi for dinner and our second night.

Day 7 Today is mostly a driving day so after an early breakfast we will head to the tourist city of Fort Portal, birding on the way, and overnight at Mountains of the Moon Hotel.

Day 8 After an early morning breakfast, we drive to Semliki National Park a number of highly-localised hornbills including Red-billed Dwarf, Black Dwarf, White-crested, White-thighed, Black-casqued and African Pied Hornbills as well as Hartlaub’s Duck, Spot-breasted Ibis, Long-tailed Hawk, Nkulengo Rail, Bronze-naped Pigeon, Zenker’s Honeyguide, Yellow-throated Cuckoo, African Dwarf, Blue-breasted, Chocolate-backed and White-bellied Kingfishers, African Piculet, Red-rumped Tinkerbird, Gabon Woodpecker, African Pitta, Yellow-throated Nicator, Yellow-eyed Bristlebill, Swamp Greenbul, Capuchin Babbler, Red-tailed Ant-thrush, Lowland Akalat, Yellow footed Flycatcher, Blue-headed Crested-flycatcher, African Paradise-flycatcher, Yellow-browed Camaroptera, Fiery-breasted Bushshrike, Lowland Sooty Boubou, Black-winged and Western Black-headed Orioles, Blue-billed and Red-bellied Malimbes, Grants Bluebill, Black-bellied Seedcracker, Orange-checked and Fawn-breasted Waxbills and Pale-fronted and Chestnut-breasted Nigritas. Golden-naped Weaver was also recently sighted here in early January 2020; a new record for Uganda. Overnight in Bundiburyo.

Day 9 After our early morning breakfast, we shall bird around the roadside and continue to the escarpment where we will look for Vinaceous Dove, White-crested Turaco, Black-billed Barbet, Nubian Woodpecker, Grey headed and Stripe-breasted Kingfishers, Blue-cheeked, Little and Red-throated Bee-eaters, African Grey Hornbill, Mocking Cliff-chat, Spotted Morning-thrush, Silverbird, Grey-headed Batis, Foxy and Siffling Cisticolas, Sulphur-breasted Bushshrike, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, and many more species before we continue to Kibale National Park where we stay for the next two nights at Kibale Safari lodge.

Day 10 An early wake up as we need to be in the forest at first light for the star bird; Green-breasted Pitta, a mega tick in this forest. Other birds we may see include Hairy-breasted and Yellow-spotted Barbets, Brown-eared and Yellow-crested Woodpeckers, Purple-headed Starling, Velvet-mantled Drongo, Masked Apalis, Red-tailed Bristlebill, White-tailed Ant-thrush, Mountain Wagtail, Cassin’s Flycatcher, Black-headed Paradise-flycatcher, Grey Tit-flycatcher, Jameson’s Wattle-eye and Dark-backed Weaver.

Day 11 After breakfast, we shall go birding at Bigodi Swamp which is managed by locals in Kibale National Park. Here we will look for African Goshawk, White-spotted Flufftail, Red-headed Malimbe, Red-faced and Winding Cisticolas, White-collared Oliveback, Blue-throated Roller, Double-toothed, Grey-throated and Yellow-billed Barbets, Blue-headed and White-browed Coucals, Snowy-crowned Robin-chat, Black-crowned Waxbill, Magpie Mannikin and many more species. We will return to lodge for a hot lunch before transferring to Queen Elizabeth National Park where we will stay two nights at Engazi Lodge.

Day 12 After an early breakfast, we will go for the game drive, firstly looking for the ‘big cats’; specifically African Lions and Leopards. The park is however, famous for the large numbers of other animals and we can expect to see many species including Common Waterbuck of the defassa sub-species, the Uganda sub-species of Kob, Cape Buffalo, Savannah Elephant, Common Hippopotamus, Common Warthog and many more animals. As we are looking at the animals, we can expect to many species of raptors including Osprey, Martial, Steppe, Tawny and Wahlberg's Eagles, African and Ayres's Hawk-eagles, Bateleur, Banded and Black-chested Snake-eagles, Lappet faced, Palm-nut, White-backed and White-headed Vultures, Rüppell’s Griffon, Common (Steppe) Buzzard, European Honey-buzzard, Grey Kestrel and African Hobby as the day warms up. The park has a wide variety of other species however, and we will look out for Crested and Helmeted Guineafowl, Red-necked Francolin, Black-rumped and Small Buttonquails, Black-bellied Bustard, Senegal and Wattled Lapwings, European, Madagascar and White-throated Bee-eaters, Rufous-naped Lark, Fork-tailed Drongo, Black-headed Gonolek, Southern Red Bishop, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Pin-tailed Whydah and Red-headed and Red-billed Queleas. After lunch, we shall go for a boat cruise along the Kazinga Channel and here we expect to see different water birds including Saddle-billed and Yellow-billed Storks, African Spoonbill, Hamerkop, Pink-backed Pelican, Black-winged Stilt, Water Thick-knee, Giant Kingfisher, African Skimmer, Grey-headed Gull, Swamp Flycatcher, etc. Shortly after dinner, we will do a night game drive for nocturnal animals and birds including Leopard, Genet, Verreaux’s Eagle-owl, African Wood-owl and Pennant-winged and Swamp Nightjars.

Day 13 After our early breakfast, we shall go birding along the road as we transfer to Buhoma staying at Haven Lodge which is one of the community lodges around Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. It is strategically well-positioned with good views of the park and after checking into our rooms for a three-night stay, we can take a short walk around the park headquarter offices.

Day 14 After our breakfast and carrying our package lunches, we will spend the full day birding the waterfall trail in search of a number of Albertine Rift endemic species including Dwarf Honeyguide, Neumann’s Warbler, Red-throated Alethe, Kivu and Oberländer's Ground-thrushes, Albertine and Willard’s Sooty Boubous and Blue-headed and Purple-breasted Sunbirds. Other birds we may see during the day include Blue-shouldered and White-bellied Robin-chats, Equatorial Akalat, Bar-tailed Trogon, African Broadbill, Black-billed Turaco, Black-billed, Black-necked and Brown-capped Weavers, Buff-spotted, Cardinal and Elliot’s Woodpeckers, Narrow-tailed, Slender-billed and Stuhlmann's Starlings, Northern Double-collared, Blue-throated Brown and Bronze Sunbirds, Thick-billed and Willcocks's Honeyguides, Cabanis’s, Shelley’s and Slender-billed Greenbuls, African Dusky, Dusky-blue and Sooty Flycatchers, White-eyed Slaty-flycatcher, Grey-throated Tit-flycatcher, Barred Long-tailed, Dusky Long-tailed and Olive Long-tailed, Cuckoos, African Crowned Eagle, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Red-chested Owlet, Speckled, Yellow-rumped and Yellow-throated Tinkerbirds, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Cassin’s Hawk-eagle, Great Sparrowhawk, Black-throated and Grey Apalis, Black-faced Rufous-warbler, Banded and White-chinned Prinias, Oriole Finch, Black-tailed Oriole, African and Black-and-white Shrike-flycatchers, Petit's Cuckooshrike, African and White-tailed Blue Flycatchers, Grey-green (Bocage's) and Lühder's Bushshrikes, Pink-footed Puffback and many more species. As with all forest birding, it can be difficult at times but the rewards are great!

Day 15 After early morning breakfast, you have a choice to go Gorilla tracking or spend another whole day in the forest birding searching for species we may still need. Gorilla tracking must be booked well in advance as spaces are limited and are at extra cost. For those who opt for Gorilla tracking you will be taken to the park head office for an introduction. Both groups will carry packed lunches and we will all meet up together late afternoon to bird the farmland in search of Red-chested Flufftail. It is important to note that for Gorilla tracking you will be joining a park-organised Gorilla tracking excursion so will have limited opportunity to watch birds.

Day 16 After breakfast we will transfer to Ruhija which is also part of Bwindi National Park via an area called the ‘neck’. Here we expect to see the following species: African Black Duck, Many-coloured Bushshrike, Chapin’s Flycatcher, Rufous Flycatcher-thrush, Olive-green Camaroptera, Green and White-browed Crombecs, Black and Cinnamon-chested Bee-eaters, Green and Little Green Sunbirds, Jameson’s Antpecker and many more other birds those that we might have missed in Buhoma. We shall continue on to Ruhija but have a stop at the ‘Kyogo’ trail to look for Dusky Twinspot, a species with two hugely disjunct populations in Angola and around the Albertine Rift area which can be found feeding in the cultivations. Other species may include Augur Buzzard, African Stonechat, Variable Sunbird, Yellow-fronted and Yellow-crowned Canaries, African Yellow-warbler, Common and Yellow-bellied Waxbills and many more. Then continue to Ruhija Mist Lodge and take a short rest in the heat of the day. Late afternoon and evening birding will be on the ‘school’ trail where we expect to see more Albertine endemic including Rwenzori Batis, Rwenzori Apalis, Regal Sunbird, Grauers Swamp Warbler, Stripe-breasted Tit and Dusky Crimsonwing. Other species we may see include African Hill Babbler, Eastern (Olive-breasted) Mountain-greenbul, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Black-headed Waxbill, White-starred Robin, Mountain Yellow-warbler, Doherty’s and Lagden’s Bushshrikes, Sharpe’s Starling and many more other species. Three nights in Ruhija.

Day 17 Full day birding in Mubwindi Swamp. This is the swamp that gave Bwindi National Park its name and we will be taking a trail to look for the Albertine Rift endemic and elusive Grauer’s Broadbill. It may be quite a long walk but there will be plenty of other species to keep us entertained including further Albertine Rift endemics: Handsome Francolin, Archers Robin-chat, Grauer's Warbler, Red-faced Woodland-warbler, Yellow-eyed Black-flycatcher and Strange Weaver. Other species may include Mountain Buzzard, Black Crake, African Rail, Rameron Pigeon, Olive Woodpecker, Narina Trogon, White-bellied Crested-flycatcher, Grey-chested Babbler, African Thrush, White-headed Woodhoopoe, Red-throated Alethe, Northern Puffback, Carruthers's Cisticola, Cinnamon Bracken-warbler, Evergreen-forest Warbler, Chestnut-throated Apalis and many other species.

Day 18 Early morning birding along the main road especially the bamboo zone in search of the highly-localised Bamboo Warbler. During our search there will be plenty of opportunities to see other species which we might have previously missed before we return to the lodge for hot lunch and rest. Later in the afternoon we will head out again where as dusk falls, we will search for the Albertine Rift endemic Rwenzori Nightjar. During the night drive we may also find some nocturnal animals including like Bush Babies or Galagos of which three of the five Ugandan species occur in the area plus the possibility of Serval.

Day 19 After breakfast, we will head south across the border into Rwanda, making some birding stops en route and stay two nights in the Gishakura Guesthouse.

Day 20 After breakfast, we will spend the whole day birding in the spectacular Nyungwe Forest. Whilst most of the Ugandan Albertina Rift endemic birds can also be found in this forest, some of them are either easier to see or are only found here. The main species we will be looking for in the forest are Albertine Owlet, Rwenzori Turaco, Kungue Apalis, Red-collared Mountain-babbler, Stuhlmann’s and even the rare Rockefeller’s Sunbirds while both Ring-necked and Shelley’s Francolins are more widespread and we will enjoy further views of many of the other Albertine Rift endemic species.

Day 21 After an early morning breakfast, we will make the six-hour journey to Kigali international Airport for visa clearances and flight back to the UK arriving on Day 22.

General Information The climate is generally hot, although mornings can be cool at altitude with rain possible. The tour pace is generally moderate but with mostly early starts. Most walk are not particularly strenuous except for Mubwindi Swamp and the optional Gorilla trekking. Accommodation standards vary from good to medium but all have en suite. In some locations electricity can be intermittent. Transport is by four-wheel drive and road conditions are reasonable. There are some health requirements which should be referred to your GP. Some insects can be expected so repellents are recommended. Visas are required for both Rwanda and Uganda and can be obtained online at a cost of about £75 to cover both countries.

Group Size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 6; maximum group size: 12 with 2 leaders.

Shoebill

Shoebill

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