Prolific Bird Life in Uganda – Africa

Bird Life in Uganda

To most people allover the world, Uganda is mostly known for inhabiting half of the world’s last remaining population of the mountain gorillas found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Records have it that, mountain gorillas are in danger of extinction with only 880 individuals left in the whole world. Half of this population is found in the Virunga chain of volcanic mountains shared amongst Uganda (Mgahinga National Park), Rwanda (Volcanoes National Park) and Democratic Republic of Congo (Virunga National park). The other population is found in Bwindi Impenetrable National park in south western Uganda. Gorilla tourism is developing on a very high rate as many people fly from different parts of the world to see this endangered specie of gorillas in Africa. Uganda and Rwanda gorilla trekking permits are on very high demand throughout the year, and those interested in taking a gorilla trip are advised to book early your gorilla permits in advance. Gorilla permits can be booked through Travel Agents or Responsible bodies like Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and Rwanda Development Board (RDB). There is also a possibility of tracking gorillas twice in both countrie since the gorilla parks are not far from each other, that is to say, it takes less than 2 hours to connect from Volcanoes National park in Rwanda to Southern Bwindi National Park in Uganda.

shoebill

Today, the world should know that Uganda is not only known for mountain gorillas but also for birding adventure in Africa. The country ranks as one of the top birding destinations in the world, offering an unbeatable combination of variety of birds, well developed transport systems, a user-friendly and supportive birding tourism industry.  Birders from around the world come to experience both the great variety of typically African birds, migrants, and endemics – those birds found only in Uganda. These birders enjoy excellent birding, whether they are with an organized commercial birding tour or are touring independently.

Of Over 1000 species that have been recorded in Uganda, about 80% are residents or annual visitors and 50 are near- endemic to Uganda, and can only be seen in the country.  Apart from the resident birds, Uganda hosts a number of African migrants such as cormorants, Goose and lapwings, as well as birds from the Arctic, Europe, Central Asia, China and Antarctica during the year.

The Birding Seasons in Uganda

The northern part tends to be dry over much of the country, but wet in the west along the Albertine rift.  At this time, excellent birding can be had in the Albertine rift areas of the southwest, complemented by outstanding game viewing.  Trips especially those that run out of Kampala, offer the chance to see large numbers of kingfishers, eagles, weavers and vultures.  The wet season brings the first of the breeding migrants from further north in Africa, and also heralds the start of the breeding season for the resident species. As the weavers and bishops emerge, so the cuckoos arrive from warmer parts and the breeding season bursts into action.

Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park

With the progression of wet season in Uganda into dry, the non-breeding migrants start to arrive from distant climes, mainly from Europe. At this time of the year birding reaches its peak, with widespread breeding activity and most of the migrant species around. The summer highs continue into the New Year, until migrants start to leave during April.

Key Birding Areas

The endemics, those birds found only in Uganda, are obviously one of the major attractions for birders visiting the country. Many of these endemic species are found in the grasslands, mountains, wetlands and southwestern regions.  The following areas offer exceptional birding experiences, but really great birding can be had in many other parts of the country at any time of the year.

Mabamba Swamp: The central wetlands are a key area for birders, holding a number of special wetland species, and one of the most visited destinations in Uganda. It is located on the edge of Lake Victoria, northwest of Entebbe peninsula. Mabamba swamp is visited by most of the birding tours that come to Uganda and as a result it has well-developed facilities, including resident guides. The special birds of this area are the shoebill, the blue swallow, papyrus Gonolek, Carruthers’s Cisticola, White-winged Scrub-warbler, Northern Brown-throated Weaver and Papyrus Canary.

Mabamba Swamp Birding

Mabamba Swamp Birding

Lake Bisina: it is a freshwater lake in eastern Uganda well known for its notable birds including Shoebill, Northern Brown-throated Weaver, Papyrus Canary, Fox’s Weaver and Red-chested Sunbird among others.
Lutembe Bay—located on the edge of Lake Victoria, the bay is notable for its population of white-winged tern as well as other distinguished birds including Carruthers’s Cisticola, Grey-headed Gull, Sterna nilotica, Papyrus Gonolek, White-winged Scrub-warbler, Papyrus Yellow Warbler, Sharpe’s Pied-babbler, Northern Brown-throated Weaver, Red-chested Sunbird and Papyrus Canary.
Musambwa Island—sited about 10 kilometers offshore from Kasensero Landing site in Sango Bay region, the island is the breeding ground for the grey headed gulls as well as other  species of birds Including the Long Tailed Cormorant, Greater Cormorant and the Little Egret.

bisinia-lake

Birding at Bisinia lake

Birding Facilities

Many of game reserves and national parks throughout Uganda provide excellent opportunities for birders of all descriptions. These facilities include trails, hides, information sheets and checklists and trained bird guides.  Local guides and birding experts can be hired in many places. Some companies offer specialist birding tours, lasting from a few hours to a couple of weeks.

Birding Specialists in Uganda

Once you choose to take a birding safari in Uganda, you are advised to book your trip with one of the credible birding companies such as Birding journeys Uganda, African Jungle Adventures, Abacus Africa Vacations, Birding in Uganda, Africa Adventures Safaris, Active African Vacations, Prime Uganda Safaris and Bird Uganda among others. The fact that Uganda is endowed with a big variety of wildlife, your birding safari will be spiced with other game viewing including the Big 5 animals such as Elephants, Buffaloes, Lions, Leopards and Rhinos in Zziwa Rhino Sanctuary, not forgetting gorilla trekking in Bwindi impenetrable forest or Mgahinga National Park in south western Uganda.

Gorilla Trekking Code of Conduct

About Gorilla Trekking

Mountain gorilla trekking is ranked amongst the world’s top adventurous activities, only done in East and Central Africa. This is the only place in the world where one can travel to and see the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Gorilla Census report of 2011 showed that, there are only 880 mountain gorillas left in the whole world, found in the Virunga volcanic mountain ranges shared among Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. Out of 880, Uganda has about 440, which is almost half of it. This means that, like cross river gorillas (250 – 300 remaining), mountain gorillas are also critically endangered. And the number of visitors par day is limited to 8 people visiting each gorilla group. The limit aims at protecting these gentle giants through conserving their environment. You need a gorilla permit that acts as permission to participate in a guided forest to search for gorillas. A gorilla trekking permit in Rwanda costs US dollars 750 each, US dollars 600 in Uganda and US dollars 500 in DR Congo. Gorilla trekking in Rwanda takes place in Volcanoes National Park with currently over 10 gorilla groups, and in Uganda, gorilla tracking takes place in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park with currently 12 gorilla groups and 1 gorilla group in Mgahnga National Park. Gorilla Trekking in DR Congo’s Virunga National Park is not well developed due to some political unrests in the region but its one of the perfect destinations to see gorillas in the wild with big gorilla groups and silverbacks and babies.

How to behave on the way to trek Gorillas:

Always follow the instructions from the ranger guides while on the way to search for mountain Gorillas. Rangers may instruct you to follow a certain route, keeping quiet, keep close and so on, and please obey.

If you have any transmitted or contiguous disease like cold, dysentery, skin disease, cough and so on. Please remain behind and wait for you’re refunded according to the Uganda Wildlife Authority refund regulations or you can decide to reschedule the tracking date to meet gorillas after recovery.

Only 8 visitors or trackers are allowed to visit each gorilla group since a large group can stress the gorillas. In a Small group, the gorillas are comfortable and relaxed with there visitors’ presence.

It is advisable to wash your hands with detergent so that you do not carry any germs to the field which may spread diseases to the gorillas. They are highly susceptible to human diseases.

Avoid dumping any rubbish on the way because the gorillas can easily pick it and eat it. This also spoils the environment.

Since gorillas are mobile in their nature environment, you are expected to endure the difficulties in trying to meet them. The ranger guide will guide you following the trails to the area they were last seen the previous day. In case they moved, you are requested to be patient as you search since these are free animals in there natural habitat.

Set your cameras in advance – avoid flash cameras to avoid stressing the Gorillas. You need to be patient and wait to take out your cameras until advised to do so. He has to first observe there mood before you can take any action.

Don’t forget extra batteries and insect repellent while going on a gorilla trek in Africa.

Rwanda the Home Of Mighty African Mountain Gorillas

Rwanda is blessed with many wildlife diversity and bird species which form its core products. The country has beautiful scenery making it known as the country of a thousand hills and with hospitable people which has attracted a lot of safaris to Rwanda. The glory of this country is seen in her mountain gorillas. Rwanda is a home for one of the unique group of primates (the endangered mountain gorillas) found in only three countries (Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo) in the world and as a result as led to many safari visits in Rwanda.

Mountain gorillas are critically endangered animals out listed by IUCN. The primates live in the rainforest Volcanoes National Park, located 90 minutes drive from Kigali the capital city of Rwanda. Volcanoes National park is shared by Mgahinga national park in Uganda and Virunga National park in Democratic Republic of Congo. Mountain gorillas mostly feed on fresh leaves, shoots, fruits, and piths but they do not take water on daily basis because of the food they eat which contains a lot water and moisture.

These Apes are the largest primate species having about 98% of Human DNA making them the closest relatives of Humans and the Chimpanzees. Thus making them one of the tourism attractions you don’t want to miss seeing while on your safari in Rwanda. This specie of critically endangered Mountain gorillas live in groups headed by one leader called silverback. Silver back guards the group against any danger and threats from other animals. He protects the group even with his own life which reflects the nature of man. Mountain gorillas offer the best safaris experiences while on your safaris to Rwanda and Uganda as well as other East African Countries. Many writers contend that, a safari in Africa is only complete when you visit mountain gorillas in their natural habitat, in the true African wilderness, deep in the heart of Africa.

Gorilla-tracking-Volcanoes
Gorilla safaris in Rwanda are best conducted in Volcanoes national park and for Uganda is best done in Bwindi impenetrable national park. Uganda also has another group of mountain gorillas known as “Nyakagezi gorilla group” found in Mgahinga National Park. However, this group is not yet stable as it sometimes crosses the boarder to Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, simply because they do not need visas. Gorilla trekking safaris also offer tourists with the additional opportunity to spot different bird species, other animals and other primates like the golden monkeys and the silver monkeys.

To enjoy gorilla trekking, you are required to assemble at the park headquarters in Kinigi before 7:30am for a briefing about this activity. This means you should sleep in lodges around the park a night before the trek. Among the accommodation options around Volcanoes National Park include Sabyinyo Silverback lodge, Virunga lodge, Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge, Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, Hotel La Palme and Kinigi Guest House among others.

However, if you stay in Kigali and interested in tracking gorillas the same day, you need to leave Kigali in the morning at 4:30am, it takes 2 hours drive. However, this is high risk because there is one route  to the park and in case you find it blocked by mud slides or fallen trees, you won’t have any other option and you are likely to miss the trek, yet, no refund for gorilla permits that costs US$750. At the end of the trek, each tourist who participated is rewarded with a certificate to confirm that he / she successfully participated in this life time adventure activity.

Mgahinga Gorilla safari in Uganda – Nyakagezi Group

GO GORILLA TREKKING IN MGAHINGA NATIONAL PARK – NYAKAGEZI GORILLA GROUP IN UGANDA
Nyakagezi Gorilla family is the only one inhabited in Mgahinga National Park – the group is tracked amidst Virunga ranges: Gahinga, Muhavura and Sabinyo Volcanoes. Therefore some level of fitness is highly needed – this is one of the best view points for wonderful photography.
Nyakagezi gorilla family is one of the un reliable group due to its seasonal mobility – it some times cross to Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park or Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park. If found in the park, Nyakagezi gorilla group is easiest to track given the fact that it prefers a narrow home range for feeding, nesting, relaxing and recreation.
It is unbelievable that Nyakagezi group is composed of three silver backs that stay harmoniously in one group, 2 adult females, 2 black backs and 2 infants.

The family is led by Silverback Mark assisted by Mafia, Ndungutse and Bugingo. Rukundo is the sole Black back, Nshuti an adult female plus two babies namely Nshuti baby and Fred. Fred was named so in 2010 when a veterinary doctor, Fred, attached to Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project worked hard to save it from a life threatening wire snare.

Nyakagzi is the only gorilla group which is habituated for tourism – others are reserved for the researchers. For more information, it is estimated that Mgahinga national park is hosts a total of 80 mountain gorillas. It is unfortunate that the only habituated becomes unreliable. Their recent arrival in the park before the holiday season shows a perfect sense of timing, as it will increase the amount of permits available in the park for this busy period!

Gorilla tracking is only one of the many activities that you can enjoy from Volcanoes’ Mount Gahinga Lodge in Mgahinga National Park. The park, because of its varied habitats, is indeed famous for birding with about 180 birds species recorded. The area is also renowned for tracking the endangered golden monkeys. These striking creatures, endemic to the Albertine Rift, can be found high in the dense bamboo forests on the Gahinga trail. Finally while on a gorilla safari in Africa, guests can meet the Batwa Pygmies, widely regarded to be the oldest surviving peoples of central Africa. For thousands of years they have survived in the dark forests of the African Great Lakes region and over generations built up a symbiotic relationship with their natural home in which skills were passed down throughout their history.

Uganda’s smallest and probably most scenic National Park is situated in the extreme South-Western corner of the Country, forming part of a large conservation area that straddles political boundaries to include Parc de Volcanoes in Rwanda and Parc de Virungas in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Three extinct Volcanoes, part of the spectacular Virunga range, lie within the boundaries of the Ugandan portion of this biologically rich area.

Africa Gorilla Trips – Uganda Rwanda Gorilla Tourism

Gorilla tracking is being promoted among all these three countries where gorillas are tracked year in year out. Gorilla trekking become popular in Congo by the late 1960s and by 1978 gorilla tourism was also being promoted in Rwanda with wonderful results on the local economy and by 1980s gorilla tourism become an important source of revenue for Rwanda and gorilla become a symbol of national pride. In 1990s Uganda became the leading popular country for encountering gorillas due to political instabilities countered the neighboring countries that are Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Gorilla tourism today stands at a turning point especially in Uganda and Rwanda.

On The Trek in Search for Mountain Gorillas

All the three countries where the remaining gorillas live have a history of instability that makes it herd for international conservation organizations to operate with any certainty. However the international gorilla conservation programme (IGCP) and the Dian Fossy Gorilla foundation (DFGF) have tried to promote sustainable agricultural and tourism practices and encourage the active participation of local communities in conservation and this has played a large part in ensuring the gorilla survival during unstable times.

Uganda and Rwanda are ensured safe countries for gorilla tracking, stability is now paramount and gorillas can be tracked at any time depending on the traveler’s interest and time of traveling. Gorilla permits are at a very high demand in both countries and they are issued on first come first served basis so it’s advised to book your permit in advance at least 2-4 month prior to your safari. Gorilla permits in Uganda are issued at a price of US$600 per person per tracking in both Bwindi impenetrable forest and Mgahinga gorilla national park and in Rwanda, gorilla permits are issued at a price of US$ 750 per person per tracking.. The rates are for foreign non residents. There is a discount for East African Residents and foreigners leaving in East Africa with work permits.

silverback-gorilla

Tracking begins early in the morning after reporting at the park headquarters for a short briefing about gorilla tracking and also assigned to the ranger guide to lead you to the jungle. Gorilla tracking in both countries is strictly one hour and you are not allowed to use a flash camera in taking photos as this may scare away these giants and they can also charge on you. Gorilla visit is now considered the major highlight of many travelers who make it to these countries and it is considered a breathtaking memorable activity that can’t be missed, In order to let the local communities save these creatures a fee is left to the local communities around the different National Parks where gorilla tourism takes place. In Uganda, mountain gorilla tracking takes place in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National park. Rwanda gorilla tours on the other hand are conducted in the magnificent Volcanoes national park, that a French man calls “Parc National des Volcans”. However, gorilla tourism in Virunga National Park in DR Congo is currently hindered by political instabilities and the destination is considered NOT safe to travelers.