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Gorillas 2022

By October 4, 2022No Comments

A Big Fish Expeditions Trip Report

By BFE Trip Leader Andy Murch

Gorilla Trekking in Uganda
Gorilla Trekking, Primate Safari, and Big Five Photography Adventure

As always, our Uganda trip was an action-packed adventure! Its kinda tough to sum it up in a single paragraph because (as the title implies) we see an enormous variety of species, in highly varied terrain; from dry forests, to tropical cloud forests, to open savannah. Eastern Mountain Gorillas are one of the most iconic species that we see, but the expedition encompasses so much more! So, please read on to enjoy some of the many critters we encountered this year.

Lion in Murchison Falls Uganda.
Walking with Rhinos

On the journey north to Murchison Falls, we stopped at Ziwa Wildlife Sanctuary; a large wild area where the Ugandan WLA is attempting to breed rhinos to introduce into other parks in Uganda and eventually the surrounding countries as well.

After a short talk about the rhinos, we walked into the bush with a tracker and encountered 8 different rhinos. Mostly they were mom’s resting with their calfs; a testament to the success of the program!

Olive Baboons at Murchison Falls

By late afternoon, we pulled into Murchison Falls National Park. The road in was filled with large troops of olive baboons.

Olive Baboons in Murchison Falls
Murchison Falls

Murchison Falls is a vast park; one of the largest in Africa. The south and north sections are divided by the mighty Nile River, which is forced through a small rock channel at Murchison Falls. This is a great place to stop and take pictures.

Murchison Falls
Bush Pigs

Once we settled into our cottages at the lodge and had dinner, we headed over to the cook’s shack to photograph a habituated troop of bush pigs that show up every night looking for veggie scraps.

On Safari

The next morning we ate early and headed deep into Murchison Falls National Park. Not only is the park enormous and beautiful, it is filled with an incredible biomass of animal life. The herd species include 40,000 Uganda cob, and many thousands of waterbucks, bushbucks, oribis (a small antelope), Jackson’s hartebeasts, cape buffalo, giraffe, and so much more! We spent most of the day driving among the herds, enjoying one epic encounter after another.

Photographing elephants in Uganda
Cape Buffalo at Murchison Falls
Giraffe in Murchison Falls
Bushbuck at Murchison Falls
Uganda cob herd in Murchison Falls
Patas Monkeys

We see most of the primates later in the trip but Murchison is the only spot where you encounter Patas Monkeys. This is an unusual species that has adapted to life on the savannah where there are not many trees. They have very long legs for a primate and are capable of running at 50kph for short distances; an important skill to escape predators.

Patas Monkeys in Murchison Falls
Yellow-headed Agamas

By late afternoon we were all exhausted from animal sensory overload! So we returned to the lodge for a couple of hours to recharge and relax before the night drive. That didn’t stop a few of our avid guests chasing down lizards in the forest around the lodge. The most remarkable being the yellow-headed agamas.

Yellow-headed agama at Murchison Falls
Lions by Night

After dinner we returned to the park for a night drive. Predators are generally more active at night so this is a good time to look for them, especially lions which come out in the open with their cubs.

Lions at Murchison Falls

Although they are more than capable of hunting on their own, side-striped jackals are often found hanging around prides of lions. If you’re a relatively small predator, why hunt when you can just wait for the big guys to abandon their kill?

Side-striped Jackal in Murchison Falls.
Onward to Kibale

The next day was an inevitable travel day. Uganda is a large country and we needed to get from the north to the southwest. The route took us through villages and tea plantations until we finally climbed into the hills and entered Kibale Forest. After checking into the lodge, we took a guided night walk on the edge of the forest to look for galagos; a small nocturnal monkey that is common in the forest, but shy and extremely hard to photograph!

Demidofs galago in Kibale Forest
Chimpanzee Trekking

The next morning we gathered at the ranger station for a discussion about chimpanzees and then walked deep into the forest to spend time with humanity’s closest living relative. We had some fantastic encounters with chimps coming down from the trees and walking past our little group within touching distance.

Chimpanzee tour in Uganda
Weaver Birds

After lunch we relaxed at the lodge for a while. Or rather, we tried to relax but there were birds all over the grounds begging to be photographed. One of the iconic species is the yellow weaver bird. The males spend most of their time building elaborate hanging nests in order to attract females. If their nest doesn’t cut it, the females will find a better nest builder.

Weaver bird Kibale

That evening we went on another forest walk to look for more galagos. We found quite a few although mostly just eye-shine as they bounced around in the canopy. The highlight of the walk was a beautiful genet that walked across the path right in front of us.

Genet in Kibale Forest
Swamp Walk with Monkeys

The following morning we took a long walk around a swamp. This is one of my favorite parts of the trip because the primate action in this part of the forest is excellent! We all got great views of vervet monkeys, guereza black and white colobus monkeys, ashy red colobus monkeys, and redtail monkeys.

Redtail monkey in Kibale National Park.
Vervet monkey in Kibale National Park.
Guereza Colobus monkey in Kibale National Park.
Ashy red colobus monkey in Kibale National Park.
Redtail monkey in Kibale National Park.
Queen Elizabeth National Park

After lunch we moved on to Queen Elizabeth National Park; another enormous savannah, much like Murchison Falls but with different species and the spectacular Kazinga Channel.

Hippos in the Kazinga Channel
Game Drive in Queen Elizabeth National Park

We started the next morning with an early game drive. Waterbucks abound in QENP. They are the largest antelopes in Uganda and have formidable horns.

A male waterbuck in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda.
The Kazinga Channel

We brought a pack lunch so that we could stay deep in the park all day. In the afternoon, we made our way to the famous Kazinga Channel and boarded a river boat to enjoy the amazing diversity of life on the river.

The only source of water in the dry season, the channel attracts hundreds of buffalo, elephants, and antelopes, and is home to massive herds of hippos, nile crocodiles, and a myriad of colourful bird species.

Elephants in the Kazinga Channel
Hippo Raft in the Kazinga Channel
Nile Crocodile in the Kazinga Channel
Palm vultures in the Kazinga Channel
Habituated Mongooses

After our river tour we stopped in at a nearby village to photograph a habituated family of banded mongooses. Always a fun encounter!

Photographing banded mongooses in Uganda
Blue-headed Agamas

Back at the lodge, we had just enough time to chase down some blue-headed agamas before supper, and then we watched the sun set over the park while we downloaded the day’s images.

Blue-headed agama in Uganda
South to Bwindi

The next morning we packed our safari vehicle for the journey to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, but the route south if far from just a travel day. We spent the entire morning driving south through Queen Elizabeth National Park, stopping for wildlife encounters along the way.

The first thing we saw was a large family of tantalus monkeys foraging on the side of a cliff; our ninth primate species of the trip.

Tantalus Monkeys in Uganda

After many interesting encounters, at the south end of the park we found a small herd of Topi; a shy and unusual looking antelope species that cannot be found in Murchison Falls.

Topi antelope in Uganda
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

After lunch we spent the afternoon climbing into the hills of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest; home to five habituated troops of mountain gorillas. The view from Silverback Lodge with Bwindi in the background is breathtaking and a little intimidating, as we knew we would be climbing that mountain the next day!

Silverback Lodge in Bwindi.
Mountain Gorillas

After a hearty breakfast, we descended from the lodge to the ranger station for a talk about mountain gorillas. Then, before the sun’s heat became too intense, we set off uphill towards the gorillas. The rangers always know where each troop is because they are accompanied by trackers during the day and they rarely travel at night. So we followed our guide up into the forest and after a couple of hours of not especially strenuous hiking, reached our destination. Leaving our packs with the porters, and keeping our voices down, we walked the last few steps through the thick undergrowth for our first look at a family of Eastern Mountain Gorillas.

Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi
Quality Time

For the next hour or so, we stayed with the gorillas as they slowly moved through the forest, foraging for bamboo shoots and other tasty morsels. The gorillas were extremely relaxed about our proximity to them, often passing so close to us, we could have reached out and touched them.

Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi

Even the enormous silverback strayed very close to us a few times. It was an incredible experience that everyone in our group will remember forever!

Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi
Back to Entebbe

That night we relaxed at the lodge and celebrated our fantastic trip while the sun set over Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. The next morning we packed up for the long journey back to Entebbe. To break up the journey, we always make a few stops along the way. The first was to photograph a massive colony of straw coloured bats.

Straw coloured bats in Uganda
Lunch with Zebras

At lunch time we stopped at the edge of Lake Mboro National Park; a pretty spot where we often find groups of zebras shading under the trees.

Zebras at Lake Mboro in Uganda
Equatorial Photo Op

Our final pitstop was at the equator. A fun spot for a group shot at the end of a great trip.

In the late afternoon we rolled into Entebbe and said goodbye to our awesome group of adventurers. Unquestionably, this was another fantastic trip to Uganda, and one that we are looking forward to repeating!

Join us in June 2024 for our next Gorilla Trekking and African Safari Expedition.

Warthog in Uganda on Safari
lion cub in Uganda