Day 1: Entebbe
On arrival at Entebbe International Airport you will be met by a Wild Frontiers representative and transferred to your hotel. Entebbe is a small, quiet town located on the shores of Lake Victoria and is easy to explore on foot, boda- bodas (local motorbike) or taxis. Soak up the local markets filled with clothes and crafts, shop for souvenirs in curio shops, or explore the Botanical Gardens on Lake Victoria. Enjoy the wide variety of restaurants serving many different cuisines as well as several bars and clubs where you can sample the local beer, catch a game of football and chat with the local Ugandans, known for their open, friendly nature. Overnight at Boma Lodge, a small family run guest house.
Day 2: Entebbe, Mweya
Early morning departure for our drive to Queen Elizabeth National Park – it’s a long day on the road and you’ll enjoy a picnic lunch enroute. We start in the ‘Mweya’ sector of the National park and enjoy a leisurely boat cruise along the Kazinga Channel. Kazinga’s shores are a haven for numerous birds, including many migratory species as they make their way south to warmer climates. The cruise also provides a spectacular view of the beautiful Mweya Peninsula and life in local fishing villages set along the banks. Overnight at Mweya Safari Lodge, located on a peninsula overlooking the Kazinga Channel on one side and the Rwenzori Mountains on the other. [B/L/D]
Day 3: Mweya, Ishasha
Today we depart to Ishasha in the Queen Elizabeth National Park. En route, we find Chamburu (Kyamburu Gorge), where chimp trekking is an optional extra (so be sure to pre-purchase your permit if you are keen!). The forest is alive with noise - chimpanzees can be quite active and may move quickly through the forest canopy...or, if you're lucky, you may find them resting or eating near the forest floors. It's an exhilarating walk in beautiful scenery. Located in a pristine area where one large troupe of habituated chimpanzees reside, the walk down into the gorge is steep in places and can be slippery, so it's important to wear proper hiking shoes/boots. A small stream runs along the gorge and the sides have incredible vegetation. The chimpanzees can move rapidly, so the hike often includes following them as they move along the trees and shrubs along the sides of the gorge. Sightings are not guaranteed but the area is beautiful and wild so, even if you don't see the chimps, it's a lovely walk with plenty of birdlife and other species to look at. Spread over 488,775 acres in the western arm of the Great Rift Valley, the park is home to a wide variety of wildlife including elephants, leopard, lions, hippos, buffalo, Uganda kob, baboon, and many species of birds. With both a riverine and savannah habitat, the park includes the southern Ishasha area with the massive Maramagambo, one of the largest surviving natural forests in Uganda. Overnight at Ishasha Wilderness Camp. This exclusive 10 tented camp offers the only luxury accommodation in the remote southern sector of Queen Elizabeth. [B/L/D]
Day 4: Ishasha
Day at leisure to enjoy game viewing in Queen Elizabeth National Park, looking out for huge herds of buffalo, elephant and of course the famous tree-climbing lion typically found in the area. Overnight at Ishasha Wilderness Camp. [B/L/D]
Day 5: Ishasha, Bwindi
A 2, 3-hour drive through scenic country brings you to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. The National Park, located in southwestern Uganda on the edge of the Great Rift Valley, is considered the most diverse forest in Uganda. Home to over 120 mammals, 345 species of birds, 200 species of butterflies and 160 species of trees, Bwindi is one of the richest ecosystems in East Africa. The park contains almost one half of the world’s population of the endangered Mountain Gorilla, making it an extremely valuable conservation site. Overnight at Buhoma Lodge. Situated on the slopes of the forests of Bwindi, this intimate lodge offers uninterrupted views of the pristine rain forest canopy. It’s the perfect, tranquil base from which to visit Bwindi. [B/L/D]
Day 6: Bwindi (Gorilla Tracking, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park)
Today will be a lifetime experience! Coming face to face with mountain gorillas is a rare wildlife encounter. Experienced guides and trackers will accompany your party on an early morning trek into the dense rain forest on the mountain slopes. The opportunity to come within yards of these magnificent apes, sharing in their daily lives and experiencing their day-to-day activities, is an experience you won’t soon forget! Mountain gorillas are extremely rare with only an estimated 880 remaining in the wild. Please note that gorilla tracking may be fairly strenuous with treks ranging from 30 minutes up to six hours or longer, at high altitudes. Mountain gorillas are wild animals and, as such, sightings cannot be guaranteed. However, viewing success rates are over 95%. Following the trek, return to your accommodation. Other optional activities that may be enjoyed in and around the park include forest walks, visits to a local school or orphanage or Batwa pygmy village, and curio shopping. Overnight at Buhoma Lodge. [B/L/D]
Day 7: Bwindi, Rumambago
Today we head across the Bunagana border post into the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The drive from Buhoma to Mikeno Lodge in the DRC will take roughly 7 hours – excluding border crossing time which varies and is hard to estimate. At the border you will be handed over to the guides of the Virunga National Park, who will be your hosts for this section of the safari. All transport is provided by them in DRC. Mikeno Lodge offers large bungalows and a good restaurant and is located within a forest offering beautiful views of the rift valley and Nyiragongo and Mikeno volcanoes. There is an abundance of bird life, as well as resident blue monkeys, colobus monkeys, and baboons. Chimpanzees are also frequent visitors to the area. Overnight at Mikeno Lodge including dinner and breakfast. [B/L/D]
Day 8: Rumambago, Nyiragongo
Today is the day! Make sure you have excellent quality climbing/hiking shoes as you set off on your Nyiragongo Volcano climb. [B/L/D]
Nyiragongo is a beautiful stratovolcano that features the world’s largest lava lake. The volcano’s forested lower slopes are home to a variety of animals, including chimpanzees, monkeys, and bushbuck. Nyiragongo’s summit rim is largely devoid of vegetation and is sometimes dusted with snow. From the rim, visitors can peer down into a churning lava lake and see and hear hot gases exploding up though a mosaic of molten lava. Although predictable and therefore safe for tourists, Nyiragongo is greatly feared during eruptions. Because of the low silica content of its lava, Nyiragongo’s lava flows are extremely fluid. During the 2002 eruption, some of Nyiragongo’s lava flows were clocked at 62 mph and reached all the way to Lake Kivu. Treks to the summit of Nyiragongo volcano begin at the Kibati patrol post. Park rangers lead all treks and porters (unaffiliated with the park) are available for hire at an additional cost. The time required to reach the summit depends on the average fitness of each group, but typically takes 4 – 6 hours. Altitude sickness can be an issue for some because the climb begins at 6,525 ft and ascends to 11,382 ft in a short time. Proper hydration is the best way to adapt to the change in altitude. People prone to Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) should speak to their physicians about taking preventative measures before making the climb. It is possible for fitter people to climb up and descend in one day, but the vast majority choose to overnight in the basic accommodations available at the top (included in the permit fee) because the best time to view the lava lake is at night.
Summit Shelters – Each of the twelve summit shelters contains two single beds on which visitors can put their sleeping bags. Although these shelters aren’t plush, they offer a welcome escape from the elements.
Porters – Can be hired at the base of the climb to carry loads for $24 round trip (gratuity not included). The maximum weight that porters are authorized to carry is 15 kg. Porters can be arranged by speaking with a Virunga National Park ranger at the Kibati station.
Visitor Safety in Virunga National Park - Virunga National Park is located in a region that is often troubled by unrest. The management of Virunga National Park is dedicated to ensure the safety and security of all its visitors. Park management does, however, emphasize the importance of all visitors making themselves aware of the current security situation at the time of their visit. Virunga National Park cannot take responsibility for any accidents or incidents. If any signs indicate a security issue, management may decide to temporarily close one or more of its attractions. All bookings for these attractions will be refunded in full. Before organizing a trip to Virunga National Park, we advise that you check with the State Depatment about any travel alerts. It is also a good idea to confirm whether or not your insurance covers travel in this region. If not, we recommend acquiring additional insurance to cover your travel to Virunga National Park. Trekkers must be at least 12 years of age and are required to bring full rain and cold weather gear (moisture-wicking base layer, sweater or fleece, jacket, rain resistant pants, long underwear, warm socks, hat, and a 32°F – rated sleeping bag). Temperatures at the summit are routinely below freezing. Although most people arrive at the summit sweating from the steep climb, this sense of warmth quickly gives way to cold. A complete change of base layers is a must. Failure to bring proper gear will lead to hypothermia. Please do not endanger yourself and others by coming unprepared for these conditions.
We will arrive at the Kibati Station (trailhead for Nyiragongo) by 9:15 am on the day of the climb. Climbers typically descend the volcano at between 6:30 – 7:00 am the next morning and arrive back at Kibati station by 11:30 am.
Day 9: Nyiragongo, Kisoro
After descent from your climb, we transfer back across the border into Uganda and overnight in Kisoro. Kisoro Travelers Rest Hotel is one of the oldest hotels in Uganda. The lodge boasts an impressive list of guests including primatologist Dian Fossey, who even called this hotel her second home! It offers a quiet setting with an amazing view over the Virunga volcanoes and, in the evening, the lounge with its cozy fireplace is the perfect spot to wind down. Travelers Rest consists of 11 en-suite rooms, tastefully decorated with a unique selection of Congo art, all overlooking a well-groomed courtyard. [B/D]
Day 10: Kisoro, Entebbe, USA
Early start and a long drive back from Kisoro to Entebbe (around 9 hours) for your flight out tonight. Optionally you may fly from Kisoro to Entebbe. [B/L]
[B] = Breakfast | [B/L] = Breakfast and Lunch | [B/L/D] = Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner