By Nat Hab Expedition Leader Richard de Gouveia

Plains Game, Predators & Birdlife in Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda’s largest and oldest conservation area, is a tapestry of natural wonders where the roar of the Nile River is only matched by the calls of the wild. As the park’s lifeblood, the Nile traverses rugged terrains, nourishing an abundant array of fauna and flora. Framed by rolling savannahs, the park is a sanctuary for four of the Big Five, hosting one of the most diverse ecosystems on the continent.

The journey to Murchison Falls is a passage into the heart of Africa’s raw beauty. Each mile traveled brings visitors closer to an untamed world, where every sight and sound tells the ancient story of the land. This storied park, named after the dramatic falls that cut through its center, is not just a destination but a vibrant, living museum of nature’s splendor.

As we embarked on our journey toward Murchison Falls, the road stretched out long before us, winding through the scenic landscapes of Uganda. Vibrant markets and bustling shops lined the roadside, offering glimpses into the daily life of the locals. We passed by colorful displays of fresh vegetables and the hustle and bustle of the fish market, immersing ourselves in the sights and sounds of the country.

Uganda safari mountain gorillas primates

© Richard de Gouveia

After hours of driving, we finally arrived at the rhino sanctuary, eager to stretch our legs and explore. Stepping out of the car, we were greeted by the sweet scent of flowers and the fluttering of butterflies, a testament to the sanctuary’s natural beauty. Our guide led us on a walk through the sanctuary, pointing out the various areas where rhinos roamed freely. Approaching these magnificent creatures on foot, we felt a sense of awe and reverence, knowing that we were in the presence of endangered giants.

Lunchtime offered a chance to rest and refuel under the shade of towering trees, accompanied by the curious gaze of a Maribou stork. Despite its hopeful circling, we devoured our boxed lunches, eager to satisfy our hunger before continuing our journey.

Arriving at Murchison Falls, we were greeted by the thunderous roar of the Nile River as it crashed through a narrow opening in the rocks. Cloaked in raincoats to shield ourselves from the spray, we ventured closer to the falls, marveling at the sheer power of nature. Each vantage point offered a new perspective, with the falls growing more spectacular with every step.

Murchison Falls Uganda

© Richard de Gouveia

Despite the haze of smoke from distant bushfires, we pressed on toward our campsite, our eyes scanning the horizon for signs of wildlife. Along the way, we witnessed a flurry of activity as thousands of birds descended upon the burning grasslands, feasting on insects stirred up by the flames.

After a restful night’s sleep, we awoke to the symphony of the African bush, eager to embark on our next adventure. A hearty breakfast and steaming cups of coffee fueled our excitement as we made our way to the boat station. Boarding a small boat, we set off down the Nile, greeted by a chorus of bird calls and the occasional splash of a hippo or crocodile.

Midway through our journey, we encountered a territorial hippo, its imposing presence a stark reminder of the wildness that surrounded us. Despite the adrenaline rush, we continued our cruise, soaking in the beauty of the river and its inhabitants.

Murchison Falls Uganda hippo

© Richard de Gouveia

Returning to shore, we enjoyed a bush lunch under the shade of a towering tree, savoring the flavors of the African wilderness. As we finished our meal, we spotted a majestic lion in the distance, its golden mane shimmering in the sunlight.

Back at camp, we gathered around the fire for an early dinner, sharing stories of the day’s adventures. Despite the fatigue that weighed heavily on our limbs, we couldn’t help but marvel at the wonders we had witnessed in the wild.

Chimp Trekking in Budongo Forest Reserve & Kibale Forest National Park

The anticipation was palpable as we set out early the next morning, bound for Budongo Forest in search of chimpanzees. Our schedule promised another action-packed day, with a morning chimp trek followed by an afternoon boat ride. Breakfast was hastily consumed as we aimed to reach our destination by 8am, eager to begin our jungle adventure.

Budongo Forest Reserve, in the northwest of Uganda, is an enchanting realm of biodiversity, renowned for its mahogany trees and as a sanctuary for one of the largest populations of chimpanzees in East Africa. Enveloped in a canopy of verdant green, the forest spans roughly 318 square miles and offers an immersive experience into the lives of these fascinating primates. The symphony of birdsong from over 360 bird species fills the air, creating a serene backdrop for eco-tourists and researchers. Nature trails wind through the dense foliage, leading to tranquil spots and offering a glimpse of various forest inhabitants in their natural habitat.

Uganda safari mountain gorillas primates

© Richard de Gouveia

Upon arrival at Budongo Forest, we rendezvoused with our guide and plunged into the dense foliage in pursuit of the elusive chimps. As we trekked deeper into the forest, the sounds of birdsong and the rustling of leaves enveloped us in a tranquil embrace, despite our eagerness to spot our primate cousins.

After an hour of trekking, it became apparent that the chimps were not in a cooperative mood. Perched high in the treetops, they seemed indifferent to our presence, frustrating our attempts to catch a glimpse of them. Despite our best efforts to find a vantage point, the chimps remained elusive, darting away whenever we drew near.

Nevertheless, the experience of being immersed in the lush beauty of the forest was a reward in itself, with the symphony of nature serving as a soothing backdrop to our trek.

As lunchtime approached, we made our way to a newly built camp, marveling at the sight of a massive crocodile basking in the sun. Initially mistaken for a statue, the crocodile’s sudden movement reminded us of its living, breathing presence. After a satisfying meal on the balcony, we set off for another boat ride, this time heading toward Murchison Falls.

Uganda safari mountain gorillas primates elephants

© Richard de Gouveia

The journey up the river was a feast for the senses, with an abundance of birdlife and sightings of hippos and crocodiles along the way. Approaching the falls from a different angle, we marveled at the sheer force of the water as it surged downstream, its power undeniable.

Returning to camp, we gathered around the fire, basking in the warm glow of the bushfires and recounting the day’s adventures over glasses of wine and roasted marshmallows. Excitement buzzed in the air as we discussed the upcoming days and our impending visit to Ndali Lodge which was to be our launchpad to Kibale National Park.

Kibale, commonly referred to as the primate capital of the world, is nestled in the heart of Uganda and is a vital hub for research and conservation. This lush, tropical rain forest covers about 307 square miles and boasts an impressive assembly of 13 primate species, including the endearing chimpanzees, colobus monkeys, and the L’Hoest’s monkey. Kibale’s high-altitude montane forests also provide a haven for a plethora of other species, including mammals, butterflies, and plants. With its rich, dark soils and diverse array of life, Kibale offers a peek into the evolutionary history of the forest’s ecosystem, while its guided walks and community engagements pave the way for sustainable tourism and awareness.

Uganda safari mountain gorillas primates chimps baby chimpanzee

© Richard de Gouveia

Arriving at Ndali Lodge, we settled into our rooms and enjoyed a delicious dinner before retiring early, preparing for another full day ahead. The following morning dawned bright and early, and after a hearty breakfast, we set off on a full-day excursion.

Driving through the picturesque tea fields, we marveled at the contrasting landscape compared to the rugged beauty of Murchison Falls. Our first activity of the day was a swamp walk, navigating slippery pathways in search of birds and monkeys. Despite a few comical mishaps, we relished the opportunity to explore this unique ecosystem.

Lunchtime brought a pleasant surprise—a local meal at Tinker House, complete with tales of Ugandan cuisine and spirited conversation. Energized by our meal, we returned to Kibale National Park for an afternoon rendezvous with the chimpanzees.

Little did we know, we were in for a spectacle as we observed a female chimp in heat, orchestrating encounters with multiple males in her quest to conceive. Witnessing the intricate mating rituals and playful antics of the chimps was a highlight of our safari, a reminder of the raw beauty and complexity of nature.

Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site in southwestern Uganda, is an ancient, biologically diverse rain forest famed for its mountain gorilla populations. Shrouded in mist and sprawling over 128 square miles, this ‘impenetrable forest’ boasts rugged terrain, with dense undergrowth and thick canopies that are home to half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas. A trek through Bwindi’s challenging trails is rewarded with the unparalleled experience of encountering these gentle giants in their natural habitat.

Uganda safari mountain gorillas primates

© Richard de Gouveia

Beyond gorillas, Bwindi is a sanctuary for many other species, including numerous bird species, butterflies, and primates, offering a primeval wonder that enchants conservationists, researchers, and adventurers alike. Nestled within the rugged terrain of Uganda lies the enchanting Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a sanctuary of biodiversity and natural wonder. This ancient forest, aptly named for its dense vegetation and challenging terrain, is home to one of the world’s most treasured inhabitants, the mountain gorilla.

These majestic creatures, with their powerful yet gentle demeanor, inhabit the lush valleys and mist-covered slopes of Bwindi, living harmoniously amidst the towering trees and cascading streams. The forest’s remote and rugged landscape serves as a natural fortress, offering protection to the gorillas and countless other species that call it home.

For travelers fortunate enough to embark on the journey to Bwindi, the experience is nothing short of magical. Guided by experienced trackers and local guides, visitors venture deep into the heart of the forest, traversing steep hillsides and winding paths in search of these elusive primates.

As we embarked on our journey to Bwindi, anticipation filled the air, our excitement mounting with each passing mile. Arriving at the lodge, nestled precariously on the mountainside, we settled into our comfortable wooden abodes, eager for the adventures that awaited us.

The evening before our trek was charged with excitement as we prepared ourselves mentally and physically for the challenge ahead. With the first light of dawn, we set out on our trek, winding our way up and down mountains, through lush plantations, until we reached the dense forest that was home to the mountain gorillas.

Uganda safari mountain gorillas primates gorilla trek

© Richard de Gouveia

Descending into the heart of the forest, we were greeted by a sight that took our breath away: an open clearing where a family of gorillas lounged and played in the dappled sunlight. For an hour, we were enraptured by their presence, capturing every moment with awe and reverence.

The following day’s trek proved to be more challenging as we ventured deeper into the forest in search of another gorilla family. Despite the rugged terrain and the length of the hike, our determination never wavered, fueled by the promise of another encounter with these magnificent creatures.

As we journeyed deeper into the forest, guided by the expertise of our trackers, we encountered a scene of drama and intrigue: a confrontation between two gorilla families. Witnessing this display of power and dominance was both exhilarating and humbling, a testament to the complexity of life in the wild.

gorilla africa uganda mom and baby

© Richard de Gouveia

As the day drew to a close, we found ourselves reflecting on the profound experiences we had shared in the company of these gentle giants. Sitting amidst the tranquil beauty of the forest, sharing stories and laughter with our fellow travelers, we felt a deep sense of gratitude for the opportunity to connect with nature in such a profound way.

And so, as we bid farewell to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the mountain gorillas that call it home, we carry with us memories that will last a lifetime, a testament to the beauty and wonder of the natural world and the bonds that unite us all.

Uganda safari mountain gorillas primates sunset

© Richard de Gouveia