17 Days Rwanda – Uganda Bird & Wildlife Photography Trip
Rwanda Uganda Birding Photography | Photography Tours | Bird Watching Photos | Rwanda African Birding | Safaris | Adventure, Expedition, Trip, Wildlife and Scenery
Rwanda Uganda Birding Photography – This tour is set to cover the unique habitats of the western part of East Africa. These habitats are home to the region’s most unique and restricted-range species. We intend to cover the great Albertine riff for the montane forests birds and other wildlife, the mid elevation birds at Budongo plus the open and woodland country ones at Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls Game Parks. Although, there will be montane habitat coverage, the pace should be generally easy.
Detailed Rwanda and Uganda Bird & Wildlife Photography Itinerary
DAY 1 Rwanda Uganda Birding Photography: Arrival for Rwanda and Uganda Bird watching Safari
Arrival for Tour and transfer to Nyungwe Forest National Park
DAY 2 Rwanda Uganda Birding Photography: Bird watching Nyungwe Forest Reserve of Rwanda – Rwanda Birding
Nyungwe forest is situated in south-west Rwanda between Lake Kivu and the international border with Burundi. Nyungwe is divided north-south by a line of mountains that reach 2,600–2,900 m and which form part of the Congo–Nile watershed. As a result, Nyungwe is composed of two areas differing in pedology, vegetation, water-flow, and biodiversity.
This beautiful birding area lies west of Butare, with the Butare to Cyangugu road passing straight through the middle, providing excellent roadside birding. A total of 275 species have been recorded in Nyungwe, reflecting the wide habitat diversity and altitudinal range. These include all the 25 species of the Albertine Rift mountains Endemic Bird Area that occur in Rwanda, Chapin’s Flycatcher and Rockefeller’s Sunbird (both globally threatened, restricted-range and biome-restricted). Also, 11 of the 23 species of Guinea-Congo Forests biome and 71 of the 74 species of this biome of Afrotropical Highlands that occur in Rwanda have been recorded at this site. Generally, Nyungwe is undoubtedly the most important forest for the conservation of montane birds in the region.
We have an early morning breakfast then set out to Uwinka for the Albertine Rift endemic birds search. Among the many we look out for, include; Kivu Ground-Thrush, White-tailed Blue-flycatcher, Red-chested, SunbirdRegal Sunbird, Rockefeller’s Sunbird, Miombo Rock-Thrush, Mountain Masked Apalis, Black-faced Apalis, Chestnut-throated Apalis, Collared Apalis, Grauer’s Warbler, few Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Stripe-breasted Tit, Purple-breasted Sunbird, Red-throated Alethe, Archer’s Robin-Chat, Ruwenzori Turaco, Great Blue Turaco, Handsome Francolin, White-headed Wood-hoopoe, Olive Woodpecker, Mountain Greenbul, Rwenzori Hill-babbler, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, Mountain Yellow Warbler, Northern Puffback, White-starred Robin, Rwenzori Double-collared Sunbird, Dusky Crimsonwing, Thick-billed Seedeater, Streaky Seedeater, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Variable Sunbird, Waller’s Starling, White-bellied Crested Flycatcher, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, just to mention but a few.
We look for species probably missed the previous day, we hope to tick-off Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Albertine Sooty Boubou, Rwenzori Batis, Blue-headed Sunbird, Sharpe’s Starling, White-tailed Blue Flycatcher, Evergreen Forest Warbler, Dusky Tit, Doherty’s Bush-shrike, Siffling Cisticola, Bronze Mannikin, Golden-breasted Bunting, Neumann’s Warbler, Red-throated Alethe, Mountain Wagtail, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Equatorial Akalat, Black Cuckoo, Kungwe Apalis, White-bellied Robin-chat, and many more. We try our luck and listen out at nightfall for the Rwenzori Nightjar (a nocturnal species), Albertine Owlet and Red-chested Owlet.
DAY 4 Rwanda Uganda Birding Photography: Birding From Nyungwe to Kisoro in Uganda
DAY 5 Rwanda Uganda Birding Photography: Bird Watching Safari to Ruhija
Today, we transfer to Ruhija which is famously known as Africa’s number one birding spot. Sometimes, the Grey-capped Warbler, Dusky-brown Flycatcher, White-necked Raven and Straw-coloured Fruit Bats around the parking lot attract our attention before we departure. We shall accept this inconvenience if the case gets to be similar. Driving through Kisoro town, we got the huge-billed White-necked Raven; this is a cool-looking raven for sure; they have this very huge and thick-looking bill.
At Echuya forest, we intend to do a few stops to look for Albertine Sooty Boubou, Rwenzori and Black-faced Apalises. We also hope to get better looks at the Mountain Yellow Warbler, Banded Prinia individuals as they skulk in the undergrowth, White-browed Crombec, Brown-capped and the endemic Strange Weaver, Northern Puff-back, Mountain Illadopsis, Red-throated Alethe, Doherty’s and Lagden’s Bush-shrikes and many more to richen our list endemics list.
The Mwichuya marsh can be an excellent spot for Grauer’s Swamp Warbler, Common Waxbill, Grey-crowned Crane, Variable Sunbird, Thick-billed Seed-eater and the Red-chested Flufftail. When we enter Bwindi Impenetrable forest, we shall stop to look for Doherty’s Bush-shrike and Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo to add to our new birds of the day. The L’Hoest’s and Blue Monkeys are among the new primates we should find for our continuously growing mammal list.
DAY 6 Rwanda Uganda Birding Photography: Birding and Optional Gorilla Trekking in Uganda
This is usually a big day, we anticipate for the big one! Mountain gorilla trekking is such a highlight even on birding tours. After breakfast, we go to the information office for a proper briefing on how to behave amidst Mountain Gorillas and family allocation.
This activity may take anywhere between an hour to eight, so a reasonable degree of fitness is required. It is a beautiful experience to stare into the eyes of these gentle giants; watch them in awe as they play and go about their daily activities. It is indeed a “once in a lifetime” experience that will linger. Each encounter is different and has its rewards, but you are likely to enjoy the close view of adults feeding, grooming and resting as the young frolic and swing from vines in a delightfully playful display.
When done with gorilla tracking activity, there is a high chance that you will be happy to go out for more restricted-range and Albertine Rift endemics. In this case, we will do a leisurely walk to the community secondary forest. We will look for Barred and Olive Long-tailed Cuckoos, Grauer’s Warbler, Black-tailed oriole, the very skittish Luhder’s Bush-shrike while they make their way through the vines, Gray Cuckoo-shrikes.
DAY 7 Rwanda Uganda Birding Photography: Bwindi Forest – Queen Elizabeth National Park
After over a week of montane forest birding, we will have to leave these fantastic locations and head to the Great East African rift valley. We shall bird through Ishasha which is the southern section of Queen Elizabeth National Park and have a wonderful time working on our woodland and open country birds again. On sunny days, the sky here is excellent for observing some raptors many of which may have seen earlier. Most likely to be new should include Gabar Goshawk, White-headed and Lappet-faced Vulture, Rufous-breasted Sparrow-hawk and Banded Snake-Eagle.
This stretch usually offers Impressive views of Wing-snapping, Croaking and Stout Cisticolas, flocks of White-winged Widowbird, White-headed Barbet, Pin-tailed Whydah, Moustached Grass-Warbler, Broad-tailed Grassbird, Greater-painted Snipe, Malagasy Pond-Heron, Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike, Scaly and Red-necked Francolins.
Normally at this time of the trip, desire to see the big game will be high, we will be having good chances for African Bush Elephants, Leopards and Lions in the trees.
DAY 8 Rwanda Uganda Birding Photography: Birding in Uganda Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park tends to start with a lovely sunrise, if we have a clear day, we should expect it. The Kasenyi side is most prefered in this section of the park; this is because it offers excellent lekking grounds for the Kob. Game viewers drive there first thing in the morning and birders too, love it a lot for its open grasslands and sparsely distributed thickets that provide perfect microhabitats for quite shy birds. It also offers the best chances for birds like Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Rufous-napped, White-tailed, Red-capped and Flappet Lark, African and Jackson’s Pipit. These four larks mentioned, are a significant target when starting this morning ‘s drive. We should see Temminck’s Courser, Black-crowned, Senegal and Wattled Lapwings, Kittlitz’s Plover, Yellow-throated Longclaw, White-backed Vultures, Ruppell’s Griffon and others soring the sky, Black-chinned and Black-faced Quail-finches, and also observe Kob lekking ground activity. Keeping up with the game birding tradition, we will scan openings, thickets and Euphorbia Candelabrums for Lions. Euphorbia Candelabrum is a cactus-like plant that dominates this part of the park.
After lunch, we shall do an afternoon boat ride on the Kazinga channel. This 40 km natural channel connects two major lakes in this park; Lake George and Lake Edward. Because of the significant wildlife activity at the banks of the channel, we only cover a less than 4km distance, and this takes us to lake Edward for a turning point.
This boat ride typically targets congregations of birds and big mammals when they come down to cool off during the heat of the day. We should get good looks at fishing African Spoonbill, a few African Skimmer, Gull-billed and White-winged Terns, a few shower birds depending on the season and these should include Curlew Sandpipers, Common, Marsh and Wood Sandpipers, Common Greenshank, Ruff, Little Stint, Ruddy Turnstone, Black-tailed Godwit, Three-banded Plover, and Common Snipe. Other good birds to expect to see include four Gulls; Lesser Black-backed, Heuglin’s, Slender-billed and Grey-hooded Gull, both Great White and Pink-backed Pelicans, Great and Long-tailed Cormorants, Yellow-billed, Marabou and Woolly-necked Storks, our first of the many Red-throated Bee-eaters and many more. If we choose to go out for a short evening drive, we will have chances for Square-tailed and Black-shouldered Nightjars.
DAY 9 Rwanda Uganda Birding Photography: Birding Uganda Kibale Forest National Park
We will leave Queen Elizabeth National Park keeping an eye in the bushes looking for Black-headed Batis, and Black-crowned Tchagra while we enjoy a very scenic and photogenic drive along the Mountains of the Moon.
We will leave for the Bigodi Sanctuary Wetland, shortly after arriving at our accommodation. The sanctuary is a community-based initiative and one of the most successful few in the country. With our site guide from the community, we should go around and through the papyrus looking for White-spotted Flufftail, Hairy-breasted, Yellow-spotted and Yellow-billed Barbet, Black-and-White Shrike-Flycatcher, Joyful Greenbul, Blue-throated Roller, White-collared Oliveback, Spurb Sunbird and a Shinning Blue Kingfisher.
The walk also being famous for primates, we should see Uganda Red Colobus which are threatened in this region for being preyed on by Common Chimpanzee (remember to learn from our guide, why?). The Uganda Mangabey, Olive Baboon, Mantled Guereza, L’Hoest’s and Blue Monkey are also very likely to show up.
DAY 10 Rwanda Uganda Birding Photography: Birding Tour and Optional Chimpanzee Tracking
Kibale National Park is the best travel destination for chimpanzee tracking in East Africa and can best be defined as the loveliest and most varied of all tropical rain forests in Uganda. It is christened the primate capital of the world because it hosts 13 species of primates including the chimpanzee (Man’s closest relatives- sharing over 98% DNA). It has 1450 chimpanzees, and these represent Uganda’s largest population of this endangered primate species.
In this forest, we will look for the Chimps and also do an early start for the Green-breasted Pitta. This Pitta is one of Africa’s most difficult birds to find! The time we should spend in the forest looking for the Pitta, we will also look for White-throated Greenbul, Crowned Eagle, Thick-billed Honeyguide, Brown-chested and Fire-crested Alethe, Crested Guineafowl, Western Black-headed Oriole, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Blue-throated Roller, Yellow-browed Camaroptera, Blue Malkhoa, Brown-eared Woodpecker, Western Nicator, Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo, Bronze-napped Pigeon, Yellow-mantled Weaver, Lesser Honeyguide, Red-chested Owlet and African Wood-owl among others.
Day 11 Rwanda Uganda Birding Photography: Birding to Masindi Tour
Today, we do the longest drive of the trip; Masindi is seven birding-drive hours away from Fort Portal. Depending on what will be missing our list, we may decide to spend a few minutes birding the wetlands around Fort Portal town for Northern Masked Weaver, White-collared Oliveback, Highland Rush Warbler and White-collared Oliveback.
The few stops we should do along the way, are for a lunch stop and adding some very likely birds like Yellow-shouldered and Red-collared Widowbird, Brown Twinspot, Red-backed and Brown-backed Scrub-Robin.
Day 12 Rwanda Uganda Birding Photography: Birding the Royal Mile of Budongo Forest
We set off early today for birding Uganda’s most birdy spots, which is located in the country’s most significant forest reserve. The Royal mile that is named in memory of Omukama (King) Kabalega who ruled the Bunyoro Kingdom from 1870 to 1899 offers pleasant field hours to many birdwatchers from all over the world. The is a big road in the middle of the forest with a beautiful canopy cover. The sides of the road are well maintained with openings extending up to 7 meters; this is very brilliant for undergrowth birding.
Frequently things work out very well before and after getting in the forest here. The forest edges which we normally explore, usually show African and Black-bellied Firefinches, Grey-headed Oliveback, Compact Weaver, Wahlberg’s Eagle and White-thighed Hornbill, making them our last species of Hornbill.
The interior should show us African Dwarf, Chocolate-backed in the forest canopy and Shining Blue Kingfishers, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Rufus-crowned Eremomela, Ituri Batis, Forest Flycatcher, Cassin’s Honeyguide, Nahan’s Francolin, Jameson’s Wattle-eye, Pale-breasted Illadopsis, Spotted Greenbul, Fire-crested Alethe, Lemon-bellied Crombec,
Day 13 Rwanda Uganda Birding Photography: Birding to Murchison Falls National Park
The tour continues to Uganda’s largest national park, which is also at the lowest elevation amongst all other parks. While and after leaving Masindi town, we will scan the trees for Purple Starling. When we approach the escarpment’s thickets and wooded acacias, we will look for birds typical to this habitat. Northern Red Bishop, Beautiful Sunbird, White-fronted Black-Chat, Bronze-tailed, Violet-backed, and Lesser Blue-eared Starlings Whistling and Foxy Cisticola, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, Black-faced Waxbill, Cliff Chat, Spot-flanked, Martial Eagle, Black-billed Barbet and hopefully acceptable looks at the shy Dusky Babblers.
As we continue with our drive, we will stop and scan spots for Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver, Shelley’s Rufous Sparrow, Cut-throat, Vitelline Masked Weaver, Swallow-tailed and Red-throated Bee-eater, Northern Crombec, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Dark-chanting Goshawk, the very localized White-rumped Seed-eaters and many more.
We should create time for the top of the Murchison Falls. These very dramatic falls are arguably the world’s most powerful. The bottom of the falls is great but the top is quite something! This is where the world’s longest river squeezes through a very narrow cleft of about eight feet and drops for a straight forty feet down! We never plan to miss this adventure on any of our tours that get to this part of the country.
Day 14 Rwanda Uganda Birding Photography: Game Drive and Boat Ride to Murchison Falls.
Good views of Heuglin’s Francolin, a central African endemic
Today we will aim at finding some specialities of the Southern Sudan stretch and new lovely mammals that show up during an African safari.
We drive into the open Savannah of Uganda’s biggest National Park, covering the section north of river Nile. We should find Speckle-fronted Weaver, Red-necked Falcon, Red-headed, Cardinal and Red-billed Queleas, Denham’s Bustard, Black-headed Lapwing, Spotted Thick-knee, and the critically endangered and uncommon White-headed Vulture. Swallow-tailed and Northern Carmine Bee-eaters, Banded Martin, Scarce Swift, Senegal Coucal, Tawny Eagle, Heuglin’s Francolin, Pale and Gambaga Flycatcher, Senegal Thick-knee and seasonal migrants. Our mammal list will aim for African Lions, the graceful Rothschild Giraffe, Lelwel’s Hartebeest, Oribi, Side-striped Jackal, and the shy Bohor Reedbuck.
After a proper lunch by the banks of the mighty river Nile, we take a three hours boat ride to the bottom of Murchison Falls, an enjoyable on the Victoria Nile that can find Giant Kingfisher, White-crested Turaco and Rock Pratincole at the bottom.
Day 15 Rwanda Uganda Birding Photography: Boat Ride to the Delta and Evening Game Drive
This morning, we take a morning boat ride to the delta; this sails downstream on the Victoria Nile into Lake Albert. It is an enjoyable nature ride, to and from. The birds love the riverine forest, as do the big mammals and reptiles to the bunks. It is here that one gets to lock eyes with the typical giant Nile Crocodiles that measure six meters and endless schools of Hippopotamus. The banks, riverine forest and thickets are right for Giant Kingfisher, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Grey-headed Bush-shrike, the spectacular looking Saddle-billed Stork, Little Bittern and the Shoebill. With a little more effort, somedays Pel’s Fishing-owl, White-backed and Black-crowned Night-Heron show up.
We will do a lunch break and a siesta before heading out for the late afternoon to evening drive. This park has extensive savannah grasslands that give fantastic photography opportunity when the sun is setting. The Kobs and the other mammals with a background filled with the Albert Nile, Cattle Egrets flying back to their roost and distant blue mountains with beautiful golden sunlight on them is a scene that hardly gets another to compare.
The evening drive that is on the plan, places us in what feels like the middle of nowhere. Imagine a spot where you are only surrounded by wildlife, a dark sky with only stars and the moon to pick out with no surrounding light pollution. It is basically living your favourite wild animal’s moment. This is also one of the favourite moments for some of our Avian Safaris guides. Depending on the season, we hope to find a few nightjars like Swamp, Slender-tailed, Long-tailed, Square-tailed, Standard-winged, Pennant-winged, Plain and European Nightjars, Grayish Eagle-owl. New mammals to look out for should include, White-tailed and Marsh Mongoose, Bunyoro Grass Rabit, Leopard, Blotched Genet, Slender Gerbils, Fat Mice, Spotted Hyena, among others.
Day 16 Rwanda Uganda Birding Photography: Birding to Entebbe Via Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary for Rhino Tracking
While we return to Entebbe for departure, the drive has the potential of adding good birds to our list, I will list a few of them; Brown-backed Woodpecker, Black and Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike, White Helmet-shrike, Yellow-billed Shrike, Red-winged and Orange-winged Pytilias, Bat-hawk, Beaudouin’s, Short-toed and Brown Snake-Eagles, Abdim’s Stork, Thick-billed Cuckoo, Green-backed Eremommela, Bar-breasted Firefinch, White-shouldered Black-Tit, White-browed Sparrow-weaver, Singing Cisticola several other residents and migrants depending in the season.
Day 17 Rwanda Uganda Birding Phoyography: Departure