Authentic Great Ape Photo Safari – Rwanda and Uganda

8-18 March 2018 (10 nights)  

In March 2018 Helena Atkinson will lead a group of photographers and wildlife enthusiasts to Rwanda and Uganda to photograph Africa’s Great Apes: the mountain gorillas, chimpanzees and the endangered golden monkeys. This safari will focus on photographing these primates in an intimate setting.   It is truly an experience to get up close and personal to these great apes and with the increasing threat to their habitat there are few places left to view and photograph them.

Our trip starts off in Rwanda where we will focus on Colobus monkey trekking and birds at Nyungwe Forest National park.  We then head to the Volcanoes National Park to look for and photograph mountain gorillas as well as golden monkeys.  After this we move to Uganda where we will have two full days of chimpanzee viewing and photography (only a certain amount of permits available for full day excursions, which we have secured), in Kibale National Park near the Ruwenzori Mountains in south-western Uganda.

This trip is run by Eyes On Africa.

How do I signup?

Our group size is a maximum of 7 participants and normally this trip fills up fast.  If this exciting safari sounds good and you are thinking of joining this trip, please get in touch with any questions.

Contact us

Please click on individual tabs below for more detailed information. 

 Is this Safari for you?

  • 10 nights days on safari in the best areas of Rwanda and Uganda
  • Photograph Africa’s great apes – mountain gorillas in Rwanda and chimpanzees in Uganda
  • We welcome photographers of ALL levels.  This safari will be conducive to learning from one another and include instruction that will suit everyone’s photographic needs
  • We are BIG on photographing in the field.  We will spend a lot of our time and effort on this trip either photographing or working on images.
  • Non-photographer or videographer spouses / travel companions will also enjoy this safari.  The wildlife experiences on this trip will appeal to anyone with a love for animals and nature
  •  The photo leaders are all experienced naturalists with rich backgrounds in conservation and field guiding and the region’s natural history as well as wildlife will be explored
  • Two mountain gorilla trek permits and one golden monkeys permit to visit the magnificent animals in Volcanoes National Park
  • Two all-day habituation permits to visit the wild chimpanzees in Kibale National Park
  • There will be a focus as well on editing of images on the trip in between activities
  • Limited to 7 participants
  • This itinerary focuses on up-close and real wildlife experiences from the surroundings of our very comfortable accommodations.

The Itinerary: 8-18 March 2018 (10 nights)

Kigali Serena, Kigali, Rwanda

8 March 2018 (1 night)

The hotel for our first night in Rwanda is in Kigali, just 10 kilometers from Kigali International Airport. Relaxed yet elegant, this is a good place to get ready for the rest of our trip.

View Kigali Serena website

 

 

 

Nyungwe Forest Lodge, Rwanda (to be confirmed)

9, 10, 11 March 2018 (3 nights)

9 March: On the morning of the 9th we will depart from Kigali Serena hotel and transferred to Kigali International airport for our scheduled flight to Nyungwe Forest.  

We will arrive at Kamemebe Airstrip where our guide will be waiting to transfer us to Nyungwe Forest Lodge

Designed to fit within its beautiful natural surroundings, Nyungwe Forest Lodge has 20 rooms. The lodge is situated in Gisakura, a working tea plantation, on the edge of the Nyungwe National Park. The Nyungwe Forest is the largest mountain rainforest on the African continent with over 13 different species of primates, representing 20% of all the apes in Africa.

10 March: We will be collected from Nyungwe forest lodge and taken on a Colobus monkey trek.

Angola Colobus monkeys can be found here in troops of several hundred; the largest, can be up to 450 individuals. This fair to moderate trek can be adapted to guests’ fitness and lasts up 6 hours. It’s an absolutely amazing experience, to see so many Colobus monkeys at the same time, often 50-60 at a given time. Besides their incredible numbers, Angola Colobus differ from the more common Eastern Colobus by the extent of white hair and leaner frame.

Other primates likely to be seen during the trek include l’Hoest’s monkey and the grey-cheeked mangabeys. There are over 275 different species of birds as well as 75 different species of mammals that reside in these lush surroundings. The birds too are spectacular, Giant hornbills, great blue turacos and red-breasted sparrow hawks are amongst the specials, 24 of them endemic to this section of the Rift Valley.

Have the rest of the afternoon at leisure.

11 March: We will be collected from Nyungwe forest lodge and taken on a Canopy Walk.

At the Nyungwe Interpretive Centre at Uwinka, the new Tourist Information Centre has just been completed. Barely 5 min after leaving the Centre, it is a totally different world as you truly get immersed in the intimacy of the forest. We will do about a 3-hour hike.

Tour Nyungwe Forest National Park of Rwanda from 50 meters in the air on the Canopy Walk and access impressive insights into East Africa’s largest and oldest Afro-Montane Forest. The walkway of length 200 meters hangs across a steep and deep valley filled with thick forest. Besides being so high in such a picturesque location, the walk allows access to the upper parts of the forest, where one can see some unique ‘canopy’ species; apes, birds, butterflies, plants and insects, flowers, leaves and other animals that live in the roof of the forest. Normally invisible, this walk allows for them to be at eye level, or even from above.

In the afternoon we will be collected from Nyungwe forest lodge and taken on a bird watching trip. We will go deeper into the forest in and around the Kamiranzovu area in search of Nyungwe’s birds.

View Nyungwe Forest Lodge website

We will confirm the use of this property as soon as possible.

 

Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel, Rwanda (to be confirmed)

12, 13, 14 March 2018 (3 nights)

12 March: On the morning of the 12th we will depart from Kamember airstrip to Kigali International airport. From here we will transfer to the Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel.

The Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel in Musanze (Ruhengeri) is located on the road going to Volcanoes National Park and is the perfect base for our activities at Volcanoes National Park.  The park’s headquarters, from where will do our trekking, are about 15 minutes away. Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel is situated near the foothills of the mighty Virungas, the chain of 15,000-ft volcanoes stretching through Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The hotel’s name comes from the famous park which harbours five of the eight volcanoes in the Virunga mountain chain, this is a superb base for visitors wanting access to the city and Rwanda’s famed mountain gorillas.  The park also acted as a base for Dian Fossey, the acclaimed primatologist, who spent many years studying the endangered mountain gorillas.

The hotel has 13 en-suite bedrooms as well as a pool and massage facilities.   

13 March: We will have an early breakfast and drive to the park offices, where we will have a briefing by our trackers and then drive to the beginning of the trail. From there we will begin our trek up the path to meet up with the gorillas (see important information on gorilla trekking under the Special Notes section).

Our exhilarating trek, in the footsteps of the rare and critically endangered Mountain Gorillas, the largest living primate on earth, starts in the cultivated foothills of the Virungas with stirring views in all directions. In this intimate rainforest you might see spoor of the mountains’ elusive buffalo and elephant, colourful bird and butterflies, etc. Through gaps in the canopy, the magnificent Virunga peaks, among the highest in Africa, can be glimpsed.

Weaving through overhanging vines, moss-covered hagenia and giant lobelias that thrive in the tropical climate, our experienced trackers will soon bring us up close with the family.

Upon sighting the gorillas, we will stay with them for an hour as they go about their daily life, feeding, playing, resting; raising their young, before returning to the base where our driver will be waiting for us. Lunch is normally back at the lodge (dependent on how long our trek was and what time we return).

The afternoon we will spend downloading and processing images.

14 March: We will get up early again for our second day of gorilla trekking. Today we will visit a different family of gorillas (specific families visited are only determined at the Park HQ on the morning of the trek). Lunch is normally back at the lodge (dependent on how long our trek was and what time we return).

In the afternoon we will be collected from Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel and taken to ex-poachers village.

Ex-Poachers Village – Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village, Rwanda

An award-winning conservation initiative, former poachers were convinced to renounce their former ways and become conservation activists. Together with their families, they founded this little community village with a replica of the Kings palace, where they now participate in eco-tourism showcasing Rwandan culture and customs.

15 March: We will depart early from Mountain Gorilla View lodge, clear with customs at the Rwanda/Uganda border, cross into Uganda and then be transferred to Kisoro airstrip for our schedule flight to Kasese.

View Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel website.

 

Ndali Lodge, Uganda 

15, 16, 17 March 2018 (3 nights)

15 March: We will arrive at Kasese Airstrip, where our guide will be waiting to transfer us to Ndali Lodge where we will be staying for the next three nights. Ndali Lodge provides a perfect base from which to visit some of the region’s most popular attractions including Kibale Forest National park, famous home of the largest concentration of chimpanzees in Africa.

We will be collected from Ndali lodge late in the afternoon and taken on a nature walk.

The focus of the next two days will be spending time with the chimpanzee research and habituation in Kibale National Park. There is a very limited number of full-day chimpanzee permits allocated each day (our permits allow full days spent with the chimps while the majority of the permits are only for one hour of viewing) and we have secured the full-day permits for two days.

16 March:  We will rise early and depart at 4:30 AM with packed lunches to the Park offices at Kanyanchu River Camp where we will join the Kibale researchers and habituation team that goes out in the morning to study and habituate the chimpanzees. This activity starts at 05:30 AM.

Chimpanzee habituation is an on-going activity that entails following up the chimpanzees to get them used to human presence without altering their natural behaviour. Spend your day with the chimpanzees and see how they spend theirs from de-nesting (getting-out of the nests) between 5.30 and 6.30 am, through the day until nesting (building nests as they go to sleep) between 6.30 pm 7.30 pm.

Other primates that we will have a good chance of seeing each day include grey-cheeked mangabey, red-tailed monkey, L’Hoest’s monkey, blue monkey, red colobus, Angola colobus and olive baboon.

After our long day of chimpanzee viewing and photography, we will return to our lodge for dinner, downloading and some photo editing.

17 March:  Today we will again head out for our second day of chimpanzee viewing with our guides.

View Ndali Lodge website

 

Safari Ends 

18 March

After breakfast at the lodge we will be transferred by road to Kasese Airport for our short charter flight to Entebbe International airport on time for your international flight.  

 NOTE:

Air travel and customized extensions to this safari, including safaris in Kenya and/or Tanzania, or other destinations may be arranged through Eyes on Africa as desired. Ask us for further information.

Costs

The cost of this all-inclusive safari is dependent on the number of guests that travel.  The cost is US$13,650.00 per person if the trip fills up (7 participants). This fee includes all in-country ground and air transportation (as well as between Rwanda and Uganda) as well as hotel accommodation (double occupancy) and all meals (except as noted above and in exclusions below).

Please note: We will attempt to adhere to this itinerary as much as possible. However, certain conditions (political, climatic, environmental, cultural, or wildlife migrations) may necessitate changes in the itinerary. We reserve the right to alter any itinerary at any time, if necessary. We will attempt to notify participants of changes as far in advance as possible. Costs incurred by such changes will be the responsibility of the participant.

What is included

  • All accommodation on a shared basis (single rooms may be available – please inquire)
  • 1 x trip leader (Helena Atkinson)
  • All permits and fees for the chimpanzees and mountain gorillas
  • Relevant park fees and entrance fees as specified in the itinerary
  • Meals and drinks as specified
  • Excursions and transfers as included in the itinerary
  • Luggage allowance for air charters: approximately 30-35 kgs per person in total
  • Private vehicles and drivers for all road transfers throughout the trip
  • Air transfers as specified, including Departure Taxes
  • Accommodation taxes, the applicable current Tourism Levies and all relevant Value Added Tax (VAT) or Government Sales Tax (GST)
  • Emergency evacuation services within East Africa

What is NOT included

  • International airfare and/or other transportation between your home and airport (excluding the flight/s between Rwanda and Uganda on the 17th of March)
  • Meals not specified in the quote such as lunch and dinner in city hotels
  • Any drinks, park fees, entrance fees, porterage, tours/excursions and transfers not specified in the itinerary
  • Laundry (unless otherwise stated)
  • Cancellation, baggage and medical insurance
  • Discretionary staff gratuities
  • Any new Government Taxes, levies, fuel or industry increases which are beyond our control
  • Visa fees where relevant – should a visa payment be required, this will need to be made in US Dollar cash
  • Departure Taxes unless specified in the itinerary
  • Any items of a personal nature
  • Optional pre-/post- safari tours and meals or accommodation before or after the safari (Eyes on Africa would be happy to arrange any and all additional overnights or extensions)

Special Notes

  • Please read our Safari Code of Ethics and Conduct.
  • During the safari Helena will share her workflow and processing techniques on the computer. To make the most of this opportunity you are advised to bring a laptop and card reader as well as enough external storage for these sessions as well as the editing software you are most comfortable with. Helena uses Adobe Lightroom CC for the majority of her editing work.
  • Suggested discretionary cash gratuities (US Dollars) for chimpanzee / gorilla trek /monkey trek guides and trackers are recommended at USD $35 to $40 per trek (6 treks in total)
  • Discretionary gratuities for camp and hotel staff are recommended at USD $15 to $25 per person per day.
  • Any additional gratuities for hotel staff, road transfer drivers, airport porters, etc. can also be paid in cash in US Dollars
  • Our group size is a maximum of 7 participants
  • Although most safari lodges offer complimentary internet access, connections are unreliable and extremely slow  
  • Tropical rain showers can occur this time of year and you should bring rain gear both for yourself and your camera equipment

Gorilla trekking information: 

The gorillas you will track in Volcanoes National Park will belong to one of ten ‘habituated’ family groups. Eight permits per day are issued for each group. For many years, these groups have undergone an extremely delicate process that has gradually made them used to the presence of humans and allowed a few privileged visitors to interact with them briefly in the wild. The gorillas are by no means tame. They are completely wild animals, which even now tolerate human presence for an hour a day at most. Experienced guides will accompany you on your tracking, many of whom have been involved in the habituation process themselves. These guides will brief you in detail on your arrival on the various aspects of ‘gorilla etiquette’, but the information contained in this set of guidelines is to help you arrive for your track well prepared and ready to enjoy this unique opportunity to the full. The permits are in extremely short supply, and are often booked as much as 18 months in advance. Only persons over the age of 15 are allowed to track the gorillas. Gorilla tracking is a year-round activity, with no season as such. The rain forest is moist, and it rains very often in Volcanoes National Park, even in the dry season. Tracking commences every morning from the park headquarters at 8:30 AM. There is a daily maximum of 8 visitors to each gorilla group, and each group is accompanied by a guide and by porters who will carry your shoulder pack for you. The gorillas cover large distances throughout the day and they are never constantly in one area. The guides will use their knowledge of the gorillas’ habits and information from the previous day to locate the group’s whereabouts. Because of this, the time taken to track the gorillas varies enormously, from as little as half an hour to as much as 9 hours before returning to camp. The terrain is sometimes difficult, with steep trails (often steeper than a flight of stairs) covered in dense vegetation that gives the park its name. In addition, the altitude of 5200 feet and more means participants do need to be physically fit to enjoy the track. Once the gorillas are located, your group will be allowed a maximum of one hour with them. After this, you will return to the park headquarters and your camp.

Gallery

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