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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

Uganda: Shoebills to Gorillas

Tour Information

Note: The information presented here is an abbreviated version of our formal General Information for Tours to Uganda. Its purpose is solely to give readers a sense of what might be involved if they take this tour. Although we do our best to make sure that what follows here is completely accurate, it should not be used as a replacement for the formal document which will be sent to all tour registrants, and whose contents supersedes any information contained here.

ENTERING UGANDA:  Requirements include a passport valid for six months beyond the date of entry, a visa and certificate of yellow fever vaccination are required for United States citizens to enter Uganda.  It is now quite easy to obtain a visa upon arrival and this is the currently-recommended method. The cost is $50 (or $100 for the East Africa visa which includes entry into Tanzania and Rwanda and must be applied for in advance). If you prefer to get a visa in advance, the website is here https://visas.immigration.go.ug/.  Visit the Embassy of Uganda web site for the most current visa information. www.ugandaembassy.com. Non-U.S. citizens should contact their embassy or consulate.

COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information at https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country/uganda.html, and the CIA World Factbook background notes on Tanzania at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ug.html.

PACE OF TOUR AND DAILY ROUTINE:  There are a few travelling days where long drives are required and you should be prepared to spend a little more time in the vehicle than you would on tours to other countries.  As each vehicle has roof hatches and each person has a window seat, this is not as daunting as it might first appear.  The leader will organize a seating rotation so that all tour participants move to a different seat each day.

There are some long walks on this tour. One, at Ruhija, takes almost all day and involves a descent from a starting elevation of about 8,000 feet to an elevation of about 6,000 feet, followed by a return climb to our starting point. In places the going can be hard. Porters will be available to carry bags on this trek. A reasonable to good degree of physical fitness is required to take part in all the walks on this tour. 

Gorilla Tracking Permit at Bwindi (Day 6): As of 15 June 2017 permits for visiting the gorillas cost US$600 per person. The Gorilla Tracking Permit price is subject to change and is not included in the tour price, partly due to the possibility of pricing changes but also because the trek can be rigorous and not everyone will chose to do it. This optional trek can take anywhere from 3 or 6 hours and the off-trail terrain can vary from moderate to difficult, depending on where the gorillas are that day. The hike will likely be between 1-4 miles roundtrip and may lose and regain an elevation of 1000 feet or more. There is an option to hire porters at an extra cost of about USD $15 per day to carry your bags and help you to negotiate the more difficult parts of the trek. Please be sure to let us know when you register if you want a permit, as we need to obtain it at the time of booking. The final cost of the permit will be billed to you when the tour is invoiced. It’s worth noting that neighboring Rwanda has recently doubled its gorilla permit cost, but so far, Uganda hasn’t followed suit. If you opt out of gorilla tracking you will be able to go birding with one of the leaders, though it’s likely you won’t add any additional species.

Chimpanzee Tracking Permit at Kibale (Day 11): As of 15 June 2017 this permit costs US$150 per person and is included in the tour cost. This permit is included because a morning chimpanzee tracking session is also our best chance for Green-breasted Pitta. We’ll start with a pre-dawn visit to a known site for the pitta, and if our luck holds we’ll encounter this bird before moving down the trail to look for chimps (likely following their vocalizations). The chimp trek is another that involves an indeterminate length of walk over uneven terrain. The chimps range widely in their habitat and may move while the tour group is with them, in essence forcing the group into a hike behind the chimps at their walking speed. Or, the chimps may stay in one spot once found, making for a shorter walk. The habitat tends to not be as steep as for the gorilla trek, but hikers should be prepared anyway.

Most days will finish at dusk and we try to allow a one-hour break before we meet to do the daily checklist and have dinner.  On a few days this break may be shorter or longer depending on the schedule.  There may be some nights when we go out after dinner to look for nightbirds, although we are not permitted to leave the compounds in the national parks.

HEALTH: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly recommend a malaria preventative; travelers to Uganda should take one of the following antimalarial drugs: mefloquine (Lariam®), doxycycline, or Malarone®. You should contact your doctor as to which of these drugs would be best for you.

The CDC further recommends the following vaccines (see your doctor at least 4—6 weeks before your trip to allow time for shots to take effect): Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG); typhoid; yellow fever (required by Uganda); and as needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria, measles, and a one-time dose of polio vaccine for adults.

As the situation changes fairly frequently we suggest consulting your doctor for the latest advice shortly before starting your course. You can review the latest CDC advisories here.

CLIMATE:  Despite its proximity to the equator, much of Uganda feels anything but tropical, and many people are not prepared for how chilly it can be.  Tour elevations vary from 3,280 ft. to about 8,000 ft. and highland days can be quite cool if there is cloud cover.  It can get quite cold at our camp at 8,000 feet.  However, when the sun shines it can conversely get considerably warmer.  Humidity is low.  Rain is possible almost anywhere but we will probably only experience it in the highland areas and even then it should not be prolonged.  A lightweight sweater should be adequate for some of the cool evenings and a lightweight jacket for cutting wind and will be useful for early mornings and at high altitude.

ACCOMMODATION: During the tour we’ll stay in a variety of hotels, lodges and tented camps of generally good quality. Lodging standards in much of Uganda have risen dramatically in the past few years. All lodging on this tour provides mosquito nets around the beds, with the exception of the higher altitude lodges in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, where mosquitos aren’t an issue. Hotels and lodges also normally spray rooms to keep insects down. Some of the lodges such as Gorilla Mist Camp have limited hours of electricity due to the use of generators for power. Keep this in mind if you need power for a device such as a CPAP machine for sleeping.              

Internet: Most lodges have wifi for at least a couple hours in the evening but service is very slow (when it works) and is generally only available in the lobby area. Don’t count on daily connectivity to the outside world.  Faster internet is available at the Entebbe airport. Cell phone access is good almost everywhere.

FOOD:  The food throughout the tour is generally good to excellent and many people are surprised at the high standard provided, even in the remoter parts of the country.  Breakfasts are buffets offering everything from full cooked meals to cereals and fresh fruit.  At other meals there is almost always a choice of two or three main courses.  Vegetarians are well catered for.

DRESS: Informal throughout the tour.

TRANSPORT:  Transportation will be in long wheel-base Toyota Landcruiser or Nissan Patrol-type vehicles with opening roof hatches for window-free viewing and photography.  Our drivers are professionals, skilled at finding birds and mammals, and at repairing vehicles.  Some of the driving is on unpaved roads and while most of these are in good condition there are some bad sections.  In most National Parks leaving the vehicles is prohibited.  Each person will have a window seat and the roof hatches are helpful, but come prepared to spend an unusual amount of time in the vehicles.  Please note that the leader will operate a rotation system for seating in the vehicles.

SMOKING: Smoking is not allowed in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists etc. If you are sharing a room with a non-smoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, we ask that you do so well away and downwind from the group. If any location where the group is gathered has a stricter policy than the WINGS policy, that stricter policy will apply.

GENERAL INFORMATION & CONDITIONS OF WINGS TOURS: Please take a moment to read the WINGS General Information & Conditions. This section contains important information about how we conduct tours, e.g., what is included in the tour price, refund and cancellation policies, pace of the tours and other information that will help you prepare for the tour. Please note that except as noted in the tour descriptions, meals are not included in the cost of our tours in the United States and Canada.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: A more complete General Information for Tours to Uganda will be sent to each registrant on receipt of their booking. Final information with instructions for meeting the group, hotel addresses, etc., will be mailed about three weeks before trip departure. Other news will be communicated as necessary.

Updated: 13 June 2017