Humans have long been fascinated with gorillas and chimpanzees, our closest living relatives. To pause, sit, and match a gaze with the contemplative eyes of a huge silverback, just yards away in the rainforestÂ—during such a rare encounter, thereÂ’s something deeper occurring than simple observation. Yet these magnificent apes are in danger, struggling to survive in the face of poaching and habitat destruction. Our travels take us to their natural habitat, a visit which may be the only hope for their future. This once-in-a-lifetime adventure will certainly change your life Â– it may well change theirs, too.
Day 1: Arrive Entebbe, Uganda
Arrive in Entebbe and transfer to the Lake Victoria Hotel. Enjoy a dinner orientation with your Expedition Leader this evening.
Day 2: Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary
Travel by boat to the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary. This refuge provides a home for orphaned chimÂpanzees in a natural environment. Your visit helps fund their rehabilitaÂtion while stemming the impact of illegal poaching.
Days 3-4: Kibale National Park
A drive across UgandaÂ’s green highÂlands takes you to Kibale, the equatoÂrial rainforest reserve which is home to more primates than any place in the world, including 500 chimpanÂzees. Trackers help you spot chimps and monkeys, and you may see up to 100 species of birds in a wetland sanctuary. Overnight in thatched cotÂtages at Ndali Lodge, on the rim of a crater lake.
Days 5-6: Kibale / Queen Elizabeth National Park
After the morning tracking chimps, you depart by road for Queen Elizabeth National Park, skirting the Western Rift Valley. On the Kazinga Channel you take a boat ride among the worldÂ’s largest concentration of hippos, as well as crocodiles, baboons and myriad birds. The park is also home to lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and antelope. Stay at Mweya Lodge on the channel, in the shadow of the Ruwenzori Mountains.
Day 7: Queen Elizabeth / Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
On a morning game drive you may see the parkÂ’s famous tree-climbing lions. Continuing to Bwindi ImpenÂetrable National Park, you visit a local school before reaching your gorilla-trekking base, the deluxe tented Gorilla Forest Camp.
Days 8-9: Gorilla Trekking
Here you discover one of nature travÂelÂ’s peak experiences, a visit with wild gorillas in their natural habitat. Just 600 mountain gorillas remain in the world, half of them in this preserve. Early in the morning you depart on a trek through the dense rainforest on a quest to locate one of the habituated family groups. Your guides are expert trackers, reading signs of the gorillasÂ’ recent presence in the undergrowth. Finally you hear and see them, and watch, rapt: they sit in the trees and chew leaves; babies cling to mothersÂ’ backs; juveniles swing from branches; the big male silverback surveys all, including you. ItÂ’s hard to tell who is more captivated.
Day 10: Virunga National Park, Rwanda
Leaving Bwindi, you descend to the Rift Valley floor, passing local villages and coffee plantations. Your destinaÂtion is Parc National des Volcans, named for the string of volcanoes inside its borders. At GorillaÂ’s Nest, your lodge, the views across to the volÂcanoes on a clear day are spectacular.
Days 11-12: Gorilla Trekking in Virunga
After breakfast, you drive to park headÂquarters for a briefing from your guides. This is where Dian Fossey made her groundbreaking studies on mountain gorillas before her murder in 1985. There are several habituated gorilla families in the park, and you learn how important your ecotourism presence is to their survival before trekking in search of these famed families.
Day 13: Golden Monkey Trek
Many other species also live in Parc National des Volcans, including a habituated group of endemic and highly endangered golden monkeys. On a much less strenuous hike, you look for these agile entertainers who swoop through the forest canopy and delight you with their antics.
Day 14: Kigali / Home
After breakfast, you depart for RwanÂdaÂ’s capital, Kigali. Time permitting, youÂ’ll take a city tour and visit the Kigali Memorial Center Â– a deeply moving tribute to the 800,000 peoÂple killed in the Rwandan genocide of 1994. This afternoon you transfer to the airport for flights home.