5 days birding tour
Although our focus will be on shoebills and pittas, you will also rack up many other stunningly good-looking birds, such as blue swallow, black bee-eater, papyrus gonolek, afep pigeon, white-napped pigeon, red-chested owlet, white-headed wood hoopoe, blue-throated roller, purple-headed starling, superb and green-headed sunbirds, chestnut wattle-eye, white-collared olive- back, yellow-mantled weaver – to mention a few.
And, of course, you may even bump into chimpanzees or the cryptic potto while birding the forests of Kibale National Park.
Day 1: Arrival
Arrive in Entebbe International Airport, where you will be met by a Valentine Tours and Travel representative and transferred to the nearby Lake Victoria View Guesthouse.
After checking into your room, grab your binoculars, because your guide will take you to the nearby Entebbe Botanical Gardens – a lakeside paradise of blooms, lush vegetation, gnarled old trees native to Uganda and troops of stunning pied colobus monkeys.
Expect to kick-start that lifer list with many avian jewels that call the gardens home.
Right at the entrance in the tall trees one usually finds a pair of Verreaux’s eagle owls. Closer to the water’s edge the key birds to see are orange-tufted and red-chested sunbird, as well as orange weaver. The latter breed in the bushes on the shores of the lake along with slender-billed, northern brown–throated, yellow backed, Jackson’s golden–backed, black-headed and Vieillot’s black weavers. Along the lakes’ edge one can find long-tailed cormorant, common squacco and black-headed herons, hamerkop, African open-billed stork, grey-headed gull, various terns, giant and pied kingfishers, and swamp flycatcher. Collared pratincoles are often present and the stunning black headed gonolek and red- chested sunbird occur in the dense scrub covering the headland.
In the evening your guide will join you for dinner, and explain the plan of action for tomorrow’s assault on Mabamba Swamp in search of shoebill. Dinner and overnight in Entebbe.
Day 2: Searching for the mythical shoebill and transfer to Kibale
The Mabamba Swamp is a short drive from Entebbe, and one of the most reliable places to view shoebill, the most sought after bird in Africa.
Mabamba Swamp is a large marshland crisscrossed by many channels that provide the perfect habitat for countless waterbirds besides shoebill. Here, other marsh species such as swamp flycatcher, winding cisticola, malachite kingfisher, black-headed weavers, yellow-billed duck, long-toed lapwing, African jacana and blue-headed coucal, banded martin, grey-rumped and Angola swallows, African pygmy goose, rufous-bellied and purple heron, blue-breasted bee-eater, black crake, African marsh harrier, fan-tailed widowbird are not hard to find, and occasionally one can also be rewarded with the rare and endangered blue swallow.
The crowning glory of the morning will be finding and quietly observing the magnificent shoebill stork.
After our morning adventure, we proceed towards Kibale National Park. We will spend most of the afternoon getting there, but will be able to bird along the way. Dinner and overnight in Kibale.
Day 3: The quest for green-breast pitta and other detectable bycatch.
Our start today in Kibale National Park will be pre-dawn – essential as we have to listen for the first territorial calls of green-breasted pitta. Once we hear a calling individual, we will stalk and locate and thoroughly enjoy the sight. Breeding pittas are easier to locate, as they call often, but non-breeding birds require much harder work – you will scour the best territories and nesting areas hoping to find one feeding on the ground. Later, hopefully with this gem in the bag, you will continue to bird Kibale, its prolific forest edge and adjacent birding areas.
The birds at Kibale are typical of medium-altitude forest, with excellent mixed species flocks and specials such as Afep and white-napped pigeons, red-chested owlet, Narina trogon, white-headed wood hoopoe, black bee-eater, blue-throated roller, purple-headed starling, dusky-blue flycatcher, shrike-flycatcher, superb and green-headed sunbirds, lowland akalat, chestnut wattle-eye and black-and-white manikin, white-collared oliveback or yellow-mantled weaver – to mention a few.
The towering Kibale Forest has the highest primate concentration and species diversity of any reserve in East Africa. Primate highlights might include sightings of central African red colobus, handsome L’Hoest’s monkey and the scruffy grey-cheeked mangabey. You will embark on a chimpanzee trek in Kibale, where the chances of finding our closest living relatives are excellent.
In the early evening, you have a chance to do a night search for potto, Africa’s equivalent of the sloth. This is the best place in Africa to see potto. This unique night forest safari may also reveal three galago species and various small carnivores and ungulates.
Day 4: Birding in Kibale. Return to Entebbe in the afternoon.
Today provides a second chance to nab the green-breasted pitta, just in case it proved elusive yesterday. And if the pitta is already in the bag, your focus will be on the rest of the delectable species in the local list.
A walk through Bigodi Swamp will be in the cards at some point this morning. This lovely community project offers a pleasant boardwalk through the marsh and a great chance to seek out specialties such as white-spotted fluff tail, yellow-spotted barbet, hairy-breasted barbet, yellow-billed barbet, western nicator, grey-winged robin-chat, white-tailed ant-thrush, brown-backed scrub-robin, black-and-white shrike-flycatcher, brown-throated wattle-eye, superb sunbird, brown-crowned tchagra, bocage’s bush-shrike, black bishop, white-breasted negrofinch and black-crowned waxbill among others.
After lunch, we will drive back to Entebbe, while birding on route, and perhaps even a second visit to Entebbe Botanical Gardens. Dinner and overnight in Entebbe
Note: Anyone departing on a late flight tonight (after 21h00) will be transferred to Entebbe International Airport for his/her departing flight.