Project Description

WORLD HERITAGE

WILDLIFE

CULTURE

NATURE

Highlights: Geology of the Rift Valley / Lake Victoria and Nile River biodiversity / Flora and fauna of the Central African plains and forests / Chimpanzee social structure / Uganda history and social issues

Uganda Heart of Africa – 8 Days

“The Kingdom of Uganda is a fairy tale” Winston Churchill wrote in 1908. “The scenery is different, the climate is different and most of all, the people are different from anywhere to be seen in the whole range of Africa.”

Until the 1960’s, Uganda was a premier destination for tourists wanting to experience the best of Africa, then for two decades the world avoided Uganda while Idi Amin plunged the nation into a bitter civil war. For decades tourism came to a standstill, but today visitors from around the world are finding their way back to this “fairy tale” kingdom in increasing numbers, and for very good reason. Not only does Uganda feel fresh and unspoiled compared to the hordes of tourists now descending on Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa, but it has so much more to offer.

Uganda is truly gifted by nature with nearly a quarter of the country covered in fresh water, Only in Uganda can you dip your feet into the source of the Nile, the world’s largest river, beside Lake Victoria, the world’s second largest lake – a lake so large that it affects the weather pattern of several nations that surround it.

Western Uganda is bordered by the spectacular, glacier-capped Rwenzori mountain range with an appearance so different, and vegetation so unearthly, it is often referred to as the “Mountains of the Moon”. The countryside is an extravagant velvety green, thanks to rainfall throughout the year and the country enjoys a delightfully cool climate due to having a higher elevation (average 1,200m) than most of Africa.

Wildlife has come back from almost total destruction during the war years to outstanding concentrations and diversity today. Uganda has the widest variety of primates found anywhere in Africa, including chimpanzees and half the world’s remaining mountain gorillas. With over 1,000 recorded bird species, many of them endemic, Uganda boasts the richest birding on the continent. From placid crater lakes to savannahs teeming with game, from the hippo pools and roaring falls of the Upper Nile where the world’s largest crocodile can be found to the unique tree-climbing lions of Ishasa, Uganda has a diversity unparalleled in Africa.

The title ‘Heart of Africa’ really applies to the people as Uganda’s 26 million inhabitants, representing many different tribes, are considered to be some of the friendliest people in all of Africa. Being a former British Protectorate, the people are often fluent in English, making communication easy. “You are most welcome” are the words a foreigner is most likely to hear. Ugandans have a strong sense of family that they cherish all the more following the war years, You simply do not meet a stranger here for by the time you leave you will feel as if you are leaving family.

UGANDA- The Heart of Africa is a safari unlike any other. It combines the best destinations and national parks in Uganda with service learning for students. Nowhere else in Africa can you find an experience quite like it.

Study Focus: Victoria Lake ecology & African waterfowl

  • Arriving in Entebbe International Airport, students will clear customs and immigration and transfer by tourist class bus to a beachside hotel, just ten minutes away.
  • Situated on the shores of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake, our hotel location provides opportunities to stroll down quiet country lanes,       relax on the beach or photograph the amazing diversity of birds along the shore: Maribou storks, egrets, kingfishers, hammerheads, stilts, skimmers, herons, terns, pelicans and more.
  • A group orientation and bonding session will take place following dinner on the beach.

Overnight: Anderita Hotel, Lake Victoria

Study Focus: savannah & lake wildlife

  • Sunrise over Lake Victoria is not to be missed as we rise early for breakfast.
  • It’s just a 3.5-hour drive to our first game park in western Uganda. Lake Mburo National Park is a gem. It receives far fewer visitors than Uganda’s big parks, but boasts wildlife found no where else in the country such as impala, Burchell’s zebra and eland
  • We will set up our safari camp near the shores of Lake Mburo, like the early explorers, and set out from there to explore the region.
  • Following lunch we embark on a boat trip around Lake Mburo viewing animals in the water and along the shores – hippos, crocodiles and birds in abundance. This is a delightful introduction to the wildlife treasures of the continent.
  • Later in the day we will have a game walk with an armed Ugandan Wildlife Authority Ranger.
  • Walking slowly through the savannah dotted with acacia tress we should encounter an abundance of animals – Burchell’s zebra, Cape buffalo, wart hogs, crested cranes and a great variety of antelope. While not common, lion are sometimes seen in this area. A foot safari is a thrilling introduction to the African wilds.
  • Back at our tent camp we will enjoy dinner and hear tales of local legends around a campfire under the star-studded African sky

Overnight: Safari Camp, Lake Mburo National Park

Study Focus: geology of the rift valley / AIDS orphans service project

  • We’ll be getting in the habit of waking before dawn to take full advantage of early game drives which offer the best chances of catching nocturnal animals like hyenas, leopards and lions, returning from their nightly hunts.
  • After a sunrise breakfast we break camp and set off by safari vehicle on a game drive across the savannah and beside the five lakes in search of wildlife. Keep your cameras ready for action. Our safari vehicles allow you can stand up through openings in the roof to take the best pictures possible.
  • After exiting the park we will spend an afternoon in a rural village working with children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic that has swept Africa. The wildlife is one thing, but the real “Heart of Africa” will be revealed to us this day as we donate clothing, share songs and play games with these joyous children.
  • Provisioned with a picnic lunch, we then set off on the long drive to the Western Rift Valley, the location of world famous Queen Elizabeth National Park.
  • The drive may be long, but the scenery along the way is superb, especially as we descend into the Western Rift Valley and begin our late afternoon game drive along the Kazinga Channel where hippos, elephant and leopard are often spotted.
  • Queen Elizabeth National Park is Uganda’s second largest park covering nearly 2,000 square kilometers. It enjoys a stunning location on the rift valley floor between Lakes Edward and George where a mosaic of habitats supports 95 mammal species and a remarkable 612 species of birds. In the very heart of this wildlife rich region is the Mwyea Peninsula where we will enjoy the comforts of a world-class lodge for two nights.
  • After checking in to our 4-star lodge, students can enjoy the infinity pool that overlooks the beautiful Mweya Peninsula that juts out into Lake Edward. Bird life here is abundant and its great fun watching warthogs ‘mowing’ the grass surrounding the lodge as they crawl their way forward on their front knees.
  • Mweya Safari Lodge has lovely flower covered verandahs where we will enjoy a scrumptious buffet dinner followed by a group sharing session around a campfire, With hippos grunting nearby as they set out to forage and lions roaring in the distance, there will be no mistaking this is Africa.

Overnight: Mweya Safari Lodge, Queen Elizabeth National Park

Study Focus: African plains predator-prey interactions / mutualism & symbiotic relationships / vegetation types

  • It’s another great day on the African plains as we set off on an early morning game drive along the Kazinga Channel, a track made famous by royalty. Huge candelabra euphorbia trees, looking like giant cactus, grace this region of the park. The Kazinga Channel ‘Royal Track’ is one of the best areas to spot leopard, one of Africa’s most elusive big cats.
  • The diversity of Queen Elizabeth National Park’s wildlife is the result of an impressive range of habitats with 57 vegetation types that students will learn about. These include: forest, grasslands, acacia woodlands, lake shore and swamp vegetation.
  • Our destination this morning is the kob mating grounds on the open Kasenyi plain where lion prides prey on Uganda kob a little too preoccupied with male mating rituals to be on the lookout for predators.
  • We will look closely at the whistling acacia tree for first hand lessons in symbiotic relationship and study the impacts of elephants and vervet monkeys on acacia trees to better understand the complex interaction between species.
  • By late morning we return to our lodge for a delicious buffet breakfast and a chance to relax in the pool before lunch.
  • Our afternoon adventure is a cruise along the Kazinga Channel that offers one of the most thrilling wildlife spectacles in Africa.
  • In the late afternoon, huge herds of elephant, buffalo, kob, bushbucks, waterbucks, warthogs and antelope descend from the parched plains to drink along this channel. The waterway itself is alive with life – hippos galore, crocodile and thousands of shorebirds – pelicans, cormorants, stilts, storks, jacanas, gulls, sandpipers and more. Overhead, African fish eagles swoop down on unsuspecting prey and large flocks of pileated kingfishers dive bomb for fish churned up in the boats wake.
  • The 2-hour boat trip offers non-stop action; it’s a real life Disney World “Jungle River Cruise”
  • Back at our lodge we can reflect on an amazing day during a bountiful buffet dinner served on the verandah of our lodge. Later, we share tales of our adventures around a campfire.

Overnight: Mweya Safari Lodge

Study Focus: primate biodiversity / adaptations / human evolution / geography

  • Today is a travel day, but there’s a lot along the way to perk our interest as we leave Queen Elizabeth National Park and head north to Kibale Forest National Park.
  • Our first stop will be to view Kyambura Gorge where chimpanzees live in a 100m deep gorge carved by the Kyambura River. Looking down on this wooded gorge and the surrounding elevated savannah lands, it is easy to picture a similar gorge in nearby Tanzania where Dr, Leaky found the earliest evidence of our ancestors as they evolved from forest dwelling apes to savannah hunting hominoids.
  • Our next stop of interest is the Equator, marked by a monument. Here students can walk from the southern hemisphere back to the northern hemisphere and revel in the fact you weigh 2% less. You’re also rotating faster than anyplace on earth and water here does not drain clockwise or counter clockwise, but straight down.
  • As we drive north along the scenic Rwenzori mountain range that separates Uganda from the Congo, we will come across many beautiful crater lakes. The world famous Ndali Lodge is located on the rim of the caldera for one of these lakes, and it is here we will stop for lunch.
  • Ndali Lodge has a delightful colonial charm about it, with large open-air dining rooms and verandahs overlooking the gorgeous countryside. A huge tree at the entrance is decorated like a Christmas tree in the clever nests constructed by male weaverbirds.
  • Following lunch we drive a bit further to Kibale, the forest with the greatest diversity of primates in East Africa. As we drive through the deep forest to our lodge we will have opportunities to view some of the 13 species found here: Grey vervet monkeys, Red-tailed monkeys, LHoest’s monkeys, Blue monkeys, Grey-cheeked Mangabey monkeys, Red colobus monkeys, Black and white colobus monkeys, and Olive baboons.
  • Kibale is a classic African rainforest and one of the prime areas for chimpanzee trekking in East Africa.
  • Checking into our charming lodges and tree houses tucked into the forest, right on the edge of he national park, there will be time to clean up before gathering in the open air restaurant for a delicious dinner.
  • Later we gather around a campfire for another magical African night.

Overnight: Chimps’ Nest Lodge, Kibale National Park

Study Focus: social behavior of chimpanzees- technologies & cultures

  • For most students this day will provide a once-in-a-lifetime experience as they come face to face with our closest living relatives – chimpanzees in the wild! As visitation of these habituated apes is highly restricted, few people will ever have the privilege to see them.
  • We set off on our adventure right after breakfast as it is best to encounter the chimps early in the day while they are still foraging near their nesting trees.
  • You will hear the chimps long before you’re likely to see them. Territorial calls and screams can suddenly set your adrenalin flowing as big males, 8-times stronger than humans, descend from their nest trees and start pounding out drum beats on the flared roots of rainforest trees in acts of bravado. It is a heart-stopping moment, but not really dangerous as our Ugandan Park guides know exactly what to do to ensure group safety in every situation.
  • We will have 2-3 unforgettable hours with the chimp families before returning to our lodge for lunch and a rest.
  • We will spend the afternoon on a walk through the Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary where the rewards are many. Many species of monkeys can be viewed at close range here along with black and white casqued hornbills, blue crested turacous, and many other bird species. Later we will have opportunities to meet the warm and friendly Bigodi villagers in their community.
  • Our final night in the wilds of Africa will be highlighted by a traditional Ugandan dinner and celebration with dancers and singers from the nearby Bigodi Community. Anyone that has yet to be moved by the vibrant pulse and warm heart of Africa will be this night.

Overnight: Chimps’ Nest Lodge, Kibale National Park

Study Focus: Kibale reforestation service project

  • Today we set aside the cool morning hours for a service project that will not only offset the carbon footprint of our trip, but will benefit chimpanzees for generations to come. Chimps’ Nest Lodge has purchased 75 acres of land adjacent to Kibale National Park that is being reforested with the tree species chimps most prefer.
  • Habitat loss is the greatest single threat to chimpanzees in the wild today so there can be no more effective effort to safeguard our closest kin than to protect and expand their forest habitat.
  • Right after lunch we will begin the long drive back to Lake Victoria, arriving in time for a beautiful sunset over Lake Victoria.
  • A farewell dinner featuring tilapia and traditional African dishes will be served on the beach under the coconut palms. Later, a special gifts and presentations ceremony will mark the close of our remarkable adventure together.

Overnight: Anderita Hotel, Lake Victoria

Departure

  • It’s hard to believe that a week has passed so quickly as we relax at our lakeside hotel in preparation for the return flight home. The airport in Entebbe is just a 10- minute drive away so there’s no need to rush or spend any more time than necessary sitting in traffic.
  • Hopefully, students that took part in this remarkable journey of African discovery will carry it home in their heart. The departure from Uganda then will mark not an end to their experience, but a safari through life that has just begun.
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