The Big Loop - 16 Days - Uganda / DRC / Rwanda

Detailed itinerary

Day 1 – Arrival in Kampala

On our first day, we look forward to receiving you at the airport in the late afternoon and drive to Cassia Lodge (Backpacker, Medium) or Emin Pasha Hotel (Luxury) in the green heart of Kampala at Nakasero Hill, which is our place of accommodation for the first night. Only a forty minute drive away from the airport, we will get a chance to visit a number of interesting sites within the city limits of Kampala, such as marvelous views of Lake Victoria, Gaddhafi mosque, or the Kabaka palace.

Day 2 – Transfer to Murchison Falls via Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

Our East African experience will begin with a visit at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, where we will track the critically endangered white rhinos and be able to engage them at close range in a natural environment. We plan to reach Murchison Falls National Park in the early evening, and be given the chance for a first game drive en route to Baker’s Lodge (Luxury, inside national park), Murchison River Lodge (Medium, inside national park) or Fort Murchison Lodge (Budget, near Pakwatch gate). After dinner, a night game drive may be possible in the vicinity.

Day 3 – Hot air balloon ride and boat launch at Murchison Falls

After a refreshing shower in the early morning, we will soon leave the lodge to meet the hot air balloon team in Murchison Falls National Park to gain a breathtaking view of the local wildlife from above! Following a breakfast in the field, we head out to the Murchison falls for a boat launch to the narrow cliff where the powerful Nile River crashes more than forty meters deep to leave a refreshing breeze. After climbing the hiking trail leading to the top of the falls and lunch, we intend to spend the afternoon with wildlife viewing in different sectors of Uganda's largest national park. Murchison Falls National Park is home to the Rothschild's giraffe, which we will track in the afternoon along with numerous other animals. Afterwards, we connect back to our lodge - Fort Murchison (Backpacker) or Baker’s Lodge (Medium, Luxury) - where we will get a chance to learn about the local villages and people on a community-led village walk, followed by dinner and a campfire.

Day 4 - Transfer from Murchison Falls to Kibale

On day four, our drive from Murchison Falls National Park to Kibale National Park is planned via Masindi town and Budongo eco forest. The drive to Kibale conservation area and Kibale Primate Lodge (Backpacker, Medium) or Ndali Lodge (Luxury) will likely take up to 8 hours and represents the longest drive of our trip. A late afternoon village and swamp walk will get us in touch with the dense rain forest for a first time.

Day 5 - Chimpanzee habituation experience in Kibale National Park 

Today will be reserved for our full day extended chimpanzee habituation experience in the heart of the dense Kibale rain forest. With packed breakfast and lunch, we will approach a wild group of chimpanzees and other primates in the morning. After our return, we have the choice to either relax at the lodge and prepare for departure the following morning or travel to some regional sites, such as the vast tea plantations around Fort Portal or the crater lakes of the Mountains of the Moon. Based on your energy levels and timing, we may also head to Sempaya hot springs at Semuliki Wildlife Reserve. Accommodation is at Kibale Primate Lodge (Backpacker, Medium) or Ndali Lodge (Luxury).

Day 6 - Transfer to Queen Elizabeth National Park

Via the Rwenzori mountains and Fort Portal’s vegetable market, we plan to head south to Queen Elizabeth National Park. Leaving Kibale, home to more than 15 primate species, in the early afternoon, we will get a chance for a game drive en route to our lodge and time to visit the local salt pans just north of the equator. In the late afternoon, we will arrive at Enganzi Lodge (Backpacker, Medium) or Mweya Safari Lodge (Luxury Tent) to relax, for dinner, and for the night.

Day 7 - Big cats and boat launch in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Day seven, a full day in Queen Elizabeth National Park awaits! Starting off with an early morning game drive from the lodge, we plan to join a launch cruise on Kazinga channel to see wildlife at the shores of Mweya peninsula. For the early morning game drive, we are currently talking to staff of the Uganda Carnivore Program, which may enable a guided trip to the big cats under observation by the team as part of experimental tourism. A late afternoon game drive in the northern part of Queen Elizabeth National Park will lead us back to the lodge in the early evening, where we can relax. Overnight stay at Enganzi Lodge (Backpacker, Medium) or Mweya Safari Lodge (Luxury Tent).

Day 8 - Tree-climbing lions and full day of game drives in Queen Elizabeth National Park

An additional day of excursions in Queen Elizabeth National Park is planned from Mweya to Ishasha. This will include an early morning game drive looking for the rare tree-climbing lions. An afternoon/evening game drive in Ishasha and the surrounding communities is planned. Accommodation at Enganzi Lodge (Backpacker, Medium) or Ishasha Wilderness Camp (Luxury). Evening complementary massage at Ishasha Wilderness Camp is included.

Day 9 - Rain forest hike to Bwindi Impenetrable Rain Forest and relaxation 

For the ninth day on the trip with us, we look forward to a Bwindi forest walk from Buhoma (northern sector) to Nkuringo park gate (south-western sector) of the rain forest. We should arrive in Buhoma before noon and we recommend visiting both the CTPH (Conservation through public health) and the Buhoma community hospital in Buhoma village prior to connecting to Nkuringo. After passing through the dense forest for about two to three hours with high chances of spotting primates, we expect to reach our lodge near Bwindi rain forest in the late afternoon. Accommodation at Nkuringo Gorilla Lodge (Backpacker, Medium) or Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge (Luxury)

Day 10 - Mountain gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Par

The next day will direct us to one of two southern park entrances of Bwindi National Park at either Nkuringo or Rushaga. From there, we will descend into the deep valley and entrance of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to track the mountain gorillas for the first time on this tour. In the afternoon after gorilla trekking, we get back to the lodge for a hot shower and relaxation in front of the massive Virungas, just in time for the breathtaking sunset. Accommodation at Nkuringo Gorilla Lodge (Backpacker, Medium) or Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge (Luxury).

Day 11 - Transfer from Bwindi to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park 

After our first encounter with the gentle giants in Bwindi, we plan to explore more of the area and travel south to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park via Lake Murehe and Lake Mutanda. Part of foot, part on canoe, and part driving, we will arrive at the tri-country border of Uganda with DR Congo and Rwanda in the afternoon and check in at our lodge at the foothills of the Virunga volcanoes. Accommodation at Traveler’s Rest Hotel (Backpacker) or Mt. Mgahinga Lodge (Medium, Luxury).

Day 12 - Golden monkey tracking in Mgahinga and border crossing to DR Cong

On day twelve, we intend to track the golden monkeys in Mgahinga’s dense bamboo forest. This surreal natural setting is one of the only habitats for the golden monkeys and only a few kilometers away from our lodge. In the afternoon following the hike, we will pack up and travel west to DR Congo and Mikeno village, which is at the heart of Virunga National Park. Accommodation at Mikeno Lodge (Backpacker, Medium, Luxury).

Day 13 - Mountain gorilla tracking in Virunga National Park 

As the clouds pass through the deep valleys of the highlands, it is time to embark on our mountain gorilla trek in Virunga National Park - Africa's oldest national park! Entering from Bukima park entrance on our ICCN-guided (Institut Congolais pour le Conservation de la Nature) hike, we plan to visit the mountain gorillas deep in the rain forest. A hot shower awaits at our site of accommodation: Mikeno Lodge (Backpacker, Medium, Luxury).

Day 14 - Relaxation and preparation in Virunga National Park

After the past few days including three primate hikes and in preparation for our Nyiragongo volcano climb, we will have the chance to relax at our lodge in the middle of the rain forest. If you are interested, we have the chance to attend an ICCN Congo hounds training exercise demonstration. These dogs are specially trained to help fight illegal charcoal harvesting in the park as well as poachers who are out to hunt mountain gorillas and other wildlife. Alternatively, we may visit the local tea estate and plantation. Another possibility may be to visit the gorilla orphanage. Afterwards, we will have dinner at the lodge and relax at the bonfire at Mikeno Lodge (Backpacker, Medium, Luxury).

Day 15 - Mt. Nyiragongo active volcano hike and overnight at the summit 

After a refreshing shower in the early morning and a nutritious breakfast at the lodge, we will make our way to Nyiragongo's briefing point in Kibati by 8:30 AM, which is located at the foothills of the 3,409 m volcano. Transport in DR Congo is organized by ICCN-guided (Institut Congolais pour le Conservation de la Nature) and involves armed guards. The ascent to the rim of Mt. Nyiragongo - bearing the world's largest permanent lava lake - will take us approximately four hours and begins at 9:30 AM. The hike up the volcano is filled with rewarding views of the Great Rift Valley in the north east and a view of lake Kivu in the south. After reaching the top of the volcano, we will have the chance to enjoy the natural forces at work in the lava lake. We will set up our camping equipment and tents at the top of the volcano and prepare for the night. What's for dinner? We will cook a delicious meal together, using fresh and local ingredients. Accommodation is planned in a summit overnight shelter (Backpacker, Medium, Luxury) at the top rim of the volcano.

Day 16 - Descent from Mt. Nyiragongo and transfer to Kigali, Rwanda

We will wake up with the lava forcefully flowing within the crater lake beneath us. An empowering breakfast this morning is topped off with a majestic view across the borders of Uganda and Rwanda. After packing up our tents and equipment we will begin our descent and expect to be back at our vehicle around noon. From there, we will travel south-east, crossing the Rwandan border and lunch at the shore of Lake Kivu. We plan to connect to Kigali within just a few more hours. Our safari will conclude with a visit at the Genocide Memorial Site and transfer to Kigali’s international airport for an overnight flight back home.

Are you ready for your adventure?

Customized safari request are always free of charge. There is no obligation of payment until we agree on your personal safari itinerary, receive your passport photocopies, begin to make reservations, and collect your flight information.
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What is included?

VAT is included in the tour price - emergency air ambulance evacuation gold cover from AMREF Flying Doctors ( valid in Uganda and Rwanda, only. DR Congo is not yet part of the service and no emergency air ambulance is provided - your Instinct Safaris guide and driver are included in your safari itinerary - your half or full board accommodation in all  of the specified lodges, hotels, and camps is included on a shared room basis - your secure transport is ensured by traveling in our fully safari-customized Toyota Land Cruiser - all other transportation included in your travel plan is on us - soft drinks, water, and endemic fruits are included in your safari with us. We support the local community by buying as much produce as possible from them rather than large chains - park entrance fees to Virunga National Park are included in your trip - your active volcano hike on Mt. Nyiragongo is included (US $300 value) - your mountain gorilla tracking permit in Virunga National Park is included (US $400 value) - a canoe trip on lake Kivu is included in your trip - your golden monkey trekking permit (US $50 value) is included - your mountain gorilla tracking permit in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is included (US $600) - your Bwindi forest walk from Buhoma to Nkuringo is included (US $40 value) - your experimental tourism/lion(predator) tracking is included in the tour price (US $50) - your hot air balloon ride is included in the price (US $380 value) - your chimpanzee habituation experience is included in the safari price (US $200 value) - boat launches in Queen Elizabeth National Park and to the Murchison Falls are included in your tour price (US $60 value) - your Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary fee is included in the safari price (US $45) - all game drives during morning, day, evening, and night are included in the price - your Instinct Safaris Foundation fee is included in the tour, supporting local vocational, health, and educational projects.

What is excluded?

Emergency air ambulance evacuation cover for DR Congo - your East African Visa for Uganda and Rwanda is not included - your DR Congo Visa is not included in the tour price - International flights to and from Kigali/Kampala are excluded - any additional travel health insurance is not part of your safari price - all sorts of expenses of personal nature - souvenirs, drinks, laundry, and additional equipment - are not included - activities not stated in the itinerary are excluded - gratuities and tips to rangers, driver, guide, porter, lodge staff, or others, are not included - Instinct Safaris is not to be held responsible for the loss or damage taken to any object or piece of equipment taken in the wild.