Mpambire Royal Drum Makers
Lake Mburo National Park
Igongo Cultural Center
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
This tour starts from $1,480.00
Day 1: Lake Mburo National Park
After an early breakfast at your hotel, your experience starts at 7:00 am with a journey to Western Uganda along the Kampala-Masaka road. The first stop-over is at Kijjudde village in Mpambire, which takes approximately 1 hour from Kampala. This gives you an opportunity to experience cultural drum making by the royal drum makers of Mpambire and it takes about 1 and 1/2 hours. You can get a chance to have a finished product- a drum- as a souvenir. You will then proceed to a 30 minutes’ drive to the Equator, which is the perfect stop to buy souvenirs, with plenty of options for food and drinks. It also provides a rare opportunity to experience several fascinating realities at the Equator. You will spend 30 minutes at this stop and then travel to Lake Mburo National Park, where you will transfer to your lodge to check in and have lunch. After a short rest at your camp, you will have an afternoon game drive of about 3 hours, viewing and having an experience of the several savannah animals. You will return to your camp just before dusk.
Luxury: Mihinga Lodge
Midrange: Rwakobo Rock Lodge
Budget: Eagles Nest Lodge
Day 2: Lake Mburo National Park and Igongo Cultural Center
After an early breakfast, you will leave your lodge at 7:30 am for a morning 2-hour boat cruise starting at 08:00 am where you will come face to face with the flora and fauna of the park. Along the banks, you will also see many animals that come to the water, especially in the dry season. The cruise will also give you a chance to view the crocodiles as well as the hippos in their natural habitat. Thereafter, you will depart for a 1 hour journey to Igongo Cultural Center and Hotel, the ultimate destination for lovers of history, art, culture, and comfort. Here you will have a meal chosen from a variety of local cuisines and also experience the South-western Uganda museum plus the Western Uganda culture. After the 3 hour adventure at Igongo, you will travel to Lake Bunyonyi, which will take about 3 hours. You will arrive just in time for an evening check-in for your night rest at your lodge. The resorts are styled to offer a showcase of cultural performances, heritage and traditional art plus a spectacular view of the forest and the sounds of the surrounding jungle, the floating waters, and the therapeutic atmosphere.
Luxury: Arcadia Lodges
Midrange: Bunyonyi Safari Resort
Budget: Bushara Islands Resort
Day 3: Lake Bunyonyi and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
You will wake up to a breath-taking nature view of Lake Bunyonyi, an early morning breakfast till 7:00 am and then proceed with a boat-cruise/canoeing on Lake Bunyonyi starting at 7:30 am. Thereafter, you will tour the different islands on the lake and proceed with hiking on the hill slopes to have a clear view of your surroundings. This experience will take about 2 to 3 hours after which you will proceed to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. After approximately 3 hours of travel, you will have a stop-over at the Gorilla Mist Camp for lunch and rest. The camp has beautiful views of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and the Virunga mountains. After a little stretch, you will then proceed to your final destination to enjoy the most incredible mountain gorilla tour in Africa at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. The drive takes about 1 to 1/2 hours to Bwindi. At Bwindi, you will be led by a professional guide for a 2 hour village walk around the village to see various cultural activities of the local Bakiga and Batwa communities as you observe how they carry out their daily routine activities. You will return for dinner and rest at your lodge.
Luxury: Buhoma Lodge
Midrange: Gorilla Mist Camp
Budget: Buhoma Community Rest Camp
Day 4: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
After an early breakfast, you will depart for the magnificent tour with the thrilling gorilla trekking of about 4 hours. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is home to almost half of the world’s surviving mountain gorillas, 120 other species of mammals and over 350 bird species. The trekking through the thick forest is an opportunity to have the rare encounter of seeing gorillas in their natural habitat and a chance to view some other attractions in the park. You will have lunch at the resort after the trek and then a drive back to Kampala to your hotel/ to Entebbe International Airport to catch your flight back home.
Mpambire Royal Drum Makers
Mpambire is a small town along Masaka road located some 30 kilometers west of Kampala. The town, despite its nondescript nature, is culturally one of the most important sites in Uganda, being the home of the royal drum makers of Buganda. Buganda is a sub-national kingdom in Uganda, also referred to as the kingdom of the Ganda people (the Baganda). It comprises the largest ethnic groups of Uganda, estimated around 6 million, focusing mostly in the country’s central region. The kingdom, itself a melting pot of several dozens of clans, has a long and illustrious history stretching back at least to the 14th century CE when King Kato founded the Kintu Dynasty. Buganda became a powerful state in East Africa and gave the name Uganda to the country as we know it today (Uganda is the Swahili word for Buganda).
Following Uganda's independence in October 1962, the kingdom was abolished by Uganda's first Prime Minister- Apollo Milton Obote- in 1966, but it was officially reinstated in 1993. Buganda is now a monarchy with a large degree of autonomy from the Ugandan state. Since the restoration of the kingdom in 1993, the king of Buganda, also known as the Kabaka, has been Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II.
If Buganda Kingdom plays a central role to defining the Ugandan contemporary notion of ethnic and national identity, then the royal drums play an equally pivotal function in defining Buganda culture. Buganda musical performances intertwine music, songs and rhythmical movements, all of which rely significantly on the driving force of the African drums- which are an essential part of the cultural DNA of all Ugandans.
Back then, drums played a big part in the life of Buganda and were also used as a form of communication in the traditional society. There were a number of drum beats for the drums, with each rhythm conveying a specific message which was clearly known and discerned by the concerned parties. For example, one rhythm could mean that a certain chief was passing by, a certain dance was taking place, a royal had died, a call to war, a fire alarm, et cetera. Music, dance and drumming also often accompanied different types of ceremonies including marriages, funerals, work and the birth of a newborn.
As a general rule, drums in Buganda belong to the Kabaka and when he presents a chief with any office, he confers upon him a drum. One of the most popular drums is the “Mujaguzo” (a Luganda word for “celebration” or “jubilation”), which is the biggest drum in the palace. The Ganda have a strong belief in power that is inherent in this drum, and the residents of Kijjudde were some of the people tasked to make these royal drums.
The Mpambire stop gives you an opportunity to experience cultural drum making by the royal drum makers of Mpambire. You can also get chance to have a finished product- a well made drum- as a souvenir.
Uganda is one of only 13 countries in the world where the imaginary line that divides the earth into two halves can be crossed. This is of course the Equator, which lies equidistant from the North Pole and the South Pole and which is also the longest line of Latitude, just over 40,000 kilometers long. On our trip to the Western Uganda destinations such as Queen Elizabeth National Park, Lake Mburo, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or Mgahinga, you will notice two cement circles marking the Equator line on the Kampala-Masaka road. Though these circles are not great aesthetic achievements, they certainly provide a tingling bout of excitement as those of us with two feet find ourselves lodged in the opposite hemispheres with a small step- with one foot in the northern hemisphere and the other in the south hemisphere- or so we are led to believe. As soon as we seek a scientific response, the romance of firmly being ensconced in both hemispheres loses some of its allure. This is so because while a one-dimensional geometric locus (which is what a line is) has no width (hence we can straddle it easily), over time it has been calculated to cover an average of nine meters because of a variation known as the Chandler wobble.
But- as we live for today- we should all take a photographic evidence for posterity that at this moment in time, you can indeed be in both hemispheres!
If you are also an amateur scientist or a wannabe in that field, then our trip along the Kampala-Masaka road could give you an opportunity to test the Coriolis effect: and as your friends from Stockholm and Sydney will attest, water flows in different directions in those households. But be prepared for some bit of disappointment as this effect- referring to wind deflection in opposing directions in the hemispheres as a result of earth rotation- is so minimal that it will not make a great video memory post to your social media platform(s).
In spite of this, there is no need for despair as there are other tangible experiences at the Equator you could undertake with a bit of patience. For example, if you remain there long enough, you will find that the daylight and nighttime are precisely the same duration. Moreover, temperatures and humidity are fairly constant, thus making the guess-the-month from a photo-shoot a rather tricky undertaking.
It should thus not come as a surprise that the Kayabwe Equator stop is a truly unique opportunity to take photos, buy some local souvenirs and have a meal and a drink. Twist Africa Safari recommends the AidChild’s Equator Café and Gallery in particular, not only because it has excellent coffee and snacks and an unparalleled selection of contemporary arts and crafts for sale, but as it is one of the two centers by AidChild, a foundation focusing on development and education for an HIV-free generation. The revenue of the café provides tutoring, leadership coaching, job-skills training, music education, nutrition and wellness support to dozens of interns who then pass on the knowledge gained in their local community.
Lake Mburo National Park
Lake Mburo National Park is located in Lyantonde along the highway en route Uganda’s national parks in Western Uganda. It is situated on the ancient Precambrian metamorphic rocks which date back to more than 500 million years ago. The park is the smallest of all savannah national parks in Uganda. It is approximately 370 square kilometers and managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
According to the Ankole people (one of the main tribes in Western Uganda), the creation and name of the lake are based on historical events. The legend has it that two brothers, who known as Kigarama and Mburo, used to live in a big valley. One day, Kigarama had a dream and advised his brother that they had to move. Mburo chose to ignore his brother, and Kigarama moved up into the hills. The valley down flooded and a lake was formed, thus drowning Mburo. Presently, the lake is said to be named after the drowned brother, and the hills overlooking the lake are called Kigarama Hills, named after his brother who survived the catastrophe.
Lake Mburo, together with the other lakes in the area, creates a chain-link to a wetland which lends a hand in providing pasture and water to the wildlife. This park happens to be the only place where you can find impalas in Uganda. The lake harbors various endangered species of fish such as the endangered cichlid fish species which have significantly reduced over time.
The park is home to about 70 mammal species and over 350 bird species. Some of the animals found in the park include zebras, crocodiles, impalas, eland, buffaloes, water buck, hippos, warthogs, jackals, leopards, reed bucks, as well as hyenas.
On top of the fantastic game drives (both daylight and nocturnal) and boat rides, the park can also be explored using mountain bikes, on foot and on horseback, allowing you to see a variety of wildlife. Seasoned rangers are readily available to accompany visitors on the hiking expeditions. Bird watching would round up a perfect tour with the various viewing spots available. These include Warukiri, the roadsides between Rwonyo camp, the swampy valleys of Miriti, the Salt lake, and the Rubanga forest.
Igongo Cultural Center
12 kilometers along the scenic Mbarara-Masaka highway is Igongo Cultural Centre and Country Hotel. It is an impressive recreational complex consisting of a captivating Eriijukiro (the museum of South-western Uganda), a traditional restaurant, a bar and other attractions around it. It is the ultimate destination for lovers of history, art, culture, and comfort. A staple of ultimate African luxury, Igongo merges comfort, relaxation and recreation in an environment offering a gorgeous scenery, beautiful gardens and a beautiful view of various art pieces and cultures exhibited at the entrance of the hotel's lobby and foyer.
Apart from the breathtaking hotel, there are some exciting opportunities and attractions at Igongo, including a visit to the museum of South-western Uganda (Eriijukiro) that has a collection of art and crafts, photos, information panels, norms, customs, traditions and the history of the people of South-western Uganda and her neighboring kingdoms.
A visit to Itamiro (a cultural village) gives you an experience of cultural village housing. Here you will find the traditional huts for cattle, the Bariisa, and Crop Farmers, the Abahiingi. The village also boasts of a large amphitheater and a venue for bonfires and story-telling sprees.
Nkwanzi Craft and Bookshop is the hub of South-western Uganda’s history containing a collection of various books on culture, growth, and development. There are also various handmade arts and crafts produced by the residents and traditional costumes such as mugamba, the cultural bridal wear, bracelets, and animal skins and hides.
Other possible activities at Igongo include the Ankole farm tour, pottery activities, traditional beer brewing, hiking the eclipse hill and eclipse monument of the 1520AD, milk processing and millet processing, fishing, and canoeing, visiting Ankole's royal tombs, visiting the former Ankole king's palace, among others.
For the ultimate cultural experience in western Uganda, Igongo Cultural Center and Hotel is the perfect place to go to with an opportunity to get memorabilia from the craft shop.
The lake derives its name from a Runyakitara/Rukiga word obunyonyi which means “small birds”. Lake Bunyonyi is located in South-western Uganda within the districts of Kabale; the Switzerland of Africa and Kisoro, which is close to the border of Rwanda and Uganda. The lake is about 410 kilometers from Kampala, Uganda’s capital. It takes approximately six hours to get there by road.
Lake Bunyonyi harbors over 200 bird species which include the weaver birds, the grey-crowned cranes and the herons. Being a calm lake, it further attracts international migratory birds during winter, making it an ideal destination for Uganda birding safaris. This freshwater lake is 25 kilometers long and seven kilometers wide. It covers a surface area of about 46 square kilometers and is approximately 44 meters deep, which makes it the second deepest lake in Africa after Lake Tanganyika of Tanzania.
The lake is well known for water sports and is a remarkable destination for both foreign and domestic travelers. The scenic view of its islands is one of a kind, especially with the picturesque background of a magnificent sunset. This sighting was featured in the famous movie- Black Panther- and it offers a breath-taking nature view of the lake. Some of the activities the lake has to offer include hiking the highlands around the lake, bird watching, canoeing, boat riding, swimming and a tour of the pygmy village.
The region of Lake Bunyonyi is occupied by both the Bakiga and the Batwa people. The Bakiga are Bantu people who have tilled the hills of Kigezi for centuries. They are known for their strength and for being hardworking. These inhabitants are responsible for the beautiful terrace cultivation on the slopes of the Kigezi hills which are clearly visible while at the lake.
The Batwa, on the other hand, were just introduced to the place. They were initially forest people who lived in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest before it was gazetted into a national park. Their indigenous music and drama will leave you mesmerized, as they tell stories in the form of songs that will draw you into sorrowful imagination of their culture that is slowly fading away. The lake is enclosed within the terraced hills of Kigezi comprising 29 islands, each with a mythical story behind it. The main islands include the following.
The Akampene Island (Punishment Island) legend has it that this is the island where the occupants, also known as the Bakiga, dumped all pregnant unmarried girls. This was done as a punishment so they could die of hunger or drown as they tried to swim back to the mainland. The punishment came as a deterrent measure to keep all girls away from early pregnancies. Even though the backward act is no longer in practice, this isolated island still holds the punishment name.
Bushara Island is the most developed island. It is also the home of Lake Bunyonyi Development Company, an organization that handles various development projects around Lake Bunyonyi. The organization gets its funding from the tourism activities carried around Lake Bunyonyi. The island is outstanding with a forest, an appealing demonstration of eucalyptus trees that grow at a fast rate and it is an ideal place for hiking. The island also offers services like tents for hire as well as canoe and sailboat hire to allow tourists paddle to other islands.
Kyahugye Island covers a surface area of about 74 acres with many tree species such as the eucalyptus, alnus, cuprous and pine species. It is surrounded by a wide strip of reeds interspersed with papyrus bordering the island to the shores of the lake. The vegetation on this island comprises of bushes, open fallows, tree plantations and other forms of natural vegetation. It is the nearest island from the mainland, being a five-minute distance from the mainland. It has a flat hilltop for tourists with campsites, chalets as well as accommodation. The spectacular view of the terraced hills from this point is also memorable. The tourist activities on this island include nature walks, birding, hiking, canoeing, and community visits. It is also the only island with wild animals that were introduced there. These include zebras, waterbucks, and the De Brazza monkeys.
Bwama Island (Sharp's Island) got named after the English missionary, Dr. Leonard Sharp, who organized a safari to this island. He set up a leprosy treatment center, a church and quarters on the isolated island. The island for a long time was used as a segregation ground for leprosy patients. The treatment center was later on transformed into a boarding school for teaching young children at the primary level.
Bucuranuka Island (The Upside Down Island) got its name from a myth about an old woman who was bypassing the island. She met a group of occupants here, asked for help in the form of some beer to take, but was harshly denied it. She then asked for a boat ride to help her cross to the mainland but was again turned down. A young man out of the inhospitable crowd kindly offered to take the old woman and just as they reached the mainland together, a tragedy followed and thus the island they had just left capsized. The island was well known for brewing local sorghum before it got the name of the ‘Island that Killed People’- that is “Upside Down Island.”
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
The park borders the Democratic Republic of Congo and lies next to the Virunga National Park. You can access the park through Kabale district of Uganda where you find the Bakiga people, although most of the inhabitants of the forest where the park lies are the Batwa pygmies. The park lies on 331 square kilometers of the mountain and low land forest. The area was gazetted into a habitat for endangered mountain gorillas in 1942, upgraded to the national park level in 1992 and made a national heritage in 1994.
In the language of the land (Rukiga), Bwindi means “impenetrable”. As the name suggests, it is almost impossible to navigate the tangled forest, slippery valleys, and high ridges. This makes it crucial for one to be well prepared for the journey. You will need to be physically capable and with the necessary provisions to make it through the terrain. Don’t get it wrong, the journey is definitely exciting and very worthwhile.
The forest happens to be one of the most ancient rainforests in Africa. During the trek, as you get the chance to have an encounter with the most endangered gorilla species in the world, you will realize that the experience beats most gorilla trekking expeditions offered by other national parks.
Trekking is the most popular activity at Bwindi: it is an absolutely thrilling and fulfilling experience that you will not forget any time soon. There is a restriction, however, on the number of people allowed to trek the gorillas per day, so gorilla safe permits should be booked on an earlier date for easier access to the park. Because so many people try to obtain these permits throughout the year, any late bookings might lock you out of this chance of a lifetime. A gorilla permit goes for 600 USD, with one in Rwanda going for 1500 USD and 450 USD in the Congo.
Bwindi has got seven habituated gorilla groups that you can view on the trek. Three of these groups are found in Buhoma and one at Nkuringo. Bwindi has a large number of sectors where Gorilla trekking takes place, and many species of Gorillas and chimpanzees can be seen.
These sectors include the following.
Nkuringo, which is one of the many sections for gorilla trekking, can be found close to the Buhoma sector. Nkuringo and Bushaho are some of the families in the sector. The Bushaho family is the one that is giving the gorillas a habitation experience.
Ruhija is the most remote sector and quite famous for its birds and bird watching experiences. You can also visit the Mubwindi swamp while trekking for our closest relatives in the wild. Gorilla species found there include Ruhija, Bitukura, and Kyaguriro. The Rushaga sector has the highest number of gorilla families including; Mishaya, Nshongi, Kahungye, Busingye, and Bishaho. This sector is in Kabale and Nkuringo as you come from Ruhija or Kampala. The Buhoma sector is found ten kilometers from the Nkiringo sector if you are traveling by road. Gorilla trekking is also very famous in the area.
Please note that one may choose to access Bwindi by air straight from Entebbe International Airport or the Kajjansi Airstrip (in Entebbe), but it won’t be as worthwhile and rewarding as the road trip. All the adventurous stops create a unique and fulfilling experience of the African terrain.
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Transportation in a Tour Van/Landcruiser.
Service of an English-speaking tour guide/Driver
One gorilla permit per person
Cultural village tour
Accommodation on full board
Entrance fees to all destinations as per the program.
Transfers to and from Entebbe Airport/Kampala
All activities not mentioned in the program
Phone call bills
Visas to Uganda
Gratitude to tour-guides
Visas to Uganda
Personal effects of any nature
Hotel fees before and after the safari