Mountain Gorillas and Chimpanzees, The Ultimate Great Apes Photo Safari Sep 2014

September 13-22, 2014

Safari Leader:
James Weis

Please see our Safaris and Workshops section for more workshop and safari dates.

Mountain Gorilla

About The Photographic Safari

In late September 2014 James Weis will lead a private group of photographers to Uganda and Rwanda to photograph Africa's Great Apes: magnificent mountain gorillas and chimpanzees. This safari will focus on photographing Africa's wild chimpanzees and mountain gorillas up close. Photographing these incredible primates is unlike any other experience in Africa or the world. Mountain gorillas and chimpanzees are under increasing threat and these are some of the last remaining places where one can spend time with them in protected areas. We will have three FULL days of chimpanzee viewing and photography in Kibale National Park near the Ruwenzori Mountains in southwestern Uganda. There are a VERY limited number of full-day chimpanzee permits allocated each day (our permits allow full days spent with the chimps while the majority of the permits are only for one hour of viewing) and we have secured the full-day permits for three days. We then head to Rwanda and Volcanoes National Park for three days of photographing mountain gorillas. If you have ever wanted to spend time up close with the great apes, you will love this experience.

Safari Highlights

• Three full days of chimpanzee viewing in Uganda's Kibale National Park.
• Three days of mountain gorilla trekking in Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park.
• Our chimpanzee permits are FULL-DAY habituation permits. These are VERY limited in number and allow our group to spend the entire day (6am until dusk) with the chimps, allowing for unmatched photographic opportunities. Be prepared to blow through 50-100GB of images per day.
Private air charters between Entebbe and Kibale and again from Kibale to the Rwandan border (from the border it is a short drive to our gorilla trekking lodge).
Extra luggage allowances to accommodate the special needs of our photographic equipment. Note that big lenses (anything over 200mm) are generally not needed for photographing these great apes.
• This itinerary focuses on up-close and real wildlife experiences from the surroundings of premier accommodations.

Is This Safari For You?

Here are some key points to help you decide:

1. We welcome photographers of ALL levels. This safari will be conducive to learning from one another and offer an experience that will suit everyone’s photographic needs.
2. We are BIG on photographing in the field. We will spend most our time and effort on safari / photographic activities and making images.
3. Non-photographer or videographer spouses / travel companions will love this safari. The wildlife experiences on this trip will appeal to anyone with a love for animals and nature.

The Schedule

September 13-14, 2014; (1 Night)

Upon arrival at Entebbe International Airport, you will be met by our local representative, who will transfer our group by road to our hotel. The drive takes approximately 45 minutes. We will overnight at this lovely oasis before heading to Kibale the following morning.

Styled to replicate the lines of a classically rustic Roman villa, Lake Victoria Serena Resort & Spa is located between Entebbe and Kampala and on the shores of Africa's largest lake. Opened in October 2009, it will be complemented by the addition of a golf course, marina and luxury residential complex. Rising above white-terraced rose gardens, which descend through water cascades and fountains almost to the shores of Lake Victoria, this tranquil resort offers a gracious terracotta and cream palace with a central citadel encircled by broad café and cocktail terraces, where cushioned sofas invite relaxation. Widely spaced amongst the rose gardens, clusters of pastel-painted villas offer a choice of rooms and suites, all with panoramic lake views.

On the morning of the 27th, our group will be transferred to the nearby Kajansi Airstrip, where we will board our private charter flight to Fort Portal airport. Estimated departure time is 0830 hours and a flight time of 1 hour, 40 minutes. On arrival we will transfer by road to our lodge.

Mountain Gorilla

September 14-18, 2014
PRIMATE LODGE - Kibale National Park, Uganda

Primate Lodge an exclusive eco lodge situated in the heart of the Kibale Forest. It is surrounded by a lush tropical forest that is home to 13 different species of primates, including chimpanzees. Guest accommodation comprises eight luxury safari tents, which are raised on a wooden platform and covered by grass thatched roof, perfectly blending with the natural environment, each has a private veranda with splendid views of the surrounding forest. The interiors are tastefully decorated in African style, with comfortable queen sized beds and en-suite bathrooms. The lodge also offers seven intimate cottages, each with its own veranda, twin beds and a sitting area. The cottages are decorated with a traditional African art and include en-suite bathrooms.

Kibale National Park contains one of the loveliest and most varied tracts of tropical forest in Uganda. Forest cover, interspersed with patches of grassland and swamp, dominates the northern and central parts of the park on an elevated plateau. The park is home to a total of 70 mammal species, most famously 13 species of primate including the chimpanzee. It also contains over 375 species of birds. Kibale adjoins Queen Elizabeth National Park to the south to create a 180km-long corridor for wildlife between Ishasha, the remote southern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park, and Sebitoli in the north of Kibale National Park.

Our first afternoon will be spent relaxing at the lodge, lunch and dinner and some photography around the area.

15 September: Today we rise early and join the Chimpanzee Habituation Team that goes out every day to study and habituate the chimpanzees. Our activity starts at 5:30am and ends in evening at around 6:30pm. There is an option to end the habituation experience earlier than nesting time each day and we will make that decision based on that day's specific situation and photographic opportunities. Our days with the chimps are spent following them as they move from feeding trees (generally large fig trees that are fruiting) and along the ground as they move within their home range.

There are around 1,450 chimps in Kibale, of which 320 are habituated to human visitation. The group visited for tourism includes 120 chimps, but often times the group is split between two or three sub-groups. The alpha male also spends time with seven or eight other large males as he patrols through the forest and we may spend time with him if we encounter him. Our guides are in radio contact with the trackers and researchers and so we will have ample opportunity to photography multiple sub-groups throughout our day. Other primates that we will have a good chance of seeing each day include Grey-cheeked mangabey, red-tailed monkey, L'Hoest's monkey, blue monkey, red colobus, black-and-white colobus and olive baboon.

After our long day of chimpanzee viewing and photography, we will return to our lodge for dinner and downloading.

16 September: Today we will again head out for a full day of chimpanzee viewing with the Habituation Team and our guides.

17 September: Our third and last day of chimpanzee viewing with the Habituation Team and our guides.

18 September: After breakfast at the lodge we will be transferred by road to Kasese Airport for our short charter flight to Kisoro Airstrip. At Kisoro we will be met and transferred to the Kyanika border post, clear through immigration to the Rwanda side and transfer by road to our lodge in time for lunch.

Mountain Gorilla

September 18-21, 2014
MOUNTAIN GORILLA VIEW LODGE - Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Mountain Gorilla View Lodge is situated in the foothills of the mighty Virungas, the chain of 15,000-ft volcanoes stretching through Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Accommodation comprises five double cottages, two suites and one family suite. All are stone buildings with Rwandese terra cotta tile roofs, and feature large sitting areas, fireplaces, stylish en-suite bathrooms finished with Venetian plaster, a dressing room and a sheltered veranda. Heat exchangers in the fireplaces provide a plentiful supply of hot water. The main lodge building comprises reception, sitting room with snug area, dining room, library / games room, a responsible tourism / community awareness room, shop and bathrooms. Two patio areas afford wonderful and dramatic views to the Virunga Volcanoes and the surrounding lowland farmland.

19 September: Early breakfast and drive to the park offices, where we will have a briefing by our trackers and then drive to the beginning of the trail. From there we will begin our trek up the path to meet up with the gorillas -- (see important information on gorilla trekking below). Upon sighting the gorillas, we will stay with them for a magical hour before returning to the base where our driver will be waiting for us. Lunch is back at the Lodge (depending on how long our trek was and what time we return). This afternoons are free for downloading and processing images. There is also an option (time permitting) to do some shopping at the local cooperative shops or a visit to the ex-poachers' village, where you can learn about the traditional methods of fire-making, archery, traditional medicine, traditional dances and other local customs. Dinner is at the Lodge.

20 September: Up early again for our second day of gorilla trekking. Today we will visit a different family of gorillas (specific families visited are only determined at the Park HQ on the morning of the trek). Lunch, afternoon and evening as per the prior day.

21 September: Our third and last day of gorilla trekking, where we will visit yet another family of gorillas. Lunch at the Lodge. This afternoon we drive to Kigali for our overnight at the Serena Hotel.

Gorilla Tracking Information
The gorillas you will track in Volcanoes National Park will belong to one of ten 'habituated' family groups. Eight permits per day are issued for each group.

For many years, these groups have undergone an extremely delicate process that has gradually made them used to the presence of humans and allowed a few privileged visitors to interact with them briefly in the wild. The gorillas are by no means tame. They are completely wild animals, which even now tolerate human presence for an hour a day at most. Experienced guides will accompany you on your tracking, many of whom have been involved in the habituation process themselves. These guides will brief you in detail on your arrival on the various aspects of 'gorilla etiquette', but the information contained in this set of guidelines is to help you arrive for your track well prepared and ready to enjoy this unique opportunity to the full.

Visitors may track for as many days as they like, on purchase of the required number of gorilla permits. The permits are in extremely short supply, and are often booked as much as 18 months in advance. Only persons over the age of 15 are allowed to track the gorillas.

Gorilla tracking is a year-round activity, with no season as such. The rain forest is moist, and it rains very often in Volcanoes National Park, even in the dry season. Tracking commences every morning from the park headquarters at 8:30 AM. There is a daily maximum of 8 visitors to each gorilla group, and each group is accompanied by a guide and by porters who will carry your shoulder pack for you.

The gorillas cover large distances throughout the day and they are never constantly in one area. The guides will use their knowledge of the gorillas' habits and information from the previous day to locate the group's whereabouts. Because of this, the time taken to track the gorillas varies enormously, from as little as half an hour to as much as 9 hours before returning to camp. The terrain is sometimes difficult, with steep trails (often steeper than a flight of stairs) covered in dense vegetation that gives the park its name. In addition, the altitude of 5200 feet and more means participants do need to be physically fit to enjoy the track. Once the gorillas are located, your group will be allowed a maximum of one hour with them. After this, you will return to the park headquarters and your camp.

September 21-22, 2014

Tonight we will stay at the Kigali Serena and dine at a favorite local restaurant.

Ideally located on one of Kigali's most charming boulevards, the five-star Kigali Serena Hotel is built around a polished granite atrium, which showcases the very best of Rwandese cultural art. Relaxed yet elegant, the hotel centers on the Executive Lounge and Bar, which opens onto a wide sun deck overlooking the swimming pool. Also overlooking the pool, the popular Milima Restaurant offers a wide range of all-day buffet choices, while the relaxed Sokoni Café offers inside and outside pool side seating.

We will dine this evening at a local and authentic Rwandan cuisine restaurant (cost included).

September 22, 2014

Today the safari ends and transfers to Kigali International Airport are included. International flights may be scheduled to depart today to home destinations. See note below regarding travel extensions.

Note: This safari can be combined with our Luxury Great Migration Photo Safari, which runs immediately following this safari. Air travel and customized extensions to this safari, including safaris in Kenya and/or Tanzania, lowland gorilla trekking in Congo/Brazzaville, or other destinations may be arranged through Eyes on Africa as desired. Ask us for further information.

The Cost

The cost of this all-inclusive safari is $12,480 per person. This fee includes all in-country ground and air transportation as well as hotel accommodation (double occupancy) and all meals (except as noted above and in exclusions below).

What's Included?
• Accommodation on a shared basis (single rooms may be available - please inquire).
• 1x trip leader (James Weis).
• Private meet and assist services at the airport in Entebbe.
• Road transfers to/from the airports and the hotels.
• Private air charters: Entebbe to Kibale and Kibale to near the Ugandan border with Rwanda.
• Luggage allowance for air charters: approximately 30-35 kgs per person in total.
• All meals at Primate Lodge and at Mountain Gorilla View Lodge (drinks are on your own account).
• Breakfasts at Lake Victoria Serena and Kigali Serena.
• Daily laundry is available but cost is not included.
• Private vehicles and drivers for all road transfers throughout the trip.
• The current Tourism Levies and all relevant Value Added Tax or Government Sales Tax.

What is Not Included?
• International airfare and/or other transportation between your home and Entebbe, Uganda and from Kigali, Rwanda back home.
• Dinner / drinks in Entebbe on Day 1.
• Gratuities for hotel staff in Entebbe and Kigali.
• Gratuities for vehicle drivers in Uganda and Rwanda.
• Gratuities for gorilla and chimpanzee trackers, guides, and porters. Recommended tips (in US Dollars) are $35-$40 per trek (6 treks total).
• Drinks at Primate Lodge and at Mountain Gorilla View Lodge.
• Laundry cost at hotels and lodges.
• Visas, travel insurance, personal purchases (including curios, spirit liquors, telephone calls etc.)
• Optional pre-/post- safari tours and meals or accommodation before or after the safari (we would be happy to arrange any and all additional overnights or extensions).
• Suggested cash gratuities (US Dollars) for chimpanzee / gorilla trek guides and trackers are recommended at USD $35 to $40 per trek (6 treks in total).

What Do I Do Next?
Our group size is limited to only 7 people and we expect that this trip will fill up. If this exciting trip has your name on it; if you're excited by the thought of becoming a member of this trip, then now is the time to register. Remember, there will be limited space available for this workshop. When they're spoken for, that's it. If you have any questions before registering, send us an e-mail with any inquiries to