President’s Pick On the Trail of Primates

"The dynamics of Africa are always changing, evolving, and never more than in 2019. The concept of the safari is expanding far beyond classic routes and activities to more authentic, personal and closer encounters. This program was designed with one of our best travel advisor partners and represents the exciting new frontiers to be experienced in Africa."

Country Information

Madagascar

Rwanda & Uganda

President's Pick On the Trail of Primates President’s Picks

(Countries Visited)

Madagascar

,

Rwanda & Uganda


(Interest Type(s))

Safari Tours

,

Adventure Travel


(Tour Length)

18 Days


Tour Highlights

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  • Spend two days trekking in the wild jungle heart of Uganda in search of the rare and endangered mountain gorilla
  • Discover unique habitats such as the Spiny Forest and witness the sunlight breaking through the unusual octopus trees, distinctly odd and massive Sitka spruce trees, with branches growing like giant tentacles from its broad base, as wide as 50 feet or more
  • Take a swim in Lac Anony, a salt water lake that is separated from the Indian Ocean by large sand dunes, upwards of 70 feet tall
  • Connect with the local community of the Antandroy culture, whose tribal ancestors are buried in the Sacred Forests
  • Experience the stunning rainforest world of lemurs, from Indri lemurs, the largest living lemur species to the tiny mouse lemur

Day 1: Entebbe, Uganda
Welcome to Uganda! Arrive at Entebbe International Airport, where you are welcomed and transferred to your hotel. Hotel No 5

Day 2: Entebbe / Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
This morning, you return to the airport for your flight to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its ecological importance. This primeval forest remains one of the most biologically diverse areas on Earth with some of the richest populations of trees, small mammals, birds, butterflies and reptiles. This is home to roughly half of the world's population of the highly endangered mountain gorillas. Your forest camp is exclusively located within the rainforest. Designed to blend seamlessly into this fragile environment, accommodation is offered in eight spacious tents, raised on wooden platforms, each with an en-suite bathroom that includes a bathtub overlooking the lush forest. Each tent has a large wooden deck for relaxing or private dining. The tents are exceptionally spacious inside with two queen-sized beds with headboards carved by Ugandan artisans. At night, you can gather by the campfire and admire the brilliance of the night sky. Gorilla Forest Camp (B,L,D)

Days 3/4: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
This is the adventure you have been waiting for – the search for the critically endangered mountain gorilla. After breakfast, take a short drive to park headquarters to meet with your excellent local guides and trackers, who present a talk on the rules and etiquette of gorilla encounters. You hike into the forest where the gorillas were seen the night before. The terrain is rough and, at times, muddy. Rain can come anytime in the forest so waterproof clothing is essential. Bring zip lock bags to keep cameras, video equipment, etc., dry and clean. Participants should be in good physical condition as the hike is demanding. But the beauty of the forest and surrounding scenery compensate for any discomfort.

About 340 individuals in the park and are known as the Bwindi population. They comprise almost half of the mountain gorillas left on earth – about 700. Once you have located a family, you will have an hour to spend with them but it takes just minutes in their presence to begin to understand how imperative it is that we save these majestic creatures from extinction. Those who have spent time in their company describe the encounter as the most profound natural history experience in the world while others speak in terms of a spiritual experience. Whatever your reaction, you will be profoundly moved by these gentle animals. Picnic lunches are provided. Please be aware that you will be trekking wild animals and although the chances of seeing them are high, no one can guarantee a sighting as they move through their home range. Gorilla Forest Camp (B,L,D)

Day 5: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest / Entebbe / Johannesburg This morning, you fly back to for Entebbe, where you connect to your onward flight to Johannesburg. On arrival, you make your own way to the hotel. The remainder of the day is at leisure. Hotel Intercontinental (B,L)

Day 6: Johannesburg / Antananarivo, Madagascar
Make your own way back to the airport for your flight to Madagascar. Upon arrival in Ivato Airport you are welcomed by an English-speaking guide who will accompany you to your hotel in the upper town of Antananarivo, ‘Tana’ as it is referred to locally. The town is noted for its fascinating traditional architecture and sports a more Indonesian influence than the rest of Madagascar. Your hotel is a restored colonial mansion with an elegant mix of modern and traditional décor. Take a dip in the pool and enjoy the lovely views over the city before dinner. Maison Gallieni (D)

Day 7: Antananarivo / Ifotaka
After breakfast, drive back to Ivato Airport in time for your scheduled charter flight to Ifotaka. Upon arrival, you are met by your guide and vehicle for your drive to your camp, which takes about three hours. Once there, you settle into your tent, which enjoys majestic views over the Mandrare River. Later, you set out on a night walk in the Forest of Zenavo in search of the diurnal lemurs bedding down for the night while the nocturnal lemurs begin to wake in this eerie and prehistoric spiny forest. You spot sifakas and sleeping white-foot sportive lemurs. Once the sun sets, two mouse lemur species, sleeping birds, chameleons, owls and now active sportive lemurs. Mandrare River Camp (B,L,D)

Day 8: Ifotaka
After breakfast head out to the stunning sacred gallery forest south of the camp. Depending on the river depth, you may walk or take a boat across the Mandrare River to reach the largely deciduous forest. Inquisitive groups of ring-tailed lemurs and the always entertaining Verreaux sifaka, medium-sized primates in one of the lemur families, are the highlight of this excursion. Return to camp for lunch and a relaxed afternoon by the pool. In late afternoon, head for a walk through the sacred spiny forest, which is filled with the ancestral tombs of the local Antandroy tribe as well as an extraordinary array of flora and fauna unique to the spiny forest. Your English-speaking guide and a tracker from the local community offers you an introduction to the Antandroy culture and customs. Their tribal ancestors are buried in the Sacred Forests: guarding their graves, the Antandroy have also preserved pristine wildlife areas. Species including ring-tailed, mouse, sportive and sifaka lemurs are all readily seen, as well as many bird species, including the malachite kingfisher, Lafresnayes and hook billed vangas, Verreauxs coua, crested and giant coua, scops owl and many others. Many tombs are hidden in the forest undergrowth, and your guide will explain the traditions and rituals of ancestor worship. It is possible to visit the ombiasy (traditional healer), learn how to use the piletse, a zebu-hide sling shot, and take a zebu-cart to the colorful market at FenaiYour visit is followed by sundowners on the Mandrare River banks. Mandrare River Camp (B,L,D) 

Day 9: Ifotaka
After a cup of tea or coffee, head to the Spiny Forest for an early morning walk. Witness the sunlight breaking through the octopus trees, those distinctly odd and massive Sitka spruce trees, with branches growing like giant tentacles from its broad base, as wide as 50 feet or more. Look out for some of the many endemic birds such as crested coua and a variety of vangas before heading back to camp for a sumptuous breakfast. Visit the local market or village to engage with some of the members fascinating Antandroy tribe. Lunch is served at the camp after which you savor a relaxed afternoon watching life along the river from your tent terrace. Early this evening share sundowners amidst the baobabs as you watch the sun set and moon rise with views to the mountains beyond is utterly magical. In the evening, the members of the village may come to share some of their traditional dances, songs and music, which are at the heart of Antandroy culture. Mandrare River Camp (B,L,D)

Day 10: Ifotaka
After breakfast, you set out on a two-hour drive to spend a delightful day exploring the stunning Lac Anony, a salt water lake that is separated from the Indian Ocean by a series of large sand dunes. It is home to greater flamingos and a variety of salt water birds. Stroll along the lake shore to a beautiful picnic spot. Challenge the 70-foot tall sand dunes for incredible views of the surrounding area. Enjoy a swim in the lake before returning to the camp in time for dinner. Mandrare River Camp (B,L,D)

Day 11: Ifotaka / Antananarivo
Today, board your flight back to Tana. Upon arrival, you are met by your guide and transferred to your hotel in town. Maison Gallieni (B,D)

Day 12: Antananarivo / Anjajavy
After an early breakfast, return to the airport for your flight to Anjajavy. Upon arrival you will be greeted by hotel staff and transferred to the lodge. Anjajavy Lodge is located within a 450-hectare/1112-acre nature reserve on Madagascar’s northwest coast. The surrounding forest is alive with lemurs, chameleons, malachite kingfishers and hummingbirds. While the reserve’s stars are undoubtedly the charismatic coquerel’s sifakas, other mammals to spot are the endemic tsingy tuft-tailed rat, Commerson’s leaf-nosed bat, and Madagascar’s largest predator - the rare and elusive fossa. Settle in to your lodge, with its 25 duplex, rosewood villas, each with a private deck overlooking the ocean. Meals can be served in an enclosed oasis in the hotel grounds or on the beach. This evening, take a night walk into the forest, where the hours of darkness also have their star performers. Weighing a mere 63 grams, danfoss mouse lemurs scamper about in the shrubbery around the reserve just after nightfall, springing from branch to branch, quick as a flash, in search of food. If you hear a strange squeal coming from the tree tops, then you have probably found a Grewcock’s sportive lemur. Anjajavy Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 13: Anjajavy
This morning, walk along the ‘Chemin des Crabes’ to see the active birdlife, beautiful baobabs and of course, the famous hairy crab. Even non-birdwatchers can’t help but be enchanted by the kaleidoscope of colors and shapes of the reserve’s common birds, from the vibrant red fody and Souimanga sunbird to the exotic paradise flycatcher and sickle-billed vanga. It is one of the best places to spot the regal Madagascar fish eagle, shy crested Ibis, or rare Madagascar sacred Ibis. At the end of the walk, take in a small cave where you will find a fossilized lemur skull, a variety of stalactites and sharks’ teeth before returning to the lodge for lunch and a leisurely afternoon. Anjajavy Lodge (B,L,D) 

Day 14: Anjajavy
This morning you will enjoy a long walk along the Giant’s Causeway and King’s Alley, where you discover ancient baobab trees and tsingy rock formations found only in Madagascar, along with assorted lemurs including the Coquerel’s sifakas. These remarkable animals live in family groups of up to ten individuals. Although they are perfectly adapted to life in the trees, they can often be fund at ground level, too. Unlike the famous Verreaux’s sifaka from southern Madagascar with its characteristic sideways dance, the Coquerel’s sifaka bounces across the ground like a mini kangaroo! Sifakas along with troops of common brown lemurs roam freely in the gardens and surrounding reserve. After lunch at the lodge, enjoy the afternoon as you like. Anjajavy Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 15: Anjajavy / Antananarivo / Andasibe
After breakfast, transfer to the airstrip for your morning flight to Tana. Upon arrival at Tana airport, you will be met by our representative, who will transfer you to Andasibe, a stunning rainforest park about a four-hour drive from the city. The park consists of two protected areas, the Perinet Special Reserve and Mantadia National Park. Perinet is world famous for its population of Indri lemurs, which are the largest living lemur species. The journey to Andasibe offers first time visitors to Madagascar a gentle introduction to rural life with rice fields, red brick houses and roadside stalls selling seasonal fruits and vegetables lining the route. Check into your hotel on arrival. Mantadia Lodge (B,L,D)

Day16: Andasibe
After breakfast, set out with a picnic lunch for Mantadia National Park, about an hour and a half drive. Keep an eye out for some of the remarkable lemur species, including the Indri indri, diademed sifaka, grey bamboo lemur, red-bellied lemur and white ruffed lemur. While the trails are slightly more difficult to walk, the rewards are great because this forest is taller, wilder and less crowded than Perinet Reserve. There are an abundance of birds including the scaly ground roller, the pitta-like ground roller and the breasted coua. This is a naturalist’s goldmine with many seldom seen species of mammals, reptiles and birds. Enjoy a picnic by the Rianasoa Waterfall before hiking back to the vehicle to return to the lodge. Venture into the night this evening to engage with the forest surrounding the reserve with a local guide. You will see nocturnal lemurs such as mouse lemurs, white footed sportive lemur, fat-tailed dwarf lemur, as well as the woolly lemur. Mantadia Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 17: Andasibe
After breakfast, enjoy exploring Perinet Reserve with a local guide in search of the Indri indri. With a barely visible tail, black and white markings and a surprised teddy–bear face, this lemur is one of the few animals in the world that cannot survive in captivity. There are another 11 species of lemur to spot as you walk through the rainforest. You may find a troop of grey bamboo lemurs, common brown lemur, diademed sifaka and the black and white ruffed lemur. Birdwatchers should look out for the velvet asity, the blue coua and the Nuthatch vanga and many more endemic species. Perinet is home to a variety of reptiles, invertebrates and some of Madagascar’s more than one thousand species of orchids. This afternoon, visit to Lemur Island, Vakona Lodge’s private reserve that protects a number of habituated lemurs. There are four species here to see – bamboo lemur, black & white ruffed lemur, brown lemur and one diademed sifaka. This evening, you may opt to go on another night walk with your local guide. Mantadia Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 18: Andasibe / Antananarivo / Johannesburg / Depart
After an early breakfast, drive back to Antananarivo and continue directly to the airport, where you are assisted with your international flight to Johannesburg to meet your connection to your onward flight. (B)

Land only, double occupancy:  $1,100 per person per day. Note: Not including gorilla permits, currently $1200 per person.

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