This combination involves some days in the Greater Maasai Mara, giving you the best opportunity for wonderful game viewing and a chance to see the migration (in season); as well as days in Bwindi to experience this once-in-a-lifetime gorilla encounter.
It is an affordable option with extended stay so the journey is not rushed and you have time to relax, as well as appreciate the nature around you, and meet wonderful people.
This Uganda safari will start from Bwindi Forest National Park in Uganda to the Maasai Mara in Kenya. You will do gorilla trek in Uganda‘s Bwindi Forest and transfer to Maasai Mara for the great migration safari.
Uganda is home to half the world’s mountain gorilla population. Seeing these animals up close in their natural habitat is one of the most impressive wildlife encounters in Africa. Visiting the gorillas directly supports conservation efforts and population growth.
Bwindi is by far the more popular choice as the park contains a greater population of gorillas, is better situated for fly-in safaris, and has a greater range of accommodation options. Here, habituated families can be accessed from four trail heads: Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo.
Departing from one of the four trailheads on the perimeters of the forest, you join a group of other trekkers (maximum group size of 8 people) for a guided hike into the forest in search of one of the 11 habituated gorilla families.
You will be introduced to the ecology of the forest and the changing landscape as you trek to the gorillas. Your guides are in communication with the team of trackers who will have been shadowing the gorillas since daybreak. The trackers direct your guides to bring you to the gorillas.
Once contact is made, there is usually a silent wait, deep within the dense foliage, as the gorilla’s edge closer. When they do emerge, seeing the gorillas in their natural habitat, the verdant forest providing the perfect backdrop, is a truly breath-taking experience.
You have up to one hour to spend with the gorillas. If you wanted to spend longer, you can take part in a gorilla habituation experience, and spend up to 4 hours with these gentle giants.
The gorillas can be visited at any time of year though the drier period is much more workable with. The price for the gorilla permits used to change with the season, but this is unfortunately no longer the case. Permit prices are fixed year-round, so the decision on when to visit should be guided by your availability, the availability of permits, and your travel plans outside the gorilla trekking.
Gorilla permits are currently fixed at $700 USD per person. The permits are no longer discounted during the rainy season, but they are easier to secure at short notice if you are traveling during Uganda’s long rainy season (March to May) or in the short rainy season (October to November).
One advantage of visiting the gorillas in Uganda is the relatively cheap permit costs compared to neighbouring Rwanda where permit prices sit at an eye-watering $1500 USD per person at time of writing.
After all the above experience, transfer to Kenya for the Maasai Mara show. Each year, over two million wildebeest, zebra and other herbivores trek from the southern Serengeti to the lush green grasses of the Masai Mara. Known as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the great migration is an iconic safari must-see.
Maasai Mara National Reserve is an area of preserved Savannah wilderness in south-western Kenya, along the Tanzanian border. Its animals include lions, cheetahs, elephants, zebras and hippos. Wildebeest traverse its plains during their annual migration.
The seasonal rains and the search for green grass drive wildebeest to migrate. July through November is traditionally considered the best time to view the Great Migration. Between July and August, the wildebeest move masse into Kenya’s Maasai Mara, crossing the Mara River in staggering numbers. For travelers, river crossings rank among the most sought-after moments of the Great Migration.
If you are short on time and want to see the most animals possible, then Masai Mara is probably the better option for your African safari. Simply because of its more compact size and high wildlife densities. If you are on a tight budget, Masai Mara is (generally) cheaper than Serengeti National Park.
Although numbers vary every year, past migrations have seen up to 1.5 million wildebeest, close to a million Zebra and large numbers of others animals undertake the long trek that lasts many weeks. Their journey is especially fraught with danger as they cross the crocodile infested Mara and Talek rivers along the way, during which many cannot escape the giant Nile crocodiles lying in wait for their prey.
The movement of the wildebeest is from Serengeti into Masai Mara and is dictated by factors such as the climate, pasture and mating and calving seasons. Keep in mind the wildebeest are migrating through the year in a generally clockwise direction covering vast areas reaching into Southern, Central and Western Serengeti before the year long trek brings them to Masai Mara around July to August. Their journey back to Serengeti happens around late October though this is less spectacular and more like a slow dispersal.
You can see the migration during a safari game drive in the Masai Mara Game reserve which is conducted in specialized vehicles driver by experienced Driver-Guides. As there are several core points where the wildebeest cross the rivers, it may be necessary to access and station oneself at these points during a day-long outing in the reserve as some of the lodges and camps can be up to an hour’s drive from the ideal vantage points.
Most tourists who come specially to see the migration consider seeing the river crossings a highlight of their tour and therefore want to spend enough time at these crossing points, which by the way tend to vary slightly every year while staying within a generally similar sub locality of the reserve. This park offers different unique and exciting wildlife experience at various times of the year. After the unforgettable experience, transfer back to Nairobi for your flight.