In 2023, after three years of delays due to a certain pandemic, I was delighted to be at the helm for Wildlife Worldwide's inaugural Uganda Photo Safari. This magnificent country is home to a wealth of exceptional wildlife and is often referred to as the 'Pearl of Africa'. It rightly earned this nickname for its agricultural wealth, but it's natural wealth is even more impressive. If you are into primates, then look no further than Uganda.
With that in mind, this trip was put together to maximise photo opportunities of two of our closets cousins - the chimpanzee and the mountain gorilla. Along the way we were able to enjoy a plethora of other species in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Let's start with the wonders that lay within the forests of Kibale National Park. It was time to get up-close and personal with the chimps.
Our first gorilla trek wasn't really much of a trek. We came across a chimp in the track while we were still in our vehicle. We quickly got out and enjoyed an incredible session with a large chimp. He rested, groomed and just seemed to enjoy our company before he followed the rest of his extended family deep into the forest where they climbed trees in search of food. We went back again the next day and just had the most incredible, intimate experiences all over again.
Around the lodge and in the park we were able to photograph a number of monkey species, of which the most beautiful (in my humble opinion) was the L'Hoest's Monkey.
After a memorable couple of days with the chimpanzees and immersing ourselves in the towering forests of Kibale, it was time to head west to Queen Elizabeth National Park. This huge protected area only has a couple of areas which are currently open to safari-goers, but its mosaic of habitats is unlike anywhere else on the African continent. We based ourselves in the Ishasha sector - famed for its tree-climbing lions. Sadly the lions eluded us throughout our stay, but we were instead spoiled with exceptional leopard encounters alongside a host of other typical species seen on a safari.
As you can see, we were exceptionally lucky with what we managed to see in just a few days within the Ishasha sector. Furthermore, this area of the park is just absolutely beautiful - surely one of East Africa's most beautiful protected areas.
With our safari bug scratched, it was time to head south towards the mountains of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest for what is arguably the highlight of any trip to Uganda. Our primary focus here was to track and photograph mountain gorillas.
I have no words to describe a gorilla trek. They can be physically demanding, the photography can be equally frustrating and rewarding and the weather can be unpredictable. However, none of it matters. When you are stood only yards away from the world's largest primates, your world is turned upside down forever more. Nothing will be the same again. This is truly is a life-changing experience and I implore you, nay, I beg you to experience it for yourself.
So what do you think? I really hope that I have inspired you to give Uganda some consideration when planning your next wildlife photography adventure. There is nowhere quite like it for such a varied experience and mesmerising wildlife encounters. I do hope you can join me on an upcoming Uganda Photo Safari with Wildlife Worldwide - you can find out more about the trip here.
After a very busy summer leading trips all over, exhibiting at Birdfair with Wildlife Worldwide and prepping for the next few months, it was time to take a bit of me time. Of course, when you are a wildlife photographer, that means going in search of some incredible wildlife – so my girlfriend and I headed off to Uganda for a trip of a lifetime.
Uganda is best known for its primates and that was the major draw for us too, particularly the mountain gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in the south west of the country. We had booked to stay at Buhoma lodge and I can honestly say that it was one of the very best places I have ever stayed. The lodge itself is situated in the rainforest so don’t expect super luxury, but it is spotlessly clean and the service is superb.
On the morning of our trek we headed down to the registration office, accompanied by Ivan (from Buhoma) who sorted everything out for us and listened to the briefing. We had to drive around the mountain to start our trek and were to be going in search of the Habinyanja group, with Makara the silverback as the head of the family. Our trek started off in the tea plantations of the surrounding villages before we reached the boundary of the forest.
What happened next was one of the most incredible experiences of my life and I have been very privileged to see some pretty special things.
The gorilla group was only around 150 yards inside the forest but this involved a very steep descent into a river gully and back up the other side. This was not particularly demanding and took less than an hour to negotiate, a lot less than we were anticipating, but that is the luck of the draw sometimes.
The first gorilla we saw was an adult female who was fast asleep, she was no more than 5 metres away and didn’t even open her eyes as we stumbled through the thick vegetation. I genuinely couldn’t believe what was in front of my eyes. It was completely surreal to be so close to such a remarkable, wild animal. Some 30 metres further down the slope was the silverback and his family were strewn across the vegetation between us. The next hour of my life flew by and a lot of the time I didn’t even take any photos, I was just mesmerised by the majesty of the moment.
I really focused my efforts on the youngsters of the group who provided some of the most wonderful moments and at times were less than 30 centimetres away from us. The following images really don’t do it justice, but I hope it at least gives you an idea of what we were treated to.
I will just finish by saying that if you have not yet had the opportunity to visit Uganda (or Rwanda), then I really can't recommend it enough. It is one of the most incredible things you can do in life, a genuinely life-changing experience beyond anything you can ever imagine ... book your place now!