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Gorilla Safari to Uganda and Rwanda for Allana Botha

Queen Elizabeth Park/Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda

Little did I know what a whirlwind adventure awaited me. After an overnight in Entebbe, Uganda greeted my senses with its old world charm. My drive from Kampala to Queen Elizabeth National Park meandered through villages and green hills, banana plantations, small crop farms and eager children calling 'hello'. Enterprising 'bike taxis' and stall keepers of a ll merchandise highlighted the road ways as we crossed the Equator.

Drive from Kampala to Queen Elizabeth National Park meandered through villages and green hills at uganda

The beautiful plains of the Queen Elizabeth National Park le ft me speechless with its never ending vistas. Prolific Uganda kob and topi with elephant and tree climbing lions made for fabulous game viewing. Ishasha Wildern ess Camp was welcoming after a hectic day offering a peaceful haven along the river, until the evening when a lion came roaring through the camp! The camp staff was attentive and the food was sumptuous!

The beautiful plains of the Queen Elizabeth National Park

We continued onwards to Bwindi National Park. Climbing up mountain passes we viewed red tail monkeys, black & white colobus monkeys, blue monkeys and r'host along the roadside. The valleys and sights were just breathtaking. Arriving at Gorilla Forest Camp was mesmerizing with the forests and rumbling skies in the late afternoon.

Bwindi National Park

There was great excitement the morning of our gorilla trek. We were trekking the Habinyanya family. We met with our guide and trekked for two hours. The guides, trekkers and porter s were just great. Any tiredness from the trek faded immediately on sighting our first gorilla. The lazy sounds of them munching away and rustling leaves made one aware that they were all around us. The guide cleared the vegetation for better viewing an d seeing our first silverback was breathtaking.
The Gorilla Forest Camp was wonderful to return to. The ladies enjoyed a massage before dinner at our camp. The staff was exceptional as was the food.

The Gorilla Forest Camp

The next day we climbed and curved through mountains and valleys to the Rwanda border. We cleared customs and continued onwards to Gorilla Mountain View Lodge with Sabyinyo Volcano in the background. In the evening we enjoyed a cultural show.

Gorilla Mountain View Lodge with Sabyinyo Volcano in the background and enjoyed a cultural show

The following day brought the excitement of a golden monkey trek. This was different than the gorilla trek as we hiked through farmlands and a bamboo forest. These delightful creatures were all around and quite at home with us being there.

Gorilla Safari to Uganda and Rwanda for Allana BothaGolden monkey

The following morning I left our group and went onwards to Kigali which is a clean, developing city. After a very emotional visit to the Genocid e museum, I did some last minute shopping at the local market before leaving for the airport to connect with my return flight home.  

Kigali which is a clean, developing citKigali which is a clean, developing cit

An amazing journey and adventure!

- by: Allana Botha

Uganda Trip Report

Chimps and Gorillas!
Louise Steynberg and Alison Nolting
November 12th - 21st, 2009

On arrival in Entebbe, Uganda we were met by a smiling Lydia who gave us a wonderful briefing, and then we met our Driver/Guide Benjamin Musisi and continued to the Kampala Serena hotel. You know you are back in Africa when you smell the dust and wood smoke!

The next morning we began our journey to Murchison Falls National Park . We stopped for lunch at Kaniyo Pabidi Forest where we heard that the newly habituated,
resident chimp family was very close - maybe 15-20 minutes walk away. This was too good an opportunity to miss , so lunch was forgotten and we headed off to find the chimps.

After a mere 10 minutes we found a family of 30 chimps in a huge fig tree and spent a very enjoyable hour watching them up in the trees and down on the ground in the shade. They amused
us with their cavorting and screeching as they played and chased each other . What a great start to our safari! Onward to Murchison Falls where we spent the afternoon in the park and saw Rothschild's giraffe, elephant, wart hog, water buck, Ugandan kob, buffalo, bushbuck, hartebeest and Hyena.

Uganda Trip Report - Murchison Falls Rothschild's giraffe

We woke up the next morning to lovely views of the Victoria Nile from Paraa Lodge and then we were off back across the Nile on the ferry , to view the top of the Murchison Falls.  Our road travel took us onward to Kibale Forest and a night at Ndali Lodge.

The following day we set off on a chimp trek,  and again we were lucky as after just 15 minutes we stopped to admire a monkey in the top of a fig tree , there sitting sunbat hing on a neighboring branch was a chimp ! He was then joined by a second chimp and we watched as they came down onto the ground and bounded up another fig tree where the made themselves comfortable. We carried on through the forest see if we could find some more chimps and found two more in yet another fig tree. We also saw a huge black and white hornbill, a blue diiker, Colobus monkeys and many more birds and butterflies.

  Monkeys in the top of a fig tree  

 After lunch at Primate Lodge we did the community S wamp Walk and had some fantastic bird sightings as well as red tailed monkeys and the L'hoest's monkeys.

Primate Lodge and L'hoest's monkey

Onward to Queen Elizabeth National Park where we drove around the craters and spent the night at Mweya Lodge which has stunning views over the Kazinga Channel and Lake Edward. On our game drive here we saw many elephant, Ugandan kob, water buck, olive baboons and warthog

Queen Elizabeth National Park  Mweya Lodge which has stunning views over the Kazinga Channel and Lake Edward

Enroute from Queen Elizabeth we drove through the southern area of Ishasha, the open grasslands contrasted to the northern part of the park that has many volcano craters. This is where the tree climbing lions are found!

This is where the tree climbing lions are found! Southern area of Ishasha, open grasslands.
Southern area of Ishasha, open grasslands

A long drive had us arriving at the Nkuringo side of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the wonderful welcome at Clouds Lodge! Including a hand massage at the door!

Clouds Lodge Clouds Lodge

The next morning we were up early as we were trekking the Nshongi gorilla family and it was an hour's drive to the Park Head Quarters. Bwindi forest is incredibly beautiful and we trekked until 1:00pm before we found the gorillas. The terrain tends to be rolling hills, so there was lots of trekking up the hills, along the top and down the other side to then come to another hill! However the long trek was worth it when we found the gorillas - the family group of 36+ had only been recently opened to the public to trek since September 2009.

Trekking to the Nshongi gorilla family Trekking to the Nshongi gorilla family Trekking to the Nshongi gorilla family

First we saw one of the silverbacks sitting under a tree, in the pouring rain I might add. He didn't seem overly keen to see us as he hid his face behind the leaves of the tree. We heard the others before we saw them as they shrugged their way through the undergrowth. One of the black back juveniles climbed to the top of the tree where he stood up, waved his arms in the air, hooted and jumped up and down. The dominant silverback didn't seem at all perturbed as he continued eating. We saw 20 gorillas during o ur time with this family. Then we made our way back through the forest, sliding our way down the muddy hills, crossing the river and finally at the end of the day back to our lodge for a hot shower and dinner in front of the fire.

Trekking to the Nshongi gorilla family Trekking to the Nshongi gorilla family Trekking to the Nshongi gorilla family

The next day we explored the Nkuringo area to see first hand the incredible sustainable projects they are introducing to the area including schools, the Batwa village where they are selling baskets and growing dye plants, and the local village where we purchased some Uganda home -grown tea. We also enjoyed some leisure time at the lodge before we were visited by the choir from the local orphanage.

Uganda Trip Report Uganda Trip Report

The following day, instead of driving around to the other side of Bwindi with Ben our guide, we took the short cut and did the forest walk from Nkuringo to Buhoma. As we stopped often to look at birds it took us the better part of the morning and so we arrived at Gorilla Forest Camp in time for a very late lunch. Ian, the Manager filled us in the gorilla family groups and showed us the new Park headquarters. That afternoon we visited the Bwindi Community Hospital and it was very inspiring to see all the good work that is being done there.This will be one of new projects we will be supporting for 2010.

From Buhoma we drove to Lake Mburo where we spent the night at Mihingo Lodge. We had a very successful game drive in the park as we saw herds of zebra, impala and e land. The lodge is high up in the rock kopje with wonderful views over the plains. That evening we watched the bush -babies come down at sunset.
Herds of impala in Mburo Herds of zebra Uganda Trip Report

Our last day dawned and we headed back to Entebbe, stopping along the way to do some souvenir shopping and to re-pack and relax at Lake Victoria Hotel before boarding our flight home.

Alison Nolting in Uganda Trip Report