Mountain Gorilla and Chimpanzee
Trekking in Uganda
Finally, the waiting was over and I was about to depart for my Wildlife Adventure trip to Uganda (09.-28. November 2015). Three weeks of central Africa, pure nature and so much to explore.
Since seeing 'Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey' (1988) I was wondering what it must have felt like to be with Mountain gorillas. By coincidence, I came across a post from 'Wildeye - International School of Wildlife Film-making'. I had done my 'Introduction to Wildlife Film-making' course with them. It appeared there was only one place left and I thought 'that must be a sign'. I talked with two very good friends about it that would hopefully talk me out of it in case I was just 'being crazy' but instead they just said 'you have to do it'.
I met up with Madelaine Westwood and Piers Warren our organisers for the following 12 days at Heathrow Airport. Madelaine is the founder of GAFI and the Pedal Powered Cinema Project. Piers founded Wildeye and both have been involved in Wildlife Film-making for a long time.
We arrived at Entebbe International Airport, which is close to the capital Kampala. As there's usually heavy traffic on the roads between Entebbe and Kampala we decided to stay in Entebbe at the Airport Guesthouse. As everyone was eager to get to know the cultural life in Uganda we went for a stroll around the local market in Entebbe.
Day2: Ngamba Chimp Island
After a proper rest we started our tour with a visit of Ngamba Chimp Island. It's a half-day trip and a great opportunity to visit the Ngamba Chimp Island Sanctuary. You need to organise a boat transfer that gets you from the pier to the island at Lake Victoria.
We were early enough to view the morning feeding at 11am and got a tour of the Vet unit at the sanctuary afterwards. It is possible to stay overnight at Ngamba Chimp Island and might be something to consider.
Day3: Drive to Queen Elizabeth National park
Our next highlight was Queen Elizabeth National park. After breakfast, we drove from Entebbe in a south-west direction. On our way we had a stopover at the Equator as it is running right through Uganda.
In Mbarara town we had a lunch break at Agip motel and then continued our drive to Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Upon arrival we checked in at the lovely Buffalo Safari Resort where we would stay for the next 3 nights surrounded by Wildlife. At night you could hear nocturnal animals at the waterhole just next to our little hut. The sound of the frogs after a massive thunderstorm was incredible. If you want a taste of it please visit Colin's wonderful website. He sneaked up to the waterhole with the guard at night and got an amazing recording.
Day4: Chimp tracking
Early morning we prepared for our highlight of the day - chimpanzee tracking in Kyambura Gorge. The gorge has other animals like black and white colobus monkey, red tailed monkey, forest elephants and more including many bird species. At first it looked like we wouldn't get lucky but without realising we just happened to walk right underneath them. Gazing up we saw them jumping from through the lush greens of the trees curiously watching us.
Day5: Morning game drive and afternoon boat cruise
Today we had to wake up early for a morning game drive. It was beautiful. So much different wildlife compared to the day before.
After the game drive we returned to the lodge for lunch before heading to take a boat launch along Kazinga Channel that connects Lake Edward and Lake Gorge.
I think the pictures are speaking for themselves. The was mesmerizing and full of wonder. The play of light on the grass land of the savannah. The change of light over the day and how it effects the animal wildlife. I couldn't get enough of it. Amazingly, our guides decided to surprise us on our way back with a little detour. A sundowner with chilled beverages at the shore of a lake full of flamingos ...
After breakfast we checked out and drove to the Ishasha sector. Ishasha is famous for being the only place were you can find tree-climbing lions. I was more then excited ...
Around mid day we left the sector and started our long drive to Bwindi National Park where we would finally got to trek mountain gorillas. We arrived quite late at Ruhija Gorilla Lodge because the roads were after all the rain in a terrible condition. Massive puddles like craters everywhere and no knowing of how deep they were.
Day7: Gorilla tracking day
The day we've all been waiting for was there. After an early morning breakfast we were heading for a briefing from the ranger guides. We were told that depending on where we'd find the gorillas in the forest, trekking could be estimated between 2-9hrs. Our permits allowed for one hour in the presence of the gorillas and we were burning to get to see them.
Last check of the equipment and off we went. Prepared to not give up before we had seen them. But to our surprise we didn't need to go far and found them very quickly on a steep slope off the road.
Adrenaline spiked to the highest level we descended towards them. Always trying to avoid too much eye contact in a fight to not miss a single moment of this "once-in-a-lifetime-adventure".
Day8: Drive to Kisoro Town
Today we sadly had to say good bye to Ruhija and Bwindi National Park though our trip would lead us through amazing scenic views. On our way to reach Kisoro Town we passed a region of rolling hills, that are commonly known as the 'Switzerland of Africa". See yourself ...
Day 9: Kisoro Town
Here in Kisoro is the headquarter of GAFI for Uganda. It was a good opportunity to visit one of the school projects and to participate in a tree planting. The tree planting initiative is one way of promoting gorilla conservation projects as this will reduce pressure on the forest from the surrounding community in the form of firewood and timber.
Day10: Batwa and Pedal Powered Cinema project
Visit the Batwa people community who have been resettled from the forest to promote gorilla conservation. They used to depend on the forest for food and they are known as good hunters and fruit-gatherers. You can learn about their culture and, in the afternoon, participate in the Pedal Powered Cinema Project. Dinner and overnight at Dian Fossey Lodge.
Day11: Drive back to Entebbe
After breakfast, drive through Mbarara Town for lunch and afterwards continue driving to arrive in Entebbe town in the late afternoon. Dinner and overnight at Airport Guesthouse.
Day12: Drive to Jinja with stop over at Mbarara swamps