Uganda is a country with incredible natural scenery and a rich variety of ethnic tribes and cultures. Travelling through Uganda, you will be captivated by its beauty, abundant and diverse wildlife, and its people. The friendliness of Ugandans, and of course a chance to see some of the last remaining mountain gorillas in their natural environment, is the reason why so many people visit this beautiful country.
Trekking through the lush virgin forests to try and get a glimpse of the mountain gorilla was without a doubt the main reason for my visit to Uganda. But what I was not expecting was how much more the country had to offer. My first introduction to the forests of Uganda was an incredible walk in the Kibale forest. Located in Western Uganda, not far from the mysterious ‘mountains of the moon’ or Rwenzoris as they are more commonly known, Kibale Forest has a thriving population of Chimpanzees. Not knowing much amount about Chimpanzees in the wild, I had no idea what to expect from this experience. From the moment we entered into the forest, we heard the ‘piercing’ cries of the chimps, used to warn other chimps of danger, the danger being us! As the chimps got closer however, they ‘recognized’ our guide and were no longer so vocal (every day the local forest guides and rangers spend time walking in the forests with the chimps in close proximity to try to habituate them so that visitors can view these incredible animals from a safe distance without fear of an attack). I was amazed at how close we got to one family group of chimpanzees – there were about 15 of them and one minute they were up in the trees above our heads, the other they were on the ground moving fast through the forest and we practically had to run to keep up. At no point, however, did we feel threatened…….although the guides always made sure that we maintained a safe distance!
Trekking through the Kibale forest with the chimpanzees is one of the most memorable experiences I have had in all my Africa travels and I recommend including it to anyone visiting Uganda. Combine this activity with a stay at theKibale Forest Lodge, offering ‘rustic’ luxury and with outstanding views of the distant Ruwenzori Mountains, and you will not be disappointed.
Seeing the mountain gorillas in their natural environment was the next stop on our Ugandan adventure, and this activity is something I have been dreaming of experiencing for as long as I can remember. As we headed further towards the mountainous region of the Bwindi reserve, the forests got thicker and the roads got steeper! Thank goodness we had a good guide as the roads in Uganda are not roads that you would want to negotiate on your own…..muddy at times and steep, with crazy drivers overtaking on blind corners along the mountainous passes. Safely we arrived at our beautiful lodge in the forest, Bwindi Volcanoes Lodge, ready for our strenuous trek into the mountains the next day.
Early in the morning we set out with our ranger and our small group of 8 people into the forests in order to find a particular family group of mountain gorillas. Viewing time with these animals is limited to only one hour so we made sure we were in the front of the group so we could get as close as possible. After only one hours walk (which is very unusual and can take up to 5-8 hours to find the group) we stumbled upon the group we were looking for, and luckily for us they we right in the open and lazing about, the little ones clambering over each other playing and swinging from branch to branch. Mesmerized, I sat watching their interactions with awe until out of the thick brush from my left came a crashing sound that made me almost jump out of my skin! The silverback gorilla & head of the troop had appeared out of nowhere, his main role to protect his family from danger….again that being us! But as quickly as he appeared, he disappeared again under a ticket of tangled branches and shrubs and fell soundly asleep secure in the knowledge that we were not going to pose any threat. So we had the rest of the hour to enjoy our time with the females and their offspring…..an hour that I will never forget for the rest of my life.
To find out more about Uganda and trekking with the mountain gorillas and chimps, please contact Janine@inspired2explore.com