After years of wanting to take gorilla tours and chimpanzees experience, Jackie and Emma made it possible, with a safe, wonderful, and unforgettable experience. We chose Rwanda Gorilla Safaris from reading their Trip Advisor reviews and were not disappointed, by selecting their custom higher-end/ luxury and private tour for seven days.
Rwanda is one of the gorilla safari destinations in Africa alongside Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Besides Gorilla and Golden monkey tracking in Volcanoes National Park, Uganda offers chimpanzee trekking and other Primates found in Kibale Forest National Park and Wildlife game drives in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
We met Emma at our hotel in Entebbe, the first morning of our tour. We paid the balance of our tour while at the hotel, in a safe environment. Emma placed our bags in the back of his comfortable Land Cruiser and off we went, in the direction of Kibale National Park and Kyaninga Lodge for our first nights’ stay. All of our (safe) meals, water, accommodations, etc. were organized by Rwanda Gorilla Safaris.
Our itinerary included two nights at Kyaninga Lodge near Kibale National Park in the direction of Fort Portal. This is where we would track chimpanzees in the wild. We were not disappointed. The chimpanzee tracking was within Kibale National Park, with an initial orientation about chimpanzee rules and the forest. Placed in groups along with our tracker, off we went into the forest. Our chimpanzee experience was about five hours long. We did have to walk quite a bit over uneven terrain, up and down valleys, and some tricky steps around some wet spots. Our guide suggested to tuck our pants into our socks, watching out for safari ants and to use insect repellent around your sock/boot area. In total we managed to encounter 23 chimpanzees, including some playful youngsters. Kyaninga provided a delicious box lunch which we ate at the restaurant within Kibale National Park.
In the afternoon we made a visit to Bigodi Wetland sanctuary walking around a swamp. We saw the blue turaco, plus the black and white colobus monkey, the red colobus monkey and the grey-cheeked manageable monkey. It was a very pleasant walk, and the offer was there to use their rubber boots which we should have taken up on. We had to cross over the swamp over a wooden walkway which in parts was underwater. Having to cross, our boots and socks were wet; this was really a great experience.
On our next day plus a two nights in Katara Lodge near Queen Elizabeth National Park included two big-5 safari drives in Queen Elizabeth Park, along with viewing the tree-climbing lions in the southern part of the park. We also thoroughly enjoyed a cruise in the Kazinga Channel, from the Mweya Safari lodge, situated within the Park along we saw herds of hippos, crocodiles, elephants, water buffaloes, and water birds on the shores of lake. The Kazinga Channel was a must do. The volcano crater rim drive is quite beautiful.
Our last two nights, staying at Buhoma Lodge were to be the highlight of our trip with gorilla trekking. Our gorilla trekking permits were prepaid and organized by Jackie from Rwanda Gorilla Safaris. Buhoma lodge is well situated within Bwindi Impenetrable Forest with the orientation meeting centre right across the road. It is here where officials from the national Park, organize the groupings of trekkers into activity levels and capabilities. Our group was an intermediate group, guided by our ranger, Rita. Rita was awesome. We drove 45 minutes away where from the park headquarter and then the trackers led us through the forest, slashing at the thick creepers, to track gorillas.
When you find the gorillas you must be 7 meters away from them, you should try not to make sudden movements and to keep your voices low so that the group remains relaxed. Although these mountain gorillas are now used to seeing people, do bear in mind that they are still wild animals and can sometimes react unexpectedly, so always heed your guide’s and trackers’ instructions and make life time with mountain gorilla experience a memorable one.
For a small fee, porters are available at the trail heads to carry your backpacks and offer a hand during tricky parts of the hike. Even if you don’t really need them, hiring a porter is a helpful way to contribute directly to the local economy and chatting to them en route can enhance your experience both of local life and of your gorilla trek.