A Walk to the Mountain Gorillas (2 separate families!) Uganda
This is a trek for people who enjoy walking in remote regions and who are comfortable in adventurous environments. You need to be a reasonably good walker because this part of Africa is verdant, green and lush, with all the weather that such richness implies! This trail will give you an African experience that has almost disappeared: there are few roads here and the paths we follow are used by local people going about their daily business. We visit not one but two families of Mountain Gorillas.
If you like your Africa served up straight, honest and in its working clothes, this unique trek will appeal.
Day 1: Kigali, Rwanda
The gateway for this trek is Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. We’ll meet you at the airport and drive you to the hotel, conveniently nearby. Rwanda is a small, undulating country and Kigali, which was founded by the Germans just over 100 years ago, sits astride four ridges. In 2011 Rwanda adopted English as the official language, in place of French, to help foster closer ties with its English-speaking neighbours (Uganda and Tanzania).
Overnight in small local hotel. B&B.
Day 2: Mgahinga Park, Uganda
At 8:00 o’clock we set off in 4X4’s for Mgahinga National Park: our destination is Kisoro just over the border in Uganda (driving time approx 5 hours) which sits at the foot of the Mufumbiro Mountains. In the afternoon explore this pretty little town and there is time for a visit to neighbouring Echuya Swamp (optional) home to the rare Grauer’s Swamp Warbler.
Overnight in Kisoro Hotel, FB.
Day 3: Mnt Sabinyo, the Three-Corners: Uganda, Rwanda and DRC.
Mount Sabinyo (3,669 m) sits on the intersecting borders of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Uganda. This is also the point where three mountain gorilla national parks converge: Virunga National Park in DRC, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda: this trail leads through the heart of gorilla habitat.
The name “Sabyinyo” means ‘Old man’s teeth’ and like an old man, time has eroded Mt. Sabinyo’s crown leaving a possibility of three peaks to climb (non-technical; this is a mountain walk). The trail leads up a ridge along the eastern side of the mountain to the first peak: the next peak involves walking a ridge with breath-taking drops into gorges in Rwanda (on your left) and Uganda (on your right) a stunning experience. The third and final peak is reached via steep slopes with several fixed ladders and some scrambling. You can choose on the day, depending on the weather and how you’re feeling whether you do one, none or several peaks.
The trek is just 14 Km (round trip) and takes about 8 hours: the professional guide who accompanies you throughout will tell you about the birds encountered en route and the intricate story of mountain gorilla conservation.
Overnight at Kisoro hotel. B, picnic lunch and D.
Day 4: Kisoro; canoe across Lake Mutanda; Rushaga
This morning we set off along the trail to Lake Mutanda which is at 1,180 m (1 hr walking). The path winds its way through shambas (subsistence farms) which are always busy with local life and this is a great chance to observe everyday farming which is unchanged from centuries ago. There is no ferry at this rural location, so we jump into canoes and paddle across (2 leisurely hrs). The fresh water is clean and swimming is possible; and this is a good place to see the African clawless otter, which is very similar to the otters in Europe except larger … and clawless! We board traditional dugout canoes, made from a single tree-trunk, and set off. The paddlers are quite able to take the canoes across, but if you fancy a go, just ask! Lunch will be waiting on the north shore at Mutanda Eco Resort. The trail continues to Rushaga right at the edge of Bwindi Forest (3 hrs walking). FB.
Day 5: Gorillas
The precise location of the gorilla tracking depends on the family of gorillas allocated to us on the day. There are several habituated families and a max of 8 people per day are allowed to visit so that their privacy is maintained.
Gorilla tracking is an intense experience that can take anything up to 6 hours. The guide leads you through the gorilla’s world, explaining aspects of their ecology and behaviour along the way. To state the obvious, gorillas are wild creatures with no fixed routine, so success is not guaranteed, but your chances of a gorilla encounter are very good, better than 97%. The guides and trackers have habituated certain gorilla families and are known to them personally. “Habituate” describes the gradual process of introducing a gorilla family to humans, over a period of months, to reach a point where small groups of unknown humans, accompanied by the guide who the gorillas recognize, may approach.
Overnight at Wagtail Camp (Rushaga) (FB).
Day 6: Walk to Buhoma
After an early breakfast we follow the trail through remote, rural villages towards Ntungamo and the National Parks Office (300m). Here we pay park fees and secure the services of a National Parks ranger to escort us to Buhoma. As is always the case in rural Africa, there is a choice of routes between villages: trails twist and turn through villages and hamlets linking people to markets, which are the pulse of local communities. Probably the best route today is the Kashasha River route. Don’t be surprised when we meet local people on the trail, heading to market, or visit families. They often have livestock with them and are always accompanied by children of a variety of ages, the smallest bound to their mother’s back using a colourful shawl. The pace of life is deliberate and they will be amazed to encounter “Wazungus” (white people) in such a remote place! These encounters are always great fun.
There is no road through Bwindi between Buhoma and Nkuringo so vehicles driving between the two locations have an incredible 170 km bone-jarring journey taking some 6 to 8 hours. Our route is a more modest 14 Km (6 hrs). Along the way you may be lucky to spot the Giant Forest Hog, particularly near a clearing called Hakempunu. From time-to-time we walk in a small stream (warm water) so bring the right walking boots! Eventually we reach Nkuringo which has a particularly vibrant market.
Overnight at Ride for a Woman Guest House (FB)
Day 7: The Second Gorilla Tracking day
The protocol for walking with gorillas at Buhoma is the same as it is at Nkuringo. We visit a different family, but the etiquette is the same. NOTE! For those who are not interested in doing a second gorilla trek, you can walk to a nearby Batwa Pygmy village and visit a family; or spend the day with the local community.
Overnight at Overnight at Ride for a woman Guest House (FB).
Day 8: End of the trail.
In the morning we return to Kampala (by car) for onward flights or we can arrange a safari to nearby Queen Elizabeth National park; or onward travel to explore more of wonderful and varied Uganda. B and picnic lunch.
Note – you will need a backpack (50 Lt) which will be carried by your porter; you will also need a sleeping bag and a small day-pack for camera/waterproofs etc. A full equipment list and “Field Manual” will be provided.
Minimum participants: 1 person; max 6 persons.