The two countries of Uganda and Rwanda offer a unique experience of meeting the mountain gorillas, great apes in the wild! Recently, I returned from an expedition that involved a double gorilla trek in the Bwindi Impenetrable Park of Uganda and Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda. The trip also involved wildlife safaris in savanna national parks.
The week long safari was arranged by Jackie and guided by Emma. From the first email to Jackie to the last day with Emma, the experience was excellent and exceeded my expectations and I would definitely recommend this company Rwanda Gorilla Safaris. Jackie responded promptly, thoroughly and professionally to all of my emails. Emma was an exceptional guide throughout the trip. He was pleasant, knowledgeable, polite, punctual and an excellent driver. As a woman traveling alone, I never felt unsafe or awkward. He has a keen eye for wildlife including birds large and small and could spot them from incredible distances and recognizes a wide variety of bird calls and knows their identifying features. He went out of his way to find monkeys, birds and other wildlife as well as the best places for photos during our long drives which made the drive itself pleasant. In addition, he knows about Ugandan history and politics which was quite interesting.
The trek in Rwanda was difficult for me due to the altitude but the ranger and porters were quite understanding and helpful with plenty of rests and helping hands. The trek in Uganda was at times steeper and muddier than Rwanda but was not as difficult. I would definitely recommend hiring a porter or two which is well worth the $10 to 20 per porter which included carrying camera equipment and water and lending a helping hand when needed. The gorillas themselves were beyond description and amazing.
You will need all of your strength to climb up and down the tracks for several hours. I was expecting the trek to be a lot more strenuous – I have an artificial knee joint and am not at all fit but I found the trek quite easy. We walked for around an hour along narrow tracks with several armed guides in our group. I felt totally safe throughout the day. Once the gorillas are located, you leave the tracks and walk through the bush. The guides use machetes to cut a path through the jungle. This is when the walking stick and strong gloves come into their own.
Remember that the animals are in the shadow of the jungle so you will need a good camera. NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY IS PERMITTED.
In Rwanda the family appeared completely relaxed on the ground and carried on with their business of interacting with each other in the most endearing ways. In Uganda most of the gorillas were in the trees but a few were on the ground and easier to observe. In both cases, some of the gorillas would pass by in close proximity, seemingly undisturbed by our presence. The primate/chimpanzee trekking in the Kibale forest was much easier. Most of the chimpanzees were in the trees though a few did come down towards the end.
I also was taken on the Swamp tour towards the end of my tour which I thought was also enjoyable. Next to the office where the tour starts are a couple of trees filled with weaver birds and their distinctive nests. It was a wonderful experience to watch the beautiful birds and their nests up close. On the tour, we saw black and white colobus monkeys, beautiful birds, papyrus plants and more. Additionally, I would highly recommend visiting the Genocide Memorial and Museum in Kigali. It is sensitively done and a truly moving experience.
I chose the moderately priced accommodations which I found completely acceptable. The rooms and food were fine. All served simple meals and delicious fruit such as bananas, passion fruit, pineapple, papaya and apples.