Guest post by B
Mountain Gorillas. Yes, you read that correctly. Mountain gorillas. One of the more mythical creatures hidden in the mountain forests of central Africa. Since I arrived in Congo, I have been drawn to the idea of seeing these amazing animals in the wild. The high cost, limited tourist infrastructure, and incredible remoteness of the available options in the Republic of Congo led me to more passable options in Uganda. In the coming months, I may see gorillas in Congo and will chronicle that journey as well.
I never thought I would go to Uganda for a long weekend, but as luck would have it, I did. I caught a three-hour direct flight from Brazzaville to Kigali, Rwanda on Rwandair on a Friday afternoon. The pleasant flight put me in Kigali around dinner time. Rising early the next morning, I began my two-day Gorilla Tracking Safari by driving from Kigali to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. Before departing Kigali, I stopped at the Rwandan Genocide Memorial Museum to gain some perspective and commemorate the victims of the 1994 genocide. The museum is a must see for any visit to Kigali.
After the museum, my guide drove me six hours to Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. If you check the map, we took the NR3 leaving Kigali before crossing the Rwanda-Uganda border on foot at Katuna before heading north to the park. Rwanda is known as the land of 1,000 hills that has countless picturesque, terraced, farms and has an amazing (paved) road network. Crossing over to Uganda, the countryside is breathtaking, but clearly poorer, with a less developed road network. The journey inside Uganda was quite long, rather bumpy, muddy, and draining on my back. I arrived at a lovely jungle lodge, high in the cloud forest, and had the place nearly to myself.
Up early the next morning, we set off for the park. I was paired with a family that sported a thick British accent and we set off with armed guards and trackers through the thick forest. The gorillas are protected within the forest but you have to track them and hike through dense mountainous jungle to find the family groups. Nothing can prepare you for the sound of a male silverback gorilla beating loudly on his chest.
You can spend one hour with the gorillas. The time flies by as you easily lose track of time in the moment watching the gorillas canvass a hillside for vegetation. The little ones roll through the trees while the adults move more carefully. The adults keep the humans at a distance while the inquisitive adolescents come quite close. Simply amazing. I didn’t see any other animals besides the gorillas and that was a-ok. The areas of the gorilla parks in DRC, Rwanda and Uganda are close to human populations and farms which can bring them into contact with local villagers. I was told that the gorillas stay in the parks for the most part as that is where their food sources are located. That said, it isn’t inconceivable that they leave the park from time to time.
The return trip to Kigali took me south on the Kisoro-Cyanika road past Volcanoes National Park to the RN8 and eventually to Kigali. I spent one more evening in Kigali before flying back to Brazzaville with a camera full of photos and a lifetime of memories.
Some helpful resources:
36 Hours in Kigali, Rwanda: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/01/12/travel/what-to-do-36-hours-in-kigali-rwanda.html
Lets Go Tours Rwanda: www.letsgotoursrwanda.com
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bwindi_Impenetrable_National_Park
Rwandan Genocide Museum: https://www.kgm.rw/