Gorilla trekking in Uganda

Trip Start Oct 01, 2002
Trip End Aug 08, 2005

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Flag of Kenya  ,
Monday, July 7, 2003

Hello again,
Since leaving Kampala we have had to be pretty active. We drove South West through some gorgeous volcanic mountain scenery and dense forests towards the border with Rwanda. We stopped en-route one night at a gorgeous camp site on Lake Bunyoni, a wonderful clear and still lake at the foot of a range of mountains. Whilst walking around we met some local children washing clothes by the lake. They took us up one of the hills overlooking the lake to their church, where to the beat of a big old drum they danced for us. It was excellent and very entertaining! In the afternoon we set off to drive to Kisoro, for Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. We drove for 5 hours (though only traveled 27km in straight line distance) through spectacular scenery of tropical rainforests and mountains where the locals farmed the slopes. Early the next morning six of us piled into the back of a pick up truck and headed off for the park. After a brief introduction and explanation from our excellent guide we trekked off towards the forest accompanied by about seven fully armed soldiers. (There are rebels in the area and they like to protect the tourists). After about 40 minutes of trekking, following the tracks of broken bamboo shoots and gorilla dung, we were amazed and excited to see the big head of a silverback gorilla looking down on us from his treetop nest high above in the canopy. Further on we found a small female feeding on the forest floor, who was quickly joined by a juvenile who clambered down from the trees above. We followed them further into the forest and watched them feeding, keeping a few metres away but they seemed undisturbed by our presence. Suddenly the big Silverback appeared to warn us off. This massive creature stomped straight at us and passed within a few metres then headed off out of the forest. We tentatively followed and found the three of them feeding in the open. Again the Silverback (Who's name is Marc, funnily enough as all the others have African names) exerted his authority and paraded past us within inches of Sian who was tiny in comparison. After spending an enchanting hour with them we unfortunately had to turn back as our trek was over.
The next day we had a pleasant walk around the town, which is quite nice and traditional before heading back to Lake Bunyoni for a well needed rest day. We decided to a take canoe out onto lake, the deepest in Uganda and full of small islands with strange stories behind them. This flat bottomed canoe was carved from a single log and local spirits had given it a mind of its own. For about an hour we were going round in circles, not far from our original jetty. Eventually we mastered it and visited the local school again where a Slovenian named Kimi and a few other foreign volunteer teachers are running a local project helping the school and providing information about the area. Although tempted to sign up and help we had to travel on.
Traveling through Queen Elizabeth National park, full of savannah grasslands was nice but not spectacular and after a brief glimpse of Fort Portal we headed to Kibale forest where apparently twenty percent of the worlds primates live. The camp site was set beside an old volcanic crater lake which is rumoured to be occasionally visited by a solitary hippo.
We stayed an extra night at Lake Nkuruba nature reserve which is another crater lake in the area. From here we went to trek around Kibale forest to see groups of chimpanzees. We trekked in the dense forest for 3 hours to see the chimps and a few other species of monkeys high in the trees above. It proved to be an excellent trek with spine-chilling chimp calls and screams heard all around. However, after seeing the gorillas it just wasn't the same.
We left early the next day for the long road back to Kampala, was stopped briefly by a tropical storm, then on to Nile river camp site in Jinja to party the night away.
With hangovers we crossed the border back into Kenya again and are now back in Eldoret about to go to Tanzania to the Serengeti and Ngorogoro crater for some more safari game drives. What a stressful life.
Hope you are all doing well, take care of yourselves.

Kev and Sian
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