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Uganda and Rwanda - From the Archive: 2005 Gorillas, Chimps and more…


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I was inspired by recent retrospectives, and by posts in other threads’ talk of Gorillas, to look back through my photos. As you will see from the title, we went on this trip in 2005 – August – so many of the practical information will not be of much use to those planning a trip now, (but I have put in information which could be of help).


However, if you like looking at Gorillas, the occasional chimp or monkey and some Ugandan animals (such as the Kob, and the Forest Hog), I hope you enjoy the pictures!


I had always wanted to see chimpanzees since reading Jane Goodall’s “In the Shadow of Man” as an A-Level Biology student (yes, it was a long time ago!). We had both always wanted to see Gorillas.


We stayed 13 nights. All arrangements were through Discovery Initiatives (now taken over by Steppes) – all ground arrangements were by Volcanoes Safaris. We had a car/driver guide throughout the trip.


We were picked up at Entebbe Airport and drove towards Fort Portal – on the way we saw some of the famous Ankole cattle with extraordinary horns.


We went to the Ruwenzori Guest House (3 nights) to visit the Kibale Forest. This was a fairly basic guest house with charming hosts and wonderful food.


Kibale Forest National Park is an evergreen forest. We visited the forest on 2 days to track chimpanzees. The light was difficult, and the chimps moved quickly as we tracked them through the forest with specialist Uganda Wildlife Authority guides. The chimps were incredibly noisy, screeching as they ran through the trees – it was exciting seeing them and being close to them as they went about their lives. (Though difficult to photograph!)


Chimpanzees above us



And around us




And finally in peace...

I believe it is now possible to have an "habituation" experience where you can spend all day with chimps - we would have done that if it was a vailable at that time!


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There were also a variety of monkeys in the area


Red Tailed Monkey


Central African Red Colobus



Olive Baboon


Grey Cheeked Mangabey

And human influence..



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From Kibale we drove to the Queen Elizabeth National Park, staying at the very basic Institute of Ecology. Wildlife in the park was better than we expected, showing signs of recovery (though I understand there have been problems with poaching since the time of this trip)




waterbuck (defassa subspecies) with calf

And a number of elephants






And an unusual sight


Giant Forest Hog (or Giant Hog)

As it got darker



We also watched a group of hyena greet each other and play...



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Great start @@TonyQ ! I've been looking forward to seeing you publishing something since your fabulous South Luangwa TR several months ago.


Are those digital photos or scans?

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On the eastern side of the QENP we visited the Kyambura Gorge. The gorge has steep forested walls – we walked down to the river and explored (with guide). Some chimps were visible



Pied Colobus (Ghereza Colobus? East African Highland Form)

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Hi there! These are taken with my first digital camera -Canon 350D (8mp) and a cheap Canon 75-300 lens. Up until this trip I had always been a film user - and I was still adapting!

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On the way back to base



More waterbuck, showing the different rear-end markings


Back at base


Banded mongoose and baby


In the afternoon we visited the Kazinga Channel, taking a cruise on a busy boat, which was actually very enjoyable – but I am sure you would have a better experience if you were to get a private boat.







The buffalo are interesting


They are a redder colour and have hairy ears!



Ugandan Kob

(similar looking to the Puku we saw recently in Zambia –though I had not heard of Puku at the time of this trip!)

Edited by TonyQ
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Hi there! These are taken with my first digital camera -Canon 350D (8mp) and a cheap Canon 75-300 lens. Up until this trip I had always been a film user - and I was still adapting!

You have adapted very well! It is quite emotional to see someone's first digital photos, I like the mother and calf elephants and the waterbucks pictures, as well as some of the chimps and the Colobus monkeys.


The scenery of QENP seems to be nice, too - kind of green...

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Next day we set out to drive towards Ishasha





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On the way, our guide spotted something in a distant tree. (The dot here is with a 300mm lens).


We did see it was a leopard, and drove towards it


– as we got close, it decided to leave us. Our guide said he had seen a leopard in this tree before, so always looks if driving past.



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On the way in to Ishasha we also saw


Topi with very pale calf


A larger Giant Forest Hog - with an amazing face

At Ishasha we stayed in a very basic banda – with long drop toilets. There were no other tourists around. Our agent kept warning us that this was extremely basic - are we sure we want to go. Yes we did and it was great!

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Coming soon

Lions, and lots of gorillas!

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@@TonyQ ThankQ


If I'd known you'd been I'd have been bothering you by PM,. Great to see, and if you are off to Bwindi next on this trip, we will definitely be following in your footsteps this year. Lovely gorilla shot to start, and nice chimps - it's a lot easier for the chimps with the latest cameras and software to back it up. So, so difficult to shoot in the forest in those days, especially when the b##+!s were moving fast. Great to see the hogs and Kob too. I am really hoping for and looking forward to those.


Edit: And all the monkeys! That's exciting too. Then the birds.... so many firsts to come!

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@@TonyQ - the TR is getting progressively more interesting. Since you are posting at this very moment, I will just shut up and let you deal with the text and the photos. :)

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This part of the park is quite near the border with DRC (Zaire). It was compulsory to take an armed guard on the drives - in case of incursions from over the border rather than protection from animals!



These lions were pretty tired!



A bit of interest in us!

A little later we found that lions do indeed climb trees in Ishasha



And on the way back..


A couple of Topi checking us out



Ugandan Kob + suckling baby

Next morning, an early start to head in the direction of Bwindi but first



Buffalo watch us go by

Edited by TonyQ
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From Ishasha, we drove towards Bwindi, through patches of forest and areas of fields and terraces.


We Stayed at Bwindi Camp – a very nice lodge operated by Volcanoes – friendly staff – great views across the gorge to the forest. – the Bwindi Inpenetrable National Park


We walked in the forest (you must have a guide) – it was beautiful.




As we were leaving there was a torrential downpour (ponchos were very useful)


This was an exciting phase ot the trip - tomorrow we hope to see Gorillas

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Thanks for reading and comments


Thank you


Technology (and hopefully technique!) move on. The former probably more rapidly than the latter.

The light (or absence thereof) can be challenging, but a modern camera will have much better low light capability - and you will have much better lenses. No IS at this stage - I don't know if it was available but I don't think I was aware of it.

I look forward to a trip report from this area from @@pault


We arrived at QENP on August 7th - to be honest I don't remember if our guide mentioned the conditions. I suppose we didn't think it was unusual as previous safaris had been in a very dry Tanzania, a very dry Botswana and a very dry Zimbabwe! It is interesting that it was much greener when you were there.

We picked the time so that we had a better chance of dry weather when tracking gorillas - which luckily we did.

Edited by TonyQ
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@@TonyQ thanks for the lovely report and photos! Love the gorilla at the beginning and the pale topi calf, the elephant calf and the lion in the tree (also the lions lyin' around!) I will also be following in your footsteps some day at which time I will probably bug you, @@pault and @Atravelynn for info! Seeing the gorillas is the #1 Africa wish for me but I don't know when I'm going to make it happen. Hopefully while I'm still slightly able-bodied! Looking forward to more.

Edited by SafariChick
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Excellent look back on your trip.

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Technology (and hopefully technique!) move on. The former probably more rapidly than the latter.

ha ha


Nice job photographing the primates with your more primitive technology and technique. You had great views of one of my all time favorites--the giant forest hog. No better place than QE to see them. The lions were even climbing trees for you. All the QE standards were out in force.


Uganda really has tremendous diversity. Isn't it fun revisiting that diversity?


I'm glad @@pault has seen this!

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Thank you - gorillas coming up next - you do need to be slightly able bodied - and we had to work on our fitness!


Thank you (I have enjoyed looking back!)


Thank you - it is a diverse country that has many problems but we enjoyed it a lot!

Edited by TonyQ
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The next morning we drove to the UWA base for a briefing.

We then drove to the start of the trekking point. The trek takes place in a group of a maximum of 8 tourists with a guide. The group we were to track was the Habinyanja group. Trackers start from the place where the gorillas spent the night, track them and inform the guides where they are today. You then trek towards them – the distance can vary from half an hour to quite a few hours. It involves climbing steep hills, descending, climbing more hills.


It is possible to hire a porter to carry a bag ($10 for the day –we hired one each) - as well as creating local employment linked to protecting the gorillas, it also makes the trekking easier (as they give you a hand up over some difficult bits!)


Our trekking was 2-3 hours, mostly uphill in hot conditions and with a bit of altitude (up to around 2500m). Walking boots essential – the ground is steep and sometimes slippery. We took a poncho (didn’t need it on the trek) and heavy duty gardening gloves, as sometimes you are grabbing plants to help you up (they were more use in Rwanda where some of the plants were like very large nettles). I strongly recommend long trousers.


We had put some preparation in before the trip to improve our fitness, and we are glad that we did!

As we got reached a higher point, we stopped for a final briefing:

The briefing:

  • Only one hour allowed to reduce stress on the gorillas – each gorilla group is only visited once per day.
  • Tourists should not visit if they are ill – gorillas can catch human diseases.
  • Flash photography is not permitted – it frightens the gorillas
  • Visitors should keep a distance of 7m from the gorillas (not always possible - you should retreat if they come closer, but sometimes the guide will say “stay where you are”)
  • The group should stay together to allow the gorillas plenty of room
  • Keep low – sit or crouch so you do not appear threatening to the gorillas
  • Don’t raise arms, point, or stare the gorillas in the eyes
  • Don’t run if a gorilla charges
  • Be quiet (whisper)
  • Don’t eat

We left bags, sticks etc. with the porters and climbed for a few more minutes up a steep slope and reached a plateau. And in almost disbelief, we saw lying ahead of us


A large silverback relaxing


All thoughts of heat or effects of climbing vanished. The family of gorillas is in the forest, spread out a bit, some of them moving through the forest around us. You are allowed one hour with the group. It is a magical hour – it goes very quickly, but it is a massive experience that fills that hour.


The light in the forest was not great for photography. This trip was the first where we had used digital cameras (Canon 350D) and we were pleased with the ISO flexibility compared to film (although by current standards not great!).





Some of the gorillas were keen on eating red bark


I am sure we have all felt like this!

Edited by TonyQ
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When we visited, information suggested there were 650 mountain gorillas in the world. (checking now, information suggests possibly 750-800). They live in Bwindi, Rwanda and the DRC. The Bwindi gorillas tend to live at a lower altitude than the Rwanda gorillas and apparently travel larger distances.


Adult male mountain gorillas are large animals; they reach heights of 5-6 feet, and can weigh 180Kg (400pounds).



Gorillas moved around us, some in the trees, some on the ground...




They seemed fairly relaxed in our company..


The hour was over - but it was a great hour.



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How do you follow such an amazing wildlife experience? We relaxed for the rest of the day at the lodge, and did some walking the next day.


We just wanted to absorb the experience rather than rush on to another.

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@@TonyQ - I like the entire TR so far, I like your style or writing and presenting information in general (considering your SLNP report), but this part is truly amazing! I have never read any safari reports involving gorillas and this might be part of the reason why it is so interesting to me. Amazing gorilla photos from a close range! Fabulous experience!

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