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


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Wonderful pictures, great story! Thank you so much for posting. What a fantastic experience!

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As we left the lodge we saw heavily cultivated land right up to the edge of the national park.


We travelled south towards Lake Bunyoni, an interesting journey passing through agricultural land, but still seeing some wildlife.





The delightfully named Gentle Monkey (Blue Monkey)


Pied Colobus


Wildlife and agriculture coexist

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We travelled across Lake Bunyoni in a small boat.We stayed at Bushara Island Camp. The people were friendly and seemed pleased to see us and it was fascinating to see them go about their business.




The island itself was pleasant enough, but nothing special, and if doing the journey again, we probably would not go to it – but it was relaxing and did provide a break for reflection between our 2 gorilla viewings. We also really enjoyed the journey to and from it.


Travelling back from the island we saw many small boats transporting people and goods.




And a bit more wildlife


L’Hoest’s Monkey

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We crossed the border from Uganda into Rwanda. Procedures were straightforward. On the Ugandan side, people queued in an orderly way; on the Rwandan side people crowded round the immigration desk – a very different approach.


At the time of this trip, friends thought it was very odd to be going to Rwanda


As a reminder of Rwanda’s recent history:

Between April and June 1994, an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed in the space of 100 days. (This is out of an estimated population of 7million.) Most of the dead were Tutsis - and most of those who perpetrated the violence were Hutus.

At the same time, Tutsi refugees in Uganda - supported by some moderate Hutus - were forming the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). In July, after much fighting, the RPF captured Kigali. The government collapsed and the RPF declared a ceasefire.

As soon as it became apparent that the RPF was victorious, an estimated two million Hutus fled to Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). This mass movement of people has contributed to the destabilisation in the DRC that has continued for years since.


So this visit was only 11 years after these horrific events. It really does show the resilience of people.


We saw many people walking along the road



There was a big market, which is used by people from DRC, Rwanda and Uganda. Even at this stage, it was obvious that most of the manufactured goods were Made in China.



We travelled to the Parc National de Volcan, and stayed o/n at the Volcanoes Lodge. This was very comfortable with a great view across the lake.


This was more luxurious than the lodge at Bwindi - but we preferred the Bwindi one because of its very friendly staff. We were only here for one night, and that was spent in anticipation of an early start next morning, and hopefully another encounter with Gorillas

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Great cultural experience @@TonyQ ! I like the photos of people and boats on the lake. Visiting Rwanda in 2005 has been another great experience. The whole trip is very different than visiting mainstream safari lodges or camps.

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A wonderful trip report, @@TonyQ , thanks for digging this up in your archives.


Seeing gorillas must be one of the most incredible wildlife experiences there is, I really hope to do it someday, hopefully rather sooner than later.


And it's very clear that Uganda has to offer so much more, QE looks very nice indeed. That giant hog is very impressive.


Fascinating primate diversity as well, seeing so many different species must be great. That chimp showcasing his teeth looks almost scary (they are accomplished hunters after all).


The pictures of landscapes, agriculture and people are very interesting, I always like these. Those ankor cattle are quite something.


Looking forward to more!

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Thank you - it was a different sort of experience - we enjoyed seeing some of the country as well as the wildlife. I think it helps understand the pressure for land and resources.



Thank you fo kind comments.

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Very early next morning we went to the base for Gorilla tracking. We had been booked to visit the Sabinyo Group (Named after Mount Sabinyo). The procedure was very similar to the tracking in Uganda. The probability of seeing Gorillas is very high, but not 100% guaranteed (another reason we decided to do two treks).


The Gorillas here tend to live at higher altitude than at Bwindi (1800m- 3500m). The vegetation at this altitude is a bit different, not so much forest, more bamboo. In some places the ground vegetation is thicker, but there is not so much canopy cover.


Again we hired a porter, and trekked for 2-3 hours. We could feel the altitude, and were pleased we had spent time at Bwindi first so that we had made some adjustment. The gardening gloves we brought with us were very useful here as we grabbed nettles to help us up the slopes (we gave the gloves to the porters at the end of the trek). Sometimes we were walking on thick vegetation that did not feel completely solid underfoot.


Again, as we came into sight of our first Gorilla, all discomfort was forgotten.



The silverback looked at us with interest


but did not look over-concerned


As we walked into the area occupied by the Gorillas, one of them came over and greeted the guide and then returned to the group. (The same guide leads groups virtually every day, and the Gorillas know him well).




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We then sat or crouched for an hour, with Gorillas all around us. We did not feel threatened or afraid. They were giant peaceful, intelligent animals going about their family life. For an hour it could appear like paradise.





The rules are that you should stay about 7m from the Gorillas. The Gorillas have not read the rules. If they come closer, you should back away if possible, but sometimes it is not, and the guides advise you should look down. One gorilla brushed past Mrs Q.



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We were very luck as one of the females had a very young baby


She looks down at her baby as a proud, caring mother


The baby is very sleepy


but does wake up to see what is going on - it is hard to imagine a cuter animal!

The mother got up and walked past me carrying her baby, and put her hand on my leg as she went by. An unbelievable experience.

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Gorillas were all around us, relaxing, and toddler was playing (as they do)








Another youngster was also having a go


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The Gorillas in Rwanda look different to those in Bwindi. The fur is longer, not quite so dark (or that could be the light!) and apparently the facial shape is a bit different. (we did not notice the latter – and it is difficult to tell with a small sample). I think the longer fur is quite apparent, possibly linked to the higher altitude.


At the time we noticed there was debate over whether the differences were sufficient to make them different sub-species, but I think the consensus has become they both belong to gorilla gorilla beringei. We were very pleased we had decided to see both populations.




Its hard to see where on Gorilla starts and another on ends - they were pretty relaxed




The hour was up, we walked down the slopes and back to the base – exhilarated, tired and thoughtful. This was the most wonderful wildlife experience we have had –before or since.

Edited by TonyQ
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We drove down through the country, passing through agricultural land to drive to Kigali.



We stayed at the Milles Collines Hotel (Hotel Rwanda in the film). We could have visited places in Kigal (such as the genocide museum), but we decided to just relax, have a beer and reflect on the experience of the gorillas and of the whole trip. Next day we flew home.


People have asked if we would go back to see the gorillas – perhaps surprisingly we say no. It was such a marvellous experience that any repeat could not be the same; the viewing would I am sure be as good, the photos would be better, but the emotional experience would not. So we leave them as memories.



Seeing Gorillas is expensive (even more so now than when we went). It is however, a bargain. If you go, I doubt very much that you will regret it.



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This part of the report is mind-blowing @@TonyQ ! Such an emotional interaction with wild animals that can not be done with any other species. This makes pretty much any other safari to look too casual... I also agree with your statement that a repeated visit can not be as emotional. Thank you for sharing this fabulous experience!

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@@TonyQ thank you SO much for sharing this. The mama and baby are amazing, and the toddlers are adorable! All the photos and your writing really combine to make a really special trip report.

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Just loved the gorilla photos and memories. Thank you.

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Lovely trip report. A great balance of wildlife, with the main stars being the great apes. Epic scenery shots too.
Very short and sweet, liked this one a lot!

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Thank you. When sitting with them, Gorillas do feel different to other animals we have been with. I am sure this is linked to the style of experience that is possible as well as their similarity to us (larger more peaceful versions).


The treks are hard work - at a couple of hours or so each way we thought they were ideal. You felt you had worked enough to find the Gorillas but were not a total wreck when we arrived. In another thread about Gorilla tracking you mention a group who walked for 15 mins to see them - this would have felt too short - but I am pleased we didn't have 4 hours.


Not returning to something that has been perfect may just be us - but in this case it was such a strong experience. There are a couple of other places where we would not return because a trip was so good.



Thank you - the youngsters are great to watch



Thank you - it was fun revisiting them!



Thank you. We planned it so that the Gorillas would come at the end - to help with acclimatization -but also to finish with the main purpose of the trip. As the trip is old, I thought the report should be short!

Edited by TonyQ
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Edited by TonyQ
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Fantastic gorilla section. Great photos of them - so much feeling. Very interesting what you say about not actually wanting to see the gorillas again.


And I am also glad for the shots from the road. Beautiful scenery, even if it should all be forest.


I read somewhere that Lake Bunyonyi has a remarkably high population of African Clawless Otters and that they are very easy to see. Did you see any? Why did you go there and what were you expecting?

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Thank you for the kind comments


Re: Lake Bunyoni

We hope it would be relaxing at the Lake, and it was. When we were planning we thought we might need some R&R after a tough Gorilla Trek , but really we didn't need it as the whole trip was relaxing even if sometimes physically tough. We also wanted a gap inbtween the 2 Gorilla treks.

We didn't see any otters - some birds - but really it was the people we found most interesting.

(Speaking of birds, I forgot to mention in the report that although we were not birders, we did see about 80 species of birds during the trip)

Edited by TonyQ
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This story and the pictures are truly wonderful. I feel emotional just looking at the pictures of the gorillas, I can hardly imagine what it must of been like to be there in person. Such lovely scenes of the mother and the baby, the large males, and the toddlers playing. Then to have one brush against Mrs. Q. and the mother put her hand on your leg. How precious those memories are for the two of you.



I love the scenery pictures and those of the people going about their lives also. Thank you so very much for taking the time and the effort for sharing this very special experience with us.

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"How do you follow such an amazing wildlife experience?"


Good question! Your followup of enjoying memories but no return because the emotional experience would not be the same is quite touching. At least you get to return via sharing this report with us all. You really had exceptional viewing, especially in Bwindi where the "Impenetrable Forest" can make viewing hard. Really special encounters.



L’Hoest’s Monkey = well done!

Edited by Atravelynn
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i've just read your report in its entirety in one reading. how strange it is, to see your pictures of the gorillas - from baby to silverbacks - and feel so connected to them and so emotional about the experience, without even being there in their presence. is it because of the pensiveness in their eyes? the gentleness in their very beings? there's something so raw and so touching when they gaze at you with such trust.

thank you TonyQ for this report and the incredible photos. they really touched me.

Edited by Kitsafari
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