Safari Bucket List Adventures To Start With In 2023

When some one mentions destination East Africa, there are a number of bucket list adventures that come to mind. The region has diverse wildlife species and is currently a must visit for nature lovers. The past years have been hard with the COVID 19 Pandemic effects but the year 2023 will be a great year as many countries have fully recovered from COVID. With this, an African safari is highly recommended as you get to tick some adventure activities off your bucket list. Let us look at the top experiences that you must not visit while in East Africa.

This primate trekking experience tops the bucket list of many travelers to the region. Mountain gorillas live in the forested mountains of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the Virunga massif. They have over 95% DNA similar to humans and are therefore among man’s closest wild relatives. Mountain gorillas live in families that are headed by a dominant male called Silverback and can be up to 20 individuals in one family.

They are pure vegetarians with their diet mainly comprised of plant vegetation, wild fruits, and bamboo shoots. Meeting the mountain gorillas in their most preferred habitats is very remarkable and a once-in-a-lifetime experience you must do while in East Africa. There are 4 main gorilla national parks in the region. They include Volcanoes national park in Rwanda, Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable national parks in Uganda, and Virunga national park in DRC.

Because of the ongoing civil conflict in DRC, Virunga national park is currently closed and at the moment even gorilla trekking adventures are not possible. But the other three national parks are safe and open for tourist visitation. Important to note is that gorilla trekking is highly demanded and it is important to book the permits in advance.

This annual animal migration in Serengeti and Masai mara is an interesting event that is highly anticipated by wildlife enthusiasts. Millions of wildebeest, hundreds of Thompson gazelles, zebras and other major grazers move over the Serengeti and Masai mara ecosystem for fresh pasture. They stretch over the open plains in a journey that attracts predators, especially the big cats as they seek to get prey for their own survival.

The wildebeest migration is a life and death journey that as many are hunted, many are also given birth to especially in January. This rejuvenates the herbivores’ crowds and the migration cycle continues. Seeing animals in large numbers as it usually is the case for the migration is incredible. It is very ideal for wildlife viewing as game drives in national parks are all about that. On the wildebeest migration however it is even more impressive with not only the numbers but the variety of wildlife species present.

Crossings of the Mara and Gremeti Rivers are a game changer as the wildebeest meet their other major obstacle on the course, the Nile crocodiles. Some are giants and have over the years thrived on the wildebeest migration as they also readily take down their prey as the major grazers attempt to cross the Rivers.

The best time to catch with the wildebeest migration is from September to June. This time features the calving period, the River crossings and a start of the journey back up north through central and western Serengeti. It is important to know where the wildebeest are in a particular month to book the most appropriate accommodation. There are some temporary under canvas tents that move with the migration and can be great options to consider. Visit East Africa this coming year and get the wildebeest migration off your bucket list!

An African safari without the big five mammals is usually not considered a successful one. Africa’s and savanna’s big five mammals include elephants, buffaloes, lions, leopards, and Rhinos. All of these have over the years been threatened by poaching, and habitat loss due to encroachment because of the increasing human population among other factors. Because of these, the population of major wildlife species has greatly reduced but destination east Africa thankfully still has many of these species.

In some places, species like the rhinos had gone extinct because rhinos are highly poached for medical purposes. These have however been reintroduced to foster conservation and ensure an ecosystem balance. A case in point is Rwanda’s Akagera national park which now has both black and white rhinos. The park now has all the big five mammals and safari game drives are very enjoyable. In Uganda’s Murchison falls national park, there are four of the big five with the exception of the rhinos. These however live at the Ziwa rhino sanctuary in Nakasongola about a 2 hours drive from the park. With this, you are able to experience the big five while on an adventure safari in Uganda. All safaris to Murchison falls national park features a stop over at the rhino sanctuary for rhino tracking.

Kenya and Tanzania’s wilderness’ beat Uganda and Rwanda when it comes to the big five. In Kenya’s Masai Mara national reserve, you get to see all of these and more while on game drives. In Tanzania, safari destinations like Serengeti, Selous, Ruaha, Tarangire, and many others have all or four of the big five. Here you get to enjoy classic African safaris either on game drives, nature walks, or hot air balloon safaris. Selous and Ruaha are among the less traveled paths and offer exclusive safari adventures.

East Africa is a birders’ haven and a variety of bird species. The various ecosystems in the area are home to the many bird species including endemics that occur only in the region. There are various important birding areas including Nyungwe forest in Rwanda, Akagera national park that is the largest protected wetland in the area among others.

In the open plains of the vast savanna are a number of bird species. Many of these are seen on birding safaris in the different protected area. The best birding season in the reason is from November to May when the migratory birds from Europe are in the region as well.

Birding in East Africa is very rewarding and highly recommended among the must do bucket list adventures in the region.

Uganda Safari Destinations to Explore this Off Season

There are a number of Uganda safari destinations that nature lovers love to add on their bucket list while planning to Visit the beautiful country. The country is one of the few places in the world where you can experience both primates and savanna wildlife safaris. Uganda is truly gifted by nature with diverse wildlife attractions and it is from this basis that is called the Pearl of Africa.

Uganda has two main seasons the dry and wet season. The dry season stretches from June to September and from Mid December to March. This is also doubles as the high tourist season a time when tourists from various parts of the world Visit Uganda for wildlife adventures. During the dry season, there are minimal rainfall disturbances making it the best time to explore Uganda safari destinations. For wildlife photographers this also doubles as a best time for photography with great light effects from the bright sun received in Uganda throughout the year.

When going for renown safari activities like mountain gorilla trekking, because it is done in the forested mountains, it is easy to Hike much as the trails are often wet in the morning. General activities even game drives and nature walks are very easy to do in the dry season.

The wet season from April to May and November experiences rainfall and it is the low tourist season. Much as there are rains almost every day, the low tourist season is still a good time to explore Uganda and be part of the different safari activities. For birders that is the best time to visit as migratory birds from Europe set in. Let us briefly look at the leading Uganda safari destinations you must not miss visiting this off season.

Chimpanzee in Kibale National Park. Uganda Safari destinations
Chimpanzee in Kibale National Park. Courtesy Photo

Bwindi Impenetrable national Park is most famous for mountain gorilla trekking and is home to half of the remaining mountain gorillas whose population is about 1000 individuals. Bwindi is the best place to see the rare mountain gorillas in their most preferred habitants. The park has 3 major sectors each with habituated gorilla families that are open to tourist visitation. It can be accessed by both road and air and gorilla trekking safari adventures are doable even in the wet season.

It is important to book permits for the right sector where you are required to report to the park headquarters by 7:00 am for a briefing. Because rainfall is very unpredictable especially in the wet season, it is advisable to carry a Poncho or rain coat. To easily navigate the wet muddy trails, you are advised to wear water proof pants and gaiters or boots. You are then guided to the forested mountains a hike that takes 1 to 4 hours or more until you meet the mountain gorillas. Here you are given time to take photos, observe and to learn more about the mountain gorillas. Even on a bloody rainy day you will still get to enjoy a gorilla trek in Bwindi.

Bwindi is not only home to mountain gorillas but also other primates including chimpanzees and Many other monkey species. There are also many bird species and other mammals including forest elephants and buffaloes. The park is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site and it is undeniably among the top Uganda Safari destinations to Visit this off season.

Lake Mburo national park is the smallest savanna wildlife park in Uganda. It is located in Kiruhura district about 4 hours drive from Kampala Uganda Capital city. Despite its small size, lake Mburo national park is home to various savanna wildlife species. The park is one of the only two places to see zebras in Uganda the other being Kidepo valley national park located in North eastern Uganda. With the long drives involved when going to Kidepo and some roads becoming impassable because of the rains, if you are seeking an exclusive experiences with the zebras then Lake Mburo national park is the place to be.

The park is also home to elands that do not occur in other national park in Uganda. Lands tallest mammals the giraffes also occur here and can only be seen in two other national parks in Uganda that are Murchison falls and Kidepo valley national park plus Pian Upe game reserve.

Other notable wildlife in Lake Mburo national park include the Topi, waterbucks, Oribi, warthogs and various birds. Many of these are seen while on game drives in the park. During the wet season the rains enable the growth of lush vegetation that the major grazers are seen enjoying and can easily be spotted while on game drives and nature walks. Just as per its name the park has a Lake (Mburo) where you can enjoy a boat cruise seeing Hippos and other aquatic wildlife. There is also an ankole community near the park where you can enjoy a community visit participating in local activities like Milking.

Given the accessibility and the activities you get to engage in, lake Mburo should not miss on your top Uganda safari destinations to visit this season.

The primate capital of the world can not fail to make it on this list. Kibale national park home to chimpanzees and 12 other primates species and the best place to see chimpanzees in the wild. Some of the notable primates here include the Black and white colobus monkeys, red tailed monkeys, blue monkeys among others.

The park has the highest chimpanzee population in the region and chimpanzee trekking is the commonly done adventure activity here. There are two chimpanzee trekking sessions here the morning and afternoon one. The morning session starts with a briefing at the park headquarters and then you set off for a guided trek from 8 am lasting for 3 to 4 hours depending on the movement of the chimpanzees. The afternoon session starts at 2 pm and also last for 3 to 4 hours. Unlike some primates like mountain gorillas, chimpanzees are very mobile and often times they jump over tree canopies.

To allow for experiential adventures and give people more time to get to know about Mans’ closest wild relatives, there is chimpanzee habituation experience in Kibale national park. This experience enables you to follow the daily routine of the chimpanzees starting from when they wake up, feed, groom, interact and retire. The chimpanzee habituation experience is best for researchers and those who would like to spend more time in the wild with chimpanzees.

Murchison falls national park is Uganda’s leading savanna national park and the best place to see major savanna wildlife species. The park is situated at the northern edge of the Albertine rift valley near Lake Albert one of the great Rift Valley lakes. Murchison falls National park is crossed by the great River Nile on its journey up north and forms a great waterfalls – Murchison falls from which the park was named.

The Great River Nile at Murchison falls plunges down a 7 meter narrow gorge forming a thunderous sound and often has a rainfall on a sunny day. The waterfalls are very magnificent to watch and are often seen while on a boat cruise to the bottom of the falls. From here one can hike to the top of the falls for a panoramic view of the falls and surrounding area.

The park has diverse wildlife species and is the best most diverse national park with 4 of the big Five mammals. There are over 76 mammals and 450 birds most of which are seen on game drives while in the park. The northern sector has the highest wildlife concentration and it is where most game drives are done. Notable wildlife species to see here include giraffes, leopards, buffaloes, elephants, hartebeests, warthogs among other.

Apart from the boat cruise to the bottom of the falls, there is another boat cruise to the Nile delta boat that offers yet another exploration of the great River Nile. This is usually done by birders hoping to see a number of birds including the shoebill stork in the marches of Nile Delta. You can also do sport fishing along the River and on a lucky day can catch some of the biggest Nile Perches.

Murchison falls national park is true wildlife gem and a Must visit when exploring leading Uganda safari destinations.

Join Kwita Izina 2022 As More Baby Gorillas are Named

Kwita Izina 2022 is set for 2nd September in Volcanoes national park as more baby gorillas will be named. Kwita Izina is a naming ceremony of baby mountain gorillas that started in 2005. It was started to foster mountain gorilla conservation, give back to the community and recognise individuals who are directly involved in the day to day conservation efforts like the rangers, Veterinary doctors and many wildlife conservation enthusiasts.

The Kwita Izina 2022 will be the 18th edition and so far 354 mountain gorillas have been named so far. The mountain gorilla population had greatly declined because of civil war and poaching but thanks to the conservation efforts the numbers have steadily increased.

A number of delegates are expected to grace the Kwita Izina 2022 as Rwanda celebrate yet another great milestone in mountain gorilla conservation. This will be a great opportunity to get to know more about destination Rwanda. The country has diverse wildlife species including endemics to the region.

About Mountain Gorillas

Mountain gorillas are apes with over 95% DNA similar to humans. They are covered with black fur with a silver lining on the back especially for fully grown mountain gorillas. They live in families ranging from 1 to 20 and sometimes more. Each mountain gorilla family is headed by a dominant male gorilla called Silverback.

These gentle giants are vegetarian with their diet mainly comprising of plant vegetation. They prefer to live in the forested mountains and it is where their name mountain gorillas was derived from.

Mountain gorillas are rare and endemic to the Virunga massif that include Volcanoes national park Rwanda and Bwindi impenetrable forest national park. Being among man’s closest relatives they offer a more personal and relatable experience with a feel of meeting one’s long seen relative.

During this Kwita Izina 2022 ceremony you can be part of the gorilla trekking adventures in volcanoes national park. The park has about 12 habituated mountain gorilla families that are open to tourist visitation each offering a unique experience.

A trek to the Virunga mountains in Volcanoes national park for mountain gorillas also offers you an opportunity to see other wildlife species in the park. You can see a number of species, different plant vegetation and if lucky you can spot other mammals like forest elephants.

The Gorilla Trekking Experience

This starts early morning with a briefing at the park headquarters at 7:00 am. Here guests going to the forest mountains are briefed about the gorilla trekking rules and regulations. These include ensuring to stay with colleagues in the group, minimising noise on the course of the trek and in the presence of the mountain gorillas, avoiding flash photography as it could irritate the mountain gorillas.

Once you get to the mountain gorillas you are recommended to stay at least 7 meters away from them. They can charge if they feel threatened and given that they way more powerful than an average human being it is always better not to challenge them.

The hike takes a 1 to 6 hours depending on the movement of the mountain gorillas. It is always recommended to take packed lunch because you can not determine where you will encounter the gorillas. Once you get to them, you will be allowed to be in the presence of the gorillas for an hour. Here you get to know more about the mountain gorillas, take photos while keeping the 7 meters.

Other Park Activities for Kwita Izina 2022

Apart from mountain gorillas, Volcanoes national park is home to golden monkeys. During this Kwita Izina 2022 you can also do a golden monkey trek in the park where you will meet golden monkeys other rare primates in the park. Golden monkeys are endemic to the Virunga massif and Volcanoes national park is among the few places where you can see them.

Just like their name, golden monkeys are covered with golden fur. They also live in families of up to 20 individuals. Tracking golden monkeys is a great complementary primate trek to the gorillas and it works well for those with at least 3 days in the park.

Mountain Hiking is another adventure you can engage in while in Volcanoes national park for the Kwita Izina 2022. Mount Karisimbi the highest of the Virunga massif mountains can be hiked in 2 days spending a night in the mountain. Hiking this mountain offers you a chance to see the wildlife starting from the different vegetation types at the different mountain ranges.

Mount Bisoke is also very magnificent to hike and has a crater on its summit. While on the hike you get to have great views of the Virunga massif. You will also see other wildlife especially birds.

The Dian Fossey hike to Karisoke is also recommended. Here you will hike up to where Dian Fossey was buried near her favourite gorilla digit as you get to know more about her conservation works.

Where to Stay

There are a number of accommodation facilities in Volcanoes national park ranging from budget to high end luxury facilities. Since September is also a peak tourist season, a number of lodges are already fully booked and it is better to cross check and book in advance.

For easy accessibility to the park it is better to book the lodges and hotels in close proximity in the park. Incase you have very limited time in Rwanda you can do a day tour from Kigali with a pick up from your Kigali Hotel at 4:30 am. It takes a 3 hours drive from Kigali to the park to be able to reach in time for briefing before going for gorilla trekking.

Incase you are staying in Gisenyi you would need to be picked up at 5:00 am for a transfer to Volcanoes national park.

Gorilla trekking and the different park activities can be done throughout the year. Incase you miss this years Kwita Izina you can still visit Rwanda for these adventures when it is more convenient for you.

You can also visit other leading safari destinations in Rwanda like Nyungwe forest and Akagera national parks. Nyungwe forest is located in the southwestern part of Rwanda and it is home to chimpanzees and many other primates. Here you can do chimpanzee trekking, colobus monkey trekking, guided nature walks and so much more.

Akagera national park on the other hand is home to the big five mammals. It is Rwanda’s only savanna park where one can enjoy games drives, Rhino tracking, boat cruises, birding among others.

Why You should Track Mountain gorillas In Uganda

Mountain Gorillas are primates species that live in the forested mountains of Eastern Africa. They are among the rarest primates only found in three countries on the entire planet that are Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Mountain Gorillas are listed endangered by the IUCN and their total population is estimated at only 1000 individuals in the wild. These live in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in southwestern Uganda and in the Virunga massif a chain of dormant Volcanic mountains along the Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo border.

Mountain Gorillas are covered with thicker fur that enable them endure the cold temperatures of the region that fall below zero degrees. They are pure vegetarian and their diet mainly comprise of plant vegetation. They live in families headed by a dominant male gorilla called silverback. Some of the Mountain gorilla families have up to 20 individuals or more. Just like their name, mountain gorillas live in the mountainous areas. The elevation of Bwindi impenetrable forest for example ranges from 1,190 to 2,607 meters above sea level and that of the Virunga massif ranges from 2,400 to 4,507 meters above sea level.

A hike in the Virunga massif or Bwindi impenetrable forest offers an incredible encounter with the mountain gorillas. This experience has been described by many as a once in a life time experience. There are mainly Four mountain gorilla parks that include Volcanoes National Park Rwanda, Mgahinga gorilla and Bwindi impenetrable Forest national park in Uganda and Virunga national park in Democratic Republic of Congo. Let us look at the main reasons why you should track mountain gorillas in Uganda of all the 3 gorilla trekking destinations in East Africa.

Mountain Gorillas Bwindi Uganda
A mountain Gorilla Family in Bwindi. Courtesy Photo.

Diverse Gorilla Trekking Ecosystems

Uganda is blessed with 2 mountain gorilla parks. Mgahinga gorilla park is part of the Virunga massif ecosystem encompassing 3 of the Virunga mountains. These include Mount Gahinga, Mount Sabyinyo and Mount Muhabura. These mountains are covered with light bamboo forests that transcends into an Albertine rift montane forest with heath and moorlands and an alpine zone at the higher altitudes of the mountains.

The light bamboo forests are homes to the mountain gorillas and many other mammals in the park. There is only one habituated mountain gorilla family in this park called Nyakagezi that offers intimate and exclusive gorilla trekking experiences. A mountain gorilla trek is more like that in the other Virunga massif parks offering a great and unique primate trekking experience.

Bwindi impenetrable forest national park on the other hand comprises of a number of hills with altitudes ranging from 1,190 to 2,607 meters above sea level. These are covered with a dense afromontane home a to a variety of wildlife species including mountain gorillas. The vegetation and relief of Bwindi is different from the Virunga massif including Mgahinga gorilla park.

Trekking gorillas in Bwindi impenetrable forest offers a completely unique gorilla trekking experience from that of the Virunga massif. The forest is a home to many other primates including colobus monkeys, l’hoest monkeys, chimpanzees some of which seen while gorilla trekking. There are many other mammals in the park like forest elephants, buffaloes, a number of birds among others. It is from this animal and plant life diversity that Bwindi was given a status of a world heritage site by UNESCO.

Uganda has the highest of the remaining mountain gorilla population. Over 450 mountain gorillas live in Bwindi impenetrable forest which is half of the entire population on the planet.

Bwindi impenetrable national park has four major sectors with 22 habituated gorilla families. They include Buhoma the northern sector of the park with 6 habituated families namely Rushegura, Habinyanja, Mubaare, Katwe, Binyindo and Muyambi familes. Ruhija is the eastern sector with Bitukura, Mukiiza, Kyaguriro and Oruzogo families. The southern sector has Rushaga with Bweza, Mishaya, Nshongi, Kutu, Mucunguzi, Busingye, Kahungye and Bikingi families. Also in the south is Nkuringo with Christmas, Nkuringo, Bushaho and Posho families. All these are open for gorilla trekking offering more chances of gorilla trekking and a unique wildlife experience in the park.

Mgahinga gorilla park’s only one habituated gorilla family also adds on the numbers to Uganda’s grand total. If you are therefore looking for the numbers of high chances then Uganda is the right place to track mountain gorillas.

Other primate experiences

The mountain gorilla parks in Uganda are not only homes to mountain gorillas but other primates. Mgahinga gorilla park for example is also home to the golden monkeys that are endemic to the Virunga massif. Mgahinga gorilla park is one of the few places where you can track both mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. Just like their name, golden monkeys are covered with golden fur and also live in families of up to 20 individuals.  

You can arrange a golden monkey trek after your mountain gorilla trekking expedition. It also starts with an early morning briefing at the park headquarters from where you are led to the forest where you will meet the golden monkeys amidst sighting of other wildlife species especially birds.

 Bwindi impenetrable national park is a sanctuary for chimpanzee and colobus monkeys plus other primates. Much as trails to explore these primates are not fully developed you can spot some of them while on hikes to the gorillas. You can also take guided nature walks in the park where you will get to see a number of the primates.

Tracking gorillas in Uganda generally gives you an opportunity to to see a number of these primates and more wildlife species.

The mountain gorilla parks are surrounded by local communities where you can enjoy authentic community and cultural experiences. The Batwa trail in Mgahinga gorilla park is highly recommended as the Batwa take you back the forest demonstrating their hunting and gathering skills. There are also some Batwa communities near Bwindi impenetrable forest as well as the Bakiga. You can visit any of these communities after the gorilla trek to get to know more about the local people’s ways of life.

Best time to Visit

You can have a mountain gorilla trek in Uganda any time of the year but for best experiences it is better to visit in the dry season. This stretches from June to September and from December to March. During these months there is minimal rainfall disturbances which makes hiking through the different trails a little easy.

During the wet season you can still enjoy your gorilla trek in Uganda. It is also a great time for birding as migratory birds set in from as far as Europe.

A local Guide to Rwanda The Land of A thousand Hills

Rwanda popularly known as the land of a thousand hills is located in East Africa. Its one of the East African countries that were affected by civil war in the 1980’s. Many innocent local Rwandan people lost their lives in the famous Rwandan genocide and many were resettled.

A few decades after the deadly civil war, the country has greatly recovered and economically developed. This great transformation is attributed to hard work, forgiveness and reconciliation. Because of that Rwanda, has over the years become among East Africa’s best tourist destination.

Below is a local guide to this beautiful land of a thousand hills featuring what you Must not miss.

Kigali City-Land of A thousand Hills
Kigali City. Courtesy Photo

Kigali is Rwanda’s largest and capital city strategically located in the rolling thousand hills. Kigali is a center for economic and vibrant city life one place you Must explore while in Rwanda.

The City’s main attractions include the Kigali genocide memorial where you get to know about the Rwandan genocide. About 250,000 victims of the genocide were buried here and there is a wall of names of genocide victims. A tour to this memorial makes one appreciate the journey Rwanda has been through.

You can visit the Kandt House Museum the best place to learn about Rwandan history before and after colonial era. Kandt House was a home for Rwanda’s first colonial governor Richard Kandt who founded Kigali city in 1908.

While in Kigali you can also visit the local markets and get to interact with local Rwandan People. You can easily connect to places and can even have a Kigali walking tour as the city is very safe.

Volcanoes National Park Rwanda; Virunga Volcanoes
Virunga Mountains in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda. Photo by Eric Manzi

Volcanoes National park is a true definition of the land of a thousand hills. The park is located in the northwestern part of the country just a 3 hours drive from Kigali. Volcanoes national park has 5 of the Virunga massif mountains that are Mount Karisimbi, Muhabura, Bisoke, Sabyinyo & Gahinga.

These Volcanic mountains are covered with montane vegetation a combination of which is a haven for the rare mountain gorillas. Volcanoes national park is home to half of the mountain gorilla population in the Virunga massif. It is their an ultimate gorilla trekking destination for interested in meeting these primates.

With Mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, birds and other wildlife, volcanoes national park is Rwanda’s prime wildlife destination. The park can be accessed by road and can be visited anytime of the year.

3. Gisenyi

Gisenyi Beach. Visit East Africa
Gisenyi Beach along Lake Kivu. Photo by Jule Lumma

This beautiful town is situated in western Rwanda along the shores of Lake Kivu. Gisenyi neighbors Goma, DRC’s eastern town and its a gateway for those interested in wildlife adventures in Eastern Congo.

Given that Gisenyi is along Lake Kivu, its has beautiful beaches where one can relax sunbathing and enjoying Rwanda’s weather. While here you can engage in water sport activities like snorkeling, boat cruise with singing fishermen and Kayaking.

There are various tea & plantations here and one can visit one to learn about tea and coffee growing. From the plantations you can also visit the hot springs as you interact with the Rwandan people.

Nyungwe National Park Rwanda. Land of A thousand Hills
Tropical Rain-forest in Nyungwe. Courtesy Photo

A visit to the land of a thousand hills is usually incomplete without Nyungwe forest. The vast forest is located in the southwestern part of Rwanda covering a land area of 970 square kilometres.

Nyungwe forest is among East Africa’s oldest forests with rain-forests, grassland, swamp, bog and bamboo vegetation. These are homes to wildlife species including 13 primate species, 85 mammals, 275 birds, 38 reptile and 32 amphibian species.

The forest was gazetted into a national park and has Rwanda’s highest chimpanzee population. Chimpanzee tracking is therefore the leading wildlife activity in the park plus other primate treks, nature walks and canopy walk.

Adjacent to Nyungwe forest are vast tea plantations that you can visit as you enjoy the breeze from the forest. Here you interact with the local people as you to know more about their ways of life.
Rwanda is among the regions tourist destinations and when you Visit East Africa don’t miss out on the above.

5 Memorable Uganda Wildlife Safari Discoveries

A post COVID-19 Lock-down safari to the Pearl of Africa offers Memorable Uganda wildlife discoveries. Uganda opened up for tourists on 1st October and is among the Must Visit wildlife safari destinations in East Africa.

Arriving tourists are expected to have tested negative for COVID 19 within 72 hours prior to arrival. On departure one is again required to test 72 hours before departure to ensure that he/she left the country safe. All these tests must be done from a credible health facilities and will be required at the airport.

Below are some of Uganda wildlife discoveries you will enjoy while on a safari to this beautiful country.

1. Mountain Gorillas

These rare apes inhabit the forested mountains of Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga gorilla parks in southwestern Uganda. The total mountain gorilla population on the entire planet is estimated at 1063 and Uganda has half in Bwindi. Mountain gorilla trekking in Bwindi and Mgahinga offers finest Uganda wildlife discoveries as you meet the gorillas in the wild.

A gorilla trek starts in the morning taking 1 to 6 hours depending on the movement of the gorillas. As you hike the forested mountains you encounter other wildlife species in the park especially birds.

When on a visit to Uganda ensure to have a mountain gorilla trek on your bucket list. Gorilla tracking can be done anytime of the year and permits for international tourists cost USD 700 per person.

Mountain Gorilla Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Mountain Gorilla in Bwindi Uganda. Courtesy Photo

2. Shoe-bill Storks at Mabamba Swamp

Mabamba swamp is located in Entebbe on the northern shores of lake Vitoria. The swamp is one of the best birding spots in Uganda with over 300 bird species. The swamp is home to the rare shoe-bill storks that are incredible Uganda wildlife discoveries while on birding excursions.

Mabamba is one of the best places in Uganda for spotting the shoe-bill stork often attracted by the lungfish. Lungfish is the Shoe-bill storks favorite food and shoe-bill storks are often seen on the lookout for fish.

There are over 12 shoe-bill storks here and the best time for a shoe-bill stork excursion is 7:00 am. You can as well try out late evening like from 5:00 pm and also get to enjoy the African sunset. Other notable bird species at Mabamba swamp include African Fish eagles, African Jacanas, Black-headed herons, blue swallow Egrets and others.

Shoebill Stork at Mabamba Swamp. Safari Experiences
Shoe-bill stork at Mabamba Swamp. Photo by Ryan Wilkes

3. Chimpanzees in Kibale Forest National Park

Uganda is no doubt East Africa’s primates haven with the largest chimpanzee population in the world in Kibale National Park. There are several chimpanzee families with over 30 individuals that are often encountered here.

Chimpanzees are mans’ closest primate species with over 95% DNA similar to humans. They live in a setup of families just like human beings headed by dominant male chimpanzees. These determine the days routine and spend most of the day feeding and looking for fresh feeding areas.

Trek with the chimpanzees of Kibale forest national park for memorable Uganda wildlife discoveries of the primate world. A chimpanzee permit for international tourists cost USD 200 but they are on high demand. Ensure to have your chimpanzee permit booked on advance in order to be part of this wildlife adventure.

Chimpanzee Kibale Forest National Park Destination Uganda
Chimpanzee in Kibale Forest National Park. Photo by Jonathan Benaiah

4. Snow capped Rwenzori Mountains

These are located in western Uganda in Rwenzori mountains National park a habitat to unusual wildlife species. Rwenzori mountain ranges stretch along the Uganda DRC border with the highest peak Margherita at 5,109 meters above sea level.

The Mountains are very unique as the upper parts are snow capped and with glaciers forming incredible wildlife features. A number of adventurous mountain climbers often take on the Rwenzori challenge to have fun and explore the snow.

The slower slopes of the Rwenzori mountains are covered with various vegetation types from tropical rainforests. These act as homes to wildlife including the rare three horned chameleon. A hike to the snow capped Rwenzori mountains no doubt presents unique Uganda wildlife discoveries.

Rwenzori Mountains. Uganda Wildlife Discoveries
Snow capped Rwenzori Mountains. Photo by Ssebuuma Ivan

5. The Nile River at Murchison Falls National Park

The Nile River is Africa’s longest river that start its journey north through Sudan and Egypt to the Mediterranean sea. The River is one of Africa’s hopes of life as it supports a number of wildlife species.

In Uganda the Nile river forms the great Murchison falls as its squeezed in a 10 meters gorge. With this pressure, the falls form a thunderous sound and a permanent rain-ball; quite a spectacular sight to watch.

As the Nile river leaves the gorge, it gives a breath of life with incredible wildlife species often seen here. These include Nile Crocodiles, Africa’s giants like Elephants usually seen at the river banks feeding. All these can be well explored while on the Murchison falls bottom of the falls boat cruise.

Murchison falls is Uganda’s finest Savanna national park with wildlife like Buffaloes, giraffes, warthogs, antelopes usually explore on game drives. The park is a 5 to 6 hours drive from Kampala Uganda’s Capital City and can be accessed by road. In-case you don’t want this drive then you can fly from Entebbe to Pakuba airstrip located within the park.

Gato A Female Mountain Gorilla Gives Birth to Twins in Virunga National Park

Female Mountain Gorilla with Newly Born Twins. Virunga National Park DRC
Gato With Her Newly Born Twins. Courtesy Photo

Last week of September was Celebration in Virunga National Park as Gato a female mountain gorilla gave birth to twins. Gato, the Female mountain gorilla is part of Nyakamwe gorilla family that is found in Bukima area of Virunga park.

Mountain gorillas live in families ranging from 2 to 20 or more led by dominant male mountain gorillas called Silver-backs. The Nyakamwe gorilla family in Virunga National park is led by Silver-back Nyakamwe and has about 4 female mountain gorillas.

Nyakamwe gorilla family was formed by Silver-back Nyakamwe in 2014 after he conflicted with his brother Humba. Nyakamwe then decided to separate from Humba starting a new family though he left with 10 other gorillas.

With the birth of twins in the Nyakamwe family, the gorilla family numbers have definitely increased. Given that there are about 4 female gorillas in this family, we hope that there will be more births.

About Female Mountain Gorillas

Female Mountain gorillas usually move from their initial families at the age of 8. They do this to join another gorilla family or start one with a lone male mountain gorilla. After this female gorillas move to different new families several times before they finally settle down with a particular silver-back.

Female gorillas have a gestation period of 8.5 months very similar to human beings. In Virunga National park DRC, there many habituated gorilla families open for tourist visitation. In-case you are interested in visiting gorilla families with many females and infant gorillas inform your guide early enough.

A mountain gorilla trek in Virunga national park is very rewarding with sightings of the major mountains like Mount Nyiragongo. Ensure to book in advance as mountain gorilla permits easily get full booked.

Virunga national park is currently closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and likely to open again early 2021. By the time it opens the twin baby gorillas birthed by Gato will have grown a bit. Infant mountain gorillas only leave their mothers at around 21 months spending most of their time away from them.

Mountain gorilla baby births has tremendously increased during lock-down in the Virunga Massif and Bwindi Impenetrable national park Uganda. Gorillas were born in Volcanoes NP Rwanda, and a gorilla baby boom in Bwindi with 5 births in 5 weeks.

While on a Safari to East Africa, don’t miss out on the mountain gorilla tracking experiences in any of the gorilla parks. Virunga National Park is highly recommended as you might meet Gato the female mountain gorilla mother of twins.

Kwita Izina Baby Gorilla Naming Ceremony to Be Held Virtually This Year

Kwita Izina. Discounted Mountain Gorilla Permits
Infant Gorilla in Volcanoes NP Rwanda. Photo by Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund

Kwita Izina is a baby mountain gorilla naming ceremony that’s held every year in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda. During this ceremony, infant gorillas born in the past year are named just like the Rwandan human naming traditional ceremony.

Kwita Izina is a conservation avenue that helps in keeping track and monitoring all the newly born mountain gorillas. It officially started in 2005 and this they will be marking 15 years of gorilla naming.

Before Kwita Izina was officially started, baby mountain gorillas would be named by the park ranger guides and researchers. Once it was officially opened, other conservation activities and sensitisation process were introduced. The ceremony therefore usually last a couple of days where conservation presentations are made as well as exhibitions.

During the Kwita Izina ceremony, baby mountain gorillas are given Kinyarwanda names that usually have meaning in the local Kinyarwanda language. The meaning of the name is often attributed to gorilla behavior or circumstances under which they were born.

In this years naming ceremony, 24 baby gorillas are expected to be named but virtually. This is to avoid spreading of COVID-19 disease that has affected economies worldwide bringing in the need for social distancing. For the past 14 years, the Kwita Izina ceremony would attract a number of participants numbering to a thousands. These included conservation and mountain gorilla enthusiasts and world’s famous celebrities.

Baby Gorillas to be Named

There are 24 baby gorillas that were born in the past year and will be named in this years ceremony. Some of them include the following;

Isaro infant gorilla who was born on 8th August 2019 in the Musilikale’s gorilla group. The baby’s mother Isaro joined the Musilikale group in 2017 and the whole gorilla family has 22 gorilla individuals. 10 of these are juvenile and infant gorillas and therefore this is a good group for those who are interested in baby gorillas.

Faida infant gorilla was born in the Kuryama gorilla family around August 2019. The baby’s mother is called Faida and she joined this gorilla family in 2018.

Ubufatanye infant who was born in May 2020 also in the Musilikale gorilla family. The mother is just 16 years and has two other young gorillas at the ages of 5 and 3 years.

Kanama infant gorilla was born around October 2019 also to the Kuryama gorilla family and his mother also moved to this gorilla family.

Pasika infant who was born in July 2019 in the Mafunzo family. He is a male infant gorillas and his mother Pasika joined this gorilla family in 2018.

Mahirwe infant gorilla was born to Mahirwe a female gorilla around September 2019.

Other baby gorillas to be named include Akaramata infant gorilla born around April 2019 in the Pablo gorilla group.

Mudakama infant gorilla born around September 2019 to Mudakama female gorilla who is 33 years old.

There have been many other births and the names will be revealed in the Kwita Izina Ceremony on 24th September 2020.

Uganda Opens Entebbe International Airport and borders For Tourists After 7 months Closure

Uganda Airlines; Entebbe International Airport
Uganda Airlines Bombardier. Courtesy Photo

H.E Yoweri Museveni on 20th September 2020 announced the opening up of Entebbe International Airport and land borders for tourists. This is after a 7 months closure in March that was aimed at restricting the spread of COVID-19.

The Ugandan President was holding a Presidential address on latest updates on matters regarding COVID 19.

Tourists will be required to show COVID 19 negative results at the airport tested 72 hours before arrival in Uganda.

The local tour operators have also been mandated to ensure that the tourists don’t mix with the local Ugandans. They will be directly driven to their Hotels on arrival or to the wildlife destinations like national parks.

There are airlines that will resume flights to and from Entebbe International Airport now that it is finally open. They include Uganda’s national carrier; Uganda Airlines, RwandAir, Kenya Airways, Turkish Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Qatar Airways, Brussels Airlines and others.

Earlier this month, Uganda Wildlife Authority opened primates national parks for chimpanzees and mountain gorillas that had remained closed since March. This was because primates have over 95% DNA similar to humans with high chances of contracting human disease like COVID-19.

After several consultations with the Ministry of health and local tour operators, the parks were finally opened. These will however be run basing on standard operating procedures of social distancing and sanitising.

Entebbe International airport and land borders are now fully open, tourism business in Uganda will resume slowly. Tourism depends a lot on air travel and international border crossings as tourists easily connect to their intended destinations easily.

Uganda’s Main Tourist Attractions

Mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga gorilla parks in south western Uganda tops this list. Mountain gorillas are apes that prefer to live in forested mountains and mostly feed on plant vegetation.

All the gorilla parks are now fully open to tourists and can be accessed by road or air by flying to the nearby airstrips. Ensure to buy gorilla permits in advance as they get fully booked because gorilla tours are on high demand.

Savanna wildlife species are other key attractions of tourists to the Pearl of Africa. They include lions, elephants, buffaloes, Rhinos, birds, hippos, zebras and are evenly distributed in the different national parks in Uganda.

Savanna wildlife species are enjoyed on game drives, nature walks and on boat cruises in Parks with Lake and Rivers.

Given that Entebbe International airport and all borders are open, one can visit Uganda for a wildlife safari. There are many tour operators who tailor make Itineraries featuring the various destinations.

Uganda’s COVID-19 cases are stand at 6,017 with 2544 recoveries and 63 deaths. Much as tourism is now fully open there is need to be careful for our own safety.

Exploring The Eastern Lowland Gorillas of Kahuzi Beiga National Park

Eastern Lowland Gorillas in Kahuzi Beiga NP DRC
Eastern Lowland Gorilla in Kahuzi Beiga NP. Photo by Shannon

Eastern Lowland gorillas are endemic to the forested mountains of DRC and live in Kahuzi Beiga national park. The Park is located in Eastern DRC near Lake Kivu and can be accessed through Rwanda.

The Eastern lowland gorillas are the largest in size compared to the other four gorilla subspecies counterparts. Just like mountain gorillas, they are covered with black fur but their hair is shorter on the head and body.

Diet

The diet of Eastern lowland gorillas often comprises of wild fruits, leaves, tree stems, soft barks and small insects.

They are vegetarian and mostly feed on plant vegetation just like any other gorilla species. They spend most of the day feeding growing in big sizes with a fully grown male weighing about 210 Kilograms.

Gorilla Family Setup

Lowland gorillas live in families that are headed by the dominant male called Silver-back that dictates the daily routine. The gorilla families usually range from three to over 20 gorillas including females plus off-springs

The silver-back gorilla is in charge of protecting the family from external invasions and to keep the family together. Young male gorillas grow into silver-backs, leave their families attracting females to start new families where they can be head.

Female Eastern lowland gorillas have a gestation period of 8 and half weeks or 9 months just like human beings. After birth, they breast feed young ones for 3 years as they slowly introduce them to their usual vegetarian diet.

Gorilla Tours

DRC has struggled with security issues with many rebel activities in a number of protected areas thus threatening gorilla population. Eastern lowland gorillas are also endangered as many been hunted down for meat and their habitat destroyed in deforestation.

Tourists interested in visiting this gorilla specie can visit Kahuzi Biega National park in and meet them in the wild. Gorilla tracking starts with briefing at the park head quarters and then tourists are led to the forested mountains.

The Eastern lowland gorilla trek takes a 1 to 6 hours depending on the movement of the gorillas. Once you get to the gorillas a distance of 7 meters is required away from them. This is to avoid invasion as they could easily charge much as they are social animals.

You can have a lowland gorilla tour to Congo anytime of the year.