Uganda remains one of our all-time favorite Countries we have visited so far. We loved everything about this place including the lush forests, amazingly friendly people, unforgettable wildlife, and interesting history. What made this trip truly remarkable though, was our experience with the endangered mountain gorillas. It's hard to describe just how fascinating and awe-inspiring these our lovely beings are. For our tour company, Nkuringo Safari Company, which we highly recommend. See our blog post links below as well.
Hike and Canoe with Locals: After arriving by small plane, our first full day in Uganda was spent hiking and canoeing with the locals in Lake Mutanda, located in the southwestern Uganda. Our Nkuringo safari guide took us through a "urban" hike through the agricultural hillsides that hug the Lake before taking us to our lodging via a wooden canoe. During our hike, kids from the area joined us and sang songs as we hiked. We loved spending time in this ever-cheerful village.
Golden Monkey Trekking: Mgahinga National Park is the home of the Golden Monkey, an endangered species. To view these beautiful (and silly) animals in the wild, was a remarkable experience. With a guide, two armed guards, and porter, we hiked roughly a few hours to find the family of 30 or so Monkeys that had been tracked by the Park's professional trackers. As part of their preservation program, time with the Monkeys is short - just one hour - but it is worth the trek. These adorable animals have so much spunk!
Learn from the Batwa: Mgahinga National Park is also the original home of the Batwa, a forest-dwelling hunter-gatherer tribe that was evicted from the forest in the early 1990's despite calling Mgahinga their home for 20,000 or more years. The eviction occurred as part of a preservation project for the endangered mountain gorillas and golden monkeys, though historically neither of those primate populations were impacted by the Batwa specifically. Today, in partnership with the tribe and in an effort to provide financial assistance, Mgahinga National Park offers a cultural tourism experience with the Batwa. Here, we spent the better part of a day on an educational hike with members of the Batwa, visiting their ancestral lands.
Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi: In the heart of Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest lives the endangered mountain gorilla. We were told before we booked our trip to Uganda that Gorilla Trekking is one of those “once in a lifetime,” experiences. Still, we were initially somewhat hesitant to book it because, frankly, it’s quite expensive. The permits are issued by the Uganda government and cost $800 per person. The high cost goes towards conservation efforts, including restoration of the native land for the Gorillas. In the end, a friend of ours convinced us to spend the money and we are SO glad we did. In fact, our sanity is questionable – why did we ever consider NOT doing it? This unforgettable, unparalleled experience should made everyone's lifetime bucket list.
Hike Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest: Our beautiful, 8-mile hike took us into the thick vegetation of this well-maintained Park, where we saw monkeys, birds, and some of the it's 160 species of trees. We hiked with our two armed guards, our guide, and a porter. The armed guards are necessary for the wildlife and the close proximity to the DRC border. Don't let that deter you, we felt safe during our entire visit in Uganda. Also, while a porter wasn't necessary, we still recommend using one because doing so helps support the local economy.
Where We Stayed
First a note: Traveling to Uganda, in our opinion, requires using a quality tour company like many other East African countries. In almost all the other places in the world that we've visited, we have been our own tour guides, rarely using an actual company or travel agent. Here, though, using a company is essential.
Nkuringo Safari Company: Our stay in Uganda was booked, door to door, with Nkuringo Safaris. We chose a "walking safari," which focused on seeing Uganda on foot, though we were also given the traditional driver and safari Land Rover vehicle throughout our stay. We absolutely loved this company and HIGHLY recommend using it for your stay in Uganda. Everything was top notch, from booking through post-travel communications (even shipping our souvenirs for us!). Our driver, Emma, was the best and our guide, Richard, was great with us well. Our accommodations were incredible (especially in Bwindi), and at every step of the way, we felt safe. This is not an inexpensive experience but we really felt we got our money's worth. Nkuringo also has a responsible travel policy which is clearly followed, i.e. they're not just words on a website. We would not hesitate to recommend this company to anyone traveling to Uganda.