Right after we completed our northern Tanzanian adventure safari, we found the time (and cheap ticket!) to hop over to neighboring Uganda. It was whirlwind to best describe it but we were happy we got the chance to do it.
After getting back to Arusha, we spent another night at our new found friend’s guesthouse Mazzola Safari House & Backpacking. Innocent was so happy to have us back and eager to hear about our safari experience. Wow! he exclaimed, beaming with pride. You saw many things in one trip what others get to experience in 2-3 trips! You guys are lucky! We thought so too. We spent some time chilling and resting. The next day we had to wake up at 1AM, said our goodbyes and sleepwalked to our waiting car that would take us to Kilimanjaro airport. Our flight was at 3AM. After spending another 30min transit in Nairobi we were finally in Entebbe.
My first impression upon getting off the plane was wow, there are so many posters of countries brandishing their foreign aid to this country. This terminal building was donated by the nation of X. The road you are about to use getting out of this airport was donated by the kindness of the nation of Y. On the tarmac were planes with World Food Program logos. Once inside the terminal building, a stern looking lady approached us and asked for our immunization card. I forgot to bring mine. Having no evidence of a yellow fever vaccination I was made to get one. Right then and there. After giving up my $60 I winced while I got vaccinated. Talk about a prickly welcome! Three steps forward and a smiling immigration officer stamped my passport. I paid for a visa fee by the way. I never got the visa. I got a stamp.
Fast forward to us finding a really cool guesthouse where we hungrily ordered some food and passed out for a nap. Again there are no street signs and so it is important that your taxi driver is familiar in the general location of your guesthouse.
In the afternoon, we walked around and jumped into the ferry crossing Lake Victoria. Later on we found ourselves a good spot for sunset watching.
The next day, we packed our bags to start our trip to the Kisoro mountains. The drive there was a long but scenic one. But first, we gotta stop at the the Equator line. That was really cool!
As we go up and down the hills vegetation and temperature changed. First it was mostly corn rows, cotton, even some tea plantations, lots of vegetable farms. As we climbed higher to the Kisoro district temperature starts to drop and the view is just amazing. Kisoro being close to the border of Congo and Rwanda, you get to see the intermingling of the different tribes in their colorful costumes. That was really nice to see.
The main reason however for our trip there was to see the endangered mountain gorillas. There are two locations where you can see the mountain gorillas in Uganda – the bigger Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga National Park. We managed to get a permit at the Mgahinga Reserve. The permits are expensive but were totally worth the experience.
The day of our trek, we woke up to a beautiful sunrise. We stopped by the headquarters to get our briefings on what to do and what not to do and the possible whereabouts of the gorilla family we are trekking. You see they only allow a certain number of trekkers in a day. Once you obtained a permit you are assigned to a family of gorilla to track down. Should be no more than 8 people in a group.
Before we started our ascent to the jungle we were told to expect between 2 to 8 hours of tracking the family. See, these are wild animals that go about there business so there is really no schedule where and when to see them. Luckily we were only in an hour of the trek when we heard one of the rangers radio our guide that they are close by. What happened in the next hour was one of the amazing experiences we’ve ever had. One alpha male was chilling by himself. Boy was he magnificent! To our amazement he suddenly decided to lay down very close to us (we were told not to be closer than 4 meters but what to do you do when they want to hang out with you?) Eventually we found the rest of the family members not far from him.
They are beautiful and I am happy to see some babies! You go gorillas! Easily this is one of those experiences I would never forget. I highly encourage you to go see them at least once in your life. They are amazing, beautiful creatures.
As I said at the start of this blog, we didn’t get to spend much time in Uganda but I would like to return and see more of the country. I am glad I got to see the mountain gorillas. Webale Uganda! See you again at some point.