Depart Kampala at 7am and drive through magnificent countryside and tropical bamboo forest on our way to Kisoro (approx 9 hours). We will make some stops along the way; at the Equator for photographs and ‘polar-water experiment' and for lunch in Mbarara, before an afternoon arrival into Kisoro.
A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bwindi's Impenetrable Forest is a true African jungle, so named because of the dense undergrowth, vines and other vegetation which make it almost 'impenetrable'. It is both mysterious and awesome. At least 120 species of mammals make their home here in one of the richest ecosystems in Africa. Besides the 10 species of primates, elephant, bush pig, giant forest hog, many species of bats and rodents, at least 346 species of birds including rare forest birds, 14 species of snakes, 27 species of frogs and toads, 6 chameleons, 14 lizards, skinks and geckos, and at least 202 species of butterflies are resident in the Forest. Bwindi’s biggest claim to fame is the fact that it is sanctuary to approximately half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas. This is the world’s most endangered ape, and is found only in small portions of protected afro-montane forests in northwest Rwanda, southwest Uganda and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The mountain gorillas are divided into two populations and current figures estimate the total population to be about 600 individuals. One population (approximately 330) is found in Bwindi, and the other is in the Virunga Mountains, covering three National Parks in three countries. Ugandan authorities are fiercely protective of this natural treasure and permit only a maximum of 8 passengers per day (currently) to visit the gorillas. In the morning take a short drive to Park Headquarters and meet with your excellent local guides and porters, who will carry your personal items and assist you during the trek. The guides will provide a talk on the etiquette of gorilla trekking. The group will then trek into the forest where the gorillas were the night before and track from that point. The trek can take from one to six hours and climb altitudes in excess of 7500 feet. The terrain is rough and at times muddy and slippery. It is very important to bring along plenty of water. It can rain in a few minutes notice; hence waterproof clothing is essential along with protective bags for your camera and film. Without doubt, your first impression of the dense jungle will be its almost audible silence. Jungle creatures are very, very shy, but, as you pick your way along the trail, through the dense undergrowth, you'll realize that the jungle is alive. Thousands of living organisms are discreetly watching and waiting as you pass through their home and, from time to time, the complete tranquility will be shattered by a darting forest bird or group of chattering monkeys leaping through the stands of ancient trees, disturbing the secretive residents and setting up a chain reaction. Now, the ever-wary jungle comes to colourful and noisy life for a moment, until silence reigns again. As you walk among the shadows of the leafy canopy, this rainforest reveals the smells and sounds of Africa, just as it has been for centuries. Your guide will take you along river trails with delightful waterfalls, up steep slopes and into forest clearings in search of these gentle giants. Although the hike is physically demanding the beauty of the forest and surrounding scenery make the trekking worthwhile. Once the gorillas are located all fatigue is forgotten, as the experience is often described as being the most profound natural history experience in the world. Approximately 98% of the gorilla treks are successful but there is no guarantee that you will see the gorillas.
Depart early to climb one of the three volcanoes within the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park: Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in the southwestern corner of Uganda. The Park covers the northern slopes of the three northernmost Virunga Volcanoes: Mt. Muhavura (4127m), Mt. Gahinga (3474m), and Mt. Sabinyo (3645m). The Park is about 10km south of Kisoro and is bordered to the south by Rwanda and to the west by the Democratic Republic of Congo. Each of these countries protects its own portion of the Virungas, in the Parc National des Volcans and Parc National des Virunga respectively. The three parks together form the 434 sq km 'Virunga Conservation Area'. Mt. Muhavura 'The Guide' (4127m) Seen from all over Kisoro, this volcano acts as a guide. The typical cone-shaped Mountain provides some of the best views in the country. Much of the climb passes a rocky surface covered by grasses and small shrubs. Once at the top, hikers are rewarded with the view of the Virunga volcanoes, Lake Edward in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Bwindi and the peaks of Rwenzori Mountain. The hike takes approximately 8 hours round trip covering 12km. Mt. Gahinga (3474m) On your way to the park, look out for small piles of stones in the garden fields. The local people call this pile a 'Gahinga'. Mount Gahinga is quite bigger than the average 'gahinga' but sitting next to Mount Muhavura does make it look small. Gahinga once had a Crater Lake on top but time has changed it into a Lush swamp. Distance to the swamp is 8km and takes approximately 6 hours. Mt. Sabyinyo 'Old man's teeth' (3645m) Like an old man, time has eroded Mt. Sabyinyo's crown. This volcano offers 3 challenging peaks to climb. A hike up the mountain takes you up a ridge along the eastern side to peak 1. If you were to continue, the hike to peak 2 involves walking a ridge with breath-taking drops into gorges of Rwanda and Uganda. Finally, the hike up to peak 3 is steep with several ladders and much scrambling. You are guaranteed to get your hands dirty en-route to peak 3. Once on top, you will be in Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda at the same time. The journey takes about eight hours round trip to cover the 14km stretch. Depending on the season, the conditions of each trail or hike may vary. As such, on the day of the hike, a national park rangers/guide will discuss with you the current challenges and rewards of each hike. Please note that depending on local conditions (such as rain, vegatation growth, road conditions), a particular volcano hike may not be available to you on your chosen date of travel.
Depart early for the scenic return drive from Kisoro to Kampala. Stop just after the town of Masaka at Mpambiire drum village to see the Ugandan drum craftsmen at work. Arrive back in Kampala in the early evening, where the tour ends.