Rwanda Mountain Gorilla & Culture Experience

The most famous attraction of Volcanoes National Park is the existence of about half of the world’s remaining Mountain Gorillas. There are about 350 mountain gorillas in the confines of this gorgeous park, and many of them are habituated to humans, so you can trek into the mountains to see them up close. By up close, I mean they are all around you, literally right in front of you. After experiencing the mountain gorillas in the mist, you can visit to the Rwanda cultural sites like the Iby’wacu centre to experience the Rwanda cultural performances, the twin Lakes (Burera & Ruhondo) and after the visit to all these, Rwanda is really the place to visit of what it offers.

For $750, you get a Gorilla permit, or for $100 you can get a permit to see the rare Golden Monkeys which is also very fun. There are two troupes of monkeys of about 100 each, and it is quite an experience to have them jumping, swinging, eating, and running around all around you in the middle of the jungle. You must book your permits well in advance, with Rwanda companies like Eco Tours Rwanda, as there are limited numbers of them, 08 people allowed to visit each gorilla family per day. Dian Fossey is also another experience which you can not miss on your tour to Rwanda, it cost $ 75 USD per person.

You will meet at the park at 7:00 AM, stand around for an hour or so having coffee, then at about 8:00 AM you’ll get paired up with your licensed Gorilla or Golden Monkey guide who will give you a quick briefing. Then it’s back to your vehicle to drive to the parking lot closest to your troupe. There are several different troupes of Gorillas of varying sizes and locales. Several groups are in close, while the Susa group, the biggest, can be several hours to find.

In the beginning of the rainy season, the bamboo is in bloom, which brings the gorillas down lower to feed on their lush shoots. We trekked to the Susa group and it was “only” about 1.5 hours to find them, and another hour or so out. We heard many people who trekked other times of the year for up to 7 hours. Steep hike though, not for the unfit. Make sure to hire a porter to carry your bags – it’s only $10 and well worth it. Once at the gorillas, you have 1 hour to enjoy them, which is amazing. Our troupe had dozens of babies and junior gorillas swinging, beating their chests, wrestling, and nursing on their mothers. Also three gigantic silver backs and lots of black backs. We saw 28 of the 29 gorillas in our troupe during our stay – simply amazing.

The views you get of the Rwandan countryside are incredible too. Local villagers farming their land, staggering vistas of volcanoes and valleys, and sometimes you can run into wildlife like buffaloes or elephants. You can visit Dyan Fossey’s grave (the lady from “Gorillas in the Mist”) too if you like.

Tracking the Mountain Gorillas is truly an awesome experience, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to find them. We did it only one day, with one day more with the Golden Monkeys, but many people did two days.

Rwanda Gorilla and Cultural Experience

The Iby’iwacu Cultural Village is nestled in the hills of Musanze, quite near Kinigi and the Mountain Gorillas. It is an easy side trip for anyone visiting the Gorillas and Golden Monkeys of Volcanoes National Park, but especially convenient for those staying at the Virunga Lodge.

The village costs $25 per person, or you can stay overnight there for $. Once inside, we were greeted by a traditional Rwandans song and dance by smiling dancers clearly having a blast themselves. We were escorted into the King’s hut (the King moved to the US after Rwandans independence, now living in Texas), dressed up like King and Queen, and shown some of the traditional customs. We were introduced to the King’s bedroom, the waiting room of his harem, the meeting room, and how the interaction between the King and the villagers went down.

Upon leaving the hut, we were greeted by the traditional “welcome King” song and dance which was very fun. We were invited to participate which of course we did, great fun! We visited the village Medicine Man, who showed us his secret “love potion” and “natural viagra”, along with herbal Imodium. One of the elders showed us how to shoot a traditional bow and arrow, and we got to try it out. After I shot the “animal”, we did a celebration dance “Goma Goma Goma”.

We were introduced, of course, to the ladies with the handicrafts, which were much fewer, much better priced, and much less pressure than the Masai villages. We actually found the items later in town for more believe it or not! We were then treated to a real show of traditional dancing, drumming and songs, in full costume, and then we were invited to participate and learn the dances. We of course did, as everyone should, and even donned long blond wigs and tribal skirts in the process. It was great fun and sure made for some amusing vacation photos to show people back home!

Our guide was very funny throughout, and the villagers were always smiling and laughing, posing for pictures, and getting us involved. Our guide took photos of us while we were dancing, and we all had a great time laughing about it the rest of the day. Highly recommended – the Masai should take a lesson from this village! Unlike the Masai villages we visited, this village was very clean (like all of Rwanda) and they really were trying to make you have a good time, rather than just steer you to the high-pressure sales of trinkets. We were so happy our guide took us here, great fun – just make sure to loosen up and participate and everyone will have a much better time than if you are shy, including you. Rwanda is visited throughout the year and you will experience the gorilla and cultural experience in the countryside and Kigali visiting several cultural sites, so if you are interested to visit Rwanda its none other than Eco Tours Rwanda can arrange for this experience and i highly recommend that before you take your Rwanda tours visit their website and they will tailor and customize your Rwanda Safari Holiday!

Our Amazing Wildlife & Cultural Adventure and a Visit to a Town that I left 40 years ago

I left Tororo, Uganda in 1973 and recently visited the town I was born in. Moses along with Jackie from Nature Adventure Africa Safaris customized our trip so not only could I visit my hometown but also go the safaris that my parents had taken me as a young girl. Our vacation included a game drive to Murchison Falls along with a boat cruise, chimp trekking at Kibale National Park, evening nature swamp walk at Bigodi wetlands, Game drive at Queen Elizabeth National Park with a boat ride on lake Edward/George along the Kazinga Channel. All this happened between February 5th and February 12th 2015 during our Uganda Cultural Tours. Emma our guide was wise and full of patience on the numerous questions we asked and had a wealth of information about the country. He took us on a ‘Ugandan massage’, on unpaved roads that was topped with murum – a red dirt that holds well with the weather and traffic. The trips were long and bumpy but having Mike with us, we were entertained as he pointed out the landscape, the people, the animals, and the food. I was especially surprised that Uganda grows rice – Tilda, Indian rice. I was aware of tea, sugarcane, maize (corn), groundnuts (peanuts), bananas and pineapple. You can get rice with every meal. And if you do order a hamburger you have to specify a beef hamburger and a cheese burger would be bread (not bun) with cheese. As for Indian food – I was tempted to teach the chefs on how it should be made. Chicken with bones and fat and in a soup does not make it a chicken curry and extra oil does not make it a butter chicken. I suppose it goes with the experience of the culture. The fish was fabulous and is available at most restaurants. Nicky pizza in Entebbe was amazing.

A few things to consider if you do book with lodges in or around National parks. Most run on solar power so if there is no sun than you have no hot water. They may have generators that may provide some electricity. Remember to carry a flash light with you. One of the lodges we stayed at heated the water with wood and we were told when we would have hot water at an appointed time. Also, we had to pre-order breakfast, lunch or dinner. Most lodges are prompt on getting the food to your table at the appointed time. Some of the lodges also could provide you with pre-packaged breakfast or lunch options.

We were surprised to not find mosquitos since were well armed with all kinds of lotions and potions, each of the lodges we stayed had mosquito nets over the beds. Be aware of the African ants. I got stung and the bite hurts. Not all lodges had wall outlets so check at the desk if you can plug in your camera, camcorder etc… to recharge your batteries. Wine is expensive but beer is very reasonable.

As for Tororo, I was amazed to find that my old house was still there along with the Primary school and Boarding school that I had attended. I even managed to find my old teacher family. The town has changed some but most of it is as I remember. I was at home. This was my town. The people through-out our trip were very friendly, polite and ready to help. English is spoken everywhere so it is just a matter of understanding the accent. Ugandans do not like to be photographed so ask for permission. I still remembered some Swahili words. I got to try out the Ugandan food of ‘matooke’ and sweet potato. Unfortunately, I did not get an opportunity to try sugar cane and roasted corn. Maybe next time… And all is was possible because we booked with Nature Adventure Africa Safaris. Amazing trip with Amazing people.