Returning to Uganda has been something I have personally been looking forward to for many, many years.
Having spent a significant amount of time during my teenage years exploring what is known as the Pearl of Africa, my excitement levels were through the roof when I boarded the flight to Entebbe.
Returning to Uganda was about more than just the wildlife experience, it was about reminiscing about the wonderful memories we made, the friendly people wherever you go, as well as the sounds and smells that I have missed so dearly.
The major attraction during our Best of Uganda tour is to spend time with the endangered Mountain Gorillas and having done my last trek about 14 years ago, I was super excited to share this incredible experience with my guests.
About the Gorillas
In their natural habitats of the tropical rain forests in Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo, the total mountain gorilla population is estimated to be 1,063 individuals. This is the highest population of mountain gorillas ever since their conservation started
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is situated in southwestern Uganda and the single largest gorilla habitat. It has 459 mountain gorillas from the previous census, although it is believed that numbers have increased since then.
The experience of trekking the Gorillas is everything it is made out to be. It is simply spectacular! It is way more than just viewing or photographing them, it is an emotional connection with incredible animals, unlike any experience you can have or have had with other species of wildlife.
How do the treks work?
Every morning after breakfast you will head to the head office (only a few minutes walk from where we stay) where you will then be briefed on the particular family of Gorillas you will be trekking. The rangers will explain the makeup of the particular family as well as share some interesting facts about them. With us having three Gorilla treks, you will have the opportunity of not only seeing different families of Gorillas, but also different parts of the spectacular forest.
The treks can vary in length, depending on where the Gorillas are situated and during the three treks that we did, it varied from 5 minutes to 3 hours. The rangers make sure that the walk is done according to the slowest person and although there are some steep areas, it is done at a very leisurely pace.
What do you need for the treks?
The most important thing to bring is comfortable hiking shoes, preferable once which are waterproof. It is also highly recommended to wear long sleeved shirts (neutral colours), comfortable hiking trousers and preferable long socks. It is also recommended to bring a pair of garden gloves (don't worry you won't be doing any gardening) just to protect your hands from some of the plants found in the forest.
At the camp the team will provide you with a walking stick as well as garters.
Porters are available (and we highly recommend using one) to carry your bags and also assists with the ascent and descent. This is also a great way to promote work within the local communities.
What camera gear do I need?
During all three of our Gorilla treks as well as the two Chimp treks I almost solely used a 70-200mm 2.8 lens. The forest can be very dark so a 2.8 lens is highly recommended. I never felt that I needed more reach and felt that it was also wide enough for me to capture both Gorillas and Chimps in their natural environment.
The experience of both the Gorilla and Chimp treks, although unique and different in their own ways, remain two of the most satisfying, enjoyable and rewarding experiences you could ever have on a safari. Some experiences simply cannot be expressed in words, images or even videos and simply have to be experienced in person, and this is one of them!
Returning to Uganda was everything I could have possibly hoped for for my clients and for me personally and I simply cannot wait to return again next year.