Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Why You Must Visit Bigodi Wetland, Kibale and Fort Portal (Uganda)

Magombe Swamp, Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary
We visited the Bidogi Wetlands for a swamp walk, which is a home for 8 species of primates and many birds close to Kibale forest (where you can see the Chimpanzees).  The project main goal is to protect the Magombe Swamp, a haven for 200 bird species. The Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary features 8 primate species, numerous other interesting mammals, many reptiles, and uncounted varieties of trees, shrubs and vines.
Guided walks $30 depart from the visitors centre on demand and take three hours. The sanctuary is just off the road between 
Fort Portal and Kamwenge, about 6km southeast of Kanyanchu, Kibale National Park's HQ Office.

Over 200 bird species in Bigodi Wetland
A Weaverbird in Bigodi Wetland
Birds are everywhere in the Sanctuary. Perhaps the favorite of visitors is the great blue turaco, shown above. Also frequently seen are varieties of papyrus gonoleks, hornbills, waxbills, weavers, cuckoos, kingfishers, flycatchers, and many, many others.
Great blue Turacco

Bigodi Wetland  project was initiated by a man who understood that to sustain the wetlands you need to involve the local people in the tourism. The benefits of the guided tours go directly to the local people so this village was already able to build a school and a health center. 

What I liked about the tour:
The enthousiastic guide with a lot of knowledge since he lives in the village
The beautifull swamp with primates and birds incl. the great Turacos
We asked for a combination with a village walk, this was quickly arranged so we visited the local medicine man, really interesting

Since your feet might get wet, they offer you rain boots

We were told not to buy souvenirs from the children in the village. The project has a little shop and they can bring their stuff there, so they can go to school instead of waiting for tourist.
On your tour, you will likely see several kinds of monkeys including black and white colobus, red colobus, mangabey, red tail, vervet, and L’Hoest. Other wetlands mammals include baboons, sitatunga (an increasingly endangered swamp antelope), bush pigs, civet cats, mongooses, bush bucks and an occasional chimpanzee.
Black and White Colobus Monkey you may encounter

We did the tour on the same day as our Chimpanzee tracking in the morning. Since this tour is very easy it's a good combination. The tour takes about 3 hours.

Over all: a win-win situation and a must visit!

Bring water and a hat as protection for the sun because it's hot!

Visit Bigodi and  Track Wild Chimps in Kibale >> 5 Days Chimpanzee, Bigodi Wetland and wildlife safari

Other Activities in Kibale National Park and Fort Portal Area

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Tour attractions in Rwanda's Kinigi / Ruhengeri Region

Renowned for being the route to the home of approximately half of the worlds remaining mountain gorillas, Kinigi town, located right at the foot of Virunga Mountains, comprises beautiful sceneries that make it an outstanding touristic area.

The place is so conducive that one can stay for several days doing various treks and walks observing Rwanda's world unique attractions such as gorillas at the Volcanoes National Park.
As you drive through the mountainous corners of the tarmac road leading to Kinigi, the first immediate impressive change is felt in the temperature drop and it becomes colder as you proceed into the interior.

As one approaches the town, there is a distinctive and clear view of the Volcanoes National Park but the taller Virunga Mountains made up of three active volcanoes situated in Rwanda, Uganda and The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) stand out.

"This place is extremely beautiful; you find many touristic attractions, the mountainous area also provides an opportunity to extend the view to neighbouring Uganda and Congo," John Collins, an Australian tourist observes.

He is amazed that as one tours the Kinigi area, it's possible to see remarkable animals including various primates and birds.

Collins says that the thrill and excitement cannot be explained - it simply has to be experienced.
"It is one of the absolute highlights of a tour anywhere on the continent because encountering these gentle giants is an awesome moment in any African journey," he says.

Kinigi is also strewn with classic hotels and stopovers that make the whole journey interesting.
Paul Muvunyi, a shareholder in Akagera Game Lodge and proprietor of Mountain Gorilla View Lodge says that tourists are satisfied when they find opportunities to get a variety of edibles.
"I have observed several times that the visitors stay for even longer once they get what they desire to eat," he said.

The hospitality mogul explains that the cordial and generous reception accorded towards guests is another motivating factor in the area.

Kinigi is probably the only place where visitors come and are easily able to access the ruins of the Karisoke Research station the burial place of Dian Fossey, an American zoologist who was killed an she undertook an extensive study of gorilla conservation in the area.

But beyond that, there is the Volcanoes National Park, one of the most famous areas in Rwanda where tracking of mountain gorillas is done at an international level.
The park is approximately 13,000 hectares and is also home to the recently habituated Golden Monkey, a little known species which is listed as endangered.
The Golden Monkey has a bright golden body but with black limbs, tail end and crown. It was previously found also in Nyungwe forest in southern Rwanda but the only viable population is now found in Volcanoes National Park.

Some tourists agree that to view the Golden Monkey is an entirely different experience compared to visiting the gorillas where the visitor can come up close and view them at close range.
It is only during the recent few years that researchers are starting to put together a detailed picture of their lifestyle and routines.

The Golden Monkeys live mainly in the bamboo thickets and are smaller and harder to spot and Prosper Uwingeri, the chief warden at the park says that it is a perfect environment for the survival these animals.

He asserts that Rwanda is lucky because Kinigi is one of the few places where these primates were saved from extinction while there still were enough to be saved.

Uwingeri also says that the over 200 bird species thought to be harbour in the forest is another feature that makes Kinigi stand out as an exemplary touristic town.

In the early 1990s the gorilla tourism was probably Rwanda's main foreign exchange earner. This came to an abrupt end in 1994 during the Genocide against the Tutsi. Gorilla trekking was finally resumed on a permanent basis in 1999.

There are roughly only 600 mountain gorillas left in the world, approximately half of these live a few metres away from Kinigi town.

One will spend most of the day out on the field and you will not need much effort to see these world attractions, you just have to be in Kinigi.

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What to expect from a safari to Kibale National Park for birding and Primates

Kibale is an extensive National Park protecting a large block of rainforest that offers some excellent forest birding. It harbors the greatest variety and concentration of primates found anywhere in East Africa. superb birds and primates combined  with easy access, a good infrastructure and a variety of interesting activities make this forest a worthwhile destination. Many of the facilities are community based, thus providing the local community with the necessary revenue to keep their interest focused on the long-term promotion of the area.

The park is located about 322 kms (199.6 miles) from Kampala. 
Kibale is well known for its various and large population of Primates in Africa. The most popular include the great chimpanzees and its acknowledged that Kibale is about 1450 chimpanzees. It also habours a rare species called L’Hoest’s monkey along with the colobus monkeys. Among others include blue monkeys, black and white colobus,red tailed monkey, bush baby and cheeked mangabey.The rare seen wild animals include leopard, bush pig,duiker,buffalo,elephant,bufferflies,reptiles along with amphibians. You can take a bus to Fort Portal and then get a taxi from there to the park. Alternatively, you can hire a private vehicle at $95 per day (includes drive but excludes fuel of about $150).  
Public transport from Fort Portal to Kamwenge via Kanyanchu, Nkingo and Bigodi is available from the Kamwenge stage (next to the Fort Portal market) between 8am and 5pm. Private hire vehicles (roughly Ushs60,000-) can be arranged at the Taxi Park in Fort Portal.
The best forest birding is along the main road from the main visitors' center (Kanyanchu) to the bridge and a few meters beyond that. This quite road runs through the beautifull rainforest allowing good views into the canopy and understorey. Before you enter the forest, check the scrubby fringes of the overgrown culivation for the Scaly Francolin, Marsh Tchagra,  the scarce Grey-headed Olive black and a host of seedeaters such as Black-bellied Seedcracker, Fawn-breasted and Brown-crowned Waxbills, Green backed Twinspot and Black-and-white Mannkin.

The Forest is superficially similar to that at Budongo although a number of species are more easily found here. Watch the flocks of the rare and localised White-maped Pigeon in flight overhead or sunning themselves in the treetops in the early morning. Fruiting trees attract a plethora of frugivores including Afep Pigeon, Narina Trogon, Pied Hornbill, Yellow Spoted, Hairy-breasted and Yellow-billed Barbets, and Purple-headed and Chestnut-winged Starlings.  Kibale is also a good site for Joyful Greenbul, reasonably common and conspicious here but inexplicably scarce elsewhere in Uganda. Search the well-developed canopy and mid-storey flocks of White-headed Wood-hoopoe, Black-capped Apalis, Petit's Cuckoo-shrike, Superb, Green-throated and Green-headed Sunbirds, and Dark-backed and Yellow-mantled Weavers. Furthermore, you have a good chance of seeing Dusky and Olive Long-tailed Cuckoos, Scarce Swift, the superb Black Bee-eater, Grey-throated Flycatcher and White-bellied Crested Flycatcher. Thick-billed and Willcock's Honeyguides and Cassin's Honeybird may be seen  at the nest holes of their brood hosts, barbets and tinkerbirds, but are incosipicious during the non-breeding season. The scarce Orange-tufted and Tiny Sunbirds have been observed around forest edges.
The secondary forest and thicket around the clearing of Kanyanchu is also a productive birding area, African Goshawk and the majestic Crowned Eagle may be seen soaring overhead in the morning and Yellowbill, Uganda Woodland Warbler and Black-necked Weaver are reasonably common near the visitor center. This is also a good place to seacrh the Masked Apalis, recently split from the highland Montane Masked Apalis. Large noisy flocks of Grey Parrots fly over the campsite to their roost in the evenning.
The park is also very famous for other wildlife. Kibale is a well-established Chimpanzee tracking site with very high success rates. Other Primates that may be found on guided forest walks include the Guereza Colobus, Olive baboon, Grey-tailed Monkeys (all common and frequently seen). Vervet monkey is more likely to be found in open areas adjacent to the forest. 
You may also find evidence of Elephant, Bush pig and Buffalo along the trails, whilst Bushbucks, Blue, Harvey's, and Peter's Duikers are other shy inhabitants of the forest interior. The guided night walks in Kibale National Park are also rewarding: Potto, Spectacled, Demidoff's and Thomas's Galagos, Lord Derby's Anomalure, African Civet and Common Genet are all possible.
Other interesting mammals from the list of over 60 species include Ichneumon, Banded and Marsh Mongooses, Alexander's Cusimanse, Swamp Otter, Ratel (Honey badger) and African Palm Civet. Although Golden Cat, Serval Lion, Leopard, Warthog, Giant Hog and Hippopotamus are recorded from the park, they are unlikely to be encountered in the Kanyanchu area. Sitatunga are well known from Bigodi Swamp but infrequently seen. The spectacular and beautiful Rhinoceros Viper is fairly common here but is, unfortunately, less often found alive than as a roadkill.

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To get lower rates than the advertised standard accommodation rates please contact info@gorillasandwildlifesafaris.com or call +256 772 979425. They always give rates lower than those offered by the lodges or hotels.
The park has excellent accommodation and each of them has an attached campsite, restaurant and bar.

Ndali Lodge set stunningly amidst the Bunyaruguru crater lake region of Western Uganda, 24 kilometres south of Fort Portal
Kibale Forest Camp situated in a patch of indigenous forest, just outside Kibale Forest National Park. The camp consists of 7 African safari style tents, which are comfortably furnished with twin or double beds
Kyaninga Lodge Fort Portal Kibale - PoolKyaninga Lodge located 15 minutes outside Fort Portal town. Perched atop a hill overlooking a stunning blue crater
lake, the lodge enjoys spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding landscape

Primate Lodge Kibale Primate Lodge Kibale Campis located at the Kanyanchu Visitors Centre in Kibale
National Park. From Fort Portal follow the road to Kamwenge for 36 kms and branch off at the sign post directing to Primate Lodge Kibale.

Chimps Nest Kibale National Park KibaleChimps Nest Kibale near Nyabubale, a small village between Nkingo and Bigodi. It's only a 15-minute drive from Kanyanchu, the starting point of UWA chimp-tracking and other activities in Kibale Forest.
CVK Lakeside Resort.CVK Lakeside Resort Kibale - Budget Price AccommodationThis picturistic low budget priced accommodation is located near a beautiful Crater Lake Nyabikere
Mountain Of The Moon Hotel Fort PortalMountains of The Moon Hotel This is a large resort-style hotel, just outside of the center of Fort Portal. It features a large main building with a central garden and rooms surrounding an inside courtyard.
Rwenzori View Guest House  Fort PortalRwenzori View Guesthouse This is a small scale beautiful guest house in Fort Portal. The owners managed to get the perfect informal atmosphere for this place.
Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary:  
The Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary is about 5kms from the park head quarters Kibale Forest National Park  (the visitors center at Kanyanchu). This is an eco-tourism project run by a community based environmental organisation established in 1992. The projects revolves around activities in the Magombe Swamp a 3 sqkm area fed by the Magombe River.
The swamp is home to wide range of primates which includes Red Colobus and Black and White Colobus monkeys, Grey Checked Mangabey, Red-tailed monkey, LHoest, Vervet and Blue monkeys and Baboon.

Birding is a major activity around the swamp with paths cut and areas of the swamp board walked to give access to areas of the swamp that would be otherwise inaccessible. Several tree houses have also been constructed to give vantage over the swamp. Specialities for Bigodi include Great Blue Turaco, Black Billed Turaco and White Spotted Crake.
Entrance fee Ushs40,000 per person.
The Village Walk: This activity also starts from the offices of the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary and provides an interesting insight into the lives of the local community.
Foreign tourists: Ushs25,000-, Foreign residents: Ushs20,000- and Ugandan residents: Ushs10,000-.

Friday, October 12, 2012

How to go gorilla trekking on your own – No Agents, Just Do it on Your Own!

We all have times when we just want to do things on our own, determined of course by many factors. Today I want to share with you how a friends of mine, did a gorilla trek in Rwanda on their own, without the assistance of a tour agent. Although this may prove stressing, it may help you save some money. 
If you have little time, it's probably easier to arrange your tour with a tour operator, but if you have plenty of time to read, research and re-arrange things, you can do it on your own. Here are some tips for you:

A Wild Mountain Gorilla in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
A Wild Mountain Gorilla in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
  • Gorilla permit: US$750 per person, obtained from the Rwandan Development Board (RDB). Send an email to them beforehand to ascertain whether the days you want are available. You then make payment (possible with  Visa card  or by bank transfer) including the bank charges involved.
  • Transport from Kigali to Musanze (aka Ruhengeri) the town closest to Virunga National Park.  Virunga Express Bus costs around 2000 RWF per person. This and a number of other mini-bus companies leave from the central bus / taxi station at Nyabugogo every half hour and take about 2hrs to Musanze. The offices selling tickets for the buses are at the bus station, it's easy to just head down there with your bags 30 mins before you want to go.
    Alternatively you can contact info@gorillasandwildlifesafaris.com for renting a car to Virunga. They should not charge more than $100 a day.
    Now, to move from Musanze town to Virunga National Park you will either take a taxi (which charges  10,000 RWF) or a local bus (which costs just 300 RWF per person)  departing every 30 minutes. You could also hire a  motorcycle taxi for 1500 or 2000 RWF. The trip is about 15-20 minutes.
  • Accommodation in Kinigi:  Kinigi Guest House (dbl room with bathroom 25,000 RWF per night, including breakfast) is a 7 minute walk from the Volcanoes National Park HQ where the gorilla (and golden monkey) treks leave each morning. It's also clean, quiet and in a lovely setting, with a fireplace in a common lounge that is good for kicking back with other guests in the evening. You can call  + 250 (0)788 533 606 or +250 (0)788 461 913 to make the reservation.
  • However, although you don’t need your own transport up to the Park, you shall certainly need it for the gorilla trek because mountain gorillas are often located far off and the roads from the Virunga  Park Headquarters to the gorilla tracking trailheads are really rough requiring 4x4 vehicles strictly. You can ask the guesthouse to arrange this for you  at a  standard rate of US$100 per day.
    For the golden monkeys trek you don't need a 4WD to reach the trailhead, a regular car will do for 30,000 RWF.
For both treks you will need to go with your packed lunch because you cannot tell how long the trek shall last but that depends on the luck of the draw with the gorilla groups you're allocated to - some travellers spent 6-8 hours trekking to find their group.

Overall, if you have the time and knowledge resources, it was really pretty easy to do on our own - and helped keep the costs down. The gorilla trek was definitely worth it though - well recommend it!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Leopard sighted in Uganda's Lake Mburo National Park

Not Happy!!!

You go on a few days well earned leave and all hell brakes loose back at the lodge. 

Thankfully the guests at the lodge couldn't have been happier.

More leopard sightings than you can shake a stick at!!!! 

Two separate groups managed to see a mother and her three cubs feasting on a kill and two nights ago a lucky couple managed to see a leopard take down a young impala only a few metres from their vehicle. More sightings of a mother and cub in daylight. And hyena sightings and single leopard sightings............

Leopard with kids in Lake Mburo National Park Uganda

Currently there is a great guy at the lodge called Damian, there for training experience, and in the three weeks he has been there, and the four times he has driven in the park he has seen five leopards.

Happy leopard hunting guys,


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Biggest Seasonal Gorilla Tour Discounts Ever in Uganda and Rwanda!

This is probably the lowest prices that anyone can get for a gorilla tracking tour in Rwanda and Uganda, I have  never been so blown away by such low tour prices both for budget tourists and luxury.
Budget Gorilla Tours Uganda Rwanda - https://www.gorillasandwildlifesafaris.com/gorilla%20safaris/DiscountGorillaToursSeasonalOfferPricesUgandaRwandaSafaris.htm
Tourists for for a gorilla tour and safari in Uganda and Rwanda
A friend of mine first mentioned to me but I first ignored it. This company in Uganda has cut prices to the extent of a gorilla tour at US$800per person including the gorilla permits. And they are serious!
Budget Gorilla Tours Uganda Rwanda - https://www.gorillasandwildlifesafaris.com/gorilla%20safaris/DiscountGorillaToursSeasonalOfferPricesUgandaRwandaSafaris.htm
A heavily pregnant mountain gorilla on self-medication in Uganda's Bwindi

If you are planning a gorilla tour or safari to Uganda and Rwanda in the next 7 months, you must consider visiting this site definetly. They deal in budget/ low cost and moderate tours and I have seen great and impressing customer reviews about them. 

Well I cannot give you all the details but if you check out their website,
Lions on Uganda Tour - Budget Gorilla Tours Uganda Rwanda - https://www.gorillasandwildlifesafaris.com/gorilla%20safaris/DiscountGorillaToursSeasonalOfferPricesUgandaRwandaSafaris.htm
Lions in Ishasha (Uganda) targeting/ strategically to hunt Uganda Antelopes
(www.gorillasandwildlifesafaris.com/gorilla safaris/DiscountGorillaToursSeasonalOfferPricesUgandaRwandaSafaris.htm)   for your own gorilla tour discounts. 

There are several packages on offer, including the 1 day Rwanda gorillas, 2 Days Rwanda Gorillas, 5 Days Chimps and gorillas, 3 Days Uganda Gorillas,etc,     
Gorillas and Wildlife Safaris has cut tour prices on all Uganda / Rwanda Gorilla Tours Packages and Safaris from October 2012 to May 2013. 

A Wild Mountain Gorilla conversint with its juvenile after a fight. Budget Gorilla Tours Uganda Rwanda - https://www.gorillasandwildlifesafaris.com/gorilla%20safaris/DiscountGorillaToursSeasonalOfferPricesUgandaRwandaSafaris.htm
After a fight, Mountain gorillas in Uganda's Bwindi make-up
All other Uganda Tours have had their tour prices cut for the low season but I have just picked out these few. Why don't you check them out today?