Uganda expands gorilla safaris

Uganda has started work on habituating another mountain gorilla group to humans in order to expand safaris in its famous Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Habituation involves gradually exposing gorillas to humans in order for the highly territorial groups to get accustomed to human presence. Once the gorilla groups become used to humans being around, they are much less likely to get frightened or aggressive when safari tours show up.

Safaris are big business in Uganda and those that track gorillas constitute about half of the country’s tourism revenue.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
, located in southwest Uganda, is made up of 331 square kilometers of thick jungle. Visitors have to travel through it on foot. It’s a tough journey but allows adventure travelers the chance to see one of the richest varieties of wildlife of any East African park. About 340 endangered mountain gorillas live in the park; sadly that constitutes half of the total population in the world. Because of its importance in protecting the gorillas and other plant and animal life, Bwindi is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Sustainble Farming Program in Uganda Offers Hope and Help

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP) in Uganda is well-known throughout the world as the home for nearly half of the world’s population of critically endangered mountain gorillas. However, gorillas are no longer the only entity on Uganda’s endangered list. Bwindi’s local people have also felt the brunt of years of illegal logging and other activities which have slowly degraded the area.

Fortunately, the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park was established as a national park in 1991, and was initially designed to protect both its treasured gorillas along with its precious and deteriorating forestland, and as of today, the program has been a great success. Yet, while the park itself has benefited from a surge in tourism (thousands of visitors pass through the park every year on pricey gorilla treks), Bwindi locals have not been able to reap much financial benefit from the increased tourism, which in turn, has caused considerable conflict amongst the community.

Much of this socioeconomic dichotomy has been contributed to revenue loss due to the procurement of food products designed for local lodges and restaurants coming from outside the area (as far as a ten hour drive away). Considering the most common livelihood for locals is subsistence farming, and that the area’s soil is extremely fertile, developing a farmer’s association where locals could gain cash income by supplying fruits, vegetables and other products to a growing tourism industry seemed a natural solution.

Thus, the Bwindi Advanced Market Grower’s Association (AMAGARA, which means ‘life”, in the local language Rukiga) was born, and it has been evolving ever since.

Situated only four kilometers from the BINP gate, visitors can get a firsthand glimpse at the association’s gardens, which boasts everything from fiery red chili’s to sweet honey (harvested from their own bee hives). Guests of AMAGARA can take a personal tour led by on-site team members which offers education on how the association operates and how a wide range of growing techniques are taught to local farmers. Cooking classes featuring the traditional cuisine of Uganda are also offered daily, and are led by the institute’s professionally trained chef, Moses, who shares his personal recipes and cooking tips, including a few rather interesting twists on classic dishes.

An on-site garden shop sells a wide selection of gifts including packaged honey and tea from Bwindi. Purchases from the garden shop directly support the work of AMAGARA as well as that of the local community.

For traveler’s looking for a complete African Mountain Gorilla safari, Volcano Safaris, a company that specializes in great ape ecotourism and who is a well-known leader in its industry, has recently partnered with AMAGARA. As part of their gorilla trekking safari, which already includes tracking in the BINP and lodge accommodations, guests can also tack on a visit to AMAGARA when staying at the Volcanoes Bwindi Eco-Lodge. The lodge, which overlooks the forest, features eight bandas and utilizes only local materials and solar energy. Meals are prepared on-site and highlight produce purchased directly from AMAGARA.


Chasing Gorillas in Rwanda

There are many great destinations around the globe in which travelers can get up close and personal with animals in their natural habitat. You can travel to the Serengeti and take in the Great Migration or head to Northern Canada for an encounter with a polar bear. Make the journey to the Galapagos, and you’ll get to see any number of unique creatures found no where else on Earth.

Although there are amazing wildlife encounters on every continent, few can compare with gorilla trekking in Uganda, where each day a very select group of travelers gets the opportunity to hike deep into the jungle and observe the giant primates as they interact with one another. That’s exactly what journalist Jeremy Thompson, and his wife Lynn did, resulting in this really great article on their journey for the Daily Mail.

Jeremy surprised Lynn with the trip to Africa for her 50th birthday, and that trip included a visit to Rwanda, where they joined six other travelers who hiked above 8000 feet for the chance to spend some time with the legendary Rwandan mountain gorillas. The shy and elusive creatures are quite rare. Just 700 of them remain in the wild, and because of that, only about 50 people are allowed to enter their realm on any given day, and even then the encounter lasts just one hour. Luckily for this couple, they booked a second gorilla trek just so they could spend a little more time with the apes.

.For Jeremy, returning to Rwanda was quite an experience in other ways as well. He covered the genocide that occurred there back in 1994, and returning now he found a country that has moved on from its violent past, but hasn’t forgotten it. Not that long ago, the place was one of the most dangerous nations on the planet, and now it’s borders are open and it has a lot to offer the traveler looking for a unique African experience