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Melvyn's top tips for gorilla trekking in Uganda

Including meeting non-habituated gorillas

Melvyn

Melvyn

Traveller
Published on

11 Mar 2019

Read time

7 minutes

Uganda Gorilla Melvyn Dodd

Melvyn travelled with Far & Wild to Uganda for mountain gorilla trekking. Staying at Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge, he tried both the standard trek, and also the longer, four hour habituation experience with the Rushaga gorilla group. Here's what he had to say about his trip:

Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge should be highly recommended as it is only one of two eco lodges in all of Uganda. It generates its own electricity, and collects rainwater which is filtered and used for sanitation (toilet flushing etc.). Bottled water is provided daily in each room for drinking. The view from the bar seating area at the lodge was spectacular as it showed three of the tallest peaks in the Virunga Mountain range.

View From The Bar At Nkuringo Lodge Melvyn Dodd
View from the bar at Nkurngo Lodge - Melvyn Dodd
Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge Melvyn Dodd
Bedroom at Nkuringo Lodge - Melvyn Dodd

The trip from Kigali through to the lodge took a little longer than the anticipated five hours, although we did take a bit longer at the Rwanda/Uganda border and also stopped for a quick bite to eat on route. It isn't a tarmac road and can be very bumpy, especially as there are large potholes along it (so anyone with a bad back may suffer).

On The Road From Kigali Melvyn Dodd
The road from Kigali to the lodge - Melvyn Dodd

I would also suggest that travellers over 60 years of age are extra fit. Whilst I did some training and additional strenuous exercise before my trip, I found the climb back from my first day was very tiring with around 3 - 4 hours of steep uphill walking. The rangers, trackers and guides were very helpful and did not try to hurry us in any way, but perhaps a couple of days acclimatising to the altitude before the trek would have helped.

Hiking In Bwindi Melvyn Dodd
Gorilla trekking - Melvyn Dodd

This walk to see the gorillas on the first day almost put me off attending the second day as it was so exhausting. But the driver and staff at the lodge advised me that the 4 hour trek was less strenuous, apart from the initial first 2 miles. I am so glad they convinced me to go (although the driver did take me up the hill for the first 1.5 miles, which had he not, I am sure I would have had to return to the lodge).

This second trek was all about spending time with the non-habituated Rushaga gorilla group. It took a lot longer to find the gorilla family and the undergrowth seemed a lot thicker and more difficult to walk through, with the trackers having to hack their way through the foliage more frequently than at Nkuringo. It was definitely an adventure.

Young Gorilla In Uganda Melvyn Dodd
Young gorilla - Melvyn Dodd
Black And White Gorilla In Uganda Melvyn Dodd
Gorilla posing for a shot - Melvyn Dodd

As there were only two of us visiting the non-habituated group this day we were driven up the hill, as far as we could and then climbed from this point. Looking behind us I was fortunate to take this image of the morning mist rising over the hills.

Morning Mist From Rushaga Gorilla Trip Melvyn Dodd
Morning mist during the second gorilla trek - Melvyn Dodd

After our trip, on our way back to get the vehicles, we were greeted by the ladies of the local choir singing on our return.

Being Greeted By The Ladies Of The Local Choir Melvyn Dodd
Being greeted by the ladies of the local choir was a real treat - Melvyn Dodd

After the Gorilla trekking, it was suggested that we amend the birding day to a less strenuous area to view the local birdlife, which I was happy to accept as any strenuous walking/climbing would have been too much for me. So we did a local walk during which I encountered some children as well as birds. This showed me some of the poverty which exists in this area, and makes you realise how lucky we are back at home. Although they seemed to be relatively happy.

Taking Photos In Uganda Melvyn Dodd
Birdwatching hike - Melvyn Dodd
Birding In Uganda Melvyn Dodd
Bird watching - Melvyn Dodd
Children In Uganda Melvyn Dodd
Meeting the locals - Melvyn Dodd

One of the most unusual sights for me was to see lots of large grasshoppers flying around, which the children were collecting, as they are a local delicacy. No I did not try them!

Edible Insect Life Melvyn Dodd
A local delicacy - Melvyn Dodd
Preparing Dinner In Uganda Melvyn Dodd
Children collecting grasshoppers - Melvyn Dodd

One final tip - take twice as many memory cards for your camera than you originally think you need, and spare batteries or SSD power packs. You will be taking lots of photos!

This was a tiring, but very satisfying holiday, as it managed to achieve my main objective of seeing and photographing the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Thanks to you all for making it happen.

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