Thursday, September 22, 2022

My Trip experience to Bugoma Forest. By Ben Matovu

Ben in the middle of Bugoma Forest
On 6th of August, I embarked on my first trip to Bugoma. Under the tutelage of Destination Jungle tours as a trainee and photographer, I was excited about the whole trip even before setting foot. Bugoma is located in Hoima District. Known for its Forest that has called for a lot of conservation campaigns. For instance, the campaign for tree planting that is under the Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest (ACBF). However, Bugoma is also well known for its Mangabeys. Mangabeys are one of the rare species of primates-monkeys. This species is rare and can majorly be found in Bugoma Forest.

Having to track an animal, and capture it in pictures is one of the most exciting thing in photography because it calls for uncertainty and alertness before testing your patience. Our trip started from 2Friends Hotel in Entebbe from where we had to pick our Spanish guests. And by 9am, we were already on the Express Highway headed for our Panorama Safari Trip. We went through Masindi, visiting Ziwa Rhino sanctuary where we had lunch and our guests were already excited about their first tracking experience, and lucky to have seen a family of white rhinos in the ponded clay muddy rhino sanctuary.

Then next on agenda, we further headed towards the North West part of Uganda, towards Masindi. We arrived at Murchison Falls towards the sunset hours. These hours are always my favorite because of the golden yellow sunrays that add beauty and flattery to photos. It was amazing. We spent the night at Bamboo Village lodge. Where, together with the senior tour guide, our guests had their first morning game drive in Murchison Falls National Park. We spent two days in Murchison Falls. And headed for Bugoma, pushing further towards Hoima District, located in the northwestern part of Uganda.

Bugoma Jungle Lodge

We arrived at Bugoma Jungle Lodge during lunch hours. I had lunch with the Spanish guests before they continued on their way after lunch, with the senior guide immediately after lunch. The food and the banana beer were great. The lodge experience was one of a kind. I was to sleep at the staff quarters during my stay. A modestly beautiful single room, surrounded by trees adjacent to the forest. The ambiance was nourishing, the air was cleaner than the one I was used to in Kampala. I couldn’t see any trace of plastic around.

I immediately started taking pictures of the surroundings as I waited for the evening community walk in the local homesteads situated on the verges of Bugoma Forest, in anticipation that I could be lucky enough to lay sight on the mangabeys, the proverbial elusive primates. We had our walk in the evening, with a group of other Spanish guests, through Bugoma Forest under the guidance of a group of trained ACBF guides. These guys are competent, their intelligibility while elaborating on the ACBF projects notably, the ACBF bee project and the banana beer project denoted of experience.  I also had an opportunity to learn some things about the forest, the oldest trees plus other trees and their medicinal virtues.

ACBF guide elaborating to the guests

 We walked through the forest, having occasional stops to listen to the guides’ elaborations. And then we reached in the local communities before I could see any trace of the mangabeys. It was exquisite and authentic. The homesteads and the lifestyle of the local people denoted of the typical Ugandan homestead, grass-thatched houses constructed from reeds and baked dark brown soil. I was happy to see authenticity in its full form, seeing these kids playing soccer, barefoot, with a ball made out of banana fibers. It got more exciting when one guest chose to have a moment of playing some soccer with the local kids. Nothing is more compelling and brings more frenzy like a photographer standing in front of authenticity. That was day one. No mangabeys in sight. Unfortunately!

Guests during the community walk in Bugoma

I made other two walks for the next day and always the same story. No mangabeys that morning.

And finally, the next morning attempt yielded. The mangabeys showed up, crossing over through the branches in the tallest trees of Bugoma Forest. Those animals are quite elusive sometimes. This was my third day of tracking mangabeys and the efforts finally paid off. I had my camera already strapped around my neck, zooming in for a close up and trying to catch the running mangabeys in the right frame. Their ululations could be heard as they ran across branches. It is always a challenge to take a shot of a moving subject, and with these elusive primates, I had to struggle through, adjusting the focal length and aperture priority, with frustration and looking for a clearer shot. It was the only chance I had to have these photos taken. They were hardly visible as they tended to hide behind branches but still their sounds betrayed their presence. I pressed on waiting, as Nazario (The ACBF local guide) repeated to the guests – The mangabeys are here!

Close-up of the mangabey in the highest branches of Bugoma Forest

 It seemed to be a long shot, as they sometimes kept running back and forth. They were far high up. I zoomed in to the maximum of my camera lens, looking for focus until finally, one of them was clear in my view. Admittedly this was also my first time to see a mangabey. And there I was, having it in the focus of my camera. I somehow first failed to take any shot, and watched it. It seemed to be looking directly in my lens, like it was ready for the picture. And before it thought of jumping off to the next branch, I pressed the shutter and ceaselessly some multiple shots. And just like the guests, I had my first mangabey experience.

All in all, I would not think twice to repeat the adventure. And I’d strongly recommend the experience to whoever is adventurous. Because with adventure, there’s so much patience to learn.



Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The untold story of Karamoja

My journey of discovering and uncovering this gem of the Eastern circuit, begins a long way from the long distances and unmatched beauty Sipi falls, The wet roads of Pian Upe wildlife Reserves and the stunning sceneries of the true African Wilderness Kidepo national park.
I start my journey very early in the morning around 06:30am driving from Entebbe to Kampala city to meet my colleagues at the Uganda house, which is one of the famous waiting places around town where most excursions start if not at the national theatre because of the parking space.
Entebbe Expressway

Driving on the Entebbe express way on cold chilly morning watching the cattle egrets making the V- shape in flight and songs from the hadada ibis and the sun raising from the east makes you wish if you can drive till the road gets to the end unfortunately you either have to branch off from Kajansi or continue to Munyonyo and the northern bypass to access the city from different parts.

We started our journey somewhat late because one our vehicles had some issues and I would I recommend if you departing from Kampala to leave as early 07:00hrs to try and avoid the traffic jam of Kampala because it’s you could be stack in jam for more than two hours before you make your way outside Mukono town. One of the important things to note that while you are taking on this route, you able to have stop at Mabira forest reserve for quick birding if you are spending a night in Jinja or if you have enough time. As for my team, and I, we had a stop at Najembe part of Mabira where we bought some roasted chicken, Cassava, beef and ordered rolexes and cold drink to push us to the next town, which was to be Mbale town. For those who like venturing and exploring local foods and dishes can always try out this place. However, the vendors have a habit of storming passenger vehicles selling bottled water, cold sodas, and other food staffs which may seem strange if your new to this kind of life and if you’re a first time visitor but they are harmless and just trying make sales for the day and provide what to eat for the family back home.

Vender at Najembe Mabira

Anyway, cutting story short, our first night, which we were meant to overnight in Sipi Falls, had to be spent in Mbale town because of curfew and avoiding to drive after 19:00hrs that when it starts getting dark here in Uganda.
Waking up to beautiful sunrise from the hills and ranges of mt Elgon is one of those few great memories you will go back home with when spend your night here in Mbale town that’s less crowded and is estimated to host about 72,000 people. After our morning coffee and delicious katogo (Boiled Matooke/Banana with beef or sometimes with beans) we drove towards north east of Mbale town to Sipi falls.

Having bird lovers on this trip was a plus for the team meaning that we would be able to stop here and there to identify and watch some birds in flight or along the rocks in the sharp corners of kapchorwa. There is this common phrase that goes like, if something good happens, travel to celebrate, if something bad happens, travel to forget and nothing happens, travel to make something happen. Sipi falls is the perfect destination for you to be able create more memories with your loved ones be it family, friends, work mates among others.
Sipi Falls and Great spots for photography

In the same manner, I have come to realization that traveling opens your mind, broadens your mind, and fills your life with stories to tell as per my experience while on this trip. Upon arrival at CASA Lodge, we meet our guide William and head out for the photographic moment just a few steps from the lodge dining area, which is one of the perfect spots to take great shoot of the falls.

As confirmed by William and Job who are local based site guides that are borne and raised in this part of the country, Sipi falls is found in Kapchorwa on the slopes of Mt Elgon which holds the world’s largest caldera on the planet and these falls generate their waters from Sipi River that flows from the ranges of mount Elgon. The Sipi Falls area is particularly famous for locally grown Bugisu Arabica coffee that only grows at an altitude of between 1,600 and 1,900 meters. As enjoyed by many tourists to this destination, a Coffee tour organized through guides or the lodge with knowledge of coffee farming, processing and roasting is one of those activities you should not miss if you love your coffee fresh, hot and concentrated.

After a photographic moment at lodge, the team decide to have different teams hike different falls because we couldn’t cover all the three falls in the limited time we have since we were to drive to Pain Upe game reserve that same day.
I decided to join the team hiking falls that were near Sipi river lodge and one of three main falls with a man-made cave.

View of the falls inside the cave

The view of 65 meters long falls inside the caves is really stunning though according to our guide William, the cave had shallow depth about 2 meters deep behind the three cascades of falls divided by the hanging rocks at the edge of the river flow which was in habited by the Sebei tribe, who were the early inhabitants of this region. The Sebei belong to the Nilo, Hamites group of people who migrated from Ethiopian Highlands and In their journey trends, they never had permanent settlements and natural caves were an ideal place to live in since they were great warriors, hunters, great fishermen, great warriors and fruit gatherers.
Caves were their favorite hiding places and their ancestral homes, so when they arrived, here they had to look for natural caves nearer to the water source and this cave was perfect home for them. Since they were many and the cave was small so they had to dig more deeper inside to provide enough space for the vulnerable family members mainly those who were affected by tribal wars during their exodus from Ethiopia, pregnant women, infants and elderly People who couldn't go for war. As of today, this cave is part of the most romantic waterfalls of Sipi with natural showers and the sounds of nature lies here

After our lecture under the cave as we were observing the falls, we decided to descend down and get back to the car and drive off for our next destination. As were trying and struggling not to fall because of the slippery wet soil after it had rained the whole afternoon, we meet this beautiful chameleon and I had to pull out my camera and photograph him for few seconds and one or two three posses and we continued descending to find our vehicle at the Sipi river lodge.

We departed Sipi falls around 14:00hrs to Pain Upe wildlife Reserve. Sitting at the back of land cruiser as you traverse the beautiful plains of Karamoja should be among a hundred ways to be happy in life 😊.However, on a rainy day, the story is very different and this was the case when we visited this region. Actually when the trip was completed, i reconsidered the title of this blog from The Un Forgiving Lands of Karamoja to the Untold Story of the Karamoja region because of the rains at the moment. Personally, i recommend against anyone travelling to this part of country during the rainy season because the roads gets muddy, flooded, slippery and un accessible even if you have 4x4 land cruiser with new tires. At some point, in some of the bridges are washed away by the seasonal rivers and you will most likely not enjoy your safari or even find big truck stuck in your way and you can’t cross till the next day.

After driving for about one hour, it started raining and the roads started get wet which we had not anticipated but we had to continue since we were determined for Pian Upe. Several times we had to get out and push, pull or first test how deep the seasonal rivers were above the bridges until we made to the park gate. Because of the weather and the bad roads, we arrived late and we went to pitching our tents on the camping site and hoped the next day would be better and perhaps a different story.

As a passionate but armature photographer, I made sure that I set my alarm at 06:00hrs to ensure that I do not miss the morning stunning sunrises of the game reserve that my friend Jonathan Benaih had always told me about. As some of my colleagues were busy snoring and dreaming or perhaps still tired from the previous journey, my alarm came through and I had to wake up and see if I could actually capture something on camera.

There is this feeling when you a hiking a mountain and you finally it to the top and you feel like screaming out loud Yesssssss I have made..Yesss.. I had the same exact feeling early this morning watching the life changing sunrises of Mt Kadama, watching a flock of blue napped mouse birds feed on the nearby acacia and hearing calls of Black headed gonelake made me feel as if the world is whole again and brought back the old memories of the real safari days, in the world where corona would a nightmare.
Sunrise in Pian Upe game reserve

The air tastes different and bird songs are out of the ordinary. Pain Upe had always been my next dream destination to visit.

A warm welcome and the smiling faces of the local people around the manyatas is a day done. Having missed the foxes weaver, i feel like this is the best day of my life. We have to leave and these beautiful loving people follow us as they  are singing good bye and see u again songs. Am leaving but  my heart has been left behind by the love and top hospitality around here. The elders and children and all people are so good and welcoming.

As we were walking back to the campsite with my colleague Allen Tessie confesses that most people on the trip did not want to go for the cultural tour but at the end of the tour everyone was wearing a smiling face and so happy even though we had missed the Fox's Weaver but we have to move and proceed to our next destination.

The gazelle group

We depart Moroto 12:54 through the remote to proceed to Kidepo valley national park. There about about 200k which on a normal day you will drive about 2-3 hours. However, the drive from Moroto through Matheniko game reserve is totally a must do for bird lovers and people love just driving through the sparsely populated rural areas of Karamoja. For those who are versed with the endless plains of Masai Maraa and Serengeti, wait did i say Maraa Serengeti? yes i did!! This game reserve Is gifted with stunning endless plains and a lot of bird life.
The reserve is said to be one of those that a threatened because of the human conflict with the conservation efforts of Uganda Wildlife.

The game reserve is also famous for the Tepeth nomads who are part of Karamajong communities that's still live in their norms and culture of the nomadic pastoralists that depend on cattle for food and Wealth and according to them the modern day life style is just a waste of life. In case you would love to visit these nomads or you love culture, I will leave an email at the end of this blog and u can inquire for more details.

We had several stops to identify some special bird species and if you have not been to this part of the country every bird specie you will see might be a lifer or bird that has been missing from your checklists or perhaps the one that crossed from Kenya to Uganda. The birds we sighted here include Barbets etc. which can only be found in this region.
Because we were camping and cooking our own meals we had to stop in Kotido and buy some supplies for our next four days because this is the nearest town you will. We also had to refuel because its also the only place where you can buy gas or fuel at competitive price or else you can buy fuel at Apoka lodge or if you have enough you can be able to refuel in Kitugumu or Gulu on your way back to Kampala or Murchison falls depending on which one is you next destination.

After shopping and washroom break, we decided to continue and head to Kidepo. From Kotido to Kidepo there about 70km of unmatched road and can be wet and dusty in rainy and dry season respectively. At this time of the year it’s supposed to dry but because of global warming and climate, it was raining and this was not good on our side because the soil here is very slippery as well though most of the parts will dry faster after the rain in case it shines and you good to go. The only thing you need here are new tyres and 4x4 Vehicle and I would recommend a Landcruiser when its a wet season or rainy season otherwise you might be stuck with limited or no help so timing and weather is one of the things to consider while traveling to Kidepo. 

Another thing you have to consider is the time you leave Kitugumu town to Kidepo and i would suggest before 15:00 to give you enough to drive to the park at your own pess with less pressure of making it to the park in time.

Kidepo Valley National Park

As it has been the case, before i cover my tent, i ensure that my alarm is well set to ensure that i don't miss on the beautiful sunrises. I woke to wet morning with all the grass wet and started walking towards the Uganda wildlife bandhas to see if i could capture something on my camera.

After a few shoots of the sunrise, i head back to my tent ️ to get ready for our morning game drive after breakfast. We set off at around 7:30 to go and look for the big game. So we take on Kakaine track since all the tracks were un accessible and somehow some way we would be stuck in mad for hours if not the whole morning.

Kidepo is known to be the most isolated furthest northern national park in Uganda with more than 10hrs drive to get to the park covering about 570km from the Capital Kampala using Masindi-Gulu-Kitugum. However, the long drive is one of the most rewarding encounters that has exceptional un matched beauty and outstanding scenic grassland plains.

The park has worn several awards and many online newspapers what have published about the beauty of Kidepo national park including BBC, CNN, and Lonely Planet among others because of her untapped nature. The park is gifted with stunning dramatic Disney like sceneries. The park also boasts abundant birdlife with over 470 bird species that can found here. So if you are bird nerd, Lister or just love birds, this is the place to be especially if you have semi-arid birds on your checklist. The other aspect that someone should not miss is the cultural communities just outside the park, which are part of the Karamojong people.
Getting back to the game drive, we took the airstrip circuit to see if we could find something on the rocks especially for the cats. Davis, Jovia, Hamidah, Veronica and i were the 5 part of my team in the vehicle since we were only allowed five Pax in the vehicle because of the Standard Operating procedure introduced by the Ministry of health. A game drive in Kidepo is a must and Kidepo wildlife numbers can never disappoint. Because most of park was un accessible, we did one track which was product in just one day. We were able to see many animals including Elands, Zebras, Elephants, Buffaloes are hard to miss and among other antelopes.

Unfortunately, because of our timing, we missed out on cats but our list was rich with birds species, antelopes and beautiful memories. During the evening campfire, the team decided it was better to exit the park the next morning and drive back to Kampala. However, the team decided to have a break of day so that we did not drive over 10 hours to Kampala so we made plans to visit any destination along the way.
Aruru falls 

We decided to visit Aruru falls, which is just before Gulu town. However, the other option would driving to Murchison Falls and break the long distance.

Where to sleep in Sipi Falls, Sipi Falls Lodge, Sipi River Lodge, and Rafiki Lodge

Where to sleep in Pian Upe, there are no fully developed accommodation properties in the reserve however UWA has Self Contained Banda’s for accommodation and Camping is not out of the question if you would love to enjoy the wild

Where to sleep in Moroto. Hotel African (Moroto) and Karatunga Safari Camp

Where to Sleep in Kidepo. There are many accommodation facilities in this park ranging from upscale midrange and budge. These include Apoka Safari Lodge, Kidepo Savana Lodge, and Adere Safari Lodge among others. However, the park also has great camping grounds in Kakaine Circuit and Nogosokipire.

Where to sleep between Kampala and Kidepo. Gulu town has good accommodation and Masindi would be a good option in case one does not want to drive from Kidepo to Kampala.

For more details, kindly send us an email 

Friday, March 13, 2020

Results of the gorilla census results for the period 2017/2018

On 16th December 2019 the result of the new gorilla survey for 2018 was released after having been conducted under the framework of the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration initiative.

The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) in 2018 launched a new census of the mountain gorilla population in Bwindi impenetrable National Park to assess their numbers, assess the conservation efforts, estimate the population of other mammals like bush pigs, elephants, and monkeys and human activities in the park for planning and conservation purposes.
The census was funded by the International Gorilla Conservation Program, a global agency of the United Nations dedicated to protecting gorillas and their habitat, to the tune of $100,000 (about sh280m). The team, comprising of Ugandans, Rwandese and DR Congolese wildlife experts traversed the entire forest in this remarkable counting of the great apes.

The final result shows that as of December 2018, Uganda has up to 459 mountain gorillas in 50 groups and 13 solitary individuals in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. This number indicates an increase from previous count of 400 gorillas with 36 groups and 16 solitary individuals in 2011.

The survey in Bwindi was preceded by the survey done in the Virunga Massif in 2016, to cover Volcanoes National Park, Mgahinga National Park and Virunga National Park. The number of mountain gorillas was established at 604 in total.
Therefore, the global population of mountain gorillas now stands at 1,063 in total between Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.
This once more shows that Uganda shares 51% of the total population of mountain gorillas on the planet and the future of these great apes is brighter because the numbers have risen since 2011.

As per March 2020, the access to gorilla eco-tourism in Uganda is as following: Mgahinga National Park with 2 gorilla groups open to public and Bwindi National Park with 4 entry points, respectively Buhoma (with 3 gorilla groups), Ruhija (with 4 gorilla groups), Rushaga (with 7 gorilla groups) and Nkuringo (with 3 gorilla groups).

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Akagera National Park is the new pearl of East Africa

I visited Akagera NationalPark in Rwanda in February 2019, after almost ten years from my previous visit. In my memory I could recall a kind of run down park with little wildlife and limited infrastructure if any, basically a secondary game reserve option. However I have been following the progress and the success of the new management, the NGO African Parks, which started an incredible work since 2010, including fencing off the park, constructing the Rusizi Tented Camp, opening trails and repopulating animals.
After only 3 hours’ drive from Kigali, as I entered through the Southern gate of Kiyonza, I immediately found a well-organized recently built info point, with annex souvenir shop, bar, restaurant and toilets, definitely a good first impression. My first activity was the boat excursion on Lake Ihema, a guided activity done in small covered speedy boats mostly in the afternoon but also at different scheduled time. From the boat you have immediately the feeling of how immense is the lake with it horizon and how rich of wildlife is this water. During the 2 hours trip on Lake Ihema I spotted plenty of hippos, Nile crocodiles and expecially water birds found on the shores inside the papyrus swamps. Among the common birds I saw I can recall the whisltling duck, African openbill stork, African jacana, squacco heron, goliath heron, grey heron, African darter, great cormorant, African Fish Eagle, pied kingfisher, little bee eater, scarlet chested sunbird.

In the morning we went for a long photographic safari following the well demarcated trails, from the Southern sector of the Rwisirabo Trail (along Lake Ihema, Lake Birengero and Lake Shakani), continuing to the central area of Lake Hago and Lake Kivumba to Kitabili. The trail proceeds for more than 80 km North, as you stop over along open grass savannah or on the wetland on the shores of the Lakes to spot birds. The far North is the area of the Mohana plains and Lake Rwanyakazinga. Here is found the Northern entrance of Nyungwe Gate. It might take the whole day out to complete the circuit, however it is a continuation of game viewing, bird watching and photograph of breathtaking nature and colourful sceneries. I didn’t expect to encounter such a number of maasai giraffes, elephants, zebras, buffaloes, impalas, topi. There is also a big number of a more unique specie of antelope, the beautiful roan antelope. We were finally able to see a family of lions. I learnt that currently in the park there is a small population of 19 lions. I didn’t spot the black rhinos, yet they were reintroduced in recent years and they are said to be about 15 in the park.
In my conclusion, I was very surprised to find that the park is currently a high quality game reserve, not only for the unique sceneries, but also for the increased number of wildlife. In fact Akagera National Park has an outstanding landscape, probably the most various I saw in East Africa, where a total of twelve lakes makes a big portion of the Eastern wetland of the reserve (all fed and connected by the Akagera river that indicates the boundary with Tanzania), while the Western mountains delimit the western boundary and the rest is an alternating of dense and forest like vegetation on one side and extensive plain savannah on the other side. I would like to compliment the management for the good work done in making Akagera a “must” game park, actually Akagera is the new pearl of East Africa.

Accommodation in Akagera National Park
Currently accommodation is limited to the Southern sector of the park, however new investments are expected to be covering also the Northern sector.

Akagera Game Lodge.
This lodge is located on Lake Ihema about 3 km from Kiyonza Entrance Gate. By mid 2019 the ongoing renovation is expected to be completed with upgrading of rooms setting. This is a perfect middle range hotel – style tourist facility that can accommodate most of the expectations. With 60 en suite guest rooms and spacious restaurant, this is by far the biggest hotel in the park. Among the services it provides: swimming pool, wifi and satellite television in the rooms, breakfast open at 5.30 in the morning.

Ruzizi Tented Lodge.
This is the facility of African Parks. With nine tents, a luxurious restaurant and bar area, all built in harmony with the surrounding nature on top of raised wooden platforms and walkways, this is the upmarket retreat choice in the Akagera National Park. Some trees were incorporated into the structure and this gives a touch of uniqueness to the lodge. Each tent offers a verandah, en-suite bathroom with hot solar heater water and solar power, spacious beds.

Trips to Akagera National Park
I recommend visiting Akagera National Park as a 3 days 2 nights extension out from Kigali. See our website for the details. Also it works well as an extension to other trips, for example as a 2 days 1 night extension of the itinerary Thousand Hills Uganda & Rwanda.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Fascinating Uganda

The land of plenty offering you just a sneak peak of the buck list that you need to indulge in if Africa is to stain lifetime memories. #DJ #sounds of the jungle.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

My trip to Nyiragongo volcano and Virunga National Park

I travelled to Virunga National Park on 18th February 2018, after postponing this program for so long due to recurrent insecurity in the area. I was so happy that finally from 2016 the situation has improved. Today Virunga is a safer destination.
            The first surprise is the border post between Gisenyi (Rwanda) and Goma (Congo). A huge, modern building, almost as big as an airport, which makes it bigger than any other border post I saw in Uganda and Rwanda. Arriving in Goma, the capital city of North Kivu, the impression is of an organized town, with a lot of constructions going on, nice gardens and good roads, the sign of a fervid, prosperous season.
Dining hall at Kibumba Lodge
My journey continues out of town in the direction of Virunga National Park. Few minutes after the road is already murram, in bad conditions and so I understand the need of using a strong land rover for the transfer. The first destination is Kibumba Lodge, located at 2200 meters, at the foothills of Mikeno volcano. From here you can enjoy the first amazing panorama of the Rift Valley in front of you, just before the Lake Kivu, while behind the Nyiragongo and Nyamulagira volcanoes. The lodge has a number of self contained tents, simple but elegant in the furniture, with veranda. Hot water and electricity are guaranteed by the hydroelectric project of the park. The best part of the lodge is the main hall and dining areas, with two nice fire places - considering that in the night the temperature goes down below 10 degrees. The quality of the food and service is outstanding, really remarkable in terms of variety, fresh vegetables, presentation. The lodge manager was also making sure that everyone was well served and making plans for the following day programs.
Nyakamwe silverback gorilla
            On 19th February was the day of my gorilla trekking. After early morning breakfast, the vehicle came to pick me to proceed to Bukima eco-tourist site, the major “hub” for gorilla activities. Indeed here are found four out of eight gorilla families open for tourism in the Park. With about 300 gorillas living in the park, the total belonging to habituated groups is 120. I trekked the Nyakamwe family of twelve members, named after the silverback now 22 years old. There are two babies of 1 and 2 years of age. After following the electric wire of the boundaries among farmland of maize, beans and bananas for about one hour, we entered in a group of six the tropical forest. We were told in the briefing that these gorillas are very calm and peaceful. Indeed, based on my previous experience in Bwindi, I definitely noticed that the gorillas we encountered were so calm, observing us at every moment and at the same time keeping playing, eating and carrying on with their life. There was a female seating in peace observing all of us one by one with curiosity, which helped us to make videos and photographs.
Internal cottages at Mikeno Lodge
After the trekking, I travelled to Mikeno Lodge. Located amidst thick forest, the lodge enjoys the most amazing panoramic view over the Rift Valley. The grass thatched big restaurant is impressive. The cottages, scattered in the forest, are spacious with an ensuite huge bathroom, with a fire place and sitting area.  I could appreciate the best selection of food, especially fruits and vegetables, which later on I discovered are organically cultivated from the lodge gardens.
Semkwekew Orphanage with the antelope and baby gorilla
In Mikeno you really have the feeling of what is Virunga National Park in terms of organization: a big structure with many departments including vehicles and maintenance, helicopters and pilots, lodge staff, tourism department, security and intelligence personnel, rangers and tour guides, gardening, community based organizations. The park is in fact a very efficient and sophisticated machine that makes most of the local economy and social life in the region. For example, the workshop of the Widows’ Fallen Rangers is a tailoring plant providing items and handicraft for the curio shop but also for the general decoration of the lodges, of course using the best of the typical Congolese fabrics.
Next to the head office, I visited the Semkwekwe gorilla orphanage and the gorilla cemetery where are buried about 15 gorillas, many of them killed by poachers. The orphanage was a surprise with the baby gorilla Muzuka of 3 years playing and sharing food with a young antelope, amazing to see this.
Costantino at the edge of Nyiragongo
The last activity of my trip was the Nyiragongo volcano climbing. At the base office, about one hour and half drive from Mikeno Lodge, the organization of the park provides with a choice of porters, the cooks, then the personal hike package in a rucksack including a rain jacket, sleeping bag, worm jacket, sweater, worm hat. With 24 spaces available per day, it is better to book in advance the space especially for large groups. The trekking itself to the peak at 3470 meters is not hard, about five hours walk with at least four stops for refreshment of snacks and with available latrines. On the edge of the volcano, where you walk through stones, there are 12 wooden cabins, basic dormitories equipped with sleeping mat.
The Nyiragongo at night
The night is quite cold there, below zero degrees. So considering that rain is quite common in this area, it is very much advisable to have a full change of clothes in case of getting wet (including shoes and socks), as there is no much opportunity to dry clothes on top. It was incredible to spend the evening then the night watching the continuously changing colors of the lava inside the caldera, from yellow to hot red though the fog. The panoramic view over Lake Kivu, the rift valley, the other Virunga volcanoes in front of you is a lifetime emotion worthy all the hardship. The cook provided us with hot meals both for dinner and breakfast, which was well appreciated in the low temperature.
I went back to Kigali leaving this area of Congo thinking that it is incredible that this could not be for long a top tourist destination, only because of the selfish interest of those causing insecurity in the region. The people here, especially the young people thinking about opportunities for their future, can no longer be deprived of what they deserve, peace and tourism.
Our company Destination Jungle is now organizing this trip to Nyiragongo and Virunga National Park, please enquire: 
Costantino Tessarin


Destination Jungle has brought you closer to the culture and budding wildlife of North Eastern Uganda and the Kidepo Valley National Park all in just 10 days. This is an exclusive cultural tour and the first of its kind here in the tropics and Uganda in particular.

Description: and witness the exciting indigenous culture and lifestyle of North Eastern Uganda while traversing the Matheniko plateaux and the bizarre but breathtaking geography of the Bokora corridor. In this corridor further north, a relatively small population of wildlife still thrives regardless of the prevailing climate change. 

You will most likely spot a good number of wildlife that may include the dik-dik, Hyenas and buffaloes and few Ostriches as you continue up towards the famous Kidepo Valley National Park. On this cultural tour, visit the remaining nomadic of Karamoja whose lifestyle is alas changing slowly to residential agriculturalists.  

Meet with the rather shy but strikingly hardworking inhabitants down of Mt Moroto- the "Tepez". As you shall find on this cultural tour, their lifestyle defines the typical culture of the Karamajong of Kidepo although the greater population stays in excluded parts and communities further north.
Also, get first hand knowledge of the lifestyle of the "Jie" people whose cultural is relatively similar to that of the Tepez save for their striking bodily marks. As part of the Jie custom, entertainment for their visitors is largely pronounced. Most exciting in this community is their traditional dance also traditionally called "Edonja". 

Pastarolism has since time immemorial been the jewel of the North, on this tour, we try to dig deep into the history of Pastorlism for the "Dodoth" people and what love they attached to their livestock. The neighbouring community, the "Ik" people unlike the Dodoth prefer to supplement their livestock with sorghum and millet growing. 

Destination Jungle is proud to give you an insight into the culture and customs of both the East and North of Uganda. The highlight of this tour is a stop at Kidepo Valley National Park, a much desirable destination in Uganda today with her budding wildlife.