Deanna and I arrived in Entebbe for our “gorilla tracking” trip,where we met our driver, Sam, who would be our guide for the next 10 days. While loading our bags and cameras in the parking lot of the Lake Victoria Hotel, Sam noticed that we were bird watching and I was trying to get some photos of the birds on the hotel grounds. His eyes lit up and he asked us if we liked birds. We said we liked everything and wanted to see all that Africa could show us. He proceeded to make our fairly long drives adventures on their own. We would stop frequently to identify one spectacular bird after another and soon it became clear that this trip would be as much about the birds as it was about the gorillas.
From our hotel we went to the Entebbe Botanical Garden, where our guide showed us an amazing number of beautiful birds, including hornbills, plaintain eaters and African Gray parrots. We also saw Vervet monkeys, Red-tailed monkeys and Colobus monkeys. Along the shore of Lake Victoria, we saw bee-eaters, kingfishers and fish eagles.
The next 2 nights we stayed at the newly opened, fabulous Kyambura Gorge Lodge and had a bird’s eye view of the Kyambura Gorge, the home of chimpanzees, baboons and many other birds.
We visited Queen Elizabeth Park and the Kazinga Channel and were awed by the profusion of wildlife and birds.
On to Bwindi impenetrable forest and the wonderful Bwindi Lodge. During a long drive to Bwindi, Sam made the trip interesting and photographically ‘profitable’, by pointing out more and more interesting birds and wildlife.
After a fairly difficult trek in Bwindi to see the gorillas, we travelled to one of the most beautiful spots in the world, Virunga Lodge. Perched atop a mountain, with volcanoes and lakes in all directions, we really felt fortunate to be able to take in Africa’s natural beauty in such a wonderful place.
Our Rwanda gorilla trek was much easier and we were treated to a full hour of visiting the Sabyinyo Group, including the oldest silverback in Rwanda at 41 years and his 16 year old son. Females, younger males and baby gorillas lazed and played on the periphery of the dozing patriarch, only a few feet from our entranced group . What an experience!
All in all, the Volcanoes Safaris lodges and the friendly, efficient and wonderful staff made our visit to Uganda and Rwanda exceptional and we were pleasantly surprised that our gorilla trip really became an ongoing birding and wildlife trip, even when on the road from one lodge to the next.
by Randy and Deanna Harwood