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A Trip With the Birdwatchers

It’s finally time, my 12 day safari officially begins!

It’s hard to contain the excitement until the very first second I jump into the car and I notice four nice looking people and….”The Birds of East Africa, Volume 1.” Oh Gosh, the birds people!

I have to say I have nothing against birding or birdwatchers, the only problem is that I don’t know anything about birds and I tend to not even notice them! But hey oh, I am sure it will be fine!

I introduce myself to the rest of the crew and I quickly find out that my fellow travellers are a retired couple from York, Brian and Eve, an American researcher from Nasa, Elena, and our super Volcanoes guide, Amon.

The journey from Kigali to Virunga is extremely peaceful and we stop on the way to try goat brochettes and banana beer (12% alcohol and it smells like dirty feet, lovely to try it once...but never again!).

Right when I start being positive that we will all become friends, the show begins. “Eve you see? On the right inside of that branch there is a sacred ibis! “ Trying to join the excitement of the car I firstly look at my wrists to make sure which one is left and which one is right (yes, I still rely on the watch to figure that out) however I quickly remember that my watch just broke so I give up trying to be guided by their over excited fingers. “Oh that is a wonderful bird!” “Sorry, where is it again?”  “Eve and I saw it when we were in South Africa and it looks fantastic” “Excuse…” “Ah ah what a start Brian!” And we drive off.

This probably happens another 3 or 4 times and at this point I officially hate birds. I am so concentrated on this hate that I don’t even realize that….oh dear, we just arrived at Virunga Lodge! Trying to not get overly excited I get off the car and my eyes soon get lost in the lakes Bulera and Ruhondo, the five Volcanoes that surround us and the smiling staff who have just arrived to give us a warm welcome with some delicious passion fruit juice. Birds worries are suddenly forgotten and I even do the unthinkable. I take the book from the car and spend the next couple hours reading about different birds' species while overlooking the superlative scenery from Virunga Lodge porch. Gonna start loving those birds afterall!

Marta, UK Office

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To protect gorillas from disease, no children under 15 years are allowed to go gorilla tracking. For guests booking a stay at Virunga Lodge, please note that the minimum age limit for children at Virunga Lodge is 12 years.

Safari Activities

Chimpanzee Tracking

Tracking chimpanzees in their natural habitat, as they swing from the branches in the canopy high above the forest floor is nothing short of exhilarating. The chimps effortlessly cross and scamper through the trees above the gorge, and visitors on the other hand must cross the river using natural bridges in order to keep up with the chimps. So although the walk usually lasts only 2–3 hours, descending the steep gorge and crossing the log bridges over the river requires some agility and fitness.

Chimpanzee tracking is also available in nearby Kalinzu, a forest reserve 30 minutes drive from Kyambura Gorge Lodge where there is a community of about 40 habituated chimpanzees.