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Rwanda, September 2017 – Volcanoes Safaris, the award-winning pioneering great ape tourism company is proud to celebrate its 20th anniversary. It also celebrates another major milestone - the 50th anniversary of The Karisoke Center set up by Dian Fossey, which has led to the conservation, and protection of mountain gorillas and later to sensitive and controlled tourism.
Connecting guests to communities and conservation remains at the heart of Volcanoes Safaris’ ethos and brand vision. As part of this year’s celebration the company puts a spotlight on the astounding accomplishments of the Volcanoes Safaris Partnership Trust (VSPT), whose projects are being brought into the core of the guest experience at each of Volcanoes Safaris’ four lodges.
This year Volcanoes Safaris unveils plans for the new Batwa Resettlement Project at Mount Gahinga, Uganda which will provide homes for 100 displaced “conservation refugees”. Evicted from their land without compensation or other land when the forest officially became a national park over 25 years ago, the Batwa are thought to be one of the oldest surviving indigenous people in the Central African Region and have a unique culture.
Guests of Gahinga Lodge are immersed in a series of projects developed by the VSPT to support the Batwa through tourism related enterprises to help preserve their culture and heritage, while providing a livelihood. These initiatives have included setting up a Vocational Center and a Batwa Heritage Trail to share their culture with guests.
The immersive cultural experiences continue at Virunga Lodge where guests can gift a sheep or water tank to the local Sunzu community and share in the local singing and dancing of the village; at Bwindi guests can have a fun fusion meal at the colorful Bwindi Bar which trains local youngsters in hospitality; at Kyambura they can share in the work of the Women’s Coffee Co-operative.
Set up by Ugandan-born Praveen Moman, Volcanoes Safaris traces its roots back to a time where Rwanda and Uganda were overcoming conflict and the mountain gorilla population was critically low. Moman’s vision was to revitalize the international perception of the area and integrate the local community into its tourism efforts.
“From the transformation of simple camps into four luxury lodges, today renowned as some of the finest in Africa, the Volcanoes Safaris team has been at the forefront of reviving gorilla and chimpanzee tourism in Uganda and Rwanda since 1997,” says Praveen Moman, Founder of Volcanoes Safaris. “This year marks a special milestone for us as we celebrate the reputation of our lodges, our extraordinary world class staff, the strong relationships with our guests, travel partners and the unveiling of new projects that support the local community”.
As Volcanoes Safaris celebrates in its own local achievements, it also honors the 50th anniversary of the Karisoke Center and Gorilla Fund, debuting a public space at Virunga Lodge; The Dian Fossey Map Room, which showcases an exhibition entitled ‘Explorers and Conservationists of the Virunga Volcanoes’ to pay tribute to the American primatologist, whose work and legacy lives on through the Karisoke Center’s ongoing work.
Volcanoes Safaris offers guests itineraries ranging from four-to-eight-day luxury safaris, which can be customized. More information on accommodations, safari packages, pricing and VSPT projects can be found at www.volcanoessafaris.com.
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.