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Rwanda: +250 (0) 252 502 452
Uganda: +256 (0) 414 346 464
People often ask what led to an Indian being the founder of an ecotourism company in the heart of Africa. The answer is quite complex and reflects a series of circumstances, connections and decisions that were part of my life and that of my forefathers: I was born into a family that is one of the Indian tribes of East Africa.
My extended family has been connected to East Africa since 1905 and were among the pioneers who opened up the region.
Almost a hundred years ago, in 1927 my great-uncle, Churanji Lal Phakey, from the Punjab, India, pitched a tent in the bush, among lions and leopards, some twenty miles east of the Source of the great River Nile in Uganda and became His Majesty King George V’s Postmaster at Iganga. He was the first family member to live in Uganda.
In 1937 my father Kuldip Rai Moman, aged 18, set sail for Mombasa in Kenya and joined the colonial service in Kenya.
In 1946 he married my mother Kaushalya, from Lahore, Punjab. He was passionate about the wilderness and our family grew up on safari.
At the age of 12, I first went walking in Mgahinga, in the Virungas, with my father, staying at The Travellers Rest in Kisoro, the hotel made famous by Walter Baumgartel. It was around the time that Dian Fossey started her seminal research with the gorillas high up in the Virungas. I think by then I had these romantic notions that ultimately took me back to work for the safeguarding of wilderness.
In 1972, 50 years ago this year, sadly our family’s connection with East Africa was interrupted and we were expelled from Uganda and became refugees to the U.K.
In 1997, three years after the genocide in neighbouring Rwanda, I too pitched a tent in Mgahinga National Park in southern Uganda, where I had first walked in 1966 with my father. This was the beginning of Mount Gahinga Lodge and Volcanoes Safaris.
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.