Thursday, November 29, 2012

Lonely Planet names Uganda ‘THE 2013 BIRD-WATCHING DESTINATION’

As 2012 is slowly getting ready to hand over to the next year in line a new tagline will take over from the hype of this year, as The Pearl of Africa turned 50 and when the Lonely Planet Guide had named Uganda as their top destination for the year. While measuring the success in terms of numbers and revenues will take a bit longer, until the relevant data have been correlated and published, the country’s tourism industry is nevertheless setting its sights on the future. With over 1.000 bird species found in Uganda, bird watching has brought in growing numbers of hobby ornithologists from around the world but even within has ‘birding’ found new friends.

The Big Bird Watching Day is now an annual event, supported by the Uganda Wildlife Authority which grants free access to the park, and this annual bird count a few weeks ago has underscored once again the rich diversity of birds found, not just in parks but across the entire country. Organized by Nature Uganda and supported by the conservation and tourism fraternities, the event has now been transformed into naming Uganda being named a preferred bird watching destination, an accolade which will undoubtedly raise even more interest from abroad to come here and explore for instance Bwindi Forest, which the Africa Bird Club earlier this year declared the Number One birding site in Africa or in Queen Elizabeth National Park, home to over 600 bird species alone.

Nature Uganda and Birdlife International have mapped out 34 sites across Uganda as important bird watching areas, some inside but many outside the country’s protected areas which makes access possible without any park fees, though such payments of course go to the good use of maintaining park infrastructure.

The Uganda Tourist Board will make bird watching a major promotional activity for 2013 to highlight the country’s rich natural resources beyond being just known as the world’s biggest primate destination or for the adventure tourism attractions Uganda now has to offer.

Monday, November 26, 2012

How to Get/ Travel to Kibale National Park for Chimps tracking and Bigodi

Kibale National Park contains one of the loveliest and most varied tracts of tropical forest in Uganda. Forest cover interspersed by patches of grassland and swamp, dominates the northern and central parts of the park on an elevated plateau. The park ins home to a total of 60 mammal species, most famously the 13 species of primates including the chimpanzee. It also contains over 375 species of birds. Kibale adjoins Queen Elizabeth National Park to the south to create a 180-km long corridor for wildlife between Ishasha, the remote southern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park, as Sebitoli in the north of Kibale.book_private_kibale_chimps_transfer

How to Get/ Travel to Kibale National Park for Chimps tracking

Kibale National Park is located in western Uganda, 26km southeast of Fort Portal town. Kanyanchu River Camp, the primary center for tourism activities, can be reached from Kampala either from the north, via Mubende and Fort Portal, or from the south through Mbarara and Kamwenge.

The northern approach is shorter and quicker, with a 300km tarmac road running to Fort Portal followed by 36km of gravel to Kanyanchu. From Kampala there are several buses doing daily trips to Fort Portal town. These are however unreliable and frequently breakdown or have accidents along the way. They are therefore not highly recommended.

Kibale Forest National Park is most normally approached from Fort Portal using the Kamwenge road. If your are driving from Fort Portal town centre, follow Lugard Road north for about 1km. immediately before the bridge across the Mpanga River, turn right. You know you’re on the right road when after about 500m you pass a hospital to your right (with signposts reading ‘blood bank’ and ‘canteen’ perched in intriguingly close proximity). About 12km out of Fort Portal, you reach a major junction, where you need to fork left (the right fork, incidentally, leads to Lake Nkurumba and Ndali Lodge in the heart of Kabarole Crater Lake Field). After another 8.5km you pass the signpost for the Rweetera Tourism Society Camping Site and then 2.5km later Crater Valley Resort, from where it is another 12km to Kanyanchu Campsite and a further 5km to Bigodi.

Public transport to Kanyanchu used to be restricted to two or three dangerously overloaded pick-up trucks running daily between Kamwenge and Fort Portal. These have been recently supplemented by more regular mini-bus taxis, which run back and forth between Bigodi and Fort Portal throughout the day and are far more comfortable and safer than the trucks. Tourists are routinely overwhelmed by the taxi touts, so it’s advisable to check what local passengers are paying. There is normally no transport on Sunday.

A little used alternative route to Kibale Forest National Park runs north from Mbarara via Ibanda and Kamwenge. North Ibanda the road is unsurfaced but mostly in pretty good condition, and with a private vehicle it should take about 3 hours. Using public transport you will probably have to change vehicles in Ibanda and Kamwenge and may well have to overnight at one or other town – both posses a few cheap guesthouses. You can easily pick up transport from Kamwenge to Fort Portal via Kanyanchu. If you are heading this way, you might want to investigate the Mpanga Falls and nearby cycad fields between Kamwenge and Ibanda.

Recommended Lodging and Accommodation Options in Kibale and Fort Portal

Ndali Lodge set stunningly amidst the Bunyaruguru crater lake region of Western Uganda, 24 kilometres south of Fort Portal

Kibale Forest Camp situated in a patch of indigenous forest, just outside Kibale Forest National Park. The camp consists of 7 African safari style tents, which are comfortably furnished with twin or double beds


 


Kyaninga Lodge Fort Portal Kibale - PoolKyaninga Lodge located 15 minutes outside Fort Portal town. Perched atop a hill overlooking a stunning blue crater
lake, the lodge enjoys spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding landscape

 

Primate Lodge Kibale Primate Lodge Kibale Campis located at the Kanyanchu Visitors Centre in Kibale
National Park. From Fort Portal follow the road to Kamwenge for 36 kms and branch off at the sign post directing to Primate Lodge Kibale.

 

Chimps Nest Kibale National Park KibaleChimps Nest Kibale near Nyabubale, a small village between Nkingo and Bigodi. It's only a 15-minute drive from Kanyanchu, the starting point of UWA chimp-tracking and other activities in Kibale Forest.

 

CVK Lakeside Resort.CVK Lakeside Resort Kibale - Budget Price AccommodationThis picturistic low budget priced accommodation is located near a beautiful Crater Lake Nyabikere

 

 

Mountain Of The Moon Hotel Fort Portal

Mountains of The Moon Hotel This is a large resort-style hotel, just outside of the center of Fort Portal. It features a large main building with a central garden and rooms surrounding an inside courtyard.

Rwenzori View Guest House  Fort PortalRwenzori View Guesthouse This is a small scale beautiful guest house in Fort Portal. The owners managed to get the perfect informal atmosphere for this place.

 

 

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Mgahinga’s Gorillas- Nyakagezi Gorilla Family Return to Uganda, Trekking them now possible

The Nyakagezi Mountain Gorilla Family based in Mgahinga National Park which had crossed to Rwanda last year is back in South Western Uganda. All nine membersMgahinga Gorilla of Nyakagezi Family returned to Uganda are back and in a healthy condition. Nyakagezi Gorilla Group is the only resident habituated gorilla group in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, located about 10 km from Kisoro.

This group is keeps migrating between Congo DR, Rwanda and Uganda, migrate across international borders, mainly in search of “greener pastures” (patches with more food). Across the three countries, such movements have drawn interest of the different countries especially when it becomes of Gorilla habituated to tourism. These kind of groups are known as transfrontier groups and are under the management of the trilateral memorandum of understanding signed between Uganda Wildlife authority (UWA), RDB by the time ORTPN and ICCN in 2006 on “the collaborative monitoring of and Sharing revenues from Transfrontier tourism Gorilla Groups”. Such cases have been happening: Kwitonda group moved 8years ago to PNV In Rwanda from PNV in DRC and has been benefiting of the implementation of the MoU by sharing the tourism revenue by 50% between Rwanda and DRC as indicated in the MoU.

This therefore implies that Uganda Wildlife Authority can now sell gorilla tracking permits for Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and therefore some relief of the pressure on Bwindi, where the bulk of the gorilla tracking takes place. It will also benefit tourism into the Kisoro area of Uganda, which in itself is one of the most scenic parts of the country and holds many more attractions interesting for tourists visiting the country.

Nyakagezi group of gorillas currently has 10 members. The family includes the lead silverback Bugingo who is around 5gorilla trek uganda0 years old and father to most of the group; his silverback sons, Mark and Marfia; and two blackbacks, Rukundo and Ndungutse, who love to pose and play in the trees. The two females, Nshuti and Nyiramwiza, both have babies Furraha and Nkanda respectively. Although gorilla tracking in Mgainga Gorilla National Park can take an entire day it is generally less physically demanding than that at Bwindi National Park.

Mgahinga Gorilla National PMgahinga Gorilla National Park's Muhavura, Sabinyo and Gahinga ark is located in the far south-western corner of Uganda. The huge cones of the Virunga Volcanoes, Muhavura (4,127m) , Sabinyo (3,645m) and Gahinga (3,474m), dominate the landscape here at Uganda’s smallest national park. Mgahinga may be Uganda’s smallest national park at only 33 km², but it combines with the Parc National des Virunga in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Parc National des Volcans in Rwanda to create a conservation area of 434 km².

Other Wildlife and Attractions

Birds

The varied habitats of Uganda’s smallest park make it home to a variety of birds with 179-184 species recorded. The list includes the Ibis, Pin-tailed Whydah, Speckled Mousebird, Stone Chat, Grey-capped Warbler, Wax Bills, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Firefinch, White-naped Raven, Black Kite, Rwenzori Turaco, Blue-headed Coucal, Paradise Fly-catcher, Rwenzori Batis, Double-collared Sunbird, Rwenzori Nightjar.

 

Golden MonkeysGolden_Monkeys_Mgahinga_Uganda. There is an estimated 3000-4000 individuals in the Virunga area which 42-60 are habituated in Mgahinga

The endangered golden monkey is endemic to the Albertine Rift, and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park offers a rare chance to track these striking creatures, high in the dense bamboo forests on the Gahinga trail. There is an estimated 3000-4000 individuals in the Virunga area which 42-60 are habituated in Mgahinga.

Other Wildlife

Mgahinga is home to 76 species of mammals, although they are difficult to glimpse in the wild forest vegetation. They include giant forest hogs, bush pigs, forest buffaloes, elephants, bushbucks, golden cats, side striped jackals, black fronted duikers and South African porcupines.

 

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Uganda Wildlife Authority Starts Mountain Bike Riding in Mt. Elgon National Park

The Uganda Wildlife Authorities has introduced mountain bike-riding in Mt. Elgon National Park as a new tourist activity.

The assistant warden at the national park, Mr Stephen Nyadru, while speaking at the launch on Friday, said the move is aimed at attracting more tourists. He said activities will include traversing of rocks, washouts, and steep declines, on dirt trails, logging roads, and gravel roads that wind along lazy streams through forested valleys or trails that climb up steep mountainsides; and other unpaved environments.

“This is the first time we are introducing this form of tourism. We feel that after climbing the mountain, usually tourists remain dull during descending so this will be able to give them another exercise down the hills as a modern form of tourism in Uganda,” said Mr Nyadru.

He said the specific advantages of mountain bike-riding combines pleasure of being in the mountains with the health advantages of altitude and gradients, significant level of physical exercise and the possibility to cover longer distances.

The tourism official said the new activity complements other old tourists attractions.
They include scenic peaks, gorges, hot-springs, magnificent waterfalls, caves, and flora & fauna.

Others are the talking tree along in Kapkwai, and the caldera and crater lakes/pools. The Mt. Elgon area conservation manager, Mr Adonia Bintorwa, said on the first day of launching, the park earned Shs12 million from Ireland bikers - Concern Worldwide - who were on a tri-adventure of Mt Elgon.

Mr James Mcmanas, the expedition leader of about 17 bikers from Concern worldwide Ireland, said mountain bike or mountain bicycle (abbreviated MTB) created for off-road cycling, makes Mt Elgon now a place to go for all bikers.

The 1145km² Mt. Elgon National Park lies on an extinct volcano, one of uganda’s oldest physical features, first erupting around 20 million years ago. Mt. Elgon is capped by one of the world’s largest intact calderas, 40km² in size. This was created after an unusually violent eruption emptied the volcano’s magma reservoir. The cone, no longer supported by underlying molten rock, collapsed inwards, permanently blocking the main vent.

Mt. Elgon was once Africa’s highest mountain, far exceeding Kilimanjaro’s current 5895m. Millenia of erosion have reduced its hieghts to 4321m, relegating it to the 4th hieghest peak in East Africa and 7th on the continent.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

When is the best time, season, month to visit Kibale National Park to track chimps

Kibale National Park contains one of the loveliest and most varied tracts of tropical forest in Uganda. Forest cover interspersed by patches of grassland and swamp, dominates the northern and central parts of the park on an elevated plateau. The park ins home to a total of 60 mammal species, most famously the 13 species of primates including the chimpanzee. It also contains over 375 species of birds. Kibale adjoins Queen Elizabeth National Park to the south to create a 180-km long corridor for wildlife between Ishasha, the remote southern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park, as Sebitoli in the north of Kibale.

Best Season to Visit to Kibale National Park and Track Chimps

Northern Kibale is the park’s wettest area, receiving mean annual rainfall of up to 1700mm, mostly during March-May and September-November. The climate is generally pleasant with a mean annual temperature range of 14˚-27˚C. Temperatures are highest (and rainfall lower) in the south where the terrain drops down onto the hot rift valley floor and forest gives way to open grasslands.

Dry Season: June to September is the driest time and temperatures average 80˚(25˚) when most animals remain near water, but be prepared for afternoon thunderstorms at anytime. The hot dry time is January to February and is good time to visit.

Rainy Season: It rains anytime from October to December and March to May when many roads become impassible.

What to Bring on a tour to Kibale National Park

Hiking boots are ideal for forest walks although stout walking shoes are adequate. Lightweight rain coats are advisable. Altitude and forest environment makes evenings cool and a lihgt jacket is recommended. If you choose to bring a camera, be aware that the dark-haired chimpanzees in typically dim conditions present challenging subjects.

Recommended Lodging and Accommodation Options in Kibale and Fort Portal

Ndali Lodge set stunningly amidst the Bunyaruguru crater lake region of Western Uganda, 24 kilometres south of Fort Portal

Kibale Forest Camp situated in a patch of indigenous forest, just outside Kibale Forest National Park. The camp consists of 7 African safari style tents, which are comfortably furnished with twin or double beds



Kyaninga Lodge Fort Portal Kibale - PoolKyaninga Lodge located 15 minutes outside Fort Portal town. Perched atop a hill overlooking a stunning blue crater
lake, the lodge enjoys spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding landscape


Primate Lodge Kibale Primate Lodge Kibale Campis located at the Kanyanchu Visitors Centre in Kibale
National Park. From Fort Portal follow the road to Kamwenge for 36 kms and branch off at the sign post directing to Primate Lodge Kibale.


Chimps Nest Kibale National Park KibaleChimps Nest Kibale near Nyabubale, a small village between Nkingo and Bigodi. It's only a 15-minute drive from Kanyanchu, the starting point of UWA chimp-tracking and other activities in Kibale Forest.

 

 
CVK Lakeside Resort.CVK Lakeside Resort Kibale - Budget Price AccommodationThis picturistic low budget priced accommodation is located near a beautiful Crater Lake Nyabikere

 


Mountain Of The Moon Hotel Fort Portal

Mountains of The Moon Hotel This is a large resort-style hotel, just outside of the center of Fort Portal. It features a large main building with a central garden and rooms surrounding an inside courtyard.


Rwenzori View Guest House  Fort PortalRwenzori View Guesthouse This is a small scale beautiful guest house in Fort Portal. The owners managed to get the perfect informal atmosphere for this place.

 

 

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Friday, November 16, 2012

STATEMENT BY UGANDA’S MINISTER OF TOURISM, WILDLIFE AND ANTIQUITIES ON THE OCCASION OF LAUNCHING MOUNTAIN GORILLA CENSUS POPULATION CENSUS IN BWINDI IMPENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK.

The Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities together with Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) are pleased to announce a considerable increase in the mountain gorilla population in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP) following a three-week census that was carried out in the park in September and October 2011.

The population of mountain gorillas has been confirmed to stand at a minimum of 400 according to results from the census that was carried out by UWA with assistance from the International Gorilla Conservation Program(IGCP),Institute for the Conservation of Nature(ICCN)in DRC and RDB from Rwanda.

Scientifically referred to as Gorilla beringei beringei, mountain gorillas live in families headed by a silverback which is the dominant male. However, gorilla families sometimes split up to form new entities especially when there is more than one silverback in a family.

The census results showed that currently there are 36 gorilla families in Bwindi and 16 solitary males. Of the 36 families,10 are habituated for tourism and research.

Following the two censuses carried out in the Virunga Massif and in Bwindi in 2011,it has been confirmed the world’s population of mountain gorillas now stands at a total of 880 after census results showed in 2010 that there were 480 mountain gorillas in the Virunga massif which comprises Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (Uganda),Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda) and Virunga National Park (DRC),and now the 400 which has been confirmed in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park which is entirely in Uganda.

This means that Uganda is host to more than half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas.

The census methods have evolved over time and now we use the latest genetic technology combined field methods to get the most accurate result. This result confirms beyond reasonable doubt that Uganda’s conservation efforts are paying off.

We would like to appreciate the technical support provided during the census by the International Gorilla Conservation Program(a coalition of the Africa Wildlife Foundation, Fauna and Flora International and WWF),the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Conservation Through Public Health, The Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, the Institute for Tropical Forest Conservation, and Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, and the financial support extended by WWF-Sweden with supplemental support from Berggorilla & RegenwaldDirektilfee.V .,the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology .

The last census that was carried out in Bwindi in 2006showed that the total number of mountain gorillas was 340,while an earlier census that was carried out in 2002showed the population was 320.

The increase in the population of mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is testimony to the sound natural resource management policies that are being implemented in the protected areas.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and is also one of the most popular tourism destinations in Africa.

I take this opportunity to heartily congratulate Ugandans and the global community upon this conservation success.

For God and My Country

Hon. Maria Mutagamba

Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities

 

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UWA rescues 42 poisonous snakes and 147 chameleons bound for Czech Republic.

The reptiles were rescued just a few minutes away from being flown out to Czech Republic through Uganda’s Entebbe International Airport. They were found stuffed in one box with markings indicating that they are from a Kampala- based company, SME Breeders – and destined to Frischolz Import and Export company in the Czech Republic. UWA Publicist Lillian Nsubuga revealed that they had been on the lookout for the consignment at Entebbe International airport.

A concerned citizen tipped UWA about some suspicious consignment which they suspected to be drugs. But at the airport when they checked [one of the small bags within the box], they found they were snakes,” Nsubuga narrated.

Surprisingly, the snakes, which had been each separately packed in a white neatly made bag, were lying above 147 chameleons, 55 of which had already died –letting off a foul smell.

“This is a very coordinated crime. The way the box was packed with chameleons down and snakes up shows the level of sophistication and it is unlikely that it was done by a Ugandan,” Nsubuga said.

James Musinguzi, the acting Executive Director of the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC), where the reptiles are now being kept, says there were eight types of poisonous snakes in the consignment. However, the UWEC chief indicated that they were conversant with only one type – the Jameson Mamba, of which only three snakes were in the consignment.

Musinguzi says the rest of the seven types do not naturally occur in Uganda. The chameleons included the three-horned type, a rare species mainly found on Mt Rwenzori due to their love for cold conditions.

The Uganda Wildlife Act allows individual companies to breed and export wildlife but with clearance from conservation bodies such as UWA and CITES, but SME Breeders have never been cleared for this purpose. Musinguzi said the impounded reptiles will be kept at UWEC for some time to enable the conservation bodies to bring in specialists who will ascertain whether these reptiles are suitable to be released into the wild.

“We will do an assessment to ascertain their lifestyle and types because some of them are exotic and don’t occur here,” Musinguzi said, adding: “We don’t want to introduce species in the parks that will disorganize the ecology.”

The impounding follows another swoop in which UWA captured 13 pieces of ivory in a restaurant in Zana, a suburb along Entebbe road. Yet another 62kg of ivory were also impounded on Monday morning at the airport.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Breaking News: Mountain Gorillas Population in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park shoots up to 400 (2011 Census Results Release)

The long awaited mountain gorillas’ census results have just been released by Uganda  Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities at the Media Center putting the total population of mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to 400. This brings the World's population to 880, the 480 being shared by Uganda (Mgahinga Gorilla National Park), Rwanda (Volcanoes National Park) and DRC (Virunga National Park).
the total population of mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to 400. This brings the World's population to 880
Members of Oruzogo family (Bwindi)
Mountain gorillas live in social groups and the census results indicate that the 400 mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park form 36 distinct social groups and 16 solitary males. Ten of these social groups are habituated to human presence for either tourism or research and included, at the time of the census, 168 mountain gorillas or 42% of the Bwindi population.
While it was initially planned to include Sarambwe Nature Reserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a protected area continuous with Bwindi and therefore potential habitat for the Bwindi population of mountain gorillas, it was not possible to do so due to insecurity in the Sarambwe area at the time of the census.
Measuring Mountain Gorilla dung during the census
Measuring Mountain Gorilla dung
during the census in  September 2012


The Method Used for the Mountain Gorilla Census
However, this time round the counting didn’t involve actual encounters with the animals. Rather, the enumerators meticulously counted the nests in which individual gorillas rest by night, trailing their footprints and analyzing their excreta— collected from the nests— in the laboratory to eliminate double-counting. The counting teams , were not even following after gorilla trails, but instead walked transect lines to cover the whole forest… a tough exercise! After locating the gorilla track , the census team would then follow in their footsteps till the site is found where the gorillas spent the night before (one or more beds of vegetation called “nests”). They would then search for all the nests in the vicinity (gorillas usually make individual nests for the night. Mothers will share with infants/juveniles). From there they looked out for any dung/ droppings in the nests. A lot of information came from the dung found at the nests. The dung mold would be measured and sampled for later analysis (genetics, parasites, pathogens, etc.). On the way back, the recording of other observations were take, like illegal activities practised. Locations for all these observations were obtained by GPS.
Collecting mountain gorilla dung samples for the census
Collecting mountain gorilla dung samples for the census
The last (2006) Bwindi census counted 300 gorillas. Of course everyone was very eager to know if numbers are stable or even increasing. (The 2010 census of the Virunga gorillas yielded 480 individuals, some 100 more than in their census 5 years earlier — a rare good news story! )That means there are now 880 mountain gorillas confirmed in the wild. 
Mountain gorillas have been the flagship tourism activity for Uganda in the last few years. The Uganda Wildlife Authority is in fact overwhelmed by applications for gorilla tracking permits. It is therefore vital to know how many gorillas there are in order to be able to effectively conserve and market them.
In 2009, Uganda earned up to 225 million US dollars from gorilla tourism, accounting for 37 percent of the country’s total tourism earnings. The tourism activity has also become a major employer for Ugandans, with about 5,000 people involved in tours and travel in the Bwindi and Mgahinga areas.

The census was conducted in September 2011 by a corroboration of  many regional partners: the Uganda Wildlife Authority, the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature, the Rwanda Development Board, local governments and the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Conservation Through Public Health, the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund – International and us, the Institute for Tropical Forest Conservation. Funding to support our (pre-)census contribution comes from the Wildlife Conservation Society. Main support for the census comes from the World Wide Fund for Nature-Sweden via the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, with supplemental support coming from Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe.
 
If you have any questions about the mountain gorillas census or visiting/ trekking gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda, feel free to ask and we can try to answer them! Otherwise, we shall as usual keep you posted.

Ivan W.

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Electric Socket and Plug Outlet and Voltage Information for Rwanda

In Rwanda we used a 2 pronged European adapter. Officially type "C" and type "J" and "Type F" are used.

If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance's plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into. If it's crucial to be able to plug in no matter what, bring an adapter for both types.

Electric Socket and Plug Outlet and Voltage Information for Rwanda

But the shape of the socket is only half the story!
Electrical sockets (outlets) in the Republic of Rwanda (RĂ©publique du Rwanda) usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need.
But travel plug adapters do not change the voltage, so the electricity coming through the adapter will still be the same 220-240 volts the socket is supplying. North American sockets supply electricity at between 110 and 120 volts, far lower than in most of the rest of the world. Consequently, North American appliances are generally built for 110-120 volts.
But that doesn't mean that your specific appliance isn't already compatible with the higher voltage -- it may very well be.

Practical Tipping Advice in Rwanda and Uganda - How, When, Who, Where to Tip?

The question of when and when not to tip can be difficult in a foreign country. In Uganda and Rwanda, it is customary to tip your driver/guide at the end of a safari or hike, as well as a cook or porter that accompanies you. A figure if roughly $5 per day would be a fair benchmark, though check this with your safari company in advance. I see no reason why you shouldn’t give a bigger or smaller tip based on the quality of service. It is not essential to tip the guides who take you around in national parks and other reserves, but it is recommended, and the money will be greatly appreciated by the recipient.

The thing to remember is that whoever you tip in USD will not get the sum of money you intend to give. The exchange of USD is not an exact science, the rate given depends on both the age of the note and the size of the note. The newest and biggest denomination note will attract the best rate. A $1 bill will attract an absolute rubbish rate no matter how many you have. A Rwandan / Ugandan will be happy to receive a tip in whatever currency you want to use but for day to day living they prefer their local currency. If you tip them with dollars the first thing they do is go to the forex to negotiate the best rate available, either that or try and sell them to back to you.

So at the end of the day if all you have is USD or GBP or Euro then use that currency but the best option for the recipient is the local currency (Uganda Shilling or Rwandan franc).

But please please please don't do what some people do, tip using foreign coins, particularly one pound or one euro coins as they have no value at all and yes some people do do it.

It is customary to tip for service in local bars and restaurants, though you may sometimes want to leave a tip (in fact, given the difficulty of finding change in Uganda), you may particularly be forced into doing this in some circumstances. A tip of 5% would be very acceptable and 10% generous. Generally any restaurant that caters primarily for tourists and to wealthy Ugandans/ Rwandese residents will automatically add a service charge to the bill, but since there’s no telling where that service charge ends up, it would be reasonable to reward good service with a cash tip.

Practical Rwanda Money Tips, MasterCard, Visa in Rwanda, Budgeting, Planning your finances for Rwanda

Rwanda’s unit of currency is the Rwandan franc (RFr). IF you are travelling to Rwanda, it’s best to come to Rwanda with US dollars or euros in cash. The only useful bank branch in the country is Banque de Kigali in the capital, which offers cash advances on credit card and can change travellers cheques, neither of which is possible in the other provinces. There are ATMs in Kigali, but they are not yet wired to an international network. Credit cards can be used in some upmarket hotels and restaurants in Kigali.

Bureaux de change – which are mostly in Kigali – offer slightly better exchange rates than banks. Moneychangers hang around central Kigali and usually give a slightly better rate, but count your money carefully. All banks, and most bureaux de change, are closed on Saturday afternoon and Sunday.

 

Credit cards are not used widely and few cash machines take foreign credit cards. Unusually for this part of Africa, MasterCard is far more widely accepted than Visa (the Visa stickers you see outside some hotels refer to cards issued domestically). But even so, the use of MasterCard extends only certain up market hotels in Kigali and a very few places outside the capital. If you are relying on using a card, ten best to check what cards your hotel accepts when you make your booking. Worth noting here too that the ORTPN head office in Kigali also accepts MasterCard but not Visa.

If you have urgent payments to make it would be wise to carry cash instead of relying on the ATMS as they are so fond of failing to release cash when you need it most. 

You can withdraw upto US$2500 per day (or equivalent in Rwanda Francs or any other hard currency to hand) against Visa or MasterCard in the Bancor on Ave de la Piax in Kigali.  This is a remarkably straightforward procedure but be warned that it does depend on the bank having access to a specific website – if the electricity is down, or the computers or the internet server or the website itself, then this service will be unavailable and you may have to wait a day or two for it to comeback online.

As for travellers’ cheques (it is best if they are in euros or US dollars) – again, theoretically they can be cashed up to a value of US$200 daily at the Banque Commercial du Rwanda (BCR) and a few other banks in central Kigali, but in practice this can fall apart, or be quite a slow procedure.  You will get a poorer exchange rate for travellers’ cheque than for cash.  When cashing them, you must generally show the sales advice slip that you got when you obtained them – that is the slip of paper that one is supposed never to keep in proximity to the cheques!

That leaves cash.   The preferred foreign currencies are the dollar or euro, but all main currencies should be exchangeable, whether in banks or in official or private forex bureaux.  The official forex are clearly signed on the street and have standard facilities.  The ‘private’ ones are small offices or rooms where the moneychangers who used to tour their wares on the street now operate since the black market was declared illegal.  They may offer a slightly better exchange rate than in banks.  They generally also give a better rate for larger-denomination notes, which anyway are less bulky for you to carry.  Above all, because there is no paperwork involved, they have the advantage scene.  Conditions regarding credit cards and traveler’s cheques may be different – and better – by the time you travel.  But do have enough cash in case of glitches.  If you don’t want to carry too much, arrange for a friend to send it to you from hoe when necessary, via Western Union – there are offices in Kigali and all the main towns.  It isn’t cheap – the cost depends on the amount being transferred –but it’s quick and secure.  Any Rwandan francs left over at the end of your trip can be changed back into dollars, euros or whenever by banks, forex bureaux or money-changers.

Planning Your spending in Rwanda
Your planned expenditure will largely depend on what you intend to do during your visit, where you want to go, which kind of hotels and services you intend to utilize. Generally speaking though, please inform your travel agent of a rough figure you plan to spend on your visit so that they can draw out the most apporpriate plan for you. Pre-booked packages do vary in terms of what is included in the price, and you are advised to check the exact condition in advance, but generally the price quoted will cover everything but drinks, tips and perhaps some meals.

For budget travellers, Rwanda is not the cheapest country in Africa, but it is damn close to it – and after Ghana it offers the best value for money of any country I have visited in the last couple of years.  Throughout the country, a soft drink will cost you around US$0.40 and a 700ml beer less than US$1 in a local bar, more in a hotel or restaurant that caters primarily to Westerners.  A meal in local restaurant will cost US$1-1 while a meal in a proper restaurant might cost U$4 upwards.  Budget accommodation can average out about US$5 per head, quite often for a self-contained room (two people) with a hot shower or bath.  Public transport is cheap- typically about US$1 per 50km – and distances are relatively small.  Taking the above figures into account I think that budget travellers could scrape by inmost parts of Rwanda on around US$10-15 per day for one-person or US$20 per day for two.

The above calculations don’t allow for more expensive one-off activities, such as gorilla-tracking ( a gorilla permit at at June 1st 2012 is $750) or visiting the other national parks (not expensive unless you hire a vehicle).  If you want to keep a particular budget and plan on undertaking such activities, you would be well advised to treat your day-to-day budget separately from one –off expenses.

Rwanda is so small, and all parts of it are so easily accessible from Kigali, that you needn’t engage in any complicated planning. 

 TIPPING
Tipping is common is Rwandan cities these days due to the large international presence. Rwandan salaries are low and a tip of 10% will be appreciated. Tipping is an important part of a safari – expect to tip drivers, guides and cooks around US$10 per day per group depending on the safari.
 

How much?

Double room in a midrange hotel US$35-115
Meal in a midrange restaurant US$5-10
Tracking mountain gorillas US$750
100km bus ride US$2
Internet access per hour US$1-2
1L bottled water US$0.75
Primus beer US$2
Beef brochettes (street snack) US$1
Souvenir T-shirt US$10

How to do a 1-Day mountain gorilla trekking tour from Kigali

Up to recently I kept receiving many emails from intending visitors on whether it is really possible to do a gorilla trek in one day without a hassle, and my answer of course is – YES, it is possible in Rwanda.

The Kigali International Airport is just about 2½ hours of driving on paved roads from the Volcanoes National Park, the home to the mountain gorillas. And if the gorilla trekking commences at 7:00 AM, the main requirement here is to get to the Volcanoes National Park assembling point before that time. So if you can depart from Kigali in the early morning hours, 3 hours before this time you can certainly make it. Gorilla trekking can go for as many as 8 hours and once the activity is done, you can make your way back to Kigali with much ease. However much you will be tired, who cares? You have the memories to carry home.

A 1-day gorilla trek (with Gorillas and Wildlife Safaris) costs $1160 for one person, $940 and this includes the gorilla permit. Compare this cost to a 3-days gorilla trek: 1276$ for one person, 1035$ for 2 persons, then you see the difference in costs and how much you save. Of course this comes about after you consider the accommodation costs, the car hire costs for the gorilla trek with your driver, your meals, etc.

None the less, we can’t underscore the necessity for an overnight near the Park or on Kinigi town for several reasons if not to avoid risks like car breakdowns which may delay you to the point of missing out on your lifetime experience with the gorillas.

You might get lucky and get a close group (where you only have about a 45minute trek I think from trailhead to the group) - but some groups e.g. Susa can be far away and you could spend the best part of the day trekking. Plus people tend to want to head straight for a shower after the trek so that's why you almost always do need at least a night stay around Volcanoes National Park.

But yes, you can do a 1-day gorilla trek but for factors outlined above, you may consider otherwise e.g. early start (what if you get a flat tyre?), not assigned group until you're there so no guarantee of a group nearby, if you get wet or have a tough trek, you probably would want to get showered and changed fairly quickly.

 

Related articles:

Comparing Gorilla Trekking Tours : Uganda Vs Rwanda – Compare prices, experience, hardness,etc

My mountain gorilla tracking experience in Bwindi's Oruzogo gorilla family

How To Book Gorilla tracking & Trek Permits in Uganda and Rwanda

Affordable Private Road Transfers to Bwindi

Uganda Cuts Gorilla Trek Permit Prices to $350
Mountain Gorillas Aside, Why Does Earth need Bwindi so badly?

Mountain Gorilla Trekking Tour Packages in Rwanda and Uganda

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Lodging and accommodation options in/ near Kibale National Park and Fort Portal

Kibale National Park together with the nearby Kasenda Crater lakes are close to being an independent traveller’s dream, blessed with the tantalising combination of inexpensive accommodation , easy access, wonderful scenery and a remarkable variety of activities. The Park is highly alluring to nature lovers of all budgets for its excellent chimpanzee tracking and bird watching not to mention the greatest variety and concentration of primates of any forest in East Africa. Gazetted in October 1993, the 760 sq km national park extends southwards from Fort Portal to form a contiguous block with Queen Elizabeth National Park. At least 60 mammal species are present in Kibale Forest. It is particularly rich in Primates, with 13 species recorded, the highest total for any Ugandan national park.



Ndali Lodge set stunningly amidst the Bunyaruguru crater lake region of Western Uganda, 24 kilometres south of Fort Portal
 
Kibale Forest Camp situated in a patch of indigenous forest, just outside Kibale Forest National Park. The camp consists of 7 African safari style tents, which are comfortably furnished with twin or double beds
 
 
 
Kyaninga Lodge Fort Portal Kibale - PoolKyaninga Lodge located 15 minutes outside Fort Portal town. Perched atop a hill overlooking a stunning blue crater
lake, the lodge enjoys spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding landscape

 
Primate Lodge Kibale Primate Lodge Kibale Campis located at the Kanyanchu Visitors Centre in Kibale
National Park. From Fort Portal follow the road to Kamwenge for 36 kms and branch off at the sign post directing to Primate Lodge Kibale.



Chimps Nest Kibale National Park KibaleChimps Nest Kibale near Nyabubale, a small village between Nkingo and Bigodi. It's only a 15-minute drive from Kanyanchu, the starting point of UWA chimp-tracking and other activities in Kibale Forest.
 
CVK Lakeside Resort.CVK Lakeside Resort Kibale - Budget Price AccommodationThis picturistic low budget priced accommodation is located near a beautiful Crater Lake Nyabikere
 
 
Mountain Of The Moon Hotel Fort PortalMountains of The Moon Hotel This is a large resort-style hotel, just outside of the center of Fort Portal. It features a large main building with a central garden and rooms surrounding an inside courtyard.
 
Rwenzori View Guest House  Fort PortalRwenzori View Guesthouse This is a small scale beautiful guest house in Fort Portal. The owners managed to get the perfect informal atmosphere for this place.
 
 
 
More Lodging Choices at Kibale National Park >> 
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What is fast-killing and finishing-off the Endangered Eastern Chimpanzee

Chimpanzees have already disappeared from 4 African countries, and are nearing extinction in many others. 
Kibale Forest Chimpanzees
Habituated Wild Chimps in Kibale National Park, Uganda

The estimated population of chimpanzees remaining on earth (for the eastern chimpanzees) is still only approximate because large areas of their range have never never been surveyed. The most recent estimate (Kormos et al. 2003) is 76,400- 119,600 eastern chimpanzees of an estimated 172,700-299,700 total for all subspecies.

The eastern chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii, is classified as Endangered on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species. These animals live in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and Zambia. Due to high levels of exploitation, death and injury, as well as loss of habitat and habitat quality as a result of expanding human activities, this subspecies is estimated to have experienced a significant population reduction in the past 20 to 30 years, according to the IUCN Red List. The Red List states, “The causes of the reduction, although largely understood, have certainly not ceased and are not easily reversible,” and states also, “It is suspected that this reduction will continue for the next 30 to 40 years.”


Estimates of eastern chimpanzee numbers by country from surveys within the past 10 years. 'Known sites' don't cover the full range where this subspecies is likely to occur.

Burundi 450
CAR ?
DRC 42,798
Rwanda 275
Sudan ?
Tanzania 2,750
Uganda 5,000
Total 51,273


Chimpanzees are most often found in moist and dry forests, and forest galleries extending into savanna woodlands. They are omnivorous, and their diet is variable according to individual populations and seasons. Fruit makes up about half their diet, but leaves, bark, and stems are also important. Mammals comprise a small but significant component of the diet of many chimpanzee populations. 

Chimpanzees form social communities of five to 150 animals, and there is great cultural variation between chimpanzee populations. Some fish for termites with sticks while others do not; some crack nuts, large snails or even tortoises and eat them, while others do not. Chimpanzees at neighboring sites tend to have similar behaviors. 
A yelling wild chimpanzee in Kalinzu forest Uganda
A wild Chimp yelling in Nyungwe
National Park, Rwanda

The major threats to the Eastern Chimpanzees including hunting for bushmeat, hunting for trade if infants, habitat loss or fragmentation, and disease transmission. Populations are being hunted across their range, particularly in the DRC and CAR (Central Africa Republic), where they are targeted as bushmeat (chimpanzees are relatively large and provide a reasonable amount of meat compared with other primates). When mothers with infants are killed, the infants are often kept alive as pets and often traded. This illegal traffic in wildlife, from DRC through East Africa, remains high, despite efforts to control it. 

While the Congo Basin forest block remains fairly intact, it is gradually being sub-divided by roads and human settlements, which is leading to increasing fragmentation of chimpanzee populations. Roads constructed either to link settlements or for removal of timber from logging concessions allow hunters to enter forests that were previously difficult to reach or inaccessible, which has increased the pressures on chimpanzees.
In East Africa (including Rwanda and Burundi) there’s less killing for bushmeat (although it does occur), but chimpanzee population are declining due to habitat loss and major fragmentations, as forest and woodland is converted to agriculture. Outside protected areas, habitat is fast being lost. 
A wild chimp in Kyambura Gorge - Uganda
A wild chimp in Kyambura Gorge

There is a great risk of disease transmission in East Africa as many chimpanzee populations live in close proximity to people and regularly come into contact with human feaces and other waste. Studies in Kibale National Park show that human gut fauna are found in chimpanzees and other primates that live adjacent to human settlement and that the similarities between the gut fauna of people and primates increases with increasing forest fragmentation. Disease risk is also exacerbated by tourism as people come within a few meters of the animals, enabling transmission of respiratory diseases. In addition, international tourists are more likely to be carrying novel diseases that the chimpanzees have never been exposed to.

The conservation of wild populations is important not only for conservation, but also for the survival of chimpanzee cultures in the region that are invaluable to helping us define our own place within the natural realm. 

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