This week we feature the top 10 most inspiring adventures you can’t afford to miss before or after your gorilla trekking expedition in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga National Park. Our list will help you realize that these blessed National Parks are beyond just the Gorilla tracking that they are famous for. Lets just jump straight into the list:
1. Canoe cruise on Lake Mulehe and Lake Mutada
If you are crazy about photography tours, you will absolutely love this laid-back and casual adventure, aboard a dug-out canoe. It is a sightseeing tour during which your eyes will feast on pristine-astonishing-contrasts. These range from, sky blue freshwater lakes, dramatic hills with well terraced farms, U-shaped valleys with meandering rivers and sky hugging volcanoes of Virunga region. You will also see what a typical Ugandan village looks like. Our field team will ensure you are comfortable throughout as the boat drifts.
Forget about the usual boat ride where you just sit back and watch as boredom eats you up. Here, you will be engaged in everything inclusive of paddling/rowing the boat. The lake is so quiet, relaxed and free of pollution. It provides a great opportunity to fire up your spirits ahead of an intense gorilla trekking excursion.
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During this tour, you will be guided by locals to whom this part of the world is home. They speak Rukiga, the traditional language of the Bakiga, a welcoming tribe of farmers. With the aid of a translator, they will nourish you with lots of gripping histories about their intoxicating cultures. They are very passionate about this sport.
Unlike a motorized boat, the canoe is quiet. This enables you get lots of pictures of birds. By the time they realize you are in their territory, you will have gotten that beautiful postcard picture you have been waiting for.
Regardless of whether you are ”canoeing” in the morning or lunch time, Adventure Vacation Safaris will organize for you an unforgettable dining experience on board. There will also be lots of fresh cocktail drinks, Ugandan coffee or cold beer to rejuvenate your taste buds.
2. Batwa Historical Trail
An experience in Africa you can’t miss if you want to reconnect with life in the previous centuries in a native bush. The Batwa are an indigenous tribe of pygmies that used to live in Mgahinga National Park before it was gazetted in early 90’s. During this day-long tour, they will show you how they harmoniously co-existed with mountain gorillas in the forest for over 100 years.
It is over 20 years since they were evicted. However, the forest still has a very special place in their hearts. Why? Their lives used to revolve around it. Not only was it a source of food, it was their paradise on earth. A paradise that had it all, wild fruits, herbal medicines, flowers with stunning fragrances, crystal clear rivers.
You will be taken to the different cultural arenas in the park where they used to worship, where used to organize marriage festivals. They will treat you to a vibrant recreation, demonstrating how they used to hunt, how they used to set fire using early man’s method of friction. They will show you how they used to build tree houses to avoid troublesome forest residents like elephants.
The tour will climax with a visit to Ngarama, a spacious underground cave where their Royal family used to live.
If you love souvenirs that are made with impressive attention to detail, there are lots of exquisite antiques and handmade crafts to purchase. You will also find bark clothes made with a special Ugandan touch. It has a strong ritual importance to Ugandan tribes especially those belonging to the Bantu group. This prehistoric fabric is natural, authentic and chic. This soft and resistant fabric was created by carefully harvesting the bark of fig trees. It was then soaked and beaten with wooden mallet until its fibres were flexible enough to be worn comfortably.
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3. Mountain Climbing in Mgahinga National Park
The enchanting views, the pristine scenery, the vibrant bird-life, everything about Mgahinga is an experience that you can’t afford to miss. It is a tropical forest park with three sky hugging mountains that are spread along Uganda’s border with Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. They are, Mgahinga, Sabyinyo and Muhavura all of which lie the western of the rift valley. They soar between 3,474, 3,645 and 4,127 meters above sea level respectively.
One of the things that they all share in common is that they offer remarkable climbing challenges without killing your positive energy. Like most mountains formed as a result of volcanic eruption, they have a perfect balance of steep slopes and gentle trails. As such, you can easily conquer them even without much physical fitness. All it takes is a positive mindset, good hiking boots and enough water to keep you hydrated. There is no need for complicated gear like crampons. It’s that easy.
To get to the respective summits, you will pass through four vegetation zones, forest zone, bamboo zone, moorland zone and heather zone. Each of these is well lit up with fascinating flora that is unique to this part of the world. This includes Nyakagezi, an adorable family of mountain gorillas with 11 members.
It takes an average of eight hours to hike to and fro each of the highest points. You are free to have stopovers whenever you need your internal batteries to recharge. Taking things slowly will enable your body acclimatize quickly, thereby lessening your chances of being knocked down by altitude sickness.
If you need help with carrying your luggage, we are happy to hire for you a porter.
What is unique about each mountain
Sabyinyo will offer you remarkable views of both Muhavura and Mgahinga-thanks to its location in the middle of the three mountains. It is the only place on earth where you can be in Rwanda, Congo and Uganda at the same time. Why? The borders of these three countries intersect at its summit, offering you an exciting opportunity to spread one arm in Congo, the other in Rwanda and your legs in Uganda.
If your heart beats for tough climbing challenges, Mgahinga will fire you up. In an effort to make your hike less frustrating, there wooden ladders laid down to assist with the ascent over steep stretches. To get past them, you will use your arms more than your legs. It is such an enriched climbing challenge and yes, we can confidently bet that you will be back for more after conquering it.
The summit of Mountain Muhavura is blessed with a stunning crater lake that lies half way in Rwanda and half way in Uganda. The mountain rugged and dramatic with lots of otherworldly scenery for you to digest. It’s the kind of destination where you can experience four seasons in a single day; summer, winter and rainy seasons. You Should Be Here!
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4. Home-stay experience at Nshenyi Cultural Village
People of all ages have been to Nshenyi and been amazed by the way it indulges tourists with endearing cultures of the Ankole Kingdom. It is a home-stay experience that takes place at a countryside ranch found atop a gently sloping hill in Ntungamo District. A home-stay is a touristic experience in which travellers immerse themselves in a particular culture—by staying at a local’s home as opposed to hotel. In this case, you will experience what it is like to be a Munyankole. They are a tribe of lanky pastorals to whom the long-horned breed of local cows means everything. It is a source of food, pride and bride-wealth.
Taking it away from them is like snatching a life jacket from a drowning man who doesn’t know how to swim. The pleasure is yours to know the story behind this rich history as you herd cattle in the company of herdsmen. Upon dressing you in traditional ankole attire who looks like Indian saris’, they will teach you how to milk cows like a local, using your bare hands.
On the other-hand, Mary 46, the head of the family will share with you delightful insights about how Kuhingira is organized. It is a traditional marriage ceremony. Trusting you are ready for enthusiastic local performances that grace ceremonies such as coronation of clan heads and kings. One such is Ekitaguro, a graceful dance that entails imitating the movements of a cow. The dancers always wear smiles and look like they are having such a good time performing for guests. Even better, their costumes are colourful and their instruments, vibrant. You are free to jump in and groove along.
Not only will you have a tour of a typical Ankole homestead, you will sleep in one of eco-friendly huts that bears the architectural style of the previous centuries. This will prove very valuable as you later drive past many local homes because you know why the homes are set up with dome shapes. They are beautifully laid out next to the kraals of cattle.
Throughout your stay here, you will feast on food and fruits which are grown organically at Nshenyi’s plantation.
5. Lake Bunyonyi tour
There are thousands of lakes scattered around Africa. Some attract big number of tourists because they very beautiful and have lots of adventures to offer. Others because they have a rich history and cozy resorts. Africa’s second deepest lake is very fortunate in both of these regards and guess what, it is just a one hour’s drive from Bwindi. Its name, Lake Bunyonyi. Think of it as a scenic crater lake dotted with 29 small Islands.
The lake’s surface area of 2Km is surrounded by soaring highlands, most with well terraced farms on their faces. While Bunyonyi’s average depth is 39m (128ft), its maximum depth is 130ft (40m). Sounds like a risky place to explore, right? Fear not, it is as safe as it gets. This is partly because it is calm for much of the year. It doesn’t experience any significant hailstorms. What’s more, it is clean and free of Bilharzia. This makes it a great place to take a refreshing dip or swim. Alternatively, you can take advantage of it’s all year warm weather to head out for a sunset cruise or sightseeing boat ride. Both excursions are breath-taking from start to finish. They provide a great way to see the tranquil lake at a leisurely pace. You will never feel in danger whilst under the competent watch of the guides.
By the same token, there are several beach front resorts where you can relax after an exhausting gorilla trekking excursion. You will have your own terrace with a seating arena that overlooks the lake and its hypnotizing islands. Throughout your stay, your ears will be treated to soothing calls of birds. Bunyonyi has them in abundance, that is why its name translates as the plates with many small birds (in Rukiga Language).
6. Swimming in beautiful natural ponds
If you are crazy about diving in natural ponds that have crystal clear water, Bwindi National Park will rock your world. Its Buhoma wing has lots of ponds with mineral rich water. They are fed by the forest’s different waterfalls and enclosed by rugged rocks. In no exaggeration, the water in these ponds is so clear that you can see the tiny fish swimming at bottom. They are spacious and fun to swim in as they are not salty, unlike ocean water. Six of every ten ponds is surrounded by plenty of incredible scenery to soak in, inclusive of colourful flowers with charming scents. Forget about tremendous waves, these ponds are calm to the last drop.
Unless your height is less than 3ft., you don’t need prior swimming experiences to be able to have a good time. The ponds are not that deep. It is an exciting experience but don’t be so carried away and forget to watch where your steps, some rocks are quite slippery.
7. Bird watching in Bwindi
When it comes to birdwatching, Bwindi is a gem of queens and queen of gems. It boasts of 350 recorded bird species, several of which rank among the 10 most sought birds in Uganda. This includes 23 Albertine Endemics like Blue-headed sunbird and Neumann’s warbler. Thanks to its elevation at 1160m – 2607m above sea level, Bwindi offers incredible luck with spotting montane-forest species like, African broadbill, Yellow-streaked greenbul, Black bee-eater, Western green tinkerbird, Black-billed turaco, Shelley’s crimsonwing, Black-faced rufous warbler, Rwenzori apalis, Black-faced warbler, Regal sunbird, Blue-headed sunbird, Purple-breasted sunbird, Cinnamon-chested bee-eater, Olive-breasted greenbul, Grauer’s broadbill, Mountain masked apalis, Handsome francolin.
For a more fruitful excursion, wear cloths with earth colours as opposed to those with shouting colours. This will enable you get into the respective territories of birds without being noticed. Most birds prefer to spend much of their time in the high canopy and therefore hard to see clearly without the aid of binoculars. Be sure to carry one.
If you want to see the highest number of resident species, March and September are a safe bet. Mubwindi, a swamp after which the park is named attracts the highest concentration. If you particularly want migratory species, November to April provide an exceptional experience.
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8. Great Lakes Museum
Meet Great Lakes Musuem, a distinctive historical attraction found in Ntungamo District, along the road connecting Bwindi to Queen Elizabeth National Park. A visit here is as good as a culrural tour of the 10 major tribes of Banyakigezi. It is an ethnic group of cattle keepers and farmers that live in Western Uganda and the land of a thousand hills, Rwanda. Its citizens comprise of Banyankole, Batooro, Bakiiga, Bahima, Banyoro, Hutu, Bafumbira and Tutsi among others.
One of the things that makes this legendary attraction one in a million is that, it has very captivating monuments and statues. They vividly showcase the authentic ways of life of the mentioned tribes. What particularly moves most visitors about them is how they embody distinctive qualities a statue stands for. WOW-factor, durability, ability to effortlessly tell a story.
Brace yourself to learn about the cultural differences between the life of the men and that of the women, right from their birth to afterlife. In addition, you will learn how tribes in western Uganda get married, how they thatch huts using knowledge passed on from generation to generation.
9. Nature walks in Buhoma
Do not leave Bwindi without pursuing this astonishing experience, you will regret it! There is a network of easy paved trails that take you to different wonders of the forest and its animal kingdom. As you snake your way under its gigantic forest that is over 25,000 years old, you will have surprise encounters of its 120 mammals. It could be forest elephants, buffaloes, antelopes and yes, several primate species like baboons and chimpanzees. If lady luck sides with you, you might you will run into some of the over 450 resident mountain gorillas. To this effect, you will walk through the same trails used for gorilla trekking.
Throughout your time in the forest, you will hear soothing calls of birds close by in the canopy. It is a lifetime memory you will live with even in your afterlife. A stopover at the waterfalls offers a great reconnection with nature. In the same breath, the walk through the different gorilla nests is nothing short of magical. It is a great introduction to what you’ll see if you’re planning to do gorilla habituation or trekking.
You could easily spend two to three hours delving into the heart of the park, taking photos, and feel the positive energy of nature. Surroundings in the forest is all green. It feels like you are in the middle of an ocean with green water, instead of blue. There is something for every level of fitness, ranging from short, easy day-time walks & night walks purposed to offer close-up encounters with shy nocturnals like bush-babies and owls.
You will love the guide’s enthusiasm and clarity of explanation about the eco-system of the park. He will share with you the conservation works that stakeholders are doing to help save the endangered species in the park.
Don’t forget to wear warm clothes and some water proof jackets to protect your cameras. Bwindi experiences heavy rain spontaneously as it a tropical rain-forest. If luck is on your side, you could stumble across a gorilla family as they move about in search for wild fruits.
10. Kisiizi waterfall
Found in Rukingiri, one of the hilly Districts upon which Bwindi lies, Kisiizi is a one stop destination that has something for everyone, the adrenaline junkie, lover of photography and enthusiasts of historical attractions.
Kisiizi features one of Uganda’s fourth highest waterfall, dropping over 44 meters from the cliff of a mountain range. This waterfall is a Historical attraction that offers a very educational tour, reflecting how Bakiga girls who conceived before marriage were punished with a death sentence. To be precise, they would be dragged to the edge of the cliff at Kisiizi and pushed off. See, getting pregnant this way was abominable to the Bakiga tribe as it deprived the girl’s family of dowry. They were considered worthless as no man would consider marrying them. Alas! None of the victims escaped death. The foot of the falls where they landed had sharp rocks. It was a painful death but luckily, it was banned by 1920. During your tour here, you will find a creative monument that illustrates how the death sentence unfolded. You will also find a museum with well-preserved history about this tragic past.
Ziplining at Kisiizi
Kisiizi’s zipling excursion will happily get you out of your comfort zone. You will be totally blown away by its network of cables that overlook the waterfall. They soar at heights from 65ft to 80ft above the ground. At no point will you feel unsafe and neither will you be asked to do anything you can’t cope with. Standing at the canopy of gigantic trees upon which its cables are suspended, you will have unlimited views of the surrounding eucalyptus forest and their neighbouring villages. The guides here are outgoing, cheerful and ensure you are safe at all times.
Kisiizi’s bridge-walk is short, well-constructed and laid out. It offers a great introduction to canopy life. Thanks to its high elevation, it offers spectacular views of the lagoon and full length of the falls. The breeze up here is refreshing and a great break from the heat below. Every now and then you can spot a different species of bird or butterfly.
If you love positively impacting the lives of communities, you can’t go wrong with this tour. Proceeds from it go to maintaining a missionary founded hospital in the village, Kisiizi Hospital.
This sums up our list of the top 10 adventures you can undertake while in Bwindi besides the famous Gorilla Tracking. Book with us now for a customized safari experience. We are always just an email away.