destination-hero

Although the mountain gorillas were made popular in the 1988 film Gorillas in the Mist, based on Dian Fossey’s book set in Rwanda, Uganda and Rwanda have most recently resurfaced as hot spots as they are the only two countries in which to safely visit the animals (since the Democratic Republic of the Congo is war torn).

Cheat Sheet

  • Sleep…at the Volcanoes Lodges throughout Rwanda and Uganda.
  • Experience…a game drive in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
  • Splurge…on a helicopter from Kigali to Volcanoes Virunga Lodge.
  • Eat…as much Chakalaka, Rwandan hot sauce, as possible.
  • Drink…a Waragi and tonic, made with Uganda’s most famous gin.
  • Savor…a traditional Ugandan meal at some point on your trip.
  • Visit…the center for Conservation through Public Health in Bwindi.
  • Shop…the local crafts markets in Kigali for Rwandan hand-woven bowls.
  • See…the mountain gorillas in both Uganda and Rwanda.
  • Know…the region’s history before your trip.

Lay of the Land

“When you realize the value of all life you dwell less on past and concentrate more on the conservation of the future.”
~Dian Fossey

Those who visit Rwanda and Uganda generally do so in two ways. The first and longer version is to spend time in both Uganda and Rwanda and see the gorillas in two locations, Virunga and Bwindi. Two to three nights at each lodge is recommended and additional time in the Kyambura Gorge can be added for game viewing and chimpanzee trekking. The second option is to choose either Rwanda or Uganda as an add-on before or after a safari in East Africa. For this option, two to three nights is also sufficient but there will most likely be a layover on either end in Kigali or Entebbe.

In both countries visitors will be confronted by the extreme poverty of the region. Most Rwandans and Ugandans live with their large families in one-room clay houses (there are an average of six children per couple). Homes have little or no electricity, and water often has to be fetched from miles away each day. The best hotels in the country (with the exception of those in Kigali and Entebbe) usually run on generators and hot water can be spotty. In addition, the roadways between lodges are generally unpaved and full of potholes, making long days in the car uncomfortable. Since the infrastructure in both countries is lacking and getting from place to place can be difficult, both helicopters and private charters are available and cut down on travel time.

Uganda lies to the north of Rwanda and sits directly on the equator. Similar to Rwanda, the western parts of Uganda are dominated by mountains and high elevation, creating a cooler climate. In the southwest, the snowcapped Rwenzori Mountain functions as a natural border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the area is also home to the Queen Victoria National Park and Kyambura Gorge. This region is also the source of the Nile. Lake Victoria, one of the world’s largest lakes, is located in the south of the country and both Entebbe and Kampala are near its shores. The northeast region of the country is the driest of all of the climates and is also good for game viewing.

Where to Stay

The handful of lodges in Rwanda and Uganda that are considered four-stars or five-stars are still extremely “eco,” usually running on generators and with spotty hot water. Visitors who require five-star amenities and service will be greatly out of their comfort zone in most cases. Booking a trip in advance is crucial, as the majority of the few high-end lodges have about eight rooms, or bandas, and fill up during the high season. Indagare members can contact our Bookings Team for help selecting the right property.

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Beyond… Uganda

Consider combining your trip with one of these destinations.

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