By Derrick Kateeba
Gorilla Trekking is one of the most interesting tourism activities. In Uganda, Bwindi impenetrable National park and Mgahinga National Park remain the best sites for this kind of adventure.
However at Rushaga area in Bwindi impenetrable National park, the Gorilla experience gets more thrilling and exciting.
According to Jones Tugume, a tour guide in Rushaga , most of the Gorilla families in Bwindi impenetrable Forest are accessed when one visits Rushaga and the neighbouring Nkuringo area which is called the Southern Area of the park.
Four Gorilla groups of Mishaya, Nshongi, Bweza, Kahungye and Busingye can be trekked while in Rushaga.
The nearest and most accessible group of gorillas is Bweza that can be reached in a period of 1-2 hours trek depending on how lucky the tourist is that day.
Over 97% of the tourists that visit Rushaga get a chance of seeing the Gorillas.
Researchers, trackers and other guests usually flock the area to fulfil their mission with Gorillas.
Advance booking is always encouraged most especially during the high season so as to ensure good planning from the park officials.
As a requirement, time management is very important for any tracker since tracking time is between 8:30 am-7:00pm. A pre-tracking briefing is usually organised at Banda from 7:45 am where visitors are introduced to the geography of Bwindi impenetrable National Park and the specific expectations while in the forest.
During Briefing guests are also given a chance to choose which groups they want to visit depending on their interests. Some groups are near whereas others can take you a walk through the forest of between 4-6 hours.
Due to the unpredictable weather in the park, one is expected to carry along a rain coat to shield him or her from the park rains in case they show up. Another important prerequisite is packed lunch and a bottle of water.
It is always advised for guests to do all the eating they need before getting to the gorillas so as to avoid inconveniencing gorillas with their food.
Along the way in the forest, rangers will go clearing the route for tourists since the forest has no specific path to the gorillas.
The incredible vegetation of Bwindi impenetrable Forest coupled with the fresh air accorded by the uncountable trees in the forest leave you with a memorable feeling.
Usually an advance team of staff trackers is sent to spot the exact location of gorillas and these keep giving signals to the lead guide on where to go exactly when they have spotted the gorillas.
On getting closer to the gorillas, trackers start “speaking the gorilla language” whereas the rest are asked to speak at a low tone so as not to scare away the gorillas.
Importantly is to keep calm even when gorillas make strange things because they can start humming the ground and slapping their chests in a funny way but to a guest such conduct may seem scaring although it is advisable to remain still if such happens.
Guests are supposed to spend an hour after encountering the Gorillas studying their ways and taking pictures of the amazing creatures.
The Use of Camera flash is also restricted so as not to distract Gorillas from their daily activities.
Eng Ivan Batuma, a hotel owner in Rushaga and a renowned Tourism investor in the region said that Rushaga’s Tourism potential as far as Gorilla trekking is promising and given some good time it is most likely to be the better than even Buhoma, the Original gorilla tracking area of Bwindi.
After trekking, Uganda Wildlife Authority holds a certificate awarding ceremony where one is receives a gorilla trekking certificate and bid farewell.
HOW TO GET TO RUSHAGA
By road, it is usually a 10-hour journey from Entebbe Airport in Uganda to the Rushaga area of Bwindi Forest and a 3-hour drive from Kigali airport to the Rushaga Area.
A flight to Rushaga from Entebbe or Kampala to Kisoro offers one a more scenic attraction as he or she gets to view the beautiful Virunga Volcanoes alongside Africa’s second deepest Lake Bunyonyi and Lake Mutanda.
The flight is 1 1/2 hours long to the town of Kisoro from Entebbe and then it is a short drive to the Rushaga
ACCOMODATION IN RUSHAGA
Rushaga has a number of accommodation facilities that offer you a decent jungle feeling at a pocket friendly charge.
Depending on one’s choice of accommodation, with USD10 one can negotiate for a camping opportunity whereas most rooms range from USD 40-80.
Most accommodation facilities in Rushaga are close to the Park’s briefing point which helps a tourist to reach the place in time for the early morning activity. The most preferred accommodation facilities in Rushaga include Rushaga Gorilla Camp, Nshongi Camp and Gorilla Valley Lodge.
At night, the cool breeze from the neighbouring forest will make you call for the intervention of a second blanket in case you are not used to a cold environment.
Opting for a campfire is also a good option for guests who enjoy longer night interactions.
For lovers of Art and Craft, Rushaga trading centre offers a variety of items which are locally made ranging from masks, drums, spears, pots among other sculptures that once bought would keep reminding you of the Rushaga experience.