I’ve just returned from yet another visit to the famed mountain gorillas. Since 1994, visiting these gentle giants has been a great highlight of my safari lifetime. I’ve taken countless trips into this region that evokes everything from mythology of the King Kong years to the pioneering behavioral studies on gorillas by George Schaller. Delving into the entrancing mountains and valleys of the Albertine Rift Valley, we cover all corners, from the dark days of the Rwandan genocide, to tantalizing glimpses of the Congo jungles ready to soak up all that comes their way. And each day we have our own memorable time with the gorillas themselves.
Close to 50 visits in person with the gorillas has yet to dampen my enthusiasm for the intensely enjoyable moments. Both Uganda and Rwanda are completely safe to visit, and these countries also offer so much more than gorilla tourism. Cruising the mighty Nile River in Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park and trekking to habituated chimpanzees amidst the highland forests of Rwanda’s Nyungwe National Park are two of my own favorite destinations in this lush region.
And as a reminder of how the fortunes of these great apes and their habitat can rebound, and yet remain so volatile, there are some great insights in this story from National Geographic:
Virunga National Park in the Congo was created in 1925. Known then as Albert National Park, it was Africa’s inaugural protected area, covering 3,000 square miles of one of the planet’s least known but most rich biodiversity hotspots. In recognition of this, the Park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. However, the current conflict has made it at times a precarious place for visitors. I had the thrill of looking out across this evocative landscape back in 2002 when we scaled the Stanley plateau to Mt Margharita; Africa’s third highest peak atop the legendary Rwenzori Mountains.