Nkuringo is the magic of Uganda

As a tour operator in Uganda Nkuringo camp consistently rates as the highlight of accommodation. Why… it is one of the simplest camps we offer it is in the most remote of locations, the road to get there is challenging to say the least but still my favorite drive in Africa. The magic of Nkuringo camp is in the location and the people of the area. The camp is perched on top of a stunning hillside overlooking Bwindi forest, this little piece of paradise is part of the great community of Nkuringo. It is good for both luxury and budget camping Uganda safaris.

uganda-mountain-gorillaThis is not a luxury lodge but provides simple accommodation and facilities, great meals and hot showers with rustic charm. The youth group performs at the camp welcomes you in to the community. Sometimes as a traveler it is hard to get the real essence of life in a country and at Nkuringo this rare door opens. The staffs are a huge asset and will guide you through the area, walk you to a gorilla office, guide you on bush and community walks or multi day treks with enthusiasm or just sit at the campfire chatting all night. This place is the magic of Uganda!

If you are headed to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in South Western Uganda, for gorilla tracking or just to experience the beautiful mountains and scenery, Nkuringo Gorilla Campsite and Hammerkops Bunkhouse is the park’s best kept secret.

We stayed there in October 2013, on part of a tour round the South Western (we are ex-pats based in Kampala) and having been to gorilla tracking in Buhoma the year before (situated on the other side of Bwindi), I would recommend you head for Nkuringo instead. Buhoma is like a Turkish coastline hotel strip compared to the peace, quiet and uniqueness of Nkuringo beautiful location.

At Ntungamo (the name of the local trading center, though almost everyone calls it Nkuringo now, which is the name of the local UWA gorilla tracking group), you have a choice of two different types of accommodation. Unless you have $ 500 to spare per night per person (the rack rate for the new up market neighboring Clouds lodge) then I suggest you look at Nkuringo Gorilla Campsite.

They have some basic but clean, comfortable and cozy twine rooms in their bunkhouse, plenty of camping space for those with their own gear, and some lovely looking new self-contained cottages which were just being finished up when we were there. The bunkhouse is very good value for their price, the cottages will apparently be priced at a significantly higher rate per night but the furnishings, privacy, view (of a line of volcanoes on the misty horizon) and private bathroom and terrace make this also good value for a more mid-range choice.

The shared bathrooms are basic but clean and attractively but sustainably designed. An eco-toilet without the usual smell that accompanies them! Showers are of the hot water in a jerry can variety (but when you learn about the lack of rainfall here during the dry season you’ll understand the need to conserve water).

Food is on an all-inclusive day rate basis – which is very good value and while there is no choice on menu per se we enjoyed every single dish we had. The dinners were particularly nice, with warming spiced soups and robust hearty mains….

The atmosphere is more one of a family run place, with friendly and helpful but relaxed and laid back staff. The site also works closely with the local community in a very genuine way – you get the sense they do it because they want to work harmoniously with their neighbors and not because they want to impress their eco-sensitive guests as so many, more cynical establishments do nowadays. We enjoyed a highly entertaining cultural dancing display by the local Youth Initiative group while we were there and this can easily be arranged by the staff for your stay.

The big plus from staying at Nkuringo is the fact that along with the guests from Clouds, you are pretty much the only tourists in the immediate area. You get a more genuine experience of the local community, and you avoid the tourist trappings and crowded strip that Buhoma is becoming.

You also benefit from some fantastic views where you can get a sense of the area’s spectacular scenery. Nkuringo is at 2040m, considerably higher than Buhoma, and the views are definitely worth it. In one direction you can see a line of volcanoes on the Ugandan/Rwandan/Congolese borders, and if the skies are clear, you’ll see the glow of the more active of them at night (don’t worry – it is still a very long way away!). In another direction you can see the misty forested steep ridges of Bwindi stretching out into the distance. It’s breathtaking. But be prepared for the altitude – may be worth spending a few nights at Bunyonyi (1700m) or Kabale/Kisoro before heading up to the heights – especially if you want all the help you can get with the hiking!

Last but definitely not least, the walking safari. As I had previously tracked gorillas from the Buhoma site the other side of Bwindi, we opted to do one of this campsite’s walking safaris instead, though you can arrange gorilla permits for the Nkuringo group from tour companies or from the UWA central reservations office in Kampala if that’s what you fancy doing.

As hinted at above, you need to be of reasonable fitness to be able to do the walk. I had found tracking from Buhoma challenging but perfectly doable – but Nkuringo is up another level. Its steep volcanic hills can be very unforgiving. It’s fine for the first two thirds of the walk (downhill into the valley, then along the valley floor through the forest) but the last section is tough on those who are bordering unfit (I know because that was me!). We were also unfortunate with the weather (we were there slap bang in the middle of the wet season so we were asking for it really…) which probably made it considerably harder. But go in the drier months and it should be fine.

The walk has some beautiful scenery and glimpses of un habituated red tailed Columbus, and black and white Columbus, as well as plenty of sun-birds and butterflies to keep you entertained. If you’re a hiker you’ll love it. Nkuringo Gorilla Campsite is great – un-spoilt, un-pretentious, great value, and a spectacular location. Better book your Uganda gorilla safari today and experience the true African Wilderness at its best in Bwindi National Park!

Mountain Gorilla Tool Use Reported by Fossey Fund Scientists

Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund scientists recently published a paper in the journal “Behavioural Processes,” describing the use of a bamboo stem by an adult female mountain gorilla to presumably serve as a “ladder” for her offspring, helping him climb up a pile of vegetation to reach her. The paper’s authors include Cyril Grueter, Ph.D., former scientist at the Fossey Fund’s Karisoke Research Center; Karisoke Director Felix Ndagijimana; Fossey Fund Chief Scientist and Vice President Tara Stoinski, Ph.D.; and Martha Robbins, Ph.D., of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, who has been involved in many studies of mountain gorillas with the Fossey Fund.

This observation, of mother gorilla Tamu, was made in 2010 during a study focusing on feeding ecology among the mountain gorillas led by Dr. Grueter for his post-doctoral research.  Interestingly, most reports of such presumed tool use in primates (other than humans) don’t involve wild gorillas, though there are repeated observations of it in captive western lowland gorillas. Tool use has been observed much more frequently in chimpanzees, orangutans and capuchin monkeys, as well as a few other primates. Scientists are not sure why tool use among wild gorillas has been seen less often, but some theorize that it may be because gorillas have little need for tools in their daily food gathering (which is a primary driver of tool use seen in other animals), relying instead on plants that are easy to reach or that can be removed by brute force.

uganda-gorilla-trekkingHowever, the instance in this paper, combined with a few other examples, suggests that wild gorillas are capable of tool use. Although more such observations are needed, and scientists can’t be certain that the bamboo handled by Tamu was intended to be used as a tool, it’s always exciting to add more potential evidence to the pool, especially in the case of wild gorillas.

“Tool use in some other primates is frequently seen in the context of food acquisition, whereas in gorillas it seems to be related to overcoming physical obstacles,” says Dr. Grueter. “However, given that there are fewer than a handful of observations of (possible) tool use in wild gorillas, we should be careful not to over-interpret the findings. Nevertheless, I do hope that this anecdote will draw researchers’ attention to look for similar cases and that one day we will have a fuller understanding of gorillas’ cognitive capacities.”

Indeed, there is no shortage of studies related to the mountain gorilla going on right now at the Fossey Fund’s Karisoke Research Center. This shows the importance of the Fossey Fund’s long-term database, says Fossey Fund Chief Scientist and Vice President Tara Stoinski, Ph.D.  Thirteen scientific papers were submitted or published in 2013 alone. Topics include: an analysis of gorilla census data (especially the impact of population growth), vegetation changes since the 1980s, ranging patterns seen over time, reproductive cessation in females (menopause), brain growth and even human-ape divergence. Many more studies are in the works, including bamboo research, paternity in multi-male groups, golden monkey projects and more. To see and experience the mountain gorillas in the wild, contact African jungle Safaris, specialists in Rwanda safaris and gorilla tours in Uganda, email: info@rwandagorillasafaris.com

Rwanda Tourism Industry is based on Mountain Gorilla Trekking Safaris

The Tourism Industry in Rwanda has decided to put its focus in developing and marketing of the mountain gorillas, since this will help in increasing the amount of tourists who come to Rwanda for gorilla trekking safaris hence contributing to raising enough revenue from the primates.

The Gorilla trekking activity which is carried out in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is so interesting and it’s done by numerous tourists who want gorilla safaris to the nation. This is because the incomes from the tourism industry in Rwanda have improved in the later years and this implies that mountain gorillas have contributed the highest incomes to the tourism Industry.

rwanda-gorilla-tourIn spite of the fact that Rwanda’s tourism sector has mainly concentrated on mountain gorillas, there are numerous different attractions which have likewise contributed the increase of Rwanda’s revenues to the nation. These attractions incorporate; the chimpanzees in Nyungwe Forest National Park, the birds, the water bodies, the mountains, wildlife and many others. All these have helped in pulling in more tourists to come for Rwanda safaris.

The Rwanda Government has however helped in providing finances to the ministry of tourism with the goal that it can be able to funds its projects which will help in developing the tourism industry and likewise increasing the number of tourists who come for Rwanda Gorilla safaris in Volcanoes National Park.