World Wildlife day 2020 in Kisoro Uganda
Talk about gorilla tracking and everyone’s mind gets pregnant with great expectations about destination Kisoro in southwestern Uganda which is endowed with precarious cliffs besides being perched at more than 6000 meters above sea level. Not until recently, it was very hard to get there but now the government of Uganda has worked a lot on the roads connecting most tourist destinations.
But what has not changed is the story of a sharp bend baptized “Corner ye mbwa” (Dog’s Corner.) The narrative still humors many a listener traveling 550km from Kampala City and beyond. There was a hunting dog that was chasing an edible wild animal (rabbit.) Like fate would have it, the pawed chaser failed to brake when his target made a U-turn on a steep hill in a sharp bend. Instead, the pawed skidded down like a sack of potatoes. Gossip has it that it was later found, by the owner, in the war-torn DR Congo.
Today the corner has been cemented and painted red. To those who have ever heard the oral literature, it conjures a mental image of either the proverbial dog or its victim having bled there. At this point, one wonders why the spot is popular for photo opportunities. Could it be the legendary dog or scenic valleys? Huge motorists like Bismakan, Horizon, Post Bus and Jaguar, as if afraid of suffering the dog’s fate, they slow down. Especially now that the road has been tar marked. Commuters in airplanes miss this thrilling narrative in their 45-60 minutes’ flight from Entebbe International Airport.
By road, this trip to South Western Uganda is hard to delete from memory and it will leave any traveler poorer by between sh100, 000- sh400, 000 or more footing the transport and accommodation bills. The menu of attractions comprises of the scenic view of Lake Bunyonyi whose name translates to – a place where small birds tweet. If you have an sh5, 000 of Uganda currency, look carefully at a photo of that water embedded on it covering an area of 60km.
The Kisoro Mayor Richard Ndyana says Kisoro is the cradle of nature and he suspects Winston Churchill had it in mind when he baptized Uganda the Pearl of Africa.
“The list of attractions comprises primates, more than 300 species of birds and a number of reptiles,” Ndyana exhausts fingers on his palms while counting. “The wealth of history can take you seven days to exhaust. Then there is the Bakiga and Batwa culture.”
Ndyana urges a cease-fire in the raging war between humans and wildlife because either party needs the other to survive. Summing up, the habitat of wildlife is shrinking rapidly as the population explodes.
“We do not want a 1986 repeat performance of the last rhino was shot dead and the species was declared extinct,” asserted Ndyana. “Residents here treasure the gorillas and tourism as a whole. Property prices have shot sky high because moneyed developers are buying off huge chunks of land at exorbitant prices. The advantage is that they plant trees instead of chopping the property into small plots.”
One such developer is the governor Bank of Uganda Mathew Mutebile who has translocated: antelopes, zebras, and waterbucks to Kyahungye one of the 29 islands. On it are grass thatched accommodation facilities. It is the only one that is connected with hydroelectricity power on the national grid.
Being the role model of the area, there are pork roasting places called Governor and Rolex bakers named after him. Pupils of Little Angels Primary School, who go to school by boat, want to be governors when they grow up.
Asked why the water is visually green the Kabale District Resource officer Rogers Akatwijuka says it is because of the poor farming methods by a growing population living on the shores of Lake Bunyonyi.
“This increased silting has cost the lake depth of about tens meters in the last ten years,” laments Akatwijuka. “Stones are being broken for use in the construction industry as hills are being farmed and trees are cut down. All these have negative effects on the ecosystem”
The District Environment Officer Pamela Katushabe said there is a need for the private sector and government bodies responsible to link hands and salvage the water body.
“This lake contributes to microclimate regulation and global hydrological systems besides being a cultural center for the indigenous clans in Kigezi,” said Katusha. “We are challenged to halt illegal activities such as car washing expose marine life to lead, diesel, and oil from vehicles besides garbage dumping that pollutes our lake.”
A lot has changed but the traditional weekly market which suffices for a Super Market enables visitors to stumble on intricately woven baskets, wood carvings of gorillas and monkeys to take home as mementos. A sip of obushera (millet porridge) all day long will prove that old habits die hard given the variety of soft drinks on counters.
Kisoro is abuzz with hotels and Safari Lodges. Most of them are named after a folklore, a stone in existence because of volcanic history and birds if not gorillas or any other primate. While there gorilla tracking, Batwa Trail, Bird Watching and a Nature Walk thrill many a visitor. Among the big names that have been there lately are former Kenya AG Charles Njonjo before he celebrated his 100th birthday and property guru Sudhir Ruparelia. They come on the heels of Microsoft …
But like many a regular traveler when one thinks they have exhausted the menu of attractions, Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) unfurled a new attraction that leaves many visitors breathless and sweating profusely. It is Supreme Adventure Park Bunyonyi zip line cable that enables those with guts of steel to zip above one of the deepest lakes in the world.
“There is a starter before you venture into crossing the lake,” a guide Nicholas Ninsiima breaks my train of thoughts. “The price ranges between sh40, 000 – sh60, 000 for a treat. Position the harness in the right place or you risk falling.”
This is what I have always seen on television where human beings are challenged to walk on logs, buckets, and balls held together with ropes. This is punctuated by zip-lining to the next challenge and halted by banging a tree cushioned by a foam mattress.
Sharpening the adventure appetite, demonstrations of zippers spinning head down, hands or legs in the water take trigger the confidence of those with water phobia. Pregnant women for 6-8 months are prohibited because of health risks. But I saw Sophie do it with ease. When she landed onshore the kicks of her baby in the extensive stomach were visible as she reassured its safety with her body language.
“Calm down baby all is fine,” she cooed.
Take heed when you want to sample this spine chilling adventure, folks weighing more than 150kg, are strictly not allowed. That limitation aside, a cormorant bird in flight was visibly looking for lunch (fish) at 1:00 pm with its two feet long legs and four feet wings flapping energetically.
“The males and females of that bird look alike,” confided a boatman Nelson Tumushabe. “In UAE these birds are used to catch fish which are twice their weight and bring them to the owners. Given better fish-catching methods, using birds to catch fish, is now a tourist attraction there. These birds have razor-sharp beaks. In Japan, a string is tied around their necks to prevent swallowing. ”
How To Get To Kisoro
Kisoro is the last town in southwestern Uganda bordering Dr Congo and Rwanda, approximately 500kms from Entebbe international airport.
Hotel In Kisoro.
Kisoro has a number of hotels of late and accommodation here is not a challenge anymore for anyone planning to visit this beautiful town commonly known as the Switzerland of Africa due to its numerous mountains and hills.
The Jewel of the Volcano
Being one of the oldest hotels in Uganda, with a history steeped in gorilla conservation, Travellers Rest becomes a must for your gorilla trekking in the area. It boasts an impressive list of guests. To name just one: Dian Fossey, who even called this her second home.
Built-in 1955 by Walter Baumgartel, the so-called father of gorilla tourism, it quickly became a meeting place for people interested in the mountain gorillas. It was entirely renovated in 1999, but the charm of the somewhat colonial style still remains up to today.
Situated just outside Kisoro, the area is of astonishing beauty and the views of the Virunga volcanoes dominating the landscape will remain engraved in your memory.
Mount Gahinga Lodge opened in 1997 and was the first lodge of the Volcanoes Safaris collection. It is the perfect base to go gorilla tracking on the Ugandan side of the Virungas, track the rare golden monkey, climb a volcano, walk through local villages and most of all to share the culture of the Batwa, the oldest inhabitants of the Central African rain forest.
The charming property, inspired by traditional design and building techniques, has been re-imagined in 2019: the lounge, dining room, and gardens have been remodeled, and two new deluxe bandas have been launched.
The luxury bandas reflect the magic of the aesthetic traditions of the Bufimbira people, with their distinct colors. Each Banda has an ensuite luxury shower room, fireplace, and private porch.
- 8 bandas (2 deluxe)
- Personal butler service for all guests
- Direct private footpath to access gorilla tracking in the National Park
- Community projects and Gahinga Batwa Village
- Wi-Fi is available in the main lodge building. Charging facilities available in each banda.
There is a 24-hour front desk at the property.