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Rwanda & Uganda

Author elsslots
#1 | Posted: 11 Mar 2015 07:46 | Edited by: elsslots 
I have my heart set on a trip to Rwanda & Uganda coming January (2016).

I will use a tour company for the gorillas at Bwindi and a few other national parks.
But I aim to limit my days travelling with a group, and explore a bit on my own using local transport. Of course I want to see as many (T)WHS as possible. I've got about 2.5 - 3 weeks to spare.

Questions for those who have visited this area before:
- Has any of you considered visiting Ntusi? It has 2 TWHS, and sounds like an interesting archeological site
- Is there an "easy way in" to the Rwenzori Mountains NP? The walks from the villages seem to be outside the park border (and thus outside the core zone of the WHS). Only the long treks seem to go into the park.

The itinerary that I think of right now, is:
1 - Fly Amsterdam - Kigali
2 - Visit Kigali and surroundings, including Genocide memorial TWHS
3 - Kigali or Ruhengeri or elsewhere in Rwanda
4 - Cross border at Cyanika to Kisoro (Uganda)
5 - Kisoro, for Golden Monkeys in TWHS Mgahinga
6 - Kisoro, for local market & meeting up with the Batwa (pygmees)
7 - Bus to Kampala (considering stopover for a day in Masaka, to visit Ntusi TWHS)
8 - Kampala, Kasubi Tombs WHS and other sites in Kampala city
9 - Kampala, guided city walk
10 - Bus to Mbale, visit Nyero Rock Paintings (TWHS)
11 - Bus to Entebbe, Botanical garden & meet up with group tour
12 to 18 - Group tour including Kibale Forest, Queen Elizabeth NP, Bwindi (WHS) gorilla tracking & Lake Mburo NP
19 - Fly home from Entebbe

Author meltwaterfalls
#2 | Posted: 11 Mar 2015 13:31 
Sadly I have nothing to add, just that I am very envious especially of the trip to Rwanda, it looks wonderful.

Though I was just having a look at satellite maps* of Bwindi National Park. You can see precisely the parks boundaries as that is where the trees stop, rather astounding.

Virunga National Park is so close, but I guess cross border travel isn't as easy as it is in the EU.

*you will have to switch to satellite at the top right of the map

Author Solivagant
#3 | Posted: 11 Mar 2015 14:22 | Edited by: Solivagant 
You can see precisely the parks boundaries as that is where the trees stop, rather astounding.

Our second day in Bwindi we found the Gorilla troupe we had been assigned to happily munching bananas from plants in the villagers' fields just beyond the park boundary!! Beyond, it may be "Inpenetrable Forest" but it is difficult to tell animals that they should stay there!

The Virunga Park in Rwanda has a similar "hard boundary" part way up the volcano with open fields all the way up to a 1.5 meter high stone boundary wall. We can't have walked more than a mile beyond it before we saw the Gorillas. In this case however the fields nearest the boundary seemed mainly to be planted with Pyrethrum which is not famously "attractive" to Gorillas! It has become major crop now for subsistence farmers there. Rwanda has the highest population density of any African continental country. It also has has an average of 6 children per couple. The country's population has gone up 5 fold since 1950, doubled between 1980 and 2010, despite the killing of 800k in the genocide and is still rising fast. . When one passes through a village one is surrounded by 100s of children. Somehow the country is going to have to generate "non agricultural jobs" for them all as there just isn't enough land for them all - and the gorillas, chimps and monkeys.

When we visited Kanha in India we were watching a Tiger just half a mile from the walls of peasant farms in which cows were kept - we were told that farmers got compnensated for any cows killed by tiger. In Kaziranga we saw a Rhino which had ventured beyond the park boundary and was chasing backwards and forwards after little kids who were teasing it and then climbing up electricity pylons.

So - wild life parks in heavily populated areas are a big problem - and wildlife parks in remote areas are also a big problem since such areas are more open to poaching. For many of these parks it is a matter of going to see them while you can!

Author elsslots
#4 | Posted: 23 Oct 2015 10:33 | Edited by: elsslots 
Virunga National Park is so close, but I guess cross border travel isn't as easy as it is in the EU.

"Bumping" my own old topic - I've got an interesting update on this issue that might be of use to other WH travellers too.

Since a year or so, DR Congo's Virunga NP has opened up via the Rwanda border near Goma. A special visa is available online, and they will provide (armed) transport into the park and its lodges. See for more details.

Here are reviews and trip reports of people who have made it there (and came back safely): bo_North_Kivu_Province.html

I am currently trying to fit this into my itinerary for early 2016, so keep your fingers crossed for a first Virunga NP review to come!

Author elsslots
#5 | Posted: 4 Nov 2015 01:13 
Received this helpful reply from Anthony Sun:
I visited Rwenzori last year and like you am not a big time hiker. Most of the visitors to Ruwenzori do 7 day hikes with porters, national park guides and camp gear and the goal is to summit Margarita Peak at 5109m. Along the way the flora highlights are giant tree heathers and bromeliads called giant lobelias. To do this 7 day hike there are two entrances to Rwenzori. One is called the Kilembe Circuit and the other the Central Circuit. Most hiker prefer the Kilembe Circuit because the paved roads take you to Kilembe village and you hike to the park entrance from there which I was told takes a few hours. However last year in 2014 flash floods has taken down a bridge way before Kilembe and vehicles cannot cross the river (don't know if its fixed). So the trek starts from the washed out bridge and I was told that it takes a full 5 hours to get to the park entrance, which makes a one day round trip hike very tough. Near the bridge, many homes were washed away and the rest are sitting on their foundation pillars several feet above the ground in that all that ground has been washed away. Very weird but sad as the home owners have to abandon the homes. The Central Circuit is much more manageable but its 19 km of dirt road to get to Nyakalengija village and then a few more km to the park entrance. The road gets pretty bad and so you need to find transportation to get there. This entrance is called the Mihunga Gate. To do a one day hike, you can start right at the park gate. However you must pre-arrange with to get a park ranger to accompany you and pay the entrance fee. They will meet you at the ranger station just outside the entrance. The hike takes you along the Mubuku River and is marked as Mahoma Nature Trail. Very nice walk as it climbs quickly and I saw the endemic three horned chameleon in yellow and green. Those interested in the 7 day hike from here can contact Rwenzori Mountaineering Services at Hope this helps.

Author elsslots
#6 | Posted: 4 Nov 2015 01:43 | Edited by: elsslots 
I'll also post an update to my itinerary, which is now almost fixed (and quite different from when I started researching in March!).
I dumped the group tour. Also decided to skip the Nyero Rock Paintings as they are too far east to fit easily into my plans.

1 - Fly Amsterdam - Kigali
2-3 Kigali and surroundings for Genocide memorials TWHS
4 - Transfer to DR Congo, with city tour of Goma
5 - Gorilla trekking in Virunga NP WHS
6 - To Uganda via Cyanika border crossing with Rwanda
7-8 Kisoro, for Mgahinga TWHS (Batwa trail or Golden Monkeys)
9-11 Bwindi NP WHS, including Gorilla trekking once more
12 Travel day northwards, maybe stay in Mbarara
13-14 Rwenzori WHS, access via either Kilembe or Nyakalenjija
15-17 Fort Portal and surroundings
18-20 Entebbe and surroundings, including Kasubi Tombs WHS
20-21 Fly Entebbe - Amsterdam

Author nfmungard
#7 | Posted: 4 Nov 2015 05:00 
Sounds great.. What costs do you plan with? I know, very mundane question

Author paul
#8 | Posted: 4 Nov 2015 05:15 
While is Fort Portal try and see the chimpanzees in Kibale (and lots of red and black and white colobus monkeys and perhaps even forest elephant). Back 1999 you could walk freely walk through the forest. The chimpanzees were almost as magical (almost!) as the gorillas

Author elsslots
#9 | Posted: 4 Nov 2015 05:33 
What costs do you plan with?

About 5000 EUR, including flight & 2 very expensive lodges plus gorilla permits. Will travel by public transport to get from place to place.

try and see the chimpanzees in Kibale

I hope to encounter chimps at Virunga NP, but if I do not see them there I might opt for Kibale

Author elsslots
#10 | Posted: 14 May 2019 01:42 | Edited by: elsslots 
Just received these findings from someone by e-mail about the Tombs of Buganda Kings:
I would like to bring to your attention the Kasubi Tombs in Uganda. Being a world heritage site there was no order. Some visitors were asked to pay 10,000 ugx, some pay 15,000 ugx , I paid 30,000 ugx being a foreigner but some foreigners (white-white) paid 50,000 ugx.
No receipts were issued. No sign/announcements on the real entrance fee.

Anyone with the same experiences? When I was there in 2016 I paid 10,000 ugx and all was quite organized.

Author Solivagant
#11 | Posted: 14 May 2019 03:06 | Edited by: Solivagant 
Anyone with the same experiences? When I was there in 2016 I paid 10,000 ugx and all was quite organized.

We visited way back in 1995 before the fire etc so I am not offering any "recent experience" but the current state of the Tombs does seem to provide an interesting example of the reality of WHS conservation in countries struggling with major economic, social and political problems.

First - it appears that the site isn't even officially open - here are recent reviews on Trip Advisor together with a photo stating the closed status

Second -
On 30 Jan 2019 UNESCO published its latest report on the "State of Conservation" of the tombs -this in response to a requirement in the WHC of last year - "Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2019, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 43rd session in 2019;"

The report contains some rather nice descriptions of the layout of the site and the historical/religious etc background both for reference and for anyone intending to visit. Reading it one can certainly see why the site is on the "Danger List" (since 2001)! All the pages of management speak and the beautifully produced plans stretching through to 2028 can't disguise the physical and social issues bedevilling the site.

Regarding the "negotiable" entrance fees experienced both by Els's correspondent and the Trip Advisor visitors I particuarly noted the comments in the report about the status of the traditionally appointed "Custodians" of the Tombs. (The Site is owned by the "Kingdom of Buganda Administration" rather than by the State of Uganda) See section 4.3 of the main report
"4.3 Custodians Needs
Their needs are mostly linked to their welfare. Other aspects are harmonizing their functions and roles and providing market access for their crafts. The challenge of sustaining the custodians' welfare in terms of housing, food and provision of social utilities (water, electricity, sanitation needs) is important in this phase of planning. Addressing their needs is considered to be part of the overall protection of OUV attributes. They form core living human treasures of Kasubi Tombs. Their welfare is rated poor impeding on their functional performance.
It would appear that these "custodians" have been put in the position where they have to do whatever is necessary to make a living. Who knows even if the people one meets are actually true "custodians" - maybe they have "outsourced" this task to others who are better at "hustling" than they are!!

Another little snippet I noticed was this about the state of the Bujjabukala Gatehouse (the oldest, most "authentic" part of the tombs)
"Structural effect of the mostly damaged area of the building caused by the truck knock impact while turning.........This fatal impact on the building made some rafters in the highlighted area deviate and others got broken"
Accidents happen I suppose - and even France can't preserve its most iconic site - but one does despair!
Yes - despite all the efforts and the money/support from Japan, the Site certainly has its problems. With this year's WHC coming up it seems appropriate to consider whether UNESCO spends its time and money wisely given the effort which will be spent evaluating and discussing yet more "clone" nominations from developed countries.

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