Rub Elbows with Gorillas in Uganda
BY ADRIENNE JORDAN | JUN 3 2015
- WHERE Mount Gahinga, Uganda
- HOW MUCH $330 per night, including all meals and a massage
- MORE Read more about Mount Gahinga Lodge
GETTING THERE Catch a four-hour shuttle from Kigali International Airport into Uganda's lush Virunga Mountains. Brave the winding turns past potato crops, Kisoro's hectic markets, and pigs flopped precariously on rickety motorbikes. You'll know you've arrived when you see Mount Gahinga's volcano neighbors, Muhabura and Sabyinyo, forming a U on the horizon.
BEST MOMENT In Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, getting shoved aside by a 400-pound gorilla in search of bamboo. Her mischievous baby followed soon after, sauntering over and tugging my pant leg.
WORST MOMENT Failing, repeatedly, to hit a target with a bow and arrow. At the Batwa Cultural Heritage Site adjacent to the lodge, the Batwa Pygmies, who have lived here for 60,000 years, demonstrate how they used to hunt small game in the surrounding forest. Their arrows whiz through the air with daunting accuracy, thwacking wooden rabbits after each pull.
FAVORITE CHARACTER Gregarious lodge employee Herbert Mfitundinda might insist on taking you for a four-mile hike through Gahinga's beautiful wheat fields. Along the way, say hello to an octogenarian farmer who has a knack for fixing Mfitundinda's circa-1970s radio, which breaks more often than it plays.
LOCAL LORE Thousands of years ago, it's said, the Batwa settled disputes by shooting arrows tinged with a powerful, plant-derived poison. The deadly substance was boiled off long ago, but even today no one will touch the arrows for fear of sudden death.
WHAT'S GREEN Since the lodge opened, its owner, Praveen Moman, has used solar power to generate electricity and recycle rainwater. He also limits the use of power tools, preferring that his staff use manual labor instead.
WHAT'S NOT GREEN Guests have the option to wash their clothes every day for free. So a lot of garments that could be reused are flung into the machine.
PLANET-SAVING OPPORTUNITIES Guests can help the Volcanoes Safaris Partnership Trustmaintain the lodge's beehives, grow mushrooms, and tend to the on-site quarter-acre farm. Or they can donate money to the trust to help save the great apes.