Gorillas have got so many amazing facts ranging from them sharing up to 98 percent of the human DNA to living in social groups that are headed by dominant males known as silverbacks. However, like humans, it seems that there are many more facts about these elusive and giant primates that cannot be exhausted. With the experiment of mountain gorillas found in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda, Uganda, and DR Congo, we uncover more amazing facts about these great primates.
Today we take a closer look at a gorilla anatomy, with a deeper focus on the structure of the body of a gorilla to discover the amazing and unique features that very few people take note of even after being close to them.
Fact 1: Gorillas basically have four thumbs!
Just like most primates, gorillas too have opposable thumbs on their hands and surprisingly they also have semi-opposable feet! Compared to humans, the gorilla’s big toe is longer and placed lower on the foot coupled with the its flexibility to help the ape in grasping and climbing activity associated with their daily lives. This aspect is compares with humans’ shorter, forward-facing big toes that provide pushing power for walking.
Fact 2: Gorilla bones are much denser than those of humans
This fact is a proof to the gorilla’s average weight of 300-450 Ibs which is much higher than the average weight of humans. The heavier weight is as a result of apes having a high density of spongy bone which is not the case with humans. The absence of spongy bones in humans explains the high rate of breaks and fractures in humans compared to the apes. On the other hand, the great weight also makes the non-human great apes less flexible rendering them unable to swim.
Fact 3: Gorillas have a significant “brow ridge” above their eyes
This is also a common feature among other great apes apart from modern humans who rather have a curved, unpronounced brow ridge. For gorillas, their brow ridges are continuous and straight, and stick out over their eyes. Studies indicate that a large, sturdy ridge of a gorilla helps to support the weaker skull bones and also reduces strain on the skull when the animal is chewing some hard food items like nuts. Although it is commonly referred to as the “brow ridge” this part of the skull is actually called ‘supraorbital ridge’, which literally means ‘ridge above the eye.’
Fact 4: Gorillas have a longer arm length to height ratio than humans
Unlike humans who have an equal arm to height ratio (meaning an individual’s height is equal to the length of their arm span), gorillas have a longer arm length to height to their height ratio. When gorillas do stand bipedally, they measure about 6 feet tall while their arm span averages about 8 feet. This unique anatomy feature among gorillas suits their quadrupedal movement and also helps them with climbing.
Fact 5: Gorillas have a bigger head than humans but a smaller brain!
This should be less amazing considering the facts. While there is no doubt that gorillas have larger skulls than humans, the latter have got much more room in their skulls to accommodate for their brains. The average amount of space for a brain in humans (cranial capacity) is about 1325 cubic centimeters while gorillas have got only 500 cc’s. This indicates that the actual brain of gorillas on average is just 0ne-theird the size of human brains while the reduced cranial capacity of gorillas is attributed to the difference in the shape of the skull.
Fact 6: Gorillas don’t have chins!
Whereas the area underneath the human mouth sticks out and away from the skull, the same area on gorillas slopes back towards the skull. More surprisingly, researchers indicate that humans are the only animals with a bony protrusion beneath their mouths which is commonly known as a chin and the reason for this is yet to be established.
Click here to book a safari to see mountain gorillas in Rwanda or Uganda or to enquire about anything you want to know in relation to Uganda and Rwanda safaris
Uganda Tourism Board is striving to promote Uganda tourism to all parts of the world. This time around, Uganda UTB has launched a campaign to promote destination Uganda in the Middle East countries. The major aim of the new campaign is to sell Uganda tourism products in the Middle East and encourage more people to come and explore the Pearl of Africa. The target UAE’s countries include United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia among others. The “Experience Uganda” campaign is aimed at providing selected GCC travel agencies unique travel holiday packages to visit different attractions in the Peal of Africa. More still travel agencies from Middle East will be given free airport transfers and pickups to ensure smooth travels. The marketing campaign was held at Hyatt Regency Hotel Dubai attended by Prof Ephraim Kamuntu, the minister of tourism in Uganda, Irene, the Ugandan ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and H.E Zaake Wanume Kibedi along with Member of Parliaments and other officials from Uganda Government. Ndere cultural troupe rom Uganda entertained visitors showcasing the unique cultures and transitional performances of Uganda. The campaign is aimed at promoting Uganda as a premier adventure and nature holiday destination suitable for families, groups, couples and young adults seeking to have a lifetime experience at affordable rates.
Special Uganda Packages being marketed
Among the promotional tourism products, Uganda Tourism Board is marketing include guided game viewing safaris in the open savannah parks of Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth, Lake Mburo, and Kidepo Valley National park. Game safaris exposé travelers to different wild animals which include elephants, lions, zebras, impalas, waterbuck, warthogs, Uganda kobs, buffalos, cheetahs and leopards among others.
Nile riverboat cruising is also a must-do on your Uganda safari. Travelers also enjoy a cruise to the source of River Nile and also enjoy the cool breezes of Lake victoria
Mountain gorilla trekking is Uganda’s most done tourist activity, which attracts the highest number of travelers from all over the world. The pearl of Africa is home to half of the world’s mountain gorillas which live in the jungles of Bwindi Impenetrable forest and Mgahinga gorilla national parks Bwindi is home to 17 gorilla families split in Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo sectors while Mgahinga is home to the one Nyakagyezi gorilla family plus some members of Rwanda’s Hirwa gorilla family which previously left Volcanoes National park and entered in Mgahinga gorilla park Uganda. At present, a single gorilla permit costs $600 for foreign non-residents, $500 for foreign residents and shs 250,000 for east African residents. These prices are to be increased with effect from 1st July 2020 to $700 for foreign non-residents, $600 for foreign residents and shs 300,000 for east African residents. A gorilla permit is a pass to see gorillas and hence a must have for everyone coming to trek gorillas.
Wild chimpanzee encounters is yet another exceptional experience you should not miss. Uganda is a premier chimpanzee tour destination being home to the highest number of chimpanzees. Kibale Forest National park is the number one-stop center for Uganda chimpanzee tours and is home to 13 primates. Other chimpanzee destinations in Uganda are Karinzu forest, Kyambura gorge, Budongo Forest and Ngamba island (chimpanzee sanctuary). Fortunately, chimpanzee trekking permits are quite less at $220 hence affordable compared to gorillas.
In addition to wildlife safaris in Uganda, the pearl of Africa offer travelers the best pampering and chilling experiences. Numerous luxury lodge, hotels, and resorts have been established to offer you with excellent food and sleeping services all day on your Uganda safari
Still in the campaign, the Uganda Tourism Board will also launch an online training program to enable Middle east travel agents to book and reserve Uganda safaris online. The hashtag #ExperienceUganda1st will be opened and promoted on all social media platforms to encourage more social media users to come and explore the Pearl of Africa.
Over 50 travel agencies from the United Arab Emirates attended the campaign which gives Uganda, hope for increased travel business from Middle East countries. Uganda expects to receive a high number of travelers from UAE to trek gorilla in Bwindi, go game viewing, bird watching and also experience the unique cultures and traditions of Africa’s Pearl.
Like humans, mountain gorillas also live in social groups or families even though they may live in the wild no wonder these large primates share up to 98 percent of the human DNA.
As they live in their social groups, gorillas are associated with some unique facts that are amazing and shocking. A few travelers that have got an opportunity to trek these endangered primates through the famous gorilla safaris, might have witnessed some of these facts as they met them in the jungle.
Fact 1: Groups consist of more adult females than adult males
Majority of mountain gorilla groups are made up of multiple adult females and their young all under the leadership of one dominant male (Silverback). In a few cases, some groups may possess up to eight silverbacks with each of them playing a unique role in the family.
The number of gorillas in each group varies from 2 to as many as 65 individuals and the number is determined by several factors including the ability of the leading silverback to lure females into the group.
Fact 2: Male gorillas in the group face a dilemma once they reach maturity
Once male gorillas in the group reach maturity, they got a few options to make, first, they can choose to stay in their natal group and contend for dominance. According to statistics, about 50 percent of young male gorillas stay in the in their natal group though not all end up achieving this.
The second option is to leave their natal group as solitary males to form a family of their own by stealing some females from other groups. These young males who decide to leave their natal groups are always willing to continue roaming around alone until they are successful.
Finally, these males may decide to join their colleagues in the same category to form a bachelor group. While in these groups, the bachelor gorillas learn skills that help them to become successful leaders once they form their own groups. Even in the bachelor group, gorillas still follow the hierarchy where thereby they are led by one strong silverback while others play different roles.
Fact 3: Both males and females can stay or leave the group at anytime
Unlike among other primates where both males and females tend to stay in their natal groups for their lifetime, mountain gorillas are different as they can either stay or leave their natal groups and join others influenced by different factors.
For females, they are even prone to changing groups multiple times in their lifetime leading to having offspring with several males.
Fact 4: Each gorilla group has got its unique dominance hierarchy
The hierarchy factor among mountain gorilla groups is more pronounced among the males though females have got their own form of hierarchy. Each group is led by one dominant silverback who takes key decisions including where to eat and sleep. Other silverbacks in the group take on different roles including protecting the family and resolving conflicts.
Several factors influence the hierarchy among females including age, time spent in the group where newcomers are the lowest in the hierarchy and vice versa. A particular female may also easily rise in the status if she attracts the interest of a dominant male. Other factors like offspring may also change the hierarchy of females whereby a female with a newborn may be favored to rise in rank.
Fact 5: Groups may be as small as 2 and as large as 65 individuals
Though the average number of mountain gorillas in a single group maybe 10-12 individuals, there are some groups that have been discovered having as few as a single breeding pair while others may be so numerous to 65 individuals.
Male mountain gorillas do care for infants too
Male mountain gorillas are more known for their leadership
role in their respective groups or families. Each mountain gorilla group is led
by a silverback, a strong and giant male gorilla in charge of making leadership
decisions for the entire family.
However, according to the study from the researchers of the
Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund in Rwanda, male mountain gorillas were found to have a
greater success in siring more infants.
Before this finding, there was a belief that male mountain
gorillas and other male primates in general only cared for getting a dominant
position in their respective groups.
The parental role of male mountain gorillas comes in
addition to their traditional task of competing with one another to win accessibility
to females and gain mating opportunities.
According to the study, it was believed that female mountain
gorillas preferably mate with males who have compassion for kids. The researchers
are now undertaking another additional study to find out whether hormones, such
as testosterone have a role in influencing these behaviors in the apes as they
do in humans.
Many critical species benefit from gorilla protection
Several stakeholders including government agencies and
non-government organizations like the Fossey Fund have stepped up to protect mountain
gorillas for both economic and conservation reasons
In mountain gorilla habitats like Volcanoes National Park in
Rwanda in particular, the government through the Rwanda Development Board has
employed several protection mechanisms including the deployment of park rangers
to ensure that both mountain gorillas and their habitat are safe.
The Fossey Fund volunteers have employed several ways of
protecting these apes for example, the researchers who carry out several studies
about the daily life and the behavior of mountain gorillas in a bid to
establish better protective measures for the apes.
It has now become clear that all these conservation efforts
do not only protect mountain gorillas but also a range of other wildlife
species who live in the same habitats with theses apes.
The researchers of the Fossey Fund in Rwanda established
that they discovered a list of at least 15 other species that benefit directly
from the protection of mountain gorillas.
The list includes a wide variety of plant and animals
including some iconic species like elephants, chimpanzees, and leopards and
several monkey types.
Other endangered and threatened species in this category
include two types of pangolins, Grauer’s swamp warblers, African golden cats,
hooded vultures, frogs, among others.
I have been living in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, for a few years, and this has afforded me the opportunity to explore not only this country but all the members of the East African community. I have traveled extensively in Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda; even to the Seychelle Islands, which officially is a member of East Africa, though over a thousand kilometers out in the Indian Ocean. One of the most exciting destinations has always been the island of Zanzibar, but recently I made a trip to the northeast of Uganda to visit the Karamojong and it is now unquestionably my favorite destination in East Africa. My travels have taken me to most of the National Parks within East Africa, including the infamous Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater of Tanzania, the Masa Mara and Amboseli of Kenya, and Rwanda’s most popular national parks….and yet it has been on my bucket list for some time now to go and experience the elusive Karamajong in the Kidepo Valley. Kidepo Valley National Park has recently been granted the #3 position in the most desired parks in Africa to visit; and once one has seen what Kidepo has to offer, it is quite understandable.
Zebras in Kidepo Valley National Park near Apoka Safari Lodge
We journeyed north from Kampala past the Ziwa Rhino sanctuary and Murchison Falls through the towns of Luweero and Nakasongola to reach Gulu. Here we took a break for lunch and a quick swim at the Boma Hotel, an oasis in the hot dry Acholi world of Northern Uganda; the Acholi being the predominant tribe in the Gulu area. From Gulu we traveled east through Kitgum and Padebe, eventually reaching the gates of Kidepo, some 4 hours later. The last hour of the drive, prior to the entrance to Kidepo, we were overwhelmed with the beautiful topography and vegetation of this area….it was like an enchanted forest. It was the dry season, and there had not been rain for a few weeks, but still, the environment was most wonderful. I had the opportunity to do this same trip about six months earlier when everything was overgrown and green; this time it was sparser, and a lot of the green was yellow. Despite the shortage of water, the overall scenery was still truly amazing; a significant part of the vegetation is cactus, which can maintain throughout long dry spells. In addition, there are ‘sausage’ trees in great abundance as well as numerous other interesting growths…. more commonly found in Kenya than in other parts of Uganda.
Giraffes are common in Kidepo
We booked into the Kidepo Savannah Lodge, a tented eco-hotel which was awesome. The view from both the tents and the main lodge building were truly incredible……with the mountains of Sudan in the distance. One of my friends was using the toilet off to the side of the restaurant/bar; within a few minutes, a baboon parked itself outside the toilet door. We were not quite sure what to do, and while debating what our best course of action would be, the baboon stood up and walked away. Within a few seconds, our friend exited the toilet, completely unaware of the intrusion. It was an exciting moment. Kidepo is full of such wildlife encounters; a week after my first visit to this hotel, the management sent me a picture of a lion that they encountered sitting under one of the tables in the early morning when they were setting up breakfast. There is little doubt that Kidepo is home to a variety of wildlife, and we humans are visitors to their land.
Kidepo Valley National Park has got a variety of wildlife
The first morning we ventured out for an early game drive and we were not disappointed……in addition to the hundreds of water buffalo, various antelope, elephants, and giraffe, we encountered several lions out hunting as well as the very elusive leopard. This leopard was sitting on the side of the road, and remained there for some 15 or 20 minutes, allowing us to take a plethora of photos. This was only my second encounter with a leopard in the wild…. the first some 50 years earlier in Samburu district of northern Kenya when a leopard jumped across the road in front of our vehicle. We encountered so many animals on this first game drive, that it was some 4 hours later when we returned to the lodge for some tea.
The Rock-lions in Kidepo Valley National Park
Later that day, we ventured to a local village to visit with the Karamajong. This settlement had about 100 inhabitants, all living traditionally. They selected one person, Julius as a guide, because his English was so good, and he could explain the customs and traditions of his people to us. In addition to a tour of the huts that they lived in, we were entertained by some local dancing and singing, including the traditional jumping vertically to great heights. The Karamoja also had prepared several simple crafts for us to look at; many were functional tools that they use in their cooking and preparing of foods, but there were also a number of items that they made to sell to travelers, providing some income for the community. Julius was most informative in giving us a picture of life in Karamoja; so many of the customs were like that of their neighbors in Kenya, the Turkana, and the Samburu.
The Karamojong performing their traditional dance
Time did not permit us to journey in the hills and visit the other tribe that lives traditionally, the IK. Unfortunately, the IK have been almost completely wiped out by so-called, development. The history of the IK is not a happy one, in that the Uganda Wildlife Authority decided that in order to preserve the wildlife in the Kidepo Valley, the IK needed to be removed from the park and live elsewhere. The IK resisted moving and the Ugandan government used force to remove them; so many were killed and now there are only 10,000 IK remaining. I hope on my next visit to the North of Uganda, that I will make it a priority to visit these people and find out for myself what their demise has been. Most of the National Parks in Uganda have similar stories, where the indigenous people were given at best a second-class status to the animals….Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is another shocking example of how choices were made in favor of the animals over the people. The silver lining in that story is that the Mountain Gorillas have thrived, and their numbers are increasing yearly.
A man from the IK tribe in Kidepo
We spent a couple of more days in Kidepo, mostly going on long walks and even longer game drives. Every encounter with the local people and wildlife was most positive. From Kidepo we traveled southeast to the town of Moroto, where we made arrangements with a group called Kara Tunga; these people run a guesthouse in Moroto as well as emersion tours of the Karamojong. This was our second encounter with Kara Tunga and equally as exciting as the first. Each group that visits the Karamoja through Kara Tunga are assigned a guide/translator; together one travels some 45 minutes out of town to a Kraal where a group of Karamoja men spend the night protecting their cattle, goats, and sheep. The guide sets up pup tents, each one to accommodate 2 people; in addition, they provide dinner, which is taken sitting around the campfire with the Karamoja. Soon after arriving, a cow is selected for bloodletting, and an arrow is pierced into the throat of the cow and the blood pours out; it is captured in a couple of buckets and mixed with cow milk. This concoction is then passed around and drank by everyone present in the Kraal, including us visitors if we dare. The evening is spent singing, dancing and drinking local beer with the 15 or so Karamoja men. Bedtime is whenever one is ready, as the Karamoja stay up all night on watch….historically, they have been raided by cattle rustlers from Sudan to the north and Kenya to the east. The women of the tribe stay in a separate settlement, away from the animals, in a protected environment some distance away.
In the morning, before daylight, the singing starts again, as the Karamoja prepare for the journey to a new grazing spot for the animals. The guide packs up the tents and we all return to Marotto for a hot shower and breakfast buffet. This emersion experience costs $55 US and in my opinion is worth much more. As I said, this was my second visit sleeping at the Kraal, and I know it will not be my last; I look forward to coming back and bringing new friends to introduce to this experience.
The Kara-Tunga women in Moroto
In summary, the trip to Kidepo and the Karamoja is a long one, some 13 hours overland; but there is nothing in Uganda, or any other country in East Africa, to compare. The scenery within the park and around the park is truly magnificent, the people are welcoming and most interesting to encounter, and the wildlife will not disappoint. One bonus feature for the moment is that there are very few tourists and as such one can go for hours on game drives without encountering other vehicles; this is one of the biggest complaints in such parks as the Serengeti, where it is a common experience to wait in line to get a good vantage point to take pictures of wildlife that have exposed themselves; sometimes impossible to get such pictures without another vehicle in the shot. This does not happen in Kidepo, and it’s quite wonderful and greatly appreciated by regular safari travelers.
Click here to book or enquire about a safari to Kidepo Valley National Park or any other safari in Uganda and Rwanda
David is a travel blogger who loves writing about his travel experiences
It’s not only the mountain gorillas that make Uganda an exceptional destination. The pearl of Africa is endowed with unlimited beauties some of which have not been tapped. Uganda tourism board has disclosed gold tourism as Uganda’s new tourism product which most have not known about. A few days back, the Uganda Tourism Board signed a memorandum of understanding with the Uganda Golf Union (UGU) to promote golf tourism in the pearl of Africa. The partnership was held at the Uganda Golf Club in Kitante Kampala to lay strategies on how best to welcome and promote the incoming Uganda golf tours set to commence officially on 30th March 2019. The initiative was highly welcomed by the president of Uganda Golf Union who thanked Uganda tourism board for having sought about this idea. The UGU president further clarified that golf is one form of sports tourism, which has been untapped. Unlike other sports tourism activities, golf is exceptional in a way that participants can play for the whole day and even come back the next day for the same game. It’s such an enjoyable game.
From time to time, Golf tourism has improved attracting between 5-6% of total visitors from all parts of the world with the sole purpose of playing golf. Most of the golf players come from the United States generating 26.7 million golf players, 5.5 million in Europe, 5 million in Canada, 14 million in Japan and 3.8 million in the United Kingdom. Fortunately, these countries are Uganda’s major source of tourism market hence gives hope of an increased number of golf players to Uganda. In terms of economy, golf tourism is among the sources of foreign exchange earner for Uganda.
With no doubt, Uganda will soon be positioned as a premier golf tourism destination given the country’s conducive climate that gives travelers a chance to play golf all day night long. Unlike in most European and Unites States countries, which get covered by ice and snow sometimes, Uganda is winter free which give golf players chance to pay their game throughout. Golf players to Uganda, therefore, have added advantages of playing with no limit. Also, the strategic location of golf course cents near tourism attractions will make it easy for visitors to combine golf playing with tourism. It’s so fortunate that all golf centers in Uganda are located close to tourism centers. The Jinja golf course is just a short distance from the source of the Nile, Mbale golf course near Mt Elgon & Sipi falls, Kabale golf course near Lake Bunyonyi, Entebbe golf course near Lake Victoria and the Uganda wildlife education center while the Kampala golf course is located in the center of Kampala city a hub for business, shopping and city tours among others. The nearness between golf courses and tourism attractions gives a chance that every golfer coming to Uganda will automatically experience the surrounding tourist attractions without complications. This is an opportunity that has not been tapped. The pearl of Africa has 18 golf course centers, which give golf players a variety of choices.
Fortunately, the partnership between the Uganda golf union and Uganda tourism board will be of mutual benefit for the two bodies. Every visitor who comes for golf must travel to the golf course which transport is part of tourism. Also, golf players sleep in hotels for food and bed services, which indirectly support the tourism industry. This tells that the experienced golf is surely big and beyond what most people may think. According to the outgoing chief executive officer of Uganda tourism board, UTB together with UGU is determined to promote Uganda as a top golf tourism destination in Africa. Most of these travelers are the elderly who are in their leisure time. On a global scale, golf contributes over $20 billion annually tourism and is a secondary motivator able to attract millions of holidaymakers from all over the world.
Other tourism in Uganda
In addition to golf, Uganda is naturally endowed with unlimited beauties. These range from beautiful sceneries, hospitable people, wildlife, birds, mountains, lakes, rivers, and valleys among others. The leading tourism activities in Uganda are gorilla watching in Bwindi forest/Mgahinga gorilla national park, game viewing, cultural encounters, bird watching, and mountaineering tours. A combination of these, make a complete Uganda safari package to meet, satisfy and exceed every visitors travel expectations.
Golf tourism is an experience of its own kind. Those who have done it before comparing it to no other game. Come to Uganda oh you golfers, play golf to the fullest with no limit at low rates.
Few animals have sparked the imagination of man as much as the gorilla, the largest of the living primates. Most gorillas live in inaccessible regions in various dense forests in tropical Africa, and one subspecies, the mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei),was not even known to science until 1902. The mountain gorilla has a robust build with long, muscular arms, a massive chest, and broad hands and feet. It is the hairiest race of gorillas; its long, thick black hair insulates it from the cold of living at high elevations.
The world’s remaining mountain gorillas live within four national parks, split in two regions that are 45 kilometers (28 miles) apart.
One population of mountain gorillas inhabits the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. A census in 2003 recorded 340 gorillas here.
The second population of mountain gorillas is found in a mountainous region referred to as the Virungas, which includes Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (Uganda), Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda) and Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of Congo). Approximately 380 gorillas are found in the Virungas.
Although strong and powerful, gorillas are generally gentle and shy. They live in groups of 2-40 individuals, averaging about 11. A dominant male, the silverback, named for the silvery gray hairs that grow when the male matures, leads groups. The silverback serves as the chief leader and protector of the group, to whom all group members defer. He decides when and where to forage, rest and sleep, arbitrates disputes among his family members and protects them from rival silverbacks or human predators. Mountain gorillas have a slow rate of reproduction. This slow reproduction makes this species even more threatened. In a 40-50 year lifetime, a female might have only 2-6 living offspring. Females give birth for the first time at about age 10 and will have offspring every four years or more. A male reaches sexual maturity between 10 and 12 years. Able to conceive for only about three days each month, the female produces a single young and in rare cases twins.
Newborn gorillas are weak and tiny, weighing about 4 pounds. Their movements are as awkward as those of human infants, but their development is roughly twice as fast. At 3 or 4 months, the gorilla infant can sit upright and can stand with support soon after. It suckles regularly for about a year and is gradually weaned at about 3.5 years, when it becomes more independent.
It is perhaps surprising that an animal as large and strong as the mountain gorilla is primarily an herbivore. Mountain gorillas eat over 100 different species of plants. They rarely need to drink since their diet is so rich in succulent herbs, from which they get their water.
Predators and Threats
The primary threat to mountain gorillas comes from forest clearance and degradation, as the region’s growing human population struggles to eke out a living. The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), in collaboration with Fauna and Flora International and World Wide Fund for Nature, established the International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP) to safeguard the last remaining mountain gorillas.
IGCP works on three levels: Strengthening gorilla habitat protection through regional collaboration, researching the dynamic between the human population and the natural habitat/wildlife, and working with local communities to develop livelihood strategies that are complementary to conservation objectives.
This coalition has been a tremendous success, but support is still greatly needed. The most endangered of the gorilla subspecies, only about 720 mountain gorillas remain in the wild.
Quick Facts About Mountain Gorillas
There are only about 1004 mountain gorillas left in the world.
Humans and gorillas are 98% genetically identical.
Male silverback gorillas can weigh 50-100 pounds more – and are about 10 times stronger – than the biggest American football players.
When the group is attacked by humans, leopards, or other gorillas, the silverback will protect them even at the cost of his own life.
Mountain gorillas are endangered species, which reside in the rain forests of Bwindi forest, Mgahinga gorilla, Volcanoes and Virunga national parks in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo respectively. The human like characters of mountain gorillas make gorillas a must visit creatures on your African Safari.
Tourism in Southwestern: Uganda’s Richest Tourism Region
Southwestern Uganda is a very instrumental region as far as tourism in the country is concerned. The region has got a portion of each and every item on Uganda’s tourist menu. Starting from the famous gorilla trekking in Bwindi and Mgahinga jungles, Chimpanzee tracking, game drives, bidding, forest walks and boat cruises in Queen Elizabeth, Kibale and Lake Mburo National Parks. The region also hosts other minor tourist activities including hikes to crater lakes, Hot Springs, visiting the traditional stalagmites and stalactites of Nyakasura. Adventure loving travelers have got tenacious hikes to the Rwenzori Mountains Peaks (Mountains of the moon) and Virunga Mountains around Mgahinga. The area is also self-contained in terms of accommodation facilities with all categories including luxury, medium and budget lodges available for every traveler and they are well located around the national parks.
The region is Uganda’s only home to the endangered mountain gorillas that are found in Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga Gorilla national parks. All together the two parks host more than half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas with the majority found in Bwindi. As many travelers have constantly declared trekking mountain gorillas as the best wildlife experience in the world, this is what exactly Uganda safari to her Southwestern region offers you.
Chimpanzee tracking and other primates safaris
Majority of Uganda’s chimps are found here I the Southwest with typical Uganda chimpanzee tracking safari best done in Kibale Forest national park. The forested park has got thousand s of individuals of this primate specie more than any other park in East Africa. More chimps can also be tracked in the Kyambura Gorge of Queen Elizabeth National Park. Other primates’ species in the region include monkey species including the famous golden monkey, black and white colobus and many more. Most of the varied monkey population is found in Kibale forest national park though Mgahinga gorilla national park in the far south is more known for its huge population of golden monkeys than any other park, whereas Bwindi Impenetrable national park also offers great monkey viewing.
Game drives and other park activities
Southwestern Uganda boasts a lion’s share of Uganda’s national parks with the region hosting seven of the ten national parks in the country. Incredible safari activities are the order of the day within these parks with the major highlights featuring game drives, boat cruises and birding in Uganda’s largest wildlife reserve of Queen Elizabeth national park. The park is also a home to the famous tree-climbing lions in her Southern sector of Ishasha. The Park’s large mammal list includes all the “big five” that include lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino plus several antelope species. A boat cruise along the Kazinga Channel takes you closer to view the park’s water dwellers including crocs, hippos and the huge elephants that regularly camp around the shores. Lake Mburo National Park offers the unique horseback-safari in addition to her variety of wildlife activities game drives, birding and boat cruises.
The Bigodi Wetland located just outside Kibale Forest National Park is the bird paradise in the region with over 138-recorded species. The birds can be viewed during a guided walk along the established boardwalk trail and on the viewing platforms. Common birds that are regularly spotted at Bigodi include the yellow-spotted barbet, white-spotted flufftail, yellow-billled barbet, grey-winged-robin chat, western nicator, brown-throated wattle-eye, black-crowned waxbill, black-and-white shrike-flycatcher, among others including several Rift Valley endemics.
The Rwenzori Mountains in Western Uganda host several peaks famously known as the Mountains of the moon. The Margherita peak on top of Mount Stanley is the highest point in Uganda sitting at 5,109 meters above sea level. This snow-capped peak is just one of the six glacial peaks of the Rwenzori Massifs that also include Mount Speke and Mount baker. Hiking to the Rwenzori peaks is such a tenacious activity that is likely to take you between 7-days before you get to the summit. The hike takes you through the overlapping vegetation zones along the slopes where you meet various fauna species including mammals, birds and primates before you get to the glacial top of the summit. The less physical hikers can embark on the extinct volcano summits of Virunga Mountains around Mgahinga national park that include Mount Muhabura the highest standing at 4,127 meters above sea level and Mount Sabyinyo.
Lake Bunyonyi Boat Cruise
Lake Bunyonyi is the deepest of all the Rift Valley Lakes in Uganda set between the steep terraced slopes of Kigezi. The lake is a chilling place as you enjoy its heartwarming boat cruises before or after the tedious gorilla trekking encounter in Bwindi.
Visiting Toro Crater Lakes and Hot Springs
The Toro region has got over 30 Crater Lakes occupying the foot slopes of the volcanically formed Rwenzori hills. Visit several Hot Springs across the region and discover the magic hot water, which the locals use as medicine that cures skin infections and at the same time use it to boil eggs.
Uganda’s Registers Record Tourism Growth This Year
Uganda is naturally blessed with beautiful scenery that is contributed to by the conducive climate (cool and warm throughout the year), ever-green forests, fertile soils, wide variety of flora and fauna, the Equator, the Western arm of the great Rift Valley, glacial and snow-caped mountains, Volcanic summits, Fresh water Lakes, the Nile, the longest River in the world, among others. These natural blessings and many more are the major reason behind the success of the country’s tourism sector that is thriving year after year.
With her unrivalled wildlife safaris including excellent gorilla tours, breathtaking game drives, Chimpanzee tracking, birding and nature walk tours among others, Uganda is increasingly becoming the dream destination for every traveller. The effort to conserve, improve and promote her nature-given wildlife treasures is seeing Uganda’s tourism industry reaping big from this lucrative sector making it the highest foreign exchange earner for the county’s economy. 2018 has been recorded as the best year in tourism growth with even two months to spare according to the Uganda Tourism Board. The Pearl of Africa has received more visitors in 2018 than in any other year in history. According to officials this year’s figure of visitors has already surpassed that of last year by 300,000 guests.
Uganda’s tourism growth has been on a rising trend with figures indicators that the country received 1.4million tourists surpassing the previous year by 88,000 tourists while currently the number has exceeded 1.7million. New investments in the sector, hotels and new party places are among other factors that have boosted growth in the sector. The state minister for tourism, Godfrey Kiwanda Ssuubi says that the government’s aim for the sector is to reach at least four million tourists by 2020.
The ministry of tourism launched four different campaigns to promote the sector including; Tulambula Tourism Campaign that encourages local tourists to tour around their own country, Twende Uganda, which focuses on attracting tourists from the East African region, Destination Uganda, which aims at attracting visitors across the continent and the Pearl of Africa Tourism Campaign that targets international travellers.
Officials from the ministry emphasize that towards this festive season, they have prioritized among others the major factors including cleanliness, tight security and medical readiness to ensure a smooth running of activities in the sector. Uganda Tourism Police officials also assured that they are also on standby to secure all tourists at various destinations. The security organ calls upon all tour operators to contact them if they encounter any problems and they are also ready to work hand in hand with the Association of Uganda Tourist Operators (AUTO).
Combined all together, The Pearl of Africa has got more than twenty national parks and wildlife reserves where you can enjoy incredible safaris. Uganda’s top destinations for wildlife safaris include Bwindi Impenetrable national park best for gorilla safaris for trekking mountain gorillas, Queen Elizabeth national park and Murchison falls national park for incredible game drives, boat cruises and birding safaris. Others include Kibale Forest national park the best for chimpanzee tracking and birding.
Uganda is also a suitable destination for mountain climbers with her two highest points of Margherita (5,109m) of Rwenzori known as the mountains of the moon and Wagagai (4,321m) on top of the dormant volcano of Elgon at her Eastern border with Kenya. The Margherita peak of Rwenzori is above the snow line and the freezing conditions at the peak make summit resemble the Alps of Europe.
Other Uganda safaris popular among her travelers include birding in her numerous rainforests. The Pearl of Africa is a home to over 1,000 bird species the highest count on the continent. Birding safaris in Uganda lead to her magnificent rainforests that include Mabamba wetland, Bwindi Impenetrable forest, Semuliki valley, Budongo forest, Kibale forest and around all the national park. You will encounter unique bird species of which some are Albertine Rift endemics in these destinations. These include among others the elusive Shoebill stork, the African Green Broadbill and Shelly’s Crimson Wing.
Nevertheless, with the presence of such lucrative and attractive tourist potentials combined with the relentless effort from the government, conservationists and all tourism stakeholders to support and promote the sector, Uganda’s tourism success story looks to just get better
A stop at Uganda equator is a must for most if not all Uganda safaris to western and southwestern Uganda. If you have been ever on a Ugandan safari, you should have seen fleets of tour vehicles stopped by the equator and travelers taking photographs in different style at the equator. The Uganda equator is a gateway to Bwindi/Mgahinga gorilla national parks hence a first stop for all Uganda gorilla safaris and a gateway to Bwindi impenetrable forest/ Mgahinga gorilla national park homes to the critically endangered mountain gorillas and other wildlife safaris to Lake Mburo and Queen Elizabeth national parks. For those who have never been there, the Uganda equator is located in Kayabwe county Mpigi district roughly 72 kilometers from Kampala the capital of Uganda. A stand at the equator gives you a chance to stand in the northern and southern hemispheres at the same time. Interestingly, several tourism businesses such as restaurants, cafes, art galleries, NGO projects restrooms and souvenir shops have been established at the equator to make your stay indeed pleasant. Travelers can choose to have their breakfast right the equator, which make the experience exceptional. Just like other attractions in Uganda, the equator is highly visited in the peak season between the months of June, July, August, September, December, January and February when a high number of people are traveling.
Benefits of the equator
The existence of the equator has been of great benefit to the people of Kayabwe and the pearl of Africa as a whole. The benefits are direct and indirect for the wellbeing of local people and Uganda tourism fraternity. To the local people in Kayabwe, the equator is a great asset, which has improved the standards of living and various direct and indirect ways. First of all, the equator has put Kayabwe on the world travel map without which this indigenous village would not be known. The equator has offered local people with unique opportunities to experience a moment of a lifetime through creating employment opportunities, which earn them good income. Land in Kayabwe has gained value due to the presence of the equator and the associated developments. The cost of a plot of land of 50 by 100ft is roughly 8 to 10 million, which is expensive but good for the local people.
To the travelers, a stop at the equator reward you with a chance to stand in the southern and northern hemispheres of earth on one location. Uganda is of the few countries crossed by the equator and is one of the reasons why the country was dubbed the pearl of Africa.
Who is responsible for the equator?
Unlike other tourism attractions where a local guide awaits visitors to give an explanation about the site, you will not find anyone at the equator. The belief is that most travelers know what the equator is and therefore the only activity to do on this spot to taking as many photographs as possible. At present, there is no one who seems responsible for the equator. However, since it’s a monument, most people believe that it falls under the museums department in Uganda. For the past years, Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) has maintained the equator with the support from the ministry of works and transport during rehabilitation. The future plans tell that Uganda Wildlife Authority will take responsibility for the Equator and include it among Uganda’s renowned tourism spots. Unfortunately, the equator was of recent hit by a speeding truck, which demolished it. The government is still looking for new designs after which it will find the appropriate budget to build up another presentable equator. Also, the government plans to partner with a private sector mainly Hima cement which has showed already showed interest. After drafting an appropriate budget, Uganda Wildlife Authority will take the lead in the reconstruction of the Equator since its situated in Queen Elizabeth national park managed by UWA.
Also, the yet to be built equator will be included in the geology department since the imaginary lines which describe the equator keep on moving rotating from time to time. We have brought on board the department of geology because the imaginary lines are not static, they keep moving over time. The government also plans to develop many more monuments to ensure travelers enjoy memorable time in the pearl of Africa.
In general, a Uganda safari without a stop at the equator is undeniably incomplete. Visit the pearl of Africa, have fun at the equator and enjoy the beauty nature has blessed Uganda with.