United Nations honor gorillas, Uganda celebrates them

The UN has declared 2009 as the global “Year of the Gorilla,” and even appointed a special UN Ambassador towards this end, and celebrations towards the recognition of the need to actively preserve and protect the animals and their habitat are now coming to a peak in Uganda last week.

Hollywood junior celebs Jason Biggs, Simon Curtis and Kristy Wu, who arrived in Uganda aboard Emirates – one of the event sponsors – during a post arrival news briefing expressed their delight to be in Uganda and part of the celebrations of the UN Year of the Gorilla.

They enthusiastically accepted the idea to be “Goodwill Ambassadors” for the gorillas in Uganda and use their own popularity and fan following to promote conservation, with special emphasis on the protection for the gentle giants of the Virunga range.

The “real action” was to take place near Kisoro, and the invited media representatives enjoyed the unfolding scenery of the drive, which took us from the capital Kampala nearly 500 KM into the border triangle between Uganda, Rwanda and the Congo DR where the main gorilla national parks of Bwindi and Mgahinga in Uganda, Parc de Virunga in Congo DR and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda are bordering each other.

Sections of the road already showed signs of the ongoing upgrade and rehabilitation, but alas it was only sections, while long stretches were still potholed, caused by overloaded trucks destined for the African hinterland nations, bad workmanship and lack of preventive maintenance.

After a brief lunch in Mbarara, the urban centre of Western Uganda, did the scenery change again and wetlands in the valleys between the fast rising hills gave way to pastures, matooke farms and yet more pastures, all green and full of diary cattle, and belying the fact of a wide spread draught in other parts of Eastern Africa.

The road kept climbing up and down yet more valleys before eventually getting us to Kabale, the springboard to the gorilla national parks and transit point for traffic to Rwanda via the Katuna border post.

Tourist travellers from Kabale take the routes to either Buhoma, Ruhija or Kisoro, depending on where they will track gorillas, and the newly widened and tarmacked road from Kabale to Kisoro already extends well beyond Muko, a small settlement more than half way towards Kisoro.

A lot of additional work is needed to complete the entire road, however, but a reasonably good murram road made the drive for the remainder of the journey easier than remembered from the last such trip.

There is plenty of good accommodation available in Kisoro, as well as tourist safari lodges near the main centres of gorilla tracking, such as the Volcanoes Safaris Lodge just outside the Mgahinga entrance gate, the newly built and presently soft opened Gorilla Safari Lodge a stone throw away from where we were to track the following day to see the Nshongi gorilla group and of course the much acclaimed “Clouds” in Nkuringo with their own gorilla group reported about frequently when the ‘greed and envy’ crowd was still vocal, and without argument in this correspondent’s mind the best of the lot, by miles.

Sadly none of the media made it into the better properties but the “junior celebs” actually stayed there for two nights, as did their minders, but more about that and the tracking to see ‘Nshongi the Magnificent’ – the dominant silverback and head of the Nshongi group, in next week’s edition.

Original Article BY WOLFGANG H. THOME, ETN AFRICA | SEP 28, 2009

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