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Sun Set at the Gorilla Lodge Uganda
As a guest of Ruhija Gorilla Lodge, a classy offering in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, I set out with my partner to this jewel of the jungle.
Perched on the eastern side of the park is this serene lodge with a green roofing overlooking the thick forest cover of Bwindi forest. Further beyond the forest is Queen Elizabeth National Park near Lake Edward. At this point you can even catch a glimpse of the hills of D.R Congo.
Here at Ruhija Lodge, the sun rises at midday. But that still would find you fully clothed. It can be extremely cold to as low as 12 degrees centigrade. What is more, on one ridge it can be shining and just across from it, rain heavily pouring while on another ridge, farmers are busy swinging their hoes into the air and sinking them deep into the fertile soils.
The name Bwindi means darkness. It can be extremely dark even during the day that you may not see far. It is dangerously chilly that you would not risk an asthmatic person for company.
From nowhere, you can be engulfed in a fog of clouds as they caress you with tiny misty drops and for the hairy skinned, you may be covered in a sheath of white flakes.
However, the lodge maintains a constant flow of hot beverages. And every meal is preceded with simmering onion, oregano or chicken soup; be it dinner or lunch. And if you have travelled alone, the lodge offers you at least two hot water bottles.
Dark and chilly as it may be, once it rains and the clouds are driven away, Bwindi has an excellent view of the sunset. The chalets/cabins at Ruhija Gorilla Lodge are built in such a way that you have a nice view of the sun setting over Buhoma and Lake Edward in Kanungu.
It was the most amazing gift for us. But you have to be careful, otherwise, you may miss it. In typical Kikiga, they call it akarenga bazaana, an orange glow of the sun with its rays lashing out at the dark forest of Bwindi.
This splendid glow allows you to take in the four-breasted hills of Muhabura, Mgahinga, Simbinyo and Virunga mountains, which lie lazily and invitingly beyond the Bwindi Forest. And this can all be taken in while seated at the balcony of the lodge’s restaurant or at the front area of your room. All the rooms overlook the forest cover of Bwindi.
Here, the sun’s setting glow will not last for more than 10 minutes. I call out to my friends whom I had travelled with to capture the glow but by the time they kick the blankets off their tired bodies, after a hectic gorilla trekking expedition, the glow of the sun is gone.
The glow is replaced with a crater-like scenery. Note that there are no crater lakes in view at this point of Ruhija. The clouds just form white lake-like features in between the valleys and for a moment you may mistake them for real lakes. And these come just moments before darkness, again, engulfs the hills and valleys of Bwindi.
Management knows how cold Bwindi can get. The toilet seats have a wooden covering. With that degree of coldness, you may not do yourself any justice to answer nature’s call on a very cold toilet seat.
The beddings are snow white but there is a shed of brown all around you because of the wooden walls. And the towels; yes, the towels are not thin as they are wont in most hotels in Uganda. You can also be sure; Ruhija Gorilla Lodge offers you warm water all the time.
The heating system is directly connected to the cooking area. As long as there is cooking going on, you will have hot water in your showers. And cooking goes on all the time. The rooms are highly recommended by the Tourism Minister, the amiable Prof Ephraim Kamuntu. He has spent a night here and this lodge also hosted the Inter Parliamentary Union delegates from Switzerland.
The park is popular for gorilla tracking and this is something you can indulge in. Other than that, you can do some bird watching. There are over 240 bird species in and around Bwindi, including the blue turaco that has been sighted in Ruhija.
Ruhija can be deathly quiet save for the whirling wind that blows from across the forest. Despite this, the haven that is the lodge is testament that while Bwindi is impenetrable, it is habitable.
Bwindi at a glance
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, covering 32,092 hectares, is one of the largest areas in East Africa which still has lowland forest extending to well within the montane forest belt.
Located on the eastern edge of the Albertine Rift Valley and the property is a biodiversity hotspot with possibly the greatest number of tree species for its altitude in East Africa. It is also host to a rich fauna including a number of unique butterflies and one of the richest collection of mammals in Africa.
By Aggrey Nshekanabo
The Monitor Newspaper
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