While researching the best way to visit Rwanda and Uganda, particularly to experience the renowned National Parks and their essential treks to see mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, and golden monkeys, it became clear that an independent trip would be neither easy nor economical. However, upon discovering budget-friendly flights from Europe (435 EUR for LHR-KGL and return EBB-LHR with Brussels Airlines), the decision was made to invest in this adventure.
As neither my boyfriend nor I possess a driver’s license, our first order of business was to find a driver. We booked an 8-day portion of our 12-day journey through Frena Adventures, an Ugandan travel agency that offered us a competitive price of 5400 USD (4900 EUR) for both of us, inclusive of mid-range accommodations, and came with glowing reviews.
Travel Dates: September 22nd to October 2nd, 2023
- Kigali (2 nights): We started with a walking tour, which was essential in orienting us to the city. The visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial was an impactful experience. We found Kigali to be exceptionally safe, easily navigating the city on motorbike taxis and enjoying the local pubs and cafes independently.
- Volcanoes National Park (2 nights): Picked up from Kigali by our driver/guide, we headed to the park and self-toured the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund upon arrival. A gentle trek to see the Golden Monkeys followed, with the permit priced at 100 USD each.
- Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (1 night): Post-visa formalities in Kigali, we transitioned smoothly into Uganda. The mountain gorilla trek here was a standout experience, with permits at 700 USD each.
- Lake Bunyonyi (1 night): A peaceful interlude on an island lodge included a pleasant but non-essential boat trip and unexpected zebra sightings.
- Elizabeth National Park (1 night): We enjoyed a rich wildlife experience, especially during the boat trip on the Kazinga channel and an evening safari drive. A ranger joined us the following day to spot lions, which was arranged by our agency at no extra cost.
- Kibale National Park (2 nights): Lodging by the Bigodi swamp allowed for sightings of diverse monkeys and lizards. The chimp trekking was particularly enjoyable, costing 200 USD for the permits. A village and swamp walk rounded out the experience.
- Kampala (1 night): A walking tour here was insightful, and though we ventured through bustling markets, our stay was quite comfortable.
Weather Insight: Arriving at the beginning of the rainy season, we were fortunate that the rains did not disrupt our activities, occurring mainly in the afternoons or at night.
Road Conditions and Traffic: The majority of roads were newly made or in good repair, with surprisingly light traffic compared to our expectations. Adventurous detours led to muddy escapades, adding a bit of excitement to our travels.
Health Precautions: We adhered to medical guidance, receiving vaccinations for Yellow Fever (mandatory), Hepatitis A, and DTP (Diphtheria/Poliomyelitis/Tetanus, recommended), and we undertook Malaria prophylaxis.
Budget Overview: This was undoubtedly our priciest trip, totaling 7800 EUR for two people over 12 days, inclusive of an additional night near London/Heathrow, all travel, accommodations, excursions, and an estimated 500 USD in gratuities.
Less Favoured Experiences: The visit to a pygmy tribe in Bwindi and an orphanage left us feeling uneasy, with the cultural performances seeming performative rather than authentic.
Safety and Community: We encountered no issues during our stay, feeling secure while walking around the villages. While the locals were welcoming, we were advised to be discreet with personal information.
Photographs and Communications: My photo gallery, which is still a work in progress, can be viewed here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/h_e_l/albums. I’ve also shared snapshots of our trip on my Instagram page: @cristinahel.
I’m happy to respond to any inquiries you might have! 🙂
P.S.: We chose to skip the last leg of our flight from Brussels to London and flew directly to Dublin instead. It’s a decision I’m curious to discuss further, perhaps in a future post. ✈️