Nothing can truly prepare someone for the emotional impact of encountering a fully-grown silverback gorilla in the wild. For most, it is a humbling and even spiritual experience.
Indeed, to spend even a short time in the presence of a family of mountain gorillas; to see them move through their world is a rare privilege. With only about 700 gorillas remaining in the wilderness, only a handful of people will ever have the chance to encounter them in their natural habitat. The Western Rift Valley is edged by some of the highest mountain ranges in Africa. In the lush volcanic Virunga Mountains, Uganda and Rwanda share a border and so, too, share some of the last remaining gorillas on the planet.
Three national parks – Parc National des Volcans in Rwanda, and Bwindi and Mgahinga in Uganda are home to these highly intelligent creatures. Uganda sits on a plateau that encompasses several large lakes including Lake Albert, Lake Kyoga and Lake Victoria, the second largest tropical lake in the world. This lake is also the longest branch of the River Nile, the White Nile. It has 3,441 kilometers/2,138 miles of shoreline and more than 3,000 islands. In Queen Elizabeth National Park, elephant, lion, buffalo, hippo and leopard inhabit the savannas. Murchison Falls National Park is Uganda’s largest and is known for its enticing scenery, magnificent falls and concentration of game.
Rwanda, too, is a land of great physical beauty with extravagant mountains, volcanoes and dense tropical forests in the north, and rolling hills, verdant valleys, quiet lakes and savannas in the rest of the country. Rwanda boasts a staggering number of bird species: 670 that have been recorded. It possesses a wealth of plant life, including more than 100 varieties of orchids. Lake Kivu, at an altitude of 1,472 meters/4,829 feet, is the highest lake in Africa, and Karisimbi Volcano is Rwanda’s highest point, 4,324 meters/14,187 feet. Both countries attract travelers with stellar landscapes, irreplaceable wildlife and resilient people.
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