Volcanoes Safaris working with local communities in Uganda and Rwanda

The idyllic Virunga Lodge in Rwanda is situated high on a ridge with stunning views of the Virunga Volcanoes and the twin lakes Bulera and Ruhondo. It is a popular destination for tourists who travel to Rwanda with dreams of seeing the mountain gorillas of Volcanoes National Park. Rwanda, known as ‘The Land of a Thousand Hills’, offers wonderful natural scenery almost everywhere you go. In the north of the country the Virunga volcanoes were home to research by Dian Fossey and the setting for ‘Gorillas in the Mist’. The protected area is now home to around nine habituated gorilla families, and provides some of the best gorilla tracking experiences possible.

Virunga Lodge (run by Volcanoes Safaris) has been working with the local Mwiko Primary School since 2009 to help fund improvements and provide school materials for the children. The Lodge has donated $6,000 so far which has enabled the school to replace the roofs of 3 classrooms with new watertight iron sheets. There are two more roofs left to replace and the Lodge hope to raise the $4,000 required to complete this by the end of 2015. Guests at Virunga Lodge visit the school regularly on cultural trips and have kindly donated books, pencils, pens and uniforms for the children. The school is extremely grateful and they look forward to meeting all their future visitors.

Bordering Rwanda to the north, Uganda is a country with wonderful natural scenery and very friendly people. Uganda also offers the chance to see the incredible mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or Mgahinga National Park. You can also see chimpanzees in the Kibale and Budongo forests. Big game viewing is very good in Murchison Falls and the Queen Elizabeth National Park, which is home to tree climbing lions. The country is also an incredible birding destination with over 1000 species found, including the rare shoebill.

A few years ago The Volcanoes Safaris Partnership Trust (VSPT) purchased 30 acres of wetland near Kyambura Gorge Lodge on the edge of Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park. The wetland had previously been used as an illegal brick works site, destroying the natural habitat, but the VSPT along with workers from the community have helped to remove intrusive vegetation and helped plant papyrus which in turn will help to restore the wetland back to its natural state, and thereby providing an improved breeding area for birds and aquatic animals, such as Uganda’s national bird, the crowned crane.

In June 2014, in partnership with the local community, the VSPT opened a non-profit training café called Kyambura Community Café. Here they provide a practical training institution for local youths who have been affected by loss of their parents, HIV/AIDS or have physical/mental disabilities. Three students have been given training by the VSPT on how to identify bird species found in the wetland, and one of these, Saidi, has become a pro-birder and has already identified 184 bird species!