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Genevieve Nnaji Joins Oscar Academy, Gets Oscars Voting Rights

The 41 years aged Nigerian Actress and Producer, Genevieve Nnaji, has been summoned to be a member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – the organization which hands out the Oscars.

Genevieve, who starred and directed in Lionheart, which was Nigeria’s first-ever Oscar submission for best international feature film in 2019 revealed reaching this milestone via her socials and this means she will be able to vote for Oscar winners. This comes just months after her own film was disqualified as a submission.

Meanwhile, the reason as to why this film was disqualified is because it was largely in English yet films in this category must have “a predominantly non-English dialogue track”. However, the dialogue in 1 hour-35-minutes film was in English except for an 11-minute section in the Igbo language.

At the announcement of her membership to the Academy yesterday on Wednesday 1st July 2020, the actress was so excited and she couldn’t hesitate to reveal how it is an honour for her to join the Oscars. Therefore as a new member, Nnaji now has an automatic right to vote for the Oscar winners for 10 years, according to one Hollywood Reporter.

Genevieve’s Journey from Nollywood to Oscars

Nnaji started acting at a very tender age of eight, when she appeared for one popular TV soap Ripples. Her Nollywood career took off when she played one of the ogbonge roles as female armed robber.

Genevieve was born in Mbaise, Imo state, and grew up in Southwestern Nigeria, Lagos, in a middle-class home where her father was an engineer well as her mother was a teacher. In brief about her studies, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in creative arts at the University of Lagos. While at the university, she began auditioning for acting jobs in Nollywood.

In 1998, at the age of 19, Nnaji was introduced into the growing Nigerian film industry with the movie Most Wanted. Her subsequent movies include Last Party, Mark of the Beast, and Ijele. In 2010, she starred in the award-winning film Ije; The Journey.

She has starred in over 200 Nollywood movies over the last two decades and her rise to prominence coincided with the exponential growth of Nollywood, as the Nigerian film industry is called across Africa.

7 Things to Do in Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda

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Volcanoes National park also known Parc National des Volcans (PNV) in French or Pariki y’Igihugu y’Ibirunga in Kinyarwanda is the most popular tourist destination in Rwanda. It is located in the northwestern region of Ruanda in the district of Musanze formerly known as Ruhengeri bordering Virunga National park in Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National park in Uganda.

Volcanoes National park is situated on the Virunga Mountain ranges and is home to five of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains (Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo), covered in rainforest and bamboo. The major activity in the volcanoes national park is mountain gorilla trekking where visitor from all over the world have travelled for this unique experience. Gorilla tracking in the volcanoes is all possible to date thanks to the great works of Dian Fossey who worked with the community tirelessly for the conservation efforts in these mountains. Her remains still lie in the Volcanoes National park and tourist hike to the grave to witness and have a brief background about her works.

Apart from Mountain Gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei), Volcanoes national park is home to golden monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis kandti), Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta), buffaloes (Syncerus caffer), elephants, black-fronted duiker (Cephalophus niger), and bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus). The park also harbors 178 bird species including at least 29 endemics to Ruwenzori Mountains and the Virungas.

Due to the tourism potential of the park, there has been fundamental development in Musanze with many tourist centers and accommodation facilities that range from upmarket (about $1,500 a night) to budget facilities for as low as $80 a night.

Volcanoes national park in Rwanda boasts of the activities as below;

1. Mountain Gorilla Tracking

Perhaps the most sought after activity in the park, gorilla tracking in the volcanoes has been operational and with growing number of visitors per year post genocide in Rwanda. The gorilla tracking permit in the Volcanoes are sold by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), the Rwanda tourism authority or by booking a packaged Rwanda gorilla safari that is all-inclusive through a reputable tour operator.

There is a total of 13 gorilla families in volcanoes national park as of 2017 where by a total of 8 tourists 15 years and above are allowed to visit each gorilla family per day. The gorilla permits are sold at $750 per permit (this according to the 2016 tariff) by RDB.

The gorilla tracking activity starts very early in the morning with a briefing at the park headquarters at around 7:30am. Given the proximity of the park from the capital Kigali tourists are able to do a 1 day gorilla trekking safari commonly known as the 4:30, tourists can also do multiple gorilla tracking at the volcanoes or a combination of gorilla tracking and other activities at the park or other destinations in Rwanda. Tourists are allowed to spend 1 hour with the gorillas and within acceptable distance.

2. Golden Monkey tracking

Golden monkey trekking is another highlight of Volcanoes National Park. The Golden Monkey is a local subspecies of the widespread Sykes Monkey, also known as the “Blue Monkey” and is endemic to the high altitude forests of the Volcanoes National Park area. The monkeys are playful and inquisitive and often spend their time leaping from bamboo branches or frolicking on the forest floor. The bamboo is their major food basket of the Golden Monkeys.

There are two habituated groups of Golden Monkeys, one group comprises around 80 – 100 members and has its home at the foot of Mt Sabyinyo. As with treks to see the Mountain Gorillas, treks to see the Golden Monkeys take place in the mornings and visitors are permitted to stay for 1 hour with the monkeys. Departure for the Golden Monkey trek is from the Park’s Kinigi Headquarters at 07:00am. The number of visitors is not limited and the fee for a Golden Monkey permit is currently USD$100 per person per trek. Permits can either be arranged in advance or booked at the park headquarters on the morning of the trek. Porters can be hired at the entry point of the park.

3. Mountain Climbing

There are apparently hiking visits to two of the 5 mountains in volcanoes National park and that is trek to the Karisimbi and Bisoke volcanoes.

Climbing Mt Karisimbi is a strenuous yet very rewarding 2 days hike. The climb starts early in the morning taking 6 hours and involves navigating through the Bisoke side before reaching the first stopping place at an altitude of 3,700 meters for overnight camping before finishing off the journey the next day. You can book the Karisimbi volcano hike with East African Expeditions

Hiking to the summit of Mt. Bisoke is a day’s activity. It takes about 6 hours to hike to the top and about 2hrs to descend.

4. Hike to the Dian Fossey Grave

Dian Fossey was a great zoologist who worked relentlessly for conservation of the Volcanoes habitat with much emphasis on the mountain gorillas. Dian Fossey was mysteriously murdered in 1985 and her remains laid to rest near her “home” in the volcanoes alongside remains of gorillas that could have been killed by poachers or died from natural death.

A hike to the Dian Fossey grave starts early morning and takes about 1 & half hours up to the forest with a view of the forest species like birds, butterflies, a variety of primate and bird species.

The Dian Fossey tomb’s headstone reads, “No one loved gorillas more, Rest in peace, dear friend, Eternally protected, In this sacred ground, For you are home, Where you belong”. The Dian Fossey hike costs $75 per person per hike.

5. Iby’Iwacu cultural village Tour

Located just outside the national park, this living museum highlights aspects of traditional Rwanda society. Visitors can expect to be greeted by thunderous drumming, joyful dancing, and the kind of hospitality that has permeated Rwandan society for centuries. The village features hands-on activities related to the rituals and ways of life in the ancient Rwandan kingdom. Some of Iby’Iwacu’s presenters and performers were previous poachers who’ve now been able to make a new livelihood through this memorable, interactive stop designed for visitors of all ages. The village also offers extended trips into the countryside as well as overnight lodging that can be arranged in advance. Unlike other activities in the park, this village tour can be organized at any time of the day.

6. Tour of the Lakes and Caves in Volcanoes National Park

There are tours organized to Musanze caves. These caves were formed by centuries of geologic activity centered around the Virunga volcanoes next door, the 1.25-mile long Musanze caves are located just outside of the town they share a name with, and are only a 90-minute drive from Kigali. With an enormous opening (and an equally huge number of bats resident inside), the greenery outside spilling over into the twilight within makes for a fantastic photo op. Though today they’re a tourist attraction, the caves were used as a shelter during wartime for many centuries leading right up into the modern era, and as such, it’s an important site to local people. Thus, out of respect for the area’s residents, access is limited to guided visits. Expert guides lead every tour, and they can explain the history of the caves from their formation to present day. The tours make an excellent add-on activity for the afternoon after you’ve seen the gorillas, take about 2.5 hours, and can be done at any time throughout the year.

7. Visit to the Twin Lakes of Burera & Ruhondo

These twin lakes are located in Musanze and short excursions are organized on these lakes and tourists normally cool off from their hectic hiking activities in Volcanoes National park. Tourists can enjoy canoe rides on these deep blue waters.

Volcanoes National Park is Rwanda’s tourism hub which is very accessible by public transport from Gisenyi or Kigali or from the airport. The drive to Volcanoes national park is 2hrs and hence one can do gorilla tracking on the same day and drive back to Kigali after the trek. You will be required to arrive at the headquarters of ORTPN in Kinigi, at the park entrance, by 7:00am, therefore, if you hope to trek gorillas for one day, you have to wake up very early for your journey so that you are on time. However, there isn’t any public transport from Musanze to the headquarters of the park at Kinigi- it is highly advisable to buy a full gorilla tracking package for your memorable gorilla safari adventure in Rwanda.

Volcanoes National Park is also famous for the Famous “Kwita Izina” the gorilla naming ceremony that is an annual event that was inaugurated in 2005 with the aim of boosting tourism in Rwanda. This event is special on the Rwanda calendar and happens in the month of September every year.

Best 10 Movies to Inspire You to Visit Africa

Long Walk to Freedom

If you have not yet made it to the African continent and you need to reminisce, or if you’re there right now, here are some great movies to stir up those feelings. True, it might be a bit cliché to watch a movie about a country when you’re in the country, but never will you be more taken by its story, its backgrounds, its language and its message. So make the time and engross yourselves in these crackers:

Mandela, Long walk to freedom (2013)

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is a South African film based on Long Walk to Freedom, the 1994 autobiography by Nelson Mandela, a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and politician. It is a chronicle of Nelson Mandela’s life journey from his childhood in a rural village as he comes of age, education and 27 years in prison before becoming President and working to rebuild the country’s once segregated society. . Idris Elba stars as Nelson Mandela, Naomie Harris stars as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Zulu (2013)

Based on the program for biological and chemicals weapons of the South African apartheid regime (Project coast) and the book “Zulu” by author Caryl Férey. The film was chosen as the 2013 Cannes film festival closing film.

Constant Gardener (2005)

The Constant Gardner based on a novel by John le Carre tells the story of Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes), a British diplomat whose activist wife Tessa (Rachel Weisz) is murdered. Set in Kenya’s large slum, Kibera, just outside of Nairobi is a murder mystery involving corrupt pharmaceutical companies trying to use poor Africans as guinea pigs for their latest drugs, and British diplomats turning a blind eye in order to save face.

The Last King of Scotland (2006)

The Last King of Scotland is a movie about the memoir of a fictional Scottish doctor named Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy), who worked in Uganda and finds himself unwittingly picked as the personal physician to one of the world’s most brutal dictators, Idi Amin. Forest Whitaker plays Idi Amin and he won a best acting Oscar for his incredible performance.

The Last King of Scotland

This award-winning 1998 novel by Giles Foden was filmed in Uganda and is worth watching just to get a feel of the countryside and places. Of course Uganda is now at peace and Idi Amin and his equally brutal successor, Milton Obote, are distant memories.

Hotel Rwanda (2004)

Based on real life events in Rwanda during the spring of 1994, when tensions between the Hutu and Tutsi peoples lead to a war in Rwanda, where corruption and bribes between politicians are routine.

Hotel Rwanda

This film star Don Cheadle as hotelier Paul Rusesabagina, who attempts to rescue his fellow citizens from the ravages of the Rwandan Genocide. Anyone travelling to Rwanda should read up on the genocide and try and get a better understanding of what exactly happened and visit the genocide museum in Kigali.

Cry for Freedom (1987)

The film is set in the late 1970’s during South Africa’s apartheid era, bases on the books by Donald Woods.  The film centres on the real-life events involving black activist Steve Biko and his friend Donald Woods.The films is set around discrimination, political corruption and the repercussions of violence. Nominated for various awards, including the Academy awards (Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Original Score, and Best Original Song) and winning various ones including the Berlin International Film Festival and the British Academy Film Awards

Out of Africa (1985)

If you are planning an East African safari and you want to get in the mood, this is a good movie to watch. The scenery is spectacular, the acting is great (Meryl Streep and Robert Redford) and it’s very romantic. This movie has proved to be one of Kenya’s most effective marketing tools.

The Lion King:

If you haven’t seen Simba singing and dancing along with Rafiki, Pumba and Timone then, my friend, your childhood has a huge Disney shaped hole in it and needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

The Lion King

As you backpack around East Africa you’ll see the strong Swahili references throughout the movie, a great reference point for a charming region and an equally charming movie. Simba means lion, Poomba means warthog and more endearingly (as you’ll hear yelled across the street countless times) Rafiki means friend.

This Is Africa.

The movie which gave birth to the mainstream usage of this age-old maxim – When your bus leave 3 hours late, TIA. When your food arrives and is nothing like what you ordered, TIA. All fun and games of course, but this movie paints a slightly grimmer picture of TIA-  namely conflict or blood diamonds. Set in Zimbabwe (or Rhodesia as Leo Di Caprio, politically charged, insists on calling it throughout the movie) it tells the story of a local man who comes across a valuable diamond. The lengths at which people are prepared to go to is a shocking reminder to how cheap life can be on this continent sometimes. The movie points a stern finger at a European diamond company (I’m sure you see the parallels with reality here!) who horde the diamonds, keeping the prices high and thereby maintaining the violent acts dished out by the people in charge of the diamond mines across Africa. It may not be a true story per se, however I bet you’ll think twice about those diamond earrings next time you reach for your jewellery drawer.

District 9:

Set in South Africa, the story-line goes that an extraterrestrial race come to earth and are forced to live in horrible conditions. They are rejected by the mainstream population of both South Africa and the world and are relocated to District 9. A farfetched story I hear you say?

Not quite… the movie is based on historical event which transpired during the apartheid era, specifically when 60, 000 blacks were ‘relocated’ to District 6 in Cape Town. Don’t let the xenophobic themes get you down though, when you are sipping your ice-cold beer on Long Street in Cape Town you’ll feel a whole different vibe now, I assure you of that.

Why is Uganda Called the Pearl of Africa

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Nile River in Uganda

In 1908, Winston Churchill published a book entitled “My African Journey” this was about his trip to Uganda in 1907 and made famous term “Uganda – The Pearl of Africa”. He was quite enthused about what he found in Uganda when he wrote, “For magnificence, for variety of form and color, for profusion of brilliant life – birds, insects, reptiles, beast – for vast scale – Uganda is truly “the pearl of Africa”.

While most Ugandans attribute the name “Pearl of Africa to Winston Churchill, however other European explorers felt similar, they spoke volumes about Uganda and referred to it as the Pearl of Africa. John Hanning Speke and Richard Burton in 1858 traversed through Buganda Kingdom and were amazed by what they saw. John speke discovered Lake Victoria as the source of the Nile. He got impressed and surprised by the local culture and people’s way of living.

Speke’s western Uganda circuit was popularized through a movie “Mountains of the Moon” his discoveries were later proven by Samuel and Florence Baker.

The most credible source of Uganda the pearl of Africa was Henry Morton Stanley, he twice ventured throughout Uganda long before Winston Churchill. In fact, Fredrick John D. Lugard well known for saving Uganda for the British from the French wrote, “Stanley was even louder in his praises of Uganda than Speke had been, and described Uganda in 1983 as the “the Pearl of Africa”.

Most sources point Henry Morton Stanley first and probably most credible source of the Pearl of Africa. As it’s also in most of American writings, this was way before Winston Churchill’s visit in 1907 and published his book “My African Journey” in 1908.

Describing “the Pearl of Africa” in 21st Century

Being the one of its kind country, Uganda a country with rich biodiversity above any country in the world making it a country gifted by nature and the following are reasons why this East African nation is truly “the Pearl if Africa”.

 Warm friendly people

Ugandans are known to be the most hospitable people in the world; the friendly welcome follows a concept of traditional African culture where the host assumes responsibility for well-being of the visitor(s). The friendliness and worm welcome is also reflected in a way how very first Europeans to Africa were welcomed by different kingdoms in Uganda, like explorers, missionaries among many and Winston Churchill found that in 1907. Much as there was a language barrier but at the moment Uganda is Africa’s Best English speaking Country even Winston Churchill noted that in his book.

The Weather is the best in the world

For those who have traveled to Uganda can witness this; the country has the best weather in the world. In fact Winston Churchill wrote; “the climate is different…from all of Africa”.

Because of attributes such as the Equator, Lake Victoria, sitting on a high Elevation, the Rwenzori  and Elgon Mountains, the Virunga Volcanoes are the reasons behind its beauty and excellent all year long hence the Pearl of Africa and favorite holiday destination.

There are two major rainy seasons that’s April – May and then October, November and part of December, but even during this rain seasons, it can still shine since much of the rain showers in the night or morning hours as a result Uganda believed to be the greenest nation in the world and yes, the pearl of Africa.

Uganda a tropical paradise

In Winston Churchill’s book “My African Journey” writes; Uganda is from end to end one beautiful garden, where the staple food of the people grows almost without labor. Does it not sound like a paradise on earth? Concentrate on Uganda…it is the pearl of Africa.

Being Africa’s Tropical fruit basket, get the taste of Uganda while on a safari visit then you will bear me witness why the pearl of Africa is a tropical paradise. The best and fresh Pineapples in the world, Large Papayas, different kind of bananas, tasty passion fruits truly Africa’s tropical fruit basket.

Magnificent scenery

Uganda’s stunning scenery amazes every visitor, a case in point Winston Churchill wrote, “The kingdom of Uganda is a fairy tale, the scenery is different…from anything elsewhere to be seen in the whole range of Africa…what message I bring back…Uganda the Pearl of Africa”.

The country’s scenery from elsewhere in Africa, those who have visited the country will agree with me. In fact lonely planet calls Uganda “Africa Condensed” meaning what you can find elsewhere in Africa is in one country Uganda. In 2012 Lonely Planet chose Uganda as “Best Country to Visit”, CNN Travel chose Bwindi Impenetrable forest National Park as “Most Beautiful Place in the World”.

Rwenzori Mountains, Bwindi Impenetrable forest and Lake Bunyonyi appeared in the blockbuster Movie, “Black Panther” the country is the source to the longest river in the world, the Nile River running through it. The Virunga volcanoes that has Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and in 2019 was declared 3rd “Must photograph location in the world.” That’s why Winston Churchill was right when he wrote, the scenery is different…hence the Pearl of Africa.

The country with rich biodiversity

One of the world’s most diverse country, this was recognized by Winston Churchill in his 1908 published book,” for magnificence, for variety of form and color, for profusion of brilliant life – bird, insect, reptile, beast – for vast scale – Uganda truly the Pearl of Africa”

From the high mountains in the north to the beautiful savannah grasslands and the rush thick rain forests in the south is what describes Uganda. Gifted by nature as some people call it, Uganda makes the world’s top ten countries when it comes to biodiversity though it’s landlocked and  just the size of Oregon state in the USA.

With variety of climate zones, Uganda in home to the Big Five and the special Two. On a safari in Uganda, you will see the Big Seven that include Elephant, Buffalo, Rhino, Leopard Lion, then Mountain Gorillas and Chimpanzees. Others include; Hippos, Nile crocodile, Antelope and over 1,160 bird species elusive shoe bill stork inclusive, butterflies and then the endangered Rothschild Giraffe as if that is not enough, you will be amazed with the rush green, Rivers and big Lakes looking like an Ocean.

The slogan “The Pearl of Africa” is Uganda’s brand label and no other African country brands the same way. In a broad view this slogan was not created by Uganda government, or ministry of tourism, not even hired marketing agency. Gifted by nature is the only effort but it never equated to Pearl of Africa brand. You can never separate the “Pearl of Africa” and “Uganda.”

Winston Churchill’s visit to Uganda was to see how British can economically benefit from Uganda as their protectorate but not to promote tourism by popularizing Uganda as “the Pearl of Africa” his book “My African Journey” sparked interest from among big game hunters who as a result frequently visited the country.

Much as the term ‘the Pearl of Africa’ was used describe the country’s wealth and riches for exploitation. Today “the Pearl of Africa” is used as a country’s tourism slogan that describes the uniqueness and one of its kind as an African safari destination. Today may tourism related businesses what associate with the slogan as they see term that describes excellence such as – The Pearl of Africa hotel among many.

Talking Rwanda – 7 Extra Ordinary Adventures To Do In The Land Of A Thousand Hills

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For most tourists on a safari in Africa, Rwanda is mainly visited for gorilla trekking. While the latter may be true, there also many exciting experiences one can be part of while on safari in Rwanda. They include among others;

Gorilla trekking

Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park

Gorilla trekking features as a major highlight in most travelers’ travel plans. This is what usually makes a safari in Rwanda complete and for any plans to visit this stunning country, it one of the kind adventures you need not miss to be part of. This life-changing experience in Rwanda is only conducted in Volcanoes National Park which lies in the northwestern part of the country about 2 to 3 hours’ drive. To be part of this thrilling adventure in the land of a thousand hills, you need about $1500 for you to secure your permit.

Volcano hiking

Mountain karisimbi hike in Rwanda

If there is that one thrilling and life-changing adventure you shouldn’t miss to be part while on safari in Rwanda then it is hiking through the remarkable volcanoes that make up part of the 8 Virunga Mountain ranges. For adventure lovers, hiking through Karisimbi volcano and Bisoke should be a must and you won’t regret thereafter. Mount Karisimbi lies just at the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and features as the tallest of all the Virunga Massifs. It comes with breathtaking views of the surrounding areas while Bisoke Mountain on the other hand takes you through its remarkable Crater Lake which straddles at the summit.

Hiking through Nyungwe Forest National Park

For those of you who love forest exploration, a visit to Nyungwe Forest National Park takes you through a thrilling adventure via the tropical rainforest that features misty mountain tops and dark green forests. The hike takes you through waterfalls, tea plantations, and others. This forested park suitably lies in the southwestern side of Rwanda about 5-6 hours’ drive from Kigali capital.

Kayaking

Besides primate adventures, Rwanda you can as well embark on a kayaking adventure through Lake Kivu. While on this thrilling experience, have a chance to enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding areas, the water, the lake itself, surrounding towns in the shores.

Chimpanzee tracking

This is another most exhilarating primate experience one shouldn’t miss while on safari in Rwanda. You can be part of this lovely adventure in Nyungwe Forest National Park a home to 13 distinct primate species of which chimpanzees form the largest part. While on chimpanzee tracking, you will also enjoy amazing views of other primates like the black and white colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, blue monkeys, L’Hoest monkeys as well as several forest bird species, plants and tree species.

Canopy walk

If you are interested in something a little bit rare then canopy walk is that one adventure you need to consider in your travel plan. It takes you through 200 meters walk way via Nyungwe Forest where you enjoy remarkable views of diverse primates such as black and white colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, blue monkeys, olive baboons, and others as well several bird species. This walk way lasts for about 2 or more hours and at the end of it all, you won’t regret it.

Big game viewing

Whereas game drives may seem obvious for some African destinations, to Rwanda, it is such unusual experience the fact that it takes you through Akagera National Park which is only Rwanda’s savanna grassland protected area. On a game drive, you have a chance to enjoy breathtaking views of the big game especially the African elephants, buffaloes, rhinos, lions, leopards as well as other savanna grassland dwellers like giraffes, zebras, antelope families, and bird species.

Conclusively, with the above extra-ordinary adventures, you won’t be left out of choice while on Rwanda safari.

Meet the Batwa and Bambuti Pygmies in Uganda

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Bambuti People

Batwa and Bambuti are also referred to as pygmies who are believed to be the relatives to the old stone age of Uganda. The Bambuti are believed to have been the first people to settle in the regions of mountain Rwenzori, Bundibugyo and Kasese districts when they came from Ituri forest in the eastern Congo while Batwa who are close relatives to the Bambuti inhabit in the areas of Bwindi Forest and Mgahinga National park in southwestern Uganda. The Batwa are also found in Rwanda and Burundi and related to the Ndorobo of Kenya and the KoiKoi and sans of South Africa. They are all pygmies that were evicted from their ancestral forests but their ways and culture are different from each other and inhabit in different regions.

The Batwa tours

The Batwa are an indigenous kind of group that inhabits in the tropical rain forests of Bwindi and Mgahinga National park in south western Uganda. They are believed to be hunters and gatherers as their culture since they are people of the forest.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga National park were gazetted in 1990s as National parks to protect and conserve the mountain gorillas, the Batwa people were evicted from the premises of the parks without being compensated and were left landless which led to their death hence reducing their numbers. Later an American organization came in to rescue the Batwa that had remained, they bought for them land were they settled, constructed hospitals, schools which improved their standards compared to how they were in the last years.

The Bantu people settled in the forests after the eviction of the batwa which helped the batwa to work on the farms and gardens of the Bantu to get food like bananas, sweet potatoes, beans, fruits among others since hunting was no longer the major source of income. They also act as local tour guides and potters for the tourists who come for the cultural experiences of the Batwa in Bwindi Impenetrable National park and Batwa trail in Mgahinga National park.

The Batwa trail in Mgahinga National park.

The Batwa trail was established in 2001 as a way of remembering and promoting the ancient Batwa culture which is considered to be a tourist activity today. Batwa trail is a walk through the thick forests of Mgahinga National park guided by the Batwa people and sharing about their previous life style while in the forests. Batwa trail is only found in Mgahinga National park done alongside gorilla trekking and golden monkey trekking. The Batwa people are unique people that first lived in the forests before they were gazetted in National parks in 1991.

The Batwa trail in Mgahinga National park is started by prayer normally led by the Batwa elders to the ancestors of the forest for guidance and protection as they pass through the forest. The trail goes up to the bottom of mount Gahinga, mount Muhavura and mount Sabinyo of the Virunga ranges where their ancestral cave known as Ngarama cave is found. The offices of the Batwa elders would sit in the Ngarama cave where they would plan for their people. The Batwa women during the trail sing some sorrowful songs about their ancient culture which would live al people in misery states.

During the times of the trail, the visitors or tourists are taught different activities of the Batwa people like hunting, gathering, harvesting honey, hand craft making, making fire, making medicine from herbs among others.

Batwa cultural experience in Bwindi Impenetrable National park  

After gazetting Bwindi Impenetrable Forest into a National park in 1991, the Batwa cultural experience was introduced to teach their children the cultural traditions but instead they ended up attracting tourists in Bwindi Impenetrable National park especially after gorilla trekking.

During the batwa experience, the visitors specifically meet the Batwa people and interact with them about their life in the forest and how they co-existed with the wild animals, they perform their traditional dances and singing the conservation songs and storytelling which lives the tourists happy and give them money or support them in one way or the other.

During the Batwa cultural experience, also the visitors visit the traditional home steads of the Batwa people which they thatched with grass and tree leaves, they also visit the traditional healers who use plants and ancestors to heal the sick.

The Batwa trail and cultural experience in Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable National parks are best done in the months of January, February, June, July, August and December where there is little or no rain fall and the trails are less muddy and easy to penetrate through to visit the Batwa people.

The Bambuti tours in Uganda

The Bambuti are also an indigenous group that are said to have migrated from Ituri forest of the Congo River basin. The Bambuti are nomads who moved from place to place hunting and gathering wild animals, so they moved from Congo and settled in western Uganda in the districts of Bundibugyo and Kasese

The Bambuti are also referred to as the pygmies and said to be the first inhabitants of the Rwenzori regions before the arrival of Bantu. Their original home is the Congo forest speaking the kumbuti language.

The Bambuti people live in villages that are organized as bands and every band consists of 6-60 people which are small and circular but usually temporary. The Bambuti move from one place to another as they look for food and in most cases their houses are temporary, they camp where they find what to eat or where they hunted.

The Bambuti are so much skilled in hunting which is their main source of food, meat is the main food for the Bambuti people which they supplement with bananas, sweet potatoes, beans which they get in exchange for meat with the farmers. They live by hunting and gathering and that’s why they don’t have permanent housings.

The Bambuti being referred to the people of the forest, their love for the forest is at a high percentage to the extent that they are not troubled by luck of a home. It is said that if the Bambuti eat and drink then the rest is history to them.

The pygmies in Semuliki National park are located on both sides of the Semuliki River and also related to the Basu pygmies in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Bambuti are smaller in numbers compared to the Batwa of Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable National parks, this is because the Bambuti and Batwa are mistaken to be the same people but they are totally different people. Though they all live by hunting and were both evicted from the tropical forests but their ways are different from each other.

The Bambuti have limited hunting and gathering rights and are also allowed to grow and smoke marijuana in their areas. The Bambuti today are visited by the tourists that visit Semuliki National Park because they have their own local guides, but in the past years they had non Bambuti guides that used to steal their money which annoyed the Bambuti and refused the tourists from visiting them.

The Batwa and Bambuti tours in Uganda are cultural experiences done by visitors alongside gorilla trekking, golden monkey trekking, birding, game drives, visiting sempaya hot springs, among other activities in Bwindi Impenetrable, Mgahinga, Semuliki and Rwenzori National parks in western Uganda, where visitors learn about the indigenous, minority and people of the forest that make Uganda the leading destination for cultural tours.

All About Dian Fossey the Gorilla Conservationist

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Dian Fossey

People from different parts of world visit Rwanda for mountain gorilla trekking safari and Dian Fossey but they do not Know how real Dian Fosse was, here is a summary of her life. She was born in San Francisco, California and was a daughter of Kathryn Kitty, a fashion model. Unfortunately her parents divorced when she was only six years of age then the following year, her mother remarried the following year to a prominent business man Richard Price. The father tried to keep in full contact with the mother however the mother discouraged her and he subsequently lost the contact and the step father did never treated her as his own child. Interesting enough at the age of six years, she began horse riding and earning a letter from her school during the graduation in 1954

Dian Fossey was educated at Lowell High school following the guidance of the step father who enrolled her in business school at the College of Marin though he turned it down spending her summer on a ranch in Montana at the age of 19 and gaining momentum for the love for animals and eventually was enrolled for a pre-veterinary course in biology at the University of California which was contravention to her step father’s wishes. She spent her life working with animals and as a consequence her father failed to give her substantial amount of financial support throughout her adult life. However she supported herself by working as a clerk at white from department, doing other clerking and laboratory work and laboring as a machinist in a factory.

She turned down the offer to join the Henry on an African tour due to lack of finances though in 1963, she borrowed $ 8,000 which took her life savings and went on a seven week visit to Africa where she arrived in Nairobi, Kenya‘s capital where she met actor William Holden the owner of Treetops Hotel who then introduced her to John Alexandra who became her guide for the following seven weeks through the pride of Africa (Kenya), Tanzania, Democratic republic of Congo and Rhodesia. The guide’s route with her included visits to is Tsavo national park which is Africa’s biggest park, Lake Manyara famous for flamingos and Ngororongoro crater which is well known for the abundant wildlife. Then she left to Congo and on her way, she visited Gombe stream research center to meet Goodall and her research methods first with the Chimps while being accompanied with her photographer Alan Root, who helped her to obtain her work permit for the Virunga Mountains and began her field study at Kabara in the republic of Congo. During her research, she identified three distinct groups in her study area though she could not get close to them

The date was 24th, 1967 when she founded Karisoke Research Center, a remote rainforest camp which is nestled in Ruhengeri province in the saddle of two volcanoes and she was known by the locals as Nyimachabeli which roughly as the woman who lives alone on the mountain. She then tempted to prevent the export of two young gorillas from Rwanda to the Zoo in Germany and during the capture of the infants at the behest of the cologne Zoo and Rwandan park conservator.

She first encountered mountain gorillas on a seven-week trip to Africa and abandoned her career as an occupational therapist to set up the Karisoke research centre in Rwanda in 1967.

Lacking any scientific training, Dian struck up a unique bond with the apes. Awestruck locals called her “the woman who lives in the forest without a man”.

She even adopted one group of gorillas, naming the silverback after her beloved Uncle Bert and a female after her aunt Flossie. She also nursed two orphans Coco and Pucker back to health after they were injured by poachers who planned to sell them to a German zoo.

But her favourite was a young gorilla with a broken finger she named Digit, who loved to play with her. When Digit was killed and his head was hacked off by poachers on New Year’s Eve, 1977, she was overcome by grief and anger.

Best Places to Go Birding in Uganda

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Uganda Shoebill Stork

Uganda is a land with such endless potential for wild life enthusiast and therefore one of the natural wonders of the world. Birding is a tourist activity that can be done along other activities like enjoying wild life safari,boat cruising, watching the sun rise and set,mountain hiking and climbing,and so much more there is in the tourism industry.

Uganda is a country of the wild in the heart of East Africa , blessed with a variety of bird species like the blue headed, sunbird, brown chested Lapuing, robbins, bee-eaters,African skimmer, African fin foot, the lesser and greater flamingos, among others all surviving in her tropical environment. These can be found in the tropical rain forests, riverine forests, savannah wood lands, swampy areas as well as mountains and national parks, which all make Uganda a paradise for the birders.

1. Bwindi Impenetrable Natural forest harbors about 350 bird species including the short tailed Warbler, Blue heeded sunbird and many others.Located in South Western Uganda, Bwindi is one of the best places to go birding given the number of endemic and rare birds found in various environments. Another reward for visiting Bwindi is gorilla trekking within one of the habituated gorilla groups within the forest.

2. Some birds can be spotted around Kibale’sBigodi wetland, a sanctuary with an estimate of 138 bird species, while others can be detected around Kidepo Valley:Apoka Rest Camp, Narus, and Namamukweny valleys.

3. Lake Mburo is yet another good site for bird watching especially its swampy valleys with salt licks for the birds and its forest.Lake Mburo is gifted with Rofous-bellied Heron, Bateleur, Coqui Francolin, Grey Crowned Crane, Black-bellied Bustard as well as the Brown Chested Lapuing.

4. Mgahinga National Park is another birding site in Uganda and Birds can be seen at the gorge between Mt Gahinga and Sabinyo ranges through the bamboo andmontane forest.

5. Mount Elgon; whose beautiful bird species can be viewed from around Kapkwai Forest Exploration Center and the Cheptui Falls which, is well known for Chubb’s Cisticola, White Chinned Prinia,African Goshawks and African Blue Fly Catcher.

6. Murchison Falls National Park is another great place to go birding in Uganda. This parl located in north western Uganda is one of the most scenic park with a great diversity of wild animals and birds. While on a boat cruise, Murchison Falls also provides you with birding adventure on the distinct bird species like the savannah forest birds, Albertine rift endemics,water birds as well as the Shoebill.

7. Queen Elizabeth; An Important Birding area is habituated by about 800 bird species extending to the Democratic Republic forest where birds are enjoyed at a wider range stretching to both the East and Central of Africa.

8. Rwenzori Mountains: The montane forest of the Rwenzori ranges too offers birding sights and sounds since it is blessed with over 217 bird species like robins, bee-eaters, sunbirds and the barbets among others.

Why Go Birding in Uganda?

Uganda is one of the best birding destinations on the African continent. Located astride the Equator the country has over 1065 bird species. The country has several birding birding sites and several rewarding trips taking different routes are available from selected bird watching tour operators. Contact the Uganda Bird Guides for local information on these routes and best birding times. Keep alert because Birding in Uganda can be a lark literally and metaphorically.

10 Interesting Things to Know About Mountain Gorillas

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Bwindi Gorillas

Mountain Gorillas are among the most threatened primate species in the world today. These great apes were discovered in the 1902 by a German hunter Robert Von Beringe who had gone on a hunting expedition into the tropical rain forests of Central Africa. Prior to this time, only lowland gorillas were known to exist.

Belonging to the Eastern gorilla species, the mountain gorillas are a subspecies that is native to only three countries in the world. These are Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to the IUCN, there are as few as 1000 mountain gorillas left in the whole world. Though their population has been dwindling, several efforts have made the recovery of the gorilla population possible. This led to the rise of the gorilla population from as few as 720 mountain gorillas in the year 2009 to about 1005 individuals as per the latest census of 2018.

You can visit and see the remaining living population of the mountain gorillas on a gorilla safari through the three countries of Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Safe Haven for Gorillas

The amazing efforts have led to the establishment of a safe gorilla haven in Africa. Today these great apes live in four gazetted national parks; Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda and three separate national parks the Virunga Mountains shared by Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda. These are Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Conservation

The mountain gorillas are 10th of the most endangered species in the world recorded to be only about 700 individuals in the world. There are approximately 1000 species distributed between the Virunga Mountains and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Dian Fossey

A vote of thanks should be given to the Late Dian Fossey, an American Iron lady who devoted all her life in protecting the mountain gorillas from poachers who exterminated most of Africa’s wildlife. This primatologist died on duty from the gunshots of poachers but her dream has lived on with the Dian Fossey Fund leading gorilla conservation in Africa. During your visit to Volcanoes National Park, you can pay a tribute to the late Dian Fossey by visiting her grave at the Karisoke Research Centre. The hike to the centre takes about 8 hours and departs daily from Kinigi park headquarters at 8.00Am.

Bwindi Gorillas

There are approximately 420 mountain gorillas living in the Bwindi Forests of Uganda. The remaining population is distributed to the remnant three national parks in the Virungas. Bwindi is a large ancient tropical rain forest in South Western Uganda stretching on over 336 square kilometres. The park is home to several gorilla families and it is the leading destination for gorilla watching today.

Virunga Gorillas

Within the Virunga, the gorillas are protected in three separate national parks. The Virunga is a large area that is characterized by eight volcanoes. The Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the smallest of all the gorilla parks and protects the mountain gorillas that roam through Uganda.

The Virunga National Park of Congo is the largest and it is known to host other wildlife that include chimpanzees.

The Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda is the most accessible of all the gorilla parks and it lies within a distance of just 3 hours drive from Kigali.

Within all these parks, the gorillas roam freely through the forest.

There are No Gorillas in Captivity

All the remaining mountain gorillas are found living in their natural home. There is no single gorilla in captivity. These great apes can only survive in the montane forest home  and are protected by the international law for conservation. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) categorizes the mountain gorillas as endangered species. By international law capturing or killing a gorilla is illegal. If you love and care for our environment, you need to learn more about our gorillas who are our distant cousins. You can learn more about these great apes on the My Gorillas online portal.

 

Gorillas live in families

Gorillas live in groups / families devoid of territorial boundaries with a family range of 2 to 15 square miles.  They live in varying numbers of about 6-12 individuals with the Silverback as the dominant male with some females, infants and juveniles. The female gorillas determine the group size. That is; they will decide on who the members of the group should comprise for instance, they are known to fight with a new member they are not willing to join the group until they keep her out of their group. The same applies to a member who wishes to leave the group yet other members like her; they often hold her legs and guard her from leaving the group.

 

Feeding

Gorillas are primarily vegetarians and  believed to feed on up to 58 different types of plant species, including; leaves, roots, stems, ferns, flowers, thistles, bamboo shoots, and tree wood. Fruits, celery and Gallium vines and Senecio trees are their favorite foods. Gorillas have large teeth in the back of their mouth that aids in the grinding of foliage, bamboo and bark.

 

Communication

Gorillas communicate using different mechanisms for instance; rumbling the stomach which means they are contented, an open mouth showing the lower and upper jaw means aggressions, a pig grunt of harsh staccato grunts often when complaining or disciplining, roaring or screaming is set when a gorilla is threatened. A loud hoot is given when silverbacks are interacting, chest beating and thrashing of trees is used to scare off opponents. When gorillas are afraid they send out a powerful scent from their glands.

Gorillas Are Affected by Poaching

The gorillas are affected by the overwhelming costs of increased habitat loss, spread of dangerous diseases, and above all, poaching for bush meat and trade. Though a lot has been done to protect these great apes, a lot need to be done to protect these threatened species so that they can’t get extinct.

A visit to the gorillas in their natural habitat can be an exciting expedition. During the hike in search of these primates who exhibit human nature, you will learn more about the gorillas. A trip to see the gorillas is so rewarding and for many have regarded it as being a tour worth while and for a life time.

Conclusion

It is our duty to protect the animals from getting extinct and the mountain gorillas are also some of the animals that need serious attention. With just as few as 1000 mountain gorillas left in the whole world, it is a global duty to preserve and protect threatened species for our future generations. There are so many ways you can get involved in this noble cause and one of the best ways is to spread the world about the much needed conservation of our brotherly giants.

Ganvie: the City Lake Known as “Africa’s Venice”

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Ganve

Lying in middle of Lake Nokoué, near Cotonou, Benin is Ganvie – the largest floating city in Africa.

Over 20,000 people call Ganvie home and its unique setting and stunning scenery that surround it makes the lake very popular with tourists.

Ganve City Lake

Sometimes called the Venice of Africa, Ganvie’s floating city was established in the sixteenth or seventeenth century by the Tofinu people, and legend has it that the religion of the Dahomeys (a slave trading tribe that domainated the region during the time) forbade the resident Fon warriors (who believed in reincarnation) from entering water, therefore the lagoon was a safe territory for them and other tribes.

Ganve Lake - the Venice of Africa

Ganvie’s people busy themselves with fishing and fish farming. I’m especially jazzed to see that the women here in total control including ‘driving’ themselves around! Nice!

Ganve Lake

Know Before You Go

The easiest way to get to Ganvie is to take a boat from the Hotel du Lac in Cotonou. It makes the trip in about 50′, what would allow one to full make a visit in about 1/2 day.

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