NOW Curious Traveller Diaries

AFRICA- Rwanda & Uganda

After visiting the chimpanzees in Tanzania, I still had another adventure in mind - to visit another group of old family members - the mountain gorillas. Nic and Jana had left their jobs as managers of Lamai Serengeti Lodge, passed demanding exams and created their own travel company - IN THE WILD - that organize safaris and guide tourists all over Africa. We have been in contact since my fourth visit to Africa in 2014 and exchanged numerous emails to plan my dream holiday to see the gorillas in Rwanda with Jana as my private guide. I originally considered travelling to a natural reserve in Rwanda led by a Belgian Manager - Emmanuel de Merode – who is well known for his love and knowledge of the mountain gorillas and his battle against poachers. Political troubles made it impossible to travel there and the reserve was closed for tourists. My final decision was to travel further east to Uganda in October 2018 to access the same volcanic Virunga mountains, not far from the Republic Democratic of Congo (RDC), Jana welcomed me in Kigali airport, capital of Rwanda.

Our visit to the Genocide Museum left us speechless for hours, an exhibit created so people do not forget the 1994 senseless and cruel genocide of up to one million members of the Tutsi people in Rwanda. Fortunately, Rwanda is becoming a peaceful, modern country, promoting women in all fields of activity and sending all children to school without fees! It is also the first country to ban plastic bags and packaging in 2008 and inspired other African nations to follow suit.

After crossing the border to Uganda, our long journey with an excellent driver brought us to the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park located on the rim of the Rift Valley. The mist-covered hillsides are sheltered by ancient and biologically diverse rainforests that dates back to more than 25,000 years. The word ‘Bwindi; means ‘darkness’ and those that have hiked this magnificent forest know why the forest was named so and why it is regarded as ‘impenetrable’. This ‘impenetrable forest’ in Bwindi protects around 320 mountain gorillas that live there which is more than half the world’s gorilla population. We stayed at an elegantly welcoming lodge with spectacular views of volcanoes on the border with RDC. It was remarkable that the lodge has its own vegetable garden at an altitude of 1800 meters!

We connected with trackers who left 2hrs ahead to track where the gorillas had spent the night and were having breakfast. They led us almost to the lowest point of the valley, to a gorilla group which was ‘ours’ to behold for a spectacular moment. A Silverback, his female harem and several babies and youngsters gave us an insight into their daily routine, eating, walking, building nests to rest upon with branches and leaves of all kinds. We gazed at their faces, their big black eyes, their hands with long, agile fingers, and their elegance of movement. The Silverback kept control over the teenager’s movements, hanging on branches, jumping from bush to bush, playing together and eating leaves – gorillas are vegetarian unlike the Chimps. Day 2 brought us to another gorilla family even further down the dark rainforest, and once again, the emotions to see these noble animals together was overwhelming.

The way back on both days was a rigorous up-hill climb, and the staff and trackers helped us to cross rivers and fallen trees. On day 3, a broken bridge obliged us and our driver to take a different route, almost a day long drive to a local airport. We left the rainforest for the savannah in Kidepo Valley, vast golden green plains with rocky outcrops and a big sky. Wildlife in Kidepo is abundant with lions, leopard, cheetah, elephant, giraffe and zebra, and possibly Africa’s largest herds of buffalo, hartebeest, waterbuck, bushbuck and warthogs. For four days, we stayed at the outstanding Apoka Safari Lodge where everything is handmade by local craftsmen, and rooms with natural canvas walls surround a rocky kopje with views across the savannah. Wildlife can be seen from the privacy of the veranda or outdoor bathtub, but the best way to see the wildlife is up close.

Our safari ranger/driver Julius is charming and friendly with a big smile and deep knowledge and love for the game around the camp. He offered us a walking safari not too far from the lodge, in good company of an armed soldier who has become a friend. We spent the last day in Kampala and Entebbe. A small boat with a driver and a guide took us on a long journey out of town to the wonderful Botanical Garden. Jana wanted to see the extraordinary and extremely rare bird living in the delta surrounding Kampala, called Shoebill stork. We were extremely lucky to find the spectacular rare bird not far from our landing point and I teased Jana saying that the bird we have seen was certainly a fake! Leaving Africa to fly home for the fifth time felt the same - heart breaking – with my head filled with memories and images of persons, places, animals, landscapes and the sound and smell of Africa. I go on hoping, in spite of Covid 19, to go back to Africa soon.

About the Traveller

Noelle de Kostine

Noelle de Kostine Traveller

Noelle de Kostine fell in love with the most spectacular continent of Africa in 2005, its various tribes and herds, lakes and mountains, woods, rivers and deserts and plan to go on travelling and exploring it for many more years.


Living Positively


My guide Jana’s discovery of a horned chameleon, from our car, being tired after a long journey from Kigali


The real family-life of the Mountain Gorillas. Tenderness and respect, joy and fun, learning by doing. Humans could possibly take some lessons


The extremely hard life of the tea-planters, mostly women, working hard, barefoot, on very steep slopes to earn enough leaves for the family’s income


The variety of Uganda's landscapes. Big cities, high volcanic mountains, rain-forests, endless plains, the new-born Nile leaving lake Albert for its long way up to the Mediteranean sea

Share Your Travel Experiences Here

View more diaries

NOW Helpful Tips Before, During and After Your Trip

How to declutter travel experience

September 2022

How to Declutter Your Travel Experience

How to make the most of your time away

April 2021

22 Smart Tips for Low Waste Travel

Ditch wasteful attitudes and behaviors

May 2019

NOW’s Top 25 Tips on Travelling Sustainably this Summer

Make your holiday choices count

Machu Picchu Peru

March 2019

10 Top Tips for Travellers Overwhelmed By Climate Change

The UN has warned that we have less than 11 years to limit our climate change catastrophe. Feeling overwhelmed? Here’s 10 easy things travellers can do.

January 2019

Top Tips for Travellers Who Care About Plastics

Guardian writer Lucy Siegle shares 8Rs to act on


August 2018

The NOW Guide to Travelling Light

Lighten the load on your next trip

The NOW guide to slow travel

April 2018

The NOW Guide to Slow Travel

A brilliant way to travel sustainably

The NOW guide to buying local when we travel

March 2018

The NOW Guide to Buying Local When We Travel

Buying local can help people and the planet

Travellers - Sustainable Suitcase

March 2018

How to Pack a Sustainable Suitcase

Sustainable fashion ideas for travellers

Being mindful of technology

October 2017

Being Mindful of Technology

How to use it without losing your wellbeing

Questions to ask a hotel before booking

August 2017

10 Tough Questions to Ask Hotels

Check a hotel’s conscience before you book

5 ways we might travel sustainably in the near future

July 2017

Not Just for James Bond

5 greener modes of transport


July 2017

These Feet are Made for Walking

The most sustainable way to travel

8 ways to make your trip count

June 2017

8 Ways to Make Your Trip Count

How eco travellers can make the most impact