Go ape on a gorilla safari

An eco safari specialist which takes visitors to follow in the footsteps of renowned zoologist Dian Fossey is celebrating 15 years of pioneering great ape tourism. Volcanoes Safaris was established in 1997 by Praveen Moman and Yusuf Mulima Mubiru in a bid to revive adventure tourism in Uganda and Rwanda. Praveen, who has been described as a “visionary conservationist” says: “Team Volcanoes – a very fine group of men and women from Uganda, Rwanda and around the world – has been working over the last 15 years to build up our unique story. They have been a tremendous inspiration to work with.

“The Volcanoes team has worked hard to overcome the legacy of conflict in the 1990s and rebuild tourism in this area. A number of staff who started in humble jobs are now part of the senior management, making Volcanoes a unique story in the empowerment of Africans.” To celebrate Volcanoes’ birthday, a new seven-day safari through Rwanda and Uganda has been launched, discounts are being offered to the first 15 safari customers and, for every three safaris sold, staff from the team will be planting 15 trees in Kyambura Gorge, Uganda. Volcanoes has been part of the revival in tourism after the 1994 genocide in Rwanda in which an estimated 800,000 people were killed.

The company has also signed up to an agreement aimed at saving the world’s great apes from extinction. The Kinshasa Declaration acknowledges that the root cause of poaching and deforestation is poverty, and pledges to support local communities. Sharing simple African hospitality with guests rather than offering homogenized travel is behind the Volcanoes philosophy. And visitors who choose Volcanoes know they are helping protect some key endangered species as well as contributing directly to local people earning a living from sensitive and controlled tourism. A non-profit arm, called the Volcanoes Safaris Partnership Trust, has been set up to support conservation and community programmes in areas neighbouring its four lodges. It donates $100 to the trust from every safari and work done so far includes the creation of a 30-acre wetland on a former brickworks site in Uganda, and backing Mwiko Primary School and the Intore Dance Troupe in Rwanda to support education and cultural heritage.

The company owns four properties in the area – the Virunga Lodge which overlooks Rwanda’s Virunga volcanoes; Bwindi Safari Lodge with its Ugandan forest views; Mount Gahinga Safari Lodge, which sits in the shadow of three volcanoes and Kyambura Gorge Safari Lodge on the edge of Queen Elizabeth National Park. Volcanoes offers a wide range of safaris including tracking gorillas and golden monkeys, climbing the Visoke or Muharura volcanoes and visiting Dian Fossey’s grave and the Karisoke Research Centre.

American primatologist Fossey studied gorilla groups in Rwanda for 18 years before her still unsolved murder at her cabin in the Virunga Mountains in 1985. Her work was made famous in the film Gorillas in the Mist, a movie which also inspire d tourists to want to see great apes in the wild.

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