Uganda and Rwanda: Images and Impressions

  • It’s not every day that you have an opportunity to visit mountain gorillas in their natural habitat, but I was able to do just that in June! For nearly a month, I fully immersed myself in Uganda and Rwanda—not only did I trek gorillas in Volcanoes National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, I explored Kigali and Nyamata, went birdwatching in Mgahinga, photographed tree-climbing lions and rambunctious elephants on safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park, and shopped the markets in Kampala. I have put together this photo essay to share a little of my amazing experience.
  • "Mzungu, mzungu!" The Kinyarawanda term for white people is the first word I learned because I heard it so much. Everyone was very interested and curious to see a "mzungu!"
  • My first experience in Rwanda was a volunteer photography assignment for the Maranyundo School in the small town of Nyamata. I knew the area had been devastated by the 1994 genocide, but when I arrived I learned that the school had been built on the grounds of a former Tutsi concentration camp. These days the secondary boarding school is home to 180 7th - 9th graders, all determined to become a generation of strength and courage. I am happy to report they are.
  • I was impressed by how everyone participates in household chores - even the youngest can help out. This little boy collects firewood for his family.
  • n April 1994, participants in the Rwandan genocide killed roughly 1 million people in 100 days with virtually no international intervention. The most moving experience during my time in Rwanda was observing a gacaca – a local court system that puts genocidaires on trial before the victims’ family and local witnesses. Since 2001, nearly 1.5 million people have been tried in an attempt to bring justice and to provide victims' families with the truth about what happened to their loved ones. The photograph above depicts what remains of victims' clothing at the Bugesera Church in Nyamata, where more than 10,000 people were murdered while seeking refuge.
  • I love this picture. I'd say more than half the people I came across were barefoot, but this young lady wears her shoes well!
  • My first gorilla trek. I think my heart skipped a beat when a baby gorilla named Muhabura locked eyes with me. He just plopped down a few feet away from me and stared - and I realized that he was as curious about me as I was about him! Muhabura is an infant in the Amahoro family in Rwanda - Amahoro means "peaceful." The Amahoro family has been habituated for 15 years, so they don't mind some human company.
  • It was hard to believe that humans share 98.4% of the same DNA with gorillas - until I saw them interact! Case in point: I watched two adolescent gorillas tease each other for about ten minutes - pulling hair, tickling, pushing each other down the hill - until their father stepped in and sent them to their "rooms." Exactly how my parents dealt with my sister and me!
  • We saw the second group of mountain gorillas about 50 steps from the divide between the cultivated and protected land in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda. At the time, I was just relieved that the "impenetrable forest" did not live up to its name, but while volunteering with Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH), I learned why the lack of a larger buffer zone is so serious: population pressures, encroachment onto gorilla habitat, and the fact that gorillas and humans share virtually identical DNA can lead to disease transmission. CTPH was founded by Ugandans and takes a comprehensive approach to gorilla conservation through education and improving the primary healthcare of the people that live near the park - and ultimately encourages them to support the movement to protect these incredible animals.
  • This home and the bright flowers caught my eye on an early morning walk.
  • It took over an hour on the back of a motorbike to reach this tiny hillside church on the outskirts of Buhoma Village, Uganda. Since colonization, approximately 90% of Rwandans and 60% of Ugandans are Christian. This gentleman sits quietly after a six-hour service of heartfelt praying, singing and dancing.
  • An improvised Ugandan umbrella! Insider's tip: make sure to choose a leaf without too many worm-holes!
  • Naptime, Buhoma Community Primary School.
  • We were tempted but decided against buying these masks - we brought home batiks and traditional woven baskets as souvenirs instead.
  • During our visit to Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda, it became very clear that people and wildlife truly cohabitate - I took this photo from a boat on the Kasinga Channel capturing a gentleman relaxing as a hippo soaks just feet away.
  • After an incredible but exhausting day in the field, returning to the gorgeous Volcanoes Virunga Lodge was the perfect way to end my day (and the complimentary massages weren't so bad either!).

If you are interested in visiting Uganda and/or Rwanda and have any questions, please feel free to email me. Our suggested itineraries are a good place to start finding out about the possibilities!
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