Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Mountain Gorilla Experience with Buhoma Lodge

Trekking mountain gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest of Uganda is an incredible opportunity, one that I was eagerly waiting for.  The fact that I was sharing the experience with my best friend from Canada only elevated the excitement.  I couldn't imagine there was anything that could make our experience richer, but our stay at Buhoma Lodge did.  The service, atmosphere and attention to detail made this once in a lifetime trip absolutely magical!

Buhoma Lodge is nestled in the forest approximately 200 metres from the park entrance and near the Uganda Wildlife Authority headquarters.  Upon arrival, the manager Ken kindly introduced himself and took us into the main lodge and dining area.  We sat down together and Ken shared with us facts and information that we would need to know about the lodge and its amenities.  Ken’s demeanor was very calm which I found to be a nice balance to the excitement and anticipation that I was feeling inside for our gorilla trek the following day.  He checked which gorilla group we were trekking and confirmed that it was one of the groups around the Buhoma area and also gave us an idea of where our trek would start from the following morning.  We were told that we were going to have to drive approximately 20 minutes to the starting point for the Habinyanja gorilla group.  This information was helpful to have the night before so we were prepared to take our vehicle the next morning. 

The accommodation at Buhoma Lodge is individual tree houses.  Their slight elevation off the ground allows for wonderful views of the steep mountain forests that surrounded us. The mesh windows gave us great views as well as plenty of fresh cool crisp mountain air.  We sat comfortably on our private veranda enjoying the unique sounds of the dense forest and as I gazed into the impenetrable forest, my mind was racing with anticipation for our gorilla experience knowing that somewhere very deep inside that green lush Ugandan jungle we would come face to face with the rare mountain gorillas that make Bwindi their home.  This was real, very real, I was deep in the heart of Africa! Our room had two comfortable single beds, night stand tables, lamps and plenty of hanging as well as shelving space for our clothes.  The ensuite bathroom was a blend of natural materials of wood and stone.  The spacious shower was wonderful as it had great pressure and hot water.  Buhoma believes in being eco friendly and provides shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and lotion in ceramic bottles. 

Dinner was served at 7:30 in the warmly lit dining room and consisted of four courses, a starter, soup, main course and dessert.  The food was outstanding, great flavour combinations, reasonable portion sizes and top notch presentation.  The atmosphere in the dining room was enjoyable.  Tables of other guests talking, laughing, sharing bottles of wine and stories of their experiences in the forest.  Small clay chimney fireplaces were scattered about the dining room. The warm glowing coals helped to keep the chill out of the crisp night air, a truly charming ambiance.

After dinner when we returned to our room, turn-down service had been done.  Full length curtains were drawn to give the room a pleasant and private feel.  When I got into my bed I was pleasantly surprised to find a hot water bottle between the sheets, I thought that was a very nice touch.  I drifted off to sleep, warm, cozy and full of excitement for the next day.

The next morning a gentle knock on the door followed by “good morning” and the aroma of coffee woke us up.  While we sipped our coffee and prepared for a day of unknown trekking, the darkness turned to light and the birds of the forest began to sing.  We sat down for breakfast at 7am.  We were asked to bring our gorilla permits and passports to breakfast which I assumed was a tactic to keep us organized.  We had an enjoyable breakfast of fresh juice, cereal, porridge and cooked eggs that we had ordered the night before.  As we tried to control the butterflies of excitement in our stomachs, we were unaware that the staff was registering us for the trekking at the park headquarters, that was the reason for bringing the paperwork to breakfast.  When we were finished eating, we were told that we could head directly for the briefing.  How awesome was that, we didn’t have to worry about the logistics, it was all taken care of.  On our way to the briefing, we picked up our packed lunches and water packed in stainless refillable water bottles as well as a wooden walking stick for our trek.

Our trek to see the Habinanya group was a full day.  We set off up the steep slopes of the forest at 9am with our guide and the others in our group.  The scenery was incredible.  We passed through small settlements where children and adults came to the edge of the footpath to greet us and sing.  Once inside the forest, the terrain continued to be challenging but delighted us with a vast array of plant life and interesting creatures such as the giant earthworm and numerous vibrantly colored butterflies.  Once we were close to the gorillas, we left our packs behind on the trail and armed with a sense of adventure and our cameras, we negotiated the dense forest floor until an opening was cleared out for us to sit and marvel at the gorillas.  The babies kept us entertained and had us giggling at their antics.  After an incredible hour, we began our trek back to the lodge.

The lodge offers complimentary massage for each of their guests.  This was definitely a part of our stay that we absolutely loved and after 8 hours of trekking the full body massage was much needed and well deserved.  A small fireplace warmed the room and the massage table was a wonderful place to relax and unwind as the masseuse melted away the tension in my muscles.

Buhoma Lodge has a well stocked gift shop full of nick nacks and reasonably priced souvenirs including books, clothing, jewelry and much more.  The shop was our last stop before leaving the lodge.  We chose out a few special momentos of our time in Bwindi.

I can not recommend Buhoma Lodge enough.  There wasn’t a single part of our stay that needed any changes or improvements and we felt like the staff was always one step ahead of us ensuring that every aspect of our stay was comfortable and memorable.  If the opportunity arises in the future to experience the gorillas in Bwindi again, I will definitely spend my time at the Buhoma Lodge.  Our experience was absolutely magical, one that we will never forget and will cherish forever.  Thanks to all the staff for an amazing time and a job well done!

Booking and Reservations
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