hike to the twin falls in Rwenzori Mountains

This is a short one day hike in the base of the Rwenzori Mountain ranges that offers a taste of the rated best mountains for hiking in Africa due to their incredible beauty and natural diversity, rewarding you with an amazing experience of two beautiful waterfalls, locally called the twin falls – Rwatha & Nyamughasana falls (collectively called the Hon. Nyombi Tembo falls).

The longer Rwatha falls on the left and the bigger nyamughasana falls on the right

The two falls’ uniqueness lies in the fact that they are created by two distinct rivers from the Rwenzori mountains(River Rwatha and River Nyamughasana), flowing over the same rocks/cliff to create the two beautiful waterfalls side by side and joining their waters at the pool below and thereafter continue flowing as one River Nyamughasana. The reason why the locals decided to give the unified river the same name Nyamughasana is an interesting story you shall learn from the local guide.

nyamughasana falls

There are other sets of popular waterfalls in Uganda such as the Murchison & Uhuru falls in Murchison Falls National Park are also located side by side but both belong to the same river Nile, and the Sipi falls which has 3 sets of waterfalls located along the same river.

The starting point at Nyamughasana river crossing

The hike is 1.6 km long which starts with crossing through unified Nyamughasana River down the stream, dipping your feet in the coldwater and wading across. The water is quite cold with temperature about 6 degrees Celsius which offers much need soothing before taking on the rise.

steep trek after crossing River Nyamughasana

The hike starts with a steep rise going up to an altitude of about 1800 meters before starting the descend towards the waterfall. Along the hike you shall turn back to enjoy the breathtaking views across the mountainous landscape and the Nyamughashana river simmering in the valleys and disappearing in the mountains. The first half of the trek goes through short grasses and shrubs, and the next half is through a forest that with birds; a keen birder will take some time looking out for some species and if lucky, may record some mountain specials.

enjoying quality time at falls

After somewhat about 40 minutes you shall get down to the beautiful falls, an incredible reward after the hike. You can picnic at the falls for an hour, take a dive in the pool if you can bear the cold temperature in the water, or simply stay put and enjoy the tranquility.

After spending an amazing time at the falls, you hike the same way back. The round hike is 3.2km in total.

amazing landscape going through the countryside

The hike can also be started from the nearest town called Kyarumba and trek all the way to the starting point, this is roughly an extra 4km giving you chance to enjoy the landscape, see the villages and the life in the countryside.

This beautiful hike is a good addition to the safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park giving you a chance for a brief experience of Rwenzori Mountains after an amazing wildlife experience.

Book this trip to experience the Waterfalls hike in the Rwenzoris

4 days Queen Elizabeth National Park safari and Rwenzori waterfalls hike

Comparing gorilla trekking in Rwanda and Uganda

Gorilla trekking is arguably the best wildlife adventure in Africa, or even in the entire world. Admittedly, only three countries in the world offer this breathtaking experience namely; Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic republic of Congo. These three countries are notably the only places that home the entire world’s mountain gorilla population.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is assuredly no good choice for gorilla trekking  due to safety factors such as insecurity and epidemics.  This comparatively leaves gorilla trekking in Uganda and gorilla trekking Rwanda as the only viable destinations  if you are looking forward to adding the gorilla trek to your safari or trip  in Africa.

With the increment of the gorilla trekking permit in Rwanda from USD700 to USD1500, going to Uganda for the gorilla trip has become an easy choice for most travelers because of the much more affordable permit that costs USD 600 (set to be increased to $700 effective 1st July 2020).

However, even with the significant difference in the price of the gorilla permit there are other factors one can consider on whether to visit Rwanda or Uganda for the gorilla trekking adventure.

I have tracked the gorillas in both countries and below I discuss some of the factors one could consider when choosing between making the gorilla trip to Uganda or Rwanda (if the cost of the permit is not an issue). Note that gorilla trekking in Rwanda is done in only Volcanoes National Park, while in Uganda it is done in two parks, that is, Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. However since Bwindi National Park is where most (more than 90%) of the gorilla tracking in Uganda is done I shall be basing on this as the comparison to Rwanda’s trekking in Volcanoes National Park.

Journey to the gorilla parks

The time taken from the airport or city to the parks is something one may consider.

In Rwanda, it will take you only 2 hours of drive from Kigali City and the airport to the Volcanoes National Park. So this short trip leaves you fresh for the gorilla adventure the following day, plus also give you free time for an extra activity such as a tour of Kigali City before leaving, or enjoy some experiences in Musanze near the gorilla park such as visit to the twin lakes and explore the amazing scenery, visit the gorilla museum in Musanze, do the canoe trip on River Mukungwa with Kingfisher Journeys, visit the gorilla guardians cultural village for an experience of Rwanda’s cultures and traditions, etc… Also, because of the short distance, one can set off from Kigali as early as 4.30am and reach the park in time to do the gorilla trek that same day. Hence in Rwanda you can do the gorilla trip in one day and save on accommodation and extra days of transportation (car & driver hire).

While in Uganda you will take from 8 – 10 hours of driving from Kampala or Entebbe Airport to reach the gorilla homelands – Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. So, some may find this journey quite long and strenuous, and you will need at least 3 days for the gorilla trip in Uganda with 2 days just dedicated to driving to and from the gorilla parks thus spending more on transportation and accommodation. On the other hand however, the day long drives take you through different scenery and landscapes, local communities and pass through some interesting attractions such as the Uganda Equator, etc… hence offering an adventurous journey to spice up your gorilla trip. Also, found along the way to the gorilla parks are other game parks such as Lake Mburo National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park that you can easily incorporate into your gorilla trip to include a safari in the savannah to see animals.

Note that you can also do the gorilla trip in Uganda starting from Kigali Rwanda which is a relatively shorter distance than from Kampala/Entebbe and it would take you 4 – 5 hours drive and would need at least 2 days for the trip instead of 3 days when you start from Kampala.

Comparing Level of difficulty of the gorilla trek in Rwanda and Uganda

This is one of the concerns of many people when it comes to tracking the gorillas, whether the gorilla trek will be too difficult for them and so which country or park may offer an easier trek. There are also adventure fanatics who instead prefer a more challenging and longer trek to the gorillas.

The volcanoes and Bwindi have a different terrain. The volcanoes are mountains with a steady gradient and may involve steady climb up and may be sideways along the mountain to find the gorillas. So the trek will be become difficult depending on how far up the gorillas will have gone. Trekking back however will not be as challenging as you will be coming down the mountain.

On the other hand, Bwindi is made up of rolling highlands with sharp ridges and very dense vegetation. If the gorillas move deeper you could find yourself trekking over several highlands and ridges, penetrating dense jungles, and crossing rivers and streams. And this would be a two way trek.

I therefore say the gorilla trek in Uganda’s Bwindi National Park can be more challenging and difficult than the gorilla trek in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.

But if the gorillas are closer to the start of the trek both countries can provide an easy trek.

Gorilla views and Photography

The slopes of the volcanoes do not have very thick trees (compared to Bwindi in Uganda) and gorillas can get to an opening where you can clearly view them in good light. For photography, the volcanoes provide good lighting due to the openness and since flash is not allowed while photographing the gorillas, you will have the best quality shots of the gorillas in Rwanda’s volcanoes.

On the other hand Uganda’s Bwindi has thick jungles which may obstruct full views of the gorillas, and the closed canopies mean little light for photography. However, Bwindi offers much more varied settings which can give you a variety of shots, from different scenery, a variety of gorilla interactions such as climbing trees or drinking from a water stream, etc… You can take similar shots of different gorillas in the volcanoes, it is almost impossible in Bwindi National Park.

Landscape and scenery

The backdrop of the Virunga Mountains is quite surreal! I have to say the Virungas offer the best scenery which is a big bonus to the gorilla trek. But also the sprawling forest clad misty highlands of Bwindi are breathtaking too.

Crowds

Because of the pricey gorilla permit in Rwanda, there are fewer people who go there for the gorilla trekking tour and the small crowd means a more satisfying individual experience. Out of the maximum 8 people allowed to track the gorillas you could find that there are only four people in your group and therefore you won’t be clamoring for shots or views of the gorillas. However this may not be the case during peak months of July, August, September where the gorilla permits in Rwanda also get sold out. When it comes to Uganda, because of the cheaper price of the gorilla trekking permit, the numbers are almost filled to the maximum 8 which sometimes causes a bit of competition when viewing the gorillas and everyone trying to get the best shot!

 

Cost of the gorilla tracking permit in Uganda increased to USD 700

The Uganda Wildlife Authority which is mandated to issuing the gorilla trekking permit in Uganda has announced an increment on the gorilla tracking permit with effect from 1st July 2020. The gorilla tracking permit shall cost USD700 – this is an increase from the current cost of $600 which will still apply till 30th June 2020.

Uganda is home to more than half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas which number at about 900 individuals. Other mountain gorillas are found in the neighboring Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The gorillas in Uganda are found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National park. Up to 20 Gorilla groups have been habituated for the gorilla trekking tour. And since only 8 people can trek one gorilla group in a day’s session then only 160 gorilla permits are available in a single day.

The gorilla trek is one of the most popular tours in Uganda and its permit is very affordable compared to the 1500 USD price in Rwanda. This gives it a high demand which leads to the tickets or permits selling out well in advance. If you are planning a trip to see gorillas in Uganda then you should book your tour or permit earlier.  And if you were planning to trek before the increment applies, then you need to book right now!

Boat Cruise Safari on the River Nile in Murchison Falls National Park

murchison falls boat safari

I know, most of us get onto the popular Murchison Falls boat cruise knowing we will see the aquatic wild but, we still can’t fully predict in which manner we will find these beautiful creatures. That’s the beauty of a boat cruise at any day in Murchison falls national park!

Whether it’s the grey skies or the bright blue skies, it’s always an amazing journey and one like no another ….you can always be assured of safety as a life jacket is provided for everyone and a little briefing right before you begin the cruise on the waters of the Victoria Nile is done to give you precautions on safety.

There has never been any recorded tragedy during the so many cruises that have been done before. It has always been a good practice to make sure that tourists like you and i are safe during the boat cruise and therefore, great caution is always taken right before tourists get on board.

The cost of this activity is $30 per person, refreshments are always available on the boat, which cost a very affordable fee. The cruises have a fixed schedule every day that is to say, you are free to choose between a morning or afternoon boat cruise. The morning boat cruise is at 9am while as the afternoon boat cruise is at 2pm.

The cruise is approximately 2hours or 3hours, all this time you will not know how the time will run so fast because you will be busy lost in the moment of beautiful pictures of Nile crocodiles , Hippos and most common on the shores drinking water , antelopes and at times even elephants. All the while, a tour guide will be explaining away the various animal habits of those that you see, how they feed, their weight, gestation period and so much more. The boat cruise is not only enjoyable but also an informative activity for all age groups. Above all, you will get to interact with other people from different parts of the world who are enjoying the boat cruise like you are and for me that’s the added excitement to this activity, meeting new people and being drawn under a common cause, tourism and more so cramped comfortably in one boat and just being able to share in the passion you both have for nature.

hippos in the nile in murchison falls national park

Another one, of the most interesting things about the boat cruise is the spot along the Victoria Nile where Ernest Hemingway, an American author of the time had two plane crushes with his wife. Having come with an intention of taking pictures of the Murchison falls, their plane crushed and another at their rescue, barely made it for takeoff when it crushed too. It’s an interesting story as the tour guide himself gives it to you in detail, you will be amazed.

The boat takes you closer to the spectacular Murchison falls, here you can get out with the help of the tour guide and take plenty of pictures with the falls in the background. That has got to be the most exciting memory to keep with you for years. Or, you can go on a hike to the top of the Murchison Falls, which is highly recommended as you will get to enjoy the best views of the spectacular waterfalls. However you must communicated with your tour driver who is supposed to pick you from the top of the falls since you do not go back with the boat cruise.

I don’t really know what you have heard or what your past experience was like but , I can assure of this , boat cruises in Murchison falls national park just get more and more interesting with every other new experience!

The boat cruise safari is done as part of a multi day safari in the Murchison Falls National Park. It is a highlight of our safari trips to Murchison Falls National Park; 2 days Murchison Falls trip & 3 days Murchison Falls tour (with optional rhino tracking in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary)

Hiking to top of the falls in Murchison Falls National Park

Hiking is a typical hard adventure activity that is quite interesting to involve oneself in, at Murchison Falls National Park it gets even better!

After the 2 hour long amazing Boat Safari along the River Nile reaching at the base of the Murchison Falls the group which is set to do the top of the falls hike will get off the boat to meet the waiting ranger at the set off point!

hiking-murchison-falls
we get off the boat to the starting place of the hike up the Murchison Falls

The hike starts right off at bakers point, here Sir Samuel Baker, a famous explorer of the time, stood on a huge rock (that you will also stand on) to declare the beautiful falls in 1864 as Murchison Falls, like they are famously known to be today.

You will begin to be so inquisitive walking in his shoes and for a moment imagine what was going through his head as he took a stroll through nature’s untouched beauty amidst the most amazing scenery.

A tour guide is always provided for the hike to explain certain features and answer all your questions.

the-murchison-falls
notice the form (whitish.. milky stuff)

One of the things that intrigued me almost immediately was the white form that these falls make. For a long while since, I had been ignorantly believing that the force at which the water comes through the narrow space between the rocks was the cause of the form , but the tour guide clearly brought me out of ignorance by explaining that; Leaves fall into the water and decompose and as they mix with some rock mineral, they form that white form as water comes gushing out of the narrow plum. Standing at that point you can see clearly the Murchison falls and take lots and lots of great pictures.

enjoying-the-murchison-falls
Getting off the trail for a moment to enjoy the magnificent views of the Murchison Falls

After of course, a few minutes of briefing and the endless clicks of the camera, you will begin the hike, which may take from forty five minutes to one and half hours, depending on how big the group is, and needless to say, how fit everyone is.. Ha-ha. Having gone for a hike myself not too long ago, I know exactly what it takes.

Hiking to top of the falls in Murchison falls national park, could be best described as, running a huge marathon that gets you a gold medal when you do win in the end, like any other hike, you have done before , it’s no easy one . There is a long stretch of steps that you will keep ascending until you reach the top, you will feel like crawling at some point from exhaustion and yet with every step you ascend, the fall’s view gets even better and better. Even its sister fall called, “Uhuru fall” suddenly comes into clear view.

uhuru-and-murchison-falls
Getting sight of Uhuru fall

Uhuru fall was formed as a result of a breaking away of water from the Murchison falls, forming another fall right at the time of Uganda’s independence in 1962 hence giving it the name “Uhuru”, a Kiswahili word that means independence. The scenery at this point, is simply spectacular.

Finally, you have made it! Top of the falls. Here you will forget all the pain and toiling through the endless steps, as the cool fresh air blows away the exhaustion and the beautiful music ,quickly reaches your ears, from the falls as they join hands with huge rocks in a loud clap , and the soft splashes, almost like little drizzles from heaven fall on your face. It’s so refreshing, so beautiful. You can stay here forever!

murchison-falls-uganda
the reward of reaching the top – simply breathtaking

top-of-the-murchison-falls

The entire River Nile squeezes through a tiny space of 7 meters between the rocks, emerging with a powerful explosion and plunging 42 meters to the bottom. This is also the world’s strongest waterfall!

Would you like you to experience this wonderful adventure in Murchison Falls National Park, you can book one of these trips to Murchison Falls National Park; 2 days Murchison Falls trip and 3 days Murchison Falls tour (with optional rhino tracking in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary)

Birding and nature walk at Mpanga Forest with the Bird Guides Club

On 28th May 2016 the Uganda Bird Guides Club members (me inclusive) set out for the weekly day birding trip, and we went to Mpanga Forest Reserve which is located 36 kilometers southwest of Kampala. This was the second time this year Mpanga Forest was hosting us and I was very eager for this trip as I had missed out on the previous one. This was also my first forest birding outing of the year and was looking to add to my list of forest species which is not so impressive. We set off from Kampala at about 7am and made it to Mpanga in only one hour. The weather was not the best though! It was cloudy and humid so bird activity was likely to be very low in the forest.

birding at mpanga forest

After the briefing of the day’s group of about 18 birders and enthusiasts by Prossy Nanyombi who is the base guide at Mpanga forest and is also a senior member of the Uganda bird guides club and the chairperson of the Uganda Women’s Birders, we set about to look for birds. An African Emerald Cuckoo (male) had been calling, “hello baby”, since we arrived.

African Emeral Cuckoo - my mega zoom (2100) was still not sufficient to capture its beauty!
African Emerald Cuckoo – my mega zoom (2100) was still not sufficient to capture its beauty!

It was perched on a leafless brunch in the top one of the highest rising trees near the edge of the forest. The views were very clear and the bird stayed long enough for all the group members to see its beautiful green and gold colors! We birded in the compound of the visitors’ center, observing the forest edge and spotted a number of birds including: Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher, Brown-backed Scrub-robin, Pied Wagtail, Vielloit’s Black Weaver, Black-and-white Casqued Hornbill, Little Greenbul, Yellow-throated Tinkerbird (heard), Green-throated, Little Green, Copper and Collared Sunbird, Yellow-mantled Weaver, White-breasted and Grey-headed Nigrofinch. A single Weyns’s Weaver showed itself briefly when it flew into forest. Didn’t get clear views! We also observed Purple Starlings flying from the forest. Looking to have exhausted visitors’ area we decided to enter the forest taking the wide trail which runs throughout the forest. As expected, because of the cloudy weather conditions, inside the forest was humid and cool and thus the birds were not out for now. We were only treated to different groups of the Black-and-white Casqued Hornbill calling noisily from different parts of the forest. The Blue-throated Roller displayed briefly from deeper in the canopy.

P1160268
The Black-and-white Casqued Hornbill had taken cover too, but their gigantic sizes helped reveal their cover!

I have been to Mpanga Forest a number of times before but this time proved to be the least productive ever! We enjoyed observing other wildlife such the different tree species, butterflies, red-tailed monkeys, and a huge green millipede!!

green millipede
Green millipede

before we opted to move out of and try the open cultivated areas near the forest and managed to spot quite a number of species including: Great Blue Turaco, African Pied Horbill (arriving into the Mpanga forest), Olive-bellied and Red-chested Sunbird, Plain-backed Pipit, Eastern Grey Plantain-eater, Common Bulbul, Crowned hornbill, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Western Citril, Bronze Mannikin, Blue-spotted Wood Dove, Diederik Cuckoo, Pygmy Kingfisher, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Lizard Buzzard, African Blue Flycatcher, African Thrush, Angola Swallow.

At about 10.30am we saw a downpour approaching and so abandoned the birding and rushed to the visitor’s center and immediately we got there it started raining heavily, cutting short our birding excursion. Out of the 4 hours of birding we had had hoped for we did only 2 hour. Be we still managed to record about 50 bird species from Mpanga Forest and the cultivations.

We leave Mpanga for the downpour
We leave Mpanga for the downpour

We drove back to Kampala where found it hot, dry and dusty, without any sign of rain! The dry season was about to start in June when it’s most favorable to bird in Mpanga Forest, I think we shall return soon!

Would you like to do a day birding tour to Mpanga Forest? you can contact with organizing it and can even book our 1 day birding tour to Mabamba swamp and Mpanga forest