Holidays for Couples Holidays for Couples Apr-Sep 2017 - Page 96

The words ‘impenetrable forest’ conjure up images of a dense undergrowth; a kaleidoscope of greens, vines and vegetation intertwined so densely it takes a machete to cut a path. This is exactly what met me at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda, as I embarked on a six-hour round trek in search of the region’s famous mountain gorillas. I reached Bwindi National Park at dusk after travelling for hours along the dusty, rough roads of Uganda. The drive was scenic, winding through villages of mud huts (their front doors adding an occasional splash of colour) and rolling hills of tea plantations. As we neared the national park, the villages became more sparsely scattered among the hills and the roads turned more treacherous. Located in southwestern Uganda in the Kanungu District, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is one of the world’s largest primeval forests. (According to my driver, Moses, Bwindi means ‘impenetrable’ and is derived from the Runyakitara language.) Bordering the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Virunga volcanoes, it’s one of the most biologically diverse areas on Earth and has been recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage site for its biological significance. We arrived at Chameleon Hill Lodge at dusk, and even in the dying light I was in awe of the view. The lodge sits on a hill overlooking Lake Mutanda, with the Virunga volcanoes as a magnificent backdrop. Mist clung to the lake and surrounding mountains, and as I gazed at them and thought about the journey that lay ahead, Gorillas in the Mist (watched again in anticipation of this trip) sprang to mind, and suddenly its title made complete sense. In the daylight, Chameleon Hill Lodge revealed its true colours – literally. Flamboyant, vibrant and colourful, it’s quite the unique place to rest one’s weary head. Individual chalets line a path down the hill, each one flaunting its own identity and colour scheme, with high-quality handmade furnishings in a Euro-African style. Bearing a packed lunch prepared by the friendly staff, I set off for the hour-long drive that would take us deeper into the national park. At the departure point I was met by a team of trackers and porters before being briefed on the trek. A permit for gorilla trekking will set you back A$795, and a porter A$20 – it was money well spent. Many of the porters are converted poachers, so employing their services doesn’t just help trekkers, but also the conservation of the national park and its inhabitants. Bwindi was only declared a national park in 1991, when it This page: (Above and below left) Chameleon Hill Lodge affords breathtaking views over one of east Africa’s most majestic lakes, Lake Mutanda. (Below right and bottom): Mountain gorillas are facing extinction, with only 880 believed to still exist in Africa’s forests. Opposite page: (Top right) A mother cares for her young. (Top left and bottom left) All of the chalets at Chameleon Hill Lodge are positioned so that they take in unobstructed views of the sensational scenery 94 T he words ‘impenetrable forest’ conjure up images of a dense undergrowth; a kaleidoscope of greens, vines and vegetation intertwined so densely it takes a machete to cut a path. This is exactly what met me at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda, as I embarked on a six-hour round trek in search of the region’s famous mountain gorillas. I reached Bwindi National Park at dusk after travelling for hours along the dusty, rough roads of Uganda. The drive was scenic, winding through villages of mud huts (their front doors adding an occasional splash of colour) and rolling hills of tea plantations. As we neared the national park, the villages became more sparsely scattered among the hills and the roads turned more treacherous. Located in southwestern Uganda in the Kanungu District, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is one of the world’s largest primeval forests. (According to my driver, Moses, Bwindi means ‘impenetrable’ and is derived from the Runyakitara language.) Bordering the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Virunga volcanoes, it’s one of the most biologically diverse areas on Earth and has been recognised by UNESCO as a v&BW&FvP6FRf"G2&v66vf66RvR'&fVBB6VVFvRBGW6BWfVFRGrƖvBv2vRbFPfWrFRFvR6G2fW&rPWFFvFFRf'Vvf6W22vf6VB&6G&֗7B6VrFFRPB7W'&VFrVF2B2vVB@FVBFVvB&WBFRW&WFBVBv&2FR֗7BvF6VBvF6FbF2G&7&rF֖B@7VFFVǒG2FFRFR6WFR6V6RखFRFƖvB6VVFvP&WfVVBG2G'VR6W'2( 2ƗFW&ǒf&Bf'&BB6W&gVN( 2VFRFRVVR6PF&W7B^( 2vV'VBFfGV6WG2ƖPFFvFRV6RfVFrG2vখFVFGB6W"66VRvFvVƗGFFRgW&6w2WW&g&67GR&V&r6VBV6&W&VB'FPg&VFǒ7Ffb6WBfbf"FRW"rG&fPFBvVBFRW2FVWW"FFRF&BFRFW'GW&RBv2WB'FVbG&6W'2B'FW'2&Vf&R&Vp'&VfVBFRG&VW&֗Bf"v&G&Vrv6WBR&6CsRB'FW C#( 2Bv2WvV7VBbFR'FW'2&R6fW'FVB6W'26VrFV"6W'f6W2FW6( BW7BVG&VW'2'WB6FR66W'fFbFPF&BG2&FG2'vFv0ǒFV6&VBF&vV@@F2vS&fRB&VrVgB6VVFvPff&G2'&VFFrfWw2fW"RbV7Bg&6( 27@W7F2W2RWFF&Vr&vBB&GFғVFv&2&Rf6rWF7FvFǒ&VƖWfV@F7FW7Bg&6( 2f&W7G26FRvSF&vBFW"6&W2f"W"VrFVgBB&GFVgB`FR6WG2B6VVFvR&R6FVB6F@FWFRV'7G'V7FVBfWw2bFR6V6F66VW'