Kisoro Airfield Uganda (HUKI)

In the far western side of Uganda and near the borders of Rwanda and Congo-Kinshasa (former Zaire) you can find the mountain gorillas as known from the movie ‘Gorillas in the Mist’. Gorillas in the Mist is the story of Dian Fossey as she worked in Rwanda with mountain gorillas. The mountain gorilla is found in the Virunga volcanic mountains of Central Africa as well as the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The park is part of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and is situated along the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) border next to the Virunga National Park and on the edge of the Albertine Rift. It is only accessible by foot and is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization designated World Heritage Site. It is most notable for the 340[4] Bwindi gorillas, half of the world’s population of the critically endangered mountain gorillas.

Kisoro

The nearest airport to this remote location is Kisoro Airfield, which is an airport run by the Ugandan authorities. This area is quite close to the troublesome area of Burundi, Rwanda and Congo with the massive problems (genocide) that took place in the area in 1994. In Burundi, mass killings took place in 1972 and 1993.

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The Congolese civil war was a conflict directly related to the genocide in Rwanda of 1994. So this area is troubled and it will be evident when you land at Kisoro. There was a UNHCR refugee camp right next to the airport along the road when we visited Kisoro in 2014.

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The main road crosses the runway. It is simple: when an aircraft is about to land, the airport staff will close down the road for you to land on the runway. After landing the road is opened again for road traffic.

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You can park your aircraft right next to a small airport building on a paved apron. In our case, we arranged for guards to watch over our Piper Archer 3 while we were going into the mountains to find the mountain gorillas. Finding the mountain gorillas has to be planned well ahead of time as you will need a permit to enter the national park and go find these gorillas. You also can’t go there by yourselves and there are only a limited number of permits on offer per year, so it is best to plan well ahead.

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On our way from the airfield to the mountains, we noted the beautiful nature in this area, the Virunga volcanic mountains at the horizon and the locals working on the land and walking along the road.

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We stayed in a lodge with a magnificent view of the lake and the Virunga mountains. No cell phone coverage there to disturb us and only a generator for electricity during dinner, making the obvious noise and staying on until 10 at night. After that, you are on your own with no electricity, cell phone coverage, internet connection, but with great animal sounds coming from the forest.

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The next morning, we departed early at 5 with a 4-wheel drive jeep to drive to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. It was still a 1,5 hours drive through thick forests and on narrow unpaved roads. When we arrived at the meeting point, we were each assigned a carrier to help and support us on our long walk over narrow paths through the sub-tropical rainforest and in search of the mountain gorillas.

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In the end, we found the gorillas and spend nearly an hour with the group of gorillas in the forest and at close range of only meters away from them. In the above picture you see the silverback gorilla. On the picture just below, I was resting from the long hike into the forests. In the video I took with my GoPro, you can see how close we really were! It was an amazing experience and one of my highlights of my visits to Africa.

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To all visits comes an end and it was great to again experience the country roads on our way back again to Kisoro Airport. For basic commodities like wood to burn the stove or water, the bike is used as a transportation vehicle. In some cases, the wood is carried on the head of women walking along the road.

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Funny that we were just depleted of any internet connection and without any GSM signal to then find this ‘world-class Internet’ text written on the front of this local store.

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If you plan to visit Kisoro, plan well ahead. You need permission to overly Uganda and to land at this airport. Be aware that there is no fuel available at the airport and that it is situated in a mountain area. To see the gorillas, you need to get a permit well in advance. It is all some hassle to organise, but well worth the effort.

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