Whilst we stare wistfully out of the office window in London, our lucky project developer Harriet is currently half way through the first of two 'Great Gorilla Project' trips she is running this month, in the beautiful Kisoro,Uganda. Now past its second year of running, having been developed in June of 2011, the project works towards both the conservation of Mountain Gorillas as well as contributing to schools within the local communities. In the past, the project has been voted as one of the most innovative eco-travel and sustainable initiatives in leading newspaper The Guardian's 'Green Travel List'.
One of the critically endangered Mountain Gorillas
According to National Geographic, there are roughly 700 Mountain Gorillas left in the wild, living in the forests of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Sadly, this number is ever volatile, as poaching and habitat loss remains a problem in all three countries where they are present. Just in the past two weeks, a Mountain Gorilla was shot dead at a refugee camp for primate victims of war. This cannot go on, and that is why this project is so important.
On this project, not only are volunteers able to track gorillas twice in Uganda's lush Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, but they are also able to visit Queen Elizabeth National Park, where leopards, chimpanzees, hippos, and even rare tree-climbing lions reside! What's more, volunteers will also be able to take part in sustainable projects that will give the local community a better life. These include teaching kindergarten and primary school children sports, art, swimming and environmental issues, tree planting, and assisting with small building projects.
Volunteers will also get the chance to help out with the Gorilla Organisation in partnership with GAFI (Gorilla Ape Film Initiative), renowned as world leaders in community-based tourism, for a full day and see their pedal powered film initiative being put into practice! This is an excellent initiative as the conservation and gorilla-based films shown help to educate remote schools and communities in the importance of gorilla conservation. Many of these children have never seen gorillas in the wild; yet showing these films helps to empower them, through education, to want to protect both the gorillas and the beautiful habitat in which they live.
What's more, volunteers will also be able trek with local schoolchildren through Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, which sits high in the clouds between 2,227 and 4,127 metres. Many of the children here are children with special needs, who have come from impoverished backgrounds, so the ability to cover the transport costs for them to get there just isn't there. Thankfully, through the cost of the project price, each person volunteering has allowed a child to visit the beautiful Mgahinga and learn about the forest and habitats which need protecting for the future. Witnessing their joy and smiles at seeing both the wildlife and the fantastic scenery of the Virungas Mountain Range is really an incredibly fulfilling experience!
This project is also particularly close to our hearts, as in November of last year, we were really proud to be able to hand over a cheque of 10 million Ugandan Shillings (around £2500) to Kisoro Demonstration School. This was part of our Sponsorship Promise, where between September and November of 2012 we pledged that for every booking that we received, we would sponsor a child at either Kisoro Demonstration School or an Orangutan at the International Anima Rescue Centre in Indonesia.
At a school with very little funding, this sponsorship was a great help and the money raised, was able to sponsor 22 disabled children through school for a year. Being in Uganda, Harriet is able to see how effective the sponsorship money has been. We look forward to more news, stories and pictures on her return to the UK in early December! We are of course planning future sponsorship promises in not only Kisoro but for our other projects worldwide. Watch this space!
The photos below show the most recent trip to Uganda, including of volunteers, local schoolchildren from Kisoro Demonstration School, the stunning Mgahinga National Park, Lake Mutanda, and even the aforementioned pedal-powered cinema used by the Gorilla Organisation!
Volunteers enjoying a delicacy of sugarcane!
The beautiful Lake Mutanda
Some of the local schoolkids
The pedal-power initiative!
Tree planting in the local communities surrounding Kisoro!
For more information on this amazing and project, and for information on our other gorilla project with famed conservationist and protégé of Dian Fossey Ian Redmond, please see our projects page.
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