Volcanoes Safaris are proud to be recognised as pioneers of gorilla and chimpanzee ecotourism in Uganda and Rwanda. During the last twenty five years we have had a clear vision. We have sought to develop lodges that are sensitive to local culture and aesthetics, connect to the local community and conservation projects and seek to use resources responsibly.
The Volcanoes family, from guides and waitresses to lodge managers and office staff, are committed to ensuring that our guests have a distinctive, unique and memorable experience while on safari. Our staff take particular pride in sharing the cultures of the Great Lakes region.
The Volcanoes Safaris journey of setting up camps began at Mgahinga in 1997 in Uganda. From simple camps to luxury lodges, it has been a challenging, inspiring and uplifting journey. Today our lodges are world renowned, each one connected to community and conservation projects in its neighbourhood, immersed in nature and with a privileged view of the wildlife.
We are excited to share our history, culture, hospitality traditions and twenty five year journey in the Great Lakes region of Africa with you.
VOLCANOES SAFARIS: COMMUNITIES AND CONSERVATION
Our lodges are built around the borders of national parks and conservation areas. These habitats are relatively tiny and under huge threat. Our neighbors are the local communities living next to these protected areas.
Since 2009, Volcanoes Safaris Partnership Trust (VSPT), has connected our lodges to communities and conservation through long term self-sustaining projects. VSPT receives funding through Volcanoes Safaris lodge guests as well as private donations and support from other non-profit organisations.
Our aim is to enrich the livelihoods of local communities, promote the conservation of the great apes, restore natural habitats and work with communities and institutions to reduce human-wildlife conflict
Empowering local staff at all levels of management is a key aspect of our philosophy and is exceptional among leading lodge companies. We employ local staff and provide them with extensive professional training programmes, and we are proud that the vast majority of our management staff are from the region: 85% of the lodge staff come from neighbouring communities and over 50% are women.
We use local suppliers whenever possible to provide our guests with the best quality products, reducing our environmental impact and ensuring that local businesses also benefit from the tourism industry. We minimise the environmental impact of the lodges by using solar power when possible, harvesting our own rain water and recycling water and waste water when possible. The lodges avoid using any unnecessary single use plastics.
Our lodge guests can visit and participate in each of our projects and get an in-depth insight into the conservation process while learning about and enjoying the cultural life and traditions kept alive by local people.
VSPT has initiated many projects through the years. Here is a brief introduction to two of them.
The Kyambura Gorge Eco-tourism Project has undertaken a series of activities since 2009 to safeguard the Kyambura Gorge ecosystem.
Through the strategic assembling of four adjoining sites next to Kyambura Gorge over the last ten years, we have linked Kyambura Gorge Lodge to the local community and in turn promoted sustainable eco-tourism and conservation. We have partnered with the Jane Goodall Institute to create a long-term community led conservation model to protect the small, isolated community of chimpanzees in the gorge.
When Praveen Moman, Founder Volcanoes Safaris, first heard of the mysterious gorge tucked in a corner of the park, where isolated groups of chimpanzees were living “It felt like discovering a lost world, a perfect tiny paradise, hiding below the plain.”
A 4 km long wildlife buffer zone has been created by VSPT to protect the fragile Gorge ecosystem and reduce the potential for human-wildlife conflict on the edge of the national park.
Our lodge guests and visitors can walk through the buffer zone and contribute to the reforesting project by planting an indigenous tree seedling. This is projects currently being implemented in the Kyambura area, others include a coffee cooperative, an elephant trench, wetland restoration and education programmes in the local schools.
BWINDI BAR – The award-winning Bwindi Bar – located in Buhoma in the northern part of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest – is an amazing community project we would like to share. It aspires to be the “Harrys Bar” of Bwindi, the bar provides a practical training institution for local disadvantaged youths living near Bwindi Lodge and the park.
Established in 2015, and winner of the PURE Community Engagement Award, Bwindi Bar provides practical experience and training in the tourism industry, to create more job opportunities in the region. Graduates are then armed with the appropriate skills set to go on to gain successful employment in hospitality.
Bwindi Bar serves a variety of delicious locally-inspired food and drinks, including the famous Ugandan ‘Rolex’ wrap and the signature ‘Gorillini’ cocktail! Guests can enjoy fresh homemade food and juices and sample locally produced tea and coffee.
VOLCANOES AND CONSERVATION
OUR HOME – Praveen’s extended family has been connected to East Africa since 1905 and were among the pioneers who opened up the region. In 1927 his great-uncle, Churanji Lal Phakey, from the Punjab, India, pitched a tent in the bush, among lions and leopards, some twenty miles east of the Source of the great River Nile in Uganda and became His Majesty King George V’s Postmaster at Iganga.
In 1997 Praveen too pitched a tent in Mgahinga National Park in southern Uganda, where he had first walked in 1966 with his father. This was the beginning of Mount Gahinga Lodge and Volcanoes Safaris.
Now, we invite you to walk through the milestones of our history.
THE FUTURE OF GORILLAS AND CHIMPANZEES IN THE ALBERTINE RIFT
Last November, as part of a series of events to celebrate our 25th anniversary, we were honoured to host a retreat at Mount Gahinga Lodge. We invited 25 partners from conservation and animal health organisations, the national parks authority, tourism and lodge operators, professional tourism experts and hospitality specialists, academics, and community organisations from Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC.
The aim of the retreat was to help formulate new approaches of collaboration between the diverse sectors involved in conservation and galvanise collaborative action in priority areas. We wanted to create a space to discuss the future of gorillas and chimpanzee conservation in the Albertine Rift and reflect on what have we all learned in the last 25 years. We discussed how the successes and challenges can help stakeholders to collectively move forward in a more effective way, to ensure the long-term survival of the great apes and their ecosystems.
The participants at the retreat agreed to form ‘The Great Apes of the Albertine Rift Group’ to become an informal long-term advocacy network for these unique species and ecosystems.
KIBALE LODGE: OPENING IN 2023
We are thrilled to announce we are building a new lodge in the Volcanoes Safaris collection: Kibale Lodge.
The lodge will focus on chimpanzee trekking in Kibale Forest, Uganda, one of the most beautiful in Africa. Guests will be able to visit community projects and walk through the beautiful rolling hills and crater lakes of Kabarole to visit local homesteads.
Kibale Lodge will be located on a ridge facing the snow-covered peaks of the mystical Rwenzori mountains towards the west and the Queen Elizabeth plains and the Kazinga channel in the distance to the south. The lodge will be fully open and join our collection by the end of 2023.
During 2023 there will be an assessment of the local community and conservation issues, in conjunction with a number of our conservation partners, to identify the potential projects which will form the basis of the Volcanoes Safaris Partnership Trust activities in the area.
We will be looking into issues such as the level of economic benefits received from tourism by the local communities neighbouring Kibale National Park and how can our company contribute to this. We will support the wildlife authorities and conservation organisations in ensuring the tourism protocols are followed and thar the wildlife viewing experience for guests is enhanced.
We thank our loyal guests, our trade partners, our conservation partners, communities and the government of Rwanda and Uganda for all their support over the last twenty five years and we look forward to continuing to work together.
We hope to see you in Uganda and Rwanda.
Best wishes from Volcanoes Safaris