Kyambura Gorge Lodge 1

Unveiling the transformative power of responsible tourism and conservation partnerships

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Charlie Darlington

Volcanoes Safaris has been at the forefront of reviving gorilla and chimpanzee tourism in Rwanda and Uganda since 1997, setting up some of the very first camps and lodges, and today they are recognised as the leader in great ape tourism with numerous conservation awards for their work. Whenever a client travels to a Volcanoes Safaris property with Niarra Travel, 10% of their trip value goes directly to the Volcanoes Safaris Partnerships Trust (VSPT) for allocation to one of their crucial community and conservation projects in the regions.

The VSPT, established in 2009, is a non-profit partnership that aims to create long-term, self-sustaining projects that enrich the livelihoods of the local communities surrounding the Volcanoes lodges. Their projects vary in shape and size, but all have the common goal of promoting the conservation of the great apes, restoring natural habitats and working with communities and institutions to reduce human-wildlife conflict.

In 2022, our first Niarra guests travelled to Volcanoes Kyambura Gorge Lodge in Uganda, and since then we’ve had guests stay at the lodge for a total of 39 nights. As a result of those 39 nights, $5571 has been contributed by Niarra to the VSPT, which they have allocated to their Kyambura Gorge Ecotourism Project. With that money, the project has been able to acquire an additional 0.57 acres of land to expand their buffer zone around the Kyambura Gorge – a unique ecosystem in the Queen Elizabeth National Park, which is home to critically endangered chimpanzees and an abundance of other wildlife.

The chimpanzees within the gorge have become isolated over the years due to the expansion of neighbouring villages and farmland. The establishment and expansion of the buffer zone aims to create a safe space for the chimpanzees, to prevent them from crop-raiding local farmland and facing conflict with the communities. The wider, longer-term objective of the project is to create corridors that restore connectivity between forest islands which will allow the diversification of chimpanzee families, preventing inbreeding and encouraging healthy growth of chimpanzee numbers in the Albertine Rift.

To further reduce human-wildlife conflict, the Kyambura Gorge Ecotourism Project aims to increase income for local people by improving their skills and opportunities, through a range of activities which improve local community infrastructure. They’ve established a coffee cooperative and a bee-keeping initiative and completed the building of a community centre and café. These projects will advance economic development in the area and eliminate the need for exploitation of the land. They also work closely with local school children to educate them on the importance of the local ecosystem and ways in which they can protect the wildlife on their doorstep long-term.

When Niarra was first established, our commission model was a crucial element of our business model – committing to authentic, community-led conservation initiatives in every corner of the world. Are you one of the people who have travelled with us to Uganda? And if not, would you like to be? You can do so with the knowledge that the money spent on your trip really will make a considerable difference to the natural world and the people who continue to strive to live harmoniously with it.

As part of your stay at Volcanoes Lodges, you’ll get an opportunity to visit the local VSPT projects and learn all about the positive impacts on the lives of those involved and benefitting, both people and wildlife.

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