Why Gorilla Highlands & What’s the Plan (2018-2020)?

Mountain Gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park; photo by Marcus Westberg

It’s 2018 and at the Gorilla Highlands Silverchef (28-29 April at the Kigali Marriott) we will officially launch the Gorilla Highlands as a region encompassing three countries. High time to update our “Why” page!

Below you will see why you should consider us if you are a:

• traveller seeking something different, authentic, safe yet adventurous
• journalist/blogger/photographer/videographer interested in Uganda/Rwanda/Congo
• travel agency/tour operator from East Africa or elsewhere wishing to go beyond gorilla tracking
• hotelier or tour operator in the region, eager to see more team work and interested in pooling resources (click here to download an executive summary of this document prepared especially for you)

But first, something about us…


The Gorilla Highlands (GH) initiative is an informal private-sector collaboration, open to anyone passionate about Rwanda, Uganda and Congo. It was initiated by Edirisa, a social enterprise from Lake Bunyonyi, in 2011. Since then numerous private and government partners have supported us by advertising in our media, sending participants to our events, providing complimentary services/discounts for fam trips, funding our activities, and more.

The central annual event of the initiative is the GH Silverchef, a senior-level gathering devoted to networking and tasting food prepared by chefs from the region, normally taking place in April-May and always at a different place. Every November the GH Bootcamp takes place at Lake Bunyonyi, meant to introduce junior staff of our partners to the initiative.


We are marketing a transboundary region consisting of Uganda, Rwanda and Congo (the map shows the area covered; the dotted line marks the expansion planned for 2018).

Our mission is to successfully brand and promote the region in a manner that brings an increase in responsible, sustainable and culturally sensitive tourism. We put particular stress on tourism helping the bottom-of-the-pyramid inhabitants of the region, in terms of both income and self-respect.


Our objectives are:

• to position the term “Gorilla Highlands” as a universally accepted name for the region
• to establish the region as a destination by itself (instead of a short gorilla stop-over during an East African safari)
• to expand the perception of the region beyond gorillas
• to promote the region as an essential bucket list item
• to protect the culture and wellbeing of the region’s disadvantaged people (especially the Batwa)

Working towards these objectives we focus on the following regional attractions: hiking and dugout canoeing, unique Rift Valley landscapes (volcanoes, lakes, rainforests), rich history and cultural variety. And, yeah, we don’t shy away from the fact that our region offers both mountain and Eastern lowland gorillas!

We have identified these target groups:

• people planning their first visit to Africa (we think we have a fantastic destination for that)
• hikers/trekkers/adventure travellers (this is a dream land for them)
• gorilla/wildlife enthusiasts (the savannah in close proximity offers the Big 5)
• expat communities in Eastern and Central Africa (always on the lookout for new things to do)
• domestic tourists (a reality TV Gorilla Highlands show about tourism, culture and history to begin in 2018)
• families (yes, this indeed is a great place for children!)
• volunteers (to help the initiative in many different ways)

In terms of target countries, we intend to raise awareness of the region in leading international sources of tourists (primary: USA, UK, South Africa, Germany; secondary: Canada, Holland, Italy, Australia, Sweden, France, Japan) and position the Gorilla Highlands as a preferred first African destination in emerging markets (especially China and the Middle East).

Gorilla Highlands team researching in Bukavu, DRC; photo by Miha Logar

However, no matter where you are from and what your preferences are, you can benefit from the following…

As a traveller:

• In addition to our carefully researched travel information, we will offer you tour packages and self-made trips. The Lake Bunyonyi page is an example of what we are preparing for the whole region: a convenient online booking system to reserve and pay for the best of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda — especially activities!

• The 1-2 minute highlight videos available on the Video Map and showcasing what is possible in the region will soon include Congo (see our drafts here). We hope to deepen our coverage of Rwanda too, subject to offical permission.

• Our popular Pocket Guide, a free paper A6 booklet, will first include Bukavu, Goma and Gisenyi and then smaller places from the expanded region; yes, even the magnificent Rwenzori mountains are on our list! We will add a variety of articles to the handy travel information and publish at least two editions in 2018. (The booklet’s print run of 10,000 copies is supported by advertisers, so the total number of editions will depend on their support.)

• Our award-winning Interactive eBook on 400 pages that has so far only covered southwestern Uganda will see both Congo and Rwanda added this year. Currently unavailable, it will relaunch with a free version and on a number of new platforms.

• The Gorilla Highlands blog will get updated once or twice a week, offering longform, media-rich stories about all aspects of our region.

• Among the Gorilla Highlands social media we focus on Facebook and Instagram; our 2018-2019 plan is to create unique content for each social media channel and emphasise video. Our Twitter account is used for special projects while Pinterest serves as a periodically updated regional photo library. We will increasingly follow and curate posts from the region and from organisations with similar missions.

Bootcamp 2016; photo by Enock Luyonza

As a journalist/blogger/photographer/videographer:

Get in touch. We are interested in helping you out in any way we can.

• You might consider participating in the Gorilla Highlands Bootcamp on 17-21 November 2018.

As a travel agency/tour operator:

• We will continue to offer information and support on the ground, making sure your clients get the best out of their visit to region. We can be your one-stop shop, and quality assurance.

• Definitely try your best to attend the Bootcamp.

As a regional hotelier/tour operator:

• Make sure you book 28 April 2018 for Silverchef, the main social event of the Gorilla Highlands initiative. It’s an invitation-only event, so please contact us in advance.

• If you wish to start receiving the Gorilla Highlands Newsletter, please register:

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Gorilla Highlands blog essentials:

Why Gorilla Highlands?

20 Best Stories from the Gorilla Highlands Blog

“Responsible Tourism” – Right Term, Right Way