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Found 25 results

  1. I haven't seen this article posted yet. I follow this photographer on Instagram and that's how I found the article. His photos are great (although I think some posted on TRs here give him a run for the money). I had post-traumatic stress flashbacks watching the video with the shot of him pulling his foot out of the muddy path, LOL!
  2. September National Geographic magazine. http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2017/09/gorillas-dian-fossey-saved-rwanda/
  3. Trip report to CAR and Cameroon.pdf I just returned from a very special trips to one of the most amazing places I've ever visited: Dzangha-Sangha Special Reserve in the Central African Republic. It's a long report because it has a LOT of info about the animals we saw, and some about animals we missed. It's totally different from your typical Eastern/Southern African Safari, and there is almost no overlap in the species you see. What an amazing place. I just have to note something very important for anyone considering going to Dzanga-Sangha: It's SAFE! Yes, the Central African Republic is considered a War Zone, but it's only in the North, 100s of miles from this reserve, and from the amazing Sangha Lodge. You should get there via flight from Bangui or Yaounde, or by driving the long and turtourous road from Yaounde to Libongo. But once you get there, it's more safe than the USA has been over the past few years, with all the shootings etc... Enjoy :-)
  4. Ok, that title is misleading - I will admit up front that there were not really any tears, though there were some aches, pains and stinging nettle encounters! But all well worth it!! However, I am getting ahead of myself. By the way, this is part II of the recent trip taken by me and Mr. Safarichick to celebrate our 20th anniversary. The trip took place in February 2017 and part I can be found here: http://safaritalk.net/topic/17178-into-thin-air/ We arrived in Rwanda quite late, around 12:20 a.m., having taken a 10:45 p.m. flight from Addis Ababa. The flight, on Ethiopian Air, was remarkable in that we had our tickets and seat assignments for many months in advance but, when we boarded, a woman with a baby was in one of our seats. When we pointed this out to the flight attendant, she said “oh, yes, but she has a baby. You can sit somewhere else”!! Somewhere else meant back of the plane – our seats had been the front row! She said “the plane is not full so it doesn’t matter.” Very interesting way of viewing things! But it was a short flight, so not a big deal. @@amybatt and I went back and forth a lot before our respective trips as to whether it was necessary or helpful to get a visa for Rwanda in advance. I became convinced that it was a good idea to try because arriving after midnight it would make life easier to have one less thing to worry about once we arrived. Actually getting the visas online was quite a chore, requiring multiple attempts when the credit card wouldn’t go through but finally it did work. When we got to Rwanda, though, the line for visa holders was longer than the one for those trying to get visas and it ended up seeming like it would have been much easier to get them on arrival. That’s what I would recommend for anyone else going to Rwanda. We used Umubano Tours (also used by @@michael-ibk but who we first heard of from the report of @BonitaApplebum). We were met outside by a cheerful energetic fellow whose name now escapes me. He was only assigned to take us to our hotel – our real driver/guide would be Bosco. We requested Bosco because BonitaApplebum had spoken so highly of him. Our driver that night took us to the Manor Hotel and made sure we got checked in ok. As we drove through the streets of Rwanda at night I was impressed with how clean and quiet and safe it appeared. I was also impressed with the traffic lights that did countdowns to show you how much longer they would be red or green. Why can’t we have that in the U.S.? The Manor hotel was fine – we were only there for about 8 hours as we were being picked up at 9 a.m. In the morning, there was breakfast included which was a buffet. Mr. S. wanted some butter to put on his pancakes but we could not find any. We tried asking the staff but they could not understand what “butter” was. We kept saying “for the pancakes.” (They also did not seem to have any syrup despite the sign in the room advertising breakfast options in the room included pancakes with “Marple Syrup” which is apparently an item found in a traditional European breakfast ): Finally, I suggested Mr. S. look up the word for butter in Kinyarwanda, the language of Rwanda, which he did – and he then tried to say the word, and also showed the staff a photo of butter. That apparently did the trick, and they led him to some little packets we had seen earlier which were simply labeled “Roquefort.” The only Roquefort we know is a type of cheese. We did sort of wonder why there were these miscellaneous packets of cheese there but for some reason that is what they call butter! We never did get any Marple Syrup though. View from the hotel: Our guide, Bosco, met us at 9 a.m. sharp and he was delightful. He knew so much about Rwanda and its history, and was very nice. He told us the plan was to take us on a city tour and to see the Genocide Memorial Museum. Mr. S. and I had gone back and forth about the museum. We knew it was an important thing, but we also felt it would be sad and depressing to spend our limited vacation time on, and we thought we knew about the genocide, having seen Hotel Rwanda. In the end, after Bosco described the plans he had for us, we felt it would have been almost rude and disrespectful not to go. The Rwandan people really take pride in how far they have come since that time, and rightly so, and in retrospect I am glad we went. Seen on the way to the museum: Regarding that last photo, Bosco told us something we’d heard before our trip also, that Rwandan citizens are encouraged (required? Not sure) to spend the last Saturday of the month doing clean up of their neighborhoods, which must be one reason the country is so clean. They also have banned plastic bags entirely from the country. (To answer a FAQ, they don’t mind if tourists bring them for personal use while in Rwanda, they just ask that you take them away with you when you leave). I won’t go into detail about the museum, as you may have read @@amybatt’s recent report where she did, but it was an informative and moving experience. We did learn some things we didn’t know about the genocide. Actually one fact about the genocide we learned after leaving the museum almost by accident had to do with dogs. It was pretty awful, so sensitive readers might prefer not to read the rest of this paragraph. I noticed that unlike in other African countries, and really many third world countries, I didn’t see dogs running around stray in Rwanda. I asked Bosco did many Rwandans have dogs as pets. He said no – not any more. He said before the genocide, they did, but the perpetrators of the genocide trained many dogs to hunt people, attack and kill them, and actually eat them. After the genocide ended, people were traumatized and the dogs that were left were feral and vicious. People were still being attacked by these stray dogs so the government eventually had to kill them. After all this, understandably, the people had very bad memories and associations with dogs, so most people no longer have dogs as pets. But he said they do have cats as pets. Ok on to happier parts of our trip. Bosco drove us around showing us the city, and the buildings were quite impressive. I was still concerned about the fact that I had no brush. It had now been a few days and my hair was starting to get tangled. I asked Bosco if he thought there was somewhere to find a hairbrush near where we were going for lunch. He did think that this mall nearby would be a good possibility so in we went. We went into a large store that seemed to have just about everything but the hairbrush selection was not good for my hair. We looked into a variety of little shops – nothing. Finally, we see a kiosk in the middle of the mall that seemed to sell hairpieces, and the hairpieces had hair kind of like mine. Bosco went to talk to the woman and she pulled out a hairbrush that was not exactly what I wanted but closer than anything we’d seen so far. Only problem was, it had some hairs in it and was all beaten up – clearly not new! I asked if she had a new version but this was the only one. But she assured me it wasn’t “used” because she had only used it to brush the hairpieces! To me that is used, but anyway we negotiated a price and she cleaned it as best she could and voila, I had a brush! We had a very good lunch at Chez Robert, a restaurant across the street from the Hotel des Milles Collines (the hotel made famous during the genocide). Chez Robert had a buffet with many options for me as a vegetarian and Mr. S, the omnivore, enjoyed it also. And then, we were on our way to Musanze, the town closest to Volcanoes National Park. Some photos from along the way: Mr. S. and I were impressed by the many "bicycle taxis" in Rwanda - there is a seat behind the driver, a bit lower down, padded, for the passenger. It's especially impressive with the many hills in Rwanda. Bosco said sometimes nice passengers will hop off when there is a hill and run up it while the cyclist bikes up and then get back on at the top! Of course, some cyclists without passengers choose to get some help up the hill themselves Some views along the way: When we stopped to admire the view about halfway through, there were some really cute kids hanging out and they didn't mind if I took their photos. They loved seeing them on the camera screen. It only took about 2 and a half or 2 and three quarters hours to get to Musanze, MUCH better than the drive to Bale Mountain Lodge! Coming up, our great hotel and ... Gorillas!!!
  5. Mr. SafariChick and I have been back about a week from the three-country 20th anniversary trip that we'd been planning for over a year. Still not entirely caught up on sleep and haven't been through all the photos yet, but thought I'd best get started on a report before too much time passes. I have decided to write the report in three separate parts, since each part of the trip took place in a different country. (And also because this allows me to use different fun trip report titles. This title was provided by Mr. SafariChick). Here is our oldest daughter hugging me farewell after she drove us to the airport to drop us off (a first for this almost-18-year-old) This trip was an ambitious undertaking, visiting three countries in 12 days - and with each country, our destination for wildlife viewing required a drive of some significance to reach from the airport in which we landed.Nowhere was this more true than our first stop, Ethiopia. After a flight from SFO to Heathrow, a 6-hour layover (at least spent in a very comfortable United lounge with some decent food and beverages), and another flight from Heathrow to Addis, which were about 24 hours total of travel, we arrived at Addis at 6:30 a.m. local time. We obtained our visas without much trouble, changed some money, picked up our bags, and went outside to find our driver, Demiss. Demiss was waiting for us and had us packed up into the car quickly. He was a very nice fellow, with good English and great knowledge of Ethiopia and its history, geography as well as it’s endemic animals. We knew we were to be assigned a guide employed by Bale Mountain Lodge once we arrived there, but having Demiss along was almost like having a second guide, which was great. We asked if there was somewhere to grab a quick bite to eat, not a sit-down place but just something to serve as breakfast. Demiss was a bit unsure what we might want and we tried stopping at a Supermarket called Safeway which amused us since we have a chain of supermarkets in the U.S. called Safeway. We ended up getting a piece of banana bread to share and getting on the road. The drive to Bale Mountain Lodge had been described to me as everything from 6 hours to 7-8 hours to an “all day trip” so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Even though the road was paved most of the way, the trip actually took us closer to about ten hours including about an hour lunch stop and a couple of short bathroom stops. It was pretty brutal after the air travel we had done, I have to say. In retrospect, it really would have been better to break it up with an overnight half way or at least have had an overnight in Addis first. But we were concerned about not being away from home too long, both because we were leaving our teen girls for the first time for more than two days (with their former babysitter staying at the house) and being away 15 days was about as long as Mr. Safarichick felt comfortable being gone from work. We stopped for a sort of brunch late morning at a restaurant that was quite good. (I am trying to find out the name from Demiss and will post it when I do). I had scrambled eggs and toast, and I don’t recall what everyone else had except that Demiss ordered a macchiato. I was surprised this was something they made in Ethiopia as I think of it as Italian (and co-opted by Starbucks and the like). But the coffee in Ethiopia was delicious and nice and strong and Demiss told us about the history of Italians having attempted to colonize Ethiopia – twice. He and our guide Biruk and some of the park staff would say “Ciao Ciao” to each other to say “goodbye” and he said that came from the Italians who lived in Ethiopia. The drive was made longer and more difficult by the many villages we had to pass through, each of which was populated it seemed by large numbers of humans and their cattle, sheep and goats, as well as cart horses pulling little buggies with people in them. We had to slow to go around all these obstacles and I became somewhat queasy from this and probably from my all around fatigue. In addition to the animals being moved along by people, there were many animals just hanging around at the sides of the road on their own, usually trying to eat something it found on the ground like this goat eating some orange peels. We passed through the park headquarters at Dinsho I think at around 3:00 pm and purchased our park tickets for the next four days, and I was surprised when Demiss told me we still had about two and a half hours to go to get to the lodge! And we actually still had to go through some populated areas even though we had entered the park. There are villages and people living around the park so you will be in what seems total wilderness but then come to a village before getting back to wilderness. The first wildlife we saw was some aggressive baboons that came right up to the cars, seeking a snack, and some warthogs and Mountain Nyala. I didn’t get great photos but here are a few: You have to drive up to and over the Sanetti Plateau, which would be our viewing grounds for the wolves, in order to get to Bale Mountain Lodge. We were hopeful that we might possibly get a glimpse of wolves on this first trip across the plateau but were dismayed to find it started raining and then hailing as we drove through the plateau! This was unexpected as it was not even the rainy season and we hoped it would not continue during the rest of our stay. (Luckily it did not!) The plateau is quite other-worldly looking in any kind of weather, but the hail really made us feel we did not know where we were. We were very glad to finally arrive at Bale Mountain Lodge 10 hours after we left Addis! We were given a room called a Tree House that was a free-standing little house up a half-flight of stairs about a five-minute walk from the main lodge where meals were served. It was r private and in the trees, but there were a few problems with it that would cause us to move to another room halfway through our stay, but more about that later.
  6. Am kenneth Karuhanga Director of Bushmemories Safaris, i was born and raised in Uganda the pearl of Africa. I was very lucky to have been born to Perie kakuliremu who had passion for travel and nature.We visited many parks and places in Africa when i was young.This made me have many Bushmemories.IAt university i did Environmental science , this helped me to know more a bout nature.I got change to work with both local and international organisations,during this time i world with mountain gorillas in bwindi national park with ecotourism projects and got involved in habituation of mountain gorillas and this earned me the name Bushman since then my life has never been the same. This lead to the birth of Bushmemories Safaris .Am happy my mum now 76 years(18/05/2013) can see me my dream come true and all my clients once in the Bush always in the Bush. Now i run a small camp site at the base of rwenzoris and named it after my son Hunter called Eco-hunters planet. Below is a brief info to get to know more. WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF BUSHMEMORIES. Travel in East Africa encompasses a vast array of experiences, many memorable moments are expected from any of our safaris from this magnificent part of the magical Africa, that continues to bring smilies.Its a time of discovery and wonderment, were unlimited wildlife, culture and people delights both parent and child from dawn to dusk. BUSHMEMORIS is the manufacture of quality adventure tour packages, truly a unique tour operator offering African Tours with a special flavour to experience the real Africa with a full range of possibilities from traditional safaris with game viewing, birdwatching, mountaineering, to specially designed tours for a greater immersion into African nature, culture and traditions. As a company that truly believes in sustainable tourism, we aim to preserve the beauty and character of Africa with emphasis on the unique character of its heritage ecology and art, making tourism a way to protect and support the areas we visit instead of altering and transforming them, thus our Moto CONSERVATION THRU SUSTAINABLE TOURSIM. We respect local cultures and make sure that our visitors will understand and appreciate the African way of living, its incredible closeness to the roots, the lack of stress, the joy, the simplicity and the complete acceptance of life that all Africans seem to have. Our proudest calm in all our destinations is that BUSHMEMORIES has been there our Safari specialists have stayed at the Campsites, Tentedcamps, Homes, and Hotels, walked the Trails, Tracked the game and snapped the photos. Our dedication and long established relationships with local guides and wildlife managers through out the region has earned us a great deal to our clients, were you come as guest and leave as friend. Our passion about Africa is our promise that you will have a life time experience which you will never forget. Please join us for one or combination of those special safaris where your holiday makes a difference to you, the people and the place you visit, enrich the mind and stir the soul for years to come thus you craft BUSHMEMORIES to last a life time. Safari enjema Ken Bushman. Director. Why BUSHMEMORIES? It is our aim to provide you with the experience of a lifetime in East Africa. To ensure this all personal itineraries are carefully planned in accordance with your individual requirements. You may consult our team to make alterations to your itineraries or ask any questions. BUSHMEMORIES Safaris guarantees: Fast, Personal responses to enquiries Expert, English Speaking Guides Superb Safari Food Quality Service Many people go to Africa and then wish that they had talked to someone who knew the area in question first. Our staff provides a friendly, up to date source of information prior to your departure. Several of the team has worked out in the bush on scientific research expeditions, giving them even deeper insight into Eastfrica incredible diversity. All our East Africa safaris are private. We provide a high staff: client ratio, ensuring personal service no matter what size your group. Each member of safari staff speaks good English and has been carefully selected for their professional experience and detailed local knowledge, from bird watching to botany. Bush memories Safaris will take you to remote, ecologically and culturally important locations, which have been developed in cooperation with local communities. Many of these are offered exclusively by Bushmemories Safaris and are always the highlight of our clients' trip. There will also be the option of having a photographer on hand to help you how get the best from your photographs. There is even the option of having a digital or slide photo-documentary made of your holiday. We issue safari certificates and our prices are competive, there are no hidden costs, no surprise, no options sold thus excellent value. Dinning is an important and delight full part each day in Africa, while on dinner every night we invite a guest speaker normally a Naturalist or wildlife Manager to talk to clients . As a company we are dedicated to the promotion of conservation, community education and sustainable resource use. Your tailor-made East African safari will directly help fund Various projects around East Africa. It is possible to visit many of these projects in action, just asks your personal safari agent for more information. OUR MISSION: At BUSHMEMORIES we provide holidays with a focus on adventure, conservation and sustainable tourism. We are unique in that we can also arrange for you to undertake volunteer work at local organizations. This will allow you to fully experience the country you are visiting, while supporting local communities in Africa. We are very aware in how our choices impact wildlife and the planet; we therefore promote and encourage making sound ethical travel choices. Our business is the result of our passion for life and our inherent love of nature and wild places. We will arrange for you to explore the most fascinating corners of Africa in the way that suits you best. Just a few of the experiences that we can provide are: Gorilla trekking White water rafting Relaxing beach holidays Kilimanjaro climb Classic safaris Family holidays Honeymoons In short, we aim to give you more than just a holiday in Africa. We aim to give you an experience, to make you feel the wonder and beauty of the continent, to give you extraordinary memories as well as photographs to take home, and we aim to do this in a way that benefits local communities and sustains the environment. Sustainable tourism is our primary commitment. Sustainable tourism is achieved by working closely with local communities and making the best use of local resources. We are in open talk with the governments and international organisations to make sustainable tourism an important consideration for African economies. We are fighting to keep Africa beautiful, unspoiled and real, not to turn it into a giant amusement park. We love Africa and we hope the service we provide will make you love it too. You don't need to be a religious institution or a non-profit organisation to actively help development, conservation and prosperity in Africa. At BUSHMEMORIES we want to prove this - help us rise to the challenge! . I would love to hear from any one who is interested to know more a bout my country or any topic a bout nature ,conservation and safari around the world. Thankyou. Ken Bushman +256775123140 kenneth@bushmemories.net www.bushmemories.net
  7. To Gorilla or not to Gorilla, had been my question in late 2015... http://safaritalk.net/topic/15609-to-gorilla-or-not-to-gorilla-that-is-the-question/ ...and the answers had been overwhelmingly for us to "go for it"!! So we did. While researching the trip, I stumbled across this post on Kabiza's website: http://kabiza.com/kabiza-wilderness-safaris/gorilla-habituation-experience-rushaga-area-bwindi-forest/ and I was sold! The chance to spend FOUR hours with the family, rather than the one, which everyone said flew past too quickly, was one I couldn't pass up. It meant that we would travel to Uganda for our gorilla treks rather than Rwanda, where I had originally thought we would go. We had to sell a couple of kidneys to cover the cost (well, actually, funny story - I fractured my humerus 3 months before we left and the insurance payout paid for it....) but we thoroughly enjoyed it and I am very pleased that we took everyone's advice and did the trip. Our preparation saw us shed a combined total of 30kg in weight, and had us walking 4 mornings per week with some bushwalking at the weekends, and while my broken arm did limit my preparation near the end, we both managed the experience physically very well. I am still working through the photos, but thought I would make a start.
  8. This is a continuation of my trip report, which started with almost 2 weeks in Tanzania. That can be found here (http://safaritalk.net/topic/16549-a-tale-of-two-safaris-tanzania-2016-followed-by-rwanda/) for those who, perhaps, aren’t directly following along. There are only 3 topics in the Rwanda forum at the moment, so I’ll give a little more background than I might otherwise for people who are considering the country. Some of the mountains the gorillas live on When we booked the Tanzania part of our trip, with Access2Tanzania, I mentioned to Karen that we were thinking of including an extension to Rwanda, and could she recommend a company to contact. Well, she replied that A2T was actually in the process of setting up a sister company in Rwanda (Treks2Rwanda). So we decided the easiest plan was to book through them, and we were very happy we did. Our guide during the time was Norbert, who is their country chief, and is not only friendly and personable, but he seemed to know everybody and was able to get us access to locations we might not have been able to get to otherwise. Technically, if one is going to Rwanda just to hike the gorillas, it is possible and actually fairly easy to book the permits, hotels, and ground transport yourself. But I thought the insight Norbert was able to provide, both in terms of the country now and its history, was invaluable. It's a tough life! Itinerary: Our itinerary was really fairly basic. Day 1 – arrive, dinner, sleep in Kigali Day 2 – sleep in, morning around Kigali, afternoon transfer to Ruhengeri Day 3 – first gorilla trek Day 4 – second gorilla trek Day 5 – golden monkey trek, return to Kigali for evening flight
  9. Interesting report in today's FT. Four hours for $1500 rather than the usual one hour for the $600 Gorilla tracking permit in Bwindi, "The good news is there are more gorillas now, though their numbers are still worryingly small. Bwindi has now been designated a national park, protected from encroaching farmland. The first census in 1997 suggested the forest contained 294 gorillas, a number that had edged up to 408 five years ago. A census being carried out now is expected to show 500 or more. The reason for the steady recovery is that gorilla tracking is now big business. Tourists purchase a $600 permit entitling them to visit the gorillas for a strict limit of one hour. Numbers of visitors are restricted to eight per day. Even so, each gorilla family is bringing in $4,800 daily in permit-fees alone. And in Bwindi, there are a dozen families available to visit. (There are about 20 more wild gorilla groups.) Under a new programme, visitors to Bwindi can spend four hours with the Bikingi family group, which is midway through the habituation process. That means the gorillas are shier, wilder and more unpredictable...."
  10. If you wonder why I'm always harping on about payment for ecosystem services, I recommend you read this article (right to the bottom - don't stop halfway). It provides helpful explanations of what nature and healthy ecosystems do for humans, and how we can put economic values on them - meaning a loss of a healthy ecosystem is an economic and humanitarian loss as well. Good explanations on why conserving ecosystems, rather than single species, is important (in other words, don't be turned off by the title) http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150715-why-save-an-endangered-species
  11. Although this is the first installment of my trip report. It'll be a long time before I finish as the photos from later in the trip won't be ready for quite a while. I have so many of birds, chimps and gorillas that it'll take weeks for me to get through them and get to Ruaha. And rushing through them would take away part of the pleasure. So, you'll have to bear with me, and if a break becomes just too long, I'll just start a part two. Ruaha will be a separate report anyway, so that it is filed under Tanzania. "Now how does that Robert Frost poem go?" Briefly, and contrary to my usual style, I will take away some of the suspense by giving a quick summary. The Chimpanzee Habituation Experience (stop singing "I'm a Voodoo Chile" - it is no relation at all... and you're not!) was "superb with huge caveats". Contrary to expectations there are hills in there, there are massive bloody elephants running around that are distressingly easy to see, and those early Tarzan movies were not making it all up - there are vines that wrap around your ankles, plants that grab you and try to rip your clothes off like an over-eager teenage beau, and even swamps of black mud that would suck German tourists down to their doom if there wasn't a ranger and porter there to pull them out. And the chimps really move! I was assured even by the rangers as we started out that the chimps wouldn't move that much, but both days we were like Alice running after that rabbit down his hole and through the looking glass, again and again. Most pictures involve feeding since most of the rest of the time they were loping along with us in hot pursuit. It was great, great fun, the chimps were amazing, the photo ops great as long as you can shoot f/2.8 and ISO 3200 or equivalent (f/4 and 6400) happily, and we were really lucky with the weather. It didn't rain either day. But while the first day was as expected people-wise, on there second day there were six doing the habituation together and then another 20 pr so showed up for the hour-long viewing. With four rangers and a porter in there too, among ten or so chimps it was bloody chaos for an hour or so and I nearly went home. However, then a small group broke away and we habituationers followed them, leaving behind the larger group, and as we followed more and more chimps came out of the forest to join the conga line and it was one of my best wildlife experiences ever, which I won't spoil just yet by telling you about it. Meeting an elephant totally by surprise in dense jungle was one of the most disconcerting and comical wildlife experiences I have had and I will also save that for.a full description. The rangers are good with the chimps and armed, but they are not properly trained walking guides and somebody is going to get hurt if they put that number of people in there at the same time. Primate Lodge is very well located and the tents are far apart and spacious , providing a good refuge from the over-excited tour groups that sometimes use the place. I had excellent sightings of monkeys and some birds from the lodge of which the value shouldn't be underestimated. The mongooses were seen but not in the company of researchers, and seeing the otters generally requires you to remain on shore, quiet and still and wait, but Lake Mutanda will deliver for the keen. Queen Elizabeth National Park was a shock, even after reading about it. We saw what it had to offer and a couple of special sightings for me, but it is a crazy place and the only park in Africa that has left me speechless with horror and in angry dispute with my guide (we made up quickly - we were both just doing the male chimp tree-beating thing really). However, do not miss it. Take a Valium and tape up your mouth until you acclimatize, but don't miss it. Queen Elizabeth Bush Lodge is a good, bad option (there are only bad options). There are nice people there, it has nice views, and it is not too far from the park. We visited Mweya and were instantly certain we would have really disliked it, but it is definitely much more comfortable than Bush Lodge, The driving to and from the various bits of the park is boring enough even from these two locations so I wouldn't really consider staying elsewhere unless I were there just for a boat trip. You really should drive Kasese to Kisoro if you go to this part of the world, it is a fabulous drive (as long as someone else is at the wheel). So, so beautiful and unexpected in Africa. It takes much longer than going to Buhoma but almost every minute of travel is pure pleasure until it gets dark (when it gets very hairy). The walk from Buhoma to Nkuringo gets great reviews, but I would do it Nkuringo to Buhoma, after having driven the other way. I definitely think there is a lot more to this area than the gorillas. Sure, there are a lot of people, but remarkable and interesting people and the scenery is so, so good. If only it weren't in cloud much of the time. My own trek was uneventful and very successful. We lost one tourist to exhaustion on the way back (it is a wee bit steep) but were back at the ranger station for lunch. Piece of cake I mouthed at the end as my lungs struggled to function. Porters are as-advertised great. Take one for the company and so you don't damage your cameras when you do a "Laurel and Hardy and a banana skin" type pratfall on mud that is as slippery as ice in places. Uganda is a photographer's paradise, which makes Tanzania and Kenya look a bit dull and frumpy. Full of colours, lines, light and characters. Unfortunately I wasn't allowed to stop every five minutes, and I wished I could. It is also unfortunate that the rains were coming and the sun broke through the clouds only infrequently. A special mention to the road from Lake Mutanda to Nkuringo at dawn, when there is a sea of fog all the way to Congo, and to the charming people of Uganda (even the six-year olds who call you a stupid mzungu or something even worse that your guide refuses to translate). Accommodation and activities and the way they are organized is all a bit "meh" and the sheer number of people is disorientating at times even if you are from Bangkok, but it's very much worth it for the things you see, hear and smell. So that's the trip report done then - ther rest is mere frippery and navel gazing, but I like my navel. What a very fine navel!
  12. After I had read about the habituation experience with gorillas I got hooked . I am thinking to have a very gorilla-centric tour next year. I am still not sure it will be Feb, Jun or Sep (it will depend on work schedule). Ideally I would want to fly into Bwindi and have 4-5 tracks on daily basis (3 habituation tracks and 1-2 normal tracks). But my question is if I am going to die with the schedule like this? I mean I am in pretty good physical shape, I did Patagonia hiking (90-100 kilometers in 4 days) but it is obvious that Uganda jungles are not comparable to Patagonia mountains . What do you think? Would you recommend rest days in between? The other question is how wet the hike is? If I track gorillas on daily basis do I have to have the second pair of hiking boots or I will be fine with one pair? I am still thinking if I should or I should not include chimpanzee tracking? Is it worth it? It is more about logistic. With only gorilla tracking I will just fly in/out but I am not sure how to add chimpanzee tracking without adding too much travel time. Normally, when you track in Bwindi do you have a lot of nice sceneries around? I mean should I have a good wide angle lens with me? Which one would you recommend for Nikon but within let's say $900-1000 price (better cheaper )
  13. Sooooo.....we are heading back to Africa in September 2016, on a tour with Doug MacDonald to Zimbabwe. We are coming from Australia, so a decent distance to travel, and while I know a trip to Rwanda to see the gorillas doesn't easily combine with Zimbabwe, it is still easier than making a different trip another time. To add a visit to the gorillas would obviously add to the expense, but also the degree of difficulty is heightened as we have teenagers who we need to get looked after while we are away, but I just can't seem to stop thinking about it. I'd love to hear from anyone who has been about whether it is awesome enough for me to try to achieve a visit despite all the difficulties. Hubby is also concerned about our ability to do the trek - we are middle-aged (46 and 58) and not particularly fit - but we will do some training before we come, and hire porters to help us out, so I say that we are better to do it sooner rather than later if that is one of his concerns. Thoughts anyone??
  14. Last Chance Safaris has put some different itineraries together for 2016. Our emphasis is as much on conservation as it is on getting that unique picture in a phenomenal setting. All our trips do more than just search out the big game. Our participants also get to meet and interact with the conservationists who are actively involved in saving many of Africa's most endangered animals. Our Painted Wolves Expedition explores Zimbabwe's best wild dog destinations, including Hwange, and culminates in the magical Chitake Springs of Mana Pools. Remote and unique the chance of footing it with wild dog (and other predators) is high. The Great Apes Expedition is more than just gorillas & chimps. We take a tour of beautiful Uganda off the tourists' beaten track. Starting with Kidepo Valley National Park (voted by CNN as in the top 3 of Africa's national parks!) and ending with a bang high up in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest for two gorilla treks. Chimps, forest elephant, shoebill and a variety of primates are all to be seen - not to mention some of Africa's best birding. Want to walk with Rhino? Our Rhino Expedition takes participants on a walking safari that focuses on these critically endangered animals. Hwange, Matusadona, Matopos or Pamushana - all fantastic wildlife locations in their own right, but also the strongholds for Zimbabwe's rhino population. Big cats and elephants your thing? Try out the Africa's Giants Expedition. From the Chobe to the Okavango, we visit the best Botswana destinations to get a fill of lion, leopard, cheetah, and of course elephants. A mix of national park and private concession ensures that the best areas are covered. You can contact us directly through Safaritalk, by emailing reservations@lastchancesafaris.com, or via our contact form.
  15. Uganda - gorillas and more (I had hoped) [Warning: This will be written up as time permits; and there's precious little of it] First Part Let me mention a wonderful side benefit of this safari: our preparations for Uganda and gorilla trekking (all those hours spent hiking up and down hills in HK) made us lose some weight that had stubbornly refused to budge for years. I left Uganda a while ago already (many more than 21 days and ebola free, not that I was concerned but so many people did ask). Three long haul business trips later, I am going to try and put some stuff down. As usual, I hope my information is useful for those who are thinking of doing something similar. I am again grateful to all those on SafariTalk who have written about their travels, and especially those who chipped in with such useful information when I wrote on the trip planning forum prior to going. To recap, here is my Uganda itinerary. Our 10 nights looked like this: (starting end-September and into early October 2014) Arrive at Entebbe Airport via Doha from HKG on Qatar Airways 1 Night at Serena Lake Victoria Hotel, Kampala Flight from Entebbe Airport to Kasese Airstrip 2 Nights at Kyambura Game Lodge, Queen Elizabeth National Park (about 1,100m above sea level) Road transfer from Kyambura Game Lodge to Bwindi 3 Nights at Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (1,160 - 2,600m asl) - for 2 separate gorilla treks (being a masochist) Flight from Kihihi Airstrip to Kasese Airstrip 4 Nights Ndali Lodge, Kibale Forest National Park (1,100 - 1,600m asl) Flight from Kasese Airstrip to Entebbe Airport Leave Entebbe Airport, via Doha to HK on Qatar Airways Also to recap, these days we try to stay within a country for our safaris as we think all the border crossings really chew into our previous few safari days, especially when one factors in the hurry-up-and-wait times for usually inconveniently-scheduled flights and/or long long drives. First up, just a quick note about the Qatar lounge in Doha airport. They have a free flow of premium Bordeaux reds for those who are interested in such things. Downside? We arrive after an 8-hour flight from HK and it's 4:30am local time. Taste buds are shot. Not to mention red wine for breakfast is not a common pairing. Still we had a 3 hour layover before the Qatar flight to Entebbe and the Lounge was better than a poke in the eye :-) On arrival at Entebbe, two officials in protective garments make us all "wash/rinse" our hands in a bucket of bleach. All the usual signs are looked for (fever, etc). All this before we join the queues for immigration. All this is as much to reassure us tourists as it is to keep ebola out I think. Getting into Entebbe at 1:05pm meant that the daily scheduled flight out from Entebbe to Kasese airstrip would have already departed. This required an overnight, and we were booked into the "Lake Victoria Serena Resort Hotel ", just under an hour's drive from the airport. It's nice enough but there's nothing there. You get to see Lake Victoria in the distance but you can't get to it, the resort grounds being fenced off. We had an early dinner. We over ordered and had two fresh tilapia from the lake, done differently. I guess each fish must have been more than a kilo each. Those and couple of local beers set us back the grand sum of US$30. Wines are horrendously expensive in Uganda (for what they were). The morning pick up for the airport was at 6am, just as the restaurant opened for breakfast so we had to forget about that. The scheduled flight out of Entebbe was at 7:45am (Aerolink 111) and took us to Kasese or Mweya (I now forget which) Airstrip in Queen Elizabeth National Park. A word about the National Parks we visited in Uganda. They all have public roads cutting through them. So we have all sorts of traffic going through the Parks; cargo trucks, buses, mini-van buses/taxis, motorbikes, bicycles, pedestrians, ... and the odd elephant and buffalo. I now have the feeling that Mweya Safari Lodge is sort of like the centre of gravity for QENP safari drives. It brought to mind what Namutoni Camp was in Etosha in Namibia. The drive from Mweya to Kyambura Game Lodge takes an hour (if memory serves), with a dreadful part where there are so many potholes all the vehicles weave to avoid them and so it looks as if everyone is drunk. Kyambura Game Lodge is outside QENP, and the drive into any part of QENP for the animals takes at least 45 minutes (30 minutes of which is due to the drunken weaving pothole avoidance part). It's a smaller lodge than Mweya and generally pleasant but nothing to write home about. I could hear the sound of the big trucks on the public road well into the night, and starting up again in the early hours. So, even if they get around to filling in all those pot holes, there's still not a whole lot to recommend it. Following the advice that had been proffered on ST in the planning forum, we booked a private boat for the Kazinga Channel. All the boats seem to use Mweya (just down from the Mweya Safari Lodge) as their terminus. Maybe this is just for Mweya as the operator. For the record, I pre-booked and paid US$300 for my wife and I (they charge per person !) for the 2 of us in one of their smaller boats. The guy who "drove" went through his spiel, but I had the feeling it was a "by the numbers" recitation. We were enthusiastic enough with the birds, especially when we sighted and got really close to a Malachite kingfisher. Mweya Safari Lodge did provide us some "entertainment" for a couple of hours. There were enough birds flying around to keep us occupied prior to our boat ride. And their resident, habituated pack of Banded mongooses did not disappoint when they made an appearance just before we had to leave. QENP had lots of Ugandan Kobs, and the odd lion up a tree (we had two separate sightings of this). Other highlights were primates and birds not seen in southern Africa. The monkeys were a treat - but so often they were hard to shoot, having all that foliage to throw off the auto-focus. We spent 5 hours on the drive from Kyambura (QENP) to Bwindi, but that was because we had our share of stops. Highlights for us were our first Double-toothed barbet, an African crowned eagle and a pair of the national bird of Uganda, the Crested crane. A cute Blue monkey showed itself, as did a shy but even cuter Red-tailed monkey, which stayed a lot behind foliage. There was a lioness up a tree which we managed to get closer to than earlier in QENP. As usual (for us) it clambered down on the "wrong" side, behind the tree trunk. Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp was a cut above Kyambura. Unluckily for them, a tour group had cancelled ("ebola") which meant that we shared the camp with another couple the first night but then had the run of the house the next two nights. This Camp is the one which is visited every so often by the so-called Rushegura gorilla troop. It is situated just a few minutes stroll away from the staging/starting point for the gorilla tracking. In this part of Bwindi, there are three habituated troops. For our first track, we (8 tourists per group) were assigned the "medium" distance Rushegura troop. This turned out to be a 2 hour 30 minute plus hike through the hills to get to them. As had been stressed so frequently, the porters are from the surrounding villages and this was a direct way for them to benefit from tourism. They have to take turns (not sure who gets to play god) and they do not get to do this every day for what is good income. The standard rate is US$15 per porter and we had two. Our camp mates had told us they tipped US$25 on top of that per porter. I thought this a bit rich, but I have to admit I paid that myself at the end of the day to the lady who was assigned to Jill. I saw her volunteering, asking the ranger's permission, and following us down to the gorillas to help us and others even as the other porters stayed behind at the pre-contact point (which is the norm). One note I'd make to others of you. I strongly suggest you convert US$ into Uganda Shillings for the porters (paid directly to the porters) and the expected tips for the rangers (goes into a tip box) at the end of the trek. Especially for the porters. The porters have to go to the only dude who is the money changer. (The nearest bank is hours away). While I do not know if this forex king is a shylock, the milk of human kindness may well not be flowing too strongly through his veins. I feel that it has to be better to give the porter the full amount in Ugandan Shillings (whether it be US$15 or US$40 equivalent) than to have another middleman take away yet another cut. For this first trek, Jill and I made it just fine in the 2 and some hours it took to get to the "pre-contact" point. Here is where we had to leave our hiking sticks (I highly recommend two each, as that really helps for any slippery downhill bits) and our water bottles, and take our own cameras from the porters. And this is where I got into trouble. I thought we were "around the corner" - so to speak - from the gorillas. It turned out it was another 15 minutes before we made contact (to be fair, the gorillas were not staying still), and mostly through thick foliage (slippery from dew/moisture) and downhill. I must have fallen three times on this part. And I was now sweating buckets, without replenishment. All of this did me in. Which really surprised me as I had not minded the hike at all. I felt like I had just been hit with (mild) altitude sickness. I stayed with the whole group (tourists) mostly, but the gorillas were quite spread out. They also continued feeding and moved quite a bit - through thick shrubbery, and out in the sun (for us). There were some good moments. One of them walked right past me (close enough to touch). On another occasion, another walked past behind me. Too many people, too close in, too much foliage. Jill couldn't get those shots of the close encounters. As it turned out, the photographic opportunities were limited. For comparison, we have three times as many photos on the trek the next day. After our hour (borne out by photo time stamps which say 11:05am first shot and 12:04 last shot of a gorilla) we hiked back. Fortunately, the movement of the gorillas meant that we could take a different, easier route back to the starting point. So instead of another 2.5 hours, we made it back in less than that (after we had stopped for our packed lunches of course). For the trek the next day, we were assigned the "easy" (nearest) troop - Mabare. We had an elderly gentleman of 78, who had not planned on assistance other than just a porter (or two). One can arrange to be carried (they assign 12 porters to the carry-team, rotating them in and out of the 4 actually hauling the chair, for a fee in the range of US$350 depending on weight and such I was told). While he looked like he could walk OK while we were at the level ground of the starting area, his advanced age was also pretty clear. So his was the pace for all of us. There was a feeling that he felt under pressure when he was with us (not sure why he would not have expected this), so our ranger/guide told his porters to walk ahead, with us following after giving him a good many minutes head start. When we inevitably caught up, we would see him being mostly pulled/pushed and almost mostly carried by his porters. So an easy hike became easier still as we were really slow. It turns out we got to the Mabare troop later than we had the harder-to-get-to Rushegura. Time stamp says 11:48 am for the first gorilla shot versus 11:05am. The Mabare were mostly settled in for the morning. The head honcho was eating underneath some bushes, and soon laid down for his siesta. But we were hugely entertained by their 10-month old baby. There was also a 2-week old who was mostly clasped close to mommy's body the whole time. Two little babies make for a lot of excitement amongst tourists of course. I had a 70-200/f2.8 on one camera body and a 50/1.4 on another body. Jill used the 24-120/f4 lens. This turned out to be the best lens for those circumstances. On the second trek, I left the 50/1.4 and just used the 70-200. And that's the two lenses we settled on (for the second gorilla trek as well as for both chimpanzee treks). For the first trek, I had the cameras and lenses dis-assembled and inside protective covers inside the backpacks. When we got to the pre-contact point, I assembled them. They worked fine. For the second trek, I had the two lenses attached to their camera bodies inside respective backpacks during the trek. This created a totally unexpected problem. For reasons which still escape me, the 24-120 lens got fogged up - at both ends - AFTER some minutes of shooting. On the front, this was behind the protective glass and could not be reached. On the back (the side you attach to the camera body), the lens was also fogged up - which I only discovered after I had had the camera & lens held out in the sun to help with evaporation. Once the front had dried up (which took too long), I then had to remove the lens from the camera and Jill held the lens back-side-up to the sun to help the fog evaporate. This took even longer. Jill had to waste lots of shooting time with the gorillas because of this. Thankfully, the 70-200 did not have this problem so I could continue shooting. [i thought I'd just post what I had so far. If I were to wait again for time to write more(the writing time had already been broken up enough), I might never get this in ...] More to come (I think)
  16. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/activityandadventure/11658732/Gorillas-in-Rwanda-the-worlds-greatest-conservation-success.html The U.K. Daily Telegraph article describes the experience of gorilla trekking in Rwanda. It notes that there has been an increase in gorilla numbers in Rwanda over the past several decades.
  17. http://www.un-grasp.org/grasp-targets-chinese-audience-through-stolen-apes/ GRASP — Great Apes Survival Partnership UNEP — United Nations Environmental Program Last year I recommended and supported one of my most talented Chinese female students to enter Kyoto University's Primate Research Institute. She contacted me this evening to share with me the outstanding news that she has been instrumental in making available Chinese-language information about the United Nations sponsored Great Apes Survival Partnership, which seeks to educate about the extensive illegal trade in body parts and live specimens of gorillas, bonobos, chimpanzees and orangutans. GRASP program coordinator Doug Cress said: “GRASP understands that the only way to effectively combat illegal trade is through information and behavior change. Our efforts need to look beyond source and transit countries, and focus as well on destination countries, where demand drives that traffic.” My former student is working with her professors in Kyoto University to bring relevant, effective information about the Great Apes to the Chinese public. For a life science professor, this type of constructive action by a gifted former student is the greatest reward of teaching. Tom K.
  18. I am soon off on safari, leaving for Mana in 2 days but having mentioned my Kenya-Uganda trip a few times, I thought I would post a skeleton itinerary and some pictures. The pictures are a mere handful and far from representing the actual sightings ( with so many new species, a whole different league of birding, big buffalo herds and cheetahs in Kidepo and so much more that I have not gone around to editing and will hopefully keep adding to this). This Safari was for 15 nights with 5 nights in Laikipia Wilderness Camp for wild dogs and the inimitable hospitality of the Careys, an overnight in Kajjansi in Lake Victoria Hotel-Serena followed by 5 nights in the beautiful Kidepo Valley in the private mobile camp from Nga' Moru and the wonderful friendship of Patrick and Lyn who run the mobile and the lodge, followed by the longest bush flight anyone has ever taken in Uganda ( the pilots talking on their radio as we flew, termed it the the longest -from Kidepo to South Bwindi and finally 2 Gorilla treks and one Bwindi Forest walk. The groups I trekked were the Nkuringo Group and one of the 3 families in Ruhija -the K-iaguriro group which was recently opened for tourism from having been a research group for quite some time. In Bwindi I stayed at the Nkuringo Gorilla Camp for 2 nights and 2 nights in the Engagi Lodge - both on the mid affordable range and extremely comfortable with wonderful people running it and some precious views and great birding. The Uganda logistics was put together by Mike Rourke from Safari Skies and who overall did such a splendid job and not only came to pick us up and have dinner inspite of an early start but also and managed to make himself available to visit us for a night at Kidepo where Patrick barbequed some pork and there was a lot of laughter, a lot of jokes and some all round fun. Its funny how suddenly out of the blue you end up bonding with people and miss them months after your safari and that's how special Patrick and Lyn are. I was, for the first time ( and definitely not for the last time), guided by Squack Evans who was not only an effortlessly brilliant guide and extremely easy to talk to but also a very good photographer and hence we had a lot of fun discussing photography as well. I am returning with Squack to Kenya in September-October and then again in January 2015 and hope I can get him to contribute a few images here too - if nothing else, atleast the ones of me with the gorillas, which, Squack, if you read this, you have to send them to me :-D What started in Mana and Gonarezhou in October 2013 with good binoculars and Doug's knowledge and love for birds, continued with Squack as he is an extremely keen birder himself and once you really get into it, sometimes you dont realise that so much time has passed. I am in the middle of packing as well, so I will leave it here and just put up some pictures, merely glossing over all that we saw ( and the first round of editing has a deep bias towards birds) and experienced but will try to come back and cover most sightings in a more orderly manner. Squack will remember this red rumped swallow
  19. Reports www.bbc.com To read the full article click here. Is wildlife conservation and associated tourism enough to trump resources under the ground?
  20. ULTIMAE PRIMATE SAFARI - 10DAYS/9NIGHTS Safari Highlights: Chimpanzee tracking in Kibale National Park Nature walk in Bigodi Swamp Game drive in Queen Elizabeth and Lake Mburo National Parks Boat cruise in Queen Elizabeth National Park Crater Lakes Tree Climbing Lions of Ishasha Gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable forest Boat ride in Lake Mburo National Park Photo session at the Equator Day 1: Arrival and pickup Your will be picked from the airport by a representative of Kagera Safaris Meal Plan - Dinner (Depending on time of arrival) Day 2: Transfer to Kibale National Park After breakfast we leave for Kibale National Park having lunch en-route. Meal time – Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner Day 3: Chimpanzee Tracking We leave for an early morning Chimpanzee tracking in the primate capital of East Africa – Kibale National Park. Enjoy the hike in the tropical forest in search of man’s closest relatives the Chimpanzees in their natural home. After lunch, take a Swamp walk in Bigodi community – proceeds from this helps in community development. Look out for other primates like the red tailed monkey, mangabey, black & white colobus monkey, Baboons etc. Meal Plan – Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner Day 4: Queen Elizabeth National Park Transfer to Queen Elizabeth National Park after breakfast, have lunch en-route and a relaxed afternoon Meal Plan – Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner Day 5: Game drive and Boat Safari Game drive in the morning in search of Elephants, Lions, Leopards, Buffaloes, Uganda Kobs etc. and a launch cruise on Kazinga Channel – a stretch of water connecting Lake George and Lake Albert where you will watch animals that come for water . Meal Plan – Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner Day 6: Transfer to Ishasha After breakfast we transfer to Ishasha sector in search of the famous tree climbing lions. This is the main attraction but there other attractions. Meal Plan – Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner Day 7: Transfer to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park We leave for Bwindi Impenetrable National Park – the home of half the world’s remaining mountain gorillas. The drive to Bwindi takes you through communities, homesteads, agricultural lands with beautiful scenery. Meal Plan – Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner Day8: Gorilla tracking & transfer to Lake Bunyonyi Wake up early in preparation for an amazing day tracking the mountain gorillas. These gigantic creatures will keep you clued for hours and as you search and later enjoy their company. Meal Plan – Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner Day 9: Transfer to Lake Mburo National Park We arrive in time for the boat safari on Lake Mburo after which we do an evening game drive before retiring to the lodge for the night. Day 10: End of Safari – Transfer to Kampala/Entebbe High End Lodge USD 5217 pp (double/twin sharing) based on private group of 2 persons USD 4521 pp (double/twin sharing) based on private group of 4 persons USD 4132 pp (double/twin sharing) based on private group of 6 persons Mid-Range Lodge USD 3894 pp (double/twin sharing) based on private group of 2 persons USD 3198 pp (double/twin sharing) based on private group of 4 persons USD 2966 pp (double/twin sharing) based on private group of 6 persons Included in the Price Gorilla Tracking Permit Chimpanzee Tracking Permit per person Ground transport per 4WD minibus custom made for safari Bottled water in the safari vehicle Full board accommodation as mentioned in the itinerary Park entrance fees Game drive Boat trip Service of an English speaking driver guide Driver allowances and park fees for vehicle and driver All mentioned activities except for the optional ones Excluded: Extras at the accommodation i.e. drinks, telephone, laundry etc. Tips to porters and driver/ guide International flights Visas to Uganda Insurance Availability of accommodation, permits and activities is not guaranteed until confirmation. Terms and Conditions – http://www.kagerasafaris.com/index.php/terms-and-conditions
  21. Gelada vs Gorillas. Both a privileged experience. I was intrigued to see the gorillas. Although I had become accustomed to sitting close to Gelada in the Simien National Park of Ethiopia, I wondered if the experience would be as exciting. It certainly was. After one hour of being close to the largest primates in the world, I came out of the forest knowing that I had just seen something really special. Maybe I have come to be a bit balzé about Gelada. I guess that I see them so often around Simien Lodge that I tend not to notice them anymore. Every day they come and sit on the window ledges to see their reflection in the glass. Otherwise they nonchalantly eat the grass around the rooms that we call ‘tukels’. Gelada are neither a nuisance, like so many baboon species, nor do they warrant any special attention since they spend most of their time looking down and eating grass. They are just ever present so I am no longer in awe when I see the lodge compound invaded by a couple of hundred monkeys. So it was not until I went on a recent trip with two European ambassadors from Addis Ababa that I once again took notice of this incredible species. The Gelada are unique to northern Ethiopia. Many people will tell you that they are endemic to the Simien Mountain National park but that is not true. They are found in a few other places outside of the park. However the best place to see them is right in the core of the park area at about 3500 meters altitude. Clearly my clients were desperate to see them. It was harvest time and many of the bands, as they are called, had wandered off to the farmlands in search of grain. So on the first morning, to my great surprise, we did not see a single animal. However the afternoon game drive was a totally different story and it renewed my affection for these interesting creatures. We stumbled on a band that were grooming and feeding on the escarpment edge. The backdrop beyond the vertical escarpment was one of clear blue sky. Exceptionally there was no haze we could pick out the dots of the houses over one kilometre below. It was late in the afternoon, the sun was getting weaker and the Gelada were preparing to descend the cliff where they would spend the night away from the predators. We sat for nearly an hour watching about ten young gelada climb a rock and launch themselves, like intrepid base jumpers, sensing an awe inspired audience. It was in fact only a four meter drop to a grassy patch below but still perilously close to the edge. To miss their footing would have meant certain death and dinner for the ever watchful vultures. It became a game for them. They were totally ignored by the adult gelada about twenty meters away who just went on preening each other or tapping the ground to extract a juicy grass root. Equally they had total disregard for the two VIP’s who I had taken along for this trip. Like all disrespectful youngsters, they just carried on with their game even when my nervous guests approached them to within one or two meters. There was no need to be afraid. Gelada have never been known to bite a human. The similarity with the gorillas came back to me. Of all wild animals, primates are intelligent enough to know when there is a threat. Sure enough, the Gelada are smart. They know the difference between a tourist with a camera and a young shepherd boy with a stone. Tourists pose no threat and it is possible for them to get very close. On the other hand the sight of a young Ethiopian boy would have heralded a warning call from a watchful adult gelada and that would have been the end of the game. My one hour with the gorillas and it had cost me $750. Expensive but unique. The one hour with the Gelada had cost the ambassadors $4 each for a whole day. OK, let’s double that because we did not see them in the morning! Some cynics might say that I’m comparing chalk with cheese but I don’t think so. Both are amazing experiences that leave you with that privileged feeling that so many of us feel after a great safari. Forget the money, both experiences are fabulous. Nick Crane Simien Lodge www.simiens.com
  22. Congo Brazzaville has some of the most pristine forested areas left in Central Africa and the Nouabale Ndoki national park is prime example of this. I have space for 4 guests looking to join me and two other people to go and explore this extraordinary park and country starting on the 5th November 2016 in Brazzaville and returning there on the 17th November. Its also important to know that the accommodation and food while in the park is very basic with very few comforts, but it is an amazing experience being there. The basic itenerary is: 1 night Brazzaville Road transfer to Owando ( 1 Night ) Road Transfer to Ouesso to meet pirogue for boat transfer to Bomassa Park HQ (1 Night) Travel by vehicle and then 4hr walk through forest on elephant trails to Mondika Camp (3 nights) 2 gorilla tracking permits we shall use at Mondika and we can explore the forest from here. ( extra permits are available if reqd ) Return walk to road vehicle transfer and then pirogue transfer to Mbeli Camp ( 3 nights ) Here you will be able to observe and photograph the Mbeli Bai which attracts a range of forest animals including forest elephant, wild gorillas, swamp otters, forest buffalo, red river hogs, sitatunga etc. Bird life is also excellent here. Return to Bomassa - ( 1 night ) from here you can just relax or visit the Wali Bai - we have also arranged a fishing trip onto the river if you are interested. Return to Ouesso - 1 Night before catching a scheduled commercial flight back to Brazzaville. At this time we have costed this trip to be Euro 7850 per person but will likely change as costs change closer to the departure date but this gives you an idea and that does include the 2 gorilla permits. Please contact me or Tricia for further details if youwould like to experience a real wilderness safari
  23. I happened to be reading up on Uganda, had left a response and was asked by @@PCNW whether I could tell her my "..plans for Uganda? And why there instead of Rwanda?" I posted a response there but thought I might also post it here. Firstly, Uganda instead of Rwanda - the main thing I had in mind (once gorillas and time frame was determined) was that I wanted to stay within one country. I mostly have limited time when on safari and I tend to ask to fly rather than drive. Also, having to go through particular border checkpoints for immigration formalities is a pain, and chews into safari time. Then having put single-country as a "thing", it was a question of what else we wanted to do in the country on top of the gorilla-trek. We have no experience of Uganda nor Rwanda. But a general look around on the web seemed to point towards Uganda as having more "safari destinations" (rightly or wrongly) so we chose Uganda as our first foray into this part of Africa. Not the best informed nor scientific decision making to be sure :-) Uganda plan: There is a major new consideration for me for this safari - hard mountain trekking - so it is potentially not only 3 hours or more (one way) of continuous walking, but walking/scrambling at high altitudes. I recall my trek up to View Point from Borneo Rainforest Lodge in Danum Valley (150 - 1,000m above sea level) in Borneo (Sabah in Malaysia). I do not have the altitude of View Point but boy was it hard for me, lugging only my 300mm. I would guess that View Point was not more than 500m, perhaps closer to 350m. To put those altitudes in perspective (as much for me as for you): Queen Elizabeth NP is 900 - 1,800m above sea level Kyambura Game Reserve is next to Queen Elizabeth NP and is 1,100m asl Bwindi is 1,160 - 2,600m asl Kibale Forest National Park is 1,100 - 1,600m asl Compared with some places I have been: Serengeti NP 920 - 1,850m asl Masai Mara 1,500 - 2,170m asl Table Mountain 1,085m asl Swiss Alps: St.Moritz 1,800m asl Peru: Machu Picchu 2,430m , Cusco 3,400m asl HK Victoria Peak is 554m asl (what a joke compared to the others) Great Wall at Badaling, Beijing averages 1,000m asl Malaysia: Genting Highlands 1,740m asl, Cameron Highlands 1,600m, Fraser's Hill 1,200m asl And just to round it off: Everest is 8,800m asl (nope - never been and unlikely to go) Long-haul aircraft cruising altitude 10,000m asl - will be doing on Qatar Airways getting there and back, but all I have to do is be lazy As for my specific bookings, I have used andBeyond (Wendy Bruens) as our safari travel agent even for non-andBeyond properties for years. We asked Wendy to put this together for us. So our 10 nights look like this: Arrive at Entebbe Airport via Doha from HKG on Qatar Airways 1 Night at Serena Lake Victoria Hotel, Kampala Flight from Entebbe Airport to Kasese Airstrip 2 Nights at Kyambura Game Lodge, Queen Elizabeth National Park (about 1,100m above sea level) Road transfer from Kyambura Game Lodge to Bwindi 3 Nights at Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (1,160 - 2,600m asl) - for 2 separate gorilla treks (being a masochist) Flight from Kihihi Airstrip to Kasese Airstrip 4 Nights Ndali Lodge, Kibale Forest National Park (1,100 - 1,600m asl) Flight from Kasese Airstrip to Entebbe Airport Leave Entebbe Airport, via Doha to HK on Qatar Airways I'm hoping the 2 nights in Kyambura (QENP) helps with the acclimatisation before the hard work of trekking begins in earnest in Bwindi. Preparations include the wife and I trying to get our old knees into some sort of shape before the end of September. Walking continuously for 3 hours is already a challenge, let alone scrambling up and down hill in a rainforest for 3 hours. Then add that altitude factor. I recall that time I rushed back to my tent (the nearest one from the Lodge) from the vehicle when I was in Masai Mara. Upon clambering back into the vehicle, I was panting. As I had forgotten that it was at altitude, I thought I was coming down with something. I also recall handling Machu Picchu at a gentle pace. For the gorilla trekking, I asked andBeyond to give me something definitive for my safari as I had come across what I thought were conflicting do's and don'ts, and this is what they advised: Tracking Gorillas: A small lightweight, frameless, waterproof back / day pack Light waterproof hiking boots Leather or heavy canvas (garden style) gloves Waterproof, squash-able hat Waterproof rain pants, a rain suit or poncho with hood Short sleeved shirt or t-shirt Long trousers should not be heavy, but should be the light weight trekking variety A water bottle or canteen bottled water and a packed lunch will be provided Hiking sticks A porter (or as someone else has said, a pusher/puller) each for my wife and I will definitely be hired to help us along. It seems they are from the surrounding villages and I assume the US$10-15 each should be welcome income. I expect the chimps would also be interesting but I am also really looking forward to the different birds in that part of the world. John
  24. Southern Cross Galleries Photo Safaris and Tim Vollmer Photo Excursions have teamed up to offer a 9 day tour in Uganda to track and photograph Mountain Gorillas, Chimpanzees, and other rarely seen primates. We have limited this expedition to 6 photographers and 2 spots are already taken. Please message me for details. dtatooles@southerncrossgalleries.com. Dates are May 10, 2014 through May 18, 2014. All inclusive cost (including all primate permits) is $5,889.00.
  25. Found some home made books of a safari enthusiast Brazilian couple on Blurb. I really enjoyed seeing them on a large monitor. http://www.blurb.com/b/2319327-the-wildest-of-duba-mombo#author-bookshelf

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