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Found 26 results

  1. Prior to booking my Kenya adventure, I booked this Rwanda adventure combined with Uganda. I love gorillas and had always wanted to see them, but not in a cage. And so. a trip to see them was a must on my bucket list. Rwanda had been on my radar, not really as a place to visit, but because a Canadian had led the UN mission there at the time of the genocide. I'd read his book, which I highly recommend (Shake Hands With the Devil) and seen a documentary he had done as part of his therapy for PTSD and to bring awareness of the genocide in the a different way than Hollywood films. Of course, being that Rwanda is one of three countries where one can see the gorillas, and because my cousin had highly recommended it, I started planning. Together with my travel agent, we found something that was suitable for my budget and the trip was booked. Luckily, this was done prior to the increase in permit pricing. I spent four days in the country and my eyes were opened in more ways than one. I hope you will follow along.....
  2. Greetings, After such incredible feedback, I have found an itinerary that is, hopefully, something that will be great. Thank you! Based on the guidance received here, we are going to gorilla trek in Rwanda so the question is: where to stay. The plan is to arrive in Rwanda and sleep downtown since our plane is too late to get us to the lodge. We will head to the lodge the next day, sleep. Next morning is our gorilla trek, sleep. Following morning we head out. So: our initial estimate was for Virunga Lodge--but our son can't come. So the operator gave us two options: Mountain Gorilla View Lodge and Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge which will raise the cost by $4k. I'm leaning toward the Mountain Gorilla View Lodge because we are going for gorillas and not the lodge; however, a moldy mattress as described somewhere on the forum is a nogo. Please let me know your thoughts since I need to the let the operator know what to pick: is Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge worth the cost? Is there a better option than the two listed here? Thank you so much. P.S.: I cannot thank everyone enough for making me chop chop and, for those keeping score, we DID find two nights at Giraffe Manor for the five of us! Woot! My mom is so happy :-)
  3. 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: 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!!!
  4. 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. 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!
  7. September National Geographic magazine.
  8. Hi, @amybatt has said she did not have any difficulties with ziploc bags in Rwnada. Has anyone who uses these for packing had any issues given the plastic bag ban? What about with the liquids bags for airport security?
  9. In just two weeks time East African black rhinos will return to Rwanda. Back in 1961 and 62 a number of East African black rhinos Diceros bicornis michaeli were captured in the Tsavo region of Kenya and taken to Addo Elephant NP in the Eastern Cape. Rhinos at this time were entirely extinct in the Cape, having ideal habitat it was hoped that Addo would provide a secure home for the rhinos, and that they would form an insurance population given the increasing level of poaching in East Africa. In 1977 three bulls of the south central subspecies D. b. minor were unfortunately moved to the park from Zululand, In 1980 the IUCN/SSC African Rhino Specialist Group sent a request that these bulls and any hybrid calves they might have produced be removed to preserve the genetic integrity of the michaeli rhinos. The rhinos thrived in Addo until SANParks decided they wanted to replace these rhinos with so called Cape black rhinos D. b. bicornis it had been thought that this subspecies was extinct, but it was recently determined that black rhinos in Namibia in fact belong to this subspecies. The East African blacks were removed from Addo, while some were sent up to Tanzania to the Ngorongoro Crater to inject some new blood into the existing population and some to the Mkomazi Rhino Sanctuary, the rest went to a ranch called Thaba Tholo in Limpopo Province; from there some have since been sent to the Serengeti. 20 of these East African black rhinos at Thaba Tholo have now been captured and will soon begin the long journey from South Africa up to Rwanda to found a new population in Akagera National Park. The original black rhinos found in Rwanda were presumably hunted to extinction in colonial times, but remarkably in 1958 the first ever rhino translocation in Africa was carried out, re-establishing black rhinos in Akagera NP, the rhinos thrived in their new home. Even more remarkable than the fact that rhinos were reintroduced in 1958, is the fact that the very last of their descendants survived until 2007, somehow despite Rwanda’s civil war and the loss of half of the park, a few rhinos managed to survive. Unfortunately not quite long enough and the last of the rhinos died just three years before African Parks officially came in in 2010 to manage Akagera. African Parks, The Akagera Management Company and the Rwanda Development Board are now returning these animals to the park once more, the rhinos are due to arrive in Akagera on the 16th of May. These animals should thrive just as their predecessors did and form a new and important population of D. b. michaeli rhinos back in East Africa, and I hope in the future provide a source of rhinos for further reintroductions elsewhere, perhaps someday into Uganda where black rhinos are extinct. Following the successful reintroduction of lions in 2015 Akagera will soon be a 'big five' park once more which should be very good news for tourism to the park. " I was extremely pleased when I first heard that African Parks would be taking on Akagera NP having been privileged to visit in 86 and I have been waiting some years to hear this news, it's fantastic to know that it is finally happening. You can follow the story at Rhinos Return to Rwanda
  10. ~ This June, 2017 article from Rwanda's KT Press tells of an agreement signed by Rwanda and South Africa for cooperation concerning wildlife conservation in the two countries. Wildlife protection issues concern both Rwanda and South Africa, where the disappearance of wildlife may negatively effect tourism revenue.
  11. Akagera National Park under APN management, will soon receive a pride of 7 lions. Lions were extirpated in Rwanda during the genocide in 1994, it is now time to recover the amazing biodiversity of the Akagera. Lions were donated by South African protected areas (Phinda and Tembe). 5 adult and sub-adult females and 2 sub-adult males will travel on the 30th of June and then released after a 26 hours to trip to a bona in the North of the park. Here is the oficial press release from the NGO: APN is also working on reintroducing black rhinos in the Akagera.
  12. Green light in all the areas for Akagera NP managed by APN - Poaching decreasing, - Animals populations increasing, - Lion population doubling, - Preparing black rhinos reintroduction in the park for early 2017, - Tourism increasing with half tourism from local Rwandans! - 10% incomes increase compared to 2015!
  13. This is a continuation of my trip report, which started with almost 2 weeks in Tanzania. That can be found here ( 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
  14. I guess this question is really for those who have been to _both_ places for the mountain gorillas... Which one did you prefer? I know that the treks can vary widely, even from day-to-day, etc... And there are a lot of factors that go into deciding which place to go to. But ignoring all that for a moment, and just focussing on the experience.. it does seem that in Rwanda, when you reach the gorillas, the terrain there is just.. more "open", so you would get a better viewing, and I guess less jostling from other trekkers. Is that a fair comment?
  15. 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??
  16. April 2016 – Wilderness Safaris and the Governors’ Camp Collection are delighted to announce a new strategic partnership as a result of an acquisition of equity in this premier East African safari brand through Wilderness Holdings. In addition to being one of East Africa’s oldest and most respected safari brands, the Governors’ safari camps are located in undoubtedly the best locations in two of Africa’s bucket list destinations, Kenya’s Masai Mara and Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. “With over 40 years’ experience in pioneering safaris and ecotourism in East Africa and a very similar approach to our core 4Cs ethos of Commerce, Conservation, Community and Culture, Governors’ are the perfect, likeminded partners for us to extend our sustainability and authentic ecotourism footprint into the region. This will in turn help us to achieve our vision to continue building further sustainable conservation economies in Africa”, said Keith Vincent, Wilderness Safaris CEO. “Not only do the Governors’ brand and the Grammaticas family share our values and vision for the role ecotourism can play in African conservation, but our two companies operate in complementary geographic areas, do not compete and can both enhance each other’s businesses. We are therefore proud to invest in this well-known and long-established family-run business, and to partner with one of the oldest and most respected brands in the region”, Vincent added. According to Dominic Grammaticas, Managing Director of Governors' Camp Collection, this powerful partnership of two strong brands in African ecotourism will not only provide the Governors’ Camp Collection with the capital required for an exciting investment programme, but will create great benefits for all stakeholders in many different areas. “It’s a very exciting time to be part of Governors’”, he said. “We have been a very successful family-owned safari operator for almost 45 years and have pioneered many aspects of luxury safari tourism now taken for granted across the continent. This strategic partnership with Wilderness allows us to retain the unique benefits of a family-owned and run company, whilst at the same time offering an exciting future for growth opportunities within East Africa and other regions”. Governors’ and Wilderness Safaris, with over 75 years of combined experience in the industry, share deep roots in owner-managed operations, and share a vision that commercial operations can and must support community and conservation initiatives which protect and sustain some of the greatest wildlife areas remaining on the planet. Both organisations will maintain their individual identities, brands, structures and independence. Governors’ will remain owner-run and will continue to conduct all its own marketing, sales and reservations activities. For its part, Wilderness Safaris will sell Governors’ as a preferred partner in Kenya and Rwanda. Agents with an existing relationship with Governors’ will continue to deal with Governors’ directly.
  17. We just got back on Wednesday from 12 nights in Tanzania (it was supposed to be 13, but we missed our connection in Amsterdam due to snow delays) followed by 4 nights in Rwanda. I think we had a very successful trip, despite some tough game viewing where the grass was long. There were cats everywhere in Ndutu, our final trip totals were ~80-90 lions, 22 cheetahs, 5 leopards and 1 (distant) Serval. A couple of quick thoughts for now: I was impressed at how well, in general, the guides acted in Ndutu, with no major crowding of the animals and sticking to a semi-circle to give them room to move. We did have a couple instances of stupid guide behavior though. The first was at a lion sighting, where 4 vehicles were waiting with a group of 5 lions, hoping they'd decide to hunt some wildebeest that were about 75 meters away from them. We had all been with them about 75 minutes, and they were just starting to show signs of life, when a new car arrived, and parked immediately between the lions and the wildebeest. It completely stopped any movement by the lions. Secondly, again 4 or 5 vehicles were waiting with a mother cheetah and three relatively large cubs, all of whom were eyeing some antelopes not too far away. One car got tired of waiting, and decided to leave by driving right through the herd, scattering them and ruining any chance of a hunt. There was so much prey around I doubted either incident greatly affected the animals, but neither was very considerate of the fellow safari travelers. Conversely, guides were really bending/breaking the rules in the Serengeti. Off-roading like crazy in the Gol Kopjes area (although our guide told us it was normal behavior, and in fact a vehicle with some researchers arrived at one point and suggested it was ok if there was no harassment of the cheetahs); a vehicle from a company that's well-known on this site driving up a rock face of a Kopje to get a close look at a cheetah (to be fair, once they did that we followed...); and some serious off-roading in the Seronera area to get to a leopard located in a tree 50-75 meters from the road. This was definitely a change from when we were there 2.5 years ago, and if the rangers start cracking down, a lot of guides are going to be in trouble. The grasses were high in Tarangire and around Seronera, making game viewing very difficult. In Tarangire we essentially turned into birdwatchers, the mammals were so rare. We traveled out to the Namiri Plains area while in Seronera, and saw almost nothing. Very different from other reports recently on here! Anyway, that's all for now, I'll start a real trip report once I get through all the pics. I'll just start with a couple of straight out of the camera JPEGs, of a couple of characters that will play major roles once I get going.
  18. Hello everyone and thanks for having me. I am travelling in January and February, to Rwanda (Volcanoes NP), then on to Meru, then Masaai Mara, Amboseli and finishing with a week in the north of Zanzibar. Dream come true. Most of this I have plotted out myself, and it has taken a lot of time and careful research, but I think I'm doing okay. Just wondered if any of you seasoned vets have any advice for a first timer. It can be on ANY topic... Must do's, musn't do's... Any of you who have travelled to the above... I'm of course doing the gorilla trek in Rwanda and staying at Muhabura lodge... Then I'm with Offbeat Safari for Meru and Mara, and Tortilli's in Amboseli. In Zanzibar I have a little hut for the week, not too worried about that leg as I'll be sleeping on the beach for 6 days lol. However, currency tips, safety tips, clothing advice, etc. I'm female, 40ish, travelling alone, so any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks in advance!
  19. Part 2 of 3- Rwanda and Tanzania, 2015/2016 Trip Report (Part 1 contains the DRC Trip report which was posted separately.) Travel Dates: Dec 30, 2015 through Jan 9th) Tanzania Booking Agent: Planet Africa Camps: Kimondo Mobile Camp, Namiri Plains and Sayari *** Please note that this report covers our time in Rwanda and at Asilia’s Kimondo and Namiri Camps. I will post the report on Sayari separately. ***Tips and Observations are at the bottom of the page. (con't from the DRC Report, posted separately) At the border we meet up again with Kevin, our driver from Inspired and head to the Lake Kivu Serena Hotel a short 10 minute drive away where Kevin has arranged for us to have lunch. The transition from the Congo to Rwanda was nothing short of an exercise in surrealism creating within minutes having us commuted from what can be only described as chaos and desperation to a state of calmness and tranquility. As we make our way upstairs we are met by the maître d who seats us at a table overlooking the pool and Lake Kivu. The hotel is full of families celebrating the New Year. Sitting all around us are beautiful women who are exquisitely dressed with not a hair out of place. The men are causally dressed with perfectly starched cotton button downs. Children play and splash in the pool below us without a care in the world while their beautiful parents lounge nearby. On the beach a DJ calls the kids to game of relay and I hear sounds of raucous laughter. In the distance we can see the DRC. Our waiter stops by and asks in perfect English if we would to order drinks. As I write this report, I can’t help but quote Nikolai Gogol “Perfect nonsense goes on in the world. Sometimes there is no plausibility at all” His simple words perfectly describe the reality of the moment. After lunch we head back to Kilgali on whats known as “East Africa’s best roads.” Along the way we play a game of “I SPY - Litter.” You see, no one litters, no one smokes in public, no one seems to break the speed limit or any other laws for that matter, in Rwanda. After an hour or so of a scoreless game I up the ante and add “potholes” to the mix. There were no winners that day in the I SPY game. After about 3 hours we reach our hotel in Kigali, the Hôtel des Milles Collines (aka Hotel Rwanda) and say our goodbyes to Kevin. The hotel lobby is full of travelers and looks a bit like Union Station at rush hour. I make my way to front desk where I’m directed to a nearby table to wait and am offered a drink. Just as I start bracing myself for a very long wait I’m met by Vincent who quickly checks us in and whisks us up to our room overlooking the pool area. We vaguely get our belongings organized and then head out to make the most of the limited time we have in the city. I attempt to reconcile the horrors of 20 years ago with the country and its people today. I soon realize there’s no logic that will ever explain the events of past or the present. Rwanda is an amazing country and an intriguing study in human nature. As I walk back to the hotel enveloped in what seems like serenity I understand why this country is referred to as the “Little Switzerland of East Africa.” The next morning we’re up at 4:00 am to catch our 6:00 Coastal flight to Tanzania where the next 12 days will be spent in Southern, Central and Northern Serengeti. Our first stop is the Southern Serengeti where we will spend 2 nights at Asilia’s Kimondo Camp. Our guide, Godsand knows the area well and has been with Asilia for 6 years. The camp is a bit quirky, but in a fun way. The staff is fun, warm and kind. The food was excellent and the tents are very comfortable and nicely appointed with flushing toilets and hot water bucket showers. Dining is communal and served at table overlooking a grassy plain where herds of wildebeest and zebra also feast. Later that day we head out for our afternoon drive. In the weeks leading up our visit the area experienced torrential downpours of rain resulting in massive herds of wildebeest and emerald green plains stretching as far as the eye can see. We stop and take a moment to draw in the vibrant colors and the massive herds before our eyes. We watch the wildebeest snort, run, kick and challenge one another. It’s quite a sight. After a while we head toward an outcrop of granite kopjes where Godsand explains a “super pride” of 23 lions call home. As we drive up we spot 2 young lions lounging atop one of the kopjes with about 4-6 cubs nearby. We circle the kopjes to find another 5 lions, including the head female snoozing. She wakes up long enough to scan the horizon and acknowledge our presence and then goes back to her nap. The young male lions in this area are more aggressive and intimidating than other lions that I’ve observed. Godsend tells us they us they have no fear of vehicles and will often chase and bite the tires. With that in mind we keep a respectful distance and back away as the two young males come down from the rocks. Over the next 2 days we start our morning drives at 6:00 am and come back to camp around 1:00, before heading out again around 4:00 in the afternoon. We watch one failed attempt at a kill by a single lioness and come across several kills after the fact where we watch the families gorge themselves on wildebeest before the hyena, vulture, and foxes move in for their share. The afternoons are spent watching the wildebeest and zebra that stroll past our tent or herds grazing on the plain that our camp overlooks. On Day 3, we depart Kimondo Camp at 6:00 am to make our way to Dunia Camp where we will meet up with our guide from Asilia’s Namiri Plains Camp who will drive us the rest of the way to Namiri. As we leave the lush greenery of the South we enter a landscape that is sparse, dusty and seemingly devoid of wildlife, and exit to the woodlands where we spot more lions, hundreds of birds and tons of tetsy flies. 3 hours into our journey, the landscape opens up to reveal the vast golden tall grass plains where herds of elephants graze against a background of massive kopjes that date back billions of years. It’s a stunning site to see. We arrive at Dunia and are greeted by the warm smiles of the camp staff and our new guide, Patena. We’re told that if we drive straight through we can reach Namiri in about 3.5 hours. Off we go with the intent to only stop for “extraordinary” sights. Within 30 minutes we’re sitting on the side of the road watching a baboon troop play in the river. We agree once again to stay focused and only stop for “extraordinary” sights. 15 minutes later we’re once again sitting by the site roads to watch some hippos in a small pool. Ok - this time we’re really going to focused I say to Patena. A few minutes later we spot a serval cat and we all laugh and agree that everything in this part of the Serengeti is at some level extraordinary. Namiri is located about 1.5 hours from the busy central Serengeti on a part of the Eastern Serengeti that is known for it’s big cat population. Prior to late 2014, the area was closed off from the public for 20 years and deemed an important habit for cheetah. Namiri is the only camp within a 70km radius. Because of its remote location few others venture into the area. You can drive for hours and not see another vehicle. As we turned off the main road and started inching closer to the camp, I knew I had selected a special location but I had no inkling of just how special this place would prove to be. The camp is comprised of 6 tents and overlook a marshy area that is often frequented by elephants, topi, gazelle, and of course cats. During our briefing we’re told the camp is often visited at night by a band of 5 male lions the staff have nicknamed the “5 Brothers” and that they had just visited a few days ago and caused some commotion. I only half believed the story but selfishly hoped for a visit during my stay. I’ve always wanted to hear the roar of lion but would be perfectly happy if I just got to hear a call or two. Later that afternoon we go out on our first drive and within 20 minutes we spot the 5 Brothers who had gorged themselves on zebra earlier that day. We sit watching and laughing as one by one they attempt to reposition their bloated bodies only to give up and literally throw themselves on the ground in pure exhaustion. After watching this hilarious scene for a bit we head toward the nearby woodlands stopping along the way to watch a family of Bat-eared Foxes, and observe several different bird species, before returning to camp. Back at camp we have drinks and appetizers around the fire pit with the other guests and reminisce about the day's events. That night there are 5 other guests and each is absolutely delightful. The following morning we awake to the cheerful sound of the staff who delivers coffee and cookies to our tent, thereafter we’re off on our first morning game drive. Not far from the camp we spot two male lions that Patena refers to as the “trouble makers.” He explains the lions have arrived on the scene about a month or so ago and have been mating with the lionesses from another pride, and the guides believe that a coup dé·tat is imminent. As we start to head east across the vast short grass plains we spot a female cheetah. We stop to observe but she’s a bit skittish so we sit quietly and watch from a distance until she calms. We slowly approach but are very careful not to frighten her or overstay our welcome. I manage to take a few photographs but the lighting is not right so for a change I just sit and enjoy the moment. As we continue east we come upon some large kopjes where Patena spots a flicker of movement. As we get closer we see a female lioness who has separated from the pride. She climbs down the kopje and comes closer stopping less than 2 ft from the jeep. She lingers for a moment and then as she starts walking away she begins to sniff the ground and makes a low rumble of a call for her mates. Nearby, there’s a herd of Gazelle in her path but they seem to understand that she poses no danger. She moves in closer (about 50 feet maybe) and takes a seat. One by one the Gazelle cross directly in front of her. Pausing briefly to acknowledge her before they calmly move on. On our 2nd night, as we drift off to sleep we hear the distant call of lions. A few hours later my mom wakes me “Shannon, Shannon - I think there are lions near the tent.” Just as I start to tell her it’s ok I hear the grunts and they do sound quite close but I tell her not to worry and enjoy the experience. After about 45 minutes or so the grunts start to get louder and louder until they are no longer grunts but full blown roars. Now, I’m convinced the lions are not just nearby but right outside our tent. I can’t believe I’m hearing the roar of a lion - not a call but a ROAR! Within minutes the excitement turns to concern as I realize we have all the blinds up in the tent and, with each movement I send a large and erratic shadow across the tent. Random thoughts start to fill my head. I think of a house cat sitting at the window and swatting at a bug. I wonder if I move is this lion going to think I’m a bug? Do lions eat bugs? Has anyone ever been pulled from their tent by lion? Of course not, I tell myself. Then, I realize that I have to go to bathroom. We wait a bit longer realizing that we haven’t seen the flashlights of the guards; which is strange b/c they are always out securing the area. Over time it becomes clear that the lion or lions are not leaving and the guards are not coming. I grab the radio and call for help. Sa’id picks up and I say “Sa’id, there are lions outside of tent - do you know that?” He replies in a very calm voice that he’s aware and tells me not to worry. I reluctantly agree and disconnect. The lion calls go on but now it seems we have a chorus of lions joining in. Some sound “nearby” and others sound very, very close - like right outside our tent. Still, there is no sign of the guards. As I lay deathly still, barely breathing, for what seems like hours, I wonder if the guards are lost or maybe they’ve been eaten. Who knows but one thing I know is that I have to pee. So, I grab the radio and call Sa’id again “Sa’id, I think the guards are at the wrong tent. I don’t see them anywhere and the lion is still here BUT NOW I CAN SEE HIM - He is right outside my tent and I’m scared! Also, I have to go to the bathroom. Do you think its ok if I move since the blinds are up?” The next thing I hear is a roar BUT not from the lions. Instead it’s Said who through his laughter says “yes, Ms. Shannon I think it’s safe for you to go to the bathroom. I promise the guards are nearby and you have nothing to worry about.” I disconnect and fly across the tent barely touching the floor until I reach the bathroom. I fly back to bed and look to see if the lion is still visible. He’s gone and soon thereafter the calls and roars die down I fall back asleep. The next morning we all share a good laugh over the night’s events and learn a bit more about what transpired. I’m told that initially it was 2 of the 5 brothers who visited the camp. The other 3 brothers joined later. The reason that we didn’t see flashlights is because sometimes they can call attention or create danger for the guards. I’m not sure that I understand that part but all is well that ends well. We spent 7 amazing days at Namiri and observed some incredible animal behavior - thanks to our guide, Patena. We developed a genuine affection and respect for him. Each day we would head out at 6:00 and some days stay out all day. Our days were filled with adventure, laughter and magical experiences. We spent hours upon hours immersed in the “bush experience” where we learned not only about the large mammals but the entire ecosystem. We also spent a considerable amount of time talking about our different cultures - his Massai, politics, education and just about everything else. The quality of guiding and the depth of knowledge that Patena exhibited is unique and in my opinion, rare and a privilege to share. We chose Namiri b/c of it’s remote and scenic location and resident game population, and we were not disappointed. One afternoon as we’re driving out of camp we stopped to watch a Topi being chased by a Eland. Nearby there was a herd of Elephants. As we watched this strange scene between the Topi and Eland play out in front us, Patena noticed the matriarch of the herd was in some discomfort. She began to stretch her hind legs and then she would attempt to sit, only to quickly stand up. You could see movement in her stomach. She then played down only to stand up again. The motions were those of an elephant giving birth but it was clear that she was not pregnant. As her discomfort continued the rest of the herd came to her aid and surrounded her. She then called out in a low but strong rumble. The rest of the herd continued at her side with some of the younger ones calling out and flaying about. Clearly she was in distress. After a few minutes the top of ridge behind began to fill with Elephants from nearby herd coming to her aid. It was one of the most amazing and touching sights I’ve ever seen. The herd continued to surround and comfort her, while others kept coming over the ridge. This scene went on for about an hour or so and as quickly as it began, it stopped. She came out from the middle of the herd with the older elephants lined up at her side. They continued marching in step across the marsh toward us. Once they passed us the herd loosened up and they continued on their way across the plain. During our time at Namiri we observed 6 cheetahs and considering the entire population is estimated to be 330 we felt very charmed. We watched herds of elephants with their babies including the one I describe above. We also spotted a wild cat, several families of Bat-eared Foxes, hyenas, waterbuck, topi, Eland and countless species of birds. In the afternoons we would watch the Elephants stroll by the camp and one afternoon we had cheetah visit. I’m not sure if I’m just charmed or if what I describe in this report are every day events. Asilia exceeded my expectations in every single possible way - the camps the staff, the guides, the accommodations, the food, and most importantly the work they do in the communities they reside in. I seriously can’t imagine staying with another company after this trip. Some Tips and Observations: At the time of this writing Coastal Airlines is the only operator flying from Kigali to the Serengeti and they only have 1 flight per day that leaves at 6:00 AM. Book early as it fills up quickly. The flight stops in Mwanza where you go through immigration. The process is simple and the day we were there it took about 30 minutes. The agents will ask you for a yellow fever card so make sure you have it available. The Hôtel des Milles Collines was excellent - great service and good food all at very reasonable prices. The rooms are small but nicely appointed. Kimondo Camp when in the South is located near a hunting reserve and because of this there are no Elephants anywhere near the camp. We booked Kimondo as filler camp as Namiri had no availability as such we therefore it was just fine for the 2 nights that we stayed. Namiri - The winds can be very strong so bring warm clothing for the morning drives and lots of lotion and chap stick to stave off the effects of wind burn. The quality of wildlife viewing and guiding at Namiri was SUPERB but some may have been disappointed by the number of sightings. We prefer quality over number so it wasn’t a problem for us. The tents are spacious and well appointed with indoor and outdoor showers and hot water 24/7. We opted for a private open air jeep and guide during our entire stay and looking back I think it was money well spent. If you’re staying at all Asilia camps and opt for the private guide Asilia will arrange for the guide to travel between the camps with you. I was not aware of this option when I booked but when I go back I will take advantage of the offer. Mary at Planet Africa was my agent and she did a spectacular job with this trip.
  20. I was inspired by recent retrospectives, and by posts in other threads’ talk of Gorillas, to look back through my photos. As you will see from the title, we went on this trip in 2005 – August – so many of the practical information will not be of much use to those planning a trip now, (but I have put in information which could be of help). However, if you like looking at Gorillas, the occasional chimp or monkey and some Ugandan animals (such as the Kob, and the Forest Hog), I hope you enjoy the pictures! I had always wanted to see chimpanzees since reading Jane Goodall’s “In the Shadow of Man” as an A-Level Biology student (yes, it was a long time ago!). We had both always wanted to see Gorillas. We stayed 13 nights. All arrangements were through Discovery Initiatives (now taken over by Steppes) – all ground arrangements were by Volcanoes Safaris. We had a car/driver guide throughout the trip. We were picked up at Entebbe Airport and drove towards Fort Portal – on the way we saw some of the famous Ankole cattle with extraordinary horns. We went to the Ruwenzori Guest House (3 nights) to visit the Kibale Forest. This was a fairly basic guest house with charming hosts and wonderful food. Kibale Forest National Park is an evergreen forest. We visited the forest on 2 days to track chimpanzees. The light was difficult, and the chimps moved quickly as we tracked them through the forest with specialist Uganda Wildlife Authority guides. The chimps were incredibly noisy, screeching as they ran through the trees – it was exciting seeing them and being close to them as they went about their lives. (Though difficult to photograph!) Chimpanzees above us And around us And finally in peace... I believe it is now possible to have an "habituation" experience where you can spend all day with chimps - we would have done that if it was a vailable at that time!
  21. ~ The Rwanda Development Board held the annual Gorilla Naming Day — Kwita Izina — for 24 baby gorillas born in Rwanda's national parks where the gorilla population continues to increase. There is a revenue-sharing program for communities surrounding Rwanda's national parks where gorilla trekking occurs.
  22. 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.
  23. Wildlife Explorer is a small, family owned and managed company specialising in tented safaris into the wilderness of big game country and cultural journeys into the heart and soul of Africa. It has always been our philosophy to not follow the crowds, include areas that are exclusive to Wildlife Explorer and to go that extra mile to ensure a totally unique experience in Africa. I have added some photographs to this post to give you a quick look at some of our accommodations. Please join our community by signing up to our monthly newsletter. We look forward to talking to you and designing your ideal itinerary into the exclusive wilderness of Africa. NEWS: We are now offering a luxury African safari tailored specifically for women. These trips are led by Hannah Strand and are designed to focus specifically on the women of Tanzania, offering exposure and support to womens groups in rural areas.
  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. 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.

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