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A Thousand Hills, A Million Smiles & Gentle Giants - a Rwanda and Kenya Safari


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This was a special safari for three reasons:


It was my tenth (if I can count India and the Pantanal).

It was the way I had decided to celebrate my 40th birthday.

And my mother had agreed to stop being just a @@screentraveller and joined us (@@AndMic and me) for the last week of this trip.


So, what did we do?


Enjoy Akagera National Park in the East of Rwanda, a rarely-visited jewel with so much potential.






We wanted to do something special for this trip, and what can be more special than seeing our closest kin? Gorillas of course - Volcanoes National Park.










The Mara was where we hoped to get our "Big Cat " fix.






Kakamega, the last part of Congo jungle in Kenya. And home to some very special birds.






Some leisure time at Lake Baringo.






Flamingos! Flamingos! Flamingos! (Lake Bogoria of course)






Rhino h(e)aven in Solio.








And of course return to my favourite place, the Aberdares.






So - how difficult were those Gorilla treks? How much rain in November/December? How many birds did we see? Who was hit by a Gorilla? Which baby animals from last time did we see all grown-up, and their nephews/nieces as well? How did Jesus feature in this trip? How many punctures did we have? What do you do when angry young men block the road with burning brushwood? In how many colours do Bee-Eaters come? How c-c-co-cold are the Aberdares at night? Which unexpected guests made walking around Sandai Farm much more of a challenge?


And most important:


Would Mum like it?

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This sounds like an epic adventure, can't wait to read more. I'll be interested in your experience in Rwanda, to compare to my own. What a great way to celebrate your 40th!

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Looking forward to this too! Ready when you are for the next installments!!!

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@@michael-ibk Thank you for giving me some incentive to visit Lake Baringo, Kakamega Forest ,and Aberdares all of which are just around the corner from me. I think that I'm going to do some tented camping accompanied by a fine guide. I'm delighted that you loved all of them so much.

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Great start! I know the answer to the next to the last question! :)

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@@michael-ibk oh goody, I've been waiting for this!


Those are 3 impressive reasons to make this a special safari, your 10th, your 40th and a first trip for your mother. Pure safari magic.


Sooooo looking forward to more when you have time.

Edited by Treepol
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What intriguing questions you pose! Your intro shots are show stoppers already, especially the birds! So glad you visited Akagera. You are off to a fabulous start.

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Oh, boy! I've been looking forward to this one since you first mentioned it in one of the "Who's planning for 201x?" threads. We're headed to Rwanda in June, so the question, "How difficult were those gorilla treks?" resonated immediately. Until I got to, "Who was hit by a gorilla?" Now you've got my attention!


I don't think I knew you were including Akagera on this trip. I'm most interested to hear your impressions of it, as we decided to try Nyungwe in lieu, and time did not allow for both.


Can't wait for more.

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Very timely for me. Having daily heated discussions with my wife about where to go to see the gorillas. Uganda, Rwanda, Odzala or Virunga in DRC ? My inclination is towards Virunga in DRC, but your experience would be very beneficial to make up my mind.

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A great intro to what sounds like a wonderful trip to celebrate your 40th birthday.

Wonderful photos - and it looks like you may have 1 or 2 birds to add to your list!

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I literally just said out loud "Oh Goody!" when I saw your trip report had started! My daughter said "Did you just say Oh Goody?" I said "yes, I am very excited that @@michael-ibk has started his trip report!" Well, I just said "Michael" not the full ST name LOL. Can't wait to read it as I sit here 5 weeks from departure on our own safari including the gorillas! I love the teaser questions - oh dear, I do want to know who got hit by a gorilla and hope it wasn't too hard! I love the opening photos! I didn't realize somehow you were going to so many different place in Kenya - love the rhinos, gorillas of course (that baby!), the blue bird at Kakamega (I'm sure you will tell us what it is!), the flamingos, the scenic shot of Akagera - all great - bring it on!

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Oh good, a new @@michael-ibk trip report!


I will be interested to read about Kakamega Forest, Lake Baringo and Lake Bogoria since I will be visiting them in two weeks. So this TR is a welcome scouting report.

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Thank you for the warm "welcome", everybody!




damn if you don't have some sunny skies! I barely saw the sun for the last 10 days




Carefully chosen pics! This was the rainy season after all. ;)




The blue bird is a Great Blue Turaco. Confident to get to the Gorilla part before you leave.


OTOH, @@offshorebirder , I kind of doubt I will cover Kakamega, Baringo/Bogoria before you leave, so if you have any questions (need info about guides) I´d be happy to help via PM of course.

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So, to start, here´s the full itinerary for this one:


18/11 Depart in Europe, Ethiopian Airlines (INN-VIE-ADD-KGL)

19/11 Arrive Kigali by noon, drive to Akagera (~ 3 hours), o/n Ruzizi Tented Lodge

20/11 Akagera, o/n Ruzizi Tented Lodge

21/11 Akagera, o/n Ruzizi Tented Lodge

22/11 Drive to Kigali (~ 3 hours), visit the Genocide memorial, drive to Volcanoes National Park (~ 3 hours),

o/n Gorilla Mountain View Lodge

23/11 1st Gorilla trek, o/n Gorilla Mountain View Lodge

24/11 2nd Gorilla trek, drive to Kigali (~3 hours), fly to Nairobi, o/n Eka Hotel

25/11 Drive to the Mara (~ 7 hours), Game Drive, o/n Aruba Mara Camp

26/11 Mara, Aruba Mara Camp

27/11 Mara to Triangle, o/n Mara Siria

28/11 Mara Triangle, Mara Siria

29/11 Drive to Kakamega NP (~ 9 hours), o/n Rondo Retreat Centre

30/11 Kakamega, o/n Rondo Retreat Centre

1/12 Drive to Lake Baringo (~ 5 hours), o/n Tumbili Cliffs Lodge

2/12 Day trip to Lake Bogoria (about 90 minutes), o/n Tumbili Cliffs Lodge

3/12 Drive to Sandai Farm (~ 6 hours), join up with my mother there, o/n Sandai Farm

4/12 Solio Game Reserve, o/n Sandai Farm

5/12 Aberdares Moorlands, o/n Fishing Lodge

6/12 Aberdares Moorlands, o/n Sandai Farm

7/12 Aberdares Salient, o/n The Ark

8/12 Aberdares Salient and Wandare sector, o/n Sandai Farm

9/12 Solio Game Reserve, o/n Sandai Farm

10/12 Drive to Nairobi ( ~ 3 1/2 hours), fly back (NBO-ADD-FRA-INN) to Europe. :(


In Rwanda we used Umubano Tours (http://www.umubanotours.com/). Great company, very fast in responding, and everything was like discussed. The car war good and reliable, and we really enjoyed the company of our guide/driver Didier Shema, a very bright, friendly and hard-working young man. Umubano were by far the cheapest with their offer (out of six companies), I was baffled how I could have differences of more than USD 1,000,-- for the exactly identical 5-night itinerary. Expert Africa were also a pleasure to deal with, but in the end they just could not beat that price. And since we already had a very favourable trip report here on Umubano by @@BonitaApplebum it was an easy decision to go with them. And a good decision.


In Kenya we arranged everything through Petra Allmendinger from Sandai Farm, and here we had Paul Kung´u Mura (who we already spent a week with last year in the Aberdares) as our guide and driver for the whole trip. Again, everything worked perfectly, and Paul and Petra were simply a pleasure - again.


Kigali airport was nice and quite efficient (on arrival, departure was a nightmare - but we´ll get to that), and of course it felt wonderful stepping out of the airport and enjoy the African sun again. And yes, sun, even though it was the rainy season, we were quite lucky with the weather. We did have our share of rain of coure, and cloudy skies as well, but also many sunny hours, and we were thankful for that.


The first impression of Rwanda?




It´s green - and it´s clean! As much as I love Kenya, the amount of plastic waste there is just disgraceful, and I really wish they would do something about it. In Rwanda they have - plastic is banned, and every Saturday every citizen is under obligation to clean up in the area close to their home. And it works, the country is almost spotless, a joy for the eyes. (Actually, the plastic thing was also a small worry on arrival since we tend to pack our things in little plastic bags, but nobody checked.)




Rwanda is a very densely populated country, so outside of the three national parks (Akagera, Volcanoes, Nyungwe) there are no "wild" areas left, every parcel of land is used for something, and people are everywhere.




But let´s fast forward to



Edited by michael-ibk
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Our first animal - a Brown Snake-Eagle. I will not post every bird we saw on this trip, promise (at least not here, that´s what the Big Year thread is for), but this was one of our most photogenic raptor sightings.













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Thanks for posting your itinerary. That part of Africa is on our radar, but I haven't thought of combining the 2 countries. It seems it worked for you, and that's very encouraging, considering the distance (and time) we have to travel to get there. Was Nov-Dec a good time to go, in term of weather and wildlife sightings? Based on your first set of pics, I think so :)

Great eagle pics!

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@micheal ibk I wish that the Kenyan government would encourage people to use their plastic garbage to make construction material. Africans are already the world's greatest recyclers, they only need more encouragement.

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Now it is my time to enjoy in reading your TR. hopefuly there will be wifi reception in the hammock under the palm trees ...

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@@michael-ibk spectacular Brown Snake-Eagle photos! If all your bird photos are like those, I wouldn't mind you posting them all in here a bit!

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That "Big Year" thread has helped you perfect those absolutely gorgeous shots of the birds! the fish eagle, the turaco, the snake eagle... so finely detailed.


intriguing story of the being hit by a gorilla but can't wait to feast on your gorilla pictures.

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