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michael-ibk

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

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michael-ibk

It was an absolutely magical hour, completely different from our first trek, and again, we found it very hard to say good bye to the Hirwa familly, but sadly we just had to.

 

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"Aww, do you really have to leave?"

 

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"That´s quite sad, but I will just lick bamboo."

 

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"You can go now, I would like to give my dèrriere a good scratch anyway."

 

 

And so we left.

 

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Good Bye, Volcano Mountains, you were fantastic!

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michael-ibk

Even though check-out time is already at 10:00 am (and you are asked to have everything packed before you leave for the trek) we were allowed to still use the room for shower and change and also got a full shoe-cleaning treatment. We had plenty of time to enjoy lunch at the lodge (it started raining again of course) and departed at 13:00.

 

A few more outtakes from the road and Kigali city:

 

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Kigali:

 

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We arrived at the airport at 16:30, so plenty of time to make our flight. The airport was quite unpleasant this time: My main luggage was searched (don´t know why they picked me) and my Red Pod (a small beanbag you mount on the camera) raised their suspicions. This is filled with small little transparent thingies, and they accused me of having drugs in there. This was really scary, there are definitely more fun things than being suspected of trafficking drugs at an African airport. I did not really think they would arrest me but the prospect of missing our flight was very real. After half an hour (or maybe less, it seemed an eternity to me) the situation resolved itself when a second officer was called to assess the situation. Apparently he had seen such a thing before, and finally I was free to go. Phew!

 

Even though this was quite a scare I have nothing but good memoires of Rwanda: The wonderful landscape with its green (thousands) hills, the lack of rubbish anywhere, the smiling children, the wonderful scenery and wildlife in Akagera, and of course the magical Gorilla encounters at the feet of the majestic Volcano mountains - this trip was everything I had hoped for and more, and I really would like to go back for more.

 

But now - moving on to Kenya!

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amybatt

Wow what two very different experiences you had! I'm glad you did two and got to see them both in good photography poses and interacting and playing. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and the photos! You did so well on both!

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ld1

@@michael-ibk we also visited the Hirwa group ?? whenever I read other people's reports of visiting them I get a little tug at my heart strings. We had to work a little harder to trek to them, but I was enchanted by that bamboo forest along the way.

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Atravelynn

Your videos capture the rough and tumble, complete with a little chest beating. They move so quickly. Who would think @@AndMic would get into a gorilla altercation on the mountain and you and your Red Pod would be involved in a drug search incident?

 

Fortunately it all worked out, the gorillas were wonderful, and then on to Kenya.

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Atravelynn

 

 

You guys have new glass or new bodies or something (I am writing it like that to broaden the safari-useful vocabulary of @@Atravelynn even further, just in case she doesn't have those two yet - example "Wow, that new glass on your full frame body really brings out the detail in those BIF" Lynn)). A different look and some closer looks? Or just my imagination?*

 

I get it now. My vocab really does need expanding. At first I thought you were saying I should compliment them on their fine, fit physiques! Ok I will and on their lenses too! And of course the BIFs! Yes, this is a brilliant report in every respect!

 

I always appreciate your tutelage, Pault!

 

Edited by Atravelynn

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SafariChick

@@michael-ibk Fabulous second gorilla trip! Ok I definitely know we are going to request the Hirwa group for our second day too - that was a perfect second trek! The juveniles are too cute and the mother with baby was so sweet. When she lay down and crossed one leg over the other and was caressing the baby, it was so human-like also. I'm glad @@AndMic wasn't hit too hard and it was by juveniles, not the silverback! The scenery is just so gorgeous too! I cannot wait to get there.

 

What a scary thing to have happen at the airport! Did they cut the bean bag open? And if so, were you able to salvage it? So glad the officer arrived who had seen it before. I guess this is a good reason to get to the airport three hours early which they recommend. I'm starting to think we should have flown to Kenya the night of our second trek instead of what we arranged which is flying in the early morning (7 a.m.) - we are staying the last night in Kigali after second trek but then have to be at the airport at 4 a.m. for a 7 a.m. flight - ugh. I'm sure we'll be tired enough to go to sleep early though.

Edited by SafariChick

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Antee

Great Gorilla story Michael - the drug dealer! :)

They always say that Rwanda has more open areas were they live than Uganda. Not that much bushes and that Rwanda is better if you want photos. After your first day it seemed like a myth only but it was alot more Rwanda-open-area on your second trek.

In the end, it is a matter of where they are at the moment. Not if they are in Rwanda or Uganda I think.

Edited by Antee

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Alexander33

Okay, I admit I laughed out loud when I heard @@AndMic grunt and the video go blurry. I'll bet neither of you will ever forget that! All's well that ends well, though, and the Hirwa group certainly provided you with a most memorable last trek. Glad you made it out of the country without a trek to prison!

 

Seriously, this is just a delightful report. Looking forward to Kenya next.

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dlo

Great stuff Michael I really have no words for such a great experience. It certainly makes me anxious to return. I'm very glad you were able to get you're drugs through!

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AKR1

What happened to Michael at Kigali airport is quiet disconcerting and somewhat surprising. Rwanda depends upon tourists virtually all of whom come to see the gorillas. The fact that they do not know what a bean bag is, given the amount of camera equipment that must pass through daily, is in itself odd, but it could just be the individual. Anyway alls well that ends well.

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Atravelynn

The bean bag incident should not overshadow your fantastic gorilla visits, but one more question on it. Was it screwed on to the bottom of your camera when the misunderstanding occurred?

 

When you mentioned Hirwa was so named for the luck in establishing the group, I recall being told that the silverback was able to round up his harem in one day. For some it can take months or years, if it ever happens. I also remember Munyinya was supposed to be extra sweet and good natured and we could see that with his interaction with the youngsters. "Munyinya, the big guy himself was completely unfazed by all the ruckus around him, and of course he ignored us completely as well." and your video clip would support that sunny, unflappable disposition. Maybe that's why he was so lucky with the ladies. Friendliness is attractive.

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michael-ibk

At first glance pic #3 of post 48 appeared to be a pith sculpture. I thought perhaps in your honor, on your birthday and all.

 

@@Atravelynn

 

It took me a while until I figured out where you saw a pith in that picture. Got it! I´m afraid they were just doing pizza in the pith. :)

 

I remembered the Long Crested Eagle story from your report, Lynn, and I thought about it every time I saw this bird in Rwanda.

 

Wow what two very different experiences you had! I'm glad you did two and got to see them both in good photography poses and interacting and playing. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and the photos! You did so well on both!

 

Thank you , @@amybatt . It really was like day and night, like two completely different activites. I´m sure you will enjoy your treks as well, few things that are more touching and beautiful. About the photos - as mentioned we really, really struggled the second time and had to delete a lot. Simply too dark to get anything, especially movement. An f/2.8 lens and/or a full-frame camera would undoubtedly be very helpful.

 

 

@@michael-ibk we also visited the Hirwa group whenever I read other people's reports of visiting them I get a little tug at my heart strings. We had to work a little harder to trek to them, but I was enchanted by that bamboo forest along the way.

 

Delighted to hear you saw them too, @@ld1 . I really liked Munyinya and the way he interacted with the young ones, did he do that back then too?

 

@@michael-ibk Fabulous second gorilla trip! Ok I definitely know we are going to request the Hirwa group for our second day too - that was a perfect second trek! The juveniles are too cute and the mother with baby was so sweet. When she lay down and crossed one leg over the other and was caressing the baby, it was so human-like also. I'm glad @@AndMic wasn't hit too hard and it was by juveniles, not the silverback! The scenery is just so gorgeous too! I cannot wait to get there.

 

What a scary thing to have happen at the airport! Did they cut the bean bag open? And if so, were you able to salvage it? So glad the officer arrived who had seen it before. I guess this is a good reason to get to the airport three hours early which they recommend. I'm starting to think we should have flown to Kenya the night of our second trek instead of what we arranged which is flying in the early morning (7 a.m.) - we are staying the last night in Kigali after second trek but then have to be at the airport at 4 a.m. for a 7 a.m. flight - ugh. I'm sure we'll be tired enough to go to sleep early though.

 

@@SafariChick

 

Andreas was very happy it was not the silverback as well. ;)

 

And yes, many of the behaviour we observed was uncannily human-like, it makes the Gorillas really very special.

 

No, they did not have to cut it open. It has a velcro fastener (which I never noticed before). By all means, do allow plenty of time at the airport. It was not very well organized, long queues, and quite confusing - the monitors said a flight would be at a certain gate, then you went there and were told that it was a completely different one ...

 

Flying in the evening worked fine for us, but I was a bit nervous. Even with the short-range group it could well have happened that they would be on the move and we would have to track them for hours. Don´t know what we would have done then.

 

Great Gorilla story Michael - the drug dealer! :)

 

They always say that Rwanda has more open areas were they live than Uganda. Not that much bushes and that Rwanda is better if you want photos. After your first day it seemed like a myth only but it was alot more Rwanda-open-area on your second trek.

 

In the end, it is a matter of where they are at the moment. Not if they are in Rwanda or Uganda I think.

 

Thanks, @@Antee . Actually the first day was much better for photography, difficult terrain but under open sky, so much better light there. It was not really open the second day, the photos are probably misleading because I picked a few where one Gorilla would sit in a clearing just for a few moments, generally this was very thick bamboo.

 

Okay, I admit I laughed out loud when I heard @@AndMic grunt and the video go blurry. I'll bet neither of you will ever forget that! All's well that ends well, though, and the Hirwa group certainly provided you with a most memorable last trek. Glad you made it out of the country without a trek to prison!

 

Seriously, this is just a delightful report. Looking forward to Kenya next.

 

Thank you, @@Alexander33 ! No, we won´t forget, and of course we impressed all our friends with that story of how Andreas was hit by the Gorilla! :)

 

 

Great stuff Michael I really have no words for such a great experience. It certainly makes me anxious to return. I'm very glad you were able to get you're drugs through!

 

Thanks, @@dlo , now you know how to do it. ;)

 

What happened to Michael at Kigali airport is quiet disconcerting and somewhat surprising. Rwanda depends upon tourists virtually all of whom come to see the gorillas. The fact that they do not know what a bean bag is, given the amount of camera equipment that must pass through daily, is in itself odd, but it could just be the individual. Anyway alls well that ends well.

 

Well, it was not very pleasant, @@AKR1 , but to be fair the employer there just did his job, and I guess the Red Pod can raise suspicions. I don´t know how common this thing really is, I never saw anybody else use it, just know it from Safaridude´s reports. And there must be something in there, it´s not the first time securitiy was at least curious about it, I had to put it out a few times in German airports as well.

 

The bean bag incident should not overshadow your fantastic gorilla visits, but one more question on it. Was it screwed on to the bottom of your camera when the misunderstanding occurred?

 

When you mentioned Hirwa was so named for the luck in establishing the group, I recall being told that the silverback was able to round up his harem in one day. For some it can take months or years, if it ever happens. I also remember Munyinya was supposed to be extra sweet and good natured and we could see that with his interaction with the youngsters. "Munyinya, the big guy himself was completely unfazed by all the ruckus around him, and of course he ignored us completely as well." and your video clip would support that sunny, unflappable disposition. Maybe that's why he was so lucky with the ladies. Friendliness is attractive.

 

Lynn, no, I had the cameras in my hand luggage and the Pod in the main bag. I demonstrated its use and screwed it on the camera but it was clear that the security guy had no idea why one would screw a little red bag on a camera. :)

 

Oh, you saw the Hirwa group as well! Have to re-read your report, hope to see them again there! :)

Edited by michael-ibk

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dlo

Thanks Michael I've only ever had one problem at all my border crossings and such and that was in Zanzibar where some guy said hey don't you know there is a export tax on that Zanzibar Chest you're taking. I sussed this guy out quick and laughed at him but Chris seemed confused and they seperated us and took her behind a curtain. At least at this point the guy was honest and straight up asked for a bribe. I went and found Chris and they lost interest.

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Chakra

Looks like the gorillas wanted you guys to join in the fun !

Great job by Rwandans to save these last few and the more people like you share theie experinces, the more people will be interested in visiting them generating revenue. As you may have guessed I have been planning a trip to Virunga NP, DRC-Kinshasa. But the political situation in DRC keeps on interrupting my plan. Rwanda seems to be a safer option and clearly not inferior to DRC.

Many thanks for sharing the experince.

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ld1

@@michael-ibk Munyinya was very patient with the young ones on our visit too. He was snoozing in the sunshine when we first arrived and two small ones were playing and rolling around him and in top of him for almost the whole of our hour before he gently brushed them aside and wandered off for a bite to eat.

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michael-ibk

Moving on to Kenya!

 

We were picked up in Nairobi by our guide Paul. Immigration was very quick, we had not bothered to get an E-Visa, and actually the regular Visa queue was much shorter than the other ones. We spent the night at the Eka Hotel (reasonable price, nice rooms, close to the airport) and immediately crashed when we finally got there - it had been a long day!

 

We departed at 07:30 next morning for the Mara. Traffic in the city was not too bad, and we made quite good progress.

 

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The view over the Rift Valley

 

Good Progress for a while - but then we had a puncture. Paul wanted to have it repaired, and this cost us an hour in Narok where we waited in a shopping centre and desperately tried all the ATMs until finally one worked.

 

The road from Narok to the Mara is infamous, and rightly so. This time it was much worse than at our 2014 September trip, the term "road" is almost an euphemism, and our "African massage" was hardcore. Really cannot understand why the connecting road to the Mara, Kenya´s most important reserve, a huge cashcow, can be in such a bad state. :angry:

 

Finally, finally, we arrived in Mara Aruba Camp (more about that later) at 14:30. Some rest, shower, lunch, and we went on a short afternoon game drive at about 16:00. We still had a bit of sun as we entered the park but dark clouds were already looming.

 

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But soon it became very, very dark and while we still saw the usual suspects we did not take too many photos because of the very low light.

 

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Our worries about high grass were unfounded - the area close to the gate was still completely brown, had obviously not received much rain till now, and even the Talek river was nothing more than a thirsty trickle of water.

 

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We saw Zebra, Wildebeest, Tommies, Grant´s, Giraffes, Warthogs, a few Banded Mongoose, a Pallid Harrier hunting a Hare, two Spotted Hyenas, many birds of course - the Mara was full of life.

 

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Topi baby

 

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Unfortunately we also would regularly encounter a lot of cattle during our time in the reserve.

 

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We would see plenty of lions in the Mara, these were our first ones. By now it had started raining, and soon the slight drizzle turned into a deluge, and it was pitch dark when we arrived back in camp.

 

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Patty

I really like the stormy photos!

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michael-ibk

This was the safari of mating birds - after the Pin-Tailed Whydahs here are the Crowned Lapwings:

 

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michael-ibk

The weather was much better next morning, and while it was still quite cloudy we would enjoy a fair amount of sun.

 

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Straight away we had one of my favourite sightings of this trip:

 

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A Bat-Eared Fox in the morning light. I simply adore these animals, I love their funny faces with the big ears, and while we have seen them a couple of times those sightings were mostly at night, or they were running off quickly, or kept a long distance to us. This one was much more obliging, and I was happy!

 

But even more happy when we saw that she had pups!

 

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This was such a lovely sighting, I still have to smile just thinking about it. After a few minutes they ran and soon were out of sight - probably down into their burrow.

 

But after less than ten minutes we had our next sighting:

 

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Bat-Eared Foxes again! (A different family). The last time we had spent six nights in the Mara and never saw this animal, and now two sightings in less than fifteen minutes - wonderful!

 

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The pups disappeared as soon as they saw us, but the mother was curious and just looked at us, and so after a while the pups decided to come out again. :)

 

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The morning sun came out from behind the clouds again and made this sighting even better:

 

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They were delightfully relaxed about our presence, and it was lovely seeing this small family interact.

 

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After about five minutes they decided we had had enough Bat-Eared-Fox goodness for one safari (we would not see them again) and retreated "down under".

 

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One last peek.

Edited by michael-ibk

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michael-ibk

Grins all over, we moved on to see what else the Mara had in store for us. Like yesterday we stayed in the area North of Talek river.

 

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We had not really seen this the day before because of the very bad weather - but now we realized that there were still big herds in the Mara, a pleasant surprise.

 

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And no shortage of other grazers:

 

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Coke´s Hartebeest

 

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Buffalo

 

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Eland

 

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Tommie

 

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Grant´s Gazelle

 

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amybatt

Oh the bat-eared fox babies are the cutest thing ever! Very special sighting indeed!

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michael-ibk

We would see Lions a lot during the "morning" drive (we returned to camp around 13:30) - and in the main reserve in general, most of them doing the lion thing however (nothing), so just a few pics of this impressive male here:

 

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Edited by michael-ibk

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michael-ibk

Birdy time. :)

 

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Secretary Bird

 

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Little Bee-Eater

 

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Stout Cisticola

 

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Black-Winged Stilt

 

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Fork-Tailed Drongo

 

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Wire-Tailed Swallow

 

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Rufous-Naped Lark

 

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Wood Sandpiper

 

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Grey-Backed Fiscal

 

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Kittlitz´s Plover

 

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optig

@micheal Ibk you were indeed lucky to see bat eared foxes, especially those adorable cubs. I've only seen bat eared foxes twice once in Botswana, and once in Laikipia while I was staying at Laikipia Wilderness Camp.

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