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BRACQUENE

@pault @dlo

 

Uganda is indeed more and more an option for me because it has such variety in wildlife especially primates and exotic birds  in a transition zone between the tropical moist Central African rain forests and the drier East African savannah but for my wife’s 60th birthday we might go with my two sons to Zimbabwe starting probably with Mana but first let’s enjoy South and North Luangwa this July !

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dlo

@pault haha I'm thinking I'd have an edge on the chocolate kingfisher just for comic relief. I'm going to be honest with you the real tiring parts are actually on the way. Chris nearly fainting and my near stumble down a hillside are still to come. I believe it was in your Uganda report that you said something about needing to relax for a bit. We reached that point in Mutanda but I was told by Chris that she was not going anywhere one day and I could go on my own.

 

No elephants in Kibale but not quite done with the chimps. I also share your wife's elephant issues and yes I know my bat phobia makes no sense. 

 

@BRACQUENE I'm seriously thinking 2021 or 2022 for Mana. It is not a sure thing though, as you know there are many options. South Luangwa is one of my favourites and I'll be quite interested to hear of what you think of North Luangwa. The only sure thing for me is I won't be able to handle the heat in October in Mana so I'll have to look into how hot it is in August.

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BRACQUENE

@dlo

 

Well as you perhaps know by now ,  walking is my thing since Luangwa 2014 and a safari without at least a few days on foot would not be a big option for me and that's why Zambia ( seven days walking next summer with 4 Mwaleshi and 3 Mapazi) and Zimbabwe are always so high on my list ( Mana also for the dogs ) and given my son's are still fairly young and finishing their studies or starting to work , it should be preferably July  (holiday in Belgium and no exams possible ) in 2021 or 2022 but again I will keep you informed of my plans !

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dlo

Its already after 2 as we are waiting around with another group. As I'm picking a safari ant out of my shoe it is suggested that we are done for the day with our group. That's cool with me as it's been a good day but I'm pretty tired and hot. But it's the next sentence that gets my juices flowing again "would you like to go see a habituated group". Well of course we would so we quickly head back to our cars and make a short drive across the road.

 

I have no idea why we get to see more chimps but I've no complaints and after a very short walk a large and very noisy group are spread all around us. Now there are already people here and to be honest its pretty chaotic for awhile but with chimps high and low we try and move away from the biggest crowds. 

 

They are feeding above us and huge chunks of fruit are flying everywhere and as dodge one of those you need to dodge someone peeing from above the next moment. 

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This fellow stops traffic though as does not care one bit about the crowd of people around him. He hangs out in that tree observing everything around him probably contemplating his next move to the top. He and his brother are apparently quite the troublemakers according to our porter and are seemingly bound to be big players in the chimp hierarchy. We moved off after awhile and on our way out of the forest we spotted an old fellow on his own. 

 

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Back at the lodge that night we are having dinner when that familiar happy birthday song begins and we watch them bring out some cake for a lucky person. I comment to Chris that I wonder who this is for when they stop at our table and put the cake down. Ok not fair as my 50th was in December but Chris wanted her revenge for me surprising her in Kenya for her 40th so Robert and her organized my little surprise. As I already begin plotting against Chris for future birthdays we offer cake to all around us and chat late into the evening with another couple who are celebrating her 50th as well in a few day by going gorilla tracking.

 

Tomorrow is another busy day with a morning swamp walk and going to a vanilla farm in the afternoon.

 

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BRACQUENE

@dlo

 

Going to look for those Chimps would certainly get my juices flowing and I 'd  have loved to share that birthday cake with you , but as I return from a family reunion with dinner party It would probably be a bit to much :D

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dlo

The next morning we leave at 8 to go on a swamp walk at Bigodi wetlands  it's a community run project that preserves a decent chunk of habitat for large populations of various monkeys and apparently over 100 different bird species. 

 

We got very brief glimpses of most birds and the monkey views were good in spots. Lots of colubus especially red tailed and some black and and white as well as vervets and l'hoest. The terrain is easygoing and in the swampy areas are boardwalks so you should stay dry.

 

We had a good guide who was outgoing and knowledgeable and he brought a trainee guide with him. The trainee provided our laugh of the day when he failed to notice the line of safari ants he stepped in. Unfortunately for him it was bad enough that pants needed to be dropped. The head guide agreed with my theory that as tourists we should be allowed pictures of all the sites but he somewhat disagreed.

 

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After leaving the swamp we decided to do a little village tour. We've done many of these but I actually quite enjoyed this one. We first stopped off at a local brewer and tried some of the local moonshine. For me the beer was one of the better village beers I've had but oh man the gin was rough. I think I briefly went blind and there were quite a few chuckles at my expression but I recovered after a few moments. We moved on to a coffee tour but since we both hate coffee I cant give to much on this. We watched some ladies impressively do some basket weaving and after a quick lesson Chris jumped right in. She didn't do as well breaking the thing they used(lol at that description) but they managed to fix it but they decided it was best to end Chris's basket weaving career right there. The local healer/with doctor was interesting as well and just like western medicine it seems the most popular medicine involves sexual health. No little blue pills here though but still a very profitable business it seems. I did ask for something that would make my terrible neighbor go away but it involved a chimpanzee skull so I took a pass on that.

 

In the afternoon we went to a local vanilla farm. With Chris's cake business and my love of eating cake we thought it would be something different to see and do and maybe we could get some good vanilla.  We drove down a path to a small farm that had probably never seen a tourist before. Vanilla farms are actually not big in this part of Uganda and even though vanilla prices have risen like crazy here the farmers there have not benefited at all causing some to drop the crop altogether. It was an interesting visit and the smells were great but the crops were not in season so we went home empty handed.

 

We spent the night at Primate lodge again and tomorrow we drive to Bwindi for what will be a highlight of the trip.

 

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BRACQUENE

@dlo

 

Uganda always delivers and those primates pictures are wonderful but the story about the ants made my day ! ;)

 

 

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dlo

@BRACQUENE I'm sure you know how easy it is to get those ants on you. We ran across so many lines of ants and I came close a few times to having the same fate as that guide. I never realized how bad they could be until I was told a story about a teenage boy who got them in his pants and was told he would have to drop his pants but was to embarrased to do so at first and was apparently writhing around trying to free himself. We did turn around to give our guide some privacy but I've had one bite me so I'd drop my pants too.

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BRACQUENE

@dlo

 

I hope you don't mind but here is my first and only "confrontation" with an ant line in the Kafue last september close to the Busanga Plains with our awesome guide Gareth ( his feet only ! ) 

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dlo

They are impressive aren't they? You will run into many lines in Uganda. You always need to be alert.

On a side note Kafue is a park I've never even considered but it has quite a few advocates here including yourself and @Caracal among others. Maybe its something I need to educate myself about. 

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BRACQUENE

@dlo


Well if you like diversity in fauna and flora  and don‘t mind there is not a lion or elephant behind every corner go to Kafue,  better at the end of the dry season in October I think and if you can visit the whole NP by driving through it from south to north

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dlo

The next day we drive to Bwindi. Its fairly uneventful until we hit the mountains when the spectacular scenery and very very narrow roads up them start. This is my second trip to see the mountain gorillas after seeing them I Rwanda in 2005. It was going to be a once in a lifetime experience but it really is as amazing as most people say it is. 

 

So after a bad run of luck to start 2018 Chris came to me in April and said let's get our act together and go back to Uganda. Besides marrying me that's the best idea she ever had so it was time to plan a trip and also get into shape. With the tracking prices becoming eye watering in Rwanda this time we would have to do Uganda. 

 

All you ever read is how much more difficult it is in Uganda so I worked hard and dropped 20 plus pounds pretty quickly. Then with 4 options to trek from we picked Buhoma because it is apparently the " easiest". Easiest is obviously relative as the gorillas don't just laze around in the same spot every day but Nkuringo and Ruhija are regarded as the most difficult trekking.

 

So a week or so before our trek we get a call saying we have been moved to Ruhija as unsurprisingly Buhoma is overbooked. I quickly pull out my digital Bradt Guide and while I'm greeted with it may be the most beautiful trailhead I also see a 2 hour drive from Buhoma awaits us which ensures that we will have to leave Buhoma at 5:30. The steeper slopes and higher altitudes are what really catches my eye though. 

 

I try to get out of Ruhija but with no success so I consign myself to the long drive and steep slopes of Ruhija. The next 2 nights will be spent as Buhoma Haven Lodge which is a mid priced lodge built recently and is cummunity run and supplements the rest camp they also run. We are taken to our room and the view is spectacular. The rooms face out over the emerald green forested slopes with monkeys and bird life all around you. As we check into our room we are greeted by a l'hoest monkey on our balcony but he quickly leaves before we can pull out a camera. 

 

After dinner we end up staying up way to late chatting up Sean and Marina from Alaska who saw gorillas earlier in the day and were doing a 2nd trek the next day.

 

We ended up leaving at 6 and drove through darkness along a very bumpy road. Upon arrival we get a briefing on what to do and a local group performs a very good song and dance. We ask Robert to try to get us a close group and we try to look as old and pathetic as possible and the good news is we succeed. We get the Oruzogo group which consists of 19 gorillas including an adorable baby. 

 

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These were the first faces we saw but before this was some hard walking. Arriving here is pure joy though and makes the work you've put in worth every ounce of sweat.

 

To be continued...

 

 

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Zubbie15

Really enjoying this report, and I'm especially impressed you're doing it on your phone! My wife heard recently that Uganda is called the pearl of Africa, and I think that really piqued her interest. So it's definitely somewhere that's on my radar. 

 

We ran into a line of ants when trekking the golden monkeys in Rwanda. I had two bite me which was quite painful, but a lady in our group got a whole bunch on her pants. She didn't end up dropping her pants, but she turned around and went back to the park headquarters rather than continuing. 

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BRACQUENE

@dlo

 

Seeing those marvelous faces of the Oruzogo group is my early morning surprise and gift and I suppose you didn’t mind having to loose weight to admire them and climb the steep slopes of Ruhija !

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pault

I'm not up to the gorillas yet, but the further installment of chimps was great (and interesting - you got to join the hour visitors instead of the other way around). Glad you visited the witchdoctor and his baby chimpanzee skull. Still the same guy?

 

Happy memories.

 

The fire ant incident was sad :D and a little embarrassing :lol: for the poor :lol::lol: trainee guide. 

 

And a 50th birthday - more serendipity! Happy Birthday to you! I hope you had to dance with them or something?

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dlo

Glad you're enjoying @Zubbie15 that Winston Churchill quote is famous for a reason. If you enjoyed Rwandan scenery you'll love Uganda. I've been bitten by one safari ant and that's enough to know I don't need it to happen again. I never wear my pants tucked into my socks but on this trip we saw so many ants I tucked them in every time.

 

@BRACQUENE Losing weight needed to be done irregardless but a trip to see the gorillas gave me the motivation to do so. The hiking is hard but doable for anyone. Also you can get lucky and find the gorillas in minutes as one group did at Buhoma when they were feeding right by the road.

 

@pault not sure why we got the extra visit since the habituation was better than most stories I hear about it but no complaints at all. Still the same witchdoctor and I'll be honest I kinda wanted to try something to see if it had any "effects". 

 

It's funny Chris had to dance for her 40th and to be honest they made us dance at Ngwesi and that night is still one of my favourite ever nights in Africa but not this time and everyone should be grateful for that.

 

Is there anything better than a special occasion in Africa?

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dlo

After driving to the start point of our trek the first thing we do is head pretty much straight down. With it being downhill to start Chris kind of jokingly says to the ranger that she will just slide down the hills on her but. He says a definite no to that idea but he has no idea how much this idea will just "happen". The forest quickly gets thicker with lots of thick bush and vines that will grab you all the time.

 

The trees are huge and great for grabbing for me and kind of swinging on a downslope. The route is now constantly up and down so the tree grab works great a few times when you have a suddenly slippery slope right in front of you. But...and there's always a but some of those trees will bite you. So I have now figured out why so many people suggest gloves on the trek! I don't know what kind of trees they are but those trees are sharp and hurt when you touch them so tree swinging is not always possible. 

 

We are doing ok though but I'm hoping we don't take to long because I know the return will not be fun. I distinctly remember a steep and slippery section when we are told to stop. We have gorillas😀. We stop and see 2 gorillas on the ground in some bush but then we see more below this area. So we head down and we have a few on the ground and a bunch in the trees. The silverback is on the ground along with a juvenile and the mother and baby above them. 

 

It is at this point I lose Chris completely as she had headed back with a ranger and was overlooking the mother and baby. I was very close to the silverback who laid in the grass farting the whole time. Occasionally I would think I had a fantastic view but I was standing on a slippery slope while Chris had intelligently maneuvered to a great spot with just her and a ranger. 

 

The ranger cleared some vines for her and she happily snapped away. She told me later that the mother bared her teeth at her a few times even moving towards her. The ranger made some grunts and calmed this gorilla while I hung out with the farting silverback. 

 

We were close to our hour being up when some of the gorillas started getting up to leave and the ones in the trees started coming down. This would provide some close calls for some and a chance to photograph a few more gorillas. 

 

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Our first gorillas and the ones Chris hung out with.

 

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Definitely looks like a warning to me.

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The last bits before we leave had some cool moments and the descent was interesting to say the least with alot of time spent on the ground. I promise to wrap up the gorillas on the next post for anyone tired of them. 

 

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BRACQUENE

@dlo

 

Who could ever being tired of looking at those intriguing animals ; this time I am particularly impressed by their facial expressions and the eyes you captured perfectly !

 

 

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pault

No need to worry about us getting tired of gorillas. You lost 20lbs for this!  

 

That's a big group and the little one is lovely. Lucky you.

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dlo

With Chris in the same position in the back there were 3 or 4 gorillas near her that started moving and getting ready to move on. One of the young ones sat right in front of her within touching distance. She looked at the ranger to see if she should move but he told her to stay where she was. Honestly though we were all in positions where it was impossible to move quickly as she was on a ledge that was a decent drop and several of us were basically slippery stairs with limited movement. 

 

So while Chris got a nice close encounter the gorillas that were in the trees started sliding down. With some of them now leaving a mom with a baby on her back gracefully slides down a tree and passes the line of people I'm in. The baby grabs the guys leg who is in the front leaving him ecstatic and asking all of us if we got pictures of it.

 

It appears that pretty much everyone is on the way and our time is up. Then out of the blue a second silverback shows up and everyone quickly tries to get there cameras out to try and get pics of him.

 

He doesn't wait around to long though and now it's time to go. It's the same as before though with more downhills and the porters are worth their weight in gold here. 2 or 3 people basically hold there porters hand on the way down including Chris. A few stumbles and light falls but Chris now incorporates her cunning slide on her bum plan. She sits on the top of the steep drops and slides down👍. It actually works a charm and while it wasn't always done on purpose the end result is perfect.

 

I'm doing fine for the most part but the the accumulation of activity the last few days and my lack of sleep makes me a little sloppy. On a very flat area walking along the side of a hill I just dont pay enough attention and my foot slipes over the edge😯

 

The next part is pretty blurry, I quickly grab some ground and pull myself up only my foot and maybe part of my calf going over the edge. Chris said 2 porters and our ranger raced over to me looking terrified but I recovered very quickly and needed no help. It was a long fall and I would have been in trouble if I went over but it's funny because that was the easiest part of the hike so it shows you need keep your head in the game at all times. 

 

So all told we took around 3 hours total for the whole thing. We discover the Orozugo group actually consists of 22 gorillas and 2 silverbacks. It took just over an hour to find them and when we got back to our cars one group still hadn't found their group. So it wasn't bad at all for us but I'm soooo grateful it didn't take hours. 

 

The drive back to Buhoma is uneventful though you drive on narrow roads hugging cliffsides that leaves Chris with a sore jaw from clenching it the whole way back. We get back to the lodge and have lunch and dinner with our Alaskan friends. They are quite relaxed after only taking 10 minutes to find there group.

 

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So how does it compare to Rwanda? Our trek was much harder though in Rwanda it was much higher and we were gassed most of the way. The jungle is much thicker making it darker but more beautiful as well. I was more worried about doing it in Uganda but those fears were unfounded. I think anyone would be happy at either destination but $600 is just a much more realistic cost. Even when talking to normal non wildlife obsessed people $600 is just crazy to them. 

 

Anyone thinking of seeing gorillas should just do it. It will be hard work but you can go as slow as you need to and the porters are there to help you. 

 

Next up is an even more tiring day that would probably be our most difficult day of the trip....

 

https://www.instagram.com/p/B4smme9HDRE/?igshid=1dh6yralj1je5

 

I added a short video here from my dogs instagram. It's not the greatest but it shows the young gorilla going up to the guy in front before walking away. I couldn't embed the video directly so this has to do. 

 

 

 

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BRACQUENE

@dlo

 

Well you place me for a dilemma which country to choose for seeing them ? I might still be more tempted by Uganda though for the diversity of other options , the bird life and the Shoebills but Rwanda has at his eastern border with Tanzania   Akagera NP as a serious contender to be discovered in full ! 
Moreover you always seem to spice your TR with the right dose of humor and this time you are spot on by cataloguing us the safari freaks as a  deviating subspecies of the human race
 

 

 

 

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dlo
12 hours ago, BRACQUENE said:

@dlo

 

Well you place me for a dilemma which country to choose for seeing them ? I might still be more tempted by Uganda though for the diversity of other options , the bird life and the Shoebills but Rwanda has at his eastern border with Tanzania   Akagera NP as a serious contender to be discovered in full ! 
Moreover you always seem to spice your TR with the right dose of humor and this time you are spot on by cataloguing us the safari freaks as a  deviating subspecies of the human race
 

 

 

 

 

Well you can always do both which is what I did on my first trip. Now I traveled for 3 months so my time was pretty unlimited but both are well worth visiting. If I only had to choose one it is definitely Uganda but I think I will return to both someday. 

 

I've been to Africa 6 times and I don't know anyone who's been more than once. We definitely are a different breed and I'm sure you get "why Africa" questions like I do. It's funny though that I get that alot less from the younger generation that I'm friends with. 

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BRACQUENE

@dlo

 

When I will go to Uganda or Rwanda it will be probably be my sixth as well as I am doing my fourth this year already and now I am planning one every year because not only I am getting older ( the Beatles song might help you ) and you should not always say later all the time ,  but frankly it is also an escape from busy Brussels and work finding yourself in the middle of nowhere walking with fabulous animals

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dlo

https://www.ride4awoman.org/

This is our final destination at Bwindi as we have to be back at our lodge for the long winding road to Lake Mutanda by lunch. If you are in Bwindi I absolutely can not recommend going here enough. This organization was was started by a local woman years ago to help woman who suffer from domestic violence HIV and poverty in the area. They are taught skills to help them survive and thrive and provide education for their children. There are plenty of activities to choose from and they now provide accommodations as well. 

 

 So after being greeted by a couple who run rfa we meet Prince who will be our guide. Anyone who has driven through Bwindi can tell you how steep and rocky the roads are. Our ride was around 2 hours and half of it was getting off your bike and pushing it uphill! The downhill parts are fun but it's very rocky so you need to be careful 80% of the time. The other important thing is I'm an experienced rider but Chris is not. She really struggles but doesn't complain despite being hot,tired and saying her legs are like jello.

 

Other than some very fun downhill parts the best thing for me is meeting some locals. Getting out of the car means people can talk to you and I will always remember pushing my bike up a steep hill struggling away and an old man walking towards me with the biggest smile ever😁. He shook my hand and said a few things I'll never understand but never needed too. 

 

I rode ahead of Chris for awhile on some fun stretches and she chatted with our guide Prince. Chris asked the usual how much further question and got the usual only a few more minutes answer. 20 minutes later we are back at headquarters and Chris is feeling very rough. She is feeling faint and has to sit down for a bit. It has been a busy few days with yet another one tomorrow and I think its probably time for a day of relaxation.

 

After lunch we drive through the beautiful hills of Bwindi occasionally seeing colubus monkeys on the slopes of Bwindi. The slopes are interesting to see, one minute pure emerald forest the next cultivated right to the edge of another forest. We finally reach tarmac for a hour and then back on a terrible road to Mutanda Lake Resort. This road is as rough as you can get and you drive right along cliffsides with steep drops below you. The final descent to the lodge itself is straight downhill with the brakes on the whole way!

 

That night we had dinner with Robert at the lodge and got pounded with a huge thunderstorm. This marked the beginning of some rain over the next few days and has me wondering how this will affect our golden monkey tracking tomorrow.

 

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TonyQ

Superb encounter with the Gorillas and great photos.

Ride4women sounds, and looks very good.

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