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Trip Report MyDogKyle's Uganda & Rwanda Photos

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I had a wonderful journey through Uganda and Rwanda last October -- so wonderful, in fact, that I am still working on writing about my experiences and sifting through all the photos and hours of video. Since I haven't had the chance to write a trip report yet, I thought I would briefly describe my trip and post my favorite photos (warning: lots of gorillas!), with the promise that I will, when work and life allow me the time to sit down and do it, post a real trip report.

In the meantime, hope you enjoy the pix, and please feel free to ask me any questions. I will definitely elaborate more on the various projects we visited when I write my full report.

ABOUT OUR TRIP

Some of you might remember from my previous posts that this was a trip my husband and I took with a group of conservationists and volunteers from the Oakland Zoo, where we volunteer on the behavioral observation team. The main purpose was to visit several projects sponsored by the Zoo, including the Budongo Forest Snare Removal Program and the Kibale Community Fuel Wood Project, both in Uganda. We also visited the Virunga Artisans' headquarters (they have a Bay Area connection, too) and the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project in Rwanda. And we took some time for safari and those amazing primates, too!

At first we were a bit apprehensive about taking a tour with such a large group (20 of us in 3 vans, with 4 Ugandan guides!), since we've always enjoyed planning our own trips and traveling alone together. This time we couldn't make any of the decisions about lodging, itinerary or how we spent the bulk of our time. (Some of you might be cringing just reading this!) But I have to say what a wonderful, unique, amazing experience we had. We made some new friends who I believe will be friends for life, both at home and in Uganda. And throughout the journey, our connection with the Zoo and the projects on the ground opened up so many doors and introduced us to so many experiences that we never would have been able to have on our own. When we traveled to Kenya and Tanzania in 2007 we had an incredible safari with wonderful guides, but I felt like our exposure to and experiences with local people left something to be desired -- that gap between tourists and locals was often so wide. But on this adventure, we were welcomed into villages and homes, shared great food, danced with and laughed with new friends who really gave us a sense of what it's like to live and work in these incredible and difficult countries. It is an experience I will always be grateful for, and will treasure all my life.

OUR ITINERARY -- October 2008

1 night in Kampala (Grand Imperial Hotel) -- Kasubi Tombs & walking around town with jetlag

3 nights in Masindi (New Court View Hotel) -- this was our base for the Budongo Forest, where we visited the Budongo Conservation Field Station (which is not open to tourists), the site of the snare removal project, as well as Kinyara High School, where the Budongo folks have helped establish a Conservation Club for the students (who put on an amazing show for us, their families, and community), and also did a little chimp-watching

2 nights in Murchison Falls (Paraa Lodge) -- game drives and the falls and a boat safari

1 night back in Kampala (to avoid the rainy-season drive between Murchison and Kibale)

3 nights in the Kibale Forest (Kibale Forest Camp/aka Mantana Tented Camp) -- chimp trekking (including a very intense experience where we saw a group of chimps kill another chimp right in front of us -- I am not posting photos of that), visiting the Kibale Fuel Wood Project (where we watched the project's director teach a family how to build a fuel-efficient "rocket stove" at their home), and hiking to the Amabeere cave and crater lakes

3 nights in Queen Elizabeth NP (Mweya Lodge) -- here we had the great privilege of meeting and going on game drives with Dr. Ludwig Siefert of the Uganda Large Predator Project; our time with him and his staff included tracking radio-collared lions, visiting areas of the park that are normally off-limits to tourists to learn about the serious conservation challenges this park is facing, and a night game drive in search of hyenas, whose numbers are in sharp decline (plus another boat trip on the Kazinga Channel)

1 night that was supposed to be in Musanze, Rwanda... but ended up in a refugee hotel on the Ugandan border (you'll have to wait for the full trip report for that story... but it has to do with the troubles in the DRC)

2 nights in Musanze (La Palme Hotel & Kinigi Guest House) -- gorilla trekking to see Group 13 and the Umubano Group

1 night in Kigali (Hotel Gorillas) -- visiting the Virunga Artisans and Mountain Gorilla Vets before heading to Kigali and the Genocide Memorial

PHOTOS
note: you will have to sign in to Snapfish to see these. The photos look their best if you click on the "slideshow" button, but if you want to read the captions you'll need to look at them in the regular album view

Uganda Part 1 (Kampala, Budongo Forest and Murchison Falls NP)
http://tinyurl.com/bylv39

Uganda Part 2 (Kibale Forest NP and QENP)
http://tinyurl.com/b87vh2

Rwanda
http://tinyurl.com/bga6q7

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