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Trip Report Uganda and Rwanda Trip Report

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Day 1 (Saturday August 23) ? I left New York on Thursday, August 21, flying KLM via Amsterdam to Nairobi (using 140,000 miles for a free ticket), and arrived in Nairobi on Friday evening. I overnighted at the Stanley Hotel (not as good as the Norfolk, where I stayed on my first trip to Nairobi, but certainly adequate for the few hours that I was going to sleep), the home of The Thorn Tree café, the namesake of the Lonely Planet?s on-line forum. On Saturday morning I caught the 7:00am flight from Nairobi to Entebbe, and after an hour-long flight, most of it over Lake Victoria, I arrived in Entebbe where I met Fredrick, my guide for my trip through Uganda and Rwanda. After a short stop at Volcanoes Safaris? office in Kampala, we began our six-hour drive to Queen Elizabeth National Park, and arrived in the park, after making a few stops, including the obligatory stop at the Equator, at 4:00pm. On our drive to Mweya Safari Lodge, we passed a large male lion, several buffalo and a bushbuck.

Day 2 (Sunday August 24) ? I arose early and set off to a gorge within Queen Elizabeth NP known to contain chimpanzees, but our two-hour hike failed to locate the chimps. However, we did approach and startle a large pod of hippos, and also saw some black-and-white colobus monkeys and red-tailed monkeys, albeit too far to photograph. We spent the remainder of the morning on a game drive in the Kisenyi circuit and saw waterbuck, warthogs, large herds of Ugandan Kob and buffalo; in fact, this was the same group of animals that we were to continue to see. We returned to the lodge for lunch, and at 3:00 we went for a boat cruise on the Kazinga Channel, which while not as interesting as the boat rides on the Chobe River, did allow us to see large groups of hippos, a few crocodiles and buffalo, and a wide assortment of birds, including kingfishers, herons, egrets, pelicans and storks. I spent the remainder of the day at the pool.

Day 3 (Monday August 25) ? We took a morning game drive and saw the same types of animals as on Sunday?s drive, but we also saw one female lion. At around 10:00am we began the five-hour drive to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. The roads, for the most part, were terrible, but we did pass through many small villages and the roads were lined with smiling, waving children. We arrived in Bwindi around 3:30pm.

Day 4 (Tuesday August 26) ? After an early morning bucket shower, we arrived at 7:30am for our gorilla trek. After dividing the visitors into small groups of 6 or 8 trekkers, our small group was driven about 40 minutes away to begin our trek. Our trek was short, only about 20 minutes, whereupon we encountered a group of 14 or so gorillas ranging from a few feet to several meters away. We had been advised that the gorillas generally are found in the forest and that 800ASA film was necessary, but we were quite lucky and encountered the gorillas in a sun-soaked field and were able to use 100 or 200ASA film. Our allotted hour passed too quickly, and we returned to camp.

Day 5 (Wednesday August 27) ? Spent most of the day driving from Bwindi through southwestern Uganda to Rwanda, stopping for lunch near the border at a hotel that formerly housed Diane Fossey when she was conducting gorilla research. We arrived in Ruhengeri, Rwanda at around 3:00pm and stayed at Mountains Gorilla Nest, the new top accommodation.

Day 6 (Thursday August 28) ? Another early start found us at Volcanoes National Park for another day of gorilla trekking. We set off around 8:30am for a one-hour hike through farmland which found us at the base of a volcano that we were to ascend. After a 45-minute ascent, we encountered the gorillas, again in a sun-filled clearing. The large male silverback was very placid and easily photographable ? in fact, we knelt about 10 feet in front of him and were able to take photos with him in the background. We spent an hour with this group of 9 members, many of whom approached us closely, including a medium-size female who reached out and touched my leg as she passed (incredible!). After our trek, we drove to Kigali, Rwanda?s manageable capital and I spent the day wandering around (not much to see, but nice to be able to walk around a safe city).

Day 7 (Friday August 29) ? Caught the early morning flight from Kigali to Nairobi, and after arrival began 5-hour drive to Samburu NP, in Kenya?s north. We arrived around 4:00pm and went on a 2-1/2 hour game drive (highlights included the Samburu Big Five: Reticulated Giraffe, Beisa Oryx, Grevy?s Zebra, Somali Ostrich and Gerenuk, as well as a female cheetah with three juveniles and a group of three lionesses). Arrived at Samburu Serena at 6:30 in time for crocodile feeding.

Day 8 (Saturday August 30) ? Went on two game drives in Samburu and again saw many members of Samburu Big Five, as well as elephants, buffalo, lion and leopard (in fact, we spent an hour with the leopard).

Day 9 (Sunday August 31) ? Drove back to Nairobi stopping at Mt. Kenya Safari Club for lunch, and arrived in Nairobi around 3:30pm. Dinner at Carnivore before return via Amsterdam to New York.

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