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Uganda and Tanzania Here We Come!

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It's been nearly 2 years since we started talking about Africa. Now in just 4 short weeks, my friend and I are on our way. We are going to land in Uganda on Nov 6th for an 8 day trip across the country. We will be stopping in Kibale to trek the chimps, Queen Elizabeth and on to Bwindi to trek the Gorillas.
On Nov 15th we are on our way to Tanzania for a private safari doing the Northern Circuit including Tarangire Park, Lake Manyara Park, Ngorongoro and on to the Serengeti ending with a balloon safari over the Serengeti. We come back to the US on Nov 29th.
As we are wrapping up all of the last minute details, I'm wanting to get some additional information that others might have on the following:

* How much money to take (Peg and I are both shoppers....if we get to do any)
* How much money to take for tips, who to tip, how much to tip, etc
* Luggage facts and discussion (best luggage to take, tips for what not to take, etc)
* Suggestions of what clothes and items to take and what not to take
* What to plan on taking for phone calls....can we make calls, how do we make calls, where can we make calls, etc
* What is Niarobi Airport like? (have to be there for 6 hours coming home)

Any other survival tips would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks!

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    * How much money to take (Peg and I are both shoppers....if we get to do any)

    If you want to shop and you tell your guide of your private trip you want to shop, then shop you will. How much $$ depends on what you want to buy--trinkets, expensive jewelry, big things to ship home (which is fairly common) etc. I'd make a budget for what you'd like to spend and then add $500 per person. The $500 is more emergency than shopping.

    * How much money to take for tips, who to tip, how much to tip, etc
    For you driver/guide, guidelines I've been given for travelers from the US are about $40/day for the guide for a private trip. With 2 of you, that's $20 each per day if you choose to follow those guidelines.

    For a group departure, which may be what your Uganda trip is, $10-$20/day for your driver/guide.

    Because you'll be doing primate tracking, that's about $10 for the main primate guide. Porters get $10 if you take one and I'd suggest to use a porter. If you wish, you can tip the several trackers that often accompany the primates up to 24 hours/day and protect the primates from poachers about $5-$10 total for the group to share.

    I tipped the captain/crew and the boat guide on the Kazinga Channel launch in QE maybe $3-5 because there was a sizeable group.

    There will probably be a tip box for the entire camp staff at your lodging. I believe $5-$7/per person/day is about right.

    * Luggage facts and discussion (best luggage to take, tips for what not to take, etc)
    I take a bag that I can carry onto the plane because I consider anything checked as possibly not ending up with me, at least not upon arrival. That means wearing a safari vest stuffed to the brim with the heavy stuff.

    * Suggestions of what clothes and items to take and what not to take

    I'll put in a link to Linda's packing list. Gloves for the gorillas. I'll copy and paste some info on primate trekking stuff.

    * What to plan on taking for phone calls....can we make calls, how do we make calls, where can we make calls, etc
    As in what cell phones? No clue. My phone card did not work at all in Uganda and I knew that before leaving home. I used Internet at a couple of lodges. I actually used my guide's phone 2x for a 1-2 minute call back to the US because we were having no success with other tele options. But I didn't have my own cell phone. I offered to reimburse him, but he declined.

    * What is Niarobi Airport like? (have to be there for 6 hours coming home)
    It's just ok. Not much to do. You may want to escape from the airport and go out to eat or visit the bomas for shopping. Your 6 hours could be greatly decreased if you consider arriving 2-3 hours before your international flight. Especially if it is a late flight, I just wait at the airport and look at my photos or read.

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    Lynda’s list IS read to go, not almost.
    http://www.fodors.com/community/africa-the-middle-east/very-comprehensive-packing-list---almost-ready-to-go.cfm

    Copied from my report

    “-Feet first
    With all the strenuous hiking I knew I’d be undertaking, orthotics were just one aspect of my comprehensive foot care. Even though boots may be well broken in over decades, the stress and friction on your feet caused by traversing the steep, vine-covered hills of Rwanda and Uganda may irritate parts of your feet that normally feel fine. I’ve learned that from past hikes.

    So I brought a variety of insoles, hiking socks, wicking socks, liner socks, mole skin with mini scissors to cut it, (toe)nail clippers, Dr. Sholes callous and corn pads, and anti-fungal/anti-athlete’s foot spray. I took two pairs of boots in case something happened to one pair and to have the luxury of switching between pairs from day to day. In case of the dreaded turned ankle, I brought two kinds of supportive ankle wraps, which I fortunately brought home unused. If you are doing more than one or two hikes, I’d recommend overcompensating on foot care products to make the most of your investment in the $500 permits.

    When I think back to my first gorilla visits in 1995 when the porters were barefoot, the above seems ridiculous.

    -Staying well for the gorillas
    I decided to gargle daily with salt water as an added prevention against a sore throat that might hinder my gorilla visits. I packed numerous little restaurant packets of salt. (I would not recommend dumping salt in a ziplock as it could be mistaken for something else.) I also packed more than the usual in the way of upper respiratory medications such as a chapstick-size Vick’s inhaler, saline nose drops, and decongestant, all because if you are blowing your nose and coughing you may be denied a visit to the gorillas. None of it was needed.

    -Gorilla Gear
    There are numerous threads on this topic:
    http://fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=4&tid=34863680
    http://fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=4&tid=35094525
    http://fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=4&tid=34863680
    http://fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=4&tid=35094525

    I’ll add a little more. The gorillas were all decked out in black, with silver accents for the elder males, and let me tell you--they looked marvelous! For the guests visiting the gorillas, I saw everything including blue jeans and bright colors, but no shorts. Some people wore rain gear when it was not raining, just in case. I put mine in my backpack, which was carried by a porter.

    About 25% of the people had “Gators” or some kind of ankle guards. The prize went to a group of six who had tucked their pants into their socks and used orange duct tape to tape the top of their socks and parts of their shoes where dirt could enter. Everybody was taking pictures of their feet. I asked Kirenga about the ankle guards, especially in the wet season. He remarked that they are useful to keep out dirt and mud but that tucking in socks is sufficient for deterring insects.

    The stinging nettles are not that big of a deal. I wore quick drying, light fabrics to stay cool and got about 6 pokes through the material in 4 visits, none of which were that uncomfortable or distracting. In the many gorilla visits I have made in the past in both Uganda and Rwanda, I’ve found the nettles are not a worry if you don’t grab at the vegetation. And if you do get stung, it lasts about 30 minutes and is nothing like the pain of a bee or wasp sting. There even were times at a sighting where I made the conscious decision to kneel on a patch of stinging nettles in order to see better. Sometimes I paid the price, sometimes not.

    I only used gloves after the gorillas had been located. That’s when you dropped your walking stick, put your camera (in my case two of them) around your neck and walked about 5-10 minutes to get to them. The lack of walking stick, the march to the gorillas through thick bushes and vines without a trail, and the awkwardness of the swinging camera(s), made using my hands for balance more necessary. The gloves prevented me from accidentally grabbing any stinging nettles.”

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    atravelynn, I knew I could count on you to sum things up for me...thank you! I've done alot of reading on Fodor's but I'm sure that I haven't seen everything.
    Thank you so much for the info on money and tips. There are alot of tips to think about but I'll just add them up and see what I come up with. In Uganda we are going with a group of about 8. Do you think there will be more than one guide on the trip? Just thinking again from a tip standpoint.
    I agree with you on the porter. Between your information and reading MyDogKyle's trip report, I learned that early. It will be interesting to see what Gorilla group we get to see. I consider myself in ok shape but certainly not especially athletic. I'm thinking of a Gorilla family with a hike in the medium range of difficulty.
    I like the idea of the salt packets and keeping myself healthy for the Gorillas. That of course is the day that I'm most excited about. I would certainly hate to miss it.
    I was surprised to hear that there were people with bright colors on and blue jeans. After what we have read, we are going out of our way to make sure we don't plan to wear blue jeans or bright colors. I can't tell you how much khaki and green clothes that I've bought. Earth colors are not my bag but I guess I'll learn to like them. = )
    The nettles sound painful but I certainly can understand kneeling on them to get a better view.....it's all about the Gorillas.
    I have to commend you for carrying on the plane all of your gear. I could never pack that light. I thought I was good to only bring 1 week's worth of clothese knowing that there are laundry services. I am leaving the kitchen sink at home though!
    The internet is probably going to be the way to go to talk to the US. Unfortunately my significant other is going through radiation and chemo while I'm gone and I'm sure that I'll be worried but I may have to count on only talking to him via an occasional email. I know my cell phone won't work and I'm sure my phone card won't either.
    Again, thank you for the info! I'll work next on digesting all of the links that you included. Thank you!

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    Thank you Leely2! I'm sure we will. It is my trip of a lifetime. I've been dreaming about it since I was a little girl. I just feel lucky enough to have someone who is as excited about it as I am.

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    You will have your trip of a lifetime with the places you are headed.

    “There are alot of tips to think about but I'll just add them up and see what I come up with."

    In Uganda we are going with a group of about 8. Do you think there will be more than one guide on the trip? Just thinking again from a tip standpoint.”

    The primate part of the trip has more tipping than other parts. The company you are using would also be a good resource for tipping info. It is possible there could be 2 vehicles with 4 people in each for Uganda, but then you’d only tip the guide in your own vehicle.

    What I did encounter for the gorillas in Rwanda recently (so maybe Uganda is also going to this system) is 2 gorilla guides. In that case sometimes I did tip them each $10, and other times gave the one that appeared to be the trainee less or none, depending on how involved that second gorilla guide was.
    -----------
    If you are in “ok shape,” then you’ll do fine. Your guide may recommend one group over another because of recent activity or a number of young or several silverbacks or whatever. That’s good to know you can handle a medium difficult hike to get to the more desirable gorilla families. You may want to inform your guide of your fitness level up front and here’s why. Who knows what shape the other vehicle mates will be in? They may require the easiest group just to make it there and back and the guide definitely wants everyone to make the round trip without complications. If you are 8, that could mean you are all assigned to the same easy gorilla group, as 8 is the max number of visitors per gorilla group. If the easy group is an active, interesting one, then that’s fine. But if there are better alternatives and you can make it to those, the guide should be aware of that. It is not required that everyone in the same vehicle visit the same group. You can split up even if it means you are transported from the ranger station to the gorillas and then back to the ranger station by a guide who is not yours. (Or maybe you’ll just walk directly to the gorillas without the need of vehicle transport up front. Depends where they are.) The only problem with splitting up would be if your whole group is not overnighting near the gorillas and is heading out to another destination immediately after the gorillas. Then you’d probably all want to be together for schedule purposes.

    ------------------
    “I was surprised to hear that there were people with bright colors on and blue jeans”
    The bright colors I saw were rare, but some gorilla visitors had red rain jackets and such. I also saw quite colorful and fashionable outfits at Murchison Falls in Uganda, including sundresses in the vehicle. At Paraa Lodge in Murchison (same company that owns Mweya in Queen Elizabeth) in the evenings I actually saw sequins, spaghetti straps and lycra and long black dresses, along with the range of other clothing I anticipated.
    --------------
    “I like the idea of the salt packets and keeping myself healthy for the Gorillas. That of course is the day that I'm most excited about. I would certainly hate to miss it.”

    I found myself constantly checking my throat for a hint of soreness and sniffing to see if I had any congestion. Don’t be too concerned over a little irritation in those membranes because there can be lots of dust to cause irritation. I know one night I did feel like I had a little soreness in my throat and ear and so I took a Cipro. Normally I would not have, but I erred on the side of caution. By morning all was ok. I had been told by my doctor that unlike most medications that you must take until they are gone, Cipro could be halted when the conditions improved. So my advice, based on no medical training or background is to be liberal with the Cipro before the gorillas.

    ---------------
    “I have to commend you for carrying on the plane all of your gear. I could never pack that light.”
    Neither could I for this trip. I did check luggage this time, in part because I took 2 pairs of boots plus another sturdy pair of shoes. I also had some school supplies. No problem on the way over, but on the way back my luggage was lost for 4 days. It didn’t matter on the way home.
    ----------
    I wish the best for your significant other. This has to be tremendously difficult any time but when you are away that only compounds the problem. I’d mention this exceptional need to contact home to your Uganda agent and maybe you can arrange ahead of time a way to make some calls or get messages back and forth. Especially if you are willing to cover the costs, I’m sure they’d be willing to help out.

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    Knowing there are 8 on the Uganda group trip, I'd definitely go with more like $10/per person per day and not more, or maybe the company will give you info that indicates even slightly less.

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    atravelynn, thank you for all of the great information!
    I found out this morning that the tour company we are with in Uganda is Volcanoes Safaris. I'll see if there is any information on their website.
    Great info on seeing the Gorillas. I certainly want to be able to see the "best" group if at all possible.
    Thank you for the best wishes. We found out in August about the cancer and I was devistated. Been wondering about the trip ever since but we do have good news and I think he will be fine. He's insisting that I make this trip so we have some great friends that can look in on him.
    I think I'll skip the sequins. I don't have any intention of wearing a dress on this trip. One less thing to carry.

    Again, alot of useful information. Thank you.

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    If you are concerned about staying in touch while traveling, and it sounds like you have good reason to be, you may want to check out www.mobal.com for a reasonably priced international cell phone. They have two versions. The $49 dollar one works in about 140 countries (not including US). The $99 one works in 170 countries (including US). You pay per call, no monthly fees. So when you're not travelling, just turn it off and put it away for next time. I bought the $49 one last month for a business trip to Germany and UK and to take to Tanzinia later this month. It worked great. The calls aren't cheap, but for emergency use or to check in once in a while, it may be worth the peace of mind.

    atravelyn's guidelines for tipping in Tanzania are higher than what I've been advised from multiple sources, but it may just be personal preference or tour company. I've been advised amounts that are more around $20 per day, not per person, for a private safari.

    pjf

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    What a rollercoaster of emotions you must be experiencing. Nice there is some good news. Volcanoes is who I used on this last Rwanda/Uganda trip. They are very responsive to their clients and I'm sure could help with your situation. Ask for Abraham for your guide. That's who I had and he was great. If you request him and get him let me know, and I'll send a greeting to him through you. Just a couple of words, nothing much.

    Tipping is so discretionary. Once you have a range, just do what you're comfortable with.

    Good idea on the sequins.

    The phone hint is a good one pjf.

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    I'm not sure that I can ask for a particular guide since there are 6 other people with us and the two of us are booking through an Outfitter. I'm guessing that they will say that they don't have a say but I can try.
    Certainly you need to give me a message in case I can get one to Abraham one way or another.
    Our Outfitter said to buy a SIM card once we get to Uganda/Tanzania for phone calls. We'll see if that helps any if there are no phones or lines = )

    Another question, if you don't mind. I've been reading about vests. Does it make any sense to buy a photography vest? I certainly have a thing for carrying cases with pockets but I'm not sure about how hot they are and if that will be that useful in Africa. Any thoughts?

    Thanks again!

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    Just saw your message today -- how exciting! I'm excited for you, too. It sounds like things are tough for you at home, so hopefully this trip will give you many wonderful experiences, stories and photos that you can take home to share with your loved ones, too.

    Lynn has given you such a thorough briefing, I'm not sure there's much I can add to what's she's posted and what's already in my trip report. One thing we always do in terms of luggage is to be sure to take a change of clothes, some extra socks, and whatever absolutely essential toiletries you need in your daypack/carry-on bag, just in case your checked luggage doesn't make it. So far we have not had that problem in 3 trips to Africa (knock on wood!), but you never know. When traveling with another person, it's also helpful to "co-pack" (half of each person's thing in each checked duffle bag) in case one bag is lost.

    Yes, be prepared with tips for several guides and more than one gorilla trekking guide, just in case. When we were in Rwanda, it seemed like they were assigning two guides for the longer treks. It can't hurt to have some extra tip money, just in case.

    Don't know about the vest... I've never felt the need to buy one, but I am a fan of cargo pants. :)

    Have a wonderful trip!

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    MyDogKyle, it's so great to hear from you! I need to tell you first that I've sent so many people to your trip report you wouldn't believe it. When RB was having his surgery, my "adopted parents" stayed over night and I read them the part about the Chimps and the Gorillas. You have such a great way of telling a story. I only hope that I can do half as well as you did.
    Yes, I'm so excited now. (T - 4 weeks and counting to the day!) It was rough going for awhile but I think that everything is going to be ok now. It's just amazing how things like this just happen to pick the right time! Oh well, at least we are making it through ok and after a little chemo and some radiation, he should be as good as new. (well maybe not new!)
    Now that we have made it through this, I can now get excited about this whole trip (making sure that we have friends "on call" to attend to RB if he should need it.)
    I like the change of clothes idea in case things get lost. That would definitely make me feel better to know what we have something.
    I'm planning taking a High Sierra wheeled backpack with a small day pack attached and am hoping that I can fit everything in there. With all of the lightweight clothes I've bought, it always seems like the 'extras' really take up the most room. I started to condense my over the counter meds and realized that they probably need to be in the original box just in case someone questions us. That alone takes up room (pepto bismal, tylenol, nyquil, etc). I'll also be carrying a backpack with all of my camera stuff, ipod, etc on the plane with me.
    I'll make sure that I have enough money for tips. I just hope that we don't get robbed or I lose it (I have a habit of losing things!). It sounds like alot of money to be carrying.
    Anyway, thanks alot everyone!
    Anna

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    The vest is only to take more on the plane. I never wore it to the gorillas or anywhere else in Africa except on a plane. You can fill up those cargo pants as well.

    If you keep the bulk of your money and your passport in a money belt or something similar that stays inside your clothes and goes with you no matter what, the odds of losing anything go way down.

    There are lots of opportunities to lose things. I try to make a habit of always looking behind me when it's time to move on. The excitement of what's next can get the best of you so that you take off without things, I know.

    I cut out just the label part from the original box and rubber band it to the medication.

    You seem to be getting everything together in plenty of time. Those weeks will fly by. Glad your significant other continues to improve.

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