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Uganda, Rwand, Tanzania - Itinerary Help Please

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ITINERARY QUESTIONS: UGANDA, RWANDA, TANZANIA, 2009

It was not long ago I discovered this forum and used it to plan my trip to Botswana and Namibia last summer. I received excellent advice on this board, and once again I am seeking the expert advice of fellow fodorites.

I pretty much have my wish list for Africa 2009 whittled down to something I think is manageable and I have some questions. The primary purposes of this trip are gorilla trekking and the wildebeest migration during calving season.

I’ll fly on SkyTeam, hopefully with miles. Even if I don’t use miles, I’ll fly SkyTeam for the points. The easiest routes are to/from EBB and JRO. I’ll fly into one and out of the other, so suggestions that don’t involve these arrival/departure cities (i.e. Kigali) don’t really work for me. Total trip time will be 23-24 days including international travel. I plan to travel February 19/20 to March 13/14, 2009. I know I’m trying to fit a little too much in, and should limit this to two countries. However, I can’t travel to Africa often, I prefer being on the go most of the time, and the moving around doesn’t really bother me. But even to me, this appears a little rushed.

Here’s what I’m thinking:

• Days 1-2 Depart U.S., arrive EBB. Overnight in Entebbe because the flight arrives around 9 pm; (1 night)
• Day 3: Ngamba Island, full day including forest walk, and overnight (1 night);
• Days 4-6: Fly to Bwindi, 2 gorilla treks (3 nights);
• Days 7-9: Road transfer to PNV, 2 gorilla treks (3 nights); I looked into flights here, but the charter from Bwindi back to Entebbe, then a flight to Kigali, and then the drive from Kigali to PNV means even if flights are like clockwork, the travel time is just as long (or longer) than the drive.
• Day 10: Overnight Kigali for early flight to the Serengeti the following morning (1 night);
• Days 11-13: Loliondo area (3 nights)
• Days 14-19: Ndutu area (5-6 nights)
• Days 20-22: Mahale (3 nights)
• Day 23: Arusha (1 night)

Questions:
1. If I depart on 2/19 or 2/20, that puts me in Tanzania around March 1st and in Mahale a little over a week later. I’m wondering if I should do this in reverse order so I can be in the southern Serengeti and Mahale in mid-late February instead of early March. For personal reasons I really don’t want to push the whole trip up to an earlier date.
2. I think I’d like to end with Mahale, but I’m a little concerned about the weather. They close mid-March, so I’m cutting it close as regards the rainy season. Hence my question about doing this in reverse order. But, March also starts the rainy season in Uganda and Rwanda, right? Will 2 or 3 weeks really make a difference?
3. I really want to go to Rwanda, but I also want to go to Ngamba. That could change if they discontinue the forest walks but for now let’s assume that doesn’t happen. If I weren’t going to fly into Entebbe or didn’t plan on including Ngamba, I might eliminate Uganda all together in favor of Rwanda but I don’t think I want to do that. Should I therefore consider eliminating Rwanda? After all of the great trip reports I’ve read on Rwanda/PNV, I’m hesitant to eliminate it.
4. I originally considered including Murchison Falls and Kibale in the Uganda portion of the trip, but the travel time is pretty extensive, and then of course I’d have to cut something else out of the trip. Is skipping these a mistake?
5. Is limiting my Rwanda experience to 3 days in PNV and a half day in Kigali at the Genocide Memorial a mistake? I’ve recently read some positive information on Akagera, although honestly I’d not considered it before. I don’t feel like I’m doing either Uganda or Rwanda justice with this itinerary, but I just cannot force myself to give up Tanzania.
6. What am I missing? Is there something I should be considering that I haven’t? Yes, I know if I add something I then have to delete something.  But I just cannot be gone for more than three weeks, give or take a day or two.
7. I’ve been to Tanzania before and during that trip visited the Crater, so it is purposely omitted from this trip. But, I haven’t been to Lake Manyara or to Tarangire. Is it a mistake to once again exclude them?

The scheduled flights to/from Mahale add a logistical consideration because they only run on Mondays and Thursdays. The flights to/from the U.S. also add a twist because the AMS-EBB and EBB-AMS direct flights are not operated on Thursday or Saturday and I don’t see any reason to add a Nairobi connection into the equation.

Does the above itinerary make sense? If not, why? And, most importantly, should I start with Tanzania and end with the gorillas instead of the other way around? Any and all thoughts are greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
Dana

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