Advice regarding Itinerary for July 2009

Oct 18th, 2008, 06:38 PM
  #1  
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Advice regarding Itinerary for July 2009

Well after considering Zambia it looks like we have decided on Uganda. Uganda seems to have more diversity ( I know that we will not see the amount of animals we would have seen in Zambia) but the Gorilla and Chimpanzee experience seems incredible. We have become rain forest junkies and all the birding is something that we really have grown to enjoy.

We are going to use Churchill Safaris( any feedback regarding them would be greatly appreciated). The forum on Trip Advisor is primarily positive and Ether the owner has been incredibly responsive and helpful so far. Our itinerary has turned to be very extensive and is a total of 21 days including travel to and from Los Angeles. We have decided to spend three full days in Murchison, Kibale and Queen Elizabeth National Parks with two full days at Bwindi and a visit to Lake Mburo at the end with two nights there. We wanted to go to the Chimpanzee Island and stay overnight but we really did not want to rush more location to location. We are hopefully with the extended time at Kibale we will see them in the wild. Any suggestions about our plans or any other things that would be helpful would be appreciated. This is our first trip to Africa and I know that Uganda is not a usual choice for first timers but we tend to go for more unusual choices. We just got back from Borneo and I am the only person I know that has ever been there. Most people did not even know where Borneo was located.
lhgreenacres is offline  
Oct 18th, 2008, 11:22 PM
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The extra time in Kibale will be well worth it, and you will see both chimps in the wild and many, many birds.

QENP is less distinctive in comparison to other classic African safari locations, but it is an excellent place to see classic game. Most of what you see in QENP is readily seen in Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa, etc., so if you want to save a day or two, this is the place to cut.

I found the village of Buhoma (the entrance to the vast majority of gorilla viewing in Bwindi) a touristy and sad spot to be based overnight, but the gorilla viewing isn't affected by that once you get into the forest. However, consider giving Buhoma a miss and visiting the Nkuringo gorillas from the southern side of Bwindi and spending some time in Mgahinga too - gorillas and birding, on the rainforested slopes of the Virungas.

HTH

Kurt
kurt_a is offline  
Oct 20th, 2008, 04:59 PM
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Your itinerary looks wonderful! In Kibale, if you are interested, ask if they are still doing the chimp visits where you stay with them all day.

You try to find them waking up in the morning with info from the people who followed them all day the day before you and saw where they made their nests. Then you stay with them until they make their nests at sundown. Next day, same thing. This costs more and does not always go as planned. It took us hours to find the chimps on Morning #1 because nobody "put them to bed" the night before. Still very worthwhile. Bedding down pics are nearly impossible in the poor light. In general Kibale pics were tough for me. But outstanding viewing.

The swamp walk was great as well at Kibale. No mosquitos.

If you hear machine gun fire in the night at Kibale, don't become terrifed as I did. It's just rangers scaring eles away from the crops of the local farmers.

Please give me the scoop on Murchison Falls if you get back before August.

~~A fellow Borneo visitor
atravelynn is offline  
Oct 21st, 2008, 09:52 PM
  #4  
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Thanks for the suggestions. If any one has any other must sees in any of the National Parks. If we don't do the whole day with the chimps do you think that we should at least do two chimps walks during our time at Kibale. We are very excited about getting everything in our itinerary together so that we can send our deposit.

Also has anyone said in the Deluxe room at Paraa or Myewa. I would love some input.

Thanks again
lhgreenacres is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2008, 04:41 PM
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Yes, two walks would be great. I think the chimps are much more habituated than when I was there so you may see more of them in less time.

I saw the nicer rooms at Mweya and they were indeed very nice. The lower end single room was fine too, but not as good of location, and I recall I noticed the difference inside as well.

Paraa is where I'll be but don't know about the rooms.

You've got a Uganda Extravagandza.

By the way, it was Kalimantan.
atravelynn is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2008, 08:50 PM
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atravelynn- I would love to hear about Kalimantan. We loved Borneo this summer. We were in the Malaysia part and spent most of our time at Sukau and Borneo Rainforest Lodge. Thanks for all your Uganda input. Have you done any other special hikes or walks in Uganda that we should include in our itinerary.
lhgreenacres is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2008, 04:03 PM
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Just looked at your itinerary again. Is there a reason you are staying 2 nts. in Lake Mburuo? I stopped over there twice on the way back to Kampala. It seemed to lend itself well to a stopover. I did a couple of short escorted walks there and spent some time in an elevated hide overlooking some water. What are your plans there?

More on walking:
From Mweya Lodge (if you are staying there) you can walk to the Kazinga Channel boat launch, which I recall as slightly challenging due to the steep, rocky terrain if you take the shortcut. It is a longer walk if you remain on the road. There was some good birdlife that could even be photographed around the launch site if you get there early before others arrive and scare the birds away.

Some people I was with did an escorted walk from Mweya Lodge around Queen Elizabeth Nat. Park. They wanted exercise and they got it. Don't know how much they saw in the way of wildlife. Walking around the grounds of Mweya, you can see a lot of interesting banded mongoose activity, plus some habituated warthogs.

Near the bat cave in Queen Elizabeth Nat. Park you can hike to a picturesque lake. We only had time to walk to the bat cave.

At Kibale, I walked from where I stayed (Mantana Camp) on a path through cornfields into the village and ran into many friendly children and saw rats devouring the corn. Maybe you could walk into the village from where you are staying. I asked if it was safe for me to do that alone and was told it was fine and it certainly was.

In Bwindi, you might be able to time it so you walk with the school children home from school in the afternoon. They were heading "back home" to their orphanage, as most were orphaned due to AIDs. They learned English at school and many were eager to try it out. These kids were a delightful and uplifting bunch.

Kalimantan--I spent a few days at Camp Leaky with the orangutans, even met Birute Gildikas. Then I took the Lamandau River from the city of Pangkalanbun into the jungle with a guide to spend time with the Kayan tribe of the Dayak culture in a longhouse. I got to attend a wedding, which was a real treat.
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 9th, 2009, 06:19 PM
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Lhgreenacres, just wondered when you were flying to Uganda. My husband and I are also flying from Los Angeles to Entebbe in July 2009. We leave LA on July 1 and return out of Nairobi on July 21.
megdean is offline  
Jan 20th, 2009, 09:41 PM
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Megdean,

We are leaving LA on July 23rd and returning August 12th. We have not purchased our air tickets yet as I am hopeful that prices will come down.
lhgreenacres is offline  
Jan 21st, 2009, 08:31 AM
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We had to book early - used frequent flyer miles.

Does the unrest in Uganda, Congo, Rwanda concern you at all? I think we will be in areas not affected, but am alittle uneasy about what may happen over the next few months. What do you think?
megdean is offline  
Jan 21st, 2009, 10:08 AM
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Hi lhgreenacres,

I just saw your post for the first time. I was in Uganda this past October and had a wonderful time, so I'm really excited for you. I think it's a great place for a first safari! The landscapes are among the most beautiful I've seen anywhere in the world, especially around Kibale and Bwindi, and we saw lots of wildlife at Murchison and QENP. I'm sorry I haven't posted a trip report -- I hope to do that soon.

Since you're interested in hiking, I wanted to mention the gorgeous hike to the Kasenda crater lakes and Amabeere cave near Kibale. You might want to ask your safari operator about that (or, if you want, I can post the contact information for our guide here). That was a half-day hike, but our guide also leads full-day and overnight treks up into the Rwenzori Mountains (which people might or might not feel comfortable doing right now, considering the Congo situation). Another option that some in group did in the Kibale area is a bird walk in the Bigodi Swamp (which Lynn mentioned) -- I heard it was really nice, but I was off doing the Amabeere cave hike that day.

I don't know whether you really want to try to fit other locations into your itinerary at this point, but another wonderful spot for walking (and chimps!) was the Budongo Forest. We were with a group that contributes to the primate research field station there, so we had a different type of access than tourists usually would... but I do think there are options for tourists in different areas of the forest, and it's quite a beautiful area. We stopped at a visitors' center run by the JGI on our way out the forest, and I think they had dorm-type lodging and chimp walks from there. A little more off-the-beaten-path option for chimp trekking.

Our chimp trek in Kibale was really, really intense (we saw a group of chimps fighting, and one was killed right in front of us). I know this isn't the norm! In a "normal" situation, I think I would recommend 2 chimp treks there, as well as the night walk to see nocturnal species (we didn't have the chance to do this, and I wish we had).

Also, the boat safaris in both Murchison Falls and QENP were spectacular, especially if you're interested in birds (and hippos and crocs). One warning about QENP is that you shouldn't expect to see many large predators there. We spent several days lion-tracking with the Uganda Large Predator Project there, and trying to find the collared lions and hyenas... but quite a few of them have been poisoned recently by people living in and near the park, and their numbers are dangerously low. It was not an encouraging situation, although we did see a few lions, a leopard and one hyena.

Have a great trip! I hope you love Uganda as much as we did.
MyDogKyle is offline  
Jan 21st, 2009, 04:58 PM
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MyDogKyle, Enjoyed your trip comments. When you can elaborate on Murchison Falls, I'd be very interested. No hurry.
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 21st, 2009, 05:26 PM
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There are some postive developments as of the last few days in DRC. Rwandan troops are joining Congolese troops to help locate and disarm Rwandan Hutu rebels who were responsible for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and then fled into Congo.

There was a recent Fodor report of gorilla tracking in Congo. I would not do that at this time, but all went well on the gorilla visit.

Over the next few months, we'll both be checking news reports.

For now at least, in Rwanda or Uganda, I would be comfortable because there is a sizeable military presence in the area to deter any problems.

I've purchased 4 gorilla permits and a golden monkey permit for August in Rwanda. I'll be visiting Uganda and Rwanda for 3 weeks.

It can't hurt to tell your guide that if there are any safety problems in the area, that you want to err on the safe side and abandon your plans and you will absorb any financial losses.

In 1994 after my trip to Uganda/Rwanda was underway, there were some developments along the Congo border that made headlines and caused others I was supposed to share a vehicle with to cancel. I was unaware at the time because on safari you don't get the latest news. From my perspective, everything was orderly and under control. I didn't learn of the problems until I got home and read the papers.

That reminds me of 2002 in Uganda when we saw a newspaper headline at a shop in Buhoma, near Bwindi that said there had been an assassination attempt on the president. We wondered about our safety during what could be an unstable time. We asked our guide what he thought about the situation. He chucked and told us that the paper was a week old, which was typical of how news made it to remote locations. We never looked at the date. If there had been any danger, we had been in the midst of it for the past week unknowingly.

atravelynn is offline  
Feb 6th, 2009, 10:47 AM
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Has anyone stayed at the non-dorm cabins and done the chimp walks from the tourist part of Budongo http://www.traveluganda.co.ug/budongo.asp?
Patty is offline  
Feb 6th, 2009, 12:58 PM
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Not that anybody is reading that closely but I noted a decade error I had made.

"In 1994 after my trip to Uganda/Rwanda was underway, there were some developments along the Congo border that made headlines and caused others I was supposed to share a vehicle with to cancel."

It should be 2004, instead of 1994.
atravelynn is offline  
Feb 7th, 2009, 08:45 AM
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Patty,

When we were in Rwanda and Uganda over Christmas, we kept bumping into a couple who had stayed at Kaniyo Pabidi and done the chimp habituation day there. They thought the chimp tracking experience was far superior to Kibale (where they had trekked on this trip and previously). From memory, they enjoyed staying there - I think they said the cabins were large and the food was good!
For comparison, the other places they stayed were mid to high end places.
Wingi is offline  
Feb 7th, 2009, 10:34 AM
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Thanks, Wingi! Did you go to Murchison?
Patty is offline  
Feb 7th, 2009, 11:40 AM
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Patty,

Sorry, no. We went to PNV, Bwindi, QENP (Mweya), Kibale, Entebbe and Ngamba Island.
Wingi is offline  
Feb 7th, 2009, 12:44 PM
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Interesting tidbit Wingi, thanks for sharing.
atravelynn is offline  
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