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Back from my trip to South Africa, Tanzania and Rwanda!

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Jun 30th, 2013, 12:03 AM
  #1
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Back from my trip to South Africa, Tanzania and Rwanda!

Hi everyone

Back from an amazing trip to South Africa, Tanzania and Rwanda.

Working with injured/orphaned wild animals in South Africa, so that is always going to be special!

Then timed Tanzania with migration of wildebeest and zebra perfectly in the Western Corridor, so thanks to all of those who helped me decide where to go. They all seemed to be heading north when we left for Rwanda. We saw so much it was amazing though I will say it was distance gameviewing mostly, wish I had know you could get an off road permit, and I was shocked at how many vehicles we past and at sightings, especially the cats! We were often locked in by other vehicles parked all around us, so guess I am use to seeing a lot less vehicles and animals fairly close in South Africa.

Lastly, Rwanda was amazing both the country and the gorillas. Two relatively easy walks and one that was to be moderate but ended up being long and hard, but fantastic all the same. Quite frankly I am amazed the 8 of us made it out without injury, but due to our great chief guide we did!

Will try and do a summary trip report and working on photos now!

Kind regards

Kaye
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Jun 30th, 2013, 04:03 AM
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Hey Kaye - welcome home. Can't wait to read your trip report, especially about Rwanda as I head off there in 4 weeks. Not really looking for any "killer hikes" but it is what it is eh?
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Jun 30th, 2013, 05:18 AM
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Wow! What a journey! I've been to SA, Botswana and Zambia, but not Tanzania and Rwanda. What a wonderful experience I'm sure you had. There is a need for people like you who are willing and able to help the injured/orphaned animals. I'm sure that was very rewarding.
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Jun 30th, 2013, 06:17 AM
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I am curious about the off-road permit - this is the one for film crews? Looking forward to your photos and learning all about your Rwandan experience. CR
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Jun 30th, 2013, 11:30 AM
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' off road permit ' - as Canadian Robin, for film crews, not regular tourists.
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Jun 30th, 2013, 10:18 PM
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Happy to hear from you Kaye.

Tanzania Park fee for filming off road here, 2nd page -
http://www.tanzaniaparks.com/parkfee...ees2013-06.pdf
Looks like now $300 per person, per day, in Serengeti for filming. If you can afford that, you can afford a couple $100 bills to encourage getting the permit.

FWIW, not being to go off road, and jammed vehicles, in Serengeti parks is the reason I would not go back. I discuss this in my Fodors Tanzania safari 2011 report here -
http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...-tanzania-.cfm
Yes, the private camps in South Africa reserves Sabi Sand and Timbavati spoil you for getting close and for vehicle control (limiting) at sightings.

regards - tom
ps - would for sure go back to Ngorongoro Carter even though no off-roading.
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Jul 1st, 2013, 08:29 AM
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It's been three years since I was in the Western Corridor of the Serengeti right around now and the Wilderbeests by the tens of thousands along with the dinosaur like Nile Crocs in the fast shrinking Grumeti river is a treasured safari memory. Also that we saw very few other vehicles at most of our sightings - most of the time we were alone and a few times one or two others. In contrast the river crossings in the Mara a few days earlier were a complete circus. So I am disappointed to learn that even the previously sparsely visited western corridor now appears to be crowded.
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Jul 1st, 2013, 03:33 PM
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Welcome back, Kaye! So happy Rwanda seemed to charm you.
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Jul 2nd, 2013, 12:42 AM
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Hi everyone

Cateyes555 - you will love Rwanda and will appreciate where they have come from in the last 19 years and how much work it has taken to get where they are today! Cannot imagine anyone seeing those gorillas not to be instantly in love with them!
They have also had huge struggles in the few decades and to see them looking so content and healthy is a massive plus for the gorillas and for Rwanda!
Caroline, thank-you and luckily I love doing wildcare, sometimes very sad results but hopefully a lot of great results as well!
Canadian Robin - I did not realise it was for film crews only, that is not how it was explained to me by my guide but I am guessing he misunderstood my question. I thought he said we could have gotten an off road permit for US$200 and he thought we would have been already paying US100, so double what we were paying and for such a short time, I would have done that, but maybe that is not the case. Not a big description given of who is a film crew!
Sandi, not that I asked a lot of detail, but it wasn't explained to me as a film crew.
Tom, thanks. In the central Serengeti in particular, and we did go there one day, I was amazed at how many vehicles there were and how they would drive either side of you, so pass in front of you! They would also park you in and then you had to wait for them to move on. Way too many for a sighting!
AKR1 - didn't see tens of thousands, but certainly huge numbers and did see them drinking from around the Grumeti. They didn't need to swim across though one juvenile did and made it. A croc did take a baby and an adult male, but both escaped. Stupidly the male headed out instead of in and I now realise, although probably always knew this, I would not handle the Mara River crossing well at all! More of a circus in central Serengeti but also a lot of traffic moving in the Western Corridor - I think I could always see another car. Not necessarily at the same place but around. Also burn off time and I was amazed that no-one was watching these fires. They were everywhere and smoke was everywhere so the whole area looked very smoggy during our time there.
Thanks Leely, and you are correct, for many reasons.

Kind regards

Kaye
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Jul 2nd, 2013, 04:12 AM
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Yes I remember the burn off and the smoky smell in the western Serengeti. It did take away a little from the otherwise magnificent scenery but was not too bad. I recall iit adding to the heat and dust and also our first encounter with Tetses. I now generally prefer the rainy season and the resultant lush topography and foliage which is a nice background for photography but the higher grass sometimes makes predators more difficult to find.
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Jul 3rd, 2013, 07:26 AM
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Kaye: The off-road permit that your guide was referring to may not be the one for film crews. I was asking if that were the case because it is the only situation that I have read where off-roading is allowed in the Serengeti. I was curious to know if perhaps you had discovered another off-road permit. The filming permit is very expensive ($300pp/pd), so I doubt that is the one your guide was referring to. The current fees (filming/crew) may be viewed here:

http://www.tanzaniaparks.com/parkfee...leFees2013.pdf

When we drove through the Western Corridor last August, most of it was on fire, and the flames were very close to the road in several areas. We were amazed that we were allowed to drive through the fires, and surprised that we only passed one group of rangers who was monitoring the situation. The smoke was thick but, when we dared to stop, we enjoyed some fantastic birding - the lilac-breasted rollers were feasting on the insects that were being scared up by the flames.

Looking forward to reading about your gorilla experience. We head to Rwanda next year. CR
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Jul 3rd, 2013, 08:39 AM
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Well, FWIW (not much)
"The filming permit is very expensive ($300pp/pd), so I doubt that is the one your guide was referring to."
If I recall correctly, because I checked it out for my 2011 safari, the filming permit was $100 then. Likely was been $100 through May 2013 because the link I and CR provide (same link) is for fees June 2013 - July 2016. The guide was probably not aware of latest fee changes.

regards - tom
ps - such fees do not matter to large producers such as BBC or Nat Geo. And I wonder if TZ even charges those productions because of the publicity (TV) it brings.
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Jul 3rd, 2013, 07:19 PM
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Welcome back from your successful trip!
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Jul 5th, 2013, 06:07 AM
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Hi Kaye and welcome back!
I am so looking forward to your trip to the gentle gorillas.
PD
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Jul 6th, 2013, 04:21 PM
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I am glad you had such an enjoyable time.

I have a different take on the off-road driving as I think it is good for wildlife to be able to get away from human contact and lead more "normal" lives if they wish. I realize I may be in the minority here.
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Jul 6th, 2013, 10:44 PM
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"away from human contact and lead more "normal" lives"

Hmmm, well contact is not like humans are feeding them. We are watching, being in their presence and not interfering with their behavior. Not interfering with their behavior is the key. I feel that wildlife as they grow and learn from baby to adult finds "normal" anything that is constantly around them. They are born with some instincts and them learn. You could put an inoperative submarine in their midst and they would learn it to be normal. It is we who would consider it to be -not- normal.

regards - tom
ps - and what do I know about animal behavior - next to nothing
Except - in my house I am the alpha dog
(Until my wife comes home).
Check out "The Man Song" -
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rdf9-hRt410
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Jul 7th, 2013, 04:52 AM
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Perhaps I am wrong but can't help but think cars following the animals off-road would interfere with their natural behavior.
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Jul 8th, 2013, 06:21 PM
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Welcome back, Kaye! I'm happy to hear you enjoyed Rwanda. The country is so beautiful and the people too. And the gorillas - beyond description.

I went to the southern circuit in Tanzania a few years ago and I disliked the no off-roading also. Very few pictures from that trip because everything we saw was so far away.

I look forward to hearing more about your trip.
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Jul 10th, 2013, 02:08 AM
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Hi everyone
Thanks Cindy, I loved Rwanda and the people, and especially those gorillas, just unbelievable! Those big silverbacks almost look fake they are so amazing! Yes I dislike the offroading as it really is distant gameviewing and I am used to close up gameviewing from South Africa's Sabi Sands.
KTravel - I understand what you are saying, but it highly depends on what the ranger/guide does and his behaviour. For example, if he/she is respectful, and the animals are used to the vehicles acting respectfully then I believe that the animal is acting normally, as they grow up used to the vehicle and it is the norm. In some of these countries, and I am thinking of Botswana, in my experience of gameviewing here, the animals don't see as many vehicles and in some instances do look very nervous and unnatural in their behaviour. In Tanzania and Kenya, the number of vehicles are so many and many of the vehicles are driven by drivers, not by rangers/guides and in my opinion, they are clueless in animal behaviour and it shows! Too many times in Kenya and Tanzania on past trips, I have seen animals surrounded by vehicles, which is obviously placing animals in danger, or vehicles coming to a stop when an animal is hunting, inbetween the hunter and the hunted and the vehicle seems totally unaware of what is going on around them! So it is really up to what the animals are used to and how they respected.
Thanks Lynn, you gave a lot of good tips re the gorillas!

I am going to do a very quick gorilla summary only, as head off to Hong Kong tomorrow for just over a week.

I loved Rwanda and we both felt very safe there.
Had an overnight in Kigali and did a tour before heading off to the mountains. We did do the Genocide Museum, which I will just say was heartbreaking and not something we will forget!
I could not believe how mountainous it is and how much people walk there or are on push bikes! It also was amazing how much people carry, like water and produce and not only people, but all the kids as well. The people away from the city looked fit and healthy and happy but the life average is 55years, so not all that great. They seem to work incredibly hard and have so little! Every little bit of land that can be used, is used. Another thing was we were in dry season, and the dust once you hit dirt roads, was beyond belief! Will never again complain about the dust at home!
We were at Virunga Lodge for 4 nights and did 3 gorilla walks (planned) and one golden monkey walk (unplanned)!
The lodge was nice enough, but would not stay there again. The fog was always there and should have been magnificent views over the lakes and surrounding volcanoes, but we didn't even realise the volcanoes were so close until the end of our stay. Also didn't realise how close we were to local villages, really close! Not used to hearing people from our room, so that was a bit of a surprise! I am told you go in the rain season and the view is good but the gorilla walks tricky as usually in rain, and in the dry season, shocking views but generally dry walks!
This was true, 3 dry walks.
We saw 3 family groups, Umubano, Agasha and Sabyinyo. The first and the last were relatively easy walks, no more than 1.5 to 2 hrs there and the same back. The middle day was an adventure! The trackers were always one step behind Agasha and his family group on the middle walk. We actually sat for over an hour just outside the park waiting for the trackers to find the group in a stable position. Finally when we could go, they were in a bad position light wise, with the big silverback being our main viewing object. Then after maybe 10-15mins he left the area and headed over a cliff down what looked like a vertical descent down the mountain side. We all thought that was the end of our gorilla viewing! Well we were all wrong, as our intrepid guide Emmanuel, just jumped after them and we either followed or we were stuck on the side of the mountain. I cannot describe to you what I was feeling as he didn't give us anytime to think about what we were doing, looking back now I am amazed how we all made it back with no injuries! Sometimes we jumped and you could not see where you were landing, other times we jumped on to thick vegetation with no ground that we could see and other times we slid down on our bums. After what seemed like an hour, but according to my camera was just under 20mins, the gorillas came to rest and eat on the side of a mountain, with our trackers clinging to us so we didn't fall in our excitement of being so close, and we had no choice in that. We are supposed to be 7metres away, but not possible on a cliff face! The silverback of this group was almost fake looking with their huge high heads that they get with age and just looking at us with no fear or worry just accustomed to the fact that we are with them for an hour every day. It is so amazing, words cannot describe the feeling.
On the first day, when we were nearly there and i heard the branches being broken, I could barely contain my excitement to be that close. But to be standing so close and have them in some instances, all around us was a moment not many people will have! Again, i feel as if I am incredibly lucky to have had time with these amazing animals, who seem to be no threat to us, while the same cannot be said for us and yet, they seem to accept our presence. Revenge or malice towards humans in not part of their DNA they share with us!
I am trying to do this quickly as I must pack but I will say the following.

Do as many walks as you can afford time-wise and money-wise! Each day was so different and I am sure we could have done the same group three days in a row and I would have been just as excited as they would never be the same two days in a row!

It was nowhere near as cold as I would have thought. Most times by the time I got to the rock wall surrounding the park, I had only a long sleeved shirt on with my fleecy pullover around my waist or in my backpack after the second day, as a youngster grabbed it from my waist on the first day!

Absolutely take a porter! I was disappointed with how few people did even though it was suggested by the guide before we left, how it helps the local people and the gorillas as the porters were in the past, poachers, and if they get an income from portering, then no need to poach! That is something we all can do to help gorillas, hire a porter!

I did not wear gators, but did pull up my thick socks on the outside of my pants. Once I stepped back into a scottish thistle, and it stung a bit, and another time I fell, gracefully, onto nettles. Stung for a bit longer, but watching the gorillas made me forget that quickly and one girl from the US said it was not as painful as nettles at home. May be true, don't have them here so don't know, but nowhere near as bad as I thought!

Lastly, I think, selfish people! I was amazed at one person, maybe two, who hogged the camera position! Most times, the 8 of us were in a very narrow opening so some would kneel and others behind them, sometimes we could not all fit into a good position and yet each day we would have someone who either stood fairly smack in the middle and would not budge or who kept moving or sticking their elbows out into your viewing path, rotation of positions seemed out of the question and once they had their photos, they didn't seem to be inclined to move so others could get their photos. It was unbelievably rude. The last day we had a guy and his son, and those 2 were unbelievable- they would stop and take photos at their leisure with 6 people lined up behind them, unable to move. I was also surprised at how a few people totally ignored instructions from the guide about how close they were to the gorillas and to please move back!

At no time, was I ever worried about the gorillas! To me, they seemed very relaxed and Ok with people near them. We did see on the last day, an older female who was missing a hand from a snare in the past. Also in Sabyinyo, is the oldest and biggest male, massive but I have to say, they all seemed gentle creatures. We did not see any tiny babies, but did see quite a few around 1.5 to 3years or so. They are so funny and from what we saw, the big blackbacks were extraordinarily good and tolerant with those babies.

I am fairly pleased with my photos given we were sometimes in harsh light and looking directly into the sun, but nothing I could do about that. Will try and get some up when I return.

If anyone has anything specific that they wish to ask, please do so. Will probably get a chance to look here again on my way to Hong Kong in Singapore!

Otherwise if you get the chance to do this, do so as it was so worth the money and the trouble to get there in the first place! The second walk was really hard but would do it again without thought to see those gorillas!

The golden monkeys was also good but our viewing was pretty poor as too big a group and they were on the move and were pretty much in the top of the bamboo, so looking up to the light was not the best. They just started to come to the ground as our time was up. This is where a few of us got bitten by the ants, I got a couple of bites and not too bad, our green ants at home are a lot worse I think, though obviously the more bites you get, the worse the reaction! Must have gone up the outside of my pants and under my top and as soon as I felt the bite, I could squash them so not too much damage at all!

Just to end, was so looking forward to the chips at Kigali Serena, very nice hotel but I found the chips to be very average and someone here said they were the best chips in the world! I would disagree with that!

Kind regards
Kaye
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Jul 10th, 2013, 09:23 PM
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Wonderful, Kaye, and I so agree with you about the porters, such a small expense to those of us traveling there, such a lot of money to a Rwandan.

Agashya group was my easy trek! We walked for 15 minutes and came upon them in a flat area. You never know.

Looking forward to photos.
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