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Have Orthotics Will Track...12 Assorted Primate Treks in a 3 Week Safari

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Aug 31st, 2009, 05:04 PM
  #1
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Have Orthotics Will Track...12 Assorted Primate Treks in a 3 Week Safari

If you count the 2½ hours of tracking down lost luggage through two separate terminals at Heathrow (compliments of Kenya Airways) then it’s 13 treks. My luggage trek was far less enjoyable and much less successful than any of the primate treks. The bag did show up at my home four days later, dirty laundry intact.

The delayed bag was the only real glitch in a stellar trip.

Itinerary in brief:
Akagera, Akagera Lodge-2 nts
Game drives and 1 boat ride

Kigali, Laico Umubano (formerly Novotel)-1 nt
It is not necessary to overnight in Kigali when going from Akagera to Nyngwe but I did to
(1) allow for a leisurely final morning drive in Akagera that was not followed by 7 hours of driving to Nyungwe.
(2) allow for time in Butare at the museum and other sites enroute to Nyungwe the following day.
(3) permit others to join easily up with me in Kigali after Akagera if anybody wanted to participate in the remainder of my trip. No one ended up joining.

Nyungwe, ORTPN Guesthouse-4 nts
3 colobus monkey visits, 2 chimp visits, 1 forest walk for primates/waterfall

Volcanoes National Park, Kinigi Guesthouse-5 nts
4 gorilla visits, 1 golden monkey visit

Kigali, Laico Umubano (formerly Novotel)-1 nt
Flight to Entebbe, Windsor Lake Victoria Hotel-1 nt

Murchison Falls, Paraa lodge-3 nts
Ziwa white rhino sanctuary enroute to Murchison Falls, Game drives, 2 boat rides, 1 walk to the top of the falls, 1 Padabi Forest chimp visit
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Aug 31st, 2009, 05:08 PM
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Getting to Kigali, Rwanda:
Not a lot of options. One flight even stopped in Kigali enroute to Nairobi, but getting off in Kigali cost a lot more than flying on to Nairobi.

So I flew to Chicago-London-Nairobi on British Air, which allowed a delightful morning visit to Nairobi National Park with plenty of time to make my 12:30 pm Kenya Airways flight from Nairobi to Kigali.

The link to the Nairobi National Park excursion is:
http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...ional-park.cfm

Even though I was in Kenya over 24 hours, collected my luggage, went through customs, left the airport, checked into the Panari Hotel, and spent 3 hours in Nairobi National Park, I still needed only a $10 transit visa.

If you want to retrieve your checked bags in Nairobi so you have them overnight at the hotel, you must specifically request to the airline agent at your initial check-in to tag them to NBO. Otherwise, they’ll automatically tag the bags to the final destination, meaning they’ll be sitting around at the airport in Kigali for a day before you get there.

The lunch served on the 90-minute Kenya Airways flight from Nairobi to Kigali meant I could head out of the airport to Akagera without further delay, which was good because it took one hour for the bags to begin to be offloaded from the plane.
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Aug 31st, 2009, 05:15 PM
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Accolades to my entourage of agents and guides:
In 2004 I went to Rwanda with Primate Tours, booked through The Africa Adventure Company and had Theogene as my guide. I had wanted to use him again for this trip, but to my disappointment, it did not work out.

During the planning stages of this trip when I was in contact with both Volcanoes Safaris and The Africa Adventure Co, they decided to team up with me being the guinea pig (or in this case, bush pig) client for their joint venture—a successful one indeed.

Even though he was not going to be my guide, Theo asked for my itinerary and emailed that he would meet me at the airport in Kigali. He wanted to be there just in case I had a problem when I arrived so that he could offer assistance. How impressive is that?! Later in the trip I would have the pleasure of his company again.

Between his offer to come to the airport and my arrival, I informed him my guide would somebody named Kirenga from Volcanoes. Theo told me that any concerns he had disappeared when he saw that name. They are good friends and founding members and President and Vice President of the Rwanda Safari Guides Association.

So Theo and Kirenga were there to meet me when I arrived for a reunion/introduction/get together at the airport.
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Aug 31st, 2009, 05:16 PM
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You think they would have washed the dirty laundry for you, but it was trek 13, prime and unlucky... As always, I'm looking forward to your reading about your adventures.
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Aug 31st, 2009, 05:17 PM
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Yeah! I have been waiting for this. Sad to know I may have to get custom orthotics, though. I have been avoiding that.
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Aug 31st, 2009, 05:28 PM
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Choosing your guide (and company):
Mix and match if you choose.

I discovered it is normal for Rwandan guides who are employed by one company to do safaris now and then for other companies, if they are specifically requested.

I’d highly recommend any combo of (in alphabetical order) Kirenga K, Primates Safaris, Theogene R, Volcanoes Safaris if you are going to Rwanda.

But don’t just take my word for it, take that of Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Rahm Emanuel, or Joe Biden. Bill Gates and Bill Clinton used Primates and the others used Volcanoes for their visits. Sorry I don’t know who the Republicans used. All of the trips by the Democrats were done when they were not in the White House.

I’m not trying to name drop and usually cannot afford much in common with rich and famous politicians. In this case, though, I think their choices emphasize the sound reputation of these two companies. For my trip, the price was reasonable, especially considering it was all private. I doubt either of the Clintons or Bill Gates stayed at Kinigi Guesthouse, though.

Despite my enthusiasm for companies I have used, I am aware that each morning there were about 56 people at the PNV ranger station going on gorilla treks who were having a fine trip, and who were brought there by a wide variety of companies represented by numerous guides. So there are many good choices.

I’d be careful about going too cheap, though. The safari guide mentoring roles that Theo (five years ago) and Kirenga took on gave me a peek into the calamities that can occur with inexperienced guides or guides working for shoddy companies, all of whom were seeking help when things went wrong. Such things as: guides getting lost (Theo had to head out in the dark one night after I’d been tucked in to escort a hapless guide and his guests to their PNV destination); breakdowns of poorly maintained vehicles; no chimp tracking permits because the company president never thought to acquire them; no gorilla permits due to oversight at best and fraud at worst; clients’ boots getting left behind in Uganda when the vehicle was cleaned requiring an all-night international journey by the guide via bus and motorbike to retrieve them, complete with diplomatic intervention when problems arose at the border. And that’s just what happened while I was there to hear about it in the last two trips.

One reason I was pleased The Africa Adventure Company became part of my plan is that my track record seeing the gorillas has been poor. Dating back to 1994, when I booked my first trip to Africa with AAC, which included the gorillas, there have been various security problems in both Rwanda and Uganda that have resulted in cancellations. Prior to this trip, I had gone on 3 gorilla safaris in 6 attempts. Now I am 4 for 7.

I appreciated how AAC had switched my itinerary (and sometimes that of my traveling companions) along with international flights for no extra cost when in the past it became evident that I would not be going to the gorillas, despite buying permits, airline tickets, and lodging to do so. I was confident if unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances arose for this trip that booking through AAC would mean they would offer a reasonable solution again.

As stability and security continue to increase in the region, I think fears of cancellation for safety reasons will no longer need to be a concern. I saw nothing disturbing, and on a larger scale, a precedent-setting meeting occurred between Rwanda’s President Kagame and DRC’s President Kabilia, offering further prospects of prolonged peace.

Fortunately, no problems on this trip, although Kenya Airways almost caused a disruption with their strike.

That brings up another plug from me for Volcanoes (and similar high quality companies). I commented that there would likely be guests who would miss their gorilla visits if their timing had been very unlucky to coincide with the Kenya Airways strike. I was told that no Volcanoes guests would miss the gorillas due to the strike because if needed, chartered planes would bring the guests in.

Pertinent to the strike, my Volcanoes guide got me onto a Rwanda Airways flight to my same destination when we found out that Kenya Airways was not flying out of Kigali. I may have been able to do that myself, but it was reassuring to have Kirenga directing the show and sending employees scurrying around with my ticket to enact the change. I don’t know that I could have directed any scurrying, which was necessary to make the change in time. (Volcanoes does not offer any air travel bookings, only ground services.)

And here’s another plug: If you are doing activities in both Rwanda and Uganda, Volcanoes is one of the few companies that handles both. This served me well because when I switched airlines at the last minute, it meant I arrived about 5 hours early into Entebbe. The change was communicated internally by Volcanoes and I was met at the airport upon arrival. Not that you couldn’t notify a second company of the changes yourself or just wait in the airport until the original arrival time, but the continuity worked out well for me.
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Aug 31st, 2009, 05:30 PM
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The advertising portion of the report has ended.

The $1,000 permit is apparently just a rumor:
And one I have been guilty of perpetuating. The PNV guides did not know where such a rumor originated but stated there is no truth to it. I’ll stop mentioning it.

No sightings of the elusive Type J adapter plug in Rwanda:
It is also known as the “Swiss adapter plug” or the “grounded European adapter plug used in more modern construction.” The adapter/electrical outlet websites all state the 3-pronged Type J adapter plug along with the 2-pronged Type C adapter plug (aka European plug) are found throughout Rwanda. I was fine with just the 2-pronged Type C adapter for Rwanda and never saw an outlet requiring the 3-pronged J plug, nor did Kirenga know anything about that type of plug. An entirely different type of adapter is needed in Uganda and Kenya.
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Aug 31st, 2009, 05:34 PM
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Marija and Leely, you snuck in there!

I never thought about it being the unlucky trek.

Leely, you may not need custom orthotics from a podiatrist. Have you seen those Dr. Sholes machines in your local drug store? You stand on it and answer a few questions. They ask your weight, but it's just a machine asking.

Then you get a a readout which tells you which of several kinds of orthotics are right for you.

I use those kind sometimes. I admit I used the podiatrist-made kind for the primate treks, though.
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Sep 1st, 2009, 03:41 AM
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Oh goody! I've been eagerly waiting for this report!
If all I needed to visit the gorillas again was orthotics, I'd be ready!
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Sep 1st, 2009, 09:27 AM
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Woohoo! I just got back from South Africa yesterday and here's your report to cheer me up on reentry to "real life." Thanks! Looking forward to the rest...
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Sep 2nd, 2009, 04:10 PM
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Health and Beauty Issues:
-Insects, Mosquitoes, Malaria Pills
I saw lots of lovely butterflies and even took some pictures; one pair of mating bugs in Padabi Forest that I don’t know the name of; a total of about 25 tse tses in Akagera and Murchsion Falls combined, from which I suffered 2 bites; maybe 8 mosquitoes, half of them squashed by me on the walls of my PNV guesthouse; and some large “night wasps,” one of which I was unable to manage because it was the size of a hummingbird and chased me around the room until I solicited the help of a security guard to remove it. It flies no more. I was able to regain my dignity and catch and release two other smaller “night wasps” without assistance on subsequent nights. Those may still be flying.

I dutifully took my Malarone pills because they were prescribed for my well being, but don’t really think I needed them with only 8 mosquitoes, 4 of them squashed before they could do harm.

Every safari accommodation had netting over the beds at night and I used it despite little evidence of mosquitoes.

As for mosquitoes in the wet season in Volcanoes National Park, Kirenga said they were not a problem because the soil composition is not conducive to standing water where mosquitoes breed. The altitude is a deterrent as well.

-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/threadselec...4&tid=34863680
http://fodors.com/forums/threadselec...4&tid=35094525
http://fodors.com/forums/threadselec...4&tid=34863680
http://fodors.com/forums/threadselec...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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Sep 2nd, 2009, 04:20 PM
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Quick Kirawanda lesson, or is that Chi-rwanda:
The K-sound was traditionally and colloquially pronounced as ch. So Kigali may be pronounced Chigali. That’s why for about the first 24 hours, I didn’t know what to call my guide, Kirenga. Some people said Kirenga and some people said Chirenga. I finally asked him and he gave me the pronunciation lesson that I am passing on.

Tipping—Should you be so inclined, the opportunities for tipping are abundant:
More abundant than other locations in Africa. Of course whether you choose to tip and how much you tip are completely discretionary. I’ll just describe the situations I encountered.

Primate tracking has its own tipping etiquette that underwent some changes since I was last there. As of Aug 2009, $10 for the porter and $10 for the guide who led you up the mountain was standard. On most occasions there were two guides assigned to each gorilla group. Sometimes one was clearly a trainee, but still interacted with the guests, provided some of the orientation, and helped maneuver guests during the hour of viewing. Other times both appeared to be full-fledged guides and both took an equally active role.

The approximately 4 trackers who stay with the gorillas (and chimps or colobus) were given prominent mention and accolades by the guides after the viewing was completed and before guests headed back down the mountain. The guides never overtly asked us to tip the trackers, but if you wanted to, that was the time to do it. Trackers on a couple of my visits mingled with the guests and suggested that we tip them at the end. I don’t think they were supposed to do that, but it happened. Part of me was put off by this appeal. But part of me thought, “These are the guys (and gals in a case or two) literally putting their lives on the line, carrying machine guns around to ward off poachers or even rebels from Congo. Plus they do the initial leg work to find our precious gorillas for us so we can enjoy our hour. Who could be more deserving of a tip?”

I’m not sure what the tracker tip rate is but I gave around $5, maybe $10 for them to share. Plus I shook all of their hands and told them, “Murakozé.” That’s thank you in Kirawanda. A few other people tipped the trackers too.

In sad contrast to the trackers seeking a tip, my golden monkey porter requested in French, “Paieras d’argent.” It took me a few minutes to figure out he was requesting payment for his services. I thought it was a given that porters be paid and once you handed over your backpack to them, the deal was sealed. “Absolutement,” I responded.

Then he showed four fingers and repeated, “Quatre.” The poor guy was seeking four dollars. I responded, “Dix dollars,” and showed 10 fingers because $10 was the going rate for porters and I was not about to discriminate against the porters for golden monkeys. He was elated. He kept repeating in French, “Je suis si heureux aujourd'hui.” And in English, “I’m so happy today.” His words and his expression were really touching.

I wanted to be sure he didn’t worry about me changing my mind on the $10 so I gave it to him before we got to the monkeys. He never asked for more and we had a very halting conversation in French and English about his family, his farm, and the crops he grew.

At the lodges and guest houses, the traditional tip box was not present. I ended up tipping the maids individually and I gave something to the manager at the end of my stay for everyone else, which is how Kirenga suggested I should handle tips without a tip box.

At Akagera and Murchison Falls, an armed ranger accompanied us on each outing, was a wealth of knowledge, and often crucial to our success. So I tipped the ranger as I would a game tracker (the kind in the vehicle). Then there were the boat captains who kept us afloat and maneuvered the boat for sightings. In my case I was frequently the only guest on a primate trek or on the boat, so these people did not have a group from which to receive tips. Their service was always impeccable.

Finally, of course, there was the envelope for the regular safari guide/driver.

Tutoyer your porter:
I remember reading that when French speaking people climb a mountain, at some point during the ascent, the climber and the guide change from the formal vous form to the familiar tu form. I always wondered at what altitude that would occur.

But on a gorilla trek, I think you start off with tu. At least that’s how my French speaking porter initiated conversation with me. So if you plan to speak French to your Francophone porters, I think it is ok to use tu.
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Sep 2nd, 2009, 04:54 PM
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AKAGERA – 2 NIGHTS

Kigali Airport to Akagera Lodge = 2.5 hours. The park ranger station is a couple of minutes away from the lodge.

This huge park is only 1/3 its original size. When the refugees returned after the genocide in 1994, 2/3 of the park was used for their resettlement. What remains has tremendous potential with plenty of water.

On our late afternoon arrival we saw baboons frolicking in the road and I was too exhausted from jetlag to search out anything else.

Morning drive—6:30-10:45:
We stopped by the ranger station to pick up our ranger to accompany us.

We immediately saw a crested eagle on a far tree. Kirenga told me when he was a little boy, whenever a crested eagle was spotted, the tradition was to ask of it, “Oh crested eagle, will I survive or not?” If the eagle flipped its crest forward in response to the question, the was yes. If the crest flipped back, the answer was no.

“What if there is no movement of the crest?” I inquired.

“Then you must ask again.”

I thought how capricious and fickle that, according to this tradition, a matter as grave as life or death could be determined by the casual toss of a head. Then I contemplated the many Rwandan lives lost or spared based on equally arbitrary and unpredictable circumstances. The eagle flew off with its crest obscured.

Sightings: Zebra, Maasai Giraffe, Buffalo herd of over 100, impala (mother with twins was a highlight), vervets, bushbuck, hippos, duiker, baboons.

Lake Ihema in Akagera is the second biggest lake in Rwanda, next to Lake Kivu. One small fishing company is allowed to operate on the lake in the park. We stopped there to see a fisherman proudly displaying his catch for the camera. Marabou storks were very interested in any scraps remaining in his boat and the baboons expressed interest in the area as well.

We stopped at Lake Shakani, the one place in the park that allows sport fishing. The lake got its name because local people heard French speakers state that they came to the lake “every year” to fish. “Chaque année.” Shakani.

Because I had asked Kirenga if he could try to find a shoebill stork, we drove along roads lined by thick, riverine vegetation (and not much else) in search of this stork’s favorite haunts. The first location, well off the road, was empty of shoebill. As we bumped along off-road, heading to the second spot, we had not even stopped when Kirenga announced, “I see the shoebill.” I thought he was joking as I managed to locate only a squacco heron. But there it was across the water of Lake Birengero. Though visible to the naked eye, binocs were needed to fully appreciate it. I took some photos, and so did Kirenga with my camera, but they need to be enlarged to see it. Still, it was my first shoebill and I was thrilled.

When I checked out where we had gone on the map back at the lodge, I was sure we had ventured from the southern end of the park, where the lodge is located, to the northernmost reaches. The map proved otherwise. We had gone about 1/10th of the distance north. This is a big park at around 350 square miles.

Afternoon drive to/from boat ride on Lake Ihema:
The round trip drive to our motorboat launch produced some interesting birdwatching, especially a couple of different mother jacanas and chicks.

We found a small croc with hippos nearby and some Defassa waterbuck that were definitely much darker in color than most, almost a subspecies.

But the 2-hour boat ride was the afternoon’s highlight. The motorboat captain, the ranger, and a ranger in training all joined me in donning a life jacket and off we sped.

Sightings included: nesting cormorants and African darters; a fish eagle drying its wings cormorant-style; other birds listed below; baboons and vervets; hippos; 3 water monitors; and a variety of crocs.

It was exciting to watch these massive Nile crocs shoot into the water from the shaded protecton of their island retreats. From our perspective in the boat, we were below the crocs looking up, and we had good views of their bellies and short but powerful legs. I recalled some scenes from Tarzan movies, but in those he ended up wrestling the crocs underwater, while we merely observed from the comfort of our motorboat.

Final 2.5 hour morning drive:
We picked up our ranger.

Sightings included: topi, giraffe, a very relaxed hammerkop couple; baboons, vervets; the only warthog I saw in the park; a herd of 10 reedbuck.

Other bird sightings, beyond those specifically mentioned:
woodland flycatcher
African harrier hawk
lizard buzzard (such a pretty bird for a rather unattractive name)
black headed gonolek (bush shrike)
longtoed plover
common bittern
swamp flycatcher
Marico sunbird
white faced whistling ducks in very attractive flocks
spur-winged geese
red necked spurfowl

Other birdwatcher sightings:
Ian Sinclair
He was investigating the differences between the ring necked francolin in Akagera and in Cameroon (I think), going so far as to take DNA samples. He spent some time chatting with my guide, Kirenga, who is very knowledgeable about birds and wants to make Rwanda a better known birdwatching destination. Kirenga offered Ian Sinclair some advice on finding prize birds such as the papyrus gonolek.

Akagera Lodge:
Improvements were being made that included new guest rooms and a patio. My room was very nice and views were beautiful, though a bit hazy as is the case in the dry season. This is the only lodge inside the park so the location is ideal.

Items on the menu changed daily. The food was great with several vegetarian options. I should have ordered some African tea here because the chef was nicknamed African Tea on account of making such good African tea that President Kagame requested his African tea be made by African Tea whenever African Tea was overseeing food and beverages at political meetings. I found out too late about African Tea and his African tea to enjoy his president pleasing version of it.

How long should you stay?:
~~1 night. I ran into a couple of groups of people working or volunteering near Kigali and their plan was a one night getaway. Those who had already gone for a night were satisfied with getting to see the park.

~~2 nights. That’s what I did and found it to be a good amount of time since I was able to do 3 outings, one by boat, and two drives. If one of your drives focuses on trying to see a shoebill, then I think 2 nights is definitely needed. It is not possible to see the whole park in 2 nights, though.

~~3 nights. Serious birdwatchers would want additional time. Also if you were in search of elephants, taking a lunch box and heading out for an all day trip to the north would be a good plan.

Here is an album of 27 photos of Akagera, including 4 of birds seen traveling to/from Akagera. Photo #1 and the last 4 photos are taken at Akagera Lodge.

http://www.kodakgallery.com/ShareLan...localeid=en_US
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Sep 2nd, 2009, 05:33 PM
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What a great report! I can't wait to read the rest. Many thanks from your southern neighbor.
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Sep 2nd, 2009, 05:50 PM
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So great! The golden monkey porter's "request" put a lump in my throat.

Thanks for including wet season tips as well. I am hoping for a late-May visit so this is very helpful.
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Sep 3rd, 2009, 08:38 AM
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Terrific report--thoughtful, detailed, and funny. I love the photos of those magnificent birds, all wonderful, I can't pick a favorite.

I like your good descriptions of the tour companies, and tipping issues. How fortunate to connect with your former guide.
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Sep 3rd, 2009, 08:58 AM
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Great report, as usual! Good to know the tu vs vous-who would've thought?
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Sep 3rd, 2009, 05:14 PM
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Lynn, glad you found a shoebill -- I spent time looking in Queen Elizabeth NP, to no avail. The shoebills must have been with the chimpanzees during my trip since I saw neither.

I also went with Volanoes Safaris for one of the reasons you mentioned -- I also did a two country (Uganda/Rwanda) trip, hiking to see the gorillas in both countries (although only once in each country).
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Sep 5th, 2009, 06:45 AM
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Thanks for the comments, everyone.

I apologize, I should have included Thit Cho along with the Clintons, Joe Biden, Bill Gates, etc. in my name dropping. Oh well, I'm sure Thit Cho is mentioned in the same breath as these folks on many other occasions. Chris GA Atl used Volcanoes too.

The shoebill picture is grainy and unfocused enough that I too could contend the chimps and shoebills were hanging out together. Except the habitat does not support that claim. But if I look real close I think I can see a sitatunga hidden under the reeds next to the shoebill. Yeah, that's the ticket, I saw a sitatunga next to the shoebill! It's all coming back to me now.

At Murchsion Falls, I did have a better view and I think a better photo of a shoebill. I'll find out when I download it eventually.
atravelynn is offline  
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Sep 5th, 2009, 01:02 PM
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KIGALI – 1 NIGHT
On the drive back to Kigali, we stopped at a small community where a variety of wading birds roost in the trees along the road. We got out of the car to observe the birds and the community members came out to observe us. It’s worth a stop here if you like roosting birds.

Back in Kigali, we went to an African Trade Fair with products from Rwanda and neighboring countries. I was hoping that something unusual like this might fit into my extra time in Kigali. This fair is a festive annual tradition for the country. The president arrived just before we did, which resulted in a long delay due to security.

There were thousands of Rwandans waiting to get into exhibition area and for a while Kirenga and I joined the massive crowds in the street, then later we retreated to the vehicle parked nearby. It was so impressive watching the behavior of those in the crowd. No pushing or shoving, nobody getting annoyed and angry with the wait, no misbehaving kids even after standing around for a couple of hours. The noise level was not even loud despite there being people as far as the eye could see.

Eventually, the doors opened again to the public and through Kirenga’s connections, we were able to drive through the midst of the crowd to enter the trade fair while the dignitaries from the president’s visit were still milling around in their tuxedos and evening gowns. I was wearing zip-offs from a second hand store and a T-shirt, carrying my backpack. Kirenga was not dressed up either. Others who came in after us were dressed casually, thank goodness.

There were endless rows of exhibits and items for sale from locally made clothing to jewelry to pottery to irrigation devices and electric buses to cheese. There were even charitable organizations such as the One Dollar Campaign that provides shelter for victims and orphans of the genocide. We spent about 90 minutes wandering the interesting exhibits and were walking past the carnival rides, beer, and dancing (none of which we participated in) when Kirenga saw his brother and stopped to visit. What a nice surprise.

I spent the night at Laico Umubano (formerly Novotel) and the next morning after an early breakfast I headed to their garden to check out the birds. A lovely pair of crowned cranes put on a little show, plus there were some pied crows, cordon bleus, and lots of sunbirds. I did my best to avoid interfering with the hard working gardener who was busy watering and hoeing. I also did my best to avoid getting too much mud on my shoes.

The Internet is free in their 24 hour business center.

The next morning we made a stop at the Milles Collines Hotel in Kigali because I wanted to see it and because that’s where the Volcanoes Safaris office is located. I got to meet the people behind the email correspondence and we had a very nice chat.
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