Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania

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Dec 10th, 2014, 06:06 PM
  #1
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Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania

In February of 2015, I am heading to these three countries for a series of experiences ranging from observing gorillas and chimps to horseback riding, bungee jumping, a 7 day camel trip and general sight seeing. This is my fifth trip to Africa but first time in Rwanda and Uganda. Tanzania is familiar territory, having done the camel trip before (and loved it), and summitting Kili last spring.

I'd be very interested in those who have done the trekking to see the chimps and gorillas, and what your experiences have been. Any recommendations based on your experiences, thoughts and ideas. I'm curious to know anyone else's thoughts. I come from the mountain country of Colorado. I spent last January trekking through the very thick tropical forests of the Vietnam mountains west of Dong Hoi and I get the impression this might be similar. Would love someone's direct experiences.

I'll be doing a trip report as my itinerary is a month long. Your input and thoughts both as Africa experts and first timers are all welcome.

Of particular interest are clothing thoughts for February and the territory. ETrip Africa has put together a fantastic itinerary just as they did before, so February can't come soon enough!

Recommended threads, etc. Thanks to all in advance for your help.
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Dec 11th, 2014, 01:11 AM
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Hi Jhubbel!
It's going to be an amazing trip. I've been to the 3 countries many times, I've been overlanding through Uganda, Rwanda, Eatern Congo DRC and up to South Sudan, I've seen the mountain gorillas 6 times, in Bwindi (Uganda) Kinigi (Rwanda) and Jomba (RDC), the eastern lowland gorillas twice in Khauzi Biega (South Kivu, DRC)and chimps in both Kanyo Pabidi and Kibale Forest, Uganda.
1st, Uganda is not only gorillas and chimps. It hosts great parks, fantastic landscapes and plenty of wildlife. It's worth spending at least 1/12 days in Uganda to explore Murchison Falls, Kibale, Queen Elizabeth (including the Ishasha Sector), then down to Chyanika border into Rwanda. If you have nmore time and feel braqve then include in your trip a visit to Karamajong (North-Eastern Uganda) where you can meet the Karamoja people and up to Kidepo Valley National Park, beautiful, remote, with nearly no tourists at all.
For gorilla trekking, on my opinion Rwanda is best. I didn't like it so much in Bwindi. The gorilla business is very organized in both Uganda and Rwanda, you are 99,99% sure to meet the gorillas. Rangers patrol the park 24/7 so they always know where the gorillas are and the trekkers out in the forest are in contacts via radio with the guides who escort you, so the big apes are easy to find. You report at the park gate around 7 a.m. where visitors are divided into groups of 8 according to their physical condition: some gorilla families are very close and easy to reach, some others are a bit far. I suggest not to take the easiest group, they may be just behind the 1st line of trees, just past the corn fields...) The story changes a big deal in Congo: no organization, no equipment, it's a real adventure! But it is great fun, maybe more fun than in Uganda and Rwanda.
You will get very close to them, none can prevent the young ones to come and touch you...if they do crouch down, don't move and don't say a word. The silverback will be there observing you!
Chimps are much different. I suggest Kibale for chimps more than any other place in Uganda, as the trekking has been run there for longer, the ground is almost flat and you have more chances to see them. While gorillas stay on the ground most of the time due to their wrigh and just climb onto the lower, bigger brenches, chimps may jump around all the time, and if they do not feel like being disturbed they can decide to climb up the canopy and keep silent until visitors go away.
In Rwanda you should not miss Lake Kivu and Nyungwe Forest, a great place for hiking.
Are you going to overland to Tanzania or are you flying there from Kigali?
Cheers, Oliver
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Dec 14th, 2014, 11:50 AM
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Hey Oliver, and many thanks for your enthusiastic response. I don't have my itinerary under my nose at the moment but I think we are flying to Tanzania. From what I recall, the places you've named in your post are pretty much all on my agenda or at least most of them are. I've got close to five weeks. There was some discussion about possibly including the Congo but I know that some concern about activity in country led to steering away, which is fine by me. The country and all it has to offer will be there a long long time.

As an athlete, I plan to take on the more challenging of the trips. My only chuckle is that people tend to see my age (I will be 62 in January) and assume I belong with the slow folks, however in the last year I not only summitted Kili but also did the Inca Trail and the Everest Base Camp, learned white water and sea kayaking, mountain biking (I'm a road cyclist) and have ridden horses extensively all over the world in addition to taking up several other new sports. Since I train at altitude here in Colorado 3000 meters isn't a challenge. One of my new sports is bungee jumping, for as a skydiver that's child's play, and I still skydive. I'm promised I can bungee jump the Nile on this trip.

My great interest is simply to experience wonder, which in every trip to Africa is pretty easy. With luck there will be few tourists if I can get with a group that is willing to do the hard work of climbing high and long. I very much appreciate your thoughts. Also found some suggestions on clothing on a variety of sites. If you have thoughts on February as a time to go (and the higher you go, the cooler) I'd love to hear.

Thanks again.
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Dec 17th, 2014, 07:39 AM
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Hi Jhubbel!
with all the hikings and trekkings you have done then the gorilla trek will be a walk in the park.
February is a good month, hot and quite dry. Remember that in the mountains between Uganda, DRC and Rwanda it rains almost every day, otherwise the so called "mountain rain forest" could not be there.
February is perfect in Northern Tanzania, the wildebeest migration should be in southern Serengeti between January and April, I was there last January, simply amazing, I'm going there again next month.
You should pack summer garments including long cotton trousers and cotton shorts, shirts and t-shirts, a light windcheater and a sweatshirt or fleece for cooler evenings or to wear at higher altitudes. Bring some swimwear (many lodges have pools), a sunhat, sunscreen, and sunglasses; if you use prescription spectacles bring a spare pair. Sneakers and sandals will be fine during the days dedicated to game drives. Bring the medication you usually take, add a broad-spectrum antibiotic, an anti-emetic product, an intestinal disinfectant, and anti-histamine ointment. Most lodges have laundry service, you can have your clothes washed on the way, no need to pack too much. For the trekking: a pair of good hiking boots, thick trousers (for ants...they bite! many people use gaiters, too) a small rusksack and a light raincoat or poncho.
Enjoy your trip!
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Dec 17th, 2014, 07:54 AM
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My DH and I completed two gorilla treks in Rwanda in August 2014. In case you missed it, here is the link to my post:

http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...-in-rwanda.cfm

Feel free to ask questions. CR
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Dec 21st, 2014, 05:44 PM
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Dear CR,

Just read it and thanks. Your description of the hike in the jungle is precisely what I found in Vietnam when I trekked to the caves west of Dong Hoi. Mud, vines, slippery. I really appreciate good hiking boots- and will have them. Sneakers don't cut it for me for hiking! Also super helpful was understanding how many people to plan for tipping, their roles and responsibilities. I always bring extra cash but this gives me a good range to plan for.

One question I do have: I have trekking poles which I was planning to bring. I can always use just one on the mountain. The guides provided you with a walking stick. Your thoughts on this are welcomed. I use poles on all the mountains I climb especially for descents and challenging climbing conditions. Very open to your input on this.

The clothing suggestions are good too. Almost everything I have is very high tech and super lightweight. I got a bang out of the sitting in the nettles story. It reminds me of how many times my tush found a thorn bush when I left my horse to find relief in Patagonia this past November. You can't help but laugh out loud but damn that hurts.

Great reminder to have small US bills organized for tips before you leave. Such great information.

Oliver, thanks again for your ideas. I'm good for the clothing you've recommended but I don't work with cotton clothing when it comes to any kind of expedition gear. It leads to hypothermia very easily so that stays home for sleeping in. What you described was hugely useful in understanding the conditions and I've already begun to lay out the gear and clothing.

From what your last two posts have indicated, sounds like my gaiters are going to be a very good investment on this trip. Since I'm going to be doing the chimps as well, that's a lot of trekking time.

Did you use any kind of bug spray against the ants?

Thanks all.
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Dec 30th, 2014, 09:17 AM
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Here's a link to my report on gorilla trekking in Rwanda. Fabulous time. The second (very hard) day was one of the best of my life.

http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...s-gorillas.cfm
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Jan 2nd, 2015, 07:56 AM
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jhubbel
Very happy that you found the info helpful.

Regarding the trekking poles/walking stick:
I honestly did not find the walking stick very useful for two reasons. First, our hikes were not that difficult and the footing was fairly easy, so I did not really feel the need for one. Second, whenever the going was even remotely iffy (uneven, steep etc.), my porter would be at my side to offer a hand (literally). If you normally hike with trekking poles (I don't), then you might find a walking stick more useful than I did. Whether to bring poles rather than use one of the local walking sticks may come down to how much room you have in your luggage. We were trying to travel light (because of the luggage weight restrictions on the small planes that we would be on in Kenya) so, if I normally used trekking poles, I probably would have left them at home and used one of the local walking sticks. I have no doubt that the guides would have provided me with two sticks if I had asked.

We were lucky not to encounter any fire ants. We did not have bug spray with us, but I certainly saw guests at park headquarters spraying their clothing and footwear. I had read that bug repellant is not effective against the ants, so we had not bothered to pack any.
CR
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Jan 10th, 2015, 09:14 PM
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Thanks again. I do regularly use poles, and I have a carbon one so it's uber light. Just taking the one. don't need it for uphill, it's mostly for downhill. I travel with one backpack, and a gear bag, and have to separate for different excursions due to the weight. Normal luggage is out of the question as it just weighs too much.

I find that Coleman makes the best bug spray that I've found works all over the world, and it costs dearly. It sounds as though the best prevention is full coverup, which is easily accomplished.

Your suggestions about the tips in different envelopes was really such a simple and thoughtful one to take care of in advance. I'm going to take care of it even before I leave the country. I always plan for tip money but I love the organization of this in advance, and the sense of specialness that people get their own envelopes. I'm going to use this from now on as well, as I like that touch.

Thanks again. As I am going to be doing a 7-day camel trek, as well as a horse safari, I am bringing extra gear and boots for those adventures as well. My bag will have plenty in it!
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Jan 11th, 2015, 11:51 PM
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Hi jhubbel
I very rarely come here these days but for some reason decided to have a quick look. I head off next Monday to work in South Africa with injured/orphaned animals, mainly rhino, then onto Rwanda for the gorillas and a bit of gameviewing in the Sabi Sands at the end of our trip. I am taking two nieces with me.
Did the gorillas in June 2013 and I loved it and I have had many many amazing experiences with animals over the years. Haven't really read all the responses above.
I would like to say, please take a porter as this helps the gorillas by making sure the locals have an income and don't have the need to poach! Very important and very easy for us to do but I am amazed at how many people said they backpack was too light to warrant help - not the point at all, even if I had a backpack with nothing in it, I would have a porter. You really need to take a bit of cash each day with the gorillas, as each day last time, we had to tip a different number of people and probably will be the same this time. We did three days last time and the girls and I will do the same again. Just looking above, and yes I also use envelopes for my tipping.

I did use the walking stick and I found it very helpful even with the porter's assistance. We had two easy walks and one very difficult and I used it on all three!

I think we got to just over 4000m and while a bit breathless, we all made it with only one poor woman struggling but she had other issues and with her at the front, then that kept everyone at her pace. If you are very athletic, then don't going charging out the front as that forces everyone at your pace, and it is much easier for everyone, if the slowest goes first and sets the pace.

I will be there middle of February, so seriously hoping it is not too wet as that could make even the easy walks, very tricky!

Kind regards
Kaye
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Jan 13th, 2015, 05:40 AM
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jhubbel
It sounds as though you will be on your way shortly. Have a wonderful time. I hope you will post a trip report when you return. I would love to hear about your travels - I am curious about the camel trek. Go well!
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Jan 21st, 2015, 08:00 PM
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Hi Kaye,

Thanks again for all your thoughts.

Canadian robin in her trip report made some terrific points about hiring porters and appropriate trips. It's simple and appropriate and to your point. I like the idea of hiring locally. In fact I've already got the envelopes laid out for the tips.

As for your comment about being athletic, I am very athletic. However that doesn't mean that I would be a first class jerk and rush to the top and set an inappropriate pace. I understand what you're saying, and appreciate your cautionary advice, but it's a rude person indeed who pulls that kind of stunt.

I have strong feelings about group integrity. I'm an Army vet, and we don't leave people behind.

Robin, I will be posting trip report segments all along wherever I have wi-fi connections for the whole five weeks. I really valued your trip report and all the detailed information. One of my last purchases is going to be that roll of duct tape for my boots!

With any luck I hope to be riding the same camel I had before, Dominique, for whom I am packing a very fine goat hair brush. If he allows me, I plan to treat him to a lovely brush down with its exquisite soft fibers. If he doesn't, I might get some camel spit in the face. Either way I'm sure it'll be a good story!
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Jan 21st, 2015, 08:17 PM
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I will look forward to your posts.

I was able to find gorilla duct tape at Canadian Tire (a hardware store) - just too perfect. I left what we didn't use with Innocent (our guide), and he was thrilled.

Good luck with the camel - and yes, a great story either way. Dare I ask where one buys a goat hair brush??
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Jan 22nd, 2015, 04:04 PM
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At a very good tack shop. The goat hair brush that I bought had a fancy hand tooled leather handle and a fine wood back for which I shelled out a very pretty penny- about $43, a good bit more than the $12 brushes that filled the bins. This brush was in the case, displayed along with all the other high end treasures. As soon as I touched the bristles I knew I had to have it. However for a neat twenty bucks I just found you one online at Mary's Tack and Feed, and there were others if you Google. I just didn't have the time to wait for the shipment.

I actually passed on the gorilla tape for fear that it might be too difficult to peel off my hiking boots- which are Goretex but I'm not eager to get them muddy. So, one last question- was the gorilla tape fairly easy to remove each day, because if so, it's very easy to make an exchange.
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Jan 23rd, 2015, 06:57 AM
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A goat hair brush for the camel! I love it!

As for not being eager to get your boots muddy, depending on the trail conditions they may end up a mess or not.

Some of the attendants at the camps will clean your muddy boots. I am sure you could find one who would like to take on this extra task for some extra money. Sometimes I've just found my footwear all cleaned up without even asking. It was actually touching.

If you will be visiting the camel first, maybe the camel brush could also be put to use as a boot scrubber.

I would fear that the tape would leave a sticky residue on the boots. An interesting use of duct tape--neon orange duct tape--is show near the bottom of post #4 (#s in upper right) in the linked report.

http://safaritalk.net/topic/3984-hav...cs-will-track/

You might consider gators or similar to help protect your boots and feet.

From trip report: 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 my guide 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.
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Jan 23rd, 2015, 08:17 AM
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You are going to spoil Dominique! Lucky camel!

We had no difficulty getting the gorilla tape off our running shoes (no residue left behind) - in fact, given the mud and damp, the tape did not stick as well as I would have liked, so our shoes did get a bit muddy. I did wonder at the time if regular old duct tape would have worked better. As Lynn suggests, we did wear short gators, which helped protect our shoes somewhat - but more so our pants.

Virunga Lodge took our shoes from us when we arrived back at the lodge parking lot after each trek, and gave us flip-flops to wear to our room. About two hours later, our shoes were brought to our room. We were amazed! They looked better than before the treks - absolutely spotless. I was afraid that the staff had washed the shoes and that they would be wet, but they were perfectly dry. I have no idea how the staff at the lodge accomplished this. This (shoe cleaning) service seems pretty standard at all of the lodges. At Virunga Lodge there was no charge.

Have a wonderful trip! I will watch for your posts.
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Jan 23rd, 2015, 09:09 PM
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Thanks again. Deep in my backpack is a pair of excellent gaiters made for this very purpose. The pants I will be wearing are made of a fabric that is advertised to be strong enough so that you don't need gaiters but they of course don't cover your boots, hence the need for the tape. The gaiters I own are hard core mountain climbing types for tough rocks, weeds, thorns, the fun stuff. I researched the nettles too, and am bringing not only the gloves but also the antihistamine cream to deal with the stings should I happen to take a roll in some. I have on more than one occasion dropped trou only to land on a thorn bush; it would be just my luck, if nothing else it would make a funny story after the pain subsided. It's one reason to skip lots of coffee in the morning if for no other reason to avoid giving the ants and nettles additional geography to aim at..as it were.

Given that this goat brush cost me a minor fortune I probably won't be using it to clean my boots. I will however use it on the horse I am riding along the Nile, and if the nettles itch, perhaps....well, you never know. Dominique comes later in the trip as does the horse.

All so very helpful, thanks again.
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Jan 25th, 2015, 02:31 PM
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The goat brush will be doing its own trip report!
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Jan 26th, 2015, 06:55 PM
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It'll be keeping a diary of its own!
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