Two weeks

Dec 5th, 2008, 12:48 AM
  #1  
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Two weeks

In two weeks we will travel to Rwanda. I had read about it here on Fodors as well. Read some travel reports and will add my report as well after returning.
Our tour looks like this:
1. Flight to Kigali
2. To Butare and Nyungwe
3. Nyungwe forrest
4. Nyungwe forrest
5. Nyungwe and to Bukavu
6. Visit low land gorillas Kahuzi Biega
7. To Kibuye
8. To Gisenyi
9. To Kinigi
10. Golden monkey trekking
11. gorilla trekking
12. gorilla trekking back to Kigali
13. To Akagera
14. Akagera
15. Akagera and back home.

Bukvau and Kahuzi Biega are in Congo and it depends on the situation and our thoughts about it all if we do this part. When I compossed this tour earlier this year (May-June)the situation in congo was better as it is now.

I will post again after I got back.
hdboss is offline  
Dec 5th, 2008, 06:24 PM
  #2  
 
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You will be the first Congo gorilla report I've seen. Hope that all works out well for you and of course for the lowland gorillas.
atravelynn is offline  
Dec 7th, 2008, 01:27 AM
  #3  
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I've done some rseaerch and asking around about the situation in the Bukavu area. It seems safe now, but things can change in a few weeks.
But information and reports on visiting these areas are very hard to find.
Hope to be able to write more about it all after I return.
hdboss is offline  
Dec 8th, 2008, 09:05 PM
  #4  
 
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I hope the situation is okay and you get to do all activities planned--although that's not the only reason I hope the situation stabilizes .

Have a wonderful trip and please do post your thoughts when you return!
Leely2 is offline  
Dec 9th, 2008, 09:07 AM
  #5  
 
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Have a wonderful trip! We just returned from visiting the gorillas, and we too were worried about the situation. At least as of mid-Nov, everything was very calm on the Rwandan side. None of the locals seemed at all concerned. We came to within a stone's throw of the Congo border, and everything there seemed calm as well. Lots of UN trucks about - that was the only tell tale that anything was going on. Very best wishes for a safe and wonderful visit! Looking forward to seeing your trip report once you return. =)
demitademi is offline  
Jan 9th, 2009, 10:46 AM
  #6  
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OK, here I will post about the gorilla trackings we did. The tour didn't went as thought and instead of two trackings in Rwanda, we ended up with only one. This was a dissapointment. Looking forward to these trackings for some years before going to Rwanda, and preperations starting eight months before our trip, you can imagine that I was upset with it. But it couldn't be changed anymore and at the moment we are settle the things with the operator.

Anyway, I do want to continue to write something about the trackings we did and, as will happen with more trackings, the two will be compared.

Our first gorilla tracking was at the Kahuzi Biega National Park, Congo. This is the area where the Eastern Lowland Gorilla can be visited and, to my best information, the only place to visit them.
We had planned this in May and it took a lot of thinking and information collecting before we decided to cross the border a day before X-mas. Yes, the fighting in North Kivu in previous months sure made us think. And travel advices from Dutch, Belgium and US government adviced to stay out of East Congo and thus Bukavu. The British said that Bukavu was avoided for not essential visits.
I contacted a expat who lived in the town and he told me it was possible to visit the town and the park, but to avoid being out after dark. We followed that advice. Two other persons with connections to the town were able to tell about the situation. These reports were important.
After crossing the border we went to the La Roche hotel and stayed there.
On X-mas day, we left the hotel grounds at 6.00. It took about 1.5 to 2 hours to get to the parks HQ. It looked well maintained. We had to wait that for the trackers to find the gorillas. About half an hour later we were also ready to leave.
The park is bysected by a road and we hoped into a car to drive to the point to start our hike. We reached that point after ten minutes.
We prepared for the hike and took of.....for two to three minutes.....there they were....our first gorillas. There were just the two of us with four trackers and our guide. The trackers removed every single piece of grass or branches to give clear views on the gorillas and for the pictures.
We stayed with the group that compossed some females and young gorillas. Then we went down the slope again. We crossed the road and there was Chimanuka, the silver back. Several females crossed the road as well, one carrying a baby.
We followed the silverback as he went somewhat deeper into the forrest. In all, we stayed 70 minutes with the gorillas.
The group has 32 gorillas and during our visit they were active with eating and the youngsters were playfull. This was a very good visit and we realized that we were very lucky to find them so close to the road. Our hiking time was not more then 3 minutes to find them and about 7 minutes in following them.

The tracking in Rwanda was different in a number of ways. Everyone who has been there knows the scene at the ORTPN office. A lot of tourists waiting to be located to the group they will visit. We would visit the Umubano. This is a small group of 8 or 9 gorillas led by silverback Charles.
We drove for a while to get to our starting point. The road was bad. The hike was not to tough. The nettles were a littlebit anoying, but all went well.
We found the group on the east side of Visoke mountain. They had just finished their meals and the older ones started to rest. The youngsters were playfull. A blackback came out of a treee and walked past us....touching out lower legs with his body. He moved uphill as at least one other did. I only saw one of them just before we left.
It started raining and Charles, who was lying, sat up. I had just read that the researchers in the 70s called this the 'wet buddha' position. It was fun to see this in real.
The last 20 minutes, the gorillas had found their rest and there was not much 'action'. Best thing seen in those minutes was the care of the mother for her young one. Her hands went through the youngsters fur and this was nice to see.
The end of the hour visit arrived to soon and we went back through a bamboo forrest.

The main difference in these two visits are the seize of the group of visitors and the 'action' encountered when we were with the gorillas. Both visites were great. I sure would have loved to do the other planned visit, ut things can't be changed anymore.
I hope to be able to visit the area in some years. We probably will visit Uganda then, although I'm not sure where to visit the gorillas. The Vulcano NP sure has some attraction. Not in the last case because of the historical importance and discriptions in the books 'Gorillas in the Mist' and 'In the kingdom of Gorillas'.

Best wishes,

Hans
hdboss is offline  
Jan 9th, 2009, 03:56 PM
  #7  
 
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Thank you so much for posting.

A 3-minute hike to the gorillas might be the record. Wow!

Was such a short hike typical in Congo?

Did you discuss any safety issues with your guide/tracker in Congo? Safety for the park staff, safety for the gorillas, safety in general?

I am very interested in photos and comparing the lowland and the mountain gorillas you saw.

I don't want to dwell on the unfortunate omission of your second gorilla visit in Rwanda, but can you tell us why it was cancelled? Security reasons, weather, permit problem, outfitter error? Just wondering if others might be able to learn from your experience.

I'd like to know your thoughts and see photos of the rest of your trip. I assume you got to do the golden monkey visit. I'll be in Nyungwe and Akagera for the same # of nights, so anything you care to share would be greatly appreciated.

Welcome home, Hans.

atravelynn is offline  
Jan 9th, 2009, 06:27 PM
  #8  
 
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Very interesting report, Hans. You are indeed an intrepid traveller, venturing into DRC... There can't be too many tourists there! Like Lynn, I hope you will post some photos and maybe an explanation as to why your second Gorilla visit in Rwanda failed to happen. Thanks...
rickmck is offline  
Jan 10th, 2009, 12:51 AM
  #9  
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Thanks for reations.

Photos will be on Flickr in some time. will place a notice when they are there.

That 2nd tracking in Rwanda was cancelled because of mis- communication. I am in process in getting refund. But I was dissapointed.

The Bradt guide for Congo mentioned that gorilla hiking at Kahuzi Biega can take about two hours. So I think we were extremely lucky. A Belgium guy who lived at Bukavu had some friends that visited the gorillas there as well. This was 10 days before we went up there. His friends found the gorillas in 20 minutes. I think it depends on luck and where the gorillas are located. The road bysecting the park section is of value in cutting down the hiking distance and time.
I aksed the guide if a gorilla does get hit by cars and he said they did. But not many cars will pass through the park. The road conditions are bad.

About safety is hard to say anything. I was not entierly feeling comfortable crossing the border. Some locals laughed when they heard that white man crossed the border from Rwanda to Congo for tourism.
We had a guided tour and the tour leaders assured me it was safe. As mentioned before, I had contacted one person who lived at Bukavu, one person who has contacts and is working himself in Kinshasha, Congo and one person who had worked recently in the Bukavu and Kahuzi Biega area.
Beside them, I contacted one person who is more connected to the park and the Orchid Safari Hotel. The later two might say it is safe, but they also see clients for their business and that is a good reason to say it is safe.

Crossing the border was easy. As white people (why do they discriminate their own by giving us special access?) we could walk passed the line and went into a special office where we got our visas for Congo ($30 per person). A woman was in charge there.
Just accross the border are a lot of busses and cabs. We had our own transport and that makes things easier.
Getting back was another thing. We had made a mistake when we got our Rwanda visa and forgot to mention we needed a multiple entree visa. Thus we needed to do something on the internet. We could not figure out exactly what to do. We ended up with something that would take three working days. This was to long as we would stay two nights in Bukavu. We filled in our files we had from the Ambassy. This was not good and the customs person wanted to send us back to Congo. Our guide explained it would cost another $30 (we had left Congo) to get in and do the computerwork. The customs person took his pen, wrote 'visa OK' on a form and we coukld proceed to get in. We even got a holidays wishes card. This was very good, although I had scenes in my head of problems entering Rwanda again.

Yes, we did Golden monkeys which was good. Very dense bamboo forrest.
Akagera was good. The sceduled boat trip was cancelled as they were working on the engine. We got out of the car a number of times to walk up to Gazelle, zebra, giraffe, hippo. Funniets thing was our driver who wanted to feed baboon at a fishers place. The baboon took the food. But he didn't like to be petted nor that food was taken away from him. Our 24 year old driver learned some lessons about baboon behaviour there. The baboon lived from the fishermens rubbish and were used to humans.
Make sure you have enough time the first day to do a safari there. We were to late on that first day. So we used only one day in the park. The other day we rested before we went back to catch our flight back home.

Nyungwe was good. There is a lot to do. We did the chimp tracking. Ealy morning rise and drove (about 5 in morning) to the patch of forrest further west. We found the apes very soon. They were up in the trees and we stayed with them for a long time. When I asked if they would come down, the guide said that they might or might not. Good answer. In a minute, the three went down and we had good views. The people who went the days after didn't see them that good as they stayed up in the canopy.
also did the colobus tracking at the tea estate. This was easy. They did the same as the chimps. Stayed in the trees for a long time. We hoped to see them closer and said to each other that we had expected more. Then they came towards us and crossed the trail about two meters in front of us. Their crossing place was between us and out back packs.
We also did the waterfall trail, a nice trail in the forrest. In the end we saw blue monkey from a large distance. The guise, Anthony, told that he knew which trail to take when one wanted to see bats or special birds or maybe monkeys as well. I would ask this at the office if you want something special to see.


hdboss is offline  
Jan 10th, 2009, 10:49 AM
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All excellent info. Thanks so much for including this. Again, I am sorry about your 2nd Rwanda gorilla permit.

The water activity in Akagera (had it gone) appeared to be by boat as opposed to canoe, since you mentioned a motor problem. I'll pass on any baboon petting. Thanks for the heads up.

Lucky you seeing the chimps in Nyungwe!

I think you were probably lucky with Congo as well because things seemed to reach a negative peak about the time you were there.

When convenient, please share some photos.
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 10th, 2009, 11:06 AM
  #11  
 
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I agree with Lynn and rickmk--very interesting report and you had terrific luck in the DRC.

That is too bad about the second Rwanda trek; I also would have been bitterly disappointed.

I am looking forward to your photos when you have the time to sort and post them.

Welcome home and thanks for posting!
Leely2 is offline  
Jan 11th, 2009, 11:16 AM
  #12  
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Here is a link to where the photos of Congo can be found. By clicking further you can also find rwanda photos here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sietske...7612441238948/

Hans
hdboss is offline  
Jan 11th, 2009, 12:48 PM
  #13  
 
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Nice pictures. Thanks! Where did you see that huge flock of bats? Do they flock like that in the evenings when they are emerging for the night?
rickmck is offline  
Jan 12th, 2009, 02:48 AM
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Rick,

Thanks for reply. The bats were taken at Napoleons Hat Island. You can reach this by boat from Kibuye. We stayed at the Moriah Hotel and did the tour from there. I believe other hotels run such trips as well.

They will charge $60 for one hour of a boat ride. We didn't know how long it would tak to the island and feared that they would sail a little longer to enable them to ask twice that price. So we discussed things and agreed on $ 60 for a tour to the island. It probably could have been done for $ 50 as well.

Near the island, some young fishermen wanted to earn money by chasing the bats from the trees on the island. They asked $ 2 for it. So they went on the island and did the thing that made the bats come out. We did not go onto the island. But it was great to see this. I know that are other places in the world to see this, but we never saw it before (didn't visited those places).

The tunnel system at Rhuegeri has a large number of bats that will go out at dusk (didn't see them but were at the entrence of the tunnels with not the proper equipment to enter the tunnels).
I believe that a guide at Nyungwe also mentioned that he knew where there are bats. So if you want to see those bats, it would be good to inform at the office.

hdboss is offline  
Jan 12th, 2009, 04:16 PM
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You're the first person that mentioned it was possible to see bats at Nyungwe. Thanks.

You have a wonderful collection of gorillas with some great portraits I like the emphasis on the hands in several of the pictures.
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 12th, 2009, 05:16 PM
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GREAT photos! I especially like the youngster hanging out relaxed on the branches. And looks like you had good light, too. Lucky, lucky.

Thank you so much. Magnificent.
Leely2 is offline  
Jan 13th, 2009, 08:40 AM
  #17  
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Lynn, I believe that it was that, that the guide (named Anthony) told. English isn't our mothers tounge nor it was his, so I might have misunderstand him.
I noticed that you will do a SUPER trip to Rwanda and visit Nyungwe as well, so you may ask there at the office.

Thanks Leely. On our first gorillas visit the sun was shining and there were some small clouds. Good weather.
In Rwanda it started raining. Funny thing to see was how the Silverback reacted. He was lying on the ground and raised up to sit in the position as seen in the photos. I had just read in "The kingdom of Gorilla'" that this was called the 'Wet Buddha pose". Fun to read it and then actually see it.
hdboss is offline  
Jan 13th, 2009, 09:12 AM
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Thanks so much for your report and photos! We also visited the Umubano group in October, so it was especially fun to see your pictures of them. When we were there Charles was down in a deep gulley eating with his back to us, so we didn't get as good a look at him as you did.

Beautiful photos, and it was so interesting to read about your unusual adventures -- not the typical itinerary we see here! Thanks again.
MyDogKyle is offline  
Jan 14th, 2009, 04:05 AM
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So that's where the Wet Buddha Pose came from. Very creative.
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 14th, 2009, 07:14 AM
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MyDogKyle, thanks for your compliments. Seems we were lucky to see the silverback's face.
It's nice to hear from someone who visited the same group.

Lynn,

I just searched in the before mentioned book and found on page 118 following:
"... Beethoven sat stoically in the gorilla's classic rainy weather position: arms folded, head tipped down, with water running off his long hairs. This "wet Buddha" position was..."
So I guess our pics don't show the ultimate "wet Buddha" position, it came close.
Beethoven was one of th silverbacks studied by Fossey and others.
hdboss is offline  
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