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Trip Report

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We returned from 11 days in Uganda/Rwanda on January 3rd. It was by far one of the best trips of my life. Below is my trip report. I would love to attach photos but don't know how to do it. Can someone please explain to me?

First, let me start by saying we were all very pleased with Travelust. Tripster - Meddie was our driver and we loved him.

By using an African company (opposed to a UK company) we were able to stay in all of the same lodges - on the exception of one - for less money. We were able to negotiate with Travelust on the price and it appears we paid about half of what others paid that went with the bigger tour companies. All of our meals and unlimited water were included.

Our driver/guide was always on time and consumate professional. He also understood our sense of humor and laughed with us a lot.

We drove from location to location around Uganda (opposed to flying which some tour groups offer). The roads are wild but I loved every minute of it. I loved the people and villages just as much as the animals we saw, so if you fly around you will miss all of this.

Below was our itinerary and my comments about the trip.

23rd December 2006: Tour of Kampala including the Tombs of the Buganda, a museum, churches, and our favorite - the market! Stayed at the Windsor Lake Victoria Hotel in Entebbe - very nice and clean. The hotel had electricity and internet access (for a small fee).

24th December 2006: Tour of the Entebbe Botanical Gardens in the morning and after lunch, we transfered to the Lake Victoria Shore for a speed boat to Ngamba Island for a visit to the Jane Goodall Ngamba Chimpanzee Sanctuary. The boat ride was approixamtely 40 minutes. We spent another night at Windsor Lake Victoria Hotel.

25th December 2006: Drove Start 5 to 6 hours to Murchison falls National Park. The roads are unreal. They are dusty, filled with potholes, and sometimes washed out. You have to drive slow most of the time, but what an adventure! The Nile can be viewed at different points up to the Baker's Summit . Dinner and overnight at Inns on the Nile Camp. This was my favorite lodge. While Jacana Lodge was technically nicer, I thought having the Nile run past your balcony was special. Plus, we had a family of monkeys living above our roof and a hippo under our balcony grunting!

26th December 2006: We started our morning with a game drive in Murchinson National Park. Among the many animals there, we saw many giraffes, kob, waterbuck, oribe, hippos, and some elephants. After lunch, we went back to our hotel, rested for 2 hours and then took a Nile Cruise. It was wonderful. We saw crocodiles, hippos and even an elephant.

27th December 2006: We drove to Kibale forest. The drive, as usual, was 4-5 hourse. That evening we did a nocturnal forest walk in the forest. This is the one event I would recommend skipping. Although it sounds cool, it was very difficult to spot anything in the dark, and when we finally did, all you saw were two little eyes. We spent the night Ndali Lodge which was lovely. It is run by a British ex-pat named Aubrey who was very friendly. The views are spectacular and the service was excellent.

28th December 2006: We drove to Queen Elizabeth National Park. We were supposed to do a Chimpanzee trek in the Chambura Gorge on this day, but it looked like it was going to rain, so we put it off until the next day. Instead, we did a nature walk in the Maramagambo forest to the bat caves. Not exactly my scene, but the others in my group loved it. We stayed overnight at Jacana Camp. This is arguably the nicest hotel we stayed at.

29th December 2006: We went for our gorilla trek at Chambura Gorge first thing in the morning. Warning: when we got to the bottom of the gorge, there is a small river. I didn't know this before going down, but you have to cross this river. They do this by making you cross a tree that has fallen over the river. There is nothing to hold onto and the trees are usually wet from all of the rain. It was very difficult and I felt relatively unsafe. We all made it across, but many of us were not to pleased with the "bridge."

When we found the chimpanzees they were way up high in the trees. I think this is just luck of the draw as I heard others tell me they saw them on the ground. Other than the "bridge" it was a nice hike.

After the trek, we departed for Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (Home of the Mountain Gorillas. Once again it took at least six hours to get there but I loved the drives. You go through many small villages and many people were excited to see you drive by. Children were always running over to greet us. We spent the night at Gorilla Resort which I have learned is owned by James who owns Travlust. This lodge was a little more rustic than the others we stayed at. The rooms are tented but very clean. In fact, this place had the cleanest sheets and blankets out of all of the places we stayed. It is run by a man named Milton who we adored. He made us feel very welcome and even gave me a pep-talk the morning of our gorilla trek. As an aside, we were the only guests there.

30th December 2006: Our first gorilla trek! There were four people in my group (including my mom - who is 63 and did great) and trying to get us on the same trek was a bit of a harrowing experience. It is not determined until you get there, but in the end it worked out. We trekked the largest of the families (26 gorillas in total and we saw 16). Our trek ended up being the longest that day - two hours each way. At times it was difficult, but I enjoyed this trek very much. We had porters who not only carried our bags but helped us up and down the mountains.

The gorillas were amazing. Although the first one we saw actually charged us. However, he quickly backed off and we had no further incidents. We saw plenty of the silverbacks (there were two in this group) and toddlers and little baby.

That afternoon we checked out the town of Bwindi and watched the Bwindi orphans perform in the local ampitheater.I believe they do this everyday so keep your eye out if you go - it is not to be missed! We spent the night at Gorilla Resort.

31st December 2006: We travelled to Kisoro and then on to Rwanda. Crossing into Rwanda took a good amount of time as they decided to heckle our driver for a while. As always, Meddie kept his cool and worked it out with the border guards. We spent the night at Gorilla's Nest Lodge in Rwanda. I didn't love this hotel but I understand there are limited options. The hotel is bigger than the places we stayed in but had electricity.

01st January 2007: Today we trekked the Volcanoes/Virunga Mountain gorillas. This trek was very different than the one in Bwindi. The entire trek up into the mountains was through stinging nettles. Now, not everyone has the same trek, this I guess was bad luck of the draw. This trek involved a lot more bushwacking and so, picture it, you are walking through stinging nettles (no way to avoid them) stepping on wet branches just bushwaked down, and slipping and falling into stinging nettles. Luckily, it only took 30 minutes to find the gorillas. And, as to be expected, it was worth the trek. This family was smaller, but more docile than the ones we saw in Bwindi. The gorillas get very close. At one point the silverback came right to us. We had to crouch and look down. You could literally reach out and touch him (although you would be crazy to do so).

At the recommendation of our driver, we left Rwanda after our trek and drove to Lake Bunyonyi. We spent the night there and it was beautiful and relaxing.

02nd January 2007: Today we drove the long, long way back to Entebbe. The drive was approximately 9 hours. We made very few stops, except for the market at Kampala which we had to hit one more time. That evening we began the 20 hour journey back to New York.

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