Using GPS on the Camino de Santiago Trek

The Camino trail is relatively easy to follow — the route is very well sign-posted, so you just follow the yellow arrows and shell signs along the way. However, after you book your Camino de Santiago Trek we can also provide you with the GPS coordinates, which you can download to your smartphone. We have files for the Camino French Way and the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route.

This is a great tool in case you find yourself off the track, mislaid your walking notes, or missed a Camino marker along the way. It is also fun to follow along!

There are many tools that you can use to import and view the GPS waypoints. This will show you how to use it with a phone app called “Ride with GPS.” This is a bicycling app, but can be used for hiking. This tool can be used to download to iPhone, Android, Garmin Edge, Wahoo, and other tools.

STEP #1 – Download the GPX file

We will send you the .gpx file for your route — either via email or DropBox. Download this file to your computer. Contact us for the file.

STEP #2 – Create account with Ride with GPS

Go to the Ride with GPS website, and create a free account.

STEP #3 – Download Ride with GPS app onto your phone

Download from the app store to your phone. Log in using your account information.

This is a free app, but if you want to view maps offline, you will need to upgrade to a paid plan. There are 5 different subscription offers available, the cheapest being the 1 week Basic Pass for $3.99 or the monthly basic subscription for $5.99. After your Camino, you can unsubscribe to the service on your device if you do not wish to continue to use.

STEP #4 – Upload GPX file

  • On the Ride with GPS website, click on the option on the left side for “Upload”.
  • Under “Upload files”, click on “Select files”.
  • Select the GPX file that you downloaded to your computer.
  • Once uploaded, select “View route”.
  • On the left side, select “Send to Device”.
  • Select your device, then Next.
  • If you have the Ride with GPS app installed on your phone, select “Yes”.
  • Click Next and then “Return to Route”. This will show you the full route on a map and the elevation profile. Feel free to browse around!

STEP #5 – View Route on Phone

Over on your phone, you should get a notification that the route was received. Click on the notification, which will open the app. It will ask if you want to Download Route to view and navigate offline. If you paid for the upgrade, click Download.

You will be able to view the route on your phone whenever you have an internet connection. You will be able to see your location in relation to your Camino route, zoom in and out for a more detailed view, and change between different map types.

You should have access to Wi-Fi each night at your hotel during the trip, so we recommend looking at the route for the following day.  If you wish to access the maps offline the next day, go through your entire route each night on your device at different zoom levels.  This will store your route in the device cache and can be accessed easily the next day offline free of charge.

STEP #6 – Practice and Upgrade before your trip

Familiarize yourself with the workings of the App before you leave, so that in the unlikely situation that you do feel lost, your location is only a few finger movements away.

If you wish to download and access the maps and route at any time (without an internet connection), we recommend that you upgrade your account to access this useful feature.

Contact us for more information!

Posted in Camino de Santiago, Trekking | 1 Comment

Adventures In The Cordillera Blanca of Peru

Over the past two weeks, our South America program director, Gretchen, has been exploring the Ancash region of Peru. Read on to hear about wild treks, hidden glacial lakes, towering peaks and cozy mountain huts all found in the Cordillera Blanca!

Highlights:

  • Huaraz
  • Cordillera Blanca
  • Wilcacocha Lake
  • Rajucolta Lake
  • Llanganuco Lakes
  • Refugio Peru
  • Condor Pass
  • Laguna 69
  • Pisco Mountain
  • Yanapaccha Mountain
  • Lima
  • Miraflores
  • Barranco

DAY 1: 4×4’s in Sand Dunes, Caral Archeological Site, Huaraz

This morning we begin before sunrise at 4:30AM and take off in 4x4s to sand dunes outside of Lima. We arrive at “El Tubo” where the desert turns into a staggeringly steep funnel. Without second thought, our expert drivers whip us through these epic walls of sand to safety on the other side.

From here, we continue on to the 5000 years old (3000 BC), Caral Archeological site. Here we have a tour of the major pyramids lead by the head archeologist of the region.

From the desert, we head back towards the coast and pass endless passion fruit, pomegranate and watermelon plantations on the way. We finally arrive in Barracas, a small village on the sea, where we are served fresh seafood and several other local dishes.

Once we are are all full and sleepy, we board our bus to the mountain town of Huaraz. We overnight at the quaint Swiss-Peruvian hotel, Hotel Andino, which will become home base for the rest of my time in the Cordillera Blanca.

DAY 2: Acclimatization Hike by Wilcacocha Lake

Today we drive to Wilcacocha Lake (12,139 ft), have luxury picnic, and hike downhill for acclimatization. We return to the hotel for lunch and then have the rest of the afternoon free. A few of us decide to walk around town.

Huaraz is like a maze with lots of small hidden plazas with intimate, cozy bars and cafes. This evening we attend an excellent presentation on the Ancash region, Santa Cruz Trek and Huayhuash Trek and see where we will be exploring over the next days. The day ends with all of us having dinner in town.

DAY 3: Full Day Hike to the base of Huantsan Peak

Full day hike to Laguna Rajucolta at the base of the incredibly stunning and glaciated Huantsan Peak. The valley looks like Switzerland, lined with massive granite walls and dotted with happy cows munching on tall, wild grass. On the way back, we are surprised with a picnic lunch. At night we eat at a small restaurant off the main plaza in town.

DAY 4: Hike to Refugio Peru

This morning we wake up early and drive 2.5 hours to Cebollapampa. On the way, we pass through an epic canyon of granite walls and the two electric turquoise lakes of Llanganuco. Local lore says the lakes are the tears of the male and female mountains on either side who were forbidden to be together. Upon arrival at Cebollapampa, we are treated to a beautiful picnic breakfast.

We then set out up into the mountains on the Pisco Mountain climbers’ trail towards Refugio Peru. The trek is sunny and all around us are staggering, glaciated peaks many of them  jutting up over 6000 meters.

We arrive at the Refugio and are stunned. It’s a picturesque oasis at the base of Pisco Mountain and several other massive mountains- we feel like kings when we discover that we have the whole place to ourselves! We enjoy lunch in the cozy dining area and then scamper further up the morraine to get an even better view of Pisco.

In the evening we are treated to 360 degrees of mountainous splendor lit up by the magical alpine glow. We watch in awe as the sky turns from orange to peach to pink to finally an opaque grey. Then the real show begins as Venus rises and the Milky Way marches across the sky. Back inside, we enjoy hot showers and have a delicious dinner before curling up into our cozy bunks for the night.

DAY 5: Lakes Hike to Condor Pass, back to Huaraz

This morning we are saluted by the ring of peaks that protect this otherworldly mountain paradise. We pass through Pisco’s moraine, where half frozen steely green lakes reflect the massive Huascaran mountain peaks, and finally reach Condor Pass at 5000m.

From there we descend towards Laguna 69, a lake the brightest color blue any of us has ever seen. Above the lake towers yet another 6000m peak and a skinny and powerful waterfall cascades down into the electric blue water below. Four other incredible blue, green and turquoise lakes sit above the laguna  as well. We are in total awe.

After dipping our feet in the refreshing pool, we continue our descent back down to Cebollapampa for an exquisite picnic lunch waiting for us. Finally we drive the 2.5 hours back to Huaraz where we get ready to return to Lima after our final dinner in the Cordillera Blanca. Later at night, our bus meets us at our hotel and we drive back to Lima.

DAY 6: Cooking Class, Bike Tour, Larco Museum

We arrive very early in the morning in Lima and immediately check into our hotel, Hotel Atton, in San Isidro and sleep in until lunch time.

When we wake up we head to the Sky Kitchens where we are taught in a colorful, inviting environment about local dishes. Here we learn how to make the famous pisco sour, ceviche (fish and mushroom for the vegetarians), Lomo Saltado (beef and veggie for the vegetarians), and picarones (fried anise doughnuts) with a molasses sauce for dessert.

After lunch, we split in two groups to do a walking or bike tour of Lima’s most iconic areas. I am on the bike tour. We start on the Malecón overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the upscale Miraflores neighborhood and follow it to the bohemian neighborhood of Barranco. We end the tour back in Miraflores where we board our bus to quickly head back to the hotel, change our clothes and continue on to the gorgeous Larco Museum.

At the Larco Museum, we have a private tour that covers the common symbology and beliefs reflected in the art of various  Peruvian cultures. Finally we settle down for dinner in the museum’s restaurant- located along side a verdant patio lit by soft candle lanterns and lined with bushes bursting with red and pink flowers in full bloom.

DAY 7: Free Day in Lima with Music/Dancing/Dinner Performance

Today we have a free day in Lima. In the evening, we head to the Barranco neighborhood where we have a lively cocktail hour at Amoramar with live music and local dancers performing, followed by an incredible dinner. The night ends at the infamous Ayahausca Bar, celebrated for its creative pisco drinks.

DAY 8: Transfer to Huaraz

Today our group departs and I board a bus back to Huaraz. I arrive late in the evening and overnight back at Hotel Andino.

DAY 9: Free Day in Huaraz

This morning I meet with my mountain guide, Agripino, about the coming days in the high mountains. I spend the afternoon exploring town, going for a run and packing for the next days. I eat dinner in town at a local brewery and then head back for an early night at Hotel Andino.

DAY 10: Acclimatization Hike to Lake Chulup

After a quick breakfast, I am met by my guide and we drive up to the Lake Chulup trail head. After a steep 3 mile hike we arrive at the secluded glacial lake. Here, we enjoy a snack while taking in the views and then continue up to a vista point before heading back down. I have a leisurely afternoon in Huaraz and then enjoy a healthy dinner at the Hotel Andino.

DAY 11: Hike to Refugio Peru

We depart the hotel at 6AM today and return to Cebollapampa where we hike up again to Refugio Peru. However, this time, we camp in the grassy valley.

Day 12: SUMMIT DAY!

Today we have a 1AM start and work our way up through the Pisco morraine, to the toe of the glacier. Here, we don our crampons and suit up to make our go at the summit. We pass through crevasse fields that could swallow semi-trucks, brush through passing clouds and finally reach our objective at dawn (5752m/18871 ft). With the sun splashing the surrounding 6000m peaks and seemingly minuscule turquoise lakes below, our breaths are taken away. We take in one last look at the glory of the Cordillera Blanca and return to camp by 10:45am. We remain here for the rest of the day and camp under an epic blanket of stars once again.

DAY 13: Hike to Yanapaccha

At 7AM we start our hike down to Cebollapampa from Refugio Peru and then continue up the path towards Laguna 69. Half way to the laguna, we cut off of the path and head up towards Yanapaccha base camp. Hidden in a rocky basin adjacent to the glacier, we set up our tents at Yanapaccha base camp.

DAY 14: Hike to Llanganuco Lagunas, back to Huaraz

Unfortunately, overnight the clouds roll in and snow starts to fall. A couple near by avalanches signal to us that Yanapaccha Peak will have to wait for another day. We sleep in until 7AM and then traverse to the Llanganuco Lagunas vista point and then on to a high mountain road where our car meets us at 9AM to head back to Huaraz.

Arriving at Hotel Andino, I have time to shower and rest before meeting my guide for a final dinner in Huaraz at Creperie Patrick, a wonderful French-Peruvian bistro in the heart of the city center (I highly recommend the house drink specialty: Coca Sour!). This evening I have to say good-bye to the Cordillera Blanca and board my bus back to Lima for my flight home.

Want to book your next adventure to the Cordillera Blanca? Contact us!

Also check out these itineraries for more inspiration:

Your friendly Peru expert,

Gretchen

Posted in Peru, South America, Trekking, Trip Journals | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Uganda Lodging Options

The mighty silverback: baby sitting

Here are some of our top picks for accommodations in Uganda.


Phenicia Hotel (Entebbe)

The staff is eager to please, which was a nice introduction to Ugandan hospitality, however the standard room came with many little problems. The plus side is the room was affordable (very budget), the property was quiet, and the airport transfer was handled without a hitch. If you are going to stay here, be sure to inquire about the executive rooms, which look newer, cost only about $15 more per night, and will probably have more reliable fixtures, etc. Most travelers will be much better served staying at The Boma, which like Phenicia, is only about 10 minutes away from the airport, a huge relief after hours and hours of airports and flying.


Kampala Serena Hotel (Kampala)

This is the nicest hotel in the Kampala/Entebbe downtown area. The Kampala Serena Hotel is urban, central, and 5-star, with a range of rooms from standard to presidential suites. The deluxe room are excellent. While the comparable priced executive rooms are newer, the deluxe rooms had a better vibe and atmosphere. Overall the hotel presents a luxury oasis in the middle of the city. Plan about a 1.5 hour transfer however from the airport. Demanding travelers will probably want to consider a stay at one or the other Serena properties.


Lake Victoria Serena Hotel (Kampala)

This sister hotel, meanwhile, is about 1 hour away from the airport and is situated on the shores of Lake Victoria. There are no elevators, and the property is home to a significant golf course and private real estate development. Depending on your tastes, that could dampen the overall experience. It is certainly not a quaint boutique hotel. But it has all the amenities, offers views of the lake (including optional boat excursions for fishing, etc. if time were to allow), is in the countryside versus the city, and provides usual high Serena standards of service.

Views of Lake Victoria from Cassia Lodge, Entebbe

Budongo Eco Lodge (Murchison National Park)

While it was an attractive location surrounded by jungle,  and the staff tries hard to please, this budget lodge features rooms that are very basic (poor lighting, etc.) and more open to uninvited insects than most discerning travelers would prefer.


Paraa Safari Lodge (Murchison National Park)

Enjoying an outstanding location on the north bank, the lodge affords sweeping views over the park. The lodge is your classic 3+/4-star African lodge with average rooms however the staff was very pleasant, with the public facilities quite nice and well-maintained.  It’s also very close to the ferry landing, about5-10 minutes away.


Baker’s Lodge (Murchison National Park)

This is a luxury permanent tented camp, arriving in time for lunch. Bakers tented units are exquisite and the lodge enjoys a privileged location right on the Nile’s banks. The lodge provides fantastic food and the swimming pool provides a welcome retreat from the heat.


Kyaninga Lodge (Fort Portal)

This is an intriguing high-end choice for active adventure travelers. The lodge overlooks a beautiful crater lake, in which you can swim, kayak, or hike around. We ate lunch here, enjoying more of the expansive views of nearby mountains and pretty, rural countryside. All these views can be enjoyed in the roomy private chalets of the lodge.

Luxury cottage interior – Primate Lodge

Primate Lodge (Kibale Forest National Park)

Kibale’s principal edge is the location, just 3-minute walk to the starting point for Chimpanzee tracking excursion as well as the incredible Chimpanzee Habituation. Accommodation options include luxury forest cottages, the mid-level Forest Cottages or for the more adventurous guest the Sky Tree house.


Ndali Lodge (Fort Portal)

This is probably the premier property to enjoy in the general Fort Portal zone. Gorgeous views, fantastic coffee and grounds, and much more.


Simba Safari Lodge

I would not recommend the extremely budget Simba Lodge except for travelers looking for the cheapest of lodging in the area or a campsite (camping is permitted).


Mweya Safari lodge

This is a huge 4-star African lodge with commanding views of the channel, including distant wildlife views right from the room.


Ishasha Wilderness Camp (Ishasha)

This is a lovely and tranquil high-end property.


Sanctuary Lodge and Bwindi Lodge (Bwindi)

The more expensive Sanctuary offers unique permanent tented chalets while the slightly less expensive Bwindi is closer to the river and offers lodge chalets. Uniquely, Bwindi Lodge includes a nice variety of bonus inclusions during your stay, including drinks, laundry, and massage.


Mahogany Springs Lodge (Bwindi)

This is lodge in the Buhoma, Northern side of Bwindi, located on its own private section of the Munyanga River, and very close to the ranger station where travelers start their trek. Mahogany Springs offers high standards of service, privacy and serenity blended with optimal comfort in a spectacular setting.


Mihingo Lodge (Lake Mburo National Park)

This is a peaceful and exclusive retreat, situated in Lake Mburo National Park. It features twelve luxury tented chalets which are built on wooden platforms. Suspended under the thatched roof is a spacious and comfortable tent equipped with en-suite bathrooms with stunning views. Each room is nestled on a private piece of the lodge’s property, enabling complete seclusion. The main dining area is a large thatched structure built of rocks. Below the dining area, an infinity swimming pool stretches out from the rocks. From the dining and pool area, guests can enjoy the view of a westward oriented valley and its stunning evening sunsets over Lake Mburo National Park. Being perched higher up, on an expansive rocky outcrop, the units catch a very pleasant cool breeze despite the heat.

 OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES IN LAKE MBURO NATIONAL PARK – at extra charge:

  • Mountain bike safari; great rides (with or without guide) are available in the valley or in the swamp areas with lots of zebras, topis and waterbucks. Price from US $40 per person.
  • Horseback safari; explore the surroundings on the back of a horse, a peaceful and relaxing way to get close to the wildlife. Price from US $50 per person
  • Bush breakfast; start the day with a delicious, private breakfast before going on guided bush walk. Price from US $60 per person
  • Cultural walk to learn more about the Bahima culture
  • Sundowners on the rocks; watching the sun go down and listening to hyenas calling in the valley below is a lovely way to end a day full of excitement
  • Night game drive in search of leopards, hyenas and other nocturnal animals. Price from US $25 per person
  • Enjoying a relaxing massage; a perfect way to unwind after a busy safari or a long flight! Price from US $20 per person

All of our Uganda and Rwanda safaris are custom and private, you can start them any day, and tailor them to the length of time you have available to travel, from 3-14 days.  We can help travelers with mid-range and luxury lodging or you can mix and match. Contact us >> for more information or for quotes, or visit our Uganda/Rwanda >> page for trip ideas too. The shorter 3-5 day trips are excellent extensions to a Tanzania or Kenya safari, while a longer 8-14 day tour would be an excellent trip all on its own. 

Posted in Uganda / Rwanda | Leave a comment

Brazil Waives Entry Visa Requirements for US Citizens

AS ANNOUNCED BY THE BRAZIL TOURISM BOARD:

Brazil is open for you! The Brazilian Government announced on Monday, 18th, that Brazil would allow visa-free entry for citizens of The United States, Canada, Australia and Japan, effective in 90 days (June 17th). Until then, the current e-visa will be required.

Citizens of those countries wishing to visit Brazil will no longer need to apply or pay for a visa. They will be able to stay in Brazil for 90 days from the date of first entry in the country, extendable for an equal period, provided that it does not exceed one hundred and eighty days, every twelve months, counted from the date of the first entry into the Country.

These developments come as part of a series of measures that Brazil has taken to facilitate visitor access to the country. Last year, the government launched an e-visa platform through which travelers could apply for visas with more efficiency and ease.

Brazil has already seen extremely positive results with the increase of about 35% in the visa application in less than a year since implementing e-visa. These four countries are considered strategic for the development of tourism in Brazil.

According to the Foreign Ministry, in 2017, 169,910 visas (either for business, tourism or transit) had been issued to citizens of the four countries. With the implementation of e-visa, the number rose in 2018 to 229,767.

“This is one of the most important achievements of the Brazilian tourism industry in the last 15 years and we are confident that it will be extremely beneficial to the country. This decision of the Brazilian government proves that we are living a new moment and that tourism is being seen as a vector of economic and social growth of the entire nation. This is the first step; we still have much to celebrate”, said Marcelo Alvaro Antônio, Minister of Tourism.

“The United States was very receptive to the issuance of electronic visas. The World Tourism Organization says that when adopting an electronic visa, visa issuance increases by 25%, so we have exceeded that mark,” said Teté Bezerra, president of Embratur (Brazil’s Tourism Board, a federal agency and part of the Ministry of Tourism).

Now, with a strong Dollar and dozens of daily flights, experiencing Brazil is just a matter of desire and grabbing a plane. From the Amazon in the North, to the wines in the South; from the exotic Pantanal in the Midwest to the lush beaches of the Northeast; amazing cities like Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Salvador and hundreds of hidden gems are just a few hours away.

About Brazil Tourism:

With its spectacular beaches, lush rainforests, rich culture, exotic cuisine and exciting nightlife, Brazil is one of the most compelling countries to visit today. Travelers are invited to explore Brazil’s incredible geographical diversity – from the wetlands to the beaches. With a beautiful, tropical climate, Brazil is an easily accessible, exotic get-away for couples, families and business travelers.”

Want to explore Brazil? Contact us!

Your friendly Brazil expert,

Gretchen

Posted in Brazil, Family Travel, Luxury, South America, Sustainable Tourism, Travel Advice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NEW TRIP! 6-Day Chimps and Gorillas Express / Fly Back

This quick 6-day Uganda safari allows wildlife enthusiasts, who may have limited time, to experience the two greatest primate interactions in the world: close encounters with our closest living relatives in the natural world, the chimpanzee, and those gentlest of forest giants, the endangered mountain gorilla.

Travelers arrive in Entebbe, drive to Kibale and Bwindi, then fly back to Entebbe on the morning of Day 6, arriving in time to make a late afternoon or evening flight out. Accommodations in the online itinerary are mid-comfortable and clean mid-range lodges, however luxury travelers are welcome to contact us for a custom quote as upscale options are on offer too.

Starting at $2095 USD per person!

ITINERARY:

Day 1: Arrive Entebbe, transfer and overnight
Day 2: Drive to Kibale National Forest
Day 3: Chimp Habituation Trek in Kibale
Day 4: Drive to Bwindi National Park
Day 5: Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi
Day 6: Fly back to Entebbe, depart

Itinerary In Detail

Day 1: Arrive Entebbe, transfer and overnight

Welcome to Uganda! Meet and greet at the Entebbe Airport by your guide. From here, transfer to your hotel, which is about 10 minutes away in Entebbe, which borders Kampala.

Kampala is the capital city of Uganda. With a population of about 2 million, Kampala city is the largest urban settlement in Uganda. Kampala was developed around a fort constructed by Frederick Lugard in 1890 for the British East Africa Company. In 1962, Kampala replaced Entebbe as the national capital.

Meals included: n/a
Mid-Range Accommodations: The Boma Lodge

Day 2: Drive to Kibale National Forest

After breakfast, embark on the 6-hour drive to Kibale Forest National Park with lunch en route. Kibale Forest National Park is renowned as the “Primate Paradise” with one of the largest variety and concentration of primates in Africa including our famous cousins the chimpanzees, red colobus monkeys, vervet monkeys, L’Hoest’s, black-and- white Colobus and the olive baboons. There is also a wide array of unique birds, forest elephants (smaller and hairier than the more familiar savannah elephant) and much more.

Check in at the lodge and then enjoy a guided nature walk through the Bigodi wetland.

The Bigodi Swamp Walk is an eco-tourism initiative from the local community. The reserve is known for a rich diversity of birds and primates. The path and board walk maybe flooded and muddy after heavy rainfall and gumboots are recommended. The walk is about 4km in length taking 3-4 hours at birding pace with local community guides. All proceeds from your visit go back to into the community, a conservation project well worth supporting.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Mid-Range Accommodations: Primate Lodge Kibale – Forest Cottage

Day 3: Chimp Habituation Trek in Kibale

Today enjoy a sensational chimpanzee Habituation experience.

You will walk or drive to the trailhead for the start of an unforgettable adventure – hiking in the footsteps of the habituated family of chimpanzees. En-route, your guide will entertain you with stories and facts about the forest and her other inhabitants including other species of primates and birds and more.

Once we’ve encountered the chimpanzees, spend the day observing their daily life – feeding, playing, grooming, taking care of their young, howling and screeching, in their natural habitat.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Mid-Range Accommodations: Primate Lodge Kibale – Forest Cottage

Day 4: Drive to Bwindi National Park

After breakfast, you will depart Kibale Forest National Park and head further to Bwindi National Park, about a 5-6 hour drive away, and home of the endangered mountain Gorillas.

While driving through a fertile countryside, you’ll pass small villages and many traditional homesteads plus enjoy some wonderful panoramic views. You’ll in Bwindi by the afternoon.  Enjoy a walk in the nearby community or relax on the lodge’s balcony and take in the mountain views.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, home of the rare but critically endangered Mountain Gorillas, lies on the edge of the albertine Rift Valley in south-western Uganda, with a wide altitude range between 1,160 to 2,600 meters.  The rainforest itself, dating back to the  ice ages, is one of Uganda’s oldest and ecologically most diverse with almost 400 species of plants, 350 species of birds including 23 Albertine Rift endemics as well as 120 mammals species including lots of smaller mammals along with gorillas, baboons, chimpanzees, elephants and several species of antelopes.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Mid-Range Accommodations: Haven Lodge Buhoma

Day 5: Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi

Arise early today and prepare for an amazing adventure: an unforgettable encounter with the gentle giants of Bwindi. Following breakfast, transfer to the park offices where trekkers are divided into groups of 8 and allocated a specific gorilla family to visit as well as a tracking guide.

After a pre-trek briefing by your guide (which touches on the gorillas generally, your assigned gorilla family as well as appropriate safety precautions), you drive to the trailhead for the start of your thrilling adventure – participants should prepare to walk long distances in steep and sometimes muddy conditions with rain overhead, which can be tough and require a degree of fitness. Granted, the time taken can be variable, taking anywhere from 3 to 8-hours (or rarely, longer) however the thrill of coming face to face with a giant mountain gorilla silverback will more than compensate for the effort.

Once you’ve arrived at the gorilla family, you spend the allowed one hour with them as they go about their daily life; feeding, moving, playing, raising their young and sometimes wrestling by the juveniles – it is a totally unique and unforgettable experience!

Note: Please remember to bring your passport for registration, appropriate, waterproof hiking boots and a light rain coat. To protect from stinging nettles, we recommend long pants and long sleeved tops. A pair of old gardening gloves can help grabbing onto the vegetation while most hotels/lodges provide a walking stick that come in very handy especially when hiking downhill.  A small waterproof backpack is an excellent idea to carry a light snack, bottled water as well as protection for your camera. 

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Mid-Range Accommodations: Haven Lodge Buhoma

Day 6: Fly back to Entebbe, depart

This morning, transfer to Kihihi Airstrip (about 1 hour from the lodge) for your departure flight out of Impenetrable forest of Bwindi and back to Entebbe. If time allows, we’ll arrange a guided visit of the Mabamba swamp (home of the massive shoebill stork) and later help you connect with your international flight back home. 

Meals included: Breakfast

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NEW TRIP! 9-Day Active Rio and Iguazu Adventure BRAZIL

On our newest 9-Day Active Rio and Iguazu Adventure, hike, climb and cycle while discovering two of Brazil’s top destinations: Rio and Iguazu Falls!

Known as the Marvelous City, Rio de Janeiro is an amazing, and magical place! Surrounded by stunning mountains, white sandy beaches and tropical rain forest, Rio has one of the most spectacular sceneries and ecosystems of the world. Venture on bike through the city, rock climb Sugar Loaf mountain or trek to Christ the Redeemer and visit the multiple and diverse beaches in the city!

Continue on to Iguazu Falls, which provides an abundance of interesting and adventurous activities, such as taking the Macuco Safari Boat Tour, which runs through the canyons and leads you to bathe in the falls. There are also helicopter, hiking and rafting tours available for the more adventurous!

Starting at $1145 USD per person!

ITINERARY:

Day 1: Arrival in Rio de Janeiro
Day 2:
Sugar Loaf Hike (B)
Day 3:
Christ the Redeemer and Copacabana Tour (B)
Day 4:
Rio Jungle Bike Tour (B)
Day 5:
Day at leisure in Rio (B)
Day 6:
Fly to Iguazu Falls (B)
Day 7:
Argentinean Falls Tour (B)
Day 8:
Brazilian Falls Bike Tour (B)
Day 9:
Departure (B)

Itinerary In Detail

Day 1: Arrival in Rio de Janeiro

Private transfer from the airport to the hotel in Rio de Janeiro (approx 17km – 30 min).

Overnight at South American Copacabana Hotel in luxury room with breakfast.

Meals included: n/a
Mid-Range Accommodations: Hotel South American Copacabana

Day 2: Sugar Loaf Hike (B)

The Sugar Loaf hiking tour (Private) is definitely an unforgettable experience! The steep 03:00 hours trail will take you to the summit of this fabulous landmark at 1200 ft (400 mts)! The hike goes up a rocky trail with some scrambling sections and a short 80ft (25 mts) vertical rock climb! At the summit we relax and enjoy the views before taking the traditional Cable Car down to Urca Hill. No rock climbing experience is required, but you should be fit for this steep hike.

* On rainy days the rocky surface of Sugar Loaf gets too slippery. For safety reasons we will offer another hike or tour that are possible to be done under these circumstances (Pedra Bonita Hike, Tijuca Forest Hike, Half Day Cultural Tours). Another option for rainy days is the Urca Hill Hike (easy), and take the cable car to the top of Sugar Loaf (Additional not included: R$ 50,00 per person).

 Tour Info:

– Duration: 5-6 Hours
– Level: Moderate/Hard – 400mts high (Starting at sea level) – Rock Climbing Sections
– Pick-up: 13:00 (winter) or 14:00 (summertime) – To avoid the morning Sun!
– Recommendation: Bring light clothes, hiking shoes, small backpack, sunscreen, insect repellent, water and snacks.
 -On Weekends, Holiday and high season the tour can take longer than expected due to traffic and overcrowded tourist attractions.
-Included: French or English Speaking Guide, Assistant Climbing Guide for larger groups (3 or more), private car or van transportation, and climbing gear.

Overnight at South American Copacabana Hotel in luxury room with breakfast.

Meals included: Breakfast
Mid-Range Accommodations: Hotel South American Copacabana

Day 3: Christ the Redeemer and Copacabana Tour (B)

Visit three of Brazil’s most heavy hitting icons in one day on this Rio de Janeiro tour. 1. Christ the Redeemer. 2. Copacabana Beach 3. Corcovado. This could just be the ultimate, big city travel hack!

Highlights:
> Check out the view from Christ the Redeemer, one of the new Seven Wonders of the Modern World
> Taste unique flavors as you eat and drink your way through the famous Copacabana beach area
> Admire the panoramas of Copacabana from our favorite non-touristy spot
> Kick back with new friends at a funky spot in a great local neighborhood
> Get the lowdown on the city from a local and get all the latest up to date information you won’t find in most guidebooks

Included: one draft beer and two local snack!

Schedule details:
Duration: 4 hours

Pick up from hotels/hostels in the southern area of Rio: Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, Botafogo, and Laranjeiras. Otherwise pick-up will be from the Copacabana Palace Hotel. We will notify you in advance of the pick-up time for your location.

Overnight at South American Copacabana Hotel in luxury room with breakfast.

Meals included: Breakfast
Mid-Range Accommodations: Hotel South American Copacabana

Day 4: Rio Jungle Bike Tour (B)

Get ready for an unforgettable adventure into the Brazilian rainforest and beyond with an expert local guide. Beginning with incredible views of Rio de Janeiro from the top of the Corcovado mountain, you’re instantly be reminded why this is one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

After gazing in astonishment at the world-famous Christ the Redeemer statue, we hop on our bikes for the most extraordinary bike ride of your life! Fingers crossed for wildlife encounters with monkeys, toucans, and other wild animals in this protected National Forest. Welcome to the Rio Jungle Bike Tour; you’d be crazy to miss it!

Highlights:
> Get a tantalising glimpse of the beautiful nature that lies in the Tijuca Forest in Rio De Janeiro
> Cycle alongside chirping birds, waterfalls, and stunning panoramas as monkeys perch on the trees above you
> Tick the legendary Christ the Redeemer statue off your bucket list as you admire one of the Seven Wonders of the World
> Take some truly astonishing shots of Rio from above that will make your friends and family green with envy!
> Learn about Brazil’s fascinating history as you cycle the oldest route in the forest, once used by the second Emperor, D. Pedro II

Schedule details:

-Duration: 5 hours
-Pick up from hotels/hostels in the southern area of Rio: Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, Botafogo, and Laranjeiras. Otherwise pick-up will be from the Copacabana Palace Hotel. We will notify you in advance of the pick-up time for your location
-Starting time: 8.00 AM

Overnight at South American Copacabana Hotel in luxury room with breakfast.

Meals included: n/a
Mid-Range Accommodations: Hotel South American Copacabana

Day 5: Day at leisure in Rio (B)

Free day to enjoy the city. Check out out tips list:

Best Breakfast Spot: Parque Lage

What: For a memorable breakfast in Rio, it has to be Parque Lage. Away from Rio’s main attractions, this grand park offers a delicious breakfast surrounded by a mix of romantic-style gardens and the Mata Atlântica forest. After breakfast, head to the stately mansion in the centre of the park, home to Rio de Janeiro’s School of Visual Arts, which is open to the public.

Best Lunch Spot: The Aprazível Restaurant

What: The Aprazível Restaurant is located in the gorgeous Santa Teresa area. Enjoy typical Brazilian food on the terrace with stunning views over the city and bay area.

Best Dinner Spot: Churrascaria Fogo de Chão

What: The Churrascaria Fogo de Chão is a traditional Brazilian steakhouse, cooking the best barbecue the city has to offer. Seriously great kebabs.

Best Brunch Spot: Confeitaria Colombo

What: Enjoy a feast of traditional sweets, pastries and waffles for brunch at Confeitaria Colombo. The Confectionery Cafe is located at the Copacabana Fortress, with unique views of the Copacabana beach – it’s a must for any Rio newbie.

Best Bar: Rio Scenarium

What: The Rio Scenarium offers a taste of Carioca’s culture (local to Rio). With a mix of samba dancing, authentic food and lively locals, it makes for a very memorable evening. Be sure to check out their website, as they have a daily changing programme featuring live Brazilian music for every night of the week.

Best Street Food Vendor: Globo Biscuit or Açaí Bowl

What: Our travellers love to explore the colourful back alleys of Rio, bursting with vibrant vendors selling typical Brazilian cuisine. Try the renowned Globo Biscuit, a sweet snack that is sold on Rio’s beaches, or for a healthier option, the Açaí bowl, a thick smoothie of red fruits, topped with oatmeal and peanut butter.

Five Must Dos in Rio:

-Hike up the Morro da Urca Trail for beautiful views of the region, take a cable car on the way down!
-Visit the Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow) and enjoy the Kobra’s graffiti in MAR, next door.
-Take a Favela Tour (make sure it is a sustainable one and conducted by the residents of that Favela; be respectful).
-Rent a bike and ride along the edge of Zona Sul.
-For an early morning activity, try stand-up paddle boarding at Posto 6 in Copacabana.

Overnight at South American Copacabana Hotel in luxury room with breakfast.

Meals included: Breakfast
Mid-Range Accommodations: Hotel South American Copacabana

Day 6: Fly to Iguazu Falls (B)

Private transfer from the hotel to the airport in Rio de Janeiro (approx 17km – 30 min)

Fly to Foz do Iguassu (flights NOT included)

Driver guide in Foz do Iguaçu for transfer in from the IGU airport.

Overnight at hotel Pietro Angelo in luxury room with breakfast

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 7: Argentinean Falls Tour (B)

Driver guide in Foz do Iguaçu for Argentinean Falls tour.

ARGENTINEAN FALLS:

The limits of the Brazilian park extends to Argentina. On the Argentine side of the park, we will embark upon the train that leads to two circuits – the Lower, of 1,700 meters and walkways running along the falls to the Moorhen level; and the Superior, with 650 meters and hanging bridges that reveal a complete picture of all the falls. Both routes end at the edge of the biggest and most exciting Falls: the Devil’s Throat. At 90 meters high, it is one of the picture perfect postcards of the region. The Argentine side is more rustic than the Brazilian, with exuberant and heart exhilarating hiking trails.

For this tour it is necessary to cross the border to Argentina. Please, contact the responsible authorities to verify the visa requirement for your nationality.

Overnight at hotel Pietro Angelo in luxury room with breakfast

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 8: Brazilian Falls Bike Tour (B)

Driver guide in Foz do Iguaçu for Brazilian Falls tour.

Bike Tour Cataratas (Private):

The tour starts at the visitor center of the National Park and goes to the beginning of the trails of the Falls, the route is approximately 10km, the route is accompanied by an instructor and the guide of the group. When you arrive in front of where we find the first viewpoint, the bicycles are parked, and the pax make the trail on foot, because they have stairs, ascents and decidas, at the end of the trail the pax has the possibility to return to the visitor center with The bike again or if you are tired you can come back with the park bus. In the value of the bicycle rental includes safety equipment and water for the pax.

Overnight at hotel Pietro Angelo in luxury room with breakfast

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 9: Departure

Driver guide in Foz do Iguaçu for transfer OUT to the IGU airport.

Meals included: Breakfast

More on Brazil:

Posted in Brazil, Family Travel, South America, Sustainable Tourism, Travel Advice, Trekking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top 7 Travel Apps

Best Travel Apps

We have rounded up our favorite apps in our Best Travel Apps series.  These are the first apps I download for my trips.

  1. Maps.Me / Google Maps
  2. Lounge Buddy
  3. WhatsApp / Skype
  4. iTranslate / Google Translate
  5. Polar Steps
  6. Pack Point
  7. Mobile Passport (U.S.)

Let us know what your favorites are!


1) Maps.Me / Google Maps

  • Features:
    • Maps for any country, any place, from the largest cities to the smallest villages, at your fingertips
    • Totally offline detailed maps, including searches, bookmarks, auto-follow mode, GPS positioning
    • Zoom-in and zoom-out smoothly
    • Google Maps can also be configured to work offline
  • Cost: Free
  • Platforms:
  • Screenshots:
iPhone Screenshot 1

2) LoungeBuddy

  • Features:
    • Find airport lounges all over the world
      • Find lounges available for a fee (beginning at $25)
      • Find lounges associated with airline elite status, lounge membership, and credit card affiliation
  • Cost:  Free
  • Platforms:
  • Screenshots:
iPhone Screenshot 3

3) WhatsApp / Skype

  • Features:
    • Fast, simple, secure messaging and calling for free*, available on phones all over the world. *Data charges may apply.
  • Cost: Free
  • Platforms:
  • Screenshots:
iPhone Screenshot 3

4) iTranslate / Google Translate

  • Features:
    • Read, write, and speak in 90 languages, anywhere in the world
    • Translate text or websites, start voice conversations or
      lookup words, meanings, and even verb conjugations in over 90 languages
  • Cost: Free
  • Platforms:
  • Screenshots:
iPhone Screenshot 1

5) Polar Steps

  • Features:
    • Travel log of your destinations, photos, and description
    • Share with friends and on social media
  • Cost: Free
  • Platforms:
  • Screenshots:

6) Pack Point

  •  Features:
    • Generates packing list based on length of travel, weather, and activities
    • Share packing lists with others
  • Cost: Free
    • PackPoint Premium
      • Connects to TripIt and Evernote
      • Customize with your own activities and packing list items
  • Platforms:
  • Screenshots:
iPhone Screenshot 1

7) Mobile Passport

  • Features:
    • Expedited passport processing at 20 U.S. airports and one cruise port
  • Cost:  Free
  • Platforms:
  • Screenshots:
iPhone Screenshot 1

Let us know what your favorites are!


See the rest of our Best Travel Apps series:

Top 7 Travel Apps

  1. Maps.Me / Google Maps
  2. Lounge Buddy
  3. WhatsApp / Skype
  4. iTranslate / Google Translate
  5. Polar Steps
  6. Pack Point
  7. Mobile Passport (U.S.)

Part I – Organizing Your Trip and Flight Information

  • Itineraries / Confirmation
    • Trip It
  • Packing
    • Packing Pro
    • Pack Point
  • Flight Tracking
    • Flight+
    • FlightAware
  • Airport Information
    • Gate Guru
    • Lounge Buddy
  • U.S. Immigration
    • Mobile Passport
  • Compensation for EU Flight
    • Air Help

Part II – Destination Information

  • Maps
    • National Geographic World Atlas
    • CityMapper
    • City Maps2Go
    • Stay.com
    • Maps.me
    • Star Walk
  • Conversion
    • XE Currency
    • The Converted
  • Tipping
    • Globe Tipping
  • Sleep
    • Sleep Cycle
    • Entrain

Part III – Communications

  • Learn a Language
    • World Nomads Travel Language Guides
    • Duo Lingo
    • Memrise
  • Translation
    • Google Translate
    • iTranslate
    • SayHi Translate
  • Communications
    • Viber
    • WhatsApp
    • Messenger

Part IV – Documenting your Travels

  • Photography
    • PhotoGrid
    • Canva
    • ProCamera
    • Snapseed
  • Track your Wanderings
    • LiveTrekker
    • Instagram
    • SnapChat
  • Trip Journals
    • TripJournal

Let us know what your favorites are!

Posted in Travel Technology | Tagged , | 4 Comments

NEW TRIP! 8-Day Luxury Uganda

On our 8-day Luxury Uganda safari, discerning travelers experience a quiet natural history gem (Lake Mburo National Park) plus fantastic eye-to-eye chimp and gorilla encounters all while staying in several of Uganda’s most impressive luxury lodges. In serene Lake Mburo, travelers have some unique optional excursions available including horseback riding, mountain biking and night-game drives. We eliminate a significant amount of driving by conveniently flying back from Bwindi to Entebbe on Day 8. While this trip features luxury accommodations, mid-range travelers are encouraged to contact us for a custom quote if interested. All of our Uganda tours are private, featuring professional English-speaking naturalist guides and well-maintained Toyota Land Cruisers with removable tops for wildlife viewing.

Starting at $3395 USD per person!

ITINERARY:

Day 1: Arrive Entebbe, transfer and overnight
Day 2: Drive to Lake Mburo National Park
Day 3: Free day at Lake Mburo / Optional activities
Day 4: Drive to Kibale Forest National Park
Day 5: Chimp Habituation Trek in Kibale
Day 6: Drive to Bwindi National Park
Day 7: Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi
Day 8: Fly back to Entebbe, depart

Itinerary In Detail

Day 1: Arrive Entebbe, transfer and overnight

Welcome to Uganda! Meet and greet at the Entebbe Airport by your guide. From here, transfer to your hotel, which is about 10 minutes away in Entebbe, which borders Kampala.

Kampala is the capital city of Uganda. With a population of about 2 million, Kampala city is the largest urban settlement in Uganda. Kampala was developed around a fort constructed by Frederick Lugard in 1890 for the British East Africa Company. In 1962, Kampala replaced Entebbe as the national capital.

Meals included: n/a
Mid-Range Accommodations: Protea Hotel Entebbe

Day 2: Drive to Lake Mburo National Park

After breakfast, begin the 5-hour transfer to Lake Mburo National Park, with lunch en route.We’ll make a stop at the equator line where your guide will perform a simple water experiment to demonstrate the reversal in gravitational pull and have a look at the traditional drums and crafts being made. Afterwards proceed to Lake Mburo National Park, an extension of the Tanzanian plains with impressive herds of zebra, impala, eland and other ungulates. Bird viewing opportunities are excellent – for birders, this is one of the best places to find African fin foot and papyrus bush shrike. Check in at your lodge and enjoy an afternoon game drive or simply relax amidst the fantastic views from your hilltop luxury lodge.

Mihingo Lodge is a luxurious, family owned lodge in a magical setting adjacent to Lake Mburo National Park. Perched high on a rocky kopje, whose pre-Cambrian granite boulders were formed over 500 million years ago, it has spectacular views over a vast savannah landscape.  Designed to blend in with its fragile surroundings, this eco-friendly property offers comfort, relaxation and the experience of being at one with nature.

An infinity pool overlooks the valley below where buffalo, eland, impala, warthogs, bush buck and zebra can be seen at the waterhole.  On the rocks you may have the rare chance of seeing the resident family of Klipspringers.  We cannot guarantee that you will see a leopard, but on a night game drive you do have a good chance. As Rungwe Kingdon (the son of the well-known wildlife author, Jonathan Kingdon, and one of Mihingo’s guests) once told us “I have seen more leopards in Lake Mburo National Park than any other park in East Africa.’

As an added bonus, Mihingo is the only lodge in Uganda to offer daytime and overnight horse safaris into the national park.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Mid-Range Accommodations: Mihingo Lodge

Day 3: Free day at Lake Mburo / Optional activities

Day at leisure with optional activities:

  • Mountain bike safari: great rides (with or without guide) are available in the valley or in the swamp areas with lots of zebras, topis and waterbucks. Price rom US $30 per person.
  • Horseback safari: explore the surroundings on the back of a horse, a peaceful and relaxing way to get close to the wildlife. Price from US $60 per person.
  • Night game drive in search of leopards, hyenas and other nocturnal animals. Price from US $30per person. Travelers have about a 60% chance of seeing leopard during the the dry season, which runs July to September and again in January-February. 
  • Join a staff person for a 15-minute walk and visit the waterhole wildlife hides to view hippos and more up-close.
  • Cultural walk to learn more about the Bahima culture
  • Sundowners “on the rocks” — watching the sun go down and listening to hyenas calling in the valley below is a lovely way to end a a relaxing day In the bush.
  • Enjoying a massage: a perfect way to unwind after a safari or a long flight! Price from US $20 per person.
  • Bush breakfast: start the day with a delicious, private breakfast before going on guided bush walk. Price from US $60 per person.  

It’s recommendable to pre-book these optional activities to avoid disappointment. Please contact us for more details.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Mid-Range Accommodations: Mihingo Lodge

Day 4: Drive to Kibale Forest National Park

After breakfast, embark on the 4-5 hour to Kibale Forest National Park. Kibale Forest National Park is renowned as the “Primate Paradise” with one of the largest variety and concentration of primates in Africa including our famous cousins the chimpanzees, red colobus monkeys, vervet monkeys, L’Hoest’s, black-and- white Colobus and the olive baboons. There is also a wide array of unique birds, forest elephants (smaller and hairier than the more familiar savannah elephant) and much more.

Check in at the lodge and later enjoy a guided nature walk through the Bigodi wetland. The Bigodi Swamp Walk is an eco-tourism initiative from the local community. The reserve is known for a rich diversity of birds and primates. The path and board walk maybe flooded and muddy after heavy rainfall and gumboots are recommended. The walk is about 4km in length taking 3-4 hours at birding pace with local community guides. All proceeds from your visit go back to into the community, a conservation project well worth supporting.

Overnight in the luxury cottages at Primate Lodge Kibale. Primate Lodge enjoys a wonderfully advantageous location, tucked deep in the forest and right next door to the starting point for the Chimpanzee tracking excursion as well as the incredible Chimpanzee Habituation, really, two of the most unique wildlife experiences on the planet. All of the lodge’s nine spacious and en-suite Luxury Cottages, each secluded deep in the forest for maximum privacy and a natural ‘living in nature’ feel, come complete with 2x Double size Bed or 1x King Size Bed, a sitting area with two comfortable arm chairs, a reading table and an adjoining large veranda with excellent views to the forest. Lodge amenities include a spacious dining terrace, a well-stocked bar, complimentary room service, a secluded lounge area with a small library, an evening camp fire, laundry service (at a small fee) as well as free WiFi in the public areas. Primate Lodge Kibale welcomes travelers to experience the amazing wonders of the Kibale jungle, with the greatest variety and concentration of primate species found anywhere in Africa, as well as excellent food by their chef ‘Bos’ and the warmest service and hospitality from the friendly staff – guests are assured a highly memorable lodging experience.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Mid-Range Accommodations: Primate Lodge Kibale – Luxury Cottage

Day 5: Chimp Habituation Trek in Kibale

Today enjoy a sensational chimpanzee Habituation experience.

You will walk or drive to the trailhead for the start of an unforgettable adventure – hiking in the footsteps of the habituated family of chimpanzees. En-route, your guide will entertain you with stories and facts about the forest and her other inhabitants including other species of primates and birds and more.

Once we’ve encountered the chimpanzees, spend the day observing their daily life – feeding, playing, grooming, taking care of their young, howling and screeching, in their natural habitat.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Mid-Range Accommodations: Primate Lodge Kibale – Luxury Cottage

Day 6: Drive to Bwindi National Park

After breakfast, you will depart Kibale Forest National Park and head further to Bwindi National Park, about a 5-6 hour drive away, and home of the endangered mountain Gorillas.

While driving through a fertile countryside, you’ll pass small villages and many traditional homesteads plus enjoy some wonderful panoramic views. You’ll in Bwindi by the afternoon.  Enjoy a walk in the nearby community or relax on the lodge’s balcony and take in the mountain views.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, home of the rare but critically endangered Mountain Gorillas, lies on the edge of the albertine Rift Valley in south-western Uganda, with a wide altitude range between 1,160 to 2,600 meters.  The rainforest itself, dating back to the  ice ages, is one of Uganda’s oldest and ecologically most diverse with almost 400 species of plants, 350 species of birds including 23 Albertine Rift endemics as well as 120 mammals species including lots of smaller mammals along with gorillas, baboons, chimpanzees, elephants and several species of antelopes.

Your overnights will be enjoyed at Volcanoes Lodge in Bwindi. Overlooking the lush jungle mountains in which the mountain gorillas get their well-earned name, the intimate Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge is the finest luxury lodge in Bwindi. With dramatic views of the forest canopy across a serene stream, it is one of Africa’s most unique properties. The lodge is perfectly located for a Uganda jungle gorilla tracking experience. Volcanoes Lodge features a roomy, atmospheric main lounge and dining area, that bring the feel of the forest into the stylish interiors. The main living area has a central fireplace which acts as a focal point for guests to relax and discuss their gorilla tracking experience. The outdoor terrace provides dramatic views of the impenetrable forest and is a great place to spot the monkeys and birds hidden in the foliage. The eight individual bandas, each having their own view of the forest, have warm luxurious interiors and inviting four poster beds and locally-inspired furniture​.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Mid-Range Accommodations: Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge

Day 7: Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi

Arise early today and prepare for an amazing adventure: an unforgettable encounter with the gentle giants of Bwindi. Following breakfast, transfer to the park offices where trekkers are divided into groups of 8 and allocated a specific gorilla family to visit as well as a tracking guide.

After a pre-trek briefing by your guide (which touches on the gorillas generally, your assigned gorilla family as well as appropriate safety precautions), you drive to the trailhead for the start of your thrilling adventure – participants should prepare to walk long distances in steep and sometimes muddy conditions with rain overhead, which can be tough and require a degree of fitness. Granted, the time taken can be variable, taking anywhere from 3 to 8-hours (or rarely, longer) however the thrill of coming face to face with a giant mountain gorilla silverback will more than compensate for the effort.

Once you’ve arrived at the gorilla family, you spend the allowed one hour with them as they go about their daily life; feeding, moving, playing, raising their young and sometimes wrestling by the juveniles – it is a totally unique and unforgettable experience!

Note: Please remember to bring your passport for registration, appropriate, waterproof hiking boots and a light rain coat. To protect from stinging nettles, we recommend long pants and long sleeved tops. A pair of old gardening gloves can help grabbing onto the vegetation while most hotels/lodges provide a walking stick that come in very handy especially when hiking downhill.  A small waterproof backpack is an excellent idea to carry a light snack, bottled water as well as protection for your camera. 

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Mid-Range Accommodations: Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge

Day 8: Fly back to Entebbe, depart

This morning, transfer to Kihihi Airstrip (about 1 hour from the lodge) for your departure flight out of Impenetrable forest of Bwindi and back to Entebbe. If time allows, we’ll arrange a guided visit of the Mabamba swamp (home of the massive shoebill stork) and later help you connect with your international flight back home. 

Meals included: Breakfast

Posted in Luxury, Uganda / Rwanda | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tourist Safety In Brazil: Rio, Sao Paulo, and Further Afield

A common question we get from our travelers heading off to Brazil is: Will I be safe in Brazil?

We went to our in-house Brazil expert, Gretchen, to get her take this. Read on to see what she has to say:

Iguazu Falls

Brazil is a secret adventure paradise in South America and everyone should plan at least one trip (if not more) to Brazil in their lives! For European tourists (especially French and German tourists), Brazil is one of the primary destinations to visit in South America. For Americans though, Brazil tends to have some negative connotations. As an American, I will admit that before I had ever been to Brazil, my first impression, like many other Americans I have spoken with, was from the film, “City of God”. This is an excellent film but it should absolutely NOT be taken in as a representation of Brazil as a country- it would be as if Americans found out that the rest of the world watched the film “Gangs of New York” and had it in their minds that that was what daily life was like in all American cities; it seems laughable and is far from the truth. Not unlike “Gangs of New York”, which is a historical fiction revealing a select history of ONE US city (New York, which does NOT represent the rest of US cities like Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Denver, Seattle, etc), at one point in time, in the past, “City of God” portrays one facet of Rio de Janeiro’s history in the 70s and is not a representation of the city today nor does it reflect the rest of Brazil.

Pantanal Brazil Jaguar
Jaguars in Brazil’s Pantanal

Brazil, is roughly the same size as the continental US and, much like the US, has infinite regional cultures and traditions, destinations, and activities to offer visitors. From the Amazon, to epic sand dunes, coffee lands, deep canyons, chic boutique hotels, remote mountains, secluded beaches, jaw-dropping biodiversity, quaint country guest ranches, bustling metropolises, mind-blowing cuisine and some of the arguably most hospitable and welcoming people, Brazil has it all!

Lencois Maranhenses

For visitors with limited travel time, I recommend choosing one or two of Brazil’s highlights and to explore them deeply. Get to know one of Brazil’s larger cities and then couple that with a more remote area for a true Brazilian experience: an incredible juxtaposition of classy, hip and diverse urbanism and remote, virgin, natural beauty. For travelers with more time, go all out! Choose three to five of Brazil’s regions and see all that the country has to offer. For this option, I recommend visiting maybe two famous regions and then consulting with us to choose a couple other regions that are a bit off the beaten path for a truly authentic experience.

Trancoso, Bahia

While Brazil is an excellent escape for romantic getaways for couples (anyone see “Twilight”?) , it is also an amazing family destination. Brazilian culture is very family-oriented and therefore tourism in the country is extremely considerate of travelers of all ages. Almost all hotels offer various set ups for family rooms and offer great children discounts. Adventure tours are also geared towards including the entire family and extra safety precautions are always in place for the youngest of adventurers. In the past years, my own family has traveled around Brazil three times: the first trip was to Sao Paulo, the Green Coast, Paraty and Rio, the second was exploring Sao Paulo city and state in depth and the third was to Bahia and the beaches there. All were incredible!

Family Beach Vacation, Bahia

As a woman, I have felt safe and traveling on my own in Brazil. Before meeting my husband (from Sao Paulo), I traveled by boat in the Amazon, explored Salvador, trekked in Chapada Diamantina, and visited Rio and Sao Paulo on my own- people everywhere were incredibly helpful and warm, even when I didn’t speak Portuguese.

Chapada Diamantina
Secret Waterfalls and Swimming Pools in Chapada Diamantina

Two years ago, my husband and I relocated from Seattle to Sao Paulo, his home town. Moving is always a great mix of scary and exciting but Brazil now truly feels like my second home and has given me numerous opportunities for which I am beyond grateful. Actually living in Brazil, has allowed me to fully experience its two most famous cities, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro on a more profound level. With this in mind, I would like now to discuss my opinions on safety in these two places as this seems to be one of the most common concerns for people traveling to Brazil:

Sao Paulo
Famous street art by Cobra in Ibirapuera Park

First, regarding Sao Paulo: Sao Paulo, I feel, is very safe (there were more crime issues in the 90s). It is my home and I feel very safe walking around main areas on my own such as Iberapuera Park (during the day), Paulista Avenue, Morumbi, Vila Madalena, Pinheiros, Perdizes, in the subways etc. Of course, Sao Paulo is a big city so it is important to be aware of your surroundings and have common sense (don’t flash cash on the street or wear jewelry that could make you a target- just like in ANY OTHER big city). But other than that, Uber and the subways are very safe and the city in general feels comfortable to walk around and explore on your own. The only touristic area that I would warn people to be careful in is the historic center. This is slowly changing, however, we recommend our travelers to visit this area during one of our city tours so your guide can make sure all is ok. The primary “issue” in this area is pickpockets so I recommend for those visiting the historic center to keep your phones/money/wallet, in your front pants pocket or leave those things in our tour van with your driver.

Regarding Rio: This is a bit more difficult. Rio, fortunately and unfortunately, for Brazil, is the face of the country (think back to “City of God” and how that has effected the international view of Brazil, as if “Gangs of New York” were said to represent all US cities) and while it is an absolutely gorgeous, amazing, city with so much to offer it does have  a crime problem. This issue with crime in Rio is, in turn, how most people outside of Brazil end up viewing the whole country (travelers will quickly see that this is not true- most of Brazil is very safe). You can experience Rio on your own, but it is advisable to have a guide/driver for at least your first day in Rio so you can talk with them to discuss how to avoid being a target and also get around the city in a safe way (driving on the right roads to avoid unsafe areas). I have been to Rio now 6 times and I never had any problems until my last time there (I was mugged on the street in broad daylight in a good neighborhood). The reason, I believe, this happened was because my friend and I had a purse on us and it made us a target; we could have avoided this. That said, things like this can happen in any big cities- remaining aware of your surroundings is always important. The best thing to do in Rio is do what the locals do: only carry cash on you that you will need that day and nothing else. Most people wear their swimsuits under a sun dress or light weight clothes and go to the beach and cafes during the day; they carry a beach bag with them to put their towels, sunscreen, etc and don’t have much else on them. The beach is safe during the day (read: when there are a lot of people around) but not early in the morning or at night (when the beaches are more or less deserted). Early in the morning and at night, I recommend that travelers stay on the pedestrian area next to the beaches where there are cafes and lots of pedestrian traffic (riding bikes, jogging, etc). Our guides go over all of this with our travelers when they are there.

Gretchen in the Amazon

I hope this has helped shed light on safety in Brazil. I have lived in Thailand, Argentina, Spain, the US, Switzerland and most recently Brazil. Brazil is hands down a country that I cannot emphasize enough how incredible it is. I recommend to all travelers considering a trip to South America to make Brazil a mandatory stop.

For more insights on Brazil from Gretchen, check out these blog posts:

Brazil Family Adventure Ideas

Rock Climbing, Hiking, Relaxation, & Cultural Experiences in Brazil’s Coffee Lands

Bahian Magic at UXUA: Trancoso, Brazil

Family Adventure to Brazil’s Green Coast- A Major Hit!

Notes From The Field: Secrets and Spices of the Amazon

Treasures of the Amazon: Belem, Brazil

Treasures of the Amazon: The Women of Cotijuba Island

PART II: Treasures of the Amazon: Belem, Brazil

10 Fun Brazil Coffee Facts & 3 Must-Visit Coffee Shops in Sao Paulo

Brazil E-Visa Made Easy

Your Brazil expert,

Gretchen

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Why Zanzibar is a Must-Do After Kilimanjaro or Safari

Zanzibar Island is a great addition to your Kilimanjaro trek or Tanzania safari! It has beautiful white sandy beaches, fascinating culture, wildlife, and marine life. You can fly there from the Kilimanjaro Airport, Arusha, the Serengeti, or Dar es Salaam.

It is best to spend at least 4 days on Zanzibar, but you can easily spend a week and not see everything. Most people will spend a few nights at a beach hotel, and then the last night or two in Stone Town. The most popular activities include

  1. Relaxing at the Beach
  2. Snorkeling or Scuba Diving
  3. Spice Tour
  4. Stone Town Tour
  5. Jozani Forest
  6. Swimming with Dolphins

See Also:


1) Beaches

Just about the entire island is ringed by beautiful beaches. The tides are very significant here, so in some places, you can walk way out at low tide, and then the beach may disappear altogether at high tide. Some areas have rocks or sea urchins, so beach shoes are recommended.


2) Snorkeling and Scuba Diving

One of the most popular places for snorkeling and scuba diving is Mnemba Island on the northeast side of the island. There are also diving areas on the southeast side and out of Stone Town on the west side. There are scuba diving shops all around the island, and your hotel can help book snorkeling and scuba diving.


3) Spice Tour

Zanzibar is known as the “spice island”. The Spice Tour will take you to a local spice farm where they show you the local spices and tropical fruits that they grow on the island. If you are staying on the northern end of the island, you can do this tour en route to your hotel. It is not very convenient from the southern end of the island, but this can be done from Stone Town.


4) Stone Town

This is the main center on the island. It has narrow, windy streets with a strong Arab influence. It is best to get a guided Stone Town walking tour as it is very easy to get turned around. Every evening, there is a night market, which is definitely worth a visit. Stone Town is a great place to do your last-minute shopping before you head home.


5) Jozani Forest

On the Jozani Forest Tour, you can see the Red Colobus Monkey, which is endemic on Zanzibar. You will also hike through the rainforest, and visit mangroves. It is located in the southern area of the island. If you are staying at the hotel on the southern end, you can do this tour en route to your hotel. You can combine this tour with swimming with dolphins for a full day of activities.


Off the Beaten Path

A few places to visit if you have more time is Chumbe Island and the Rock Restaurant.

Chumbe Island is a marine reserve off the coast just west of Stone Town. They are famous for the rare coconut crabs, and it offers absolutely amazing snorkeling and scuba diving. You will want to spend at least 2 nights here.

The Rock Restaurant is on the southeast side of the island. At low tide, you walk there, and at high tide, you take a boat. A great spot for sunset and dinner!


Where To Stay

There are so many amazing hotels to choose from! In Stone Town, there hotels with rooftop swimming pools or restaurants, spas, or historic tea houses.

At the beach, there are hotels in a larger village with lots of restaurants, bars, and shops. Or beach hotels that are very quiet and “away from it all”. Some areas cater to scuba divers and others to kite surfers.

We can book mid-range accommodations to luxury to uber-luxury. We will find the right fit for your interests and budget.

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