Add A Zipline to Your Tanzania Safari!

Tanzania’s first and only zipline adventure park is in Mto wa Mbu village, on the Northern safari circuit. This family friendly activity provides a few hours of fresh air, nature, walking, scenic views, and and an exciting ride on the zip cable!

It takes about 3 hours and the cost is US$ 55+VAT per person.

The zipline course has 4 exciting zips, an adventure bridge, and 6 unique eco-platforms. The tour starts at the Tanzip office in Mto wa Mbu where you will provided with a tour briefing, as well as your harness, lanyards, carabiners and zip trolley. An open air ride will take you through Maasai land to the adventure park! A scenic walk leads you to the starting point. After a safety orientation, you hit the zips!  Your tour will be completed when you are delivered back to the office where you can view photos of your tour, and relax with a beverage in the local cafe.

Add to any Tanzania Safari >>

How should I prepare for the Tanzip zipline experience?

  • You must wear closed toed shoes, and long hair must be tied securely or worn under a bandana. Short shorts and skirts are not permitted (knee length shorts are allowed).
  • Hats are not allowed
  • Gum, candy, smoking, and alcohol are not permitted during the tour.
  • Remove items from your pockets. They are likely to fall out due to the way you sit in the harness. Items can be left securely at the Tanzip office.

What happens in bad weather?

  • The Zipline continues to operate in light rains, however extreme rain, high winds, and lightening in the area would result in the lines closing until the weather clears. Guests may be asked to wait or will be offered a “rain check” to come back another day.

Are there age/ weight/ health restrictions?

  • Participants must be at least 7 years old
  • Participants must weigh at least 23 kg/ 50 lbs
  • Maximum weight is 130 kg/ 285 lbs
  • Participants must be able to walk a short distance on uneven terrain and climb a ladder
  • It is not recommend to participate while pregnant due the fitting of the harness across the abdomen
  • If you have health concerns, consult your physician (for example heart disease, vertigo, fear of heights, seizures)

Do I tip my guides?

  • It is customary to tip guides in Tanzania. Our guides work extra hard to make your tour fun, safe, and memorable; they also act as your personal photographer.  As usual tipping depends on your satisfaction with your guide!

Can I bring my camera?

  • Cameras are welcome; however, you are solely responsible for its transport and condition. We cannot be responsible for any valuables dropped or damaged from the tour. If you have a mechanism to secure your camera to yourself while zipping, such as a lanyard or zipped pocket then yes. Your guide will also be taking high quality photos of your group, which will be available for purchase at the completion of your tour.

Is it safe?

  • The Tanzip Zipline Adventure course is built and operated according to ACCT (Association for Challenge Course Technology) standards and is compliant with the TSSA (Technical Standards and Safety Authority) code of conduct established in Ontario, Canada.
  • Ziplines and equipment are inspected daily.
  • Adventure sports activities have inherent risk. All participants are provided with a safety orientation prior to going on the course, and safety remains the top priority throughout the activity.
  • All participants must sign a waiver acknowledging risk and that they participate at their own risk
Posted in Safari, Tanzania | Leave a comment

The Best Chimpanzee Trekking in Uganda

Few wildlife experiences are more evocative than meeting chimps face-to-face

Chimp Treks in Kibale Forest

If there is one single primate experience that can equal a visit to the mountain gorillas, it may very well be a visit to the chimpanzees of Kibale Forest National Park in Uganda. Chimpanzees, along with the bonobos of Congo, are humanity’s closest living relatives in the animal kingdom, sharing an astounding 99% mutual DNA with humans. Just 4 million years ago, chimps, humans and bonobos were indistinguishable, DNA wise.  This molecular bond between us and chimps is laid ever more baldly apparent when we have the exquisite opportunity to visit them. Sitting with chimps, in the wild, hearing their eerie hoots and howls of joy or concern, and seeing them engage with one another in their veritable jungle “living room,” takes us back to a primordial time of our beginning, to the origins of human essence in a way that can be utterly spell-binding.

  • Chimpanzee Trekking Options in Kibale Forest
  • Chimpanzee Habituation Trek
  • Chimpanzee Trek (Standard)
  • Chimpanzee Trek Advice
  • Where to Stay

Chimpanzee Trekking can be included in our longer Uganda trips >>


Chimpanzee Trekking Options in Kibale Forest

Travelers in Kibale have two primary options for visiting the chimpanzees. One is the full day habituation trek and the other is a shorter trek that is highlighted by one full hour visiting with a completely habituated chimpanzee family. Our trips promote the full day habituation option, but travelers should know that they are welcome to do the shorter standard trek instead.


Chimpanzee Habituation Trek

In our itineraries, we promote the full-day habituation trek. Rather than just 1 hour with a habituated family, travelers spend more quality time in the jungle generally and with chimpanzees specifically. Unlike the standard trek, there are usually significantly fewer people doing the habituation trek – often there’s only 2-3 groups, each with a maximum of 6 travelers.

The habituation trek allows travelers to visit unique families of chimps, further afield, and during the full day, travelers often see a greater variety of behaviors while tracking the families, including, on occasion, exciting hunting behaviors. The typical chimp family will hunt monkeys (usually the more aggressive red colobus) about 2-3 times a week. Your rangers will help interpret the strategies employed in the hunt as those can vary based on the situation. Habituation treks typically end by late afternoon.

NOTES: Travelers bring a boxed lunch with them and water in their daypack. The habituation permits currently cost about US$200/person. Prepare for an early start:  chimp habituation treks usually start around 6:30am.


Chimpanzee Trek (Standard)

These are shorter 3-4 hour treks that start around 8am on a daily basis. During busy periods, there may be noon and afternoon groups too. Like the habituation trek, parties are split up into smaller groups of around 6 travelers, usually, right after a general, brief trek orientation by the lead ranger.  

After the briefing and assigned a group, the groups head out from the visitor center led by 1 ranger, through established trails, punctuated by periods of bush-whacking through the jungle. Once the advance ranger team has located the chimp family – currently at 120 members – the various groups are guided in by their own lead ranger and the groups meld into one “super group” following the chimp family as it moves through the forest floor and canopy.  

Travelers linger with the chimps for one full hour, observing them gathering fruit, relaxing, mingling, etc. both on the forest floor and in the trees. Much of the time while we are watching them, they are watching us!  After the hour is up, we hike back with the ranger in our smaller groups back to the ranger station. The standard trek permits currently cost about US$120/person.


Chimpanzee Trek Advice

Especially while bush-whacking, you will almost certainly encounter stinging nettles. plus prickly trees and vines. Be sure to wear long pants, long sleeves, long socks, a cap, and have some gardening gloves with you. Because we often encounter biting ants somewhere along a chimp trek too, it’s vital to tuck the end of the pant legs into your socks. Be sure to bring binoculars with you (8×42 is good). Travelers should be in good physical condition and comfortable with off-trail hiking. Be prepared for muddy and wet conditions – waterproof mid-weight hiking boots are ideal. Wear a light daypack and bring insect repellent. This same packing list, in general, is good for the gorilla treks too.


Chimpanzee Treks: Where to Stay

For mid-range travelers, Primate Lodge-Forest Cabins are the easy choice. For upmarket travelers, you have several other outstanding options. One luxury option is within easy walking distance to the start of the treks; the other 2 are situated about 1-hour drive from the start.

  1. Primate Lodge
  2. Kyaninga Lodge
  3. Ndali Lodge
Primate Lodge – Luxury Cottages interior

1) Primate Lodge – Luxury Cottages – outstanding location for treks

Primate Lodge Kibale’s principal edge is the location, tucked in the Kibate Forest and within about a 5-minute walk to the starting point for Chimpanzee tracking excursion as well as the incredible Chimpanzee Habituation.  Besides the mid-range Forest Cottages, there are 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. Other 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 as well as free WiFi in the public areas.

Kyaninga Chalet – a view from one of the chalet’s exterior decks – superlative views and privacy

2) Kyaninga Lodge – Modern Euro-chic lodge, great for active, fit travelers

Set apart and raised on platforms, each of the lodge’s nine spacious cottages come an indoor seating area that leads out to a private deck where you can enjoy morning tea or coffee with views over the lake and the Rwenzori Mountains. The en-suite bathrooms boast marble countertop basins set atop crafted Elgon olive pedestals, claw footed freestanding baths, and glass-walled showers. With modern solar power, you will always have hot water and electrical charging points. The terrace leads down to the swimming pool looking over the lake. Lined with pavers cut from the local volcanic rock and featuring two wooden decks, the swimming pool provides the perfect space for you to relax and unwind. Here you can soak up the peace and tranquility of Lake Kyaninga and the mountains beyond. The more adventurous can walk down to Lake Kyaninga itself. With its blue water and ‘land that time forgot’ rainforest, it offers a unique opportunity to experience a wilderness rarely encountered in real life. The lake is one of the few in Uganda that are safe to swim in. With amazing wildlife on your doorstep, take a guided walk around the beautiful Kyaninga Crater Lake and Forest. See how many species of primate you can spot. The finest 3-course cuisine awaits you here. The menu is based on classical European cuisine and tweaked to make use of local ingredients, many of which are hand-picked from Kyaninga Lodge’s own kitchen garden or the neighboring markets. After dinner, head through to the Lounge where you can relax by the fire with a drink from the fully stocked bar. During the day, head out to the terrace and relax on loungers while enjoying the view of Lake Kyaninga. In this equatorial paradise, you will feel a thousand miles away from the bustle of daily life.

Ndali Lodge offers spacious grounds and 360 degrees of beautiful vistas to boot

3) Ndali Lodge – A serene luxury colonial oasis with exquisite surroundings

Ndali Lodge is an ideal choice for luxury travelers seeking a tranquil natural setting and a spacious, historical, and highly atmospheric colonial style property.  The lodge is a perfect place for a 2-3 night retreat, to relax by the vista-rich pool, enjoy their sauna and massages, do yoga on our yoga pagoda, or simply recharge and watch the animated flora and fauna, a good selection of which can be seen from the verandas of both the lodge and the cottages. Besides chimp treks, Ndali provides local guides for walks around the 1000-acre farm and the Ndali Vanilla processing plant. or to the nearby Muhoma Falls. Walks will take you around crater lake rims, past alcohol brewing in oil drums, through banana plantations, vanilla plantations, coffee terraces, plots of cassava, groundnuts, sorghum and millet. Below the lodge, on the lake below, is a sturdy jetty, set in the most tranquil and secluded spot and frequented by 5 different species of Kingfisher. From here guests can swim in the lake, soak up the sun or simply get away from it all. The lodge has an inflatable two-man kayak that can be used for spotting birds and other wildlife while out for an easy paddle.


At a Glance:

Where: Kibale Forest National Park, about 370 km from Entebbe and about 385 km from Bwindi National Park

Driving Distance: About 5-6 hours from Entebbe, and about 5-6 hours from Bwindi National Park

Time Needed: About 2 nights (1 full day)

2 Options:

  1. 1-hour visit with a chimp family that is habituated to humans
  2. Full day with a non-habituated family

Accommodation Choices: Mid-range or luxury

Posted in Uganda / Rwanda | Leave a comment

Colors of the Andes: Dyeing Wool the Peruvian Way

While some ingredients for natural dyes may seem strange, their colors saturate Andean textiles and have a long history among Peruvian artisans.

Peru is a country full of vibrant colors that reflect the unique culture, creativity and energy of its people. In the Andes Mountains, the people bring the colors of their country and culture to life through handmade textiles and the natural dyes that are used to color wool and alpaca fiber. The dyes and processes of coloring these materials are based on Andean recipes and instructions that have been passed down from generation to generation.

In order to achieve the stunning natural colors that you see in Andean textiles, the Andean people apply their great knowledge of the different plants that can be used for dyes. The spun yarn is then boiled with the coloring agent and other fixatives, such as mineral salts that help the material to hold the color or intensify the saturation. The following are some of the natural ingredients that are used for dyeing wool in the Andes.

Red

The most common element used for the production of red dye in the Andes is cochineal – a scale insect that is related to the aphid and is commonly found in the Sacred Valley. The insect must first be dried then ground into a powder using a mortar and pestle. Depending on the fixatives that are used during the dyeing process, cochineal can be used to produce a wide range of shades, including bright red, pink and purple.
Colors of the Andes: Dyeing Wool the Peruvian Way

Orange

Weavers can evoke the color orange by adding citric acid to cochineal-dyed yarn. However, there are other ways to create the same effect. The bark of yanali – a slow-growing tree found in high altitudes – is commonly collected and chopped into small pieces to be boiled with the yarn. Yanali doesn’t create a true orange, but rather a mustard yellow or yellowish-orange color.

Green

There are many different plants and minerals that can be used to produce the color green; however ch’illca is the most common. Ch’illca is a leafy green plant that has white flowers. To make green dye, large bunches of fresh leaves should be added to the dye pot and mixed with collpa, a mineral from the jungle. Together, these two elements should be boiled for an hour before adding the yarn.

Blue

To achieve the color blue, weavers in the Andes use tara, a bean-like pod. Tara is boiled with the yarn and collpa is added as a fixative to help the color cling to the fibers. The shade that is produced can vary from blue to grey depending on how much material is being dyed and how long it is boiled.

Yellow

To make yellow, there are a number of plants and flowers that can be used, though q’olle flowers are the most common. The flowers are harvested from a small tree that grows in the Andes and are boiled with the yarn. The length of time that the yarn is boiled and remains in the dye solution will determine the shade of yellow that is achieved.
Colors of the Andes: Dyeing Wool the Peruvian Way

Neutral Colors and Black

Sheep and Andean camelids, such as alpacas, yield a wide variety of neutral wool that can be used for textiles. Those colors include white, grey, tan, black, brown and beige of all different tones. Oftentimes undyed yard is already the most perfect natural color and does not need to be treated with dyes, though there are some coloring agents that can turn white yarn different shades of brown or black. However, most often natural colored yarn is made from undyed fiber. All that is needed to yield a clean color is the use of the jabonera plant as a natural detergent to remove any dirt or impurities.

After dyeing, the yarns are rinsed until they stop bleeding color and then they are hung to dry before they can be used to make beautiful weavings. These days, because of the popularity and convenience of synthetic dyes, it is not as common to find naturally dyed products in the market places and touristic shops in Peru. Thankfully the recent demand for natural, handmade products is helping to preserve the traditional dyeing and weaving processes of the indigenous communities of the Andes.

We know that the culture and long traditions of Peru are what make this country so great. For that reason, we will always encourage our guests to purchase items that celebrate the culture and traditional values of the people of Peru. While typically more expensive, we know that the handmade and naturally dyed fabrics of Peru make for the most wonderful and authentic souvenirs and directly support local craftsmen. While you are traveling in this country, we’d be happy to recommend some of our favorite shops for purchasing high-quality Peruvian textiles!

Posted in Peru, Sustainable Tourism, Travel Advice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

6 Top Boutique Hotels in Northern Spain

So, you have finished the Camino de Santiago Trek and are looking for a little more laid-back adventure in the glorious provinces of northern Spain. Where do you go? Where do you stay? We’ve got you covered! Add a week on to your El Camino de Santiago Trek (Portuguese Way or French Way) and from Santiago de Compostela, head west to explore our top four, must-see northern Spanish destinations:

  1. Parque Nacional de los Picos Europa (European Peaks National Park)
  2. La Rioja
  3. Bilbao
  4. San Sebastian

#1 PARQUE NACIONAL DE LOS PICOS EUROPA

The Picos de Europa National Park is located in the Cantabrian Mountains, between the provinces of Asturias, Leon and Cantabria.

Different geological folds and glaciations have shaped a tortuous landscape sculpted by ice and the effect of water on the limestone, forming a magnificent karst mountain system. The three main massifs of this natural wonder are bound by deep valleys and gorges, which arose due to the erosive passage of the sharp tongues of glacial ice and the force of the rivers’ waters which, even today, continue to dissolve the limestone, shaping the rock at its whim.

The central massif is home to the highest peaks in the Cantabrian Mountains in the form of the sheer-sided Urrieles, dominated by the most emblematic reference in the Picos de Europa: the immense beauty of Naranjo de Bulnes or Urriellu Peak. Its 2,519 meters of difficult terrain have not prevented human settlements from emerging, the most famous being the village of Bulnes. Until 2001, it was accessible only via a steep, narrow mountain path. Since then, access to the village is easier thanks to the funicular railway that cuts across the mountain from the town of Poncebos.

To the east of the Urrieles lies the eastern massif, the Andara, the smallest with a gentler profile, whose highest peak is Morra Lechugales at 2,400 meters. The westernmost of the three massifs is that of the Picos de Cornión, near the Royal Site of Covadonga, a place of pilgrimage visited by thousands of people each year. There Lakes Enol and Ercina reflect the high mountains where the legendary history of Asturias was forged.

Between the Urrieles and the Cornión and separating the central and western massifs from south to north, runs the River Cares, whose crystalline waters rage throughout its course. Outstanding among the beautiful peaks of the western massif rises La Peña Santa de Castilla at 2,596 metres. On the way to this peak, Ordiales Scenic Balcony can be found with a drop of almost 1,000 meters down to the valley below, instilling awe in all who visit it.

WHERE TO STAY

Parador de Fuente De: In the midst of the imposing verticality and idyllic scenery of the mountains of Picos de Europa National Park stands the Parador de Fuente Dé, located near this small town’s famous cableway. The Parador is a gateway to magical forests, mountain slopes and scenic overlooks that make up a natural paradise of incomparable beauty. This modern mountain hotel is located in the district of Liébana, at the base of the cableway that climbs up to Áliva viewpoint. The interior is warm and cozy, and traditional Cantabrian dishes such as cocido lebaniego (chickpea stew) and sirloin steak with Tresviso cheese are a magnificent way to recharge after returning from an excursion in the area.

#2 LA RIOJA

La Rioja is a province and autonomous community in northern Spain with a renowned local wine industry. Below the stunning Cantabrian Mountains, vineyards occupy the Ebro valley and surround the old town of Haro. There, the summer festival features the messy Batalla de Vino (wine battle). Local wineries (bodegas) range from small, traditional cellars to major commercial producers. Come taste some of the best wines in Spain while tasting an array of local cheeses and taking in the majestic mountains!

WHERE TO STAY

Palacio Tondon: The Ebro river becomes tortuous as it runs through Briñas, a little gem located in La Rioja which dates back to the Roman period. Narrow streets dotted with stately homes, including this 16th century palace with views of the Tondón vineyards, from which it takes its name. Palacio Tondón is a unique architectural complex surrounded by vineyards and mountains where tradition and history are combined with innovation and sustainability. It’s a place where the word “charm” really comes to life and where time appears to grind to a halt. Just a few minutes away from the Barrio de la Estación and its 7 century-old wineries, it’s the perfect spot to delve into the passionate world of wine. Palacio Tondón en Briñas. Discover everything.

Marques de Riscal: This stunning 2Ist century chateau was designed by internationally renowned architect Frank Gehry and is a true masterpiece. Located in “The City of Wine,” this 5-star hotel is truly an adventure of a lifetime. Prepare to savor a one-of-a-kind experience of all the senses at Hotel Marques de Riscal. New delights await. Enjoy local cuisine and fine wines at 1860 Tradición or Marqués de Riscal Restaurant, both overseen by Michelin-starred Chef Francis Paniego, or soak up the benefits of the grape at the Vinothérapie SPA Caudalie Marqués de Riscal. Welcome to the only hotel created by Frank Gehry where each of the unique 43 guestrooms and suites promises to enchant with exceptional designer touches and enviable views of the countryside, medieval town of Elciego or the striking architecture.

#3 BILBAO

Bilbao, an industrial port city in northern Spain, is surrounded by green mountains. It’s the de facto capital of Basque Country, with a bustling downtown. It’s famed for the Frank Gehry–designed Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, which sparked revitalization when it opened in 1997. The museum houses prominent modern and contemporary works, but it’s the curvy, titanium-clad building that receives the most attention.

WHERE TO STAY

Gran Hotel Domine: The Gran Hotel Domine is the only 5-star hotel in front of the Guggenheim. Having been completely newly renovated in 2018, luxury can now be found in its spacious ambience, its extraordinary service, the passion for art and design, as well as an elegant and cosmopolitan style.

#4 SAN SEBASTIAN

San Sebastian is a resort town on the Bay of Biscay in Spain’s mountainous Basque Country. It’s known for Playa de la Concha and Playa de Ondarreta, beaches framed by a picturesque bayfront promenade, and world-renowned restaurants helmed by innovative chefs. In its cobblestoned old town (Parte Vieja), upscale shops neighbor vibrant pintxo bars pairing local wines with bite-size regional specialties.

WHERE TO STAY:

Hotel Maria Cristina: Since opening in 1912, the restored Hotel Maria Cristina has been closely linked to the history and cultural life of San Sebastian. Experience gracious hospitality on a grand scale in the hotel’s rooms and suites. Decorated in a sophisticated palette of greys and white, the rooms are a quiet haven of luxury, style, technology and a dazzling range of services which, combined, make for an unforgettable stay. Discover Dry Bar, a sophisticated space where you can enjoy afternoon tea, classic and signature cocktails, and a wide variety of traditional Spanish tapas or main courses.

Lasala Plaza Hotel: The sea in San Sebastián is not only blue. It changes from deep turquoise to lead grey. The bay can change in a flash from almost tropical calm to the wildest of Atlantic squalls. And it’s there, facing a port dating back hundreds of years, that you’ll find the Lasala Plaza Hotel. A space where luxury doesn’t stop in the rooms. A luxury that embraces a love of local art and culture, sharing it with their guests. Lasala Plaza aspires to be a hotel that embraces and highlights the best of Donostia-San Sebastian: its culture, its love of gastronomy and the sea, the art of knowing how to live and, above all, its people. A San Sebastian they want to share with their guests, so that they too can experience the city like a real local.

Want to plan your trip to Northern Spain and trek the Camino de Santiago? Contact us!

Your friendly Spain expert,

Gretchen

Posted in Camino de Santiago, Europe, Luxury, Travel Advice, Trekking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Colorful Treks in The Andes of Peru

Embark on an Andes trek and discover a show of beauty only Mother Nature could deliver. Vivid green valleys accented with crystal clear pools eternally reflect the sky above. Turquoise lagoons are made even more beautiful by the soaring glacial peaks that rise above them. Mountains striped with shades of lavender, gold, red-violet, and vibrant turquoise beckon to ambitious adventurers. Peru is a place blessed with immense natural beauty and abundant, amazing colors. In this blog post, we introduce you to two Andes treks that will bring you face-to-face with the cream of the crop of colorful mountain landscapes in Peru.

The Ausangate Trek to Vinicunca -“The Rainbow Mountain”

Quick Facts:

  • Location: Cusco
  • Duration: 5 days / 4 nights (Or opt for our shorter 2 day/1 night version)
  • Trek Distance: 62 km / 38.5 miles

Named for the snow-clad peak that towers over the trail from start to finish, the Ausangate Trek is a wonder of sights and settings so surreal you’ll have more than a few “pinch me” moments to write home about. The capstone will surely be the arrival to Vinicunca or Rainbow Mountain as it’s come to be aptly nicknamed. The high-altitude trek up the 5,000-meter-tall mountain will immediately fall from your mind as you look out over a spine of rainbow-like colors stretching as far as the eye can see. How did this rainbow mountain form? Credit goes to the glacier that once covered the mineral-rich mountain and the sunlight that melted it. As the meltwater mixed with the various minerals, stripes of red, violet, yellow, and green appeared, creating what is quite possibly the most colorful mountain in Peru, if not the world.

The Huayhaush Trek

Quick Facts:

  • Location: Huaraz
  • Duration: 6 Days/5 Nights
  • Trek Distance: 63 km / 39 miles

The Huayhaush Mountains are home to some of Peru’s most spectacular alpine scenes. Trekking them is challenging, but the breathtakingly close-up views of prickly peaks and nightly campsites nestled along the shores of glacier-fed turquoise lagoons serve as the fuel to keep you going. The entire route is above treeline, just to give you a sense of the altitude at which you’ll be climbing. Pass by raging rivers, sink your boots into snow-covered trails, and admire the colorful flora and fauna that call this high-altitude expanse home. The Huayhuash trek circuit is the epitome of adventure travel and on every outdoor enthusiast’s bucket list.

Which colorful Andes trek will you take on? Contact us for more information.

Your friendly Peru expert,

Gretchen

Posted in Peru, Trekking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

7 Off The Beaten Path Adventures for 2019

Start the year off right with a list of our best off the beaten path adventures to get you inspired for 2019! Our team at AWR has put together a list of our top seven true adventures for those looking to skip the crowds and take a once-in-a-lifetime journey in 2019!

  1. Bhutan
  2. Aysen (Patagonia- Chile)
  3. Uyuni Glamping Luxury Lodge (Bolivia)
  4. Myanmar
  5. Los Glaciares National Park: Fitz Roy & Cerro Torre (Patagonia-Argentina)
  6. Arctic
  7. Gorillas in Uganda
6-Day Cultural Tour to Paro, Thimphu, Punakha

Six days of cultural tours including Paro, Thimphu, Punakha and a half-day hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Add a day to this tour and attend a Tshechu (Festival).
Starting at $1495/person!
6-Day Cultural Tour to Paro, Thimphu, Punakha>>

8-Day Remote Trails Aysen and Patagonia Park

Chile’s beloved Nobel Prize winning-poet Pablo Neruda once said, “He who does not know the Chilean forests does not know the planet.” In addition to the vast old-growth forests, Northern Patagonia boasts glaciers, fjords, wild rivers, clear lakes, and waterfalls. The gateway to Chile’s far south, with the Carretera Austral (Southern Highway) winding its way through the region, Aisen is an area of incredible beauty and remoteness that people expect from Patagonia, but won’t find further south. With such wonders as the Futaleufu River, considered by rafters and kayakers to be South America’s absolute best, and areas of quiet wilderness, Northern Patagonia attracts both adventurous travelers and those in search of solitude.

Starting at $3075/person!
8-Day Remote Trails Aysen and Patagonia Park>>

3-Day Uyuni Glamping Luxury Lodge

Standing directly in the middle of the Uyuni Salt Flats, at an altitude of 3,600 m, at the foot of Tunupa Volcano, our luxury dome lodge is waiting for you. From a distance, the white pods, designed by Buckminsterfuller, look like a space station. The dome camp is complete with an observatory built for a passionate astrophysicist! Composed of repeated equilateral triangles, their metallic structure is the very essence of mathematical elegance. In front and on top of the domes, a transparent panel offers wide-open views of the Salar and its star-studded sky. Lit up at night, with solar panels placed in between the domes, they are one of the coolest, and most surrealist viewing stations ever seen in this arid region.

Each day at the lodge, choose your own adventure while exploring the surreal and overwhelmingly beautiful rooftop of the Americas!

Starting at $1975/person!
3-Day Uyuni Glamping Luxury Lodge>>

8-Day Myanmar Discovery

Myanmar is a fascinating country with a rich cultural heritage. On this private tour, you’ll discover the highlights of Myanmar including Yangon, Mandalay, the temples of Bagan and the fishing villages on Inle Lake. Not only will you see the ancient highlights of Myanmar, but you’ll also learn about the deep Buddhist traditions still thriving today.

This trip is easy to combine with Thailand with daily flights between Bangkok and Yangon. We can also help with a customized itinerary with more or fewer days in Myanmar.

Starting at $1195/person!
8-Day Myanmar Discovery>>

7-Day Los Glaciares National Park: Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre Trek

From north to south, trek to the basecamps of Mt. Fitz Roy & Cerro Torre, camping at each and trekking to Paso del Viento with views of the second largest icecap outside the polar regions! Experience classic Argentine Patagonia landscapes – steep granite spires towering over vast glaciers, cerulean lakes, rivers and forests.

Starting at $1395/person!
7-Day Los Glaciares National Park: Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre Trek>>

8-Day Spitsbergen: Polar Bears and More!

Begin your epic North Spitsbergen cruise with a lovely stroll around historic Longyearben, Norway, and then hop aboard your comfortable expedition vessel and head north. We will venture to places that will make a nature photographer jump for joy: beautiful mountain landscapes, surreal icebergs and massive glaciers, countless seabirds, and rare Arctic wildlife including the star of the show, the polar bear. View wildlife and scenery from the vessel, zodiacs, and on land. 

Special: Book your Spitsbergen expedition through AWR and we’ll help with a complimentary, pre-cruise 4-star hotel night in Oslo. 

Starting at $3895/person!
8-Day Spitsbergen: Polar Bears and More>>

4-Day Gorilla Express out of Kigali

Visit the mountain gorillas in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest by crossing over from Rwanda. The gorilla trek at Bwindi is more challenging than in Rwanda.  Therefore, we recommend good physical condition.

Starting at $1495/person!
4-Day Gorilla Express out of Kigali>>

Posted in Argentina, Bhutan, Bolivia, Chile, Patagonia, Uganda / Rwanda | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

7 Bucket List Trips for 2019

The end of the year is around the corner and our travelers are already scheming to hit more of their bucket list destinations in 2019 than ever before! While most people’s bucket lists vary, there are a few iconic places around the world that seem to capture the imagination of just about everyone. Our team at AWR has put together a list of our top seven bucket list trips that deserve to be a MUST for every adventurer in 2019.


Overview:

  1. Inca Trail (Peru)
  2. Kilimanjaro: Machame Route (Tanzania)
  3. W Trek (Patagonia)
  4. Antarctica
  5. Safari (Tanzania)
  6. Machu Picchu (Peru)
  7. Angkor Wat (Cambodia)
5-Day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

The legendary Inca Trail takes you through the diverse wilderness of the Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary, passing numerous Inca ruins on the magnificent stone highway before descending to the famed citadel of Machu Picchu. It starts from Cusco or Ollantaytambo, hiking from km 82 into Machu Picchu, and returns to Cusco with an overnight at a hotel in Aguas Calientes.

Starting at $1235/person!
5-Day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu>>    
7-Day Machame Route (Kilimanjaro)

If Marangu is the “Coca Cola” route, then the Machame Route is the “Whiskey” route. It is the second most popular and one of the most scenic routes on the mountain. All climbers sleep in tents (tents are included) and meals are served in a dinner tent or on a blanket outside. 

It is done over 7 days, so acclimatization is easier, and the success rate is fairly high. It is for physically fit people with some hiking experience. Descent is down the Mweka trail staying at the Mweka or Millenium camp the final night on the mountain.

Starting at $2495/person!
7-Day Machame Route (Group)>>
 
5-Day Patagonia: Traditional W Trek in Torres del Paine

Experience the traditional W-Trek in Torres del Paine based from cozy refugios all along the way. The name “W” comes from the formation of a perfect W with the coming together of the paths that surround the southern sector of Torres del Paine national park. The principal attractions of the W Circuit are: Base Torres, French Valley and Grey Glacier.

Starting at $1550/person!
5-Day Patagonia: Traditional W Trek in Torres del Paine>>
10-Day Antarctic Peninsula Expedition

Stunning scenery and wildlife abound in this expedition cruise along the western Antarctic Peninsula. Our basecamp vessel, the rugged though comfortable M/V Plancius or M/V Ortelius, will navigate us alongside a mountainous and glacial landscape where we will have the opportunity to see gentoo and chinstrap penguins, Weddell and crabeater seals, wandering albatross and perhaps even humpback and minke whales. Looking for more adventure? Step aboard a zodiac cruise to see crisp icebergs and deep-cut fjords up close, go for a hike or kayak along the coast, or be the first of your friends to set up camp on “The White Continent.” Grab your camera and welcome aboard! There are numerous 10 & 11 day voyages on offer throughout the season, which runs November through March.

Starting at $7195/person!
10-Day Antarctic Peninsula Expedition>>
 
5-Day Tanzania Safari (Group)

This is our most popular safari itinerary, in a small group, on set dates, so we can offer it at a discounted price!

These safari dates run concurrently with our Group Kilimanjaro Treks. A departure is confirmed with 2 people. The group has a maximum of 6 people with guaranteed window seat.

December-March, you will visit Lake Manyara and the Serengeti Halisi Camp will be located in the Ndutu area (Southern Serengeti area for the migration). June-October, you will visit Tarangire and the Serengeti Halisi Camp will be in a more central part of the Serengeti.

SEE ALL GROUP DEPARTURES >>

Starting at $1745/person!
5-Day Tanzania Safari (Group)>>
7-Day Peru: Machu Picchu Tour by Train

This exciting 7-day package starts in Lima, traveling to Cusco, Sacred Valley, by train to Aguas Calientes. The next day starts early, with a shuttle bus to the Machu Picchu Sanctuary. Once at Machu Picchu, you will receive a guided tour of the famous citadel. The itinerary ends with your return to Cusco, then on to Lima or elsewhere. Private tours are also available.

Note that you will have group tours for the Cusco city tour, the Sacred Valley tour and the Machu Picchu tour. Otherwise, you have the freedom to be on your own to explore the cities, villages and ruins. It is the best value, yet gives independence to do as you wish! Private tours are available upon request.

This trip includes clean, comfortable hotels throughout, with options for either budget 3-star hotels or high-end 3 star hotels. For travelers seeking more luxury or refinement, please contact us for ideas. With this itinerary, you have the opportunity to upgrade accommodations.

Starting at $1060/person!
7-Day Peru: Machu Picchu Tour by Train>>
4-Day Cambodia: Angkor Wat and Siem Reap

Angkor and the surrounding temples were built in the 12th century. Angkor is a monument to a thriving culture that allowed these amazing temples to simply disappear into the jungle.

Rediscovered in the 19th century, the temples are a UNESCO world heritage site and in great condition. The main temple, Angkor Wat, is one of the largest religious buildings in the world. A visit to Angkor is simply unforgettable.

Starting at $695/person!
4-Day Cambodia: Angkor Wat and Siem Reap>>
Posted in Antarctica, Chile, Kilimanjaro, Peru, Tanzania, Trekking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NEW TRIP! 3-Day Bolivia Uyuni Glamping Luxury Lodge

Standing directly in the middle of the Uyuni Salt Flats, at an altitude of 3,600 m, at the foot of Tunupa Volcano, Kachi luxury dome lodge is waiting for you. From a distance, the white pods, designed by Buckminsterfuller, look like a space station. The dome camp is complete with an observatory built for a passionate stargazers! In front and on top of the domes, transparent panels offers jaw-dropping views of the Salar and its star-studded sky. Lit up at night, with solar panels placed in between the domes, this new lodge is by far the coolest and most surreal viewing stations ever seen in this arid region.

3-Day Uyuni Glamping Luxury Lodge >>

Each day at the lodge, choose your own adventure while exploring the overwhelmingly beautiful rooftop of the Americas!

Starting at $1975 per person!

ITINERARY

Day 1: Arrive in Uyuni, Transfer to Lodge (D)
Day 2: Explore Uyuni, Choose Your Own Adventure (BLD)
Day 3: Departure (B)

Itinerary In Detail

Day 1: Arrive in Uyuni, Transfer to Lodge (D)

Today you will arrive in the surreal and magical world of Uyuni. Upon arrival, you will be met by your driver and escorted across the epic salt flats to your luxurious glamping home. Enjoy a cocktail and take in the breathtaking views around this stellar lodge. Relax and get settled this evening. Dinner will be served in the chic dining dome. Take a front row seat to some of the best star gazing on Earth (telescopes provided for an even closer look at the heavens) and then enjoy the warmth of your personal wood burning stove while tucking in to your dome haven for the night.

Meals included: Dinner
Accommodations: Kachi Lodge

Day 2: Explore Uyuni, Choose Your Own Adventure (BLD)

Choose your own adventure! There are many options to make the best out of your experience on the Salar.

Not to be missed is a hike in the morning to nearby “island” covered with giant cacti and offering amazing views on the Salar. (This island is unique for our guests and differs from the more well-known “island”, Inca Huasi, which is most famous, however the most touristic).

Another excursion option is a visit to the charming village of Coquesa and its mummies sheltered in a cave 600 m above the village, again with beautiful views of the Salar.

About 1h15 driving lies the interesting archeological site of Alcaya, an old pre colombian city near Salinas.

Those looking for something slightly more physically demanding can hike to the lower lip of Tunupa volcano crater. (2 hrs)

A visit to the Salinas (where locals collect the salt from the Salar) will help you to understand how locals collect the salt form the surface.

You can also borrow one of our moutain bikes and experience the expansiveness of the Salar around the camp

At night, a telescope is at your disposal to observe the starry night of the Altiplano.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodations: Kachi Lodge

Day 3: Departure (B)

Wake up and enjoy a leisurely breakfast. Go for one last stroll on the Salar before saying good-bye to the camp and your hosts. Return to Uyuni airport for your flight home or to your next destination.

Meals included: Breakfast

3-Day Uyuni Glamping Luxury Lodge >>

Posted in Bolivia, Luxury | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trip Report — Uganda Gorillas & Chimpanzees (November 2018)

The mighty silverback: baby sitting
  • Staff Member: Dan Crandall
  • Trip: Uganda / 10-days November-December 2018
  • Destinations in Uganda: Kampala,  Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, Murchison Falls, Kibale National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Bwindi, Lake Mburo National Park

Overview

Famed for its rare gorillas and chimpanzees, Uganda offers a fantastic travel experience for the returning African travel connoisseur for much more than that. The rolling green countryside, an impressive multitude of butterflies and rare birds, an attractive range of classic African game, other unique primates, plus countless waving, smiling children along the way round out a typical safari here. Despite the fact we traveled in late November – normally the rainy season – we largely enjoyed fantastic weather. The best times to visit, overall, are December – early March, then again June – September. Sometime in October, heavy rains can begin to set in, lasting some time into November, then they return in force by sometime around mid-March, lasting into May.

Highlights:

  • Rhino tracking on foot at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
  • Game drive and a small boat safari on the Nile River in Murchison Falls
  • Chimp trekking in Kibale
  • Exploring Queen Elizabeth National Park including a small boat safari on the Kazinga channel and a game drive
  • The ultimate thrill: Gorilla trekking in Bwindi
  • Walking in Lake Mburo National Park

Day 1: Friday 23rd November 2018

Arrival – Kampala by way of Entebbe Airport

On the morning of November 23, I met my safari guide, Peter, and we traveled about 1-hour by road to Kampala, for a quick look at Kampala’s thoroughly congested downtown. Kampala itself allows an interesting introduction to an African metropolis: dusty, colorful, brimming with people, congested traffic, movement everywhere.

Overnight: Cassia Lodge

Views of Lake Victoria from Cassia Lodge, Entebbe

Day 2: Saturday 24th November 2018

Kampala – Murchison Falls National Park

Today we departed for arguably the most beautiful protected area in Uganda: Murchison Falls National Park. En-route we made a wonderful if brief stop to stretch our legs at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, home to the only wild rhinos in Uganda.

  • Driving Time: 350km / About 7-hours
Endangered rhinos at Ziwa

This small reserve was created to reintroduce rhinos to Uganda which have been extinct since 1982. Together with a knowledgeable local ranger/guide, we trooped through the bush on foot, tracking rhino, in which we found — perhaps not surprisingly — great success, finding a mother and a baby rhino grazing together in the thick savanna. What surprised the guide was when another mother rhino and an even smaller baby rhino came looping in. We watched the younger baby attempt to play with the older juvenile with mixed success. It was great fun watching the young ones interact at length, so very unique. It’s important to note that travelers coming here directly aid in rhino conservation generally and specifically the support of the rhino reintroduction project in side Uganda. Plans are being finalized to begin moving several of the rhinos here into a large national park soon.  After some time – maybe 45 minutes- we returned on foot to the vehicle, and drove briefly back to the main lodge on site for lunch. Following lunch at the Rhino sanctuary, we continued our drive to Murchison Falls National Park. 

It’s important to note that travelers coming here directly aid in rhino conservation generally and specifically the support of the rhino reintroduction project in side Uganda. Plans are being finalized to begin moving several of the rhinos here into a large national park soon.  After some time – maybe 45 minutes- we returned on foot to the vehicle, and drove briefly back to the main lodge on site for lunch. Following lunch at the Rhino sanctuary, we continued our drive to Murchison Falls National Park. 

Murchison Falls National Park is the largest protected area in Uganda. The waterfall for which the park is named is the most stirring sight of its type in East Africa. The southern part is mostly covered by dense woodlands and harbors one of the most varied forest faunas in East Africa, and is a premier sight for bird watchers, as well as one of the best- and most affordable – places to track chimpanzees. The northern part is mostly covered by green grasslands with scattered acacia trees, borassus palms and riverine woodlands. The world’s longest river, the great River Nile, is rich here with hippos, crocodiles, waterbucks and buffaloes. Wildlife includes giraffe, lions, leopards, elephants, giraffes, buffaloes, hartebeests, oribis, Uganda kob and more.

Overnight: Budongo Eco Lodge

Uganda is full of friendly suprises – a band performing at the Nile ferry landing

Day 3: Sunday 25th November 2018

Murchison Falls National Park (All day)

After an early breakfast we traveled about 1 hour to the river, where we boarded a simple ferry boat to bridge the River Nile. Once on the other side, we began our introductory game drive on the northern bank of the Nile, seeing lots of Rothschild giraffe (it was breeding season, the one time of year when these generally solitary animals merge into larger herds), elephants, Jackson hartebeest, oribis (a cute little antelope), waterbucks, and a range of savanna woodland birds. Very lucky travelers could see lions or leopards too.

Uganda kob, Uganda’s national symbol
Elephant family along the Nile

After a delicious al fresco lunch, we went on a Nile small boat cruise to the bottom of the waterfalls with game viewing en-route as another highlight. We were able to approach wildlife at fairly close quarters, including a family of elephants. Once you view the falls from the water, guests would want to do a moderate 1 – hour hike to the top of the falls (travelers are dropped off at a small jetty/ladder, then you hike along the river to the top). It has great views. Afterwards, we returned to the lodge for dinner and overnight, in the process enjoying a fire right by the river’s edge as hippos harrumphed nearby.

Overnight: Bakers Lodge

Murchison Falls

Day 4: Monday 26th November 2018

Murchison Falls – Kibale Forest National Park

Following breakfast, we departed Murchison Falls and headed south to Fort Portal. Not long ago, this was a tough drive, but they are rebuilding the roads and making excellent progress. By around June 2019, I suspect the road work will be finished. For now, about half the road is improved, and that alone has made an enormous difference. There is tangible excitement among Ugandans regarding this important development for tourism and trade.

Fort Portal rests in the shadow of the Ruwenzori Mountains and is famous for the many serene, bright green tea plantations in the area. We ate lunch at the
Kyaninga Lodge, enjoying more of the expansive views of nearby mountains and pretty, rural countryside. Afterwards we continued to Kibale Forest National Park.

  • Driving Time: 400km / 7.5-hours

Overnight: Primate Lodge


Day 5: Tuesday 27th November 2018

Kibale Forest National Park (All day)

Early this morning, the forest opened her doors for a sensational chimpanzee tracking experience.

Following the pre-tracking briefing, we split up into smaller groups and walked to the trailhead. From there, we followed the ranger who was in contact with other rangers and together, working as team, they discovered the location of the troop we were to visit. Once on site, we followed a sprawling, active, eerily-howling and habituated family of about 120 chimpanzees. Chimps climbed vines, sat in trees eating fruits, lounged in their “forest couches,” and scrambled on all fours through the forest floor, all around us, for the duration of our time with them.

Through it all, the park ranger/guide shared stories and facts about the chimps, forest botany, and the park’s other inhabitants including Black and White Colobus, Red Colobus, Red tailed monkeys, and Olive baboons. We spent an unforgettable hour with the chimpanzees watching them up-close as they ate, groomed, played, and generally went through their daily routine.

Some important things to note: even though you are split up into groups, the groups will almost inevitably merge into one super-group following the chimpanzee family. It can feel a little congested with photographers jockeying for angles and some travelers taking selfies and the like. I just moved a little this way and that and found my own space, and my own experience, up-close with the family, including a sweet, contemplative moment with the alpha male. For travelers wanting fewer travelers around while observing the chimps, choose the longer, more expensive all-day habituation experience, which visits an entirely different family of chimps in another area.

We encountered 2 of the several species of primates in Bigodi Swamp, including these busy body Red-Tailed Colobus Monkeys.

In the afternoon, we did a 2-hour guided nature walk through the nearby Bigodi wetland. The Bigodi Swamp Walk is an initiative of the local community and is known for its diversity of birds and primates. The path and board walk can be flooded and muddy after heavy rainfall so bring your waterproof hiking boots or shoes that can get wet and dirty. The longer walk is about 4km in length, taking 3 hours with a knowledgeable local community guide at the helm. All proceeds from the activity go back to into the community, a conservation project well worth supporting. After, we returned to the lodge for dinner and overnight.

Overnight: Primate Lodge


Day 6: Wednesday 28th November 2018

Kibale Forest – Queen Elizabeth National Park

After early breakfast, we drove through the scenic crater lakes region that surrounds the dense forest of Kibale National Park. We continued on to Queen Elizabeth National Park, checking into our simple overnight lodge for the evening, Simba Safari Lodge. I would not recommend the extremely budget Simba Lodge except for travelers looking for the cheapest of lodging in the area.

Buffalo, hippos, elephants and water-related birds were abundant in Kazinga

In the afternoon, we took a classic small boat cruise along the Kazinga Channel, a natural canal that joins Lakes Edward and Lake George. 33 kilometers long and 2 to 3 kms at its widest points, the Kazinga channel was formed by tectonic activity millions of years ago during the formation of the rift valleys. On our 2-hour boat ride over a 12 -14 km stretch of the channel, we enjoyed some truly excellent wildlife sightings including many hippo, big herds of wallowing buffalo in and out of the water, elephants, tons of birds, and more.

  • Driving Time: 185km / 3-hours

Overnight: Simba Safari Lodge


Day 7: Thursday 29th November 2018

Queen Elizabeth – Bwindi National Park

After breakfast we steered south, passing the southern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park. This part is called Ishasha and is famous for the 3 prides of tree climbing lions. We checked out fabulous Ishasha Wilderness Camp, a lovely and tranquil high-end property, then continued our brief game drive in this area before we continued to Buhoma village, a gateway to Bwindi National Park. Driving through a green countryside, we passed a slew of traditional homesteads. By afternoon we arrived at Bwindi National Park, home of the endangered mountain gorillas.

  • Driving Time: 200km / 3 – 4 Hours

Overnight-Mahogany Springs

Topi – the “painted antelope” – are abundant in Ishasha

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, home of the critically endangered Mountain Gorillas, lies on the edge of the albertine Rift Valley in southwestern Uganda, with a extensive altitude range between 1,160 – 2,600 meters. The forest itself, dating back to the ice ages, is one of Uganda’s oldest and most biodiverse, with almost 400 species of plants, 350 species of birds including 23 Albertine Rift endemics plus 120 mammal species including gorillas, baboons, himpanzees, elephants and antelopes.


Day 8: Friday 30th November 2018

Gorilla Tracking in Bwindi National Park

Today was easily the highlight of the safari, and easily a top-5 African travel experience: an intimate, hour-long, eye-to-eye encounter with the gentle mountain gorillas. This, dear reader, is the ultimate highwater mark for any keen nature and wildlife enthusiast.

Following breakfast, we traveled by road just a very short distance to the national park office where we were briefed and split (by gorilla family) into small groups of 8 and allocated an experienced and knowledgeable gorilla tracking guide. Before the briefing, we were entertained with a singing and dance performance by Ride4AWoman an outstanding locally run NGO helping vulnerable women get back on their feet.

The first gorilla we bumped into was a huge brownback gorilla eating … flowers!

After being paired with our local community porter, we started the hike right from the ranger station, beginning on a wide gravel path then veering into the jungle, or rather, “penetrating the ‘impenetrable forest’,” as our ranger slyly noted. Travelers should prepare to walk long distances in steep and often slippery conditions with a chance of rain overhead, which can be tough for non-hikers.  In our case, we hiked to the Rushegura group, a family just about 45 minutes hiking away. The group quietly made our way through the thick jungle, which was full of mossy vines, huge rainforest trees, and giant ferns. The rangers used primitive GPS (hooting…) to locate the trackers, who had served as an advance party to locate the family. We passed a gorilla nesting site, then gathered close to the ranger for final instructions.

Watching the 4 juveniles play like little kids was a highlight

From there, we pushed forward a few yards and began our 1-hour of viewing. First, we came upon a huge “brownback,” a male gorilla not quite old enough to be a silverback. We watched him, mesmerized, feeding on flowers. It was quite an incongruous sight: such a huge, powerful animal, carefully nibbling down dainty white flowers. We then followed the ranger further, slightly downslope. We rounded a jungle thicket and before us, squatted the mighty silverback.

My first impression was “this is a huge animal.” The silverback had an enormous head, and huge, powerful arms and legs, the muscles clear as day. Here we had encountered him eating. Initially, he ate a bit more, then looked at us, measuring us up, it seemed, then he simultaneously gut-roared and charged – a lightning quick little 3 jumps –  right at me and my friend Peter. Peter, an ex- British soldier, bravely stood his ground, but I, a simple Wisconsin kayaker, I flinched – I took a step back. The tracker behind me then put a gentle palm on my back, whispering, ‘don’t move’. Then the silverback jumped forward again, huffing. This time I stayed still. The silverback assessed us, noticing we neither retreated or charged back, and realized we were neither a threat or food (?), and slowly turned away and loped back a few yards to his resting spot.

After a quiet moment close to the silverback, our ranger then asked – “are you ready to see the babies?.” He did not need an answer. We quietly slogged through puddles and over slippery rock and root to the young ones, all four of them, playing together, roughhousing really – just like human boys – and we squatted there for the remainder of our time.  The young ones climbed trees around us – just a few meters away – and splashed water in a little puddle. They banged their chests, imitating daddy, and chased each other relentlessly, hug-wrestling on contact. Small chirps from the young ones and loud guttural calls from adults occasionally filled the air, otherwise sound was reduced to just the rustle of the forest from the gorillas. Thrilling!

This was truly a world-class, unforgettable nature experience. Even the most jaded or most experienced travelers of Africa and beyond are visibly moved by it.

After our hour was up, we hiked back to base and then transferred on to the lodge, enjoying a calm afternoon, later watching a quick but powerful thunderstorm move into and out of the valley.

  • Trekking time : 3 hours

Overnight-Mahogany Springs


Day 9: Saturday 1st December 2018

Bwindi – Lake Mburo National Park

After breakfast, we departed Buhoma village and headed to Lake Mburo National Park, stopping for smoothies and coffee along the way. As we entered the conservation area encircling the park, we saw local cattle and a number of zebras, impalas, and unique birds we had not yet seen.

Lake Mburo has a nice variety of plains and savanna game headlined by Burchell’s zebras

We had the option of a night game drive, and for those who’ve not done one before, it does present a nice opportunity to fit one in. Instead, the group chose to relax this nice breezy afternoon at the lodge, enjoying the views and quiet other than the pitched stirrings of millions of cicadas throughout the bush around us.

Night game drives are best in the dry season, when grass is low and leaves are fewer on the trees. The best months would be July-September then again January-February. During the dry season, travelers have a pretty good (~ 60%) chance of seeing leopard, the main objective.

Night game drives are optional, at an extra nominal cost, and are done in open Land rovers with a spot light. The drives often last about of 2-3 hours and can provide a chance to see leopard, genets, large owls, and African porcupine mainly, and sometimes civets and other nocturnal animals.

This evening before dinner, we had the opportunity to watch a typically cute female bushbaby come to the dining area, where a staffer fed her a couple bits of banana. The close-up views of this fascinating primate (e.g., they have no eyelids…) were a treat. In the night, back at the tent, the star gazing was exceptional as toads and frogs chirped nearby.

  • Driving Time: 250 km / 5-hours

Overnight-Mihingo Lodge

Right outside my tent at Mihingo, a natural waterhole drew this alert group of baboons, wary of people and leopards

Lake Mburo National Park is one of Uganda’s smallest national parks covering about 260 square kilometers. Lake Mburo is the largest of the five lakes that lie within the park boundaries, all fed by the Rwizi River. The other parts of the park are predominantly covered by savannah and acacia woodland. It is the only park in the country that has a large population of the impala, after which Kampala is named. Lake Mburo National Park is one of the only three parks where the Burchell’s zebras can be found. Other animals include the buffalos, hippos, warthogs, some primates, hyenas, and other antelopes. Lake Mburo National Park is probably one of the best places in Uganda to see Acacia related birds, which are part of the 315 bird species recorded.


Day 10: Sunday 2nd December 2018

Lake Mburo National Park – Kampala – Entebbe

Before breakfast, following the sunrise, I had arranged to have a staffer take me to the local hide, about a 15 minute walk away. Because there are buffalo in the area, and at least one large hippo, it’s important to request a guide take you. Staff are local and have a far better understanding of how to deal with an angry buffalo than we do.

When we arrived at the hide, I opted to sit in the next door “den,” a smaller hide that requires some crawling to get into. We surprised a huge eland antelope on the way. In the den, I watched kingfishers and spurfowl, and listened to the general chatter of the birds. Unfortunately, we were too low to see the hippo lounging in the waterhole in front of us and it was too cool for other animals yet.

Lake Mburo is more than just the lake

I returned with the guide to the lodge and ate a big breakfast, as usual, in Uganda. The dining area overlooks the waterhole too, where it’s common to see baboons, warthogs, buffalo, and zebra. I returned to my tent to enjoy a troop of baboon hanging around the little waterhole near my tent.

Following a little time to rest, we headed to Kampala and were dropped off at the Entebbe airport. Saying goodbye to our guide, Peter, was hard, but leaving Uganda was even harder. The country is a one of a kind, with wildlife experiences that are nearly impossible to replicate nearly anywhere else in the world.

  • Driving Time: 270 km / 5-hours

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 Trip Journals, Uganda / Rwanda | Leave a comment

Make A Difference in Tanzania and Nepal in 2019

If you want to “travel with a purpose”, Make A Difference is offering two great charity trips in 2019 — Kilimanjaro in July and Everest Base Camp in October. These trips typically sell out, so contact us right away if you are interested!


Tanzania: Kili, Safari, & Volunteer
July 19 – August 1, 2019

Visit the School, Climb Kilimanjaro for Education, and Go on Safari

The first week will be spent learning about the local Chagga culture and volunteering at the children’s school. The second week will be spent climbing Africa’s highest peak, followed by an optional safari.  Join MAD on a fundraising climb and safari that will change your life and truly make a difference in the lives of vulnerable youth!

Itinerary in Brief:

DAY 1 / JUL 19: Arrive Kilimanjaro Airport, transfer to Moshi, overnight MAD Guest House
DAY 2-3 / JUL 20-23: Volunteering with Make A Difference Now, overnight MAD Guest House
DAY 4-10 / JUL 24-30: 7-Day Machame Trek
DAY 11 / JUL 30: Rest Day, overnight Bristol Cottages in Moshi
DAY 12-13 / JUL 31 – AUG 1: 2-Day Safari to Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater, overnight at Kudu Lodge, drop off at Kilimanjaro Airport

Pricing:

  • Cost of Kilimanjaro Trek: $2545/person
  • Add-on Safari: $695/person
  • Fundraising Goal: Minimum of $1000/person

Nepal: Everest Base Camp Trek
October 9-25, 2019

Make A Difference in the Lives of Children

Join MAD on a 17-Day grand adventure. The trek begins with a beautiful flight to Lukla. The trek passes through the picturesque Sherpa village of Namche Bazaar culminating in the “ascent” of Kala Patthar from where classic views of Everest and the surrounding peaks are available. There will be plenty of time to enjoy the culture of the Sherpas, visit ancient monasteries and learn how Lamaistic Buddhism influences Sherpa life. We shall stop at any of the numerous teahouses, sip a glass of sweetened tea or Chang (millet beer) and get a taste of hospitality unique to the Sherpas. Beautiful, multi-hued prayer flags, prayer wheels and intricately carved mani stones line every hilltop, rock wall, and trail-side, singing prayers to the gods with every breeze and every passing traveler.

Itinerary in Brief:

DAY 1 / OCT 9: Arrive Kathmandu Airport, transfer, overnight Hotel Tibet
DAY 2 / OCT 10: Morning Kathmandu City Tour, afternoon meet with guide and prepare for trek, overnight Hotel Tibet
DAY 3-15 / OCT 11-23: 13-Day Everest Base Camp Trek
DAY 16 / OCT 24: Free Day, overnight Hotel Tibet
DAY 17 / OCT 25: Depart Kathmandu

Pricing:

  • Cost of Climb and Tour: $1995/person
  • Fundraising Goal: Minimum of $1000/person

Make A Difference Charity Trips >>

Posted in Kilimanjaro, Nepal, Safari, Sustainable Tourism, Tanzania, Trekking | Leave a comment