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

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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>>

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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>>
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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 >>

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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

The Right Way to Explore Torres del Paine: The Patagonia O-Circuit

We love to do things fast these days, but the reality is sometimes you just need to take it slow. The W trek is an excellent case in point because it can pass by far too quickly, which is a shame when you consider how crazy beautiful this place is. The Paine Circuit is our favorite program in Torres del Paine because its changing terrain means you have more time to slow down and connect to yourself and the natural world. Intrigued? Keep reading!​

Torres del Paine O- Circuit

Can you imagine the emotion of hiking beside magnificent snow-capped mountains and through silent forests? In Torres del Paine National Park, you can feel the wind in your hair, sleep in a tent beneath the shadows of trees, and hike 138 km of trails past pristine valleys, forests, and ice fields all on this adventure of a lifetime: The Paine O-Circuit!

Torres del Paine O- Circuit

5 Reasons Why The Paine Circuit Rocks

1. The rocks – literally! This is one of the best places in the world to marvel at the power of nature and the Circuit offers up the best geological wonders of them all.

2. The views – the John Gardner Pass is one of the most breathtaking crossings you will ever complete in your life, right beside the Southern Patagonian Ice Fields!

3. It’s remote & quiet unlike some parts of the W which these days can be little over-crowded (especially during peak season).

Torres del Paine O- Circuit

4. It’s a challenge! And not for the faint-hearted. But if you have broken in those trekking boots and are prepared for rain, snow, and sunshine, you will have the most fantastic experience.

5. Your fellow trekkers. Adventurers like you, and like-minded eco-warriors in their downtime. The smaller numbers out on the Circuit will mean you will bond better than on a trek like the W.

Torres del Paine O- Circuit

Are you ready to explore the immensity?

Ready to book those tickets? We have departures every Wednesday until March 27th, 2019.

We also have two departures dates with no minimum traveler basis on February 13th & March 20th 2019- this is perfect for solo travelers!

For more information, contact our Patagonia expert, Gretchen: gretchen@adventureswithinreach.com

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Brazil Family Adventure Ideas

Brazil in its grandeur offers many destinations in different regions that can provide the best family experiences, connecting unique scenarios with exciting and transformative activities and experiences for all ages.

Bonito’s waterfalls are some of the best secret swimming holes in Brazil!

With this in mind, we have created some itineraries focused on adventure travel in Brazil for families. We recommend family adventures in places of wonderful natural charm, such as Iguazu and Bonito, with activities ideal for children under 11 years of age. And for the older ones we have thought about more challenging and exciting experiences in the Amazon River, Chapada Diamantina, Pantanal & Bonito, and the incredible Route of Emotions in the Lencois Maranhenses!

Lencois Maranhenses

Lencois Maranhenses

Plus, in each destination, the hotels and accommodations offer benefits for children, some with free accommodation for children under 3, 5 or 7 years, and in short, discounts that make the trip even more comfortable for everyone.

Glamping in the Amazon’s canopy beats the classroom!

Want to plan your next tailored Brazil family adventure? Contact us!

For more inspiration, check out our own program director’s family travels around Brazil:

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

Bahian Magic at UXUA: Trancoso, Brazil

Your friendly Brazil expert,
Gretchen

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Sustainable Travel — Reducing Plastic

In light of our Carbon Neutrality in Peru, we would like to take a quick moment to talk to our travelers about avoiding plastic while traveling (and at home!). The use of disposable plastic items while traveling is: hard on the environment, hard on the communities left with the garbage, it’s expensive, and it can often be unhealthy. No traveler wants to leave a trail of plastic behind them, but many don’t know how to avoid it.

Here are 6 simple ideas of how to cut back on your disposable plastic use:

  1. Bring a reusable water bottle
  2. Get a water purifier
  3. Bring a reusable bag
  4. Get a reusable straw
  5. Reuse shampoo and lotion containers
  6. Reusable coffee mug

1) Bring a reusable water bottle

According to TAP (Travelers Against Plastic), carrying a reusable water bottle and a method to clean the water, helps avoid the waste of hundreds of millions of plastic bottles each year.

>>The Best Water Bottles for Travel

Why carry a reusable bottle and method to clean the water:

BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

  • Globally 2.7 million tons of water bottle plastic annually.
  • In the US alone: making bottles of water out of plastic takes more than 1.5 million barrels of oil, every year, enough to fuel 100,000 American cars for a year.
  • Eighty-six percent of single-use plastic water bottles become landfill or litter in the US and in many countries that number is higher.
  • Each week 1 billion bottles of water in the US. That’s equals 37,800 semi-trucks hauling water every week. It has to be transported in the countries we visit as well, often great distances.
  • PET is made from crude oil. PET bottles produce toxic emissions at rates of 100 times that of glass.

CHEAPER

  • Bottled water can cost as much $10 per gallon, more expensive than gas.
  • If tap water cost the same as the cheapest bottled, monthly water bills would come to $9,000.
  • Americans spend more than $15 billion dollars annually on bottled water, buying 2.6 billion cases. Those who travel buy bottled water even more often.
  • One SteriPEN can clean up to 16,000 bottles of water.

BETTER FOR COMMUNITIES

  • 
Feeding the bottled water industry has taken a toll on wells from homes in rural communities by draining aquifers, lowered lake levels, and hurt wetlands. It takes three times as much water than is produced.
  • Three corporations dominate the bottled water market in the US. Pepsi has 13% of the market and Coke has 11%, both of which resell treated tap water, by putting it through an energy intensive process called reverse-osmosis. This process takes more energy than turning seawater into drinking water.

HEALTHIER

  • Most bottled water in the US is simply treated tap water sold at 1000-4000 times the price of tap. What kind of treatment are they using in the country you travel to? Who is overseeing that “treatment”? It’s safer to treat your own.
  • Age and heat leaches chemicals in plastic bottles, this causes more problems with storage and transportation. 

Reuse bottles at home as well
  • San Francisco’s tap water comes from Yosemite National Park and is so pure the EPA does not require it to be filtered. A bottled of Evian water at $1.35 could be refilled with San Francisco tap water once a day for over ten years before the cost would total $1.35.

DO THE MATH

  • In the first two months of 2012, 8.1 million U.S. citizens traveled abroad according to data released by the U.S. Office of Travel & Tourism Industries.
  • 8.1 million travelers over two months =48.6 million a year (estimated)
  • 3 bottles a day for one 2 week trip= over 3.4 billion plastic water bottles used.
  • Mexico remains the most popular foreign destination, with 3.3 million U.S. visitors in the first two months of the year. Recycling experts say that only about one-eighth of the 21.3 million plastic water and soft drink bottles that are emptied each day in Mexico get recycled.

2) Get a water purifier

Grayl Bottle (staff favorite!), SteriPEN, or LifeStraw can allow you to drink water from anywhere! Whether you’re traveling in cities or wilderness both of these options are light weight and excellent solutions to make sure your water is safe and clean to drink.


3) Bring a reusable bag

Many of us when traveling, end up grabbing a garbage bag or plastic laundry bag from our hotel rooms to store dirty clothes or shoes. To avoid this, think ahead when you are packing, and take along a tote bag or something similar to avoid using the disposable plastic bags you may find in your rooms on your trip.


4) Get a reusable straw

It’s estimated that we use over 500 million every day in America, and most of those end up in our oceans, polluting the water and killing marine life. We want to encourage people to stop using plastic straws for good. If we don’t act now, by the year 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

If you like straws in your mixed drinks, sodas, smoothies, etc, maybe look for a glass, stainless steel, or paper alternative that you can bring with you on your travels (and around at home).

Check out the Strawless Ocean’s website to learn more about this and what you can do.

Check out fun and creative non-disposable straws >>


5) Reuse shampoo and lotion containers

This is another very simple way to cut back against the use of disposable plastic. Before you travel the next time, think about buying refillable shampoo and conditioner bottles. Fill them up before you leave for your trip.


6) Reusable Coffee Mug

Instead of getting a disposable cup when you order a coffee to go, use a reusable mug.  It is also useful to take a drink with you when you are out and about.


FURTHER READING/IDEAS:

Want to share what you’re doing to fight against the use of disposable plastic while traveling? Make sure to tag us on Instagram and Facebook!

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NEW TRIP! 7-Day Dolomites Trek – Alta Via 2

One of the best ways to explore the Dolomites is hiking an Alta Via, the beautiful long-distance “high routes” of the Dolomites. The Alta Via 2 is the furthest west of the Alta Vie. Dubbed the “Alta Via delle Leggende,” or High Route of Legends, the AV2 is undeniably more strenuous than the AV1, remaining at higher elevations throughout (as high as 2,900m / 9,514′), and with great reward.

7-Day Dolomites Trek – Alta Via 2 >>

On this exceptional trip, you’ll hike from north to south, from Alta Badia to Val di Fassa. Hike in Puez-Odle Natural Park, across the Sella Massif, and around Marmolada, the highest mountain in the Dolomites, and home to its largest glacier. You’ll travel through several of the villages in Alta Badia, including La Villa, Corvara, and Colfosco, as well as Val Gardena and Val di Fassa. Plus experience a variety of different landscapes and geological features, as you cross over multiple regions and through several natural parks. You’ll hike on plenty of lunar landscapes, across numerous vast pastures, through wooded valleys, along high plains (altiplano), surrounded by tall beautiful peaks throughout. The scenery alternates between mountains made of Dolomite rock (Sella Massif), to limestone mountains (Marmolada), to regions (Puez) made of a completely different type of rock altogether, with a completely different appearance that offers a strong, picturesque contrast to the surrounding Dolomite Mountains.

Starting at $1195/person!

ITINERARY

Day 1: 7-DAY ALTA VIA TREK / Arrive in Alta Badia, Dolomites
Day 2: Hike Lagazuoi Massif (BD)
Day 3: Hike Cinque Torri (BD)
Day 4: Hike Pelmo and Civetta Massifs (BD)
Day 5: Hike Civetta & Moiazza (BD)
Day 6: Hike Passo Duran (B)
Day 7: Depart (B)

This trek is offered as a guided group departures, self-guided private trips, and guided private trips. As with all of our trips, we can customize this trek, and we offer many of the treks through the Dolomites.

See full itinerary:

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