Category Archives: Uganda

What to wear for gorilla and chimp trekking in Uganda and Rwanda

Ahead of our trip, one of our greatest concerns was having the appropriate clothing. Those of you that have read my earlier posts, know that as we arrived in Uganda, we lost one of our pieces of luggage. Through this experience though I feel I have learnt a valuable lesson about what clothes are needed for this type of trip, especially if you have limited baggage.

The Wandermust Family Gorilla Trekking Outfits
The Wandermust Family Gorilla Trekking Outfits
COLOUR CHOICE
While it is nice to be bright, neutral colours are recommended for trekking and safaris in Africa. Khaki is the colour-du-jour in countries such as Rwanda and Uganda. It is important to remember that blue and black can attract insects, including the dreaded tsete fly and should be avoided. We didn’t actually find this out until after we left.

TOPS

We read a lot on the subject of clothing for gorilla and chimp trekking before we went, and most advised collared shirts as an essential. This isn’t something that I had for hiking before so I went out and bought a few. These were obviously in the case that didn’t arrive and I have to say I didn’t miss them one bit! Layering is one of the most important things while trekking. It is hot at the bottom, and you get hot when you are walking but as you get higher and for the hour you are with the gorillas it can get cold so layers are essential. I personally find that collars and layering while hiking, is not the most comfortable thing. Therefore I would recommend long sleeve, high neck cotton tops. This provides adequate coverage of areas that are at risk of getting scratched etc, the cotton is both cool and warming and it is easy to put extra layers over. Lightweight fleeces are the best layer, they are light to carry and comfortable to wear. We were very lucky when we were there and never had the need for a waterproof, but it was essential to have one just in case. It also works well as an extra layer if you are cold.

HATS

Safari hats for our Ugandan Swamp Walk
Safari hats for our Ugandan Swamp Walk
This is something of a personal choice. My husband wore his hat for every trek we did. Personally I found hats bothersome and only used on a bird watching swamp walk, which was far more out in the open.

HIKING BOOTS AND SOCKS

Hiking boots and socks are an essential. However one thing to stress is make sure you get long enough socks. The terrain can be exceptionally muddy and at one point both my husband and I ended up in a river so make sure your socks can tuck in your trousers before you go!

WATERPROOF TROUSERS

Wandermust Daddy was glad of waterproof trousers when he fell in a swamp
Wandermust Daddy was glad of waterproof trousers when he fell in a swamp
These were the only type of trousers we used and were essential for the same reasons given above. I would personally recommend the zippable version as you can then take the dirty bottoms off when you are back in the car at the end of your trek.

HIKING STICK

Hiking Stick for Chimp Trekking in Kyambura Gorge
Hiking Stick for Chimp Trekking in Kyambura Gorge
Not really necessary to have your own– most lodges carry these. Check before you go but I wouldn’t bother carrying your own with you

GLOVES

These are perhaps the most important thing to carry with you depending on how far up the mountain the gorillas are. At the top, you will be going through thicket and may need to move prickly plants aside as you continue your trek. The best type of gloves for this are gardening gloves but I would say a good second option would be goalkeeping gloves. Anything thinner and woolen wouldn’t really do the job if the terrain gets tough.

LAUNDRY

Before our trip we were told that laundry wouldn’t be available. This actually wasn’t true but I imagine you are told as not to rely on it. We had no choice but to rely on it because of our lost luggage but I would say to anyone going, double check whether this is an option for you. If it is, it means you need to pack far less. The laundry for us worked well and dried very quickly but consider the time of year you are going. The lodges we stayed at hand washed our clothes and were dried naturally. At certain times of the year, the climate can be very humid and therefore drying can take a long time. Make sure you pack enough to cope with the drying times but really we found no need to over pack or have a different set of clothes for each day.

What I ended up using:

  • Hiking boots
  • 5 pairs of hiking socks
  • 2 pairs of waterproof trousers
  • 3 long sleeve high neck cotton tops
  • 1 lightweight fleece
  • 1 waterproof  jacket

Have you been gorilla or chimp trekking? What are your tips on what to wear?

Kyambura Gorge Lodge – luxury hotel review 

Located on the edge of the queen Elizabeth national park, the kyambura gorge lodge is in an enviable location. From there it is only a few minutes drive to the gorge itself where you can see a fascinating and unique group of chimps. These chimps are comepletely isolated from other groups, like no other in Uganda. You can read about our experience and find out why here

It is also a great point to jump off to see the park either by car or boat down the kazinga channel. You can read about our experience here

The grounds and lodges
But the grounds itself are also very interesting. One of my favourite things was walking with Francis in the lodge birdwatching and finding out about local flora and fauna. Our guide was really knowledgeable and I particularly enjoyed finding out about plants relating to treatments and remedies they for malaria. We also got to see some amazing animals on our hike like this blue lizard.

A blue lizard
If it wasn’t such an activity filled area I would have been happy to spend make time in the lodge itself. The lodges are separate so you have total tranquility and privacy. My particular favorite spot was the balcony where I enjoyed sitting watching animals on the other side of the gorge.

The beautiful balconies

Enjoying the view
The lodge also had An amazing pool which given we went in off season was a private pool.

The pool
For me when doing such vigorous activities such as chimp trekking you want to come back to complete relaxation. On top of the amazingly comfortable bedrooms, which were all beautifully decorated, the lodge offers daily complementary massages which are amazing after long hikes.

The lovely bedroom
If you want complete relaxation in and around queen Elizabeth national park then kyamabura gorge is the place for you!

This hotel also features in Top Ten Things That Make a Luxury Hotel Luxurious

How to take AMAZING photographs on gorilla and chimp treks

For most people, trekking to see gorillas and chimps in Uganda is a once in a lifetime experience and you want to come home with a plethora of memorable shots to show your family and friends. But what is the best way of getting these snaps?

gorillas in bwindi
Continue reading How to take AMAZING photographs on gorilla and chimp treks

Ndali Lodge Review – Luxury in the Rwenzori Mountains 

Sometimes you visit somewhere where you wish you could stay longer. This was the feeling we had when we left Ndali Lodge in the Rwenzori Mountains.

rwenzori mountains
The lodge is run by Aubrey and his wife Clare who were unfortunately absent during our stay there but we were well attended to by the manager Gilbert. The Lodge has been in Aubrey’s family since the 1920s but was appropriated during the Ugandan military rule in the 1970s and was only reclaimed in the 1990s and then became what can only be described as a perfect wildlife lodge.

Continue reading Ndali Lodge Review – Luxury in the Rwenzori Mountains 

Chimp Trekking Part 2 – Kyambura Gorge

Our two chimp trekking experiences in Uganda could not have been more different.
For the up close and personal encounter we got in Kibale National Forest, with the Beta asserting his dominance and naturally interacting with humans, The experience at Kyambura Gorge, was a far more distant experience but in many ways a more natural experience in my opinion.

Chimp Tracking, Kyambura Gorge, Uganda
Chimp Tracking, Kyambura Gorge, Uganda
You arrive at the visitors centre in Queen Elizabeths National Park and then drive in small groups to the site where you will be entering the gorge. Now I am going to admit I am not the most surefooted hiker but even so the hike was difficult. I definitely needed a my hiking stick (For those who are interested, you might want to read our guide to what to wear for gorilla and chimp trekking).

Wandermust Mummy at the top of Kyambura Gorge
Wandermust Mummy at the top of Kyambura Gorge
As you descended into the Gorge, you really feel like you are descending into nature and a less sanitised experience (though the chimps at Kibale are wild, you can tell the are more used to seeing humans).

There was no guarantee down in the Gorge that you would actually get to see the chimps. The Gorge is a large area that the chimps move through, and the Gorge is split into areas by rivers, which are filled with hippos and you can also easily stumble across other wildlife while down there which means you may have to chose another route sharpish! This happened to us on two occasions. The first we found a male elephant on our path and quickly had to retreat. The second, a fresh lions footprint caused another retreat. It was both exhilarating and also slightly terrifying but the Rangers were excellent and carried weapons to scare any animals away. Our rangers told us that in all their years they had never had to fire their guns!

Down in the Gorge we came across two unexpected – the first was a 40 foot spiders web (the picture doesn’t do it justice). Not a place for arachnophobics!

40ft Spiders Web!
40ft Spiders Web!
The second was an elephant graveyard. It felt like we had stumbled into the real life Lion King!

Elephant Graveyard, Kyambura Gorge
Elephant Graveyard, Kyambura Gorge
Now, our trek hampered by stray elephants and lions, was further exacerbated by a constant rainfall. The perils of going to Uganda in the wet season and we were giving up hope of actually seeing the chimps here.

As we were about to give up, we noticed a flash of fur in the distance. The only problem, there was a river between us and them. Our guides were undeterred and managed to get us across the rapidly rising river, but had concerns about whether we would get back.

It was worth the perilous crossing. We got five minutes to watch the chimps at a distance – they had placed themselves on a small island in the middle of another river but we got to watch them swinging front the trees. In many ways I am glad we couldn’t get closer. The Kyambura Gorge chimps are cut off from both chimps and human contact so it felt like we were;t intruding in their space. I also feel really privileged to see these chimps as they won’t stay this way forever. There are great concerns over the chimps at Kyambura Gorge as if they don’t make contact with other groups, there will be issues related to inbreeding. However, these chimps have been cut off for so long, if other chimps were introduced into this area, the Kyambura Gorge chimps would be unlikely be able to compete. I feel really privileged to have had this experience.

The Kyambura Gorge Chimps
The Kyambura Gorge Chimps
Our joy at this experience, was soon replaced by slight fear as we realised the river had risen even more rapidly wile we had been watching. There was a great hurry to get back. Wandermust Daddy ended up wearing the female rangers wellington boots, which were about seven sizes too small while I was carried over by the male ranger. It was an exciting way to end the day.

Click here to read about our other completely different chimp trekking experience at Kibale National Forest

You might also be interested in our Guide To What to Wear for Gorilla and Chimp Trekking!

Uganda Swamp Walk

Most people who go to Uganda go to see chimps and gorillas, not realising the amount of biodiversity in the country. Now I will be honest, I have never been a bird watcher but one thing about Uganda is that if you didn’t arrive a bird watcher you will definitely leave one!

The swamp walk was billed as a great opportunity to see an array of Ugandan birds. Unfortunately for us, we only got to go in the afternoon. Now as any experienced birder will tell you, the best time to see birds is in the morning. Even by going in the afternoon though we still managed to still a lot.

On top of that we got to see pretty much every primate (barring gorillas and chimps) in our one walk. Uganda is home to so many types of primates including the black and white colobus, the red tailed monkey and baboons to name just a few. We managed to see them all on our swamp walk.

Primate in the tree
Primate in the tree
There was also a great opportunity to see how people in the rural communities live.

A farmers hut, Uganda
A farmers hut, Uganda
Local women carrying goods home
Local women carrying goods home
The walk, on the whole was like a gentle stroll through the park, however the swamp lived up to its name and as we passed the half way mark we discovered that the boardwalk that was there in the morning was no longer there in the afternoon. The perils of travelling in the wet season!

Swamp boardwalk
Swamp boardwalk
Fixing the swamp boardwalk
Fixing the swamp boardwalk
We didn’t do a very good job of fixing it however and Wandermust Daddy ended up in the swamp!

Wandermust Daddy was glad of waterproof trousers when he fell in a swamp
Wandermust Daddy was glad of waterproof trousers when he fell in a swamp
Perhaps my favourite part of the walk was going up into a hide and having an opportunity to sit and watch the wildlife in silence.

Overall, if I were to do this again, I would probably go in the morning but it really was an unforgettable experience


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Untold Morsels

 

 

Chimp Trekking – Part one  at Kibale National Forest

Chimps are psychopaths! There I’ve said it. Aggressive, loud psychopaths! That was the impression I came away from Kibale National Park with. Now, don’t get me wrong – I loved the experience! It was truly magical and one of the rawest natural encounters I have ever had but it doesn’t change the fact that chimps are like the Jason Statham’s of the animal kingdom (well his movie characters anyway)!

We did two chimp treks while we were in Uganda. One in Kibale National Park and one at Kyambura Gorge, both in Uganda. It amazed me how different the two experiences were.

The first trek was at Kibale National Forest. We arrived in the morning, and were promptly split into small groups by the Uganda Wildlife Authority Ranger. In the initial briefing we were told about how to behave around chimps, to observe distance rules and that we would only be spending an hour with the chimps once we had found them. Our groups then set off!

The trek here was actually pretty easy, inclines weren’t overly steep and the undergrowth not too troublesome to get through. Completely different to our experience in our second chimp trek and gorilla trek.

It took us about an hour to find the chimps. At first you couldn’t see them but the sound of the chimps is a haunting and unforgettable noise. The noise of chimps screams filled the air so even though you couldn’t see them you knew you were surrounded!

Then all of a sudden a flash of fur was seen in the undergrowth and off we ran. I can’t tell you how many logs and fallen trees we jumped over as we ran in the direction of the chimp.

The Beta at Kibale National Forest
The Beta at Kibale National Forest
Then we found him! We were told he was the Beta of the Group, the alpha keeping himself up in the trees. You could tell he had become moderately accustomed to human presence. We stayed at the regulated distance but he came very close to us. On one occasion he hit both me and another lady in our group, expressing his dominance. He did not however like Wandermust Daddy, and he ran ever time Wandermust Daddy was near.

Chimps & The Wandermust Couple
Chimps & The Wandermust Couple
It was great that we were able to get so close and he allowed us to get some great shots. We have some great tips here on how to take amazing photographs while gorilla and chimp trekking.

The next group we found, was a group of three females, grooming themselves in the undergrowth. This was a really special experience to watch and far more peaceful than our interaction with the males

Chimps Grooming at Kibale National Forest

It was amazing how quickly the time with the chimps went and we had a pleasant hike through back through the forest.

Our next experience of the Chimps was at Kyambura Gorge. Click here to read part 2 in our chimp trekking series.

 

Safari by Boat – Sailing the Kazinga Channel

When you think of safari, you think of open topped jeeps driving through the vast expanse of wilderness. I had never even considering taking a safari by boat until it was suggested for us to do in Uganda.

Where?

The Kazinga Channel. This is the channel that links Lake George and Lake Edward and runs through the Queen Elizabeth National Park

Why You Should Do it?

I had never really considered the benefits to this type of safari until we actually did it. Being on a boat offers a unique perspective to other types of safari.

Firstly it allows you to get up close and personal to many animals that for safety reasons you couldn’t do in other mdoes of transport. One of our favourites was getting to see Hippos really close. Hippos are really dangerous on both land and in water so having a sturdy boat was the only way in which to get close. We saw entire herds of them and even saw a baby out of the water!

A herd of hippos

 

A baby hippo
A baby hippo
Other than hippos, we also saw crocodiles, elephants, water buffalo and wart hogs.

An elephant at the Kazinga Channel
An elephant at the Kazinga Channel
But perhaps one of the best bits was the ability to bird watch from the boat. As you can see from this picture, the variety of birds you see here is pretty unbeatable.

The Kazinga Channel, A Birdwatchers Paradise
The Kazinga Channel, A Birdwatchers Paradise
Some birds have their nests in the muddy embankments of the channel, a view that would have been impossible to see if not by boat!

Birds nesting in the Kazinga Channel Embankment
Birds nesting in the Kazinga Channel Embankment
Another great aspect of the boat trip was getting to understand more about the local life and social history. As the sunset over the Kazinga Channel we sailed alongside boats full of men going out to fish. It was humbling to see how people live.

The locals fishing on the Kazinga Channel
The locals fishing on the Kazinga Channel
It also gave an interesting perspective on how animals and humans coexist. The guide here told us about the villages that remain inside of the national park and how the Ugandan Wildlife Authority are trying to make it so these villages thrive off tourism more than poaching.

This is my favourite picture showing how the villagers and wildlife coexist.

Man and beast coexisting at the Kazinga channel
Man and beast coexisting at the Kazinga channel
Have you ever been on a water safari? I would love to hear your experiences.

This post was part of the #MondayEscapes linkup

Plane, train or automobile across Uganda?

Ok so just plane or car but that title is no where near as catchy.

 When we knew we were headed towards becoming a family, we decided to have one last blow out holiday to somewhere you can’t take kids. I am all for travelling anywhere with children but my line in the sand is a malarial zones so we therefore chose Uganda and gorilla trekking as our last couple holiday.

When we were initially looking at doing a safari one of the things we found is that if you want to be remote you need to take a small plane. I am not a fan of small planes and one of the big appeals of Uganda was the ability to drive across it. When we announced this most people thought we were mad. That our time would be wasted driving between locations and that the roads would be arduous and really hard going. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

The hardest part of our journey was leaving Entebbe, the busiest part of Uganda we experienced. The roads here were congested and I imagine rush hour would have been a nightmare. Fortunately we left after the main morning rush hour so our experience wasn’t too horrific. And actually seeing the city was itself quite interesting. Watching the markets was a fascinating insight into life in Uganda and was interest contrast to the markets we saw in the more rural areas. My favourite part of was looking at the local merchants who were making their products on the street. We saw a local merchant making coffins, pork shops and fabric dyeing stalls. The most interesting however was a demonstration a local merchant treated us to showing us how he made clothes with paper bark. Paper bark clothing is Uganda’s only representation of the UNESCO world intangible heritage list and was truly a delight to see first hand. All this in our first hour in the car!

Bringing Bananas to Market, Uganda
Bringing Bananas to Market, Uganda
By driving across Uganda I think we got to see more of Uganda in terms of both people and wildlife. Driving through the villages, it was fascinating to see how each village had grown up around one type of ‘industry’. Whether it was coffee bean drying, tea picking, banana or cinnamon production. We even saw how these products were brought to market where traders came from all directions congregating on one small town to exchange their goods on market day. In some ways it was quite medieval to be driving along the road and seeing merchant after merchant carrying the goods to the nearest market day to sell or trade but gave a real insight into what everyday Ugandan village life is like.

Ugandan scooter going to market
Ugandan scooter going to market
One of the most surprising things I found about the drive was how built up the Ugandan countryside was. I had expected wide expanses where we saw no people but in fact Uganda is heavily populated throughout the countryside and the roads not as bad as I had expected.

A church at Bwindi
A church at Bwindi
Friends of ours who had flown across Uganda said that they found a lot of begging when they left the local airports to drive to their lodges. Whether this was because perhaps areas around the airports saw more tourists and had the expectation or whether we had just been lucky but his not something we experienced in Uganda. The most begging we saw was one girl on the road shouting “Give me Sweeties!”

The other highlight for me of driving rather than flying across Uganda was the wildlife we saw this way. From the road we spotted a variety of birds, to many to name in this post, baboons, several varieties of monkeys, elephants and even lions.

Baboons at the roadside
Baboons at the roadside
For me the greatest concern about this option was the toilet facilities. However even this was not as bad as expected. Most toilets were squat toilets which as a European I was not use to. On reflection if I did again I might take a she-wee as an aid and additional loo roll but other than that it was for the majority fine.

Our Volcanoes Safari Jeep
Our Volcanoes Safari Jeep
Some may see the additional time taken to travel between lodges as a downside however the experience for us was well worth it. I think we got a better overview of the social history of the country and the people who live there and truly immersed ourselves in the landscapes and wildlife it has to offer. Overall I have no regrets about driving rather than flying as I feel I have seen more of the country and and would certainly choose to travel overland again.

We booked our tour through Steppes Travel. Again flying was the primary option for travel between lodges but they were more than happy to tailor a driving safari to our needs. More coming up on the lodges, treks and Ugandan experience in future posts

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Suitcases and Sandcastles