I’m back again in cold Germany, unfortunately. First of all I want to thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to join one of your tours. I had a wonderful time in Uganda and I learnt a lot about the country as well as about your company!
Joel and Athanase as well as the logistics staff did a very good job, I was very much impressed by their engagement, their friendliness and the fact that all of them do their best to make their guests feel comfortable and happy. Joel’s knowledge about the country and its people as well as fauna and flora is immense and he taught us a lot of things! Athanase’s driving skills are very good and made us feel very safe. And the meals were fantastic. I loved being outdoor all the time and spend my time with the other guests and your staff.
Let me now go through the trip step by step:
Camping equipment: very good and spacious tents, comfortable mattrasses and good strechers. I very much enjoyed that every morning the crew did the bedding and cleaned the tents! One thing that probably could be added to the tents is a little rubbish bin.
When I first saw the mobile shower, I was a bit sceptical: how does the combination of gas, water and electricity work? But it gladfully did. Sometimes it was a bit difficult to get the right temperature and the right water pressure, but it worked.
Vehicle: very comfortable, very good for game driving because of the open roof and the fact that one can sit on top of the roof. All of us enjoyed that very much! One thing I have to critizise are the seat covers: some of them were not in the best condition, some tears here and there.
Kibale Forest: my favourite highlight of the trip! Our ranger was fantastic and we were lucky with the weather (the day before it rained heavily). After being briefed very well by him, we started our walk. He told us a lot about the forest itself and its inhabitants. On our way, we sighted red tailed monkeys and colobus monkeys. After a while we saw 2 chimpanzees walking and followed them until they rested. Then suddenly other chimpanzees came running and went into the trees, jumped around and enjoying themselves. It was an amazing experience seeing these primates in their natural surroundings.
Queen Elizabeth National Park: fantastic game drives in a beautiful surrounding with extraordinary sightings. We saw many lions (also a lioness sitting and relaxing in the trees in Ishasha), a lot of kobs, topis, buffalos, elephants, water bucks, monitor lizards, hippos, vervet monkey and baboons, warthogs and giant forest hogs. The one evening on our way back to Mweya campsite even a hyena and a leopard walking along the road.
The boat cruise on the Kazinga channel with its amazing birdlife was also a highlight of this trip.
The walk at Chambura Gorge was a very welcomed change after sitting in the vehicle the last days, we saw again chimpanzees far up in the trees.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park: The gorilla tracking (Mubare group) itself and seeing the gorillas was fantastic and I would not want to miss this experience. But in my opinion, the way the rangers behaved when we came across the gorillas does not fit together with the idea of conservation.
In the morning we were shown a film at the information centre, afterwards our head ranger David gave us more information about the Mubare group and its members. More information on rules etc. while being with the gorillas should follow when being near the gorillas and preparing for seeing them. But this didn’t happen at all. If we didn’t receive the information sheet the day before from Joel, we would not have known how to behave! Unfortunately, I was too busy with preparing my camera so that I only realized this lack of information afterwards.
When we came closer to the gorillas, we first saw the silver back and a female gorilla with its baby playing around, very impressive. After about 10 minutes they turned their back towards us and walked off. A few meters further, 2 other gorillas were sitting underneath some branches and eating ants. Unfortunately the branches were very thick and we couldn’t see them very well. So the rangers started to cut down these branches around and over them and remained standing right next to them! They also allowed us to get closer to the gorillas in order to have a better view and to get better pictures, some of us were only approx. 3 metres away from them.
After about half an hour, these gorillas also walked off and we followed them and met another female gorilla sitting behind some branches. Here the same procedure: branches were cut down, rangers invited us to come closer… In the end, this gorilla walked away after a few minutes, it seemed like she felt disturbed by us.
This behaviour does not really correspond with my understanding of conservation. After all my lectures about mountain gorillas, I was prepared for seeing them in the thick forest and – in the worst case – for not seeing them at all. These gorillas are still wild although habitated and you always need a good portion of luck to see them properly. It seemed like the rangers wanted to do us a favour so that the money we paid for the gorilla tracking was worth it, but this is not the right way of doing it.
Just before we returned to our vehicle, our head ranger told us that the other rangers/ trackers remained there and didn’t come with us. So we as a group had to discuss infront of all of them in English how we tip them. I felt very uncomfortable. When we came back to the information centre, we saw a tip box there. All of us would have preferred putting the tips in this box. I would recommend your guides to tell their guests about this tip box so that they can put the tip of their choice after coming back from the tracking.
Local visits: I very much enjoyed the school visit near Kibale Forest. Also the visit to the private school near Buhoma, this is a very good project and I wish them all the best for the future. It was very interesting to go through the classes, to see what and how they learn. I guess that not many tourists go there and that they are very grateful for all supports they get. And the pupils enjoyed our visit very much!
The visit to the orphanage in Buhoma was also interesting.
But I have to admit that in my opinion, less is more – as we Germans say. When we stayed at Lake Bunyonyi we talked about those local visits and some guests thought it was too much. In the end they felt a little bit forced to donate and were not happy with it. Especially at the orphanage where the children present their pictures and crafts etc. you feel like you have to buy something.
Lake Bunyonyi: very relaxed spot for the end of an exciting safari. I was very surpised when Joel and Athanase told us that we were going to stay in one of the rooms! I would have enjoyed spending another night in the tent, but in the end I was very happy to have a nice shower and a proper bed :-) It felt like being back in civilization.
The drive back from Lake Bunyonyi to Kisubi was very long and tiring, but I guess it is the best way of doing it like that instead of putting another night into the itinerary or change the last overnight spot.
As mentioned above, I really enjoyed going on this tour and would do it again anytime! I can recommend it to our clients without hesitating and will definitely do so. Thank you for this wonderful time!
I have attached some pictures...
AST African Special Tours GmbH
View the itinerary of this Small Group Camping Safari - Aug 2008