Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

Posted on April 14th, 2020 by Overland Africa

Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

Gorilla Trekking in Uganda, Silky black against the rainforest’s radiant green, a family of gorillas headed by a watchful but benevolent silverback male. The efforts of your forest trek evaporate in an instant and for one captivating hour you spend with them, an odd sense of familiarity settles on you. Young gorillas rough and tumble like wrestlers, maternal females gather in grooming groups, occasionally reprimanding the little ones, while the patriarchal silverback keeps a protective eye on the surroundings. The fact that gorillas as a species are on the brink of extinction and treks are a highly restricted activity, encountering wild gorillas is considered a once-in-a-lifetime travel experience.

Uganda’s mountain gorillas live in the epically named Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest, a cloak of tangled green that covers the country’s south-west mountains. It’s a day’s drive from the capital Kampala or a quick flight so you’ll work a little harder to get there than in Rwanda but it’s worth it! Bwindi is a World Heritage Site with over 350 bird species and 200 kinds of butterflies and, thanks to income from trekking, its mountain gorilla population has grown by a third in recent years.

What to Expect on a Gorilla Trek in Uganda

For a gorilla trek you need to be fairly fit, equipped for the humid, muddy conditions of a rainforest hike, and in good health – gorillas are vulnerable to human illnesses but don’t have our immunities, which means a common cold can be deadly to a whole family of gorillas and you won’t be permitted to trek if you are unwell. Even in the dry season, the rainforest is a challenging environment: it’s humid, wet and muddy with some steep slopes, plenty of insects and thick vegetation.

Your professional guide and tracker lead you into the forest’s secret paths, looking for a habituated gorilla family. Once found, you’ll approach the gorillas quietly and settle down to observe them from between 7 and 10m (22 to 32 ft) away. You’ll spend between 40 minutes and an hour with the gorillas, watching the adults forage and groom each other while the babies tumble and play. You’ll be under the watchful gaze of the great silverback patriarch whose soft brown eyes constantly sweep over his family protectively. Witnessing gorillas express typically human gestures and emotions is a truly profound experience and one of the reasons that gorilla trekking is such a life changing encounter.

About Chimpanzee Trekking

While you may see chimps and other primate species on your gorilla trek, there are several superb chimpanzee trekking destinations, including Tanzania’s Mahale Mountains and Gombe Stream and the forested corners of Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls national parks as well as Kibale Forest.

Chimpanzee trekking is quite different to gorilla trekking. Chimps are often found in easier trekking terrain than gorillas but they are wary of humans and harder to find. Only the habituated chimp families at Kibale Forest offer a similar encounter to gorilla trekking.

Traveller FAQs Answered:

Q: Will I definitely see the gorillas?

Because they are so closely monitored, and either researchers or trekkers are in touch with them every day, guides know more or less where the different families are and you probably have a 98% chance of seeing them. Of course, there are no guarantees with wild animals and an overnight thunderstorm or an unexpected encounter with a predator may cause a troop to move unexpectedly in a completely different direction but it’s likely that scouts will pick up their trail again soon. It is very seldom that trekkers don’t find the gorillas.

Q: Can I touch them?

No, absolutely not although we completely understand the instinct to want to reach out and cuddle an adorable baby. Firstly, because they’re wild animals and thus very strong and unpredictable – you could be severely injured. Secondly, gorilla populations are already under severe threat from logging, poaching and human encroachment on their environment plus they are highly susceptible to human diseases.

Not only can you not interact with them but you will have to keep a distance of at least seven metres / 22 feet at all time and, in some instances, wear a mask. If you are ill, you will not be allowed to trek so ensure you are in excellent health before you travel and take precautions not to pick up a bug on the plane over.

Remember, once you find the gorillas, you are only allowed an hour with them so as not to stress them out. This passes by in a flash so don’t spend all your time behind a lens: put the camera down after a few minutes and just bliss out watching them, grateful that you have the privilege of seeing them in the wild.

Q: How fit do I have to be?

With any strenuous activity, the fitter you are, the better. But this doesn’t mean that you need to be able to complete a triathlon or bench press three times your body weight.

Trekkers will be divided into groups of similar age and fitness levels, and the oldest and least fit people will generally be allocated the gorilla family that is nearest the starting point. You won’t be split up from family members or friends but – obeying the golden rule of hiking – the fastest walkers will have to slow down to the pace of the slowest so that the group stays together safely.

The fittest or youngest people will be chosen to find the group furthest away. Your guides are very experienced in assessing how the group is coping and will stop when necessary for a break, to drink water, admire a view or even have a snack (packed lunches contain water and perhaps energy-giving items like roasted cashews or peanuts, fruit like bananas or apples, chocolate bars, muffins, small sandwiches or bread rolls and local treats like ‘rolled eggs’ – a kind of omelette eaten cold).

It is always easiest to trek in the dry season. In the wet season, the mud can make trails slippery and the trek tougher. The gorillas and chimps may also seek refuge from the rain in nests or trees, making them harder to find and see. Take lightweight binoculars along to really bring their antics and expressions into focus.

Also, not all gorilla families will be lolling around, munching leaves and basking in the sunshine – some will be on the move. And they’re a lot better adapted to moving through their rainforest home than we are!

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Best Things to Do on a Kruger Safari!!

Posted on April 7th, 2020 by Overland Africa

Best Things to Do on a Kruger Safari

Kruger is primarily a safari area and the focus is definitely on seeing the game. There are limited cultural and historical excursions to be had, and these may only be possible if you are in the area – the park is enormous and it may be far to drive to a significant site.

Some important sites in the Kruger Park include:

If you stay at a lodge in one of the neighboring reserves, then you have a greater choice of activities, depending on the specific lodge, of course:

If you venture outside the park and reserves, then you can see the magnificent Panorama Route, which comprises sites like:

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Africa’s Kruger National Park – South Africa!

Posted on April 6th, 2020 by Overland Africa

Africa’s Kruger National Park. The Kruger National Park is arguably the oldest wildlife reserve in the world.  It was proclaimed in 1898, made a World Heritage Site in 2001 and today covers an area the size of Wales. The ‘Kruger area’ and a ‘Kruger safari’ comprise the massive national park itself (it spans a colossal 19 500km² / 7 500mi²) and the park’s surrounding private reserves.

 

Reasons to Visit The Infamous Kruger National Park:

 

Best Time of the Year to Go to Kruger

The safari is controlled by rainfall. The Kruger falls in the Lowveld, which has a rainy summer (October to May) and a dry winter (May to October).

 

SUMMER WINTER
WHEN About October to May About May to October
SEASON Green or low season Peak or high season
RAIN Yes, late afternoon thunder showers No
MALARIA Low risk Very low risk
COST Best rates available Premium rates
AVAILABILITY – BOOK BY 3-6 months before travel 9-12 months before travel – top lodges book out fast, especially over July and August

 

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Where to see…. Leopards in Africa!!

Posted on April 3rd, 2020 by Overland Africa

Where to see…. Leopards in Africa!!

 

Where to see…. Leopards in Africa, It is the question safari guides across Africa dread the most: ‘Will we see a leopard?’It is the question safari guides across Africa dread the most: ‘Will we see a leopard?’ The answer is difficult because although the leopard is found from the lush Cape Winelands in the south to northern Kenya, the leopard’s mastery of camouflage and stealth makes it extremely elusive.

A leopard’s beautiful coat has captivated us for millennia, its rosettes are still in fashion from Paris to Zululand. Leopards radiate a muscular feline grace and move like liquid gold – seeing one of these magnificent creatures wild and free in their natural environment transforms a game drive into a lifelong memory.

Which brings us back to whether you will see one – or not. Diverse in their choice of habitat, leopards are part of the Big 5 club and many parks and reserves promote themselves as home to the full complement. For the very best chances of seeing them, you need to be in prime habitat where concentrations are greatest. Ultimately, a leopard sighting, especially a good one, is usually about luck. But you can shorten the odds considerably at these places.

 

Where to see…. Leopards in Africa!!

 

Kruger National Park – South Africa

 

If you have to see a leopard then go to the place where their populations are the densest in Africa – and that means the Sabi Sands, a collection of exclusive-use private reserves on the Kruger National Park’s western boundary.

 

Moremi Game Reserve – Botswana 

 

Moremi protects much of the Okavango Delta, Botswana’s wildlife showpiece. The temptation is to head as deep as possible into the Delta but you are far more likely to see leopards on its fringes.Water collects in shallow lagoons and fills grassy floodplains; tall forest and thick bush dominate drier ground. Antelope, birds, monkeys and rodents honk, whistle and squeak from every corner. Perfect leopard country.

How to do it: choose a lodge that focuses on game drives rather than boat-based activities. It does not matter if you stay in the reserve itself or one of its adjoining private concessions.

 

South Luangwa – Zambia 

 

Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park is rumoured to have Africa’s greatest number of these elegant big cats. A wide and fertile plain nourished by the Luangwa River, the park’s animals range from aardvark to zebra and it has long been known for its dense concentrations of predators, especially lions and leopards.
South Luangwa’s lodges are scattered along the riverbanks or overlook ox-bow lakes, making leopard sightings possible from camp let alone when you head out on game drives. Unusually for a national park, night drives are permitted, and do not skip a walking safari.

 

Samburu & Masai Mara reserves – Kenya 

 

Images of snorting wildebeest migrations and flamingo-covered lakes are probably first to mind when thinking about Kenya’s wildlife but the Samburu and Masai Mara National Reserves have reputations for excellent leopard sightings.

You’ll be going a bit off the beaten path at Samburu but it is worth it. An area of barren woodland decorated with rocky outcrops and thick riverine bush, it lays claim to the title of the best place in Kenya to see leopards, something fans of the Masai Mara may dispute. Although much of the Mara is open rolling grassland more suited to cheetah, lion and hyena, there is prime leopard habitat along its rivers; it is not for nothing that the reserve and its private conservancies were chosen as the location for the BBC’s Big Cat Diaries.
Memories of game sightings fade. Photos of lions and elephants are met with puzzled expressions (‘now where was this taken?’) but leopard sightings are remembered like they were yesterday. Each one was like falling in love for the first time – and that is no bad thing.

 

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