Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Albertine Rift Safari

Two Weeks in Uganda & Rwanda, all along the Albertine Rift Valley - includes trekking Gorillas and Chimpanzees twice - staying in luxury accommodation and traveling by safari vehicle 


Day 1: Arrive Entebbe Airport, Uganda. Relax by the lake, wander around town or visit the Botanical Gardens. Dinner under the light of lanterns at the romantic Jahaza Grill, located in the middle of a forest overlooking the tranquil lakeshore and surrounded by primates and birds. Overnight at the Laico Lake Victoria Hotel.

Day 2: Transfer (4 ½ hrs) by road to Kibale Forest National Park, the most accessible of Uganda's major rain forests and home to a remarkable thirteen primate species, including habituated chimpanzees, our closest relative in the wild. Transfer (½ hr) by road to Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary and see how local communities are working together to maintain this stunning wildlife reserve. Overnight at the Primate Lodge.

Day 3: Morning chimpanzee trekking. Kibale’s 1,450 chimpanzee represent Uganda’s largest population of this endangered primate. Other primates include l’Hoest’s monkey, red colobus monkey, black and white colobus, blue monkey, grey cheeked mangabey, red tailed monkey, olive baboon, bush baby and potto. Night walk to look for nocturnal primates. Overnight at the Primate Lodge.

Day 4: Transfer (2 ½ hrs) by road to Queen Elizabeth National Park, surrounded by stunning views of the Rwenzoris (Mountains of the Moon), the Albertine Rift escarpments (eastern in Uganda, western in Congo), as well as Lake Edward and the Kazinga Channel. Afternoon game drive to spot lion, leopard and other predators, as well as elephant, warthog, kob and hartebeest. Overnight at Mweya Safari Lodge.

Day 5: Transfer (1 hr) to Kyambura Gorge. Morning walk to spot chimps in this spectacular forested gorge, which straddles the steep wall of five interlocking craters and the northern end of the Maramagambo Forest. Overnight at Mweya Safari Lodge.

Day 6: Late morning boat trip along the shores of the Kazinga Channel, connecting Lake George to Lake Edward, to spot buffalo, hippo and rare bird species. Transfer (2 hrs) by road to Ishasha, famous for its tree-climbing lions, for an afternoon game drive to spot lion, elephant, hippos and a vast array of antelope, some only found in this remote corner of the Albertine Rift. Transfer (2 ½ hrs) by road to Bwindi Forest. Overnight at Gorilla Forest Camp. 

Day 7: Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, on the steep, rain-soaked slopes of the Bufumbira Mountains. An early morning start, and a modicum of fitness are required to trek Mountain gorillas. Bwindi comprises 331 square kilometers of jungle forests and contains both montane and lowland forest, and is accessible only on foot.  The park provides habitat for some 120 species of mammals, 346 species of birds, 202 species of butterflies, 163 species of trees, 100 species of ferns, 27 species of frogs, chameleons, geckos and many endangered species. Afternoon walk to the Pygmy community for a rich cultural exchange with Africa’s original inhabitants. Overnight at Gorilla Forest Camp.

Day 8: Transfer (2 hrs) by road to Kisoro, at the foot of the Virunga Volcanoes. Relax in the shadow of the great volcanoes, wandering the pine-shaded streets of this quiet mountain town, and pay a visit to the Gorilla Organization’s Resource Centre. Overnight at the Traveller’s Rest.

Day 9: Transfer (2 hrs) by road across the border into Rwanda, and on to Kinigi, next to the HQ of the Volcanoes National Park. After lunch, transfer (30 min) by road to the nearby Iby’Iwachu Cultural Village in Kinigi, for a dance performance, an interactive tour, and an experience that the organizers hope will preserve and also revive Rwandese traditional culture. Overnight at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge.

Day 10: Transfer (10 min) by road to park HQ to register, then (30 min) to the edge of the Volcanoes National Park to begin trekking.  It helps to be moderately fit as we start from altitude, but the trek will proceed at a leisurely pace, and continue as gradually and steadily as you wish to go. After your trek, surrounded by breathtaking views of the Virungas, while still wonderstruck from your wild encounter with the rare Mountain gorilla, you’ll enjoy a gourmet picnic at the park boundary. After lunch, visit a Gorilla Organization project near the park. See first-hand how your support for gorilla conservation has been spent, and talk directly to the beneficiaries to glean how local attitudes towards the gorillas have changed. Overnight at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge.
Day 11: Transfer (1½ hrs) by road to Gisenyi, on the edge of Lake Kivu, next to the border with Congo. Afternoon excursion across the border to Goma, Congo. Visit to the Gorilla Organization’s resource centre, and dinner in Goma with Congolese conservation colleagues, by the lakeshore, at The Stella Restaurant. Return back across the border to Gisenyi, Rwanda. Overnight at the Lake Kivu Serena Hotel. 

Day 12: A chance to catch some rays on the shores of Lake Kivu and watch the fishermen in their pirogues idle by, fishing for sambaza in Africa’s highest lake (and one of only three exploding lakes in the world!). Overnight at the Lake Kivu Serena Hotel.

Day 13: Transfer (1½ hrs) by road to Ruhengeri, stopping at the Gorilla Organization’s resource centre, to talk directly to the dedicated team of conservationists working in situ; learn first-hand what is being done to protect the endangered Mountain gorillas. Visit the exhibition, glean information, buy arts and crafts, make a gift - it all helps protect gorillas. After lunch, transfer (2 hrs) by road to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. Visit the Genocide Museum, a harrowing exhibition recalling the 100 days of massacre that occurred in this country in 1994. Overnight at the Mille Collines Hotel (“Hotel Rwanda”).

Day 14: Transfer (20 min) to Kigali Airport, Rwanda, and head for home, with the timeless memories of your safari of a lifetime.


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