Tips Travel Planner

Ultimate Packing Tips for Africa Travelers

Africa is a wide continent with so  many travel destinations usually your packing tips rotates where exactly you are going and the kind of activities to do in respect with how long or short the trip will be. We recommend limiting your adventure travel packing list to only items that you will use regularly and are fairly compact. In general below are the packing tips to guide on what is necessary while traveling to Africa;

1. Travel Documents

After confirming the itinerary, everything is set it’s important you bring together all the required travel document s including visa to the African countries you’re visiting, medical and insurance cards. In most cases you will need to carry your credit cards and a little cash for easy transaction.

2. Back Pack

It’s obvious you need one to carry all our belongings together, much as you would have packed one big suit case but  a small hand back pack is necessary. It will help gather all the necessities together. Let’s say stepping out for swimming, even walk, this will be of great use carrying your gadgets like cameras, sun glasses and swim suits with you.

3. Hiking Shoes or Boots

Comfortable shoes for walking around, you will find most of the times while in Africa you will have distances to walk for adventure let’s say trekking to the top of the mountain, to find mountain gorilla if you are in east Africa, other pair of shoes to pack are trainers and sandals to relax your feet after a long day in the boots. Endeavor to pack at least 2 0r pairs of shoes for comfort and depending on the days of stay.

4. Light Clothing

Most African countries have hot weather, therefore you will need right clothing for example pair of khaki trousers, shorts, long sleeved shirts, vests and others, for ladies Africans are conservative and reserved, you will need knee length skirts, scarves, for respect of peoples culture and society depending which African country. However there is need to pack rain coats and gears, some time weather is un predictable and it can shower any time.

5. Gadgets

To keep update and track of your safari you need your camera and a pair of binoculars to spot the furthest interesting features. Adaptors and chargers, accessories like power chargers, head seats, selfie stick, tripod stands can spice up your safari and not feel left out. Spare batteries, Cell phone with a local plan to connect with family and friends back home. Most camps may not have Wi-Fi, but will have a cell phone connection.

6. Sanitary Ware

There are lots of toiletries to remember to bring with you on your trip. Some items you may be able to find wherever you’re traveling.Pack your favorites in advance and use this section of the travel packing checklist to ensure you haven’t forgotten any of the essentials e.g. tooth paste, brush, combs and sun screens, and wet wipes.

7. First Aid Kit

Much as every lodge and camp site give basic first aid and almost every safari vehicle has a first aid kit, it is also important if you pack some of the essential emergency medication and supplies like hand sanitizer, histamine for sting and bites, Aspirin and paracetamol among others.

Guides Tips Travel Planner

Going On a Gorilla Trek in Uganda

Looking for a perfect destination to track the gorillas from? Uganda should be your first priority as it covers almost three thirds of the total population of mountain gorillas in the world. Tracking the gorillas is somehow a challenging activity but the experience achieved from it, is of a lifetime and you are surely guaranteed with memorable escapades. On meeting these giant yet humble apes in their territory, it will arguably be worth your effort as no one can fully describe the fantastic moment attached to the first sight on a wild mountain gorilla. It is to be noted that; among all the gorilla types in the world, Uganda only resides one type, which is the eastern mountain gorilla (rare endangered mountain gorillas) and it resides it more than any other country in the world.

Where to track the mountain gorillas in Uganda

The world comprises of only four national parks which protect the lives of the rare endangered mountain gorillas, and the most fascinating thing is that Uganda has two of the four national parks. These Parks include; Virunga National Park (in DR Congo), Volcanoes National Park (in Rwanda), and then the two Parks in Uganda; Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Therefore, the mountain gorillas in Uganda can only be tracked from Bwindi and Mgahinga, of which both Parks are perched in the South-western parts of the country.

Location, History and Accessibility of Bwindi

Bwindi, found in south-western Uganda, was gazetted as a national park in 1991 and declared a UNESCO natural world heritage site in 1994. The Park is composed of 331 square kilometers (128 square miles) of both montane and lowland forests. Accessing Bwindi by Road from Kampala, Uganda’s capital, it is a 6-8 hours’ drive; a route through Kampala to Mbarara and then converging to Butogota, a mere 17 kilometers from the Buhoma entrance gate. Always remember to book your gorilla safari in advance with your tour agency such that it reserves you a good quality 4X4  tourist vehicle that you will use for transportation, such as; Land Cruisers TX, Land Cruisers V8, Land Cruisers VX, Land Cruisers JX, Extended Land Cruisers with pop-up roofs, Safari Vans, Costa buses, Super Customs, and Rav4s, among others. Bwindi can also be accessed from Queen Elizabeth National Park to the north through Ishasha sector, which is a 2-3 hours drive, or from Kabale town to the south, just a 1-2 hours’ drive.

Bwindi can also be accessed by Air flying from Kampala, Entebbe Airport or Kajjansi Airfield, to the modern tarmac airstrip at Kisoro. Planes can too be chartered to the grass Kayonza or Savannah airstrips. Bwindi comprises of three airfields; at Kayonza and Kihiihi, for those going to track in the northern sector, and Nyakabande, in Kisoro, for those going to track gorillas in the southern sectors.

Location, History and Accessibility of Mgahinga

In the South-western parts of Uganda (Kisoro District) is where Mgahinga National Park lies. Though it is the smallest national park in Uganda, covering a total area of 33.7 square kilometers, Mgahinga is one of the only four Parks in the world protecting the rare endangered mountain gorillas that inhabit the dense forests of the Park, and besides protecting the endangered mountain gorillas, Mgahinga is also known for keeping the endangered golden monkeys. The Park commands majestic natural beauty and its annual visitors always enjoy the beautiful views over the Park’s three volcanoes; Muhavura, Mgahinga, and Sabinyo volcanoes. On addition to gorilla and golden monkey trekking, hiking any of the above volcanoes is also an experience of its own, especially the Mgahinga volcano of which you will only pay US$ 80 to hike it.

Accessing Mgahinga from Kampala, it takes 8-10 hours driving on the good tarmac roads up to Kabale or Kisoro towns covering about 482 kilometers. From Kisoro town, the dirt road covers 14 kilometers to the park and another route goes along the shorelines of the beautiful Lake Bunyonyi. Ntebeko is the only entrance gate open from 07:00am to 06:00pm all year round. However, the Park can also be accessed by air as the charter schedule flights depart from Entebbe Airport or Kajjansi Airfield in Kampala and land at Kisoro Airstrip, of which from there it is a one hour drive to the Park.

Habituated gorilla family in Mgahinga

Mgahinga is a home to almost 100 mountain gorilla individuals but due to various conservation reasons, there is only one habituated gorilla family that is open to trekkers. Nyakagezi gorilla family, comprising of 10 members (gorilla individuals), is the only renowned habituated gorilla family in Mgahinga National Park. The gorilla family is led by a silverback known as Mark and being assisted by another silverback called Mafia. Out of the 10 gorilla individuals in the family, there are; 3 Silverbacks, 2 Black-backs, 2 Females, 2 Juveniles and one Baby-Toddler.

Habituated gorilla families in Bwindi

As of now, Bwindi Impenetrable Forests National Park comprises of over 500 mountain gorillas, which is almost half of the total number of mountain gorillas left in the world. The Park consists of 18 habituated gorilla families and these families reside and are trekked from the Park’s four sectors; Buhoma sector, Rushaga sector, Ruhija sector, and Nkuringo sector. These gorilla families are; Mubare, Rushegura, Habinyanja and Katwe (in Buhoma); Bweza, Nshongi, Mishaya, Mucunguzi, Busingye, Kahungye, Bikyinji and Bushaho (in Rushaga); Oruzogo, Kyaguriro, Mukiza, and Bitukura (in Ruhija); and then Nkuringo and Christmas (in Nkuringo sector). Mubare gorilla family, boasting 5 gorilla individuals, is however the oldest habituated gorilla family in Bwindi and Uganda at large and thus trekking this family is much adorable.

Gorilla Permit in Uganda

For one to go trekking the mountain gorillas in any of the country’s gorilla trekking Parks will need to owe a Uganda gorilla trekking permit which costs quite affordable as compared to that of Rwanda. A Uganda gorilla permit costs US$ 600 per person and this will be acquired for you by your tour agency however due to the high demand of the permit, especially in the peak season, you are highly advised to consider advance booking. It is on your arrival in Uganda after settling all your safari’s bills that the permit will be handed over to you and you will need to represent it at the Park’s entrance gate – as it even includes the Park entrance fees and thus you will not need to pay any extra charge for the entrance fee as long as you posses a permit.

Accommodations in Bwindi and Mgahinga

Bwindi National Park comprises of various accommodations ranging from budget, mid-range and luxury accommodations which include; Buhoma lodge, Lake Kitandara Bwindi Camp, Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp, Silverback Lodge, Volcanoes Safaris Bwindi Lodge, The Gorilla Resort, Mahogany Springs Lodge, and Buhoma Community Rest Camp (in Buhoma sector); Nshongi Camp, Gorilla Valley Lodge, Rushaga Gorilla Camp, Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge, and Gorilla Safari Lodge (in Rushaga Sector); Bakiga Lodge, Gorilla Mist Camp, Gift of Nature Lodge, Ruhija Gorilla Safari Lodge, Broadbill Forest Camp, Ruhija Gorilla Friends Resort & Campsite, and Trekkers Tavern Lodge (in Ruhija sector); Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Mutanda Lake Resort, Wagtail Eco Safari Camp, and Bwindi Backpackers Lodge (in Nkuringo sector).

Accommodations in Mgahinga National Park are also many and some of them include; Mgahinga gorilla lodge, Mgahinga Community Camp Ground, Virunga Hotel, Mgahinga Rest camp, Travelers Rest House, and Kisoro tourist hotel, among others.

Rules and Regulations to follow during gorilla trekking expeditions

-Trekkers will only be given one hour to spend with the gorillas once met.

-Keep a distance of at least 6 to 8 meters while viewing the gorillas because a close intact with them may lead to spread of some air diseases from you to them, as we share almost the same DNA with them, and also since these primates are wild creatures, however much how friendly they are to us, you should at least view them from a certain distance for security purposes.

-Gorilla trekking is done in groups of 8 individuals per trekking group.

-Minimize your voices while tracking the gorillas because high voices will scare the primates hence failing to meet them.

-Do not use flashlight cameras while taking photos of the gorillas as the flashlights may scare the primates while you are still viewing them.

-Do not litter the Park.

-Do not smoke or eat from the Park.

-Do not mimic the gorillas as you may not know what you are communicating to them.

– Arrive at the Park headquarters earlier (at 07:30am) for briefings and to be given your trekking group – the gorilla trekking activity starts at 08:30am.

The Best Time to Go For Gorilla Trekking In Uganda

For all gorilla lovers all over the world should take note that; though the gorilla trekking activity is regarded as an all-year-round-activity, there is a best time during the year that the gorilla trekking expeditions be more joyous. The most ideal time to go for gorilla trekking expeditions in Uganda is during the Country’s two dry seasons; January to February, and then June to October, reason being that; since the roads linking to the Parks are dirt, they become easier to pass through in dry seasons as they become slippery in the wet seasons and passing through these slippery dirt roads becomes a hurdle. Still trekking the gorillas in the thick forests of Bwindi and Mgahinga becomes more enjoyful and easier during the dry seasons when it is not raining in the Parks.

What to Pack for a Gorilla Safari in Uganda

There are some vital things that you should not forget to pack while going for a gorilla safari and here is the guide on what you should pack; a yellow fever vaccination, water-proof walking/hiking boots, wet weather clothing and warm layers as the weather is at times unpredictable and for the evening coldness, sun glasses, sun hat, water-proof bags to protect your belongings safely, good cameras together with extra charged batteries, energy-giving snacks and enough drinking water, garden gloves, and insect repellents, among others.


How to Choose the Right Travel Company

With so many tour and travel companies that exist in Uganda and offer almost the same service, choosing the best and ideal one to deal with also becomes a big challenge. While they all play the same role in one way, they provide distinct services. To choose that best dream Travel Company to book your safari with, a number of factors have to be put into consideration;

1. Conduct adequate research

With many companies that are available and offer related services, finding that best company to deal with becomes more challenging. That said, you need to first conduct adequate research on different Travel Companies that offer the same service before you make a choice on which one to deal with. While choosing which company to deal with, first know if the company you intend to deal with is registered. Today, there are many people with companies but surprisingly, most of them aren’t recognized something that puts you at a risk of dealing with wrong elements.

2. Compare the rates

Each travel company its own rates and that said, it is always important that you cross check with different companies to ascertain which one has the best prices with the best offers. Note, some companies may seem cheaper but cheap isn’t cheap and never the best to be opt. You realize that there are hidden charges that they may disclose to you on the last day that you will book a safari therefore you have to be very keen. Also, expensive ones do not mean that they offer the best. That is why you need to carry out research to know which one offers the best rates. On websites, there are rates displayed that you can check through. By looking at different rates, you will be in position to make comparisons and make choice. Make sure you calculate costs well and as well, do not miss to cross check the costs for other things that aren’t part of the safari including transportation and activities.

Avoid the single supplement-so many travel companies charge you for single supplement meaning more money for you to have your own room. Usually, this is done to avoid mixing and pairing visitors. However, the best travel company does pair the solo visitors especially those of the same sex in the same room. Avoid companies that charge extra cost for traveling solo.

3. Ensure that you are the audience

Avoid companies that are for everyone. In most cases, others tend to list their guest demographics on the ‘about’ page and you can see from the pictures of their safaris who goes on it. Besides, you can tell the audience depending on the area of stay whether hostel or guesthouse.

4. Professionalism

While planning for a trip, the company you intend to deal with should show some of professionalism. They should have the best, experienced, well-trained, knowledgeable driver guides to take you through your safari. They also have techniques on life saving in case of accidents and portray good customer care.

5. Safety record

The travel company that you wish to deal with should have some good record when it comes to safety. It should follow some proper safety requirements and accredited by local government, government especially it is registered and other recognized trade organizations. Your safety is very key when it comes to any kind of safari.

6. Check the reputation

Ensure that you have cross checked with how other visitors have enjoyed their time with the same company. You can check through the online reviews to see what others have written about the same company you intend to book your safari with.

7. Reliability

Before you choose to book a safari with any travel company ask yourself is it a reliable company. Some tour companies only target to get what they need and after, it becomes a long story. A recognized and registered company has office and quick at responding to what visitors ask for.

Lastly, there are a number of factors one needs to look through before making a choice on which travel company to deal. The travel company you choose to deal with also forms part of your travel experience at a destination.


Health Tips for Rwanda Visitors

Need to know some health tips before getting to Rwanda? Dubbed the land of a thousand hills, Rwanda is East Africa’s landlocked country and a few incredible destinations for you to explore while on safari in Africa. It is surrounded by Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Tanzania. Depending on what your travel interests are in this magical landlocked country, take note of the health tips below.

What vaccines are needed?

Keep up to date with which vaccine to take prior embarking on actual trip. Before getting to Rwanda, there are specific vaccination certificates one needs to present and yellow fever certificate is one of them. As well, you can get immunized against polio, Diphtheria vaccine, hepatitis A and B vaccine, typhoid, cholera, tetanus, Meningitis vaccine, rabies, and others.

Other key health issues you need to note

Most African states are Malaria prone and so is Rwanda and that said, you need to have enough anti-malarial tablets. At night while sleeping at a lodge, make sure that your mosquito net is on to protect you from mosquito bites that may cause malaria. As well, be keen on dengue fever which caused by mosquito bite from particular mosquitos that are very active during daylight. This infection has no specific medication but the best you can do is to have insect repellent if you are heading off to affected parts in Rwanda. Equally, schistomiasis is common-a flatworm infection which is got due to contact with affected fresh water streams, Lakes or Rivers.

Altitude sickness

Generally, Rwanda is a hilly and it is one reason it is dubbed the land of a thousand hills. Given this kind of landscape, you need altitude sickness medication and also do adequate exercise to familiarize yourself with the level of altitude in this country.

Heat and humidity

Rwanda has moderate weather conditions and experiences 2 seasons-the dry and wet season. Each season comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. The dry season usually begins from June to September and from December to February and for primate enthusiasts on Rwanda safari, this is usually regarded as the best as it is characterized by low rainfall and relatively drier habitat making it ideal for one to hike through the dense vegetation while in search for chimpanzees or gorillas.

The wet season is begins from March to May and October to November and it comes with heavy rainfall and the habitats become muddy and slippery thus making it a bit challenging for one to hike through especially while in search for chimpanzees or mountain gorillas. It also comes with plenty of forage for these creatures to depend on and in most cases they don’t over move like it is a case when it is dry season. As well, it is when most wildlife species give birth and most migratory birds confine in most habitat and hence making it the best for birders to spot variety of avifaunal species.

Water and food safety

While on safari in Rwanda, know what to eat and drink and what not to. Your health matters a lot and that is why we recommend that you get yourself bottled water. You can find good food at classic hotels in Kigali or any town and try to avoid road side food as most of those places don’t keep hygiene.

Health/travel insurance

When planning for a trip to a new destination, insurance is that one thing you need to think about that is why before you embark on actual trip to Rwanda, you need to have health insurance to help you cover many risks.

 Personal safety

Safety starts with you first and for any plans to spend a holiday in Rwanda, better consider a well-stocked first aid kit or medical kit. This will serve as provision for emergency treatment and life support in case of injuries/illnesses. In your medical kit, you should have bandages, cotton, plasters and wool among others.

Conclusively, for any plans to pay a visit to Rwanda for gorilla trekking, chimpanzee trekking or wildlife viewing, the above health tips must be put into consideration and you will have the best of your safari holiday in this magical landlocked country.