Some of you may be aware that I recently returned from yet another awesome African adventure. This time, we went into a remote region of East Africa that most tourists never see, which includes Rwanda, Uganda, and the Congo. It was amazing! We participated in so many once-in-a-lifetime experiences that it is hard to remember and chronicle all of them. I would say the top three would be the gorilla safari, Asasha Wilderness Camp, and Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Why? You may wonder…
- The Gorilla Safari was memorable for so many reasons. For one thing, it was an incredibly tough trek. We’re talking 8+ hours of serious hiking/stumbling/trekking/climbing (and falling from time to time) in 97% humidity with NO clear-cut trails. It was 2/3 jungle trek and 1/3 mountain climbing. And 100% sweating! Guides used machetes to literally cut our paths in many places. We were dangling and hanging off the side of the mountain more often than not. We wore long sleeves and heavy boots to protect our arms and legs from prickly vegetation and biting insects. We had guards with us the whole way to protect us from predators. And I wouldn’t have traded my walking stick or porter for all the money in the world! But everything we endured was worth it when we saw the gorillas. How it works is that a maximum of eight people are assigned to one gorilla family. Trackers go ahead of you to locate the gorillas and signal back to your guides when they find them and you “race” to reach the gorillas before they move again. Unfortunately, they usually move several times before you finally catch up to them. Once you get to the elusive gorillas, you are permitted one hour with them. You are not allowed to get any closer than five feet (and the guide may shoo you back if the silverback shows any sign of being agitated). That said, you may get much closer IF the gorillas get closer to you. As you can see by my photo, a young gorilla went so far as to grab onto me! You can see our guide’s hand on my back. He is reminding me not to speak or move. No worries! I spent about twenty minutes snapping photos and the rest of the allotted time just watching the eleven gorillas and enjoying this incredible experience. I did not want to use up all my time with the gorillas taking photos. I had been warned that it flies by and you need to be sure to “reserve” some time to just savor the close up encounter. Best advice ever! The gorilla safari was an experience that was beyond any words I can think of to describe it and by far one of my best African adventures. Runner Up: Visiting a remote Batwa village (They are a vanishing Pygmy Tribe)!
- Asasha Wilderness Camp is one of my favorite safari camps and one of the best places to go in Uganda (or in the world for true adventure seekers), in my opinion. The reason being that it is so remote (you are truly out of pocket here) and has NO perimeters. Wildlife can (and does) enter the camp all the time. We didn’t even have to go on safari to see wildlife! We walked down a path and ran into three elephants–and quickly backtracked! A baboon “attacked” our tent one night. We exited our tent one morning to discover rare giant forest hogs grazing nearby. We dined on the riverbanks watching all kinds of monkeys, birds, and bats all around us. In case you’re thinking this sounds kind of dangerous, you are right. Guards patrol the camp throughout the day and most especially at night. Once darkness falls, you are not allowed outside your tent without an armed escort. If you venture out, a guard carrying a flashlight and rifle appears seemingly out of nowhere. If you want the closest thing to “old Africa” you can get these days, this is it. I experienced my first bucket shower (and camper toilet) here! Runner Up: Sunrise breakfast in the bush!
- Last, but not least is Queen Elizabeth National Park. There is some unique wildlife here, such as tree-climbing lions. So cool! And another thing that makes it so great is that you don’t see many tourists or safari vehicles here as it is more remote than most other safari destinations, such as Masai Masa and Kruger. If you’re into birding, this is one of the top destinations in Africa with more than 1,000 big, beautiful bird species. Throughout our safari adventure, we saw more species up close than is normal, such as lots of hippos, hyenas, and chimps. Runner Up: Hot-air ballooning over African savannah!
During this adventure, we enjoyed every type of safari imaginable: walking safaris, boat safaris, jeep safaris, and balloon safaris! I’ll try to share more about this awesome adventure at a later date when things settle down. I came back just in time for my busiest month of the year, October. Or you can wait and read all about it when the guidebook comes out next year. Stay tuned for details!
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site