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first African trip....

first African trip....

Old Jul 7th 2002, 6:20 am
  #1  
Randy
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Default first African trip....

We are in the process of planning our first trip to Africa (probably Kenya & Uganda)
and have many questions for the more experienced travelers out there. Our primary
interest is wildlife and we have our hearts set on seeing the mountain gorillas.
After reading through the newsgroup archives, some specific concerns about safety
have been raised. Opinions seem to vary greatly about the safety of visiting the
various gorilla tracking areas, and I've found no current information regarding
this.....can someone help? I understand gorilla tracking permits can be difficult to
obtain....how can we insure our best chance of actually seeing the gorillas?
Materials we've read suggest that on some "gorilla tours", upon arrival at park you
may not be able to get a permit beause of daily quotas already being sold. Has anyone
run into this problem?Also, our trip will be limited to 2-3 weeks in November. Is
this a good season to visit Kenya and Uganda...we don't mind rain but want to have
access to the best viewing conditions, not only for gorilla but for other wildlife
also. I expect we will be booking with an established tour company and two that have
looked interesting to us are Discovery Initiatives (quite expensive) and Ashanti
(very reasonable). I'd appreciate any feedback offered on these, or any other
operators. It would be helpful to know what to look out for when booking a tour, as
well as what areas/parks should be on our "must see" and "don't bother" lists. Thank
you in advance for any advice you can offer.

Randy from Oregon USA
 
Old Jul 7th 2002, 9:20 am
  #2  
Hans-Georg Mich
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Default Re: first African trip....

Randy,

I'm sure you will get specific information from others. Let me just make one little
recommendation on the sidelines:

If you haven't seen the movie, "Gorillas in the Mist", see it before you leave for
Africa, to be current on the history. It is available on DVD.

Hans-Georg

--
No mail, please.
 
Old Jul 8th 2002, 1:20 am
  #3  
Mick Farmer
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Default Re: first African trip....

Hello. Uganda is a beautiful country - and you will certainly find it breathtaking.
If you book through a company in the states, they will in turn contact a travel
company here, who will in turn contact a safari company. So after mark-ups you will
be spending a fortune.

I would recommend the following safari company - Magic Safaris, as IMHO they are one
of the most professional companies out here and certainly are able to tailor an
expedition to suit your request rather then making you fit into a tourist circuit.

They will also be able to answer all your questions and at the least point you in a
few directions. http://www.magic-safaris.com/ - By the way, they organised a safari
out here when Robert Altman (director of The Player, Short Cuts, etc) came to visit
and shoot a documentary.

You may want to consider flying to all the major destinations by charter plane (KAFTC
are the best charter company and have a site at - http://www.kaftc.com check out the
section on air safaris) that way you get to see more of the destinations rather then
travelling from point to point in a car.

Be fore-warned travel in Uganda is not cheap and to see the Gorillas is especially
expensive due to permit fees. I haven't actually gone to see them - but friends have
said it was amazing - a defining moment.

Hope that helps.

Regards Mick Farmer Training Director On Course Uganda "Driving Courses Designed For
African Roads" Visit Our Website: <a
href="www.oncourse4wd.com">www.oncourse4wd.com</a
 
Old Jul 8th 2002, 3:20 am
  #4  
Raffi Balmanouk
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Default Re: first African trip....

    > Be fore-warned travel in Uganda is not cheap and to see the Gorillas is especially
    > expensive due to permit fees. I haven't actually gone to see them - but friends
    > have said it was amazing - a defining moment.
    >
    > Hope that helps.
    >
    > Regards Mick Farmer Training Director On Course Uganda "Driving Courses Designed
    > For African Roads" Visit Our Website: <a
    > href="www.oncourse4wd.com">www.oncourse4wd.com</a>

Hey Mick, How's the safety factor now? I was only in Africa once - 1999/2000 - when
Uganda was pretty much off limits and very much in the news when some Aussie tourists
got whacked. Is it still not on or is it relatively OK with some common sense for the
backpacker type tourist?
 
Old Jul 8th 2002, 6:20 am
  #5  
Peter
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Default Re: first African trip....

Any professional tour company will know whether there are recent developments in the
security situation, but since the 1999 incident security has been tightened
considerably, and there have been no further incidents in this area.

"Randy" <[email protected]> wrote in message
news:[email protected]...
    > We are in the process of planning our first trip to Africa (probably Kenya &
    > Uganda) and have many questions for the more experienced travelers out there. Our
    > primary interest is wildlife and we have our hearts set on seeing the mountain
    > gorillas. After reading through the newsgroup archives, some specific concerns
    > about safety have been raised. Opinions seem to vary greatly about the safety of
    > visiting the various gorilla tracking areas, and I've found no current information
    > regarding this.....can someone help? I understand gorilla tracking permits can be
    > difficult to obtain....how can we insure our best chance of actually seeing the
    > gorillas? Materials we've read suggest that on some "gorilla tours", upon arrival
    > at park you may not be able to get a permit beause of daily quotas already being
    > sold. Has anyone run into this problem?Also, our trip will be limited to 2-3 weeks
    > in November. Is this a good season to visit Kenya and Uganda...we don't mind rain
    > but want to have access to the best viewing conditions, not only for gorilla but
    > for other wildlife also. I expect we will be booking with an established tour
    > company and two that have looked interesting to us are Discovery Initiatives (quite
    > expensive) and Ashanti (very reasonable). I'd appreciate any feedback offered on
    > these, or any other operators. It would be helpful to know what to look out for
    > when booking a tour, as well as what areas/parks should be on our "must see" and
    > "don't bother" lists. Thank you in advance for any advice you can offer.
    >
    > Randy from Oregon USA
 
Old Jul 8th 2002, 3:21 pm
  #6  
Mick Farmer
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Default Re: first African trip....

Hi Raffi There are areas that are off-limits and areas that are okay. And as you said
with common sense everything is relatively okay. I think the travel alerts that are
the most objective are put out by the British High Commission and can be seen here:

http://www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?...age&c=Page&ci-
d=1007029390590&a=KCountryAdvice&aid=1013618386550

I would suggest not travelling at night - but that's because of robbers as opposed to
rebels. And regarding crime Kenya is considerably worse then Uganda on that front.

There is a lot to see west and east and that is safe to travel. North would be risky
right now. But will probably settle down in a few months.

The thing about backpacking in Uganda is it does not cater to backpackers - and IMHO
I think that's very unfortunate - it is very expensive here. They have gone for the
upper end tourist market. For example, I believe the gorilla permits have just been
increased and now it's over 500 US$.

Regards Mick Farmer Training Director On Course Uganda "Driving Courses Designed For
African Roads" Visit Our Website: www.oncourse4wd.com
 
Old Jul 8th 2002, 3:21 pm
  #7  
Raffi Balmanouk
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Default Re: first African trip....

Thanks for the info - I will bookmark the pommie advisories - the American ones
are useless as they are panic-stricken for just about everywhere (including places
that are on average safer than SOME places in the USA), and Canadian ones aren't
much better.

Aiming away from the backpacker market (of which I am part, mostly) has its
advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, you don't get overrun and kitschy; on
the negative, a lot of people just write it off (compare, e.g., Botswana and Kenya.
I'm sure Botswana has a lot to offer, but the impression I got was their approach to
tourism was: "if you have to ask how much, don't come." So I didn't.)

in article [email protected], Mick Farmer at
[email protected] wrote on 7/8/02 4:51 AM:

    > Hi Raffi There are areas that are off-limits and areas that are okay. And as you
    > said with common sense everything is relatively okay. I think the travel alerts
    > that are the most objective are put out by the British High Commission and can be
    > seen here:
    >
    > http://www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?...e/ShowPage&c=P
    > age&cid=1007029390590&a=KCountryAdvice&aid=1013618 386550
    >
    > I would suggest not travelling at night - but that's because of robbers as
    > opposed to rebels. And regarding crime Kenya is considerably worse then Uganda on
    > that front.
    >
    > There is a lot to see west and east and that is safe to travel. North would be
    > risky right now. But will probably settle down in a few months.
    >
    > The thing about backpacking in Uganda is it does not cater to backpackers - and
    > IMHO I think that's very unfortunate - it is very expensive here. They have gone
    > for the upper end tourist market. For example, I believe the gorilla permits have
    > just been increased and now it's over 500 US$.
    >
    > Regards Mick Farmer Training Director On Course Uganda "Driving Courses Designed
    > For African Roads" Visit Our Website: www.oncourse4wd.com
 
Old Jul 9th 2002, 6:20 pm
  #8  
Eric Edwards
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Default Re: first African trip....

On 6 Jul 2002 17:45:01 -0700, Randy <[email protected]> wrote:
    >various gorilla tracking areas, and I've found no current information regarding
    >this.....can someone help? I understand gorilla tracking permits can be difficult to
    >obtain....how can we insure our best

Uganda Gorilla permits have to be purchased in advance in Kampala. And there are not
many permits, 8 per day as I recall. In prevoius years, people did have trouble
getting permits but when I came through in January there didn't seem to be any
difficulty.

That said, many tour companies prefer to go to Rwanda instead. More gorillas. Fewer
tourists. Permits can be reliably purchased at the gate.

Congo is theoreticially another alternative but I wouldn't want to try it.

One thing to keep in mind: Gorilla tracking is not like a game drive where you are
using the tour company's vehicle, driver, and guide in the park. It's a government
run operation paid for by your tracking fee and the tour really only serves to get
you to to the park. There may be faster/more schedule efficient ways of doing this.
This may be important if you need to cram everything into 2 weeks.

I haven't been to Kenya during the short rains. But I would guess that the grass in
the Masa Mara would still be relatively short in November. This ought to be the time
when the herds migrate back to the Serengeti.

As for tour companies: I took a 6 day camping safari with Gametrackers and would
highly recomend them. The Economic gorilla tour (booked through but not run by
Gametrackers) was rather beyond basic and probably wouldn't fit your schedule anyway.
 
Old Jul 11th 2002, 5:21 pm
  #9  
Randy
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Default Re: first African trip....

Thanks all for your very helpful replies. One important question remains....Is
November a bad time to travel in Uganda and Kenya? A couple of the tour operators
we've contacted do not operate in November because of the rains, while others say "no
problem". It has been really hard for us to get a good answer to this question. We
don't mind some rain, but if our travel and wildlife viewing experience will be
limited in November, we will alter our plans.....October is still an option. Any
opinions? Thanks again, Randy Weersing in Oregon
 
Old Jul 11th 2002, 6:20 pm
  #10  
Hans-Georg Mich
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Default Re: first African trip....

[email protected] (Randy) wrote:

    >Thanks all for your very helpful replies. One important question remains....Is
    >November a bad time to travel in Uganda and Kenya? A couple of the tour operators
    >we've contacted do not operate in November because of the rains, while others say
    >"no problem". It has been really hard for us to get a good answer to this question.
    >We don't mind some rain, but if our travel and wildlife viewing experience will be
    >limited in November, we will alter our plans.....October is still an option. Any
    >opinions?

Randy,

for Kenya I would say November is no problem. October is roughly the height of the
short rains, but I would even go in October.

The only time I would avoid in Kenya is the long rains, around April.

Don't think that the rains are something that suddenly begin and suddenly end. There
can be rains at any time in the highlands. If you look at the graphs, you will notice
that the rainfall in April is highest and that there is another lower maximum in
October, but it's not clearcut, it changes from year to year, and anyway a few
rainshowers will not really spoil your visit.

Hans-Georg

--
No mail, please.
 
Old Jul 11th 2002, 7:20 pm
  #11  
Eric Edwards
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Default Re: first African trip....

On 11 Jul 2002 08:17:22 -0700, Randy <[email protected]> wrote:
    >Thanks all for your very helpful replies. One important question remains....Is
    >November a bad time to travel in Uganda and Kenya? A

At the gorillas, one must be prepared for rain no matter when you go. It's a rain
forest after all. That's why the gorillas are there.

The main trouble with the wet season is roads. On our trip there was a long stretch
of dirt road between Kisoro and Lake Bunyoni. One could imagine this being difficult
when it is wet but I have no first hand experence. A trip to Bwindi would go a
different route.

Kenya would probably be ok though lodges might be preferable to tents. I remember
reading that in Tanzania, at least, it is possible to get lodge accomodation at a
steep discount in the wet season.

--
Real courtesy requires human effort and understanding. Never let your machine or your
habit send courtesy copies.
 
Old Jul 11th 2002, 7:37 pm
  #12  
mick
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Default Re: first African trip....

Randy

Regarding the weather in Uganda - November should be fine - in fact, November is better then October, as it is starting to get closer to the next dry season.

Reading Han's response, it is right on the mark and applies to Uganda as well. As he said, there are no guarantees with the weather these days - it is unpredictable. It rains when it is supposed to be dry and visa versa.

But then we are complaining about a few degrees. When the weather here drops to 19 degrees Celsius I have sweaters on. Its all relative and really there should be not much of a problem. Either way you will have a good adventure.

Regards
Mick Farmer
Training Director
On Course Uganda
"Driving Courses Designed For African Roads"
Visit Our Website: www.oncourse4wd.com
 

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