Uganda Safari

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CSU 501: 5 Days Uganda Gorilla Tracking safari tour
CSU 503: 5 Days Gorilla Trekking and Rafting
CSU 701: 7 Days Safari with Gorilla Trekking
CSU 010: 10 Day Safaris to Discover the Pearl of Africa

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BWINDI INPENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK:
In the jungles of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest live half the world's population of highly endangered Mountain Gorillas. Visiting them is one of the most emotional wildlife encounters you will ever experience.

This pocket of huge primeval forest in the Virunga Mountain range is one of the most biologically diverse areas on earth. It has an eco-system that defines the very essence of the continent and has therefore been designated as a World Heritage Site.

The forest floor is damp and laden with leaf mould, matted vegetation and fallen vines, which serve to trip you up as you clamber up and down the slippery slopes in search of a glimpse of the elusive gorillas.

Searching up to altitudes of 6,500 feet (1,982 metres) can be exhausting but the rewards are worth it. Of course it may not be as difficult as that, but when visiting the Bwindi gorillas you should be prepared to unleash the explorer in you.

VISITING THE GORILLA'S:
You will be told that if the big male silverback charges at you, you should look down and remain exactly where you are in a submissive pose. These words of wisdom are directly opposite to your natural instincts, but luckily a ranger is there to grab you should your feet disobey the instructions. The noise of the silverback pounding his chest during this mock charge, is akin to overhead thunder and more than enough to make your knees knock and heart miss a beat. As the gorillas grow more accustomed to human presence, the charges do not happen so often. Each gorilla group is only visited for one hour a day by a limited number of people who have normally purchased permits months in advance.

OTHER ANIMALS:
There are many other primates in the park including chimpanzees, black and white colobus, red colobus and blue monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabey and L'Hoest's monkey.

Wildlife inhabiting the forest floor includes elephants, giant forest hogs and small antelopes, few of which are encountered.

SEASONS:
Dry Season: January and February plus June to September are the driest months and are the best time for gorilla trekking. Even in the dry season you should be prepared to get wet in the occasional afternoon thunderstorm.
Rainy Season: many roads are impassable after the long rains of March to May and it becomes hot and humid with a very slippery forest floor. It also usually rains in October and November.
Temperatures: a pleasantly hot temperature of 80°F (25°C) can be expected from June to September, rising to 85°F (27°C) in January and February.

BWINDI SPECIALTIES:
• Close encounters with mountain gorillas
• Hiking the Virunga Mountains
• Unique flora

FACTS:
The park covers an area of 127 miles² (330km²).
It is located in the far south-west of the country where Uganda, Rwanda and DRC (Congo) meet.
Getting to Bwindi is an adventure in itself as you have to cross much of Uganda by road to get there.
Permits are limited to 12 per day, many of which are purchased by through operators.

QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK:
This is a wonderful national park, sometimes dubbed 'the Pearl of Africa or Switzerland of Africa'. Quite simply this fertile equatorial area is especially scenic, with two lakes connected by a channel overlooked by a high peninsula. You will also find volcanic craters, grassy plains and tropical forest. As a result it has one of the highest biodiversity ratings in the world.

Hunting exhibits such as stuffed lions, leopard skins, deer heads and elephants tusks may still be found adorning some hotels and lodges, but the emphasis is certainly more on shooting with a camera these days. Much of Uganda's wildlife was poached out in the past, especially elephants, but now the area is protected and elephants numbers are boosted by those entering the park from the Congo, where poaching is still a problem.

When looking at some maps of Uganda, you may be forgiven for being a little confused.

Several of the National Parks and lakes have changed their names more than once since independence in 1962, and not all maps have kept up with the changes.

For example the Queen Elizabeth National Park was called the Ruwenzori National Park for many years until it returned to its royal colonial name. Meanwhile the Ruwenzori Mountains to the north of Queen Elizabeth N.P. were formed into the new Ruwenzori National Park in 1991. Confused? You will be!

ANIMALS AND BIRDS
The wide bio-diversity of habitats means that Queen Elizabeth National Park contains the most astonishing number of species - almost 100 types of mammal and 606 different birds! The Kasinga Channel alone is said to contain the world's largest concentration of hippos, but interestingly enough not many crocodiles! Other wildlife includes warthogs, buffalo, rare aquatic sitatunga antelope, giant forest hog, beautifully horned Uganda kob, topi, waterbuck, elephant and leopard. There are no giraffe, zebra, impala or rhino.

Kyambura (or Chambura) Gorge on the north-east boundary of the park, is real Tarzan territory with thick treetop canopies and vines dangling down to the soft forest floor. The terrain comes complete with chimpanzees who crash about and chatter high up in the branches. If they don't feel like being seen, they just keep one step ahead of the out-of-breath terrestrial visitors.

The Maramagambo Forest, south of the Kasinga Channel is also home to large numbers of chimps, plus a number of other monkey species.

Some rare and odd birds inhabit this park and keen birders come from all over the world to clock up a sighting of the peculiar, pouting shoebill (or whale-headed) stork. This giant bird stands 4-foot high (more than 1 metre) and wears a rather timid expression. This and a myriad of other birds and animals are best viewed from a boat on the Kasinga Channel.

SEASONS
Dry Season: June to September is the driest time when most animals remain near water, but be prepared for afternoon thunderstorms at any time. The hot dry time is January to February and is a good time to visit. Dry season temperatures average 80°F (25°C).
Rainy Season: It rains anytime from October to December and March to May when many roads become impassible.

QUEEN ELIZABETH SPECIALITIES
• Sunset over the water
• Warthogs and hippos mowing the lawn at Mweya Lodge
• Boat ride on the Kasinga Channel
• Chimpanzees in Kyambura (Chambura) Gorge
• Beautifully positioned safari lodges

FACTS
The park covers 770 miles ² (1995 km²).
Road access from Uganda's capital city of Kampala is 206 miles (420km).
There is a landing strip at Mweya lodge for light aircraft or a larger airstrip at Kasese town.

TIPS FOR ENCOUNTER WITH GORILLAS:
1. Submissiveness
When you encounter gorillas, you are required to portray total submissiveness. Do not look at them straight in the eyes and avoid standing over them. If the male gorilla charge at you, crouch down. Gorillas have freedom of way. Do not drum your chest.

2. Gorilla Photography/Photographic Safaris
Flash photography is prohibited. Tourists are allowed normal photography and filming for domestic use. Special Photographic and filming safaris may be organized for particular groups. These will include those who want to film specifically for commercial use and documentaries. These will require accreditation cards unlike normal tourists.

3. Health of the Gorillas
There are currently approximately 700 mountain gorillas in the wild. Thus these animals are classified as endangered species. To avoid transmitting human diseases to them:
-PLEASE avoid tracking if you suffer from contagious disease. In case you develop a severe case of flu, your money will be fully refunded if you make this known in advance. However if you attempt to track and fail for whatever reason, or if the guides discover that you cannot track due to disease, you do not qualify for any refund.
-Do not sneeze towards them
-Do not spit in the forest or defecate carelessly. If you need to the guides will help you with a machete to dig a hole to bury your waste.

4. Environmental consciousness
Leave only your steps in the national park. Do not litter and if you spot any litter, collect it and take it down with you.

5. Tracking gorilla in Uganda - the facts
How hard should one prepare for gorilla tracking in Rwanda? The facts below will help you to answer this question.

-Gorilla Trekking, hiking and tracking takes place at altitudes of 3000 metres-this means that moderate/ average physical fitness is what is necessary and not athletic fitness.

-Trekking, hiking and Tracking gorillas is conducted by patient, qualified and knowledgeable ranger guides with wide experience in natural history with particular attention to gorilla behaviour

-Trekking hiking and tracking is conducted at a moderate pace with plenty of stops for resting, fielding questions further briefs etc. Competitive hiking is discouraged as the aim of the guides, porters and rangers is for all the group members to make it to the gorillas and back to the base.
Believe it or not, the slowest hiker/ trekker will determine the pace of the trek.

-Always keep a distance of no less than 7m from the primates. This would greatly help as a measure for the reduction of disease transmission risk.

-Hiking, trekking and tracking gorillas may take approximately 2-3 hours. Sight, stay and encounter with the gorillas is recommended for for one hour only.

6. Eating
You can carry your picnic but do not eat in the vicinity of the gorillas.

7. Chest beating
Please do not imitate the male gorilla chest beating. It may take that as a challenge and charge after you which can result in severe injuries.

8. Age Limit: Only people of 15 years and above can track gorillas.

What to bring for tracking gorillas:
-Hiking boots - ankle level boots are ok but make sure it is something handy.
-Gloves
-A warm cardigan
-Thick trousers and a long sleeved top are ideal for tracking.
-Rain Coat
-Video - filming is allowed in the parks though not outside the park
-Water proof container for their cameras
-A pair of binoculars if you are a keen bird watcher.
-If you prefer wearing a hat, a baseball cap is recommended.