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Travel OTA’s stunning Kenya to Kigali Safari Adventure

Travel OTA’s stunning Kenya to Kigali Safari Adventure

Departing every November, adventure travellers have the opportunity to visit spectacular Maasai Mara in Kenya, track mountain gorillas in Uganda and soak up the Rwandan vibe in Kigali.  Lake Naivasha and the Maasai Mara Game Reserve are the Kenyan highlights, while the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, home to the endangered mountain gorillas, completes the wildlife-viewing trio.

Kenya to Kigali Adventure OTA Kenya Safaris www.ota-responsibletravel.com

OTA is leading the twenty-day Kenya to Kigali Adventure from 3rd to 23rd November 2015, beginning in Nairobi, Kenya and finishing in Kigali, Rwanda.  The highlights of the trip include experiencing the wildlife of the Maasai Mara and tracking the mountain gorillas.  Travelling in a comfortable safari van with pop-up roof fit for photography, game viewing and touring, this is a camping trip accompanied by an experienced English-speaking driver/guide and a cook.  The price is US$3985 per person with space for only six people.  You are invited to contact Francis and Tracey at OTA via email (tracey@ota-responsibletravel.com) for more information and to place your booking.

Tom Koerkemeier experienced the tour in 2012 and said: “I felt totally safe and comfortable with Tracey and Francis around. On the other hand there was never the feeling to stay in any kind of tourist-bubble in which you cannot get in contact with locals, their way of living or their culture. It was just the perfect mixture between culture, wildlife, adventure and relaxing.”

Kenya to Kigali Adventure OTA Kenya Safaris www.ota-responsibletravel.com

This Kenya to Kigali Adventure gives travellers the opportunity to experience the local culture and engage with community development organisations as well as view the amazing wildlife and spectacular natural scenery of East Africa.  Whether a single, couple, small group, expat living in East Africa or a holiday-maker this tour is for travellers seeking a bit more than a standard safari.  It is an opportunity to step outside your comfort zone, take a much-needed break, and meet like-minded travellers.  Visit www.ota-responsibletravel.com or www.facebook.com/ OverlandTravelAdventures where you can sign up to the tour on the Events page.

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Trekking Magnificent Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi

Trekking Magnificent Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi

Long sleeves and long trousers: check.  Sturdy walking boots: check.  Rain jacket: check.  Trousers tucked into socks: check.  Walking sticks: check.  And so we dived into the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest on an expedition like none we had experienced before.   We were looking for the Nkuringo family of mountain gorillas and I was bursting with excitement of seeing real live gorillas in the wild.

The night before the trek, we had travelled to a nearby village where local children had entertained us in the evening with traditional song and dance and we had walked around the village marvelling at the landscape as we were right on the edge of Bwindi Forest.  It was mountainous terrain covered in dense forest, so many shades of green that I never imagined.

Early in the morning we headed to the ranger station.  We wove around the mountain roads as breathtaking vistas presented themselves at every turn.  One of our group commented “It’s like heaven on earth” and that was it for me: Belinda Carlisle’s song plagued me for the rest of the day!

When I wasn’t being Belinda Carlisle, I had moments where I thought that this must be how David Livingstone, Henry Stanley, John Speke and all the other explorers who wandered this continent throughout the 1800s must have experienced Africa.  Of course gorillas don’t care for marked trails in the forest and so after about an hour of comfortable walking we diverted off the trail and into the forest proper.  As we beat our way through the bush, fording streams, dodging safari ants, trying not to get caught by prickly trees, and slipping through mud I was glad of the walking stick, which I have to admit I thought at first was a bit of a contrivance.

After a couple of hours the pace slowed and we realised that we were close to the gorilla family.  Our moods quietened immediately and we were led into a …. I can’t call it a clearing, but it was as much of a clearing as Bwindi would offer.  There were gorillas all around us in the trees.  We were entertained by a baby gorilla swinging from vines and generally being a pest to mum.  Then a massive silverback ambled into the view and sat under a tree approximately 15 metres away.  A younger silverback also decided to come closer to check us out.  He sat very close and looked wistfully at the sky, as if wondering if it would rain later.  And indeed it did – a brief shower just on top of us.  It was a gorilla in the tree overhead relieving itself.  A little bit gross, but how many of my friends back home could say they’ve been pee-ed on by a mountain gorilla?!Kenya to Kigali Adventure; OTA Kenya Safaris; www.ota-responsibletravel.com

There was one moment that made us all hold our breath, when the larger silverback rose from his place under the tree and walked towards the younger silverback.  We wondered if we were going to witness a fight for alpha status or if he was going to come and swat at us.  He passed by us not two metres away and the rangers told us to hold our ground; you should never run away from a gorilla.  But he paid us no mind and nor his younger counterpart, he just kept walking and disappeared into the forest.  An anti-climax sure, but these animals are big and I wasn’t keen to see them fight each other or us.

After an hour with the gorillas our time was up and we began the trek back to the ranger station full of stories about how a massive King Kong-sized gorilla had eyed us off and we were seconds away from fighting for supremacy in the tribe.  Or that the baby gorilla had almost touched us.  And so it goes when you have an incredible experience but still feel the need to talk it up.

Gorilla permits in Uganda cost US$600 per person and in Rwanda US$750.  Only six permits per gorilla family are issued each day and in Uganda there are only eight habituated families, so it is wise to book early to avoid disappointment.  The trekking times vary according to where the gorillas are on any day.  The trek I did was about four hours (two hours to the gorillas and two back) while our friends went to another family the same day and took six hours.  On the other hand, we had a group who drove back down the road a bit after the briefing at the ranger station, then walked for twenty minutes before coming across the gorillas.  It is very random and you cannot really request a short trek or a long trek – it’s up to the gorillas.  But it is such a magical experience that the hardship of the trek is over-run in your memories by being so close to these incredible animals.  If you find yourself in East Africa, it is well-worth making the journey to western Uganda and seeing the mountain gorillas.

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