It’s red list announcement day today, and the Extraordinary Africa team are celebrating, as Kenya has finally been removed from the list! Needless to say, our sundowners are most definitely of the champagne variety! Safari is by its very nature a pretty socially distant sort of holiday as almost all of your time is outside -you can read here a trip report from John and Mags who travelled to Kenya with us in November.
So, if you are itching to get exploring, here’s our top recommendations for socially distant safaris in Kenya (several of them have some excellent last minute special offers too):
Walking on the wild side
In most of the camps we use the game drive vehicles are open to the elements to maximise your photography opportunities, but if you want to be totally in the open air, a walking safari is the way to go. These are beloved by safari aficionados as you experience total immersion in the bush and get a much more up-close, intense safari experience than you do from a vehicle. Standing nearby a big bull elephant is an excellent way to feel how small your place in the universe is!
Karisia Walking Safaris, run by Kerry and her husband James is easily amongst the best walking safari options in Kenya. You can walk out for a few days or weeks- with each day tailored to your interests and how energetic you are feeling. Our favourite thing to do is to use the walking safari as a transfer between two remote safari camps so you have a dose of luxury to start and finish your adventure.
Private safari houses
Kenya has always been the go-to choice for family friendly, owner-run safari lodges, and staying in a private safari house is really a natural extension of this. The whole schedule runs around you and your family, mealtimes are just for you, and if you want, you can choose to see no-one but your staff for the duration of your stay.
Some of Kenya’s safari camps are deliberately tiny, to really emphasise your sense of remoteness and escape from the outside world. So if you want privacy, but with the romance of canvas, this is the way to go. Saruni Wild for example has only 3 tents- gather your friends (or family, if you haven’t seen enough of them over the last few months) and get packing!
Take private driving transfers.
While numbers on light aircraft flights are still fairly low, chances are if you’re using them to access remote game reserves you’ll be sharing the plane with other passengers. So you can either choose to charter, or to take private transfers to your lodge or camp instead (there are a series of strict protocols our drivers use to make sure you are protected!) Some areas are just too remote to make this feasible, but Amboseli, Samburu and certain Laikipia properties can be reached in a fairly easy drive from Nairobi.
For example- the Safari Series (the newest, and most fun camp on the block in Laikipia) can be reached in under 4 hours from Nairobi, travelling mainly on tarmac roads. So you could be having sundowner drinks in Heathrow and brunch (or at the very latest, lunch) in the bush.
We can also arrange private drivers to help you reach the Masai Mara, though the roads here are a bit more of a mixed bag (we once saw a pothole big enough that it’d absorbed most of a mini-bus) so we’d pick the camps for you a bit more carefully!
If all else fails- there’s always a private flight!
Needless to say, our safari camps have some pretty serious anti-covid protocols in place- (some of the manuals we have run to multiple a4 pages of details!) Most of these are behind the scenes so you may not notice them, but you can expect things like being asked to wear masks on light aircraft flights, increased hand sanitising and separate dining when you’re staying in safari camps. Some camps may also take guest temperatures on arrival.
At the time of writing to fly to Kenya from the UK you will need to show a negative PCR test taken no more than 96 hours before travel. Children under 5 are exempt.
We’re packing our bags- want to get the ball rolling so you can pack yours?
John and Mags, two of our most experienced, and intrepid, safari-goers report back.
Our daylight flight with BA was very good, with only 70 passengers onboard. John had treated us to First Class and we had a wonderful experience.
We were a bit confused who would be meeting us… later the hotel bus turned up and the driver took us to the hotel, leaving all the BA Crew waiting as they were also staying at the hotel too ! So it all turned out fine. We had a lovely spacious, well equipped room and slept very well. (Editor’s note- this was the airport Crowne Plaza–we use it a lot for an overnight crash-out).
The next day, following an excellent breakfast at the hotel, we were met by Emmanuel, our Asilia driver/guide… Emmanuel proved to be an excellent and considerate driver, and we liked him very much for the duration of our first few days. We had opted to drive from Nairobi down to Amboseli, avoiding the inevitable gridlock of traffic crossing to Wilson Airport, and also to avoid mixing with too many other people which we thought was a great choice.
Tortillis Camp is set in a lovely location, with the main area, deck and dining area and bar set on the ridge, with views out to Mt Kilimanjaro (weather permitting – which it rarely did for us, but that’s down to luck and time of year). The highlight of Amboseli was undoubtedly the prolific game, which we had hoped for but not expected. The huge herds of elephants, including the huge Matriarchs and Bulls with their enormous tuskers were a sight to behold.
And without exception, all the animals had young at this time of year (Editor’s note- late November), which was a bonus, and a real treat. We were surprised just how many areas of water there were. Apart from the actual lake, the rainwater from Kili and the recent rainfall had created large swamp areas, which was a haven for thousands of birds and hundreds of animals. In particular we were surprised how many thousands of flamingos there were, and apparently all the ones at Lake Nakuru and Naivasha have left that area which is now badly flooded, and they were all down at Amboseli. A wonderful sight : clouds of pink.
We also very much liked the Asilia Touring style safari vehicle, and its layout, which suited us well. It was very comfortable and spacious, yet still provided excellent game viewing from the 360 degree top opening.
Our private transfer from Tortillis up to Lewa with TropicAir went very smoothly. We had a Caravan to ourselves, piloted by Ian. We arrived early at the airstrip, and the plane arrived just as we did, so we left soon after and arrived early up in Lewa, a short flight of I hour 10 minutes.
We were met by David, our driver/guide whom we both liked immediately. He wore his red Masai clothing with pride every day. His English was excellent, as were in fact all of our guides, and all were easy to understand. We LOVED our time in Lewa House and were very glad we had chosen to spent 5 nights there : thank you for the suggestion ! We loved the terrain and the variety of game. On the way from the airstrip to the House, we passed 5 rhinos wallowing by the road, with others in the near distance too. Lewa House is a beautifully appointed family home, owned by Calum and Sophie MacFarlane. Calum came to Kenya 10 years ago, but Sophie comes from Lewa and the original ranching family. They were the perfect hosts.
We had a GORGEOUS room, Room 1/Waterhole (overlooking the waterhole) which was conveniently very near the house. We had both an indoor and outdoor bathroom and a lovely private patio. We ate breakfast on the lawn, usually with the children (11 and 8) and their adorable puppy ; lunch was by the pool ; aperitifs by the log fire in the spacious lounge and dinner (set menu) usually in the adjoining dining room, at one huge table which seated 10 socially distanced. And Calum and Sophie ate with us and were excellent company.
On our Anniversary a table had been laid for us in a separate entertainment area with lights and lit Chiminea in the walls making it warm and cozy with our own waiter John who showed us proudly his “oven” to keep the food warm. We were led by torchlight down a path with lantern lights and it felt like we had gone a long way from the lodge, but the reality was we had not gone very far as we realised after the meal !
2 ponies and Jersey cows also graze contentedly on the lawn and the waterhole attracted Somali Ostrich and other game whilst there were lots of birds helping us to breakfast too ! Perfect ! I should also mention that they have a super gift shop where I bought a LOT of things ! (retail therapy fix). You can see Mt Kenya from the house and all the rooms will have had wonderful views. Wifi was only available up at the main house, not in the rooms.
The game was outstanding. We were literally tripping over rhinos (both white and black) at every turn, often close and often in small groups. Grevy zebra were plentiful too and this is one of their last strongholds. David was also an excellent driver. About the only thing we did not like particularly was the vehicle we used, which was a more traditional (and less comfortable) old Toyota Landcruiser with open top and sides, but no opening doors. Which meant you had to haul yourself up and over the sides to get in (which we managed, but as we get older, will find increasingly tricky ). It also means you cannot stand to see game.
I did go for a ride at nearby Lewa Wilderness Camp (about 20 mins away) for an hour with Miranda, a super English girl. They have 45 horses. Bizarrely though, they only cater for guests 12 stone or under (Editor’s note- apparently it’s down to the horses they have and the weight they are able to bear). But I had a wonderful hack, riding right close to eland, waterbuck and zebra. I would highly recommend this.
We were very sad to leave Lewa, and said we would love to return. With your help we chartered an Air Kenya Caravan (2 pilots) to take us to the Masai Mara to Rekero Camp, which took 1 hour 10 mins, and we saw some wonderful scenery along the way – once again just the two of us!
At the Mara, we were met by Francis, who we also liked immediately. He was a very experienced driver (which was essential when we encountered rivers he had to ford, and deeply rutted muddy roads). He was great fun too and we got on very well indeed. It was only a short 20 minute transfer to the camp, which is set on the banks of the Talek River, and has stunning views from the main deck. The staff were extremely welcoming and friendly at all times.
In the evenings, there was a campfire and they also had a small private dining area, which was delightful. We did notice some mozzies and tetsies here. The food at Rekero was excellent, thanks to Clapperton the chef and his assistant Wilson. The waitstaff were very attentive and friendly too .
We had visited the Masai Mara many many times over the past 40 years and never have I seen it so deserted, with so few tourists. Which was excellent from our point of view, as sightings were undisturbed by dozens of vehicles all crowding around a single animal, which we hate (Editor’s note: us too!). Many, if not most, of the wildlife had young which is a big draw for us travelling in November, and although we did have rain it usually came at night and only stopped us going out one afternoon. And we were astonished at the profusion of game and birdlife too and put this down partly to the location of the camp but also the lack of disturbance by other vehicles. We were extremely lucky to see cheetah with very young cubs, leopard, a lion pride also with playful cubs, to name but a few.
We took the 1615 scheduled Safarilink from the Mara back to Wilson Airport in Nairobi, (which was very late and had 10 of the seats occupied Which of course we thought of as strange !) where we were promptly met by Asilia guide Rufus, who then took 1 hr 45 mins to get across the city to the International Airport. Even he thought this was not great, but there was nothing much he could do as the traffic was completely gridlocked. We had a good supper at the Crowne Plaza hotel before our flight back to London at Midnight.
I took 7600 photos over the 14 days, which says it all. We both feel it was without doubt one of the best safari’s we have ever been on. The combination and order of the camps we stayed at worked perfectly, with differing terrain and vegetation and a huge variety of game and birdlife.
We have come home feeling wonderfully refreshed and bringing back many very special memories.
Richard first rang us on Thursday morning. 24hrs later he was on a plane to a safari in Kenya. So, if coronavirus means you can’t commit too far in advance, or you suddenly realise you need to use your airmiles, a last minute safari is very much a possibility.
How to make a last minute safari happen?
Give us as much information as you can about the essentials. If you’re dying to stay in a tented camp, have to do a sleepout, hate crowds, or have to be back at work on Monday, tell us. We’ll throw all of our resources at finding something unforgettable, and the more detail we know about what you want, the quicker we can find something amazing for you and get you onto your flight.
After the essentials are taken care of, be as flexible as you can. We know the lodges and camps that have instant availability, or last minute discounts, and the people we can rely on to come through for you at 24 hours notice. If you’re flexible, we can often find you a better trip more quickly.
Embrace the slow safari. We are huge advocates of taking time to properly immerse yourself in a safari camp. If you want a guide to show you his top secret spots, or surprise you with a magical sundowner, or take you to see a much coveted wild dog den, then you need to get to know him. And this means a longer stay in a safari camp. Not only does this get you a much better safari, it dovetails beautifully with the practicalities of a last minute safari- you’re much more likely to find space at one camp for 4 or 5 nights, than try to find 5 nights at individual camps that fit together.
If it’s peak season, be prepared to throw money at the problem. While last minute discounts do occasionally exist, particularly in shoulder or off-peak seasons, in general, the really charming good value spots are the ones that get booked up first. So late in the day, it’s often the spectacular, but slightly more expensive lodges and camps we can find space at. The downside is obvious, the upside? Well, we can be pretty sure you’ll make memories to last a lifetime.
Take care of the medical side. Aside from malaria-freesafaris in South Africa, most safari destinations are considered to be malarial. Most malaria tablets need to be taken at least a day before you arrive in a malarial area. Certain countries (or combinations of countries) require yellow fever certificates, so if you don’t have one let us know. It’ll probably mean countries like Uganda are ruled out, but there are plenty of other amazing places we can find for you.
Lastly, if you have any questions about packing at the last minute- call our office. With many years of safari experience under our belts, we can tell you what you really, really need and what’s just nice to have. If we’re honest, a sense of humour, a soft-sided bag, and an appreciation of a good sunset will do most of the job.
Once every so often, absolutely ridiculous special offers come across our desks, and this is one. You may well know that the Okavango Delta has the reputation as one of the best places in the world for safari. What you may not know is that within the Okavango Delta, some of the very best game viewing is found on Chief’s Island.
If you wish to do safari on Chief’s Island you can either stay within the public areas of the Moremi Game Reserve, and take your chances with other vehicles, or you can stay in one of two ultra high end private camps- Mombo or Chief’s Camp– both of which cost over $2,000 per person per night. In fact, at the height of peak season, Chief’s Camp costs an eyewatering $3,285 per night. And yes, that is per person.
Camp reopens on the 10th of December, and there are astonishing re-opening special offers, starting as low as $294 (£226) per person per night. If you can, go now.
The fine print: During high season (21st Dec- 3rd Jan) stays cost from £554-£443 per person per night ($720-$576ppn), otherwise the range is £376-£226 ($490-$294) per person per night. This runs until the 31st of March, and the more nights you stay, the better the per night price is.
Logistics: At the time of writing (November 2020) UK residents will still need to quarantine on return from Botswana, though we hope this will be lifted soon. As the Foreign Office still advises against travel to almost all of mainland Africa, you will need to get appropriate travel insurance. Lastly, a negative PCR test will be required prior to travelling to Botswana. Worth it? Absolutely.
We’ve been champing at the bit to have travel to Rwanda added to the UK travel corridor list for months. Rwanda has been on the EU green list since around August, but the Foreign Office have only just started recognizing the huge differences between African countries and their approach to Covid 19. Rwanda, which has had long experience in tackling Ebola, has not been messing around.
At the time of writing (November 2020) the UK remains under lockdown, however once we’re free to travel, here’s how to do it (and a picture of a gorgeous gorilla to remind you why!)
Flights to Rwanda:
While the UK quarantine rules have been lifted for travel to Rwanda, they are still in place for many of the countries you would need to travel via to get there. So the obvious option for flights would be to fly to Dubai, and connect on from there with the direct Rwandair flight. We all hope the Rwandair direct flight from London resumes soon.
What are Rwanda’s rules?
Before your board your flight to Rwanda you will need to fill out the government contract tracing form (we’ll provide you with a link in your departure information).
When arriving in Rwanda you will need to show a negative PCR test certificate taken within 120 hours of departure. The certificate needs to mention that it is a PCR test. When you arrive in Rwanda you will need to quarantine at a designated hotel for 24hrs and take another test (this costs about $60). Provided your results are negative, you are then free to continue on your adventure. Obviously, we will help sort this all out for you.
On departing from Rwanda if you are showing Covid symptoms you will also be tested (and need to show a negative result) before you are able to leave the country.
What coronavirus measures are in place in Rwanda?
Firstly, you will need to wear masks in public places.
When you go to Akagera National Park you will need to walk through a disinfection bath at the entrance, and carry hand sanitizer in your car. To allow physical distancing, numbers on game drives and boat safaris will be limited.
There’s a little known “special” in the safari world: residents’ rates. Safari companies across Africa offer heavily discounted rates for local residents, so that they get to experience the natural wonders on their doorsteps. For many these would be unaffordable otherwise, and it means that camps can fill empty beds at the last minute or during low season. Not only this, but there’s a huge conservation benefit in local residents enjoying and appreciating the animals and landscape they might not otherwise see.
We are utterly thrilled to see one of our favourite safari collections extending residents rates as a thank you to doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers. This averages out at about a 70% discount on most camps. We are all so incredibly grateful for the work they have done, and know they will need a break more than most when this is all done.
Over the border in northern Tanzania you can choose from six gorgeous camps in the Serengeti. Olakira, Kimondo and Ubuntu are seasonal camps which broadly track the movements of the Great Migration. Sayari sits in splendour in the far north of the park, Dunia- famously staffed by an all-female team- and Namiri, in a splendid spot for big cats. If you want serious style, we’d find the Highlands at the Ngorongoro Crater a tough one to beat, though the walking in this area gets us even more excited than the lodge. A short distance from such a well-known safari spot, it feels incredibly wild, authentic, and unspoilt. As a last stop in northern Tanzania, you can also stay at Oliver’s Camp in Tarangire– a particular favourite for elephant-lovers during the dry season.
The ladies of Dunia
Sunset at the Highlands
Lions near Namiri
Heading further off the beaten track into Southern Tanzania, the wild and ruggedRuaha is one of our favourite parks in all of Africa. Here you can choose between rustic Kwihalaor serious luxury at Jabali Ridge (have sampled, can confirm- very nice). Then for birding and boat safaris, not to mention an extremely civilized way of being, Roho ya Selous has a pretty location in the Selous Game Reserve.
Jabali Ridge infinity pool
And if you really hate safari (seriously, are you sure?) Matemwe Lodge and Matemwe Retreat are laid-back spots on Zanzibar, where you can cheerfully spend a week or so snoozing beside the Indian Ocean.
Retreat roof terrace
The fine print:
Travel before May 2021.
Valid for any nationality with proof of work ID card showing name/job description – e.g. doctors, nurses, paramedics, elderly care home workers, pharmacists, ambulance drivers etc.
Discount valid for one partner or friend sharing a room.
Children aged 5-18 travelling with healthcare workers will be charged resident’s child rates.
Flights, park fees and other government fees charged as normal.
Postponements due to Covid-19 will be possible within the same rules as the company’s Covid-19 policy, with the only additional requirement to not rebook new postponed dates in high or peak season if new dates fall after 1 June 2021, due to the level of discount applied on this offer.
COSTS- all of our trips are completely tailor-made, so there are no fixed prices or fixed packages. However, to give you a general ballpark figure to start from, a 4 night safari at Mara Bush Homes plus 4 nights on Zanzibar costs from around £9,000 for a family of 4 using the special offer, excluding international flights. This would cost about £14,000-£17,500 normally.
10 days on safari in Northern Tanzania using the special would cost around £4,600 per adult excluding international flights.
A week’s safari in Southern Tanzania using the special offer costs from around £2,800 per adult excluding international flights. Normal price would be £5,200-£6,900 per person.
CHILDREN most of these camps have a lower age limit of 5, except for the Mara Bush Homes, the ultra luxury private villa at Jabali Ridge, and the private house on the beach at Matemwe which are totally private and have no lower age limit. As parents ourselves, we think we’d be very unlikely to take children much under 3 on safari.
After a few weeks of jet-setting in the southern hemisphere we finally pinned down Clare, our South Africa guru, to get her insider recommendations on her favourite country in Africa.
Why do you love South Africa? Or do you? We can’t just assume….
There’s so much to do here from the city buzz to rolling valleys, rugged coastline and safari, and they’re all spectacular. Being a true foodie, wine lover, and outdoor enthusiast (with admittedly, a distinct love of the odd bit of R&R) South Africa truly ticks all of the boxes, and much, much more.
What’s your favourite part of visiting SA?
I’d really have to say the people. Everyone was so incredibly warm and welcoming wherever I went. Some of my friends and family were sceptical about my travel to this part of the world having read some less than glowing news articles, but I couldn’t have been more swayed by the charm of South Africans. Absolutely nothing is too much for them to organise, and they really will go out their way to make visitors feel completely at home – utter bliss when you’re travelling solo and ready for a good natter!
We’re yet to meet anyone who doesn’t love Cape Town, but where’s your favourite place to stay?
Arriving in Cape Town after an 18 hour flight, I couldn’t have been more excited to sink into my large and seriously inviting bed at the Cape Grace. It’s on the bustling Waterfront (albeit tucked away enough to still be peaceful) and is the ideal spot to head out for an evening stroll and dinner at one of the nearby seafood restaurants. The day beds in the spa are the perfect place to read a good book and take in the glorious views up to Table Mountain. For something a bit livelier I’d probably head down to the hotel’s Bascule Bar for a cocktail, or try to choose from one of their 400 whiskies.
Top tip: every evening the Cape Grace offers complimentary wine tasting hosted by one of the hugely informative sommeliers – it’s a great way to meet other guests and to swot up on your wine facts.
If you had to give a personal recommendation for family trips to South Africa, where would you suggest?
If you’re headed to the Winelands then Boschendal caters for even the fussiest family member. There’s a wonderful farm school where children are looked after by qualified childminders and taught all about foraging, outdoor cooking and upcycling – maybe even enough to teach the parents a trick or two! Each child receives their pair of wellies and hat, ready to explore the greater countryside. For the more active, there are mountain bike and hiking trails galore as well as horse riding and plenty of farm tours. If you’re craving some adult time, ask for a babysitter and sample some of the seriously good food in their fine-dining restaurant, the Werf.
Top Tip: If you’re there on a Friday during the summer, be sure to check out the evening market.
Where’s your secret hotspot that no-one really knows about?
Morukuru Beach Lodge is one of those gems that you don’t want to shout too much about for fear of it being fully booked for evermore. The drive there isn’t for the faint hearted but boy is it worth it! Spend the day doing nature drives (in a safari vehicle with heated seats no less!) and ocean walks along the beach, before arriving back to warming hot chocolates laced with Amarula. Afterwards enjoy drinks and delicious food with your fellow guests, all whilst lapping up the most incredible sea views. I was too busy watching the whales out the window to eat my breakfast – I think I counted 8 at one time, incredible!
Top Tip: Take an early morning stroll over the sand dunes and you will more than likely find the place to yourself to really appreciate the stunning views.
This is a hotly debated topic at Extraordinary Africa HQ, but where would you choose to go for safari?
Tanda Tula. Set in the Timbavati Nature Reserve on the edge of Kruger, it epitomises the rustic safari camp vibe. All rooms here are tented but seriously well kitted out. There’s something rather romantic (with possibly some nervousness mixed in) about lying in bed, looking straight out of your tent and knowing that any form of wildlife could quite happily wander up to within a few feet of where you’re lying. Rest assured though, the wonderful staff here will ensure that your nerves are kept well under control!
Top tip: Keep your eyes peeled for the elusive white lion, known to be seen from time to time in the Timbavati
As an outdoors lover, where would you go for an active adventure?
Set just outside Plettenberg Bay, Hog Hollow is the perfect place for lovers of the outdoors. The huge rooms here are perched amongst the trees with large decks offering sweeping views over the valley. There are a wealth of activities to choose from whilst staying at Hog Hollow; hikes for even the most serious of walkers, adventure playgrounds for the younger members of the family, various animal sanctuaries to visit, horse riding (which Hog Hollow are well known for), or for those wanting to put their feet up, a quiet day on the beach. And the best bit after a busy day of exploring is to curl up by the warming fire pit for a sundowner with your fellow guests.
Top tip: There’s a great walk down the valley and up the other side (not for the faint hearted!) to Birds of Eden or the Monkey Sanctuary and once you’re finished, you can ask for a complimentary lift back to save those weary feet.
If you were sending a friend on honeymoon to South Africa, where would you recommend for romance?
For a serious dose of romance, I couldn’t help but fall in love with Dulini River Lodge. Sleeping just twelve guests in six suites, this is the perfect place to escape the rat race and indulge in some well-earned R&R. Each suite is vast, with the sort of bed you could easily get lost in. The shower and bath make the most of the wonderful views out to the river bed, and on warm days there’s a hugely inviting (heated) plunge pool out on deck where I happily spent a few minutes lapping up the peaceful surroundings while watching a herd of elephants slowly walking past. There was so much love in the air that one of the other guests assumed the manager, who had kindly offered to eat with me, must have been my newlywed husband…
Top tip: Do try their ChocaMocharula (hot chocolate, coffee, amarula) mix as a sundowner on a chilly game drive, it certainly warms those cockles.
You’re known in the EA office for your love of good food: where would you recommend to fellow foodies?
The winelands (and Cape Town for that matter) are renowned for seriously good food, and drink. So picking one is an arduous task, however, Babylonstoren is just one of those places that oozes foodie charm in the bucket loads. There’s a serious ethos here encompassing ‘from nature to plate’, and nearly everything found on the menu in the various restaurants, and for sale in the farm shop, comes direct from the farm. Not only is the main restaurant here (Babel) award winning and with utterly scrummy food, their harvest tables at breakfast are also a true work of art. If you’re lucky enough to be staying here in one of their charming cottages, we’d highly recommend scouting out some goodies in the farm shop to take back to your private state of the art kitchen via the chefs in the main restaurant who will more than happily provide you with some top notch cooking tips. If you’re after a bit of an Italian twist, do be sure to head to the bakery on a Monday or Friday for their Italian inspired homemade pasta and wood-fired pizzas. After all that eating, walk it off with an informative tour of the farm grounds to see exactly where all their delicious food originates from, followed by a warming glass of red in the tasting room…
Top tip: If you’re looking for somewhere to propose, there’s an island in the middle of the lake which is called the “yes spot”, and staff will do everything to make it magical.
Though they may, technically, be animals, it turns out that gorillas have every bit as complicated social rules as we do. Obviously, no-one wants to visit somewhere new and not fit in with the locals, so we’ve put together our very own gorilla trekking etiquette guide to help you get the most out of your adventure.
When you first meet the gorillas your guide will normally advise you to crouch down behind him, in such a position that the alpha male can see you clearly. This is a submissive and unthreatening position and shows you aren’t trying to challenge his authority. The silverback is the big boss, and we’ll all do well to remember it!
Try to keep your distance. Young gorillas are irredeemably curious and may try to come close, or even touch you. However, please try to move away slowly and keep space between you and them as you really don’t want the dominant male to see you as a threat to his family- a gorilla charge is nothing short of terrifying. Getting too close is also a major health risk for the gorillas- they share 98% of our DNA so can easily pick up the smallest human bug. Ideally the distance between you and the gorillas should be 7 metres, though with sudden gorilla movements and dense forest this isn’t always possible.
Also to protect the gorillas, you should steer clear of eating or drinking within 200 metres of the gorillas. If gorillas learn to be interested in the contents of your day bag there’s potential for serious safety problems for trekkers. On top of this, human food isn’t necessarily ideal for gorillas, and is an easy way for them to pick up human illnesses.
Avoid showing your teeth (this includes broad smiles) or making direct eye contact with a gorilla as these can be seen as an being quite aggressive.
Keep noise to a minimum- sudden movements or loud noises can startle the gorillas. Your hour with them is so precious you don’t want to scare them away!
Make sure to learn how to use your camera before you head into the forest. Any flash photography, noises or whirs could startle your subjects and electronic noises are a surefire way to ruin the magic of the forest.
And there it is- a guide to gorilla trekking etiquette that should leave you well set up for a magical hour in the forests of Uganda or Rwanda.
So sorry for not getting back to you sooner – we have had a hectic time since returning from honeymoon – we have a new member of our family who we picked up the day after returning from Tanzania, Barney the puppy! He is an adorable bundle of energy who is keeping us busy!
Our trip was amazing!!! We had the best time ever and saw all the big 5 (the rhinos were in the distance but our guide assured us it was a rhino and not a water buffalo!). On our first afternoon in Tarangire we saw a lion stalk and kill an adult zebra which was exciting (although a little moving when she didn’t have a tight enough grip on the zebra to kill it!). We were also lucky enough to see two river crossings in the northern Serengeti after spending 3-4 hours on our first afternoon there watching the wildebeest walk to the river bank and peer over the side, but not daring to make the jump. We took some amazing photos and our guide even showed us a trick of taking photos with our phones through the binoculars!
All the staff at the camps were lovely and friendly and we loved Kati Kati camp. We heard lions and leopards near our tents at night and we woke up to zebras eating their breakfast as the sun was rising. Eddie our guide was fantastic, so knowledgeable and it felt like we spent a week with David Attenborough teaching us about all the animals.
Zanzibar was a stark contrast to the safari and it took us a while to get used to relaxing and doing nothing. Breezes was a lovely hotel and we went snorkeling nearby which was fantastic – the best snorkeling and range of fish we have ever seen!
We are glad that we now have Barney to keep us busy as it has reduced our post-honeymoon blues.Thank you so much for all your help making it a trip of a lifetime and we can’t wait to go back and do it all again!
We interviewed the wonderful Cathbert Cosmas who has been a porter on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania for the past eight years. Porters do the most incredible job of ferrying climbers’ food and equipment up the mountain while expertly guiding the group, helping set up camp each night, and cooking hearty meals to boost you up the next part of the climb. Often, a porter’s job can be incredibly tough and you will come across porters up the mountain wearing just flip flops, surviving on very little food and water, and with a distinct lack of decent clothing or sleeping equipment often working for very little or no money at all. In order to combat these difficult working conditions, KPAP (Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project) are working hard to improve conditions for the porters and we are very proud to be working alongside KPAP ensuring that the porters we use enjoy fair working conditions, pay and treatment.
Read on to find out more about this physically taxing yet hugely rewarding job as well as hearing more about the wonders of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro – maybe it’ll even inspire you to include a trip to Kili on your next trip to Africa!
How did you start out as a porter?
Actually there is no any training involved for a person to become a porter. I actually found it as a job and started as a porter without any training.
What are your favourite parts of your job?
My favourite part is to see animals in the wild but also interacting with other co-workers sharing some experiences and to do the best of my job as a porter. Also mixing up with different people with different stories.
What sort of wildlife do you normally see during a Kili climb?
Blue monkey – Primate concentration are highest in the clouded forest at the base of the mountain.
Colobus Monkey – These beautiful monkey have a distinctive black and white colouring with a long bushy tail.
Birdlife – Malachite Sunbird, these stunningly beautiful birds have a distinctive bright metallic green colouring and small scarlet patch on their chest and can often been seen hooking their long beaks into giant lobelias to extract the nector. Mountain Buzzards, Crowned Eagles and rare Lamergeyer Giant Vulture.
Large Mammals – this include Buffaloes
Four-striped Grass Mouse.
NOTE: The further up the mountain you go, the less wildlife there is.
Have you had any close calls with wildlife?
No. I had never come across with such situation on the mountain. But sometimes i actually hear stories from some of my co-workers.
What are the challenges of your job?
This depend on your experience but the main challenge will be the altitude and lack of oxygen and how you personally adapt to these changes. The most challenges of my job include the following:
Lack of sleep in sometimes in different camps, experience rain, huge wind, cold all in one week, extreme altitude above 5500m/18044 feet, high UV level from the sun.
Which is your favourite mountain to climb and why?
Mt. Kilimanjaro is my favourite mountain to climb. This is because it’s situated in my home country of which I like to promote tourism in my country. Secondly it possesses good environmental attraction together with unique species found only in such mountain.
What do you enjoy doing on your days off?
I do enjoy making interaction with some of my neighbours and friends changing ideas and some experience of life from each other, also reading novels and having some body exercise at home.
How do you ensure responsible tourism for your Kili climbs?
> Through making optimal use of environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development.
> Through maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity.
> Also through respecting socio-cultural authenticity of host communities, conserve their built and living cultural heritage and traditional values and contribute to inter-cultural understanding and tolerance. Because tourism is the socio interaction of different people and communities.
With huge thanks for Cathbert Cosmas for taking the time to give us an insight into his working life.