Saturday, April 26, 2014

Gorilla Tracking in Uganda and Rwanda What to bring



Gorilla Tracking Rwanda What to bring | Gorilla Tracking Requirements

Gorilla Tracking takes place in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda at altitudes of about 2000 Meters above sea level.   Both places experience a modified equatorial climate, which is kind of moist and often cooler.  The grounds are usually wet and the paths are full of stinging plants-nettles.  Besides, the rains are random.  In this regard all prospective trackers are asked to bring the following
  • Long trousers/ pants- to avoid stinging nettles please do not wear short parks when tracking gorillas.  The trousers must be strong enough to withstand occasional pulls from thorns.
  • Long sleeved shirts/ t-shirts.  To avoid stinging nettles
  • Gloves- not such a big necessity but you may need them to avoid injury to your hands.  Remember the grounds are wet and slippery.  To avoid injury from thorny bushes and objects on ground.
  • Hiking boots- Please bring average waterproof sturdy walking boots reaching ankle level not mountain climbing boots. Something light and hardy will do.
  • Warm cardigan- the hills can get extremely cold.  A warm cardigan is required to keep off cold.
  • Long sleeved Rain Coat or anorak -it can rain anytime in Volcanoes National Park even on hot days.  The downpours are heavy and extremely cold.
  • Water proof container for your cameras.  Yes I know there are waterproof cameras but even them to be sure just put them in a waterproof container.  When you are slipping and falling in muddy grounds you do not want your precious photos damaged or do you?
  • If you desire headgear (hats), a baseball cap is recommended as gorillas are familiar to them.
  • Enough water- minimum of 2 litres of drinking water to avoid dehydration.  Carry four just in case the hike proofs longer than expected.  Sometimes it can be 8 hours.
  • Film Camera- A film camera for domestic use is recommended.
  • A camera
  • If you are interested in birds, you can bring Field guide to birds of East Africa by Fanshawe and a pair of binoculars.

Uganda and Rwanda Introductory Travel Tips
Guide:
Our guide(s) is thorough English speaking professional guide and navigates all through.
Meals:
Most of the breakfast served in Ugandan Hotels is English breakfast. Lunch and Dinner in some hotels are based on set menu but most hotels meals are on Ale carte. All hotels included in the Itinerary offer traditional/cultural music shows on request.

Hotels:
We have talked about all the hotels used and their description in the Itinerary: However,   not all hotels have Bathtub but you will find clean warm shower facilities Ensuite.   Some  lodges offer Air conditioned rooms while other haven’t. However Uganda climate is renowned for moderate temperatures which range between 18 to 28 degrees centigrade throughout the year.
Safari:
You are on Fullboard(FB)/ Half board(HB)  however this doesn’t stop you from buying anything of your interest.
Porter Service
Services are paid for or tip is given to hotel peg-boys and porters in parks who may assist in any service offered. (see details of recommended tips).

Open Close Status in General:
All public Tourism sites are open daily from 0700 in the morning to 0700 in the evening.
Seasons
We have two dry seasons a year. All Ugandan roads are good for road transportation all year round.
Dry season:  [June, July and August]; [December, January and February].  The rest of the Months fall in rainy season.  During rainy season activities drop by about 25%.
What vaccinations do I need?
A yellow fever vaccine is essential – bring your certificate with you.
Hepatitis A and B, meningitis, polio, tetanus and typhoid vaccinations are also recommended.
A Rabies vaccination is recommended for anyone who expects to be in close contact with animals or in a remote area.
Be aware that some of these require a course of injections, and others take several days to take effect. So you should visit your doctor or travel clinic as soon as possible before you travel.
Should I bring any other medications?
Anti-malarial tablets are recommended throughout Uganda – visit your local travel clinic to determine which type is best for you. Note: Chloroquine does not protect against malaria in Uganda.
Bring all prescription medications with you – they may not be readily available in Uganda.
Be sure to purchase travel insurance before you begin your trip, including medical evacuation in case of an emergency.
What Other Healthy Risks Are There?
Even if you are taking anti-malarials, you should still wear an insect repellent, long-sleeved shirts, long trousers and closed shoes. This will also help protect you from other diseases carried by mosquitoes, and other insects such as tsetse flies.
All accommodation in high-risk areas will have mosquito nets  - be sure to use them.
Avoid swimming in Uganda’s lakes – they carry a high risk of bilharzias.
Tap water is not suitable for drinking, though bottled water is readily available throughout the country.
Tips:
The question of when and when not to tip can be difficult in a foreign country. In Uganda and Rwanda, it is customary to tip your driver/guide at the end of a safari or hike, as well as a cook or porter that accompanies you. A figure if roughly $5 per day would be a fair benchmark, though check this with your safari company in advance. I see no reason why you shouldn’t give a bigger or smaller tip based on the quality of service. It is not essential to tip the guides who take you around in national parks and other reserves, but it is recommended, and the money will be greatly appreciated by the recipient.
The thing to remember is that whoever you tip in USD will not get the sum of money you intend to give. The exchange of USD is not an exact science, the rate given depends on both the age of the note and the size of the note. The newest and biggest denomination note will attract the best rate. A $1 bill will attract an absolute rubbish rate no matter how many you have. A Rwandan / Ugandan will be happy to receive a tip in whatever currency you want to use but for day to day living they prefer their local currency. If you tip them with dollars the first thing they do is go to the forex to negotiate the best rate available, either that or try and sell them to back to you.
So at the end of the day if all you have is USD or GBP or Euro then use that currency but the best option for the recipient is the local currency (Uganda Shilling or Rwandan franc).
But please please please don't do what some people do, tip using foreign coins, particularly one pound or one euro coins as they have no value at all and yes some people do it.
It is customary to tip for service in local bars and restaurants, though you may sometimes want to leave a tip (in fact, given the difficulty of finding change in Uganda), you may particularly be forced into doing this in some circumstances. A tip of 5% would be very acceptable and 10% generous. Generally any restaurant that caters primarily for tourists and to wealthy Ugandans/ Rwandese residents will automatically add a service charge to the bill, but since there’s no telling where that service charge ends up, it would be reasonable to reward good service with a cash tip.
The following is a guide to tips:
Local guides/porters in the Hotel/ parks                     US$ 05-10/porter,
Gorilla guides in the park                                                                       US$ 20-50
Chimpanzee guide in the park                                          US$ 10-30
Game drive guide in the park                                           US$ 10-30
Drivers      or Tour Guide                                                                                             US$ 25 per day
Foreign currency exchange, Using credit cards, Bargaining/ Shopping in Uganda
What is the Currency?
The Ugandan Shilling. This cannot be purchased outside the country.
How do I Exchange Cash?
US Dollars, UK Pounds and Euros are accepted by UWA for gorillas/ chimp tracking  permits and park entry fees. Many larger hotels will also accept US Dollars and Euros – though you should check in advance.
Note: All US dollars notes must be printed post-2006, and should not be damaged in any way. Higher exchange rates are given on larger value notes ($50 and $100). Banks and Forex bureaus will exchange cash, alternatively us can use ATM machines – common in the major towns. They should accept Visa Debit and Credit Cards.
Can I use Credit or Debit Cards?
Visa is more widely accepted in city hotels and stores, followed by Mastercard. Other Credit cards are unlikely to work.
Alert your bank before using you card abroad to avoid it being blocked.
Can I bargain When Shopping
Prices are fixed in shops, but food and craft markets will be more flexible. You stand a better chance of getting a reduced price if you purchase several items from the same seller.
Prices are generally very low – so do consider if what you are asking for is fair.
Agree on charges for minibuses (matatus) or motorbike taxis (boda-bodas) with your driver before hiring.
Uganda Travel Tip -Use a Visa Card for ATM machine-
Americans can use Bank of America Debit Cards at Barclay and pay no fees, you can withdraw at most banks about 190 usd in shillings 500,000 shillings- at Barclays Bank take out 400,000 reinsert card and another 400,000 - 350 360 usd depending on exchange rate given by bank.

Do not use your card at a bar where ATM machines are showing up- you will be a target of one kind or another.
What to wear and take when trekking to see the gorillas?
Put on your sturdiest walking shoes, and thick trousers and a long-sleeved top as protection against vicious stinging nettles. It’s often cold when you set out, so start off with a sweatshirt or jersey (which also help protect against nettles). The gorillas are thoroughly used to people, so it makes little difference whether you wear bright or muted colours.
Whatever clothes you wear to go tracking are likely to get very dirty as you slip and slither in the mud, so if you have pre-muddied clothes, you might as well wear them. When you are grabbing handloads of thorny vegetation, a pair of old gardening gloves are helpful. If you feel safer with a walking-stick, you will be offered a wooden one at the start of the ascent.
Carry as little as possible, ideally in a waterproof bag of some sort. During the rainy season,a poncho or raincoat might be a worthy addition to your daypack, while sunglasses and a hat are a good idea at any time of the year. You may well feel like a snack during the long hike, and should certainly carry enough drinking water - at least one litre, more to visit the Susa Group. Bottled water is sold in Ruhengeri town. Especially during the rainy season, make sure your camera gear is well protected – if your bag isn’t waterproof; seal your camera gear in a plastic bag.
Binoculars are not necessary to see the gorillas. In theory, birdwatchers want to carry binoculars, though in practice only the dedicated are likely to make use of them – the trek up to the gorillas is normally very directed and walking up the steep slopes and through the thick vegetation tends to occupy one’s eyes and mind.
If you are carrying much gear and food/water, it is advisable to hire one of the porters who hang about at the car park in the hope of work. This costs Rfr5,000 per porter. Locals have asked us to emphasize that it is not demeaning or exploitative to hire a porter to carry your daypack; on the contrary, tourists who refuse a porter for ‘ethical reasons’ are simply denying income to poor locals and making it harder for them to gain any benefit from tourism.