African Safaris Consultants Blog » Rwanda Fri, 11 Apr 2014 09:28:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How to choose your Safari – Part 2 Wed, 24 Aug 2011 14:55:59 +0000 Choosing the right safari

Last week I promised a few more tips on how to choose the right safari.  Last week I covered:

1.  When do you want to go?
2. Winter vs Summer?
3. Malaria Free Safaris?
4. Your budget?

With these 4 questions covered we can look at getting a little more specific about your experience.

Once you have covered the above the next thing that I would ask is what kind of vacation or safari are you looking for and who are you traveling with?
There are options out there that are more suited to families, older generations, honeymooners, adventurers, 1st time safari goers and those looking to volunteer and give something back.  So believe it or not, this is an important consideration and really helps your consultant provide you with the product best suited to you.

Although your budget might decide where you can go – it would be good for you to have an idea about this too?  There are plenty of choices out there – somewhere like East Africa with Kenya and Tanzania and of course the Gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda – has been on the safari circuit for decades.  They are awesome destinations for game viewing and they can be busy and expensive.  Botswana is going to give you an exclusive wilderness experience.  I think it has been said that there are more beds in the Cape Town Waterfront, then in the whole of Botswana!  Because of this exclusivity there is a premium cost attached to staying in this beautiful country.
South Africa has marketed itself well over the years and certainly is a destination that has something for everyone.  So if you are looking for other experiences to include with your Safari, then perhaps South Africa is the right place for you.   Of course – if you like Deserts……nothing compares to dunes and ancient paths in Namibia.

The last thing I would consider when making my safari choice is how much support these establishments are providing to the local communities and how much they are giving back to wildlife.  This is actually something that you do find often now and I think it is an important consideration.  You want to know that you are also giving back to the local people and wildlife you are seeing.

In this way we all play a small part in preserving our Earth’s amazing treasures.  I hope this has been useful.  I always value any comments or thoughts so please feel free to add yours!

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Can we do more for our wildlife? Mon, 25 Jul 2011 14:49:40 +0000 Wildlife news and conservation stories are hot in the press at the moment.  With the recent  exposure of a Rhino poaching syndicate; the talk of Elephant hunting in East Africa; the sad poisoning of the Hoaruseb pride of Lions in Namibia; the burning of illegal Ivory by Kenya’s President with a street value of $100 million; the “Serengeti Highway” debate, approved, not approved, good for some, not good for others; Botswana’s stance to ban all hunting; Gorillas being butchered – wild life concerns are endless and all demand immediate attention.  Sometimes I feel the earth is saying “enough” when we consider all the natural disasters that have occurred in the last decade.  What is our wild life saying?

Even today I read an article that the Masai Mara – one of the most famous National Parks in the world – has lost more than two thirds of its wildlife over the last three decades – that is all in my life time!  Are we able to do something?

It can be tough to be forward thinking.  To wonder what it would be like not have wildlife reserves.  To think about our kids and grandkids and what they might not see.  There are so few fighting for the rights of our animals and protecting them.  The odds against these individuals and organizations are huge….yet they are passionate and committed!

The big threats out there are drought, population pressure, tourism overdevelopment and political mismanagement.  These are all huge topics.  Africa is a continent that has been torn by war, natural disasters like flooding, famine, drought, minimal education and in many cases, wildlife that knows no borders and boundaries.

I don’t really know what the answers are.  I guess, the more we talk about things and the more we expose – made easier these days by the internet – the more people will join together in preserving our wildlife.  We have to keep remembering that every little bit counts, it doesn’t matter how insignificant we think it might be.  We have some of the most awesome wildlife attractions in the world and there are positive results that do keep shining through as the war on Rhino poaching shows:  decreased from 40 Rhinos poached in March 2011 to only 2 poached in June! So please lets all make an effort!

We need to protect and preserve!

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Neil’s close Encounter with Gorillas Mon, 30 May 2011 14:54:13 +0000 One of my colleagues Neil recently attended a friend’s wedding in Rwanda (how is that for something different!).  So while he was there, trekking with the endangered mountain Gorillas was a highlight that he could’t miss.  I sat down with him once he was back and asked him a few questions that I thought would be interesting for those thinking about a visit.

Early rainy misty morning views in Rwanda

Any tips for gear to take with you?

It doesn’t matter what season you go (high or low) you are trekking in rain forest so hiking boots are a must.  Long gaiters are also useful, not just the ankle ones, but ones that protect your entire ankle and  lower leg.  All the guides actually wear gumboots – if you have some comfy ones, they are life savers!

Was the walking tough going, do you have to be fit?

There are actually rangers monitoring the various groups of Gorillas 24/7 so they do always know where the troops are.  In other words you are not walking around aimlessly and hoping you will come across them.  You set out to a particular destination and that can either be 1 hour away or 8 hours away.  It is a “round trip” so you won’t have to walk 8 hours there and 8 hours back.  You must remember that you are walking in rainforest so the walking conditions are not easy.  Wet and thick bush – in this way, I would recommend some fitness before you go – just to help with the tough conditions.
The final thing that one doesn’t think about but that you are exposed to – is altitude.  Coming from Cape Town which is at sea level the effects of altitude took me by surprise!

They say you only have 1 hour with the Gorillas once you find them, is this true?

Yes this is correct – someone is timing you from the minute you enter their space.  The guides warn you once you have a couple of minutes left but it is literally one hour.  It goes incredibly fast and you just can’t believe it when you hear that “almost over” warning!
One interesting thing is that you can’t take anything with you  other than your camera (no flash) or video camera.  So as soon as you are close to the Gorillas, your guide stops you, you leave backpacks, sticks, water bottles, food, anything you carrying behind, and only then are you ready for your encounter .

Why do they make you leave everything behind?

The guides are very conscious of anything that the Gorillas might find threatening, or anything that might interfere with their natural habitat.  The Gorillas could see a stick for instance, as a weapon or rifle.  They may also try and take your food or water bottles.  So by not taking anything in with you the temptation for the Gorillas is not there.  The conservation efforts surrounding the endangered mountain Gorilla are huge.
The other thing the guides are very clear on is that you are not allowed within 7 meters (21 feet) of the Gorillas.  If they come into your space that is okay but you can’t encroach on theirs.

Finally – what was it like to be surrounded by these animals?

I can honestly say it was just an amazing experience.  They are so human like in their natures it is just incredible.  They are also huge – the Silverbacks especially – and one coming straight for you, your heart stops!  Despite their size they move so effortlessly up and down the trees.  And then the babies are just so funny to watch – while they still learning they are actually quite clumsy!

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Photo of the Week: Mom & Baby Fri, 27 May 2011 10:17:32 +0000 From my colleague Neil on his recent trip to Rwanda this awesome picture of a Mom and baby!  Gorillas are so human like in their nature and you can just see the love and security that a mother offers her offspring!

Mom & Baby

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Why visit the Mountain Gorilla? Wed, 25 May 2011 13:11:19 +0000 With Gorilla permits in Uganda being reduced for the low season (October, November, March & April) to $350 per permit rather than the usual $500 per permit, l thought I would tell you a bit about these wonderful animals and what it is actually like to see them, in the wild within touching distance!  One of my colleagues has recently done this trip and guarentees it is one of the most awesome experiences of his life!

The Mountain Gorilla's of Rwanda

There are 3 countries where you can find the Mountain Gorilla.  Uganda and Rwanda are the most popular for visitors, but they are also found in the DRC.  Permits for Gorilla’s have to be bought in advance, there are only a certain number issued each day, and often in peak season they’re sold out well in advance.

There are 5 Great Ape species in the world and 4 out of 5 of them live on the African continent.  These 4 are the Mountain Gorilla, Lowland Gorilla, Chimpanzee and Bonobos.

In 2010 it was estimated that there are only 790 Gorilla’s left worldwide.  They are on the critically endangered list and conservation efforts to keep them in existence are massive.  The Mountain Gorilla does not survive in captivity which is why you will never see them in a zoo.  After the Chimpanzee, Gorilla’s are our closest relatives sharing about 97.7% of our DNA.  Adult males weigh up to 180kg or 400 pounds and can have an arm span of up to 2 meters or 7 feet.

The most serious threat to these animals is man – through poaching, disease and population pressures.  By visiting and enjoying Gorilla Trekking you are helping fund conservation and community projects – all this aides local communities in understanding the value of the survival of these Great Apes.

For Neil’s visit to the Mountain Gorilla’s of Rwanda be sure to read our blog on Monday 30th of May.

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Forward thinking in Rwanda Mon, 23 May 2011 14:19:19 +0000 Rwanda has been in the news for various reasons over the past couple of decades – most famously for the mid 1990’s genocide between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes, where it is estimated that 1,000,000 people lost their lives.  For such a tiny land locked country in the middle of Africa, with such an emotional past, there are some forward thinking reforms that have emerged with regards to overcoming two of Africa and Rwanda’s biggest challenges – poverty and hunger!

Contrary to popular opinion about the causes of poverty in Rwanda, the biggest contribution to poverty has been from “environmental degradation”.  Paul Kagame has tackled this head on.  In a program called “One Cow per Household” this soft-spoken president enables every poor household to own and manage a heifer (local cattle).  Owning a heifer enables poor families to improve their living conditions by giving them access to milk and meat productions.  Erosion is also countered by improving the soil fertility using the manure of the animal.  Families that qualify for this government initiative are given a pregnant heifer which they rear, and then pass on the first female born to the next family in line.

The Ministry of Agriculture estimates that families receiving a cow escape from absolute poverty to self-sufficiency in 18 months.

The local sustainable living

Chatting to some colleagues who have recently been through Rwanda they were amazed to find some very first world ideas in progress.  For example, on arrival in Kigali Airport, anyone bringing in plastic bags had to swop them for paper bags – plastic was not allowed to be bought into the country!  All citizens of Rwanda are also actively involved in keeping their country clean.  So on the last Saturday of every month, markets, shops and businesses close down and all people help in cleaning up around them.  This involves people of all ages from all walks of life picking up litter, cleaning the streets and generally taking pride in their surroundings.

The biggest draw card this little gem holds though is of course the endangered mountain gorilla.  With permits at a premium in Rwanda, keeping the experience exclusive and the foot traffic to a minimum, the conservation efforts involved with these magnificent creatures will keep the experience alive for our future generations to enjoy.

Understanding, empathy, and co-operation visible in Rwanda

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Newborn Gorilla Twins in Rwanda Sat, 12 Feb 2011 17:52:24 +0000 Two healthy baby gorillas were born on Thursday, February 3, in the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.  This is wonderful news for tourists and conservationists. Gorillas don’t often give birth to twins and as such, this is an extremely rare occasion. As you know, the Mountain Gorilla population is under threat and female gorillas usually have one baby every four years; so this is a wonderful double whammy!  The mother, called Kabatwa, and the twins (both males) are doing well.  What names would you give to twin boy gorillas?

It is estimated that there are only 800 Mountain Gorillas left on the planet. That’s how vulnerable and endangered they are. We at African Safari Consultants have sent many happy clients to see the gorillas in Rwanda and Uganda. Client feedback is that it is a life-changing experience to be in the presence of these gentle giants (lucky Liesl in our ASC team has had the privilege). If you would like to plan a gorilla tracking trip, contact us for more info!

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Meet the ASC Team – Liesl Tue, 16 Nov 2010 18:57:57 +0000 Before discovering the wonderful world of travel, Liesl worked extensively in the event planning industry where she learned how to get things done in a pressure-filled environment.  Seeing the pivotal role  and bright future that tourism had in South Africa, Liesl decided to launch her own travel company.  It grew, merged, and is now a thriving safari consultancy, which led to her role as one of the managing partners here at African Safari Consultants. Throughout her 11-year travel career, Liesl has made it a priority to see and experience everything first-hand.  She constantly receives inspiration from the people she deals with everyday and the friends that she has made across the world.  It’s safe to say that Liesl eats, sleeps, and breathes travel.  Watch out, because she very well might pass that enthusiasm on to you!

Get to know Liesl more after the jump!

What do you enjoy most about the safari industry? Making sure that ‘Africa’ gets under people’s skin.  I love it when my clients report back after their trip saying that they have had a life-changing experience on safari in Africa.  Africa does that - it is the birthplace of all of humanity.  She draws people into her arms and intoxicates them with the richness of her scenery, aromas, sunlight and people.

Your most memorable moment on safari? I spent 2 weeks in Botswana visiting all the amazing camps in the Okavango Delta.  I went on an interactive walk with a family of elephants. I have also been gorilla trekking in the Rwandan rain forest.

Your favorite safari destination? Botswana.  For its incredibly rich wildlife and the fact that it is one of the last remaining unspoilt eco-systems on planet earth - a veritable Garden of Eden.  The sublime safari camps that are so discreetly tucked away under giant fig trees with no impact on the environment are incredible.

Your favorite animal? The elephant because it is carefree, graceful and emotional.  Oh yes, and intelligent too.

What sets ACS apart? We take what we do very personally, we are fanatical about detail, and we immerse ourselves into each safari itinerary.  Every client who travels with us gets highly personalized loving, hand held attention.

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