Posts tagged Lake Bunyonyi

Apr 12, 2011
@ 3:25 pm
5 notes

Going Ape!

Hey, hey, hey and welcome back to Lake Bunyonyi where we are mere minutes away from the gorillas. Are you excited? I know I am so let’s not waste another second with pleasantries.  As a delicate flower of the South, I don’t mean to be rude, but I know you are dying to see some gorilla action so let’s just jump right in.

silverback gorilla, Uganda

Amazing, huh?! We only had to hike for about an hour before reaching the gorillas. They run an organized operation out of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, sending trackers ahead of the groups to try to pinpoint the location of the gorillas. They have a rough idea of where they will be from their sighting the previous day, but sometimes the gorillas are in the mood to move so they may cover a lot of ground between the time the trackers left them the night before and when they find them again the next morning. We had heard that the crew that visited our gorilla family the previous day had to hike 2.5 hours to get to them so, when after only an hour, we were given the reminder about do’s and don’t’s and told to leave our bags and walking sticks and grab our cameras we were pretty fired up! Bring on the gorillas, baby!

jungle stalker

gorilla with head scar, Uganda

As we approached the gorillas we were instructed to make this low, groaning noise in our throats to identify ourselves as friends. Before the gorillas are actually even visible, we were surrounded by these guttural sounds. It’s pretty amazing, really, because you know they are nearby, but nothing prepares you for your first glimpse, which for us, began with crackling branches and leaves that finally revealed our distant cousin. My apologies in advance to the devout followers of divine intelligence, but the resemblance to humans is unmistakable.

Oh no I didn’t…

awww shiz says the gorilla

Yeah, I did. I’m sorry, but gorillas share 97% of their biological makeup with human beings.

you serious?  from the head of a gorilla

Yes, I’m serious.  

Oh, come on, we’re not that bad. 

growling gorilla

Really, you don’t have to leave…come back! 


OK, that’s better. 

upward gazing gorilla

So how about some gorilla trivia?

perplexed gorilla expression

Don’t be nervous, you can do this!

First question - how much can a fully grown silver back weigh?

flies on my butt

silver back sitting and looking above

smirking gorilla

laid back...massive silver back gorilla chillin'

Yeah, he’s a big guy. So, what do you think?

300 pounds?


dumbfounded juvenile gorilla

Yeah, I’m serious. More…

400 pounds?


oh no you didn't!!!  what this gorilla's expression is saying to me

Yes, way!


gorilla flicking the bird

Hey, where’s the love?

getting flicked off by a gorilla

Now that’s just rude…

Hahaha! This gorilla isn’t actually flicking us off. He broke his finger and it healed like this.  Evidently this is a pretty common problem for gorillas.  Poor guy! 

OK, so a fully grown mountain gorilla can grow to be 440 pounds. The mountain gorilla is the largest of the 3 species. Wow!!! Someone likes his food. Me too.  Eat up, gorilla!

chewing gorilla - razor sharp teeth

gorilla munchies

Sadly, there are only 710 mountain gorillas left in the wild and of those 700+, 340 are in Uganda. I know I’ve said this many times before throughout my travels, but I have to say it again, what a privilege to be here doing what I am doing! This is a dream come true!

silverback gorilla, Uganda

sitting gorilla, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

star gazing gorilla, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

curious gorilla, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda

There was a juvenile in our group that was thrilled to have the extra attention of some distant relatives. He would bust into these cute little dances and then turn around to make sure we were watching him.

juvenile gorilla

curious juvenile gorilla

Don’t worry, little dude, we’re definitely watching. Dance away, my friend. What a ham! I love it!!!

juvenile gorilla rolling in the leaves

As you can see, the gorillas had moved into one of the nearby clearings so we had some pretty spectacular, unobstructed views for a good part of our visit. I actually needed to get my buns out of the way for this guy, strutting with purpose, to the next tree.

silverback strut

We had heard that one of the gorillas in the family we were visiting was a bit of a trouble maker and liked punching tourists as a little game.

gorilla's hand

Hey, that sounds like a super fun game, gorilla, except that it’s estimated that a punch from a gorilla is 8 times stronger than a punch from a heavyweight boxer, so maybe you could play that game with someone else?

up close face shot of gorilla

Yeah, gorilla, I’m talking to you. Apparently some dude from yesterday’s group had the honor and privilege of being the recipient of a gorilla punch, and based on his description, I can say with 100% certainty that my life will be complete without this experience. Thankfully we all emerged from our trek unscathed. Phew…

snacking gorilla

silverback gorilla

curious gorilla

I know this is going to sound silly, but it really was magical to be there sharing the forest with the gorillas for this brief moment in time.  What a special and unique experience!  I cannot gush enough over these gorgeous animals.

miffed gorilla

snacking gorilla

snack time for gorilla

In an effort to not disturb the gorillas’ natural patterns and behaviors we are only allowed to be with them for an hour. That may have been the fastest hour of my life because before I knew it we were being instructed to take our final glimpses and prepare to say goodbye. Wow! This was definitely an experience of a lifetime!

We were all awestruck as we made our way back through the forest. On the way back we walked through dense forest, whacking away at the overgrowth with our walking sticks and adding to the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere. It wasn’t the easiest terrain so I’d like to give props to my walking group that was the first ascend the final, killer hill in 20 minutes. Yay for us! We’re awesome!  I’d also like to give mad props to the 68 year old, Alvena from Canada, who rocked it out! That last hill was no joke, but you took it like a champ. Woo Hoo’s all around, friends. What a day!

Before saying goodbye to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest we had a little graduation ceremony with our trackers and guides. We were instructed to clap for each person to “make the celebration more colorful.”  It was pretty fun, actually, and a great way to end our morning with the gorillas.

After 3 days it was time to say goodbye to Lake Bunyonyi and head to our next destination, Lake Mburo. This campsite was awesome with warthogs wandering around outside out tents.

This is our 3rd and final truck…hands down the best one of the lot.  Hooray!!!

warthogs, Lake Mburo, Uganda

It’s so cute how they bend their front legs while eating to get the best possible bite. I’m with you, warthog. It’s all about the best bite.

warthog knealing to eat

This is definitely the closest I have ever been to a warthog. They were pretty tolerant of humans as well, going about their business and letting you know if/when you’ve gotten a little too close for comfort, like my friend, Ross.

up in this warthog's grill

OK, it wasn’t just Ross. The truth is that Ross and I were slowly making our way towards the warthog to see just how close we could get when suddenly we found ourselves on the receiving end of a mock charge. Yikes!!!

warthog snout

up close of a warthog's eye

We’re not total idiots. We took our cue and got the heck out of there. Warthogs weren’t the only visitors to our campsite.

It turns out there were tons of hippos in the water as well.

We were told to be careful when walking around in the evening because many of the hippos took to land at night. Apparently, the tents were fine since hippos don’t really mess with human structures, but being startled by a human with a headlamp is bad news and generally results in the hippos charging. Um, I’d really like to avoid being charged by a hippo at 3 AM and since the bathroom at this camp was particularly disgusting…

I fully intended to do my business right outside the tent. Luck was on our side too because it was a full moon that night so we could easily see out of the tent to spy on any hippos that were wandering around. 

As an aside, I just have to say for the record that many of the toilets in Africa rival the toilets in Tibet, the current front runner for the most disgusting toilets during my travels.  One toilet to be particularly wary of is the toilet at the Kenya/Uganda border on the Uganda side.  I definitely recommend that you hold your breath for this one.  Even so, you may feel vomit rising up your throat while you are using this bathroom so do your business quickly and get outta there ASAP.   

Even though the toilets are revolting, the samosas are delicious, or at least I’m told they are by the peeps in my group who apparently didn’t use the aforementioned toilets and therefore still had an appetite. 

With a successful gorilla sighting in our pockets, Lotta and I decided to celebrate with a little vino.

Everyone was in a celebratory mood and wanting to spend as much time as possible together before we had to say goodbye so we spent many hours hanging around the campfire.

This is Alex, our guide, who made sure we were where we were supposed to be at the right time.  Thanks for watching our backs, Alex. 

The next morning we were up early to head to Jinja.

coconuts for sale

meat market, Uganda

Yep, we passed the Equator again.  We actually stopped here for lunch and a little time to browse the nearby shops.  There are some really good shops here so if you’re visiting I recommend building a little time into your stop for these shops.  One side is better than the other…you’ll be able to tell pretty quickly. 

street scenes, Uganda

vegetable market, Uganda

furniture for sale

Do you know which river’s source is in Jinja? It’s a famous one so give it a try…

If you said the Nile, you are correct!!!

Sadly we aren’t allowed to take any pics of the source of the Nile. I’m not sure what the penalty is for this…maybe a fine, jail time, or possibly even death…who knows, but I definitely didn’t want to find myself in a Ugandan prison so no pics for you, but here are some pics of our campsite. It was a nice one with Internet and walking distance to a nice resort with a pool and massages.

Jinja is the adrenaline capital of Uganda, but since I had already been a major adrenaline junky in Namibia and Zambia I was content to lay low. Lotta and I got massages and then busted into town to do a little shopping and enjoy a yummy lunch at Gately on the Nile.   It was just what the doctor ordered. We had a great time hanging out at this camp…well, some of us did…um…Lotta?  

Here’s Ian rocking the Celine Dion fist pump that started as a double fist bump from the heart.  You know what move I’m talking ‘bout…

Those pics were courtesy of Ross.  Thanks, Ross! 

We powered on to Eldoret, which was a super sweet campsite with a pool, complete with a slide. The water was a strange green color and about 5 degrees so I abstained from swimming, but it was still fun to just lounge by the pool.

Of course with this being our last night together we had to celebrate! Let the games begin…the following pictures are from both my camera and Ross’ camera.  Enjoy! 

Meet our delicious chef, Nick, and our careful and cautious driver, Peterson!  Thanks, guys, for a great trip! 

Say hello to some fellow North Americans, Danielle and Robin!  They’re Canadian, but I won’t hold that against them.  Kidding!!!  I heart Canadians.  Really! 


Here are some of my Aussie mates, Erin and Ian.  Apparently Ian’s jam after a couple of cocktails is to lick people’s faces.  It looks like Mr. Licky Face might be out to play tonight.  Time will tell…

And now our crew is complete with our fearless leader, Alex.  Thanks, guys! 

Poor, Brita, has a black eye after being slammed in the face with her oar during her white water rafting excursion earlier in the day.  Yikes!!!  Notice the tongue in full effect in the background…

Uh oh…

Yay!!!  We love our crew!!!

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!!!  3 cheers for my Aussie peeps.   

Holla!  Notice Lotta’s cute necklace…courtesy of our shopping day in Jinja. 

As you can see, there’s a lot of love here! 

One, two, three…crazy animal face!!!

How’s this for ambience?   

I spy with my little eye a tongue in the distance…also some very clean nostrils. 

And it’s on, friends.  The face licking has commenced.  Is Erin the only victim?  Time will tell…

I love the face licking aftermath…really, guys, what’s the problem? 

Obviously we have reached the point in the evening where we are all bananas…B-A-N-A-N-A-S.   

You know it’s a good night when peeps start to bust out the break dancing…

and splits.  Um…? 

Oh no, it appears Mr. Licky face has struck again!  I’d like to reiterate that these pics are a mix between mine and Ross’.  This is obviously from Ross’ camera.  Way to go, Ross! 

Of course no night is complete without a pyramid!!!  This is our best attempt at a late night pyramid. 

Even with all the night’s festivities we’re all about the hygiene. 

What can I say except what an amazing time!!!!  I absolutely adored my last crew in Africa and I’m sad to say goodbye, especially to my super sweet roomie, Lotta.  I have every confidence that our paths will cross again though so no worries there.  Honestly, our crew was so great and friendships were so genuine that I think I’ll be seeing many of these friends again.  How cool is that?  Super cool!!! 

Well, friends, it’s time for me to leave Africa.  It’s been an absolutely amazing 2+ months and I have adored my time here.  I must admit that I’m looking foward to a proper bed and shower and I’m really looking forward to the next week or so in Bangkok to live it up a bit in the lap of luxury.  I’ll be meeting up with my bro, Rob, in BKK within a few days of my arrival and I cannot wait.  Rob and Tiff unite…let the freakshow begin…

Asanti sana, Africa.  You have definitely captured my heart and I look forward to returning soon. 

I’ll see you soon in Thailand.  Big hugs and talk soon! 

Mar 31, 2011
@ 10:30 am
7 notes

A Warm Welcome from Uganda

Jambo from Kenya, where, sadly, it’s time to say goodbye to yet another group of travel companions. I have been with many of these friends since Cape Town so it’s definitely hard to imagine this last leg of the Africa trip without them. We said our goodbyes hurriedly in the parking lot of their Nairobi hotel so that was kind of strange, but I guess it’s better than a long and lingering goodbye.

Bye, Janet, thank you so much for making our trip so memorable and fun. Your uplifting thoughts of the day and sunny outlook made each day a pleasure…yes, even the seemingly never ending days in the truck. Enjoy your time off in Nairobi and please keep in touch. I have every confidence that our paths will cross again. Take care chief, chief, chief and I’ll see you in the not too distant future…inshallah! 

A few of us made plans to have a final farewell dinner at Carnivore, which is known for it’s tasty game. Gobble, gobble, oink, oink, moooooooooooo sister is ready to eat!!!

When we arrived we were greeted by the mouthwatering aroma of grilled meat.

grilled meat, Carnivore, Nairobi, Africa

I was salivating within seconds of my arrival, but taken aback when I looked at the menu and noticed the glaring lack of game! 

Don’t get me wrong, the options sound delicious, and I fully intend to eat my face off, but where was all of this tasty game I had been hearing about? Where were the warthogs, zebra, kudu, and springbok?  I mean, I like beef and pork as much as anyone, but bring on the game, rafikis! 

As it turns out, Kenya outlawed game somewhere around 2004 so heads up that Carnivore doesn’t include much game on the menu anymore.  We did have some ostrich meat balls that rocked my world and the beef and pork were also tantalizing so all in all I’d call this a win.  Of course we got this meat fest started on the right foot with a proper cocktail.

Whoa, the Dawa isn’t playing around. I think I grew hair on my chest after this drink. I have to say that despite the glaring lack of game, I still managed to shove my face like I was a contestant in an eating contest. Even though I didn’t really save room for dessert, I made made it work to make Tim Gunn proud. Who are we kidding? I practically licked my plate…

Sadly, it’s time for me to say goodbye to my sky diving buddies and dear friends, Rami and Line.

They are headed to India and then Thailand so there’s a chance our paths will cross again in the Land of Smiles. I certainly hope so. Bye, you two, and save travels through India. You are going to love it!

As for me, it’s back to camp and time to meet my final group of travel companions for Kenya and Uganda. I have lucked out with 2 fabulous groups so far and I have every confidence that this next group will be equally as great.

We headed back into Nairobi in the AM to meet our new crew and as luck would have it, only a few new people were actually meeting us in Nairobi so we had the new truck, the best of the entire journey, to ourselves for the first 2-3 days. I’m not going to lie, after traveling with 22 people packed to the gills, it was total luxury to only travel with about 9 companions. We each had our own seats and took great pleasure in draping ourselves over every available surface, especially the 3 of us who started in Cape Town.

I met my new tent mate, Lotta, from Sweden.  She was incredibly sweet and full of energy so I knew I’d be all set there.  Africa, part 3, here we go. 

Our first game drive in Kenya was through Lake Nakuru National Park.

zebra lips

eye of a zebra

Is that a rhino? Oh yes, I believe it is! Score!!!

Do you remember Gargamel from the Smurfs?  I totally get that visual when I look at this bird. 

Marabou Stork, AKA Undertaker Bird

Gargamel’s real name is the marabou stork, but he is also known as the undertaker bird since he is the last to arrive after a kill, picking away any remaining parts.

He’s not really a looker, is he?

marabou stork, undertaker bird

bird that looks like Gargamel from Smurfs, marabou stork

How about some more birds?  

I love the facial expression of the sitting bird.  He definitely looks wigged out. 

pelicans, mid-flight

flying pelican

Awww, it’s another adorable baby zebra. It looks like a doll, doesn’t it? So cute! How could anyone think of this little guy as a weak link? What sick and deranged people….kill, kill, kill

baby zebra

baby zebra

You’re terrible, Muriel…

Here are some more scenes from the park.

All in all, pretty wildlife light…until now!

OK, a rhino…2nd of the day and better than the 1st, and totally awesome since they are heavily endangered, but it’s still kind of hidden under a tree.  Do you happen to have anything a little better than that? 

That’s what I’m talking ‘bout! 

The rhino is extremely endangered and often difficult to see up close. As you can see, we got the major hookup here with 3 right in front of our faces. It was pretty spectacular.

up close rhino shot

rhino profile

rhino in tall grass

all up in this rhino's grill

Can you believe how close we are to these prehistoric animals? Wow!!! This is a major coup.


rhino mania

rhino eye up close

eye contact with a rhino

Amazing! As you can imagine, we were pretty fired up after these rhino sightings! We totally lucked out and happened to be at the right place at the right time. That’s what it’s all about, really, when it comes to safari. Yay for the rhinos!!! Thank you, Lake Nakuru. This was awesome!

After the game drive it was time to leave Kenya and cross into Uganda, the pearl of Africa, where we’d be meeting up with the rest of our crew. Word on the street is that we’d be at full capacity with 24 people so we took full advantage of our last few hours on the truck to stretch out and relax.

Uganda market

Uganda sunrise

girl selling bananas, Uganda

Uganda street scene

Uganda town

Uganda meat market

Uganda meat market

village, Uganda

Check it out, we’re on the Equator!!!

Equator, Uganda

Kind of awesome! I actually took a bathroom break not far from this very spot. How many times can a girl say that she went to the loo right on the Equator? For me, it’s not that many so you better believe I’m going to say it to the world right here and right now.

OK, back to the game drives. Up next…

That’s right, it’s Queen Elizabeth Park, our first game drive in Uganda. Fingers crossed we see some great stuff.

Really? That’s it? Um…I don’t know what to say except “sawa, sawa,” which means go, we’re finished here, next…” I felt kind of sorry for the new peeps on the truck who had never been on safari before because we really didn’t see much.

Coming off of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater this was pretty weak.

The veterans on the truck really couldn’t do much to hide our lack of enthusiasm, barely craning out necks to look out the window, no cameras in hand. With drool hanging from our mouths, we’d announce sawa, sawa before the truck even came to a stop, as in I know you aren’t stopping the truck for an antelope….

water buck

But it appears that, yes, we are really stopping for a water buck.  I know I must sound like a total snot face, but after 45 days in Africa, most recently in what some may call the Mecca of game drives, I just couldn‘t get fired up for another antelope type animal.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the “game” we encountered, I did my best to be patient for the new peeps who were ecstatic for every animal we saw, including the antelope type animals, remembering that I was that person, excitedly bouncing from window to window to get the best possible shot of whatever was in front of us, not that long ago.

We did cap the drive with this warthog sighting, which was pretty cool. 

After a kind of bust for a game drive, we decided to try our luck on the water with a ride down the Kazinga Channel. Queen Elizabeth National Park, take 2.

standing hippos

Check out the face on the baby hippo.  Insanely adorable! 

baby hippo with funny facial expression

skeptical hippo

buffalo kiss

eagle with its prey

baby hippo

hippo family

row o' buffalo

water buffalo

crikey!  it's a crock

These birds were making this crazy noise with their throats, which were undulating rapidly up and down as they croaked.  It looked pretty cool with thier throats moving in unison.  

I think we made the right choice with the boat ride. This is definitely the closest I have come to hippos.

baby hippo snuggling with its mom

walking hippo

Um, mom, you are getting ready to poop on my head.  Please don’t…

mom hippo pooping on baby's head

Caroline, that shot is for you! 

Aww, have you ever seen cuter buns? 

hippo butts, mom and baby

hippo family portrait

As you can see, there are tons of hippos in the water. That being the case, I don’t think I’d really want to go swimming in the water, but that’s just me.

deep thoughts

swimming children, Uganda, Queen Elizabeth Park

Obviously the locals have way more experience than me because they were whooping it up and having a grand old time in the water even with the hippos nearby. 

Uganda countryside

Like everywhere we’ve traveled in Africa, the locals were very friendly, waving to us with huge smiles and words of welcome.

a boy and his boat

Uganda woman carrying wares on her head

full belly

sitting on my boat

elephant blowing water

baby elephant

Here are some scenes from the Uganda countryside.

waving children, Uganda

Uganda countryside

Tea, glorious tea!!!

tea plantation, Uganda

tea plantation, Uganda

street scenes, Uganda

Uganda village

Could I interest you in a little meat?

slab o' meat

Uganda countryside

waving children, Uganda

Uganda countryside

At long last we have arrived at our next stop, the stunning Lake Bunyonyi.

Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda

Lake Bunyonyi would be our home for the next 3 days. It’s proximity to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest makes it a nice jump off spot for gorilla trekking. Woo Hoo!!! I have wanted to see the gorillas since I was a little girl so you can imagine how thrilled I was to finally be in Uganda, home to 340 of the mere 700 mountain gorillas left in the wild. Wow, what a privilege.

Uganda is very protective of the gorillas and places rigorous restrictions on the treks to see the gorillas, allowing only groups of 8 people to go at one time. As a result, our group was broken into 3 separate groups, traveling on 3 separate days. My group would not be trekking until the final day so I decided to spend my first day visiting a nearby pygmy village.

To get to the village we took to the water and rode in a boat for about an hour. The scenery along the way was stunning.

Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda

village, Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda

Once we reached land, we hiked for about another hour to get to the actual village.

village, Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda

drying seeds, Uganda

village life, Uganda

Uganda countryside, Lake Bunyonyi

at the Uganda/Rwanda border

We just so happened to be on the border between Uganda and Rwanda. Do you want to see Rwanda? OK, here you go.

Rwanda crops

Wow! I wish I had time to visit Rwanda, but, sadly, my days in Africa are numbered. Just one more hill to climb and we’ll be at the village.

Our first guests welcomed us at the base of the hill.

pygmy children, Uganda

pygmy child, Uganda

When we climbed the hill we were welcomed by the chief and one of the elders.

pygmy chief and elder

The pygmies welcomed us with some traditional songs and dance.

get down, get down

dance, pygmies, Uganda

clapping hands, pygmy woman

pygmy woman, Uganda

pygmy dance

pygmy children

pygmy woman, Uganda

The kids were busting some serious moves.  Adorable!  

dancing feet, child

pygmy children dancing

pygmy elder

pygmy child, Uganda

pygmy child, Uganda

pygmy child, Uganda

pygmy woman, Uganda

pygmy woman, Uganda

pygmy child, Uganda

pygmy woman, Uganda

pygmy children, Uganda

pygmy children, Uganda

dancing feet, pygmy children

pygmy child, Uganda

pgymy mother and child

pygmy child, Uganda

kanga wrapped head on pgymy child

pygmy child, Uganda

pygmy child, Uganda

I just couldn’t get enough of this little girl.  She was a dancing machine! 

dancing pygmy girl, Uganda

pygmy child, Uganda

pygmy child, Uganda

pygmy child, Uganda

baby's butt

pygmy child, Uganda

pygmy woman, Uganda

peek a boo, pgymy girl, Uganda

Wow! What an afternoon. We all felt a little conflicted about our visit to the village because it did have a bit of a human circus feeling to it, but the laughter and smiles were genuine and I felt very privileged and lucky to have been able to meet these folks. The pygmies are not allowed to own land and do not attend schools with the other kids.  They are definitely an underprivileged group and I hope that our small contribution made a difference. 

Time to head back to the boats and our camp.

uganda countryside

It appears that we’ll be taking some winged guests with us back to camp.

Our new travel companions didn’t seem very excited about their sea voyage and kicked up quite a stink from the back of the boat. They continued to express their displeasure for a few minutes, but then settled in for the hour journey.

When we returned to camp we were regaled with stories of the gorillas from our fellow travelers. Only 2 days to go until I get to see the gorillas myself. I cannot wait! Stay tuned, folks, because the gorillas are up next.

Until then, big hugs from Lake Bunyonyi and I’ll see you soon.