Packing Tips for Gorilla Trekking

The biggest question for a Gorilla Trekking trip is … What do I bring?

While much of what you’ll want to have with you is on our safari packing list, there are some special considerations that we have included here when preparing for your gorilla trek. 

Here’s our list of what to bring and a little bit about what to expect. From there, you’ll be able to determine what is important to you to keep you comfortable.

Hiking boots
Gorilla trekking involves trekking/hiking and sometimes walking long distances in search for gorillas. Due to the nature of the forest terrain, combined with the high altitude, you need light weight hiking boots to help you trek in sometime steep and muddy environments. Be sure these boots are broken in well before your travels! Otherwise, you’ll have to deal with blisters which, quite frankly, can be such a buzz kill! If you are prone to blisters, do what you can to take preventative measures! Large bandages and well cushioned socks.

Your boots may get wet – like, the soggy kind-of-wet! Some folks will bring two pairs of hiking footwear so that while one pair dries, they can wear the other. This depends on how many treks you decide to do on your trip.

A pair of sandals when you are not trekking, are ideal.

Gaitors
When you are getting ready for your trek, you will want to tuck the end of your pants into your socks. It’s nice if you have high socks too! Trust us on this one … There are many different types of ants in the rainforest and some do bite! We know it may look a bit on the goofy side but, just do it. You will thank us later when you witness another fellow trekker having to drop their drawers because while they were mesmerized by the gorillas and then ants found their way up their pants. It is at that point where you can relate to the saying “Got ants in your pants?”! If you get some gaitors, you can cover up the slightly goofy look 😉

Gardening gloves
You will definitely appreciate having packed those pair of lightweight gardening gloves when you are on your trek! As you move through the rainforest, remember that it can get slippery and sometimes you need to hold on to some plants or trees as you go. These gloves will protect you from nettles and other items that may scratch your hands.

Rain jacket and fleece
Mountain gorillas live on the slopes in the tropical rainforest and, as such, rain is received through out the whole year. You can never tell when it is going to rain so you need a rain jacket or a fleece for this purpose. Many clients prefer travelling in the traditionally drier months of June, July, August and beginning of September. Try to avoid the rainy seasons of March, April and May. However, with global climatic changes, one needs to prepare for any eventualities no matter if you are traveling within those ‘drier’ months.

Long-sleeved shirts and full-length trousers
It is best that you wear thick, long trousers and a long sleeved top during your gorilla trek to protect you against those pesky (and sometimes vicious!) stinging nettles, plants and bush thorns. It is often cold when you set out, so start out with a sweatshirt or jerseys which also help protect against nettles. Whatever clothes you wear to go tracking will likely get very dirty as you slip and slide in the mud. So if you’ve already been on a hike … put on those already muddied clothes! You might as well!

Energy-giving snacks
Gorilla trekking can take anywhere from 30 minutes to eight or so hours, which is why a certain level of fitness is required.  

Before departing from your lodge, you are given your packed lunch and lots of drinking water as you never know what time you will return to the lodge. Stay hydrated! We always travel with re-hydrate packets to put in our water. They come in very handy!

While you will have plenty to eat in your packed lunch, you may want to bring along some of your favourite energy giving snacks from home as supplements.

Cameras and extra batteries
Photography is an important component of your safari – be sure that you have your camera ready! Charge your batteries to 100% prior to the trek and, if necessary, carry extra batteries (depending on whether you are highly enthusiastic photographer or your camera battery doesn’t hold it’s charge very well). Just know that you will end up taking a ton of photographs in the time you will have with the gorillas. It is important that you make sure you switch off your flash while taking photos of the gorillas. A water proof bag is also important to protect your camera equipment from the rain.

Pair of binoculars
Don’t forget that you are on safari and it is so nice to have clear views of wildlife that may catch your eye. Bwindi Impenetrable National park is home to over 350 birds, chimpanzees, black and white colubus monkeys among other primates, forest elephants and buffalo. If you’ll be visiting this park, you’ll want a chance to spot some of these species and the binoculars will come in handy.

Of course … A Backpack!
Because you’ll need something to put all of your gear into! Before the end of the trip, your backpack will become an appendage.

Porters for your gorilla trek
This is optional … and it depends on what you feel like doing. Gorilla trekking can be strenuous and sometime you will need someone to give you a push or a hand up along the way to the gorillas. These porters will join you for a fee however, it is totally worth it! Keep in mind that these porters are typically students either on their school holiday or, it is possible they have been chased out of school due to not being able to pay for school fees. By hiring a porter, know that you will have contributed a little to local community development and have made someone’s day a little brighter 🙂

GS Client Helps 58 Children in Zambia Attend Pre-School

Because of the Rasin-Waters family’s generous support of the GS Giving Circle, 58 children in Livingstone, Zambia – who would otherwise not have the means – will attend pre-school this year.

It was a joy to see the little ones’ gratitude during Donna Rasin-Water’s recent visit, and equally inspiring to observe how deeply Donna listens and responds to a small community’s needs.

Thank you Donna and the whole Rasin-Waters family!

 

Ah-Maaa-Zing! Primate Adventure in Uganda & Rwanda

Ah-Maaa-Zing!

We must have said, “Ah-Maaa-Zing!” 300 times. There was something around each bend to excite us, and the special moments we shared with gorillas and chimpanzees – moving through their activities with them – captured our souls.
 
I can’t remember being so excited in anticipation of a tour – I could hardly sleep the night before! When I joined two of our lovely clients on a Global Sojourns “primate-focused trip” in Uganda and Rwanda, I expected thrills. But I had no idea just how enthralled I would be by the countryside (especially in Uganda) and by our adventures.

These included:

  • Going in search of tree climbing lions (and finding them)
  • Exploring the shores of the Kazinga Channel in a private boat – taking in elephants, hippos, buffalo, antelope, wondrous birds, rustic fishing villages, and more
  • Absorbing breath-taking views and landscapes
  • Sharing the rhythm of life alongside gorillas and chimps.

We chose to participate in the habituation programs for both the gorillas and chimps.  This differs from the regular one hour treks that are most commonly done (both require permits).  
 
To say it was an experience of a lifetime, would be an understatement! The habituation programs allowed us to spend few hours in their midst- an experience simply beyond words.  
 
Gorillas were the highlight of our trip.  My first glimpse of the silverback moving through the dense mountain forest was electrifying, and something I will always carry with me. As you can see from our photos, we were accepted by the majestic beasts and at times they approached us within inches.

Following the chimpanzees was also deeply moving.  We lucked upon the Alpha chimp early in our trek, and followed him as he ventured through his morning in the forest, calling out to his mates, beating his chest, pounding tree trunks, feeding, contemplating, and grooming. It was pure joy when he allowed us to tag along.

These experiences were such a privilege. I was so taken by them, and by the warm and welcoming people of Uganda, that I am returning next year.  And you are invited to come along!  Join us or have us design a customized primate adventure for you.
 

My “on the go”… office!

Hopefully you can leave your work at home when you go on travel adventures but, for those who can’t, we recommend this practical and hardy, yet lightweight bag: Eagle Creek’s Straight Up Business Brief RFID.

With different sections for electronics, paperwork, and travel accessories, it keeps items organized and provides padding where it’s needed without bulk. It can be carried over the shoulder, as a backpack or strapped onto a wheeled bag.

I’ve dragged it to many countries on many an adventure, through all kinds of conditions and terrain. It’s done a great job protecting my electronics and it holds up great.  

 

10 Cool Things to Do in 28 Hours in Franschhoek in Winter

A taste of the many things on offer in the winelands!

1) Visit the art gallery and wine cellars at Glen Carlou

2) Visit local potter, Nico Liebenberg, at his workshop

3) Enjoy a fantastic lunch at Babel

4) Roam the gardens at Babylonstoren then climb “the mountain” for terrific views

5) Olive and wine tasting at La Bourgogne

6) Beer tasting at Tuk Tuk microbrewery

7) Shop for art in town and at Grand Provence

8) Hike one of our favorite trails at Mont Rochelle

9) Wine tasting at Rupert & Rothschild

and top it off with…

10) Cheese tasting at Dalewood Cheese Farm

Then back in Cape Town for sunset!

Great Luggage for Safaris

The perfect solution to those light aircraft luggage restrictions

Load Hauler Expandable

If your safari includes traveling between camps in light aircraft, you’ll need to use luggage that works within the airlines’ requirements.  The luggage compartments of these planes are limited in space and thus the need to have soft sided luggage. While some of the companies will let us get by with our beloved 22″ bags with 3 soft sides, most require that the bags be soft-sided all around and no wheels.  When wheels aren’t allowed, I’ve found Eagle Creek’s Load Hauler to be the perfect solution.  It offers the space of a duffel while providing the option of carrying it as backpack which lightens the load while traveling through airports.

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Summer Vibe in Cape Town

Start planning your escape to Cape Town next winter! While its cold and snowy here, what’s better than to be in one of the coolest cities in the world. Cape Town simply oozes a great summer vibe, with tons of energy, outdoor cafes, breathtaking sunsets, gorgeous coastlines, invigorating hiking, great shopping, trendy restaurants, open air concerts, wineries, and festivals!

A few of our favorite things to do in and around Cape Town in the summer:

  • Hiking up and around the top of Table Mountain – views in all directions – and staying up there for the sunset!
  • Having a picnic and jammin” with the crowd in a gorgeous setting at one of the summer concerts at Kirstenbosch Gardens
  • Enjoying drinks at one of the vibey bars with ocean views (a current personal favorite is WAFU in Mouille Point)
  • Dining with sand, candelabras, the ocean and movies playing in the old lobster shed and an all around relaxed and funky atmosphere at the Grand Cafe & Beach Granger
  • Enjoying South African wine… in the the winelands, at the beach, outdoor cafes, nice restaurants, on picnics….
  • Riding in the Cape Argus Cycling Tour (the world’s largest individually timed bike race) with its spectacular views
  • Visiting GS Giving Circle supported projects, the townships and meeting locals with James and his team at Uthando

 

Whether you visit for two days or two weeks, Cape Town offers an unending supply of culture and diversity. No visit to South Africa should miss Cape Town! Check out this slideshow for a glimpse of all there is to see and do in Cape Town.

3 Tips To Make Your Long Haul Flights More Comfortable

Thanks to years of traveling back and forth from the states to Africa and other special places around the world, Priscilla has three simple yet extremely useful tips to make your long haul flights more comfortable. They are:

1. Get a great seat:

  • If there is an option for Economy Plus on the long haul, we feel it is worth it for the extra cost. You won’t have significantly more space, however, you won’t feel so lost in the masses as you are further forward in the plane with a bit more attention paid to you.
  • As soon as you make your reservation, try to get your seat assignment. SeatGuru can be a big help with this. We find a few rows behind bulkhead to be best. If you are traveling alone, try for the aisle seat in the middle section of the plane. Oftentimes, this increases the chances that the seat next to you will be empty and thus you can essentially stretch out in two seats.

2. Have an inflatable neck pillow:

  • These are easy to buy online or in the airport. The advantage to the inflatable neck pillow is that, once deflated, you can easily store it in your luggage taking up virtually no space. It makes a big difference in providing neck support when you relax or sleep on the flight.

3. Wax Ear Plugs and Noise Reduction headphones:

  • We recommend the wax earplugs for when you want to sleep and not watch any entertainment.
  • Noise reduction headphones are for entertainment (listening to music, watching the inflight movies, etc). We always have both. It has been found that one of the biggest impacts on jet lag is the noise from the plane. Trying to reduce that can make a big difference in how you feel upon arrival.

Check out these leading headphones for sleeping.
 

Hands On Fun Experience at the Eziko Cooking School!

One of the most rewarding things to do when traveling is to get insight into the local culture, and we find there is no better way to do this is than with an interactive experience with locals. Even better is when this experience helps support the local community! The Eziko cooking school in Langa (Cape Town) offers visitors such a unique opportunity.

  • Eziko (a Xhosa word meaning “at the hearth”) was established by a former Langa high school teacher who recognized a need in his community
  • The school teaches young adults cooking skills so they will be able to find employment and create their own businesses in the future
  • Visitors not only visit but get a cooking lesson in traditional African “home” cuisine and then enjoy the fruits of their labor! Hands on access to such foods and food preparation is very difficult for outsiders and this experience provides a very unique opportunity for cultural exchange and insight

 
Priscilla and several Global Sojourns clients experienced a cooking class at Eziko’s under the watchful eye of specialty guide Pam McOnie, one of our favorite local foodies and wine experts. They loved the hands on interaction! Pam was instrumental in helping to create the cooking classes available to visitors at Eziko. It’s a very interesting story actually. We highly recommend you visit Pam’s website to read more about it.

Our client, Karen Johnson, sums up the experience best:

“What a great way to end our trip! having an authentic experience of cooking and eating traditional foods was one of my favorite activities of the trip. Pam was so knowledgeable about the township and Eziko’s effect on local youth. Victor, founder of the school, gave us some fascinating history about hearth rituals along with samples of some special offerings. Then there was Victor’s mom, Mama Lindy, a remarkable person and wonderful instructor, who helped us to understand foods of the traditional hearth while we prepared a truly delicious meal. Long live samp and beans!”

Magical Elephant Experience on the Chobe River


Imagine these massive, proud elephants (the old and their babies) humbled by an inescapable daily need for tons of food; and a deep, crocodile infested river between them and their food source. Add to this the loving nature of them crossing, single file, together, with large bulls in front and submerged calves in back with only their trunks showing above the water. Finally, paint the picture with elephant greys, dark blue water/sky, snow-white clouds and a setting sun. Together you have a magical experience that after 30 years of watching elephants (probably in the thousands) I’ve never experienced. So I asked for my own boat to go out to the wading elephants so that I could just be near them, hear them, smell them and experience this wonderfully special moment which I’ll never forget.

-Peter Macy