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 🙂

Conservation- The Woes of Plastic Bags

Below is a picture of elephant dung that I came upon during a recent walk in the bush.  Ah, the sad woes of plastic bags in wildlife areas. The damage that plastic can cause is life threatening to animals.
 
Plastic refuse has become so common around wildlife areas. We are so encouraged by those areas/countries that have taken action to reduce it. Rwanda and Kenya now ban plastic bags from being brought into their countries! It is a step in the right direction.
 
If you would like to make a difference, please leave the plastic bags at home – pack with durable travel bags that go home with you. 

 

Favorite Travel Product- 12 oz. Thermos Cup

This goes with me on every jaunt, especially morning game drives!  A perfect travel product, its durable, the right size, spill-proof, and keep my morning tea HOT.  I love it!


 

 

Best Time To Go On Safari? Green Season Option

When’s the best time to go on safari? … Definitely the most frequently asked question when we’re designing trips.

We are of the thought that this common question has no absolute answer –  go whenever you can!  Every season has its characteristics, neither good nor bad.

In the “green season”, December through March, there is a chance of rain showers. The bush is thick, the wildlife is relaxed with an abundance of food and water. As a result, the condition of the animals themselves is very good – healthy, glowing coats. The animals are better dispersed, so your experience is more about quality than quantity. 

This beautiful season is the most popular for photographers. Birders love the many migrating birds, and everyone loves the baby antelopes.

Travelers appreciate reduced prices, and smaller crowds result in a more exclusive experience.

What resonates with you?

Enjoy these recent photos from green season in Hwange National Park.

Note: East Africa, Southern Africa, and the Western Cape all differ within seasons, and today’s changing weather patterns make conditions even less predictable. But not to worry – we take all of this into account, so you can trip the light fantastic at any time of year! 

For a deeper comparison of seasons, check out: What is the best time of the year to go on safari in Southern Africa?

Mountain Biking in Matobo Hills, Zimbabwe

In light of Matopos being mentioned as our special place in our recent newsletter, it seemed only natural to highlight the wonderful cycling opportunities there.

We cycled on the paths that locals use as they go about their daily lives and explored traditionally decorated homes that were beautiful to behold.

While at Big Cave, the bike path took us among the zebras, wildebeest and antelopes, the sound of their hooves delighted our senses as they beat a hasty retreat from us. The sound and sightings, brought us sheer joy.

The Matopos landscape lends itself perfectly to mountain biking (all levels), rocks, hills and flat areas. You will be rewarded with expansive views that are truly special!

Matobo Hills, Zimbabwe- Soulful Adventure

Cycling, hiking, and rhino tracking anyone? How about visiting traditional homes, viewing ancient rock paintings, and soaking up gorgeous views of the balancing rocks in this kopje-filled land? We’re just back and Infused with spiritual energy. What a magical place to play and refuel!

(Where to stay … )

For active adventures or just R&R, we thoroughly enjoy these Matobo Hills locations:

Amalinda: Wonderful service, plus its lovely, unique rooms are built right into the rock.

Khayelitshe House: For families and small groups of friends, there’s no better combination of kick-back informality and luxury.

Big Cave:  These homey accommodations for the budget-minded have fantastic views and trails.

Ecological Artist

Meet Shorai Matambanadzo – Conserving wildlife and empowering girls through art

I am an ecological artist. My responsibility is to make residents in a cluster of villages where I work outside Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, aware of the connection between art and conservation. One place I do this is Rise and Shine Girls Club sponsored by Global Sojourns Giving Circle.

The 35 girls in the club have grown up seeing their male relatives chop down trees, carve small animals to sell to tourists and ferry the curios to market. This tourism-based art model threatens the once-plentiful hardwood forests of Southern Africa, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. Erosion and other impacts of deforestation are made worse by the erratic climate.

For these girls, woodcarving is the only art they know. So Auntie Sfe and I are introducing sustainable art forms, with drawing, composition and photography lesson. All three can enhance awareness and sharpen observation, providing new and creative ways to see the world and its interconnections.

In 2018, we want to take the Rise and Shine girls to conservation areas, introduce other art forms, and assemble a team that will produce, if we can find a camera or two, a photo show or video documenting the impacts — both good and bad — of tourism on their villages.

Change must start with these girls. Perhaps they will be among Zimbabwe’s first generation of indigenous environmentalists or eco artists.

 

Special Experiences

“Young Explorers was a true gem – an experience our girls will never forget.”

We recently sent clients – a lovely couple with four daughters – on a Botswana Young Explorers safari. We knew this would be a great fit for their family as they expressed they wanted their daughters to be engaged, to learn but to also have fun! 

Young Explorers focuses on the whole family, offering up an incredible opportunity to discover the wonders of the African wilderness- together. Activities for children include learning to track animals, identify birds and start a fire with sticks. Families can explore the bush at their own pace, and expert guides offer parents a respite. 

Young Explorers is an exclusive experience. Only one family at a time has the use of the private, six-bed camp- including your own professional guide, personal chef, waiter, housekeeper and dedicated mokoro guides.  The guides are spectacular!  Engaging, entertaining, loving what they do and it shows.   

This is one of the most heartfelt and exciting experiences a family can have traveling together.  We love Young Explorers! 

 

 

Young Explorers was probably the highlight – just because it was so intimate and Opie was an amazing guide. Young Explorers Footsteps was a true gem – an experiences the girls will never forget. Having that experience first was really wonderful and got them to truly appreciate the wild. The elephants in camp on a daily basis definitely got everyone a bit excited.  Boris V.

Special Places

Just back from Kenya, GS traveler Cindy Krueger of Seattle give us a glimpse into this remote, dramatic place that filled her soul.

“Ah, Sarara — an oasis in the midst of the Matthews Range of northern Kenya. This stunning place, in the 850,000-acre1 Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy, has a little of everything. You can walk to the singing wells2 or up into the hills with your guide, unusual in safari country.

“Enjoying the unspoiled/authentic Samburu culture is part of the magic of Sarara, and a village visit is possible. While they are related to the Maasai, the Samburu are distinct from them.

“The watering hole beneath the camp ensures wildlife near the lodge. It is lit at night, and watching the ‘ellies drink under a starlit sky is quite the experience. Sarara has a wonderful conservation story, which is getting better every year. Don’t miss a visit to the just-licensed elephant orphanage at Reteti Elephant Sanctuary. Feeding time for the little ones is a great time to be there.

“Your hosts are warm and welcoming. The food and accommodations are wonderful. You are the only lodge in hundreds of square miles, so tranquility is guaranteed.” — Cindy Krueger, GS traveler from Seattle

1. About 1,328 square miles, or slightly larger than Rhode Island.
2. Local men sing individual songs at wells to call their cattle to drink. Each herd knows its song

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!