Walt and Aleta Chossek have been to East Africa many times for business, church work and fun. Yet an Ujuzi African Travel safari adventure in Uganda opened their eyes to even more of the endless wonders of this continent. The Chosseks had planned a 6-week trip for business and charitable work in Tanzania and Uganda when they decided to include an Ujuzi African Travel safari to their itinerary. The unique experiences provided by the Ujuzi safari gave these worldly travelers many memories to cherish after returning home.
“We got to do many things that we hadn’t done on previous safaris,” Aleta said. “The proximity to the animals was really quite wonderful.”
Highlights on their trip include a boat trip in Queen Elizabeth National Park as well as the incomparable Chimpanzee and Gorilla Treks. The Chosseks found the boat cruise and primate hikes enhanced their experience because they were able to observe the wildlife outside of the confines of a vehicle. Even in the boat, “there was less of a feeling of separation,” Aleta said.
“Just being along the shore we saw so many animals — elephants, crocodiles, hippos, Cape buffalo and all different kinds of birds,” Walt said. “We’d never seen an elephant swimming before. It was completely submerged.”
That sense of closeness was augmented during the Gorilla Trek when the Chosseks tracked the Rushegura family group at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. One gorilla ventured so close to Aleta that it actually brushed against her leg. The Chosseks, like all who visit the gorillas, had been advised to keep a distance of 7 meters from the animals at all times. “But nobody told the gorillas,” Walt said.
“The guide said, ‘that’s your rule, not the gorillas’ rule,’” Aleta said.
Walking into the chimpanzees’ natural habitat as the primates ate and socialized in the canopy was a truly unique experience for the Chosseks.
“It was like being in a documentary, but it was real and live. It wasn’t the Nature Channel. It was us, experiencing it,” Aleta said.
Ujuzi African Travel is known for attention to detail, and one of the Chosseks’ treasured memories is of Mihingo Lodge, which feeds a group of bushbabies on its grounds. Because these small, wide-eyed primates are nocturnal, “the average tourist wouldn’t get to see them,” Walt said, whereas Mihingo Lodge features night vision lights to allow guests to watch the animals. “You could see them, but it didn’t disturb them.”
The knowledgeable guides also enhanced their trip. Edward Kabagyo, a featured Ujuzi Travel Guide, was so informed about the animals and in tune with their surroundings that during their game drives, boat rides and hikes he was able to point out birds and animals the Chosseks said they wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.
But their time with their guide didn’t end with the safari. “This was the first time where we had a chance to socialize with the driver,” Walt said. “Edward was a real pleasure to be with. We learned a lot about Uganda we would not have otherwise learned.”
“He gave us a side of Uganda we don’t usually see in the media,” Aleta agreed.
To round out a lifetime of experiences, the Chosseks also left Uganda confident they had respected the habitats of the animals, and with a sense of contribution. They learned how the conservation efforts for the animals have improved health care, education and unemployment for the people in the communities they visited.
“As a tourist, you don’t really know if you’re benefiting the communities at all,” Aleta said. “But there, it’s a win-win situation.”
The Chosseks also recommended taking advantage of Ujuzi Travel’s ability to take you places you wouldn’t normally see. “The Bwindi community hospital was a really worthwhile and really gives you a sense of what the people are really like. The people are kind and warm and gracious,” Aleta said.
Being experienced African travelers, the Chosseks were impressed by the wealth of information they received.
“Anne was very good about giving us information beforehand,” Aleta said. “When we got there, we knew her ground person would give us an orientation. We thought we didn’t need an orientation, but it contributed to the feeling of being taken care of and knowing what to expect.”