Gorilla Tourism Helps Rwandans Thrive

Ellen Wilson took this amazing photo of a young gorilla while traveling with Ujuzi in Rwanda.
Ellen Wilson took this amazing photo of a young gorilla while traveling with Ujuzi in Rwanda.

Do you ever wonder the effect that protecting wildlife has on local communities? On Sunday, the Guardian newspaper published an outstanding article on how Rwanda’s gorilla conservation program has benefited local residents. It profiles Console Nyirabatangana, a widow with five children who lives near Virunga National Park, where the country’s mountain gorilla families live. She used to earn less than $2 a day and struggled to feed her family one daily meal. Today, she has a three-bedroom house, a flourishing vegetable garden, and a good income. Her younger children all go to school, and her oldest daughter is now a teacher in a village near the park.

The change is thanks in large part to Rwanda’s tourism revenue-sharing program, which invests 5 percent of income from national parks in local communities.  Some of these funds go toward helping residents establish small businesses, such as beekeeping and crafting.

An article in National Geographic explained how efforts at boosting the mountain gorilla population have benefitted human health. Since many illnesses can pass between different species, doctors and veterinarians work to protect the health of all—from offering health screenings for people who come into close contact with apes to vaccinating domestic animals for rabies.

Would you like to visit the mountain gorillas and see some of the community benefits in person? Ujuzi is offering a mountain gorilla and migration safari with Zoo Atlanta gorilla specialist Jodi Carrigan in February 2015. Participants will have the opportunity to track mountain gorillas on up to three separate days—a rare treat, as most group safaris limit gorilla visits to just one day. Time is running out, so please download the full itinerary and reserve your spot right away! Contact me with any questions.

Featured Lodge: Oliver’s Camp

Olives-Camp-guest-accommodation-Tracey-Van-Wijk-HROliver’s Camp is a 10-tent luxury camp set in the grasslands of Tarangire National Park, Tanzania, just a quick drive from the park’s Boundary Gate. It offers a secluded, intimate experience of the wilds, letting travelers experience the untarnished beauty of this part of the world.

The camp has a relaxed feel, and visitors can get to know one another and the camp managers over family-style meals or during sundowners around the camp’s main stone fireplace, which offers superb views of the surrounding plains. Oliver’s staff are some of the friendliest people you will meet anywhere and always welcome you with a smile and open-hearted hospitality. In addition to daytime game drives, Oliver’s Camp offers walking safaris and night game drives, where some of the best guides in the business lead you through a corner of Africa that offers everything from herds of buffalo to forests of baobabs.

Tents are well-spaced, offering plenty of privacy, and decor is traditional English safari with a modern flair—lots of canvas and gorgeous natural woods. The tents have excellent views of the savanna. There are few things better than enjoying morning refreshments while watching the wind (and perhaps a few antelopes) tousle the tall grasses. Private outdoor showers attached to the tents are a fun way to enjoy nature, and each room has its own safe.

Come on a Camel Safari with Me

Sandi Sotis rides a camel across the Ewaso Ng'iro River in Samburu National Reserve, Kenya. Photo taken on an Ujuzi safari.
Sandi Sotis rides a camel across the Ewaso Ng’iro River in Samburu National Reserve, Kenya. Photo taken by  Kathry Overman on an Ujuzi safari.

High atop a camel’s back is a unique vantage point from which to view Africa’s most beautiful places. Sandi Sotis and Kathy Overman recently got this perspective on an Ujuzi  safari in Kenya. While staying at Samburu Intrepids, a permanent tented camp nestled in the gorgeous grasslands and riverine forests of Samburu National Reserve, they went on a camel ride led by residents of the neighboring village.

With Samburu warriors guiding their camels, they crossed the shallow Ewaso Ng’iro River (also spelled “Uaso Nyiro”) and made a short visit to the village. “The $20 ticket was certainly worth the 20 to 25 minute ride over the river to the village and back,” says Sandi. “It was one if the highlights of the vacation.”

The proceeds from the camel ride support community projects like building and maintaining the village children’s school.

Marine Safaris in Mozambique

Dominic Scaglioni_Manta Reef
Manta Reef, Mozambique. Photo by Dominic Scaglioni. Used by permission through a Creative Commons license.

I recently began offering safaris in Mozambique. I’m excited about this coastal country because it offers amazing opportunities to combine the traditional land safari with explorations of coral reefs and aquatic wildlife. The Mozambique coast and its archipelago of 27 islands boast more than 1,000 species of marine life.

A dazzling array of fish, from moray eels and stingrays to barracuda, kingfish and other pelagic gamefish can be seen while diving in tropical waters that seldom drop below 79°F. Dolphins are frequently encountered here, while humpback whales can be sighted between August and October. Leatherback, loggerhead and green turtles are often seen in the water, coming ashore to lay their eggs.

On shallower dives, you are likely to see resident reef fish such as sweetlips, pufferfish, angelfish and triggerfish. Anemones filter the waters with the resident clown fish often in sight. On deeper wall dives, you will encounter species such as humphead (Napoleon) wrasse, groupers, blacktip and whitetip reef sharks, snappers and unicorn fish.

There is plenty of exploring to do on land, as well, with whale watching from August through November and turtle tracking twice a year: from October to January, when loggerhead and leatherback turtles come ashore to lay their eggs, and again in 60 days to watch hatchlings make their way out to the ocean.

A beach safari is an excellent way to round out your African safari. Contact me for help planning your next trip!

Turtle hatchlings make their way out to sea. Photo by Jeroen Looyé. Used by permission through a Creative Commons license.


Zebras Go to Great Lengths to Migrate

Photo of Burchell's zebra
Burchell’s zebra. Photo by Ray Morris.

Africa’s most famous migration is the annual movement of 1.2 million wildebeest and 750,000 zebras from the plains of the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Masai Mara in Kenya.

But it’s longest big-animal migration, end to end, is the annual movement of thousands of Burchell’s zebras from Namibia to Botswana. Scientists recently discovered that the herd goes on a 300-mile journey in an almost straight north-to-south line each year.

Zebras migrate for water and food, so maintaining their migration routes is key to conserving the species.

Interested in watching a migration? I offer safaris in Namibia, as well as tours to Tanzania and Kenya for the Great Migration. If you have any questions, please email me!