Sunday, 23 August 2015

East Africa a summary - Day 1 - Day 31

Uganda and Rwanda 19 July to 18 August 2015

I have not been able to upload photographs to my blog without wifi or decent band width but will add my photographs to my blog post as soon as I can.

We had a really good time in Uganda and Rwanda with everything going to plan.  Our trip was organised by our local ground agents Avian Watch Uganda.  Everything went really well with Robert, our fantastic guide (who knew all the sites and calls and could whistle birds in) and Paul, our driver and fixer, for who nothing was too much.

I don't really know what I was expecting from our trip to Uganda and Rwanda. My headline wish list was Shoebill, Green-breasted Pitta and Mountain Gorillas.  Each of these three experiences went way beyond my expectations and alone made the trip amazing.

Much of Uganda was lush green with forests and mountains.  In places, the forests look like they will go on forever.  Other parts were covered in Savannah, which were dry and arid.  Rwanda was mountainous and 90% was cultivated because of it’s dense popular. However, when we reached national parks, they were massive and well looked after, though not necessarily the animals.

We basically started in South Central Uganda and the went east, working our way around the outer border of the country anti-clockwise.  This meant the much of the border area was with South Sudan or Democratic Republic of Congo.

We the drove from South West Uganda into North East Rwanda, driving straight to the South West before driving to the South East border, with Tanzania.

The message from both places is that tourists stopped coming 18 months ago and it is having a catastrophic effect of people.  East Africa is safe so please book trips there.

I wasn't expecting so many of the places to be cold especially as nowhere was that high, compared to the Andes.  Terran Cottages in Ruhija, on the South side of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest NP (best name ever and gives a picture of how thick this forest is) was particularly cold in the evening, but they had lovely fleece sheets and hot water bottles which made it OK.

Rwanda was a lot hotter, especially in the South East at Akagera NP.  I wasn't expecting that, especially it being much hotter during the day.

Uganda was much as you would expect: rules flouted for example 3-4 on motorbikes (plus animals) without helmets, rubbish on the roadside but not lots, in some places obvious poverty with children in old dirty raggedly clothes and no shoes, in other places children in clean school uniform, children running out to the street to wave shout hello, never any direct begging.

In contrast, Rwanda had laws that clearly had to be obeyed, there were never more than 2 people on a motorbike and both always had helmets, there was no rubbish at all on the main road, despite the heavy population.  These are obviously good achievements.

However, there are also lots of other strict laws that seem a bit much, like no music in your home after 10.00 pm and none in public places, like weddings, after midnight.  On the first morning of our first walk in the forest with a ranger, there were lots of people walking along the forest track from a village.  Two were told off for playing music on their phones without headphones (and not loudly).

I’d like to know more about the conservation efforts in Rwanda and what projects are going ahead.  I am really worried about the lack of animals in Akagera NP and the number of monkeys we saw with upper limbs lost to traps.

In Uganda, two of the National Parks are partially closed to the public but instead are open for big game hunting. I think this is wrong.  Why is is ok to shoot Buffalo but not Lion?  I think all game shooting in Africa should be banned as it sends out the wrong messages poachers and the world.  It is wring for wild animals to be killed for fun (this is NOT sport) and this must stop.

On a positive note the people in both countries were very friendly and caring.  Everywhere we went, the staff went out of their way to make sure that I had meals that I would eat.  That was a bit embarrassing really.

We also had an amazing Trip list – 585 birds for Uganda, 183 birds for Rwanda, total trip list of 612 and 292 lifers for me. 

About the Writer

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig on Scilly
Photograph taken by and copyright Chris Craig 

Mya-Rose Craig is a 13 year old young birder, conservationist, writer and speaker. She is based near Bristol and writes the successful Birdgirl Blog, with posts about birding and conservation from around the world. She is loved going Mountain Gorilla Trekking in East Africa and is looking forward to watching Penguins in Antarctica in December 2015, which will be her 7th continent. She has recently been listed with the singer songwriter George Ezra and actress Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones as one of Bristol's most influential young people. Please like her Birdgirl Facebook Page and follow her on Birdgirl Twitter

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