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Trip report. Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania with EASTCO.

O'Connell, Australia
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Trip report. Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania with EASTCO.

We (myself, my husband and our two daughters in their twenties) arrived home to Australia a few weeks ago after a month long trip in Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania. We organised our trip through EASTCO who are based in Arusha as we had found Simon to be very responsive to our emails and understanding of exactly what we wanted.

Our itinerary was as follows:

Day 1: Met at airport in Nairobi and transferred to Milele Hotel (adequate).

Day 2: Transfer to airport. Flight to Kigali. Met by our guide from Mapendano Tours who did the Rwandan part of our journey. Visited the Genocide Museum, this is a harrowing and sobering experience but well worth doing. Drove around Kigali, which seems to be a beautiful and well cared for city. It is interesting that plastic bags are banned in Rwanda. We then had a beautiful drive to Ruhengeri. Overnight at La Palme Hotel (clean, comfortable, friendly, fairly basic but fine).

Day 3: Gorillas! We trekked to the Agashya group. Probably walked for about an hour and a half to the gorillas. The walk was beautiful and not difficult. The gorillas were awesome, amazing, beyond words. We spent much of our allotted time only a few metres from the silverback. We stayed with them for an hour, and yes that hour goes all too quickly. We had an impromptu attendance at a wedding reception in the afternoon! Visit to markets. Overnight La Palme.

Day 4: Border crossing to Uganda at Cyanika. Met our driver and cook from Eastco (Ezekiel and Michael) who we were to be with for the next three weeks. Drove to Queen Elizabeth NP. This drive was spectacular, green and fertile and very steep and terraced with a backdrop of volcanoes. Then down into the Western Rift. Game drive. Camped overlooking Kazinga Channel, beautiful spot. Great place to camp.

Day 5: Game drive, lovely lazy lunch and siesta in the sun at campsite watching birds, mongooses and butterflies, as well as hippos and elephants in the distance over the channel. Boat trip on channel (many, many hippos, as well as elephants, buffalo, crocodiles and heaps of birds). Camped again in QENP. (Lion and hippo outside tent.)

Day 6: Game drive in the morning, enjoyed watching a family of elephants. Drove to Kibale NP via Fort Portal, crossing the Equator en route. Camped at Kibale NP. Heaps of beautiful butterflies. Fireflies. Monkeys. Lovely camping spot in a clearing in the forest.

Day 7: Chimp trekking (fantastic). Walked around the Bigodi Wetland in the afternoon, a very hot walk but interesting. Especially enjoyed seeing Colobus monkeys in a flame tree. Camped at Kibale NP again.

Day 8: Drove to Lake Nabugabo, another interesting drive with lots to watch along the way. Overnight in a little circular cottage at the Nabugabo Holiday Centre on the shores of this pretty lake. (Very friendly, comfortable, basic).

Day 9: A morning paddle on the lake in dugouts and a swim (Lake Nabugabo has no bilharzia and is safe for swimming) then on to Bukoba. Enjoyed singing Auld Lang Syne with the immigration officials on the Tanzanian side of the border crossing! Spent an enjoyable afternoon at Bukoba sitting in the sun by the lake shore drinking beer. Overnight at Bukoba Hotel (Rather unfriendly, terrible food, not too clean, but we survived).

Day 10: Long but interesting drive through pouring rain to Mwanza. Caught a ferry at Busisi. The four of us and Michael walked on board with many, many people, while Ezekiel drove the Land Rover on. Overnight at Tilapia Hotel. (Nice hotel, coffee shop with average coffee but very good chocolate cake, swimming pool, great view of lake and rocky shore line, wireless internet, food ok.)

Day 11: Drove to Speke Bay Lodge in time for lunch. Spent a relaxing afternoon at the Lodge enjoying the lake shore. Speke Bay Lodge is a great place to stay, beautiful thatched bungalows overlooking the lake. Everything is very tasteful and the food is delicious.

Day 12: (Christmas Day) After breakfast we did an early canoe trip to a fishing village. When we got to the village we had a quick walk to the fish market, a great experience. Unfortunately, because we had such a big day ahead, we had to have a fairly quick visit.

Ezekiel and Michael picked us up and we headed to the Serengeti. We entered at Ndabaka Gate, drove through the Western Corridor to Seronera and then to Naabi Hill Gate and on to the camping site. The drive was awesome. We saw so many animals, including leopard and a baby elephant playing with another in a pool, watched nonchalantly by a hippo. The day culminated in driving through the migration close to our camp! It was just on dusk when we arrived at the camp but we had had the best Christmas day ever! Overnight at Eastco’s private full service camp, for next three nights. (A magical place to stay, nestled under a kopje with expansive views.)

Day 13: All day game drive around Ndutu _ awesome. Migration, wild dogs, mating lions………..

Day 14: Game drive in the morning (more lions and a cheetah with two cubs), and a visit to Oldupai Gorge, including a little tour into the gorge, in the afternoon.

Day 15: Ngorongoro Crater – game drive in the crater, so many animals! Overnight at Serena Lodge. (Large and fairly impersonal but nice to have a little bit of luxury. Bar and dining room have amazing view over the crater. Wifi in the bar.)

Day 16: We got a doctor to come to the lodge this morning as our daughter had been vomiting off and on for a couple of weeks (started before we got to Africa)

And we felt it was a good opportunity while we were at the Serena to take advantage of their medical service. The doctor came and gave her the required medicines. We were amazed to find there was no charge.

Did a walk around the crater rim for a couple of hours, beautiful walking and amazing views down into the crater.

Because we had been delayed by the doctor’s visit, we had lunch at Serena and didn’t have time to visit Lake Manyara NP but drove straight to OlTukai Manyara, Eastco’s property on the eastern side of the lake. They have two brand new bandas; we were the first to stay in one and the second to stay in the other. Prior to these bandas being built the accommodation was in it permanent tents, which are still there. The bandas are beautiful, each is a large freestanding building with very high thatched roofs, netting walls and a concrete floor. At the back is a room built of stone which houses a shower, toilet and washbasin. The water is heated by a fire being lit under a boiler outside in the mornings and kept stoked during the days. Unfortunately while the water in our shower was hot it only came out in a trickle, in the girls’ shower the water came out well but wasn’t warm……only teething problems I’m sure. The dining area is another building built in the same style as the bandas only much larger. There is no electricity but you can charge things using their solar arrangement. We sat around the fire chatting to the Maasai boys who work there and trying to learn some Maa.

Day 17: At Ol Tukai. Went for a walk with a couple of the young Maasai; we were walking on the flat lakebed and it was very hot and not all that interesting. After lunch we walked with them to their village (we had been going to drive but there had been heavy rain and the risk of getting bogged was too high). We had great fun walking there through ankle deep water and sliding in the mud. The village visit was a highlight. Stayed another night at Ol Tukai.

Day 18: We were a little anxious about how we would get the Land Rover out today without getting bogged (vehicles were bogging everywhere). Thanks to Ezekiel’s superb driving and the help of a young Maasai who directed us we made it, dropping him off when we reached dry ground. From here it is very close to the main entrance gate for Tarangire.

Spent the day doing a game drive in Tarangire…..elephants everywhere, magic.

Left Tarangire and drove to Naitolia Camp (another Eastco property). It is quite a similar set up to Ol Tukai, a large thatched mess area and large thatched bandas with screen walls. Only this time the toilet and bucket shower are outside and very tastefully done….with great views.

Day 19: At Naitolia. We had been going to walk to the Sand River and camp overnight but because of the unseasonably wet weather we couldn’t. However, we walked to Sunset Hill and return (about 12 km) enjoying the baobab trees and signs of wildlife. Very hot by the time we got back, had showers “baridi please” and spent the afternoon playing cards. Went for a nighttime game drive and enjoyed watching the spring hares which reminded us so much of kangaroos.

Day 20: We drove back to Sunset Rock and then walked to the Sand River. Enjoyed walking along the river looking at all the footprints. Walked back to the car and then drove on to Boundary Hill Lodge (also owned by Eastco).

Boundary Hill is amazing, the rooms are built into the cliffs and are all connected with formed rock paths. Our room had a great view over miles and miles of land, and a bath on the verandah overlooking it all. That afternoon as we sat on the girls’ verandah watching a huge storm came through; I have never seen rain so heavy fall for so long, it was awesome.

Day 21: At Boundary Hill. Went for a walk in the morning, visited a Maasai village in the afternoon, did a night game drive. Good day.

Day 22: Spent the day in game driving in Tarangire (love those elephants!) then drove to Babati. Had been going to camp but again because of the rain we changed our plans and stayed at the White Rose Lodge. (Extraordinarily friendly, clean though basic, nice tables to sit at in the courtyard where you can have a beer….”Would you like your beer warm or cold please?”)

Day 23: Went canoeing on the lake and watched hippos. Enjoyed walking around the market stalls and shops in Babati; the girls were looking for fabric and bought lots of beautiful fabrics very cheaply. Drove to Arusha. Ezekiel took us to meet Simon at his house where we had a coffee. It was nice to put a face to the person we had been emailing for almost a year! Stayed at the Outpost. (Comfortable, hot showers, pool, wifi, pretty good food.)

Day 24: Arusha NP. Ezekiel picked us up from the Outpost and we spent the day in Arusha NP. We really enjoyed the park, it has such a diversity of landscapes, from savannah, to montane forest, to lakes. Saw heaps of Colobus and other monkeys, flamingoes as well as the usual suspects. We have a picture of my husband when he was five looking out over Ngurdoto Crater and replicated it on this visit 50 years later!

We very sadly farewelled Ezekiel. He had been a fantastic driver and guide. Nothing was too much trouble for him; he was even happy sitting in the shops in Babati while the girls spent hours looking at fabric! He was excellent at spotting wildlife and was a safe and steady driver and was always totally reliable.

Overnight at the Outpost.

Day 25: In Arusha. Day of shopping (enjoyed the Maasai Markets and had an excellent lunch at Stigbucks next to Shoprite), organizing luggage, washing etc. Overnight at the Outpost.

Days 26 to 28: Flew to Zanzibar on a little ZanAir plane….good fun. Met at airport and transferred to Pongwe Beach Hotel where we spent a very relaxed few days. Enjoyed the magnificent scenery, lay in hammocks, swam, read, ate fine food and drank cheap cocktails. “A holiday from the holiday” as one of our daughters called it.

Day 29: Transferred to Zanzibar Coffee House in Stone Town, doing a spice tour on the way. Walked around the town. Very, very hot and humid. We met a fellow down by the water who managed to find a beautiful old dhow for us to go for a sail in. (There were plenty of motor boats to hire but we wanted to sail.) We had a lovely sail on this amazing boat and watched the sun set over the water. A fitting end to a remarkable holiday.

Day 30: Transfer to the airport. Precision Air flight to Dar es Salaam……and then on to Emirates and home.

Our trip was amazing. Africa has got under our skin and we are already planning our next trip…..and yes we will use Simon and Eastco again.

A link to 229 of the 9000 odd photos that we took is: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mmcroft/

Isle of Man, United...
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1. Re: Trip report. Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania with EASTCO.

Nice report.Thanks for sharing with us.

Next trip take more time in Uganda.

Loved the pictures. Nice sighting of Wild Dogs.

Chicago
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2. Re: Trip report. Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania with EASTCO.

Great photos, the people as well as the animals. The rainbow shot is spectacular.

Ottawa, Canada
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3. Re: Trip report. Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania with EASTCO.

Thanks for sharing your report and photos. You have some talented folks in your family. Beautiful. Loved the before and now shots of Marcus. Your Dec 26 looked like it really was an awesome day.

I am looking at a Uganda / Tanz trip next. Would you tell me why you did gorillas in Rwanda instead of Bwindi in Uganda?

Thanks again.

Canada
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4. Re: Trip report. Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania with EASTCO.

Great report. Loved your pictures.

North Coast, N...
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5. Re: Trip report. Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania with EASTCO.

Very good report and beautiful photos:)

O'Connell, Australia
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6. Re: Trip report. Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania with EASTCO.

Quiltingmama

I can't remember now our rationale for choosing Rwanda over Bwindi. In retrospect though I'm glad we did because we really loved Rwanda. The people were extraordinarily friendly; we were astonished by how clean and well cared for everything looked; it has given us some knowledge of a country about which we knew virtually nothing apart from the genocide and the scenery was amazing. We're keen to return to Rwanda for a longer visit.

Also, I guess, if you fly into Kigali it is only a short (and beautiful) drive to Ruhengeri (near where the gorilla trekking starts) on a good road. From Ruhengeri it's a very short drive to Cyanika and Uganda and the drive from there to QENP (while quite long) was jaw droppingly beautiful.

But as I said that is all in retrospect. I can't remember why we made that decision originally!!

melbourne
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7. Re: Trip report. Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania with EASTCO.

loved the report and pictures.

I especially liked the photo of the landrover and trailor-bought back fond memories as I did a lot of trips in a similiar way.

Great shot of wild dogs-lucky.

Thanks for the pictures of Ol Tukai -what I did notice was that there were no flies around the faces of the children.

You visited some not very popular locations well done.

One question: How was the canoe trip at Babati? Can you elaborate-safe-fun- worth doing?

Perth, Australia
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8. Re: Trip report. Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania with EASTCO.

What an awesome trip. Lovely to see Ezekials smiling face again, he was one of our guides last year. I still dream of sitting on that balcony at Boundary Hill.

Lancaster
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9. Re: Trip report. Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania with EASTCO.

Awesome trip report and stunning photographs. I was amazed at the water buffalo and hippo picture, I didn't know they are happy to be so close to one another. Loved the wild dogs and last but not least the gorillas, wow!!

North Coast, N...
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10. Re: Trip report. Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania with EASTCO.

Seeing the Mountain Gorillas should be on everybody's bucket list... Truly an amazing experience. I did two treks last year and would go back in a heartbeat - except the bank manager might have a heart attack!!