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Excellent Safari with NatureTrack Expeditions

San Francisco...
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Excellent Safari with NatureTrack Expeditions

We wanted to go see the mountain gorillas and since we had a friend in the Peace Corps in Uganda, we decided to go there so we could visit our friend as well as our big, hairy cousins.

I had traveled to Indonesia before with a well known US based travel company but decided I'd like to leave more of my money in the local economy so I wanted to find a Uganda based tour company. I asked my friend in the Peace Corps if he had any recommendations and he sent me a list of names he had assembled from meeting tourists along the way when he traveled Uganda in his time off.

I started emailing several companies and got a prompt reply from Jane at NatureTrack. She gave me a list of email references and I contacted them. I got very good reviews and one guy even sent photos of his family's vacation. This made me feel more secure as you never really know what you're getting on the internet, right?

I told Jane what we were looking for and she suggested an itinerary for us and gave us a quote. When I compared my 15-day trip quote with NatureTrack to the advertised price with the US based tour operator I used several years ago I realised I was saving about $4000.00 for the 2 of us.

We booked our 15- day Ultimate Safari with them and I was pleased with how responsive Jane was as we made some changes to the proposed itinerary to accommodate the visit with our friend.

As it turned out, our Peace Corps friend is living in a charming little village in the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains where he works with a coffee cooperative. We even hatched an idea for future NatureTrack clients who are interested in Ugandan culture to visit this village and have some coffee tasting and a great meal of traditional African fare.

I won't rehash all the usual lodging places mentioned elsewhere in this forum but would like to point out some that we really enjoyed or that are otherwise noteworthy...The Boma guest house was a godsend to two travel-weary tourists in bad need of a bed the night we arrived as it was close to the airport and very comfortable and pleasant. We booked an additional night here to decompress before starting our safari and that was a very good idea!

We met up with the owners of NatureTrack, Margaret and Jane, for dinner the second night . ( Whoo-hoo! A woman owned business! You go, ladies! Must be why they have such good attention to detail!)

Our guide, Fred, was also there and we learned about his extensive animal background. ( He worked in the bush as a young man with people doing research on the Uganda Kob and works for a veterinarian when he isn't on safari).

So with our knowledgeable, friendly guide we set out on Safari. Turns out, Fred also is an EXCELLENT driver (the BAD news here folks, is that the roads out in the bush aren't so good and you really need someone who knows how NOT to slide the 4- wheel drive vehicle off the mountain!)

At Murchison Falls NP we took a boat ride down river and were lucky enough to spot not one but TWO shoebilled storks!!! Our game drives around the park were just wonderful, even if we had a few unwanted visitors (in the form of Tse-tse flies...don't forget your bug repellant!) No lions spotted, sadly, probably because we were just out of the rainy season and the grass was very tall.

On to the Kibale Forest NP to see the chimps where we stayed at a charming place, The Chimpanzee Forest Guest House. Absolutely LOVELY grounds, great, friendly service, homey feeling and seriously good food. Highly recommend it!

At Queen Elizabeth NP, we had a most mystical encounter with a group of elephants...our guide really knew how to approach the herds gently for maximun viewing opportunity and we got some amazing photos with the best light of the evening descending on us.

Onward to Bwindi Impenetrable NP to do 2 days of gorilla tracking. We stayed at perhaps the least luxrious lodge of the trip (known as "Trekker's Tavern") but the bonus was it was much closer to the starting point of the trekking of the Bitukura group so we did not have to get up the next day at 5:30am and drive over 2 hours to get to the gorillas like all the other folks in our group did! NOTE* It's a little chilly up in those mountains so make sure you've got a coat!

The second night there we moved to the Engagi Lodge, my favorite lodge of the whole trip because of the stunning view of the rainforest. The gorillas are known to come down near the lodge sometimes, though sadly not the 2 nights we were there. This lodge is near the starting point for the second group we tracked, the Rushegura group.

Both gorilla viewings were amazing, awesome, once- in -a -lifetime kind of experiences, worth every penny in my view. Do hire a porter to help with your backpack and push/pull you up the slick hillsides...it rained heavily on us on the way back and I was glad I had a hand to hold along with my walking stick to keep me from sliding down the hill on my backside!

We went to Lake Mburo NP next and stayed at Mantana Tented Camp (owned by the same folks who own the Engagi lodge) and it was really quite nice. Jane had them present me with a birthday cake, a thoughtful surprise as this trip was in observance of my 50th birthday!

A trip to Jinja was last and we wound down the safari on the bank of the Nile at the Nile Porch (Formerly the Black Lantern).

Great setting, nice accommodation but service in the restaurant was a litle slow.

I would not hesitate to recommend NatureTrack Expeditions to anyone considering a Ugandan Safari...I think they also go into Rwanda if you desire. We opted for deluxe accommodations but Fred told us they can design more budget friendly trips, including camping safaris. The whole trip went off without a hitch and we really appreciated the friendly, competent, efficient manner in which everything was handled.

A final note: while at Bwindi, we ran into a fellow American who had helped build the Engagi lodge where we stayed. We chatted him up and he asked us how our trip was going and what we thought of our tour company. When we told him how happy we were, he said " you should let people know about your experience because there are alot of new companies springing up that don't really know what they are doing...I see them here all the time now".

So here is a vote for NatureTrack Expeditions, excellent service and value for money, too! They are on my "Highly Recommend" List !

Isle of Man, United...
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1. Re: Excellent Safari with NatureTrack Expeditions

A very nice report so many thanks for taking the time to write it. Very Informative for everyone.

Glad you liked Trekkers Tavern despite its more modest ambience. I am sure that Julius and Moses looked after you as they are very attentive.

San Francisco...
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2. Re: Excellent Safari with NatureTrack Expeditions

Yes, Moses and Julius did indeed take care of us! The food was pretty good, too, which was impressive given their remote location! It was chilly as I said but they put hot water bottles in the bed for you!

Isle of Man, United...
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3. Re: Excellent Safari with NatureTrack Expeditions

Nice place. I stay up there quite often and no prizes for guessing why.

san francisco
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4. Re: Excellent Safari with NatureTrack Expeditions

A very nice review, indeed!

I wonder if it would be likely to be muddy like that (or maybe even rainy) when we go gorilla trekking in mid--June?

- Bill

San Francisco...
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5. Re: Excellent Safari with NatureTrack Expeditions

I am led to believe it can rain at a monent's notice at any time of year up in the mountains. It was in fact clear when we hiked in and not raining down in the village when we got back. Bring a cheap rain poncho, you'll be glad you did. ( I got one for $5.00 @ REI)

-Melissa

walnut creek
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6. Re: Excellent Safari with NatureTrack Expeditions

Thank you for the great feedback. We are looking into doing gorilla trekking trip in Rwanda or Uganda combined with a wildlife safari in So or Eastern Africa. They both seem beautiful and we are having a difficult time which one to choose. I will contact Nature Track for info. I hope you post your photos one day!

cora

Walnut Creek, CA

San Francisco...
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7. Re: Excellent Safari with NatureTrack Expeditions

Cora, I'm told that the gorillas are easier to get to in Rwanda, not as strenuous a hike as can be the case in Uganda, depending of course on which group you track and where they have decided to hang out for the day.

The first group we tracked was pretty close to the starting point...I think we walked about 45 minutes. The second group decided to make the tourists work a little harder! We hiked up a vertical (it seemed) hillside and hacked through some serious jungle-y vegetation to find them but in all honesty, that was the kind of experience I had in mind so I was in heaven. I was worried about some of the folks in my group, though, because one older couple (I think they had to at least be in their 70's) were looking mighty winded and I kept practicing how to do CPR in my head while we were hiking! With the help of some awesome porters, they got to see the gorillas and somehow got back down that very slick hillside. They were a bit muddier than the rest of us but I admired their fortitude.

I have some photos on the Kodak website and I will see if I can figure out how to put that link here (not a tech-savvy type despite living in the Bay Area!)

walnut creek
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8. Re: Excellent Safari with NatureTrack Expeditions

thank you very much fror your response. You know that you can share your oictures from Kodak Gallery by sending it to my email address. I would love to see them if you don't mind so here it is.

corametivier@yahoo.com

We live in California. Do you mind telling me where you are from?

Thanks again.

cora

Isle of Man, United...
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9. Re: Excellent Safari with NatureTrack Expeditions

Cora, Take a tip from an old man. Never ever put up your personal details on a public forum. You never know who is out there.

You should ask for your post to be deleted and then PM (personal message facility under profile.) mrdvm in San Francisco.

Entebbe, Uganda
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10. Re: Excellent Safari with NatureTrack Expeditions

Dear mardvm,

Thank you very much for the wonderful review you have posted for NatureTrack Expeditions. It is these kind of reviews that keep us going. We truly appreciate the comments and are elated you had a wonderful time with us! We will love to take you to see more of Uganda that you did not get to see. I hope all is well with you both.

Jane and Margaret