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Four Days in Uganda in July/Aug - Itinerary Input Requested

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Four Days in Uganda in July/Aug - Itinerary Input Requested

After reading through the reviews and forum posts for tour operator recommendations, I've booked a seven day Uganda/Rwanda gorilla/chimp safari (with budget accommodations) through Katona Tours. Although I said they could advertise and perhaps find someone to join me to lower my cost, it is at the moment a private tour, which gives me quite a bit of control over how I spend my time. I'm pretty happy with the itinerary, but as written it's really focused on getting me to and from the three big events (chimp tracking in Kibale, gorilla trek in Bwindi, gorilla trek in Rwanda). Totally understandable! But since it's just me (so far), I'd like to figure out how to actively occupy my downtime.

From everything I've read about Katona, I expect my driver and guide will be lovely people who are open to my suggestions and will make suggestions to me in turn... but I'd rather be safe than sorry. I've hired plenty of drivers/guides in the past who just wanted to take me from Point A to Point B, and only the fact that I'd done plenty of research in advance made it possible for me to insist that no, seriously, we absolutely were going to stop at [site] along the way. Can't insist on seeing what you don't know exists, after all!

I do plan to talk to Katona Tours directly about how much leeway I have in determining my departure/arrival times and other ways I might augment the trip, but first I thought I'd see if anyone has input on how to spend the hours I have free so I can make some reasonable alternative suggestions if I don't like Katona's usual built-in stopping points.

Here is the schedule as written:

Day 1: Pick up from guest house in Kampala, drive to Kibale NP. Lunch at Fort Portal, overnight at Primate Lodge or Kibale Forest Camp, evening Bigodi cultural walk.

Day 2: Morning chimpanzee tracking, 2-4 hours in the forest. Overnight at same lodging.

Day 3: Drive to Bwindi via Queen Elisabeth/Ishasha sector, overnight at Kisoro Guest House.

Day 4: 8am gorilla trek, overnight at Kisoro Guest House

(Days 5-7 I'm in Rwanda, so I won't clutter up the Uganda forum with those details.)

So here's a general idea of what I'm trying to figure out for each day:

Day 1 seems to be between 5-7 hours of driving. At Fort Portal, I plan to ask to stop at the Rubona Basket Weavers shop Any recommendations on other places to stop along the way? I wouldn't think I have time to do something as involved as a tea or vanilla plantation visit, sadly.

Day 2 seems to be empty from noon onward, possibly even earlier depending on how quickly my group finds its assigned chimp group. I'm really not much of a "sit around the lodge and relax" person, and since I've opted for budget accommodations, it's not like I'm passing up the opportunity to relax in luxury anyway! Suggestions on how to occupy the time? I don't mind paying to hire a guide for local hiking trails or paying a fuel supplement to have my driver take me somewhere outside the park, whatever is necessary to avoid twiddling my thumbs and reading my Kindle for hours on end.

Day 3 seems to be approximately 6 hours of driving if we're taking the route through Queen Elizabeth NP. Suggestions on stopping points or for activities that could be realistically added to the drive?

Day 4 seems to be empty from as early as 10:30am to as late as 2pm, again depending on how long it takes to reach my assigned gorilla group. As with day two, I'd love suggestions on how to occupy the afternoon and early evening.

Again, I do plan to ask Katona Tours directly about what they usually do for this itinerary, but I always like to get an outside perspective as well so I can say, "Well, as lovely as a two hour restaurant lunch sounds, I'd rather eat a sandwich in the car while driving and instead visit [place] along the way."

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Isle of Man, United...
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1. Re: Four Days in Uganda in July/Aug - Itinerary Input Requested

Welcome to Uganda Wylerford,

You will love this country I am sure.The people make it what it is.

First may I say that you, as the payng client, will have total control over stops and visits. Katona will accept this and brief the driver. Having said that there are obvious exceptions, such as a schedule to get you to the next place in good time. a driver will aim to get you places before the gates close etc., or to avoid driving after dark.

But generally you will be in control. If this turns out not to be the case get on your TO and speak firmly.

Now to the matter of avoiding burning out that Kindle. (My money is that you won't even switch it on after getting off the plane!)

Day 1. About four hours to FP so lunch may be a bit late and this will impinge on the Bigodi walk. Save that til Day 2. visit the Basket weavers and then head out to your camp which is an hour away.

Day 2. Now the Bigodi walk is this afternoon unless you splurge on the full day ChimpExperience. Bigodi ladies also have various projects you could visit. AVOID Pastor John's orphanage. He is a crook!

If lodging at Kibale Forest Camp there are several walks around the grounds you can do. Lots of Monkey and bird life. Just ask at the camp.

Day 3 is a long day. Lots to see and excellent scenery. You may even see Lions and Elephants around Ishasha. NOt sure why you are lodging in Kisoro. check this. Where are your allocated Gorillas? This is important.

Day 4 rolls over from Day 3 in that the location of the Gorilla group will largely govern this. NO way will you be 'free' by 10.30. You may well be only too happy to crawl back for a late lunch and snooze/shower.

Come back to us when you know which gorilla group so we can judge this day more accurately.

5-7 we can guess. Drive to Kinigi. Hang around. Next day trek Gorillas, Hang around , maybe visit Golden Monkeys. Day 7 Airport and back to TZ.

Waiting for more detail.

Edited: 4:50 am, April 25, 2013
New York City, New...
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2. Re: Four Days in Uganda in July/Aug - Itinerary Input Requested

Thanks for the help, Mfuwe!

I am excited about this mini-visit, although it's a little bittersweet as I was originally planning to spend the entire month of June in Uganda before a family issue forced me to change my plans. I hope to be back next year for a much longer chunk of time. Still, four days is better than no days!

Based on your comments, I've emailed Katona to ask for more info about lodging on Days 3 and 4 and the assigned gorilla group. I'll report back what I learn.

I also decided to try to get a CHEX permit for Day 2. For some reason I had the idea that it wasn't available at this time of year (too much skimming, to little reading for content probably). If that comes through, I'll see if we can't leave Kampala earlier so I can fit in the Bigodi walk on Day 1. I'll definitely pass on Pastor John's orphanage; I avoid orphanages in general, unless visiting for research or work-related reasons, so that's no hardship.

As for my level of control over day-to-day minutae, yeah, I have zero reason to expect any problems. I've just found it advantageous to do my research in terms of what might be available to see/do, if only because sometimes my priorities are different from what the driver and/or guide expects. Since this is a very common off-the-shelf tour option, I figured it would behoove me to dig a little deeper and see if there are some fun and interesting additions that can be easily incorporated. In Cappadocia a guide I hired for a day wanted to take me to two underground cities because that's what most of his tourists wanted to see, but I was able to explain I would rather see potato storage caves; in Kazakhstan a guide wanted to take me to a lake to go swimming, but I wanted him to stop at a village where I could see kumis being made.

I've rarely had pushback to my requests, but there have been way too many times I didn't research thoroughly, didn't know to ask about something, and only found out later what I missed. When I was in Bolivia last year I missed out on visiting the lithium plant in Llipi because I didn't realize we'd be driving right past the cut-off road until we were going past, and that's not the sort of stop that can be made on the spur of the moment, both in terms of time management (it was almost sunset) and accessibility (probably requires government permission, which is time consuming and requires advance networking).

Isle of Man, United...
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3. Re: Four Days in Uganda in July/Aug - Itinerary Input Requested

As you say 4 days is better than none at all. You will love the CHEX, most folks do. I have not done it as to be honest I am not really that fond of Chimps. (although I thought Galen was cute.) Gorillas for me every time.

Let me know when you hear about the location of the Gorillas.

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4. Re: Four Days in Uganda in July/Aug - Itinerary Input Requested

I finally got the remaining details for this trip sorted.

Lodging for Days 1 and 2 will be at Kibale Forest Camp.

CHEX pass has been procured for Day 2.

Lodging for Days 3 and 4 will be at Nkuringo campsite.

My pass is to visit the Nkuringo group.

So far, I really can't say enough good things about Jackie at Katona Tours. She's easily one of the most responsive people I've ever encountered in the tourism industry. Every email has been answered within 24 hours, which is just fantastic. I mean, this morning I finally heard back from a hotel in Italy I first emailed two months ago. Thanks a lot for nothing there, buddy. That kind of response lag wouldn't fly on Jackie's watch!

5. Re: Four Days in Uganda in July/Aug - Itinerary Input Requested

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