Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Lazy Days at Ishasha

You know cats climb trees, but did you know there are some lions who actually live in them? One of two places in the world where you can see them is at Ishasha in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Ishasha Camp is a rustic destination but the sight of those 400-pound felines draped over the spreading branches of a fig tree makes a little “roughing it” completely worthwhile.

Ishasha Camp offers ten East African Meru style tents on the banks of the Ntungwe river. These aren’t pup tents, though. Each has a private bath and dressing area, eco-friendly toilet, and hot water “bush” shower, which isn’t as primitive as it sounds. Twin beds are standard, but the staff will gladly put two together at your request.

The nightly rate is $190 per person inclusive of all meals, drinks, and laundry. Guided game drives and community visits can be arranged. Ishasha Airstrip, served by charter flights, is just a few minutes from camp.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Gorilla Trek

Trekking among the 320 endangered mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (a World Heritage Site) is not easy, it’s certainly not cheap, but it will provide memories for a lifetime. Looking into the gentle eyes of a gorilla mother nursing her baby is a transcendental experience.

Mountain gorilla treks can take up to six hours and involve strenuous hikes up muddy mountainsides through the rainforest—-or they can be a ten minute stroll up the road, depending on where the gorillas decide to spend the day. You go in a small group (no more than The nightly rate is $322 per person inclusive of all meals, drinks, and laundry. Guide fees and permits are not included. Kayonza airstrip, served by charter flights, is forty minutes away.six visitors) accompanied by rangers and porters and are allowed to spend an hour with the people-habituated gorillas once the scout guides find them. The permit costs $500 per person per day (it’s suggested you book two days since there is no guarantee you’ll find the gorillas!), but they sell out months in advance, so make your reservation early. Your fees are what make preservation of the nearly-extinct gorillas possible, which helps ease the blow to your bank account.

You can also hire a guide to take you through a nearby village to visit a traditional healer who sells a herbal version of Viagra, a woman who makes banana gin (you gotta try it to believe it), and a settlement of the Batwa, commonly known as pygmies, who put on a cheerful exhibition of traditional songs and dances. They’re delighted when you join in the fun.

Gorilla Forest Camp makes an excellent base for your experience. Your cabin (one of only eight on the property) is a secluded permanent tent with a huge attached bathroom and 24-hour valet service. Honeymooners receive special treatment like hot bubble baths strewn with flower petals and surrounded by scented candles waiting for them when they come back from their day tracking gorillas in the mountains. A special honeymoon surprise (don’t tell anybody!) is dinner for two cooked on site in a secret location by a dedicated chef and served by a personal butler.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Grace Epitomized at Nkwali

Giraffes may be the most graceful animals on earth. As you watch them amble through the bush looking for tasty leaves high in the acacia trees, it’s easy to forget your cares and let their serenity carry you away. You'll see plenty of them at Nkwali Camp, which is directly across the river from South Luangwa National Park, home to the unique Thorneycroft’s giraffe.

Nkwali GiraffeA typical day at Nkwali begins with a light breakfast served around the campfire, followed by a game walk or drive with a guide and armed ranger among a huge population of elephant, buffalo, lion, impala, bushbuck, eland, and more bird species than you can count. Then you’ll take a mid-morning break for tea, coffee, and cake toted along by your porter, perhaps while you watch the hippos cavort in a scenic lagoon. You’ll return to camp for lunch, a swim, and a siesta before afternoon tea, then back to the trail for an evening drive to see wildlife you’ll only find at night. I’ll always remember my first leopard sighting—she had paused to drink from the river under a full moon and was reflected perfectly in the black water.

Nkwali Camp only accommodates 12 guests. The cool, spacious chalets are woven bamboo and thatch. For a real treat, ask for the honeymoon suite, which is extra large with a sitting room, bath, and king bed. The bar at the camp is built around an enormous ebony tree and the separate dining area overlooks a small lagoon that often attracts elephants and bushbuck. Visits to a nearby village and school can also be arranged.

The nightly rate is $550 per person inclusive of all meals, drinks, laundry, activities, and airport transfers. Mfuwe Airport is 45 minutes away.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the