Thursday, March 31, 2016

Updated Arrival Requirements for Kenya related to Yellow Fever

New updates as of 23 March 2016

The Ministry of Public Health & Sanitation – Kenya has advised that passengers arriving from the following countries listed below are required to present a valid vaccination certificate against yellow fever whenever entering Kenya.

  1. Angola
  2. Benin
  3. Boliva
  4. Brazil
  5. Burkina Faso
  6. Burundi
  7. Cameroon 
  8. Central African Republic
  9. Chad
  10. Colombia 
  11. Congo
  12. Cote De’Voire
  13. Ecuador
  14. Equatorial Guinea
  15. Ethiopia
  16. French Guyana
  17. Gabon
  18. Gambia
  19. Guinea Bissau
  20. Guyana
  21. Ghana
  22. Liberia
  23. Mali
  24. Mauritania
  25. Niger
  26. Nigeria
  27. Panama
  28. Paraguay
  29. Peru
  30. Senegal
  31. Somalia
  32. Sudan
  33. Sao Tome and Principe
  34. Sierra Leone
  35. Suriname
  36. Togo
  37. Trinidad and Tobago
  38. Uganda
  39. United Republic of Tanzania
  40. Venezuela
  41. Rwanda

The above countries include all countries in the West Africa, Central and East Africa and South America.

Arriving passengers (terminating into Kenya) shall be required to hold valid Yellow fever certificates.

Passengers in transit will not be checked for compliance with the certification. However, those who are entering Kenya shall be required to hold a valid certificate of vaccination against Yellow fever.

Contact Amanda about your plans to East Africa. Booking your safari is hassle free with Amanda's guidance and expertise. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

My gorilla trekking adventure in the Virunga Mountains - Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

The Virunga Mountains are a chain of volcanoes that border northern Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This spectacular range of mountains consists of eight major volcanoes, only two being active which are both in the DR Congo. 

These mountains are home to the critically endangered Mountain Gorillas which are listed on the IUCN Red list of Endangered Species due to poaching, habitat loss and war. Located in the Virunga Mountains are three national parks; Virunga National Park in DR of Congo, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Uganda.

I am not sure my words and photos can truly express the amazing experience I had with the mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. I will try my best!

Our safari was arranged with Volcanoes Safaris, a great tour company offering high end experiences for gorilla trekking. They also own the Virunga Lodge which I thoroughly enjoyed for two evenings, before and after the "trekking day". 

Rwanda is a land locked country with Tanzania to the East, Uganda to the North, DR Congo to the West and Burundi to the South. Rwanda is know as the "land of a thousand hills". Flying into Kigali you can quickly see why! The rolling hills were breathtaking. 

The drive from Kigali to the Virunga Lodge is about 2 and a half hours, on a nice tarmac road. Rwanda is known to be the "cleanest" country in Africa and definitely lives up to that fact. I was amazed at the care and detail that the Rwandans take in maintaining the streets, properties and the many hills and valleys. Garbage did not exist! Here's a bit more about why Rwanda is such a clean country! Umuganda Program 

Speaking of hills....driving along you will see the locals working together to push their loads from harvesting to market, to shops and home. Carrying everything from potatoes to beds on the back of their bicycles and on top of their heads. I can imagine that the people of Rwanda are some of the fittest people on the African continent, after all the walking they do, up and down the big hills. 

As we approached the Virunga Lodge (I was travelling with my friend Micheline) the views became more and more beautiful. 

The lodge is situated on top of the hill over looking twin Lakes Bulera and Ruhonda. I will write a separate blog on the lodge soon!

Shortly after arriving we had lunch while taking in the splendid views of the lakes and mountains. 

I booked a massage (included in your stay) which was followed by traditional dancing, preformed by local men, women and  children who live in the neighbouring villages.

A 5am wake up call (with coffee or tea in the room), breakfast at 5:30am and we were off to the Volcanoes National Park Headquarters, the meeting point for the gorilla trekking. All trekkers gather here at 7am to meet with guides and fellow trekkers. 

Trekking groups are limited to 8 people. We were a group of 6 plus one head guide and a ranger with a rifle (due to the fact that there are also elephant and buffalo in the mountains you are trekking). Safety first! 

After meeting with our guide and being briefed on the trekking process, park rules and information about the gorilla family you are going to search for, we jumped back in our vehicle and drove a few minutes to the starting point for the trek. At this point you can hire a porter should you wish, for $10 USD. The porter is there to assist you throughout the trek and will carry your knapsack. 

We started along our trek, walking up hill through the homes and crops of the locals living in the mountains. All over Rwanda the locals make their living from the many farms and agriculture - to the very tops of the mountains and hillsides. We passed by families with children working their potato fields, cows and goats and many other crops. 

Climbing higher and higher we moved away from the locals homes and fields and made our way into the bamboo forest. We had opted for the "medium" trek. It was an adventure to say the least. 

Many parts of the trek were quite steep and a fun challenge. I enjoyed climbing through the lush and misty jungle, such a variety of beautiful trees. At one point we hiked past a massive ravine - our guide mentioned we would be going down there to look for the Hirwa family. 

After a few hours of hiking we reached the point where the Hirwa family was hiding in the thick jungle. Our tracker was communicating with the rest of his team and we waited about 45 minutes, to see if the gorillas were going to show themselves! Unfortunately they were sitting to high up on the side of the mountain for us to reach them. It was too dangerous to attempt to climb to the gorilla family because of many loose rocks and it was extremely steep. 

Thankfully, all of the habitualized groups were not being visited so we headed towards the "back up group" for the day. It is not always the case (especially in high season) that there is a back up group! Another hour hike, back up that huge ravine that we had climbed down earlier. What a work out! It absolutely was worth the trek once we reached the Isimbi family. 

The Silverback of the family 

You get to spend only one hour with the gorilla family once reaching them. This helps lower the chance for transferring disease to the very vulnerable gorillas. It was the most unbelievable and marvelous sensation, to be steps away from our cousins the mountain gorillas. Watching them interact, eat, climb to the tops of the trees, the young teasing each other - something I will never forget. 

A video of us only a few feet from the big Silverback of the family.

Fun Facts 

  • Volcanoes National Park is Africa's oldest national park. 
  • Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park today has a number of 10 habituated gorilla groups for visitors to see. 
  • 80 gorilla permits are available each day for tourists going watch gorillas on a single day. 
  • Surprisingly, each gorilla group has distinct and unique characteristic quiet different from another.
Sad Fact - There are less than 790 mountain gorillas left in the world! - Learn how you can help save the gorillas 

Our trekking team after 6 hours of hiking!
From left to right - Micheline, Amanda (me), a very nice couple from Spain,
Emanuel our head ranger/guide and two friendly friends from South Africa  

Being just feet away from these amazing creatures is something I wish for every animal lover! It is a joy of mine to help you plan a trip for gorilla trekking. Be it in; Uganda, DR of Congo or Rwanda, I can assist you with your plans. 

Contact Amanda with any questions about how to get started on your next great adventure in Africa visiting the mountain gorillas. 

Enjoy a few more videos of my gorilla trekking adventure in Volcanoes National Park