Sarah Fox from Mahlatini African Travel has kindly put together the following article which describe her experiences travelling in luxury. Sarah is a South African currently based in the UK. She would say that she has her dream job. Working for a specialist African Tour Operator, she can indulge her two main passions in life: travel and African wildlife. For the past 6 years Sarah has been privileged enough to travel most of Southern and East Africa – all in the name of research! Her idea of the perfect break is escaping the rat race and heading for the utter tranquillity of the African bushveld. Having recently become a mother to a baby boy she is very excited to introduce him to Africa and all the adventure that it brings.
First things first, Why do you travel?
I constantly remind myself that we are only on this planet for a short time and I don’t want to be on my death bed wishing I had seen more of this incredible home we call earth. My travels have ensured that I am more open-minded about other cultures and have also made me all the more driven to fight to preserve the incredible wildlife of Africa. I support African safaris that not only benefit the traveller in providing them with a once in a lifetime experience but also the local African community and wildlife.
What brought you to Uganda?
I was due to travel to Kenya as part of a familiarisation trip for the company and decided to extend my time in East Africa by visiting Uganda to track the mountain gorillas. This had always been a dream of mine and I decided to treat myself for my 30th birthday.
What was your most memorable experience (good or bad) from your time in Uganda?
By far my most memorable experience from my time in Uganda was my interaction with the gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. After a 2 hour trek through the spectacular rainforest we reached the gorillas and I couldn’t believe how close we were. We had tracked a family of six – one silverback, two females and three toddlers. The toddlers were in the trees at first and they were like Tarzan sliding down the monkey ropes. We spent an hour watching them. The youngsters were the most fascinating. They played exactly like children – or more like WWF wrestlers! They were throwing each other around and having a whale of a time. The females and the silverback just sat around scratching, eating and sleeping. They didn’t seem at all worried about us there. We had been well instructed by the guide about what to do if the silverback charged. But this was the most habituated group in Bwindi so they were well used to people and the youngsters were just as inquisitive about us as we were about them. To protect the gorillas from human diseases we weren’t allowed to touch the animals even though they made a few attempts to touch us! Knowing just how endangered these animals are I was immensely privileged that they allowed me to spend this precious hour with them. With the job I do I have had some very special wildlife encounters but this has remained with me as the most memorable and closest to my heart.
Any advice for travelers headed to Uganda?
Spend more time that you think you would need in the country. You won’t regret it! Many people come for the gorillas and then head to other countries in Africa and they don’t realise how much they are missing out on. Uganda is incredibly diverse, within a few hours you can travel from thick equatorial rainforest to classic savannah plains. It is a primate safari and traditional 5 safari wrapped into one. Being relatively new to tourism the lodges and staff may not be as ‘slick’ as those in other African countries but actually that is what appealed to me the most. The Ugandan people are genuinely interested in you and are amongst the friendliest I have encountered on my African travels. What does surprise many potential visitors to Uganda is the price, being a landlocked country with huge distances to travel; safaris don’t come cheap particularly with gorilla permits costing $500 per person. That said there are ways and means to save money if you are clever and I would have no problem scrimping and saving to go gorilla tracking again – worth every penny!
How did your experiences in Uganda change you as a person and how you feel about travel?
Soon after I travelled to Uganda I became a mother and it made me all the more determined to support all conservation efforts to protect the mountain gorilla and other endangered animals in Africa. I want to ensure that my son sees these animals in the wild in his lifetime and I can’t wait to take him to gorilla tracking as soon as he is old enough. Travel is life changing and I hope to spend my whole life reaping all of its rewards.
Okay, last question. Where are you headed next and why?
My family and I are headed to New York next month. Following our 3 days in Manhattan we plan on hiring a car and exploring more of the surrounding state. I can’t wait to sample the food, the sights and be a typical New York tourist. What fun!
Author Bio: Sarah Fox