20. November 2014

Mountain Gorillas: They Share 98% of Our DNA / Die Berggorillas: 98% gleiche DNA wie wir Menschen

Silverback Ndungutse, member of the Nyakagezi gorilla group
in the Mgahinga Gorilla NP, Uganda
Silberrücken Ndungutse aus der Nyakagezi Gorilla-Familie
im Mgahinga Gorilla Nationalpark, Uganda
A silverback and a juvenile of the Nyakagezi gorilla group
Ein Silberrücken und ein "Teenager" aus der Nyakagezi Gorilla-Famile

Did you know?

  • The DNA difference between the gorilla and homo sapiens is just about 2%.
    Thus it's not surprising that seeing the gorillas in their natural habitat is such a unique, unforgettable experience for us humans. 
  • They have a lifespan of 30-40 years in the wild.
  • There are roughly about 700 mountain gorillas (according to National Geographic) remaining on Earth, means they are critically endangered.
  • Half of the world's remaining mountain gorilla population lives in the Virunga Mountains of Central Africa, at the intersection of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The other half lives just 24 km north of the Virunga Mountains, in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
  • You can do a gorilla trekking and see them in their natural environment - well, not all of them, since "just" 26 gorilla families are habituated to human presence.
  • The rule: there is just one group of max. eight visitors allowed to visit one gorilla family per day...
  • ... and for just one hour (there should not be too much contact with humans. Moreover gorillas are vulnerable to our diseases, since they have 98% of our genes. Hence you are not allowed to visit them if you are sick, and be it just a flu, for even this can be fatal for gorillas.)
  • that is: max. 178 visitors = permits per day in all three countries (Uganda: 72, Rwanda: 80, DRC: 26)
  • The price for a permit is USD600 in Uganda and DRC, in Rwanda even USD750. But it is good value! Aside from that the fees also benefit gorilla conservation.

Some more general information about the gorillas?

18. November 2014

What is the Fastest Way to the Gorillas? / Wie kommen wir am schnellsten zu den Gorillas?

YEAH, once more an Equator crossing!
Here in Uganda close to the Queen Elizabeth NP
JAAA, wieder eine Äquator-Überquerung!
Hier nahe des Queen Elizabeth Nationalparks
The red soil of Africa. I just love it!
Die rote Erde Afrikas. I just love it!

A Pied Kingfisher in the evening sun
Ein Graufischer in der Abendsonne

Finally, finally it was going to happen! Our next destination: the mountain gorillas, the clear no. 1 on my 'bucket list' for our Africa Tour. Beforehand I already read several books about these majestic, unfortunatelly critically endangered animals. They are the second-closest relatives of humans after chimpanzees. Of course we had also watched 'Gorillas in the Mist', the moving story of Dian Fossey, an American scientist who came to Africa to study the vanishing mountain gorillas, and later fought to protect them. I was very excited.

3. November 2014

At the Murchison Falls: Why Were We Offering Such a Funny Sight? / An den Murchison Falls: Warum boten wir so einen komischen Anblick?

The famous Murchison Falls
Die berühmten Murchison Falls
Greeted by a gentle giant
Ein sanfter Riese

A black-and-white colobus - clearly a male one ;-)
Ein schwarz-weißer Stummelaffe - eindeutig ein Männchen ;-)
Pied kingfisher, sitting on elephant dung
Der Graufischer genießt eine kurze Pause auf dem Elefantendung.
Magnificent waterbuck
Prachtvoller Wasserbock

The Northwest of Uganda offers a breathtaking sight: the famous Murchison Falls. Here the waters of the world's longest river Nile - at this point about 200 meters wide - squeeze through a narrow gorge, only six meters wide, before dropping about 40 meters below. That is really spectacular. Yet our adventure there was even a bit more spectacular. But first things first.

22. Oktober 2014

Gosh, Was This a Gunshot? / Meine Güte, war das ein Schuss?

African fish eagle...
Schreiseeadler ...
... at its favorite spot, a giant tree a the first white water rapids of the Nile
... an seinem Lieblingsplatz, einem riesigen Baum an den
ersten Stromschnellen des Nils

Sunrise over the Nile...
Sonnenaufgang über dem Nil...
... and three minutes later
... und drei Minuten später
On our way to the Murchison Falls National Park
Auf unserem Weg zum Murchison Falls Nationalpark

In Uganda we went to The Haven north of Jinja, the lodge located at the first white water rapids of the Nile. Since this was the third time for us to stay there (please also see "The Haven" on the River Nile and "The Haven" II), it felt a bit like coming home. The excellent campsite, the undisturbed view of the Nile, the abundant bird life - fantastic to be back again!
After some relaxed days we headed off northward to the Murchison Falls National Park.

The first wild chimpanzees


In the afternoon, when we were about to drive along the Budongo Forest, we made out two chimpanzees in the distance, romping around on the roadside. Hey, chimpanzees! My first ones in the wild!!!

A tremendous bang!


I was still thrilled about this sight, when in a curve we all of a sudden heard a tremendous bang. "OMG, was this a gunshot?", flashed through my mind. Hence I was irritated that Martin - instead of speeding up - jamed on the brakes. He, unlike me, knew what had happened. At the end of the curve he brought the car to a complete halt. We had a look at the dilemma. The left rear tyre was exploded! Reason: tyre carcass breakdown - for the experts amongst you. This was the first exploded tyre ever for me. Apparently also for the chimpanzees in the small patch of jungle close by, since they were grumbling heavily after the bang, but they were as quiet as a mouse the moment we left the camper. Very cautious, very clever: very, very good! Unfortunately we could not spot them. But I was sure they watched us carefully.

I had to secure the site. In Africa you do so by putting broken branches on the path far enough from the vehicle. Martin was changing the tyre. Half an hour later we were able to carry on. I was not scared anymore, but the bang was still echoing in my ears.

Some kilometers later we came upon Lake Albert. We went along its coast to the north and turned eastward along the Nile River. At twilight we reached the Murchison River Lodge.

The first exploded tyre ever for me
Mein erster explodierter Reifen
Tyre carcass breakdown

18. September 2014

Nairobi, Nakuru and Further to Northwest / Nairobi, Nakuru und weiter nach Nordwesten

Skyline of Nairobi
Downtown Nairobi
Old and new close together.
Of course there is also Simba the lion, king of all animals -
after all we are in Africa.
Alt und neu in enger Nachbarschaft.
Dabei darf Simba, der König der Tiere, natürlich nicht fehlen -
schließlich sind wir in Afrika.
A floral beauty in the Wildebeest Eco Camp
Eine Blumenschönheit im Wildebeest Eco Camp
Spacious and peaceful campsite in the middle of Nairobi
Großzügige und ruhige Campsite inmitten von Nairobi

Nairobi is special. Most of the big African cities invite us to rather move along than to stay, but Nairobi is different. At least the more often we visited Kenya's capital, the more different it became for us. Maybe it has to do with the
Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, which I so much like to go to see? Maybe it is due to the fact that meanwhile we know the town well, incl. shortcuts and some nice little cafes, where we used to have great and interesting conversations with some of the owners and waiters now and then?

Super Taxi, Super Campsite

By now we also know the best places to go for any car/camper related issues (if you need any advice, just send us an e-mail). And we highly recommend Edwin's taxi service (+254 720952764) -  please say hello from us.

We even found a great campsite: the Wildebeest Eco Camp in Langata, close to the Galleria Shopping Mall, to the Nairobi National Park and to the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. This peaceful oasis is nestled in a secure huge botanical garden, rather a little park, offers a spacious lawn and lovely restaurant, large and clean shower and wash facilities, laundry service, Wi-Fi etc. If you don't want to sleep in your camper you can spend the night in a permanent bush tent - very romantic, and a superb start to a safari.

20. August 2014

DSWT: World's Most Successful Elephant Orphanage / In Nairobi mit Hannes Jaenicke

With Hannes Jaenicke, a well-known German actor and conservationist, I met in Nairobi
for an exchange of ideas on the dramatic elephant poaching crisis.
Mit Hannes Jaenicke traf ich mich in Nairobi zum Gedankenaustausch
über die dramatische Elefantenwilderei
The orphan elephants have a play in the sand.
Die Elefantenwaisen vergnügen sich im Sand.
Even the youngsters enjoy their sand bath.
Sogar die Jüngsten genießen ihr Bad im Sand.
True friends are even drinking simultaneously.
Wahre Freunde trinken sogar zeitgleich.
So tiny, yet curious
So winzig, und schon sooo neugierig
With Edwin Lusichi, the great head elephant keeper at the orphanage
Mit Edwin Lusichi, dem großartigen Chef-Tierpfleger im Elefantenwaisenhaus

Dame Daphne Sheldrick, the elephant foster mom and one of
Africa's best-known conservationists
Dame Daphne Sheldrick, die "Mutter der Elefanten" und eine der
bekanntesten Tier- und Naturschützerinnen Afrikas

Back in Nairobi I of course had to visit "my" foster baby, the other orphans and the team of the DSWT. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust DSWT is nestled within Nairobi National Park in the capital city of Kenya. Meanwhile it is the most successful orphan elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world. Its founder Daphne Sheldrick and her team have so far hand-raised more than 150 infant elephants and effectively reintegrated them into the wild. Unfortunately more and more calves are coming to the nursery due to the current menacing increase in poaching.

By then we stayed in Nairobi quite often, which means I was lucky enough to have been in the orphanage loads of times. But may I tell you: each time it is different when the little ones, headed by their caring keepers, are returning from the bush to their stockades in the late afternoon. Sometimes they are excited and trumpet loudly, next they are rather sad and low, then again frolicking, or curious, playful, cheeky, jealous, or they need an extra portion of love... in a word: elephants and humans are very similar, and BTW not only in their emotions.

A highlight for travellers in Kenya

Hence seeing the orphan elephants at the
DSWT is one of the hightlights of a trip in Kenya for most travellers, in order to better understand the current situation of this endangered species, and to help. There is a public visiting hour from 11-12h daily. Upon prior registration

6. August 2014

Equator Camping / Äquator Campen

Once again at the equator. This had to be captured on camera.
Meanwhile Martin was not that much enthusiastic about
all our equator pictures any more ;-).
Wieder einmal am Äquator - das musste doch unbedingt im 

Foto festgehalten werden, oder? Inzwischen war Martin
all die Äquator-Bilder schon langsam leid ;-)
MUCH better to have a bus roof loaded with empty water containers than with
living chicken, like we had seen in Ethiopia so often.
VIEL besser ein Busdach mit leeren Wassercontainern zu beladen als mit
lebenden Hühnern, wie wir es zuvor in Äthiopien so häufig gesehen hatten.
Mangos, Mangos - just delicious...
Mangos, Mangos - einfach köstlich...
... the other fruits as well
... die anderen Früchte ebenso
On the road from Nanyuki
Auf der Straße von Nanyuki

I must confess: Meanwhile I am a fan of Nanyuki, the little town on the slopes of Mt. Kenya, where we spent once more some wonderful and relaxed days. Real cappucino (not such a limp "flat white") and fresh strawberry milkshake at Dormans, crispy pizza and exquisite cocktails at Barneys which is set next to the airfield - everything was notably tempting and delicious.

This time we were pleased to also discover the Lily Pond Restaurant. With a romantic water lily-pond this hidden gem is located directly on the equator. The new owners Gerry and Esther are excellent hosts, allowing us to even stay with our camper on their property.

Camping on the equator: how awesome is that! Spending the night in our camper in the southern hemisphere and in the morning crossing the equator for having breakfast in the northern hemisphere. Is anyone out there who did this before ?!?

21. Juli 2014

The Moyale-Isiolo Route - a Feared One / Die gefürchtete Moyale-Isiolo Route

On the last untarred section between "Cairo to Cape Town"
Auf dem letzten ungeteerten Stück zwischen "Kairo nach Kapstadt"
Astonished glances
Erstaunte Blicke
No 1 means of transportation: the truck
Transportmittel Nr 1: der LKW
Not dead, just taking a nap
Nicht tot, nur im Mittagsschlaf
... also the beaded jewelery
... auch der Perlenschmuck

A travelling dog? They hardly believed their eyes.
Ein reisender Hund? Sie trauten kaum ihren Augen.

We did it! Finally we were back in Kenya! This was the moment we had been longing for yearningly, and it was just great.

However this breather at the border could be only a short one. Ahead of us was the legendary Moyale-Marsabit-Isiolo route. Among travellers in Africa this 500 km section is considered to be the worst of all roads along the east route. It is called "the road to hell" - not really inviting. The driving conditions are bad to disastrous. In case of rain trucks get stuck in the mud and block the way.

On top of that, the area is also infamous for inter-tribal conflicts. Hence travellers often prefer going in a convoi escorted by the police, like some guys we just met in
Wim's Holland House in Addis a few days before. 

30. Juni 2014

Faces & More / Gesichter & mehr

I admit: this little sweetie took my heart by storm.
Ich geb's zu: Die süße Maus eroberte mein Herz im Sturm.

In Bahir Dar, a town situated on the southern shore of Lake Tana in northwestern Ethiopia, we decided to visit the daily central market even several times. We were fascinated by the hustle and bustle, but even more by the people. They were open and cordial, still unspoilt by tourism.