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Monday, 27 February 2012

Rhino survives AK-47 attack.

A black rhino and her young calf have made a remarkable recovery after being hit by a burst of automatic gunfire in Zimbabwe.

A burst of automatic gunfire was heard in the Save Valley Conservancy's Lowveld one recent late afternoon. The International Rhino Foundation's anti-poaching patrols were rapidly deployed to the area and began tracking a black rhino cow and calf that had fled the site of the shooting.

The cow appeared to be dragging her hind legs and was leaving a trail of blood, indicating that she had been badly wounded. From the location and the shape of their tracks, the injured animals were identified as ‘Double' and her 16-month-old calf ‘Trouble'.

Double's horn had been fitted with a radio-transmitter, so trackers were able to quickly locate the pair the next day using radio-telemetry equipment. Both rhinos had sustained gunshot wounds and required urgent medical attention.

A vet immobilised the rhinos, finding seven AK-47 bullet holes in Double and a further one in Trouble's front knee. Fortunately, all the bullets had missed vital organs. Antibiotics and vitamins were given to both rhinos to help fight infection and aid recovery. Since Double and Trouble could walk well enough to find food and water, and since the mother could be tracked electronically, the team decided to leave the pair in the field and closely monitor their recovery.

The first tracking effort found Double moving well and feeding, but alone and fears for Trouble escalated. But after three weeks, Trouble turned up walking well but thinner for the stress of being separated from his mother and his unintended early weaning - black rhino calves suckle milk until they are 20 months old.

Trouble remains in the general area of his mother and hopes are high that the two will find each other again, as black rhino cows and their weaned calves often do. Both have made remarkable recoveries and have not needed further treatment.

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Monday, 13 February 2012

Madagascar Cyclone - Giovenna

On 12 February the Malagasy authorities issued a cyclone alert for all areas along the East coast from Sambava to Farafanga. Cyclone Giovenna is expected to make land fall on or around 13 February. Wind speeds of 118-165 km/hour are expected.

Pure Safari has been further advised this morning from Antananarivo:

The cyclone intensified significantly overnight and now Intense Tropical Cyclone GIOVANNA (Category 4) will be making landfall this afternoon/evening, to the south of Tamatave (Toamasina) with wind gusts in excess of 250km/h. moving in the direction of Antananarivo.

There are very few tourists in county at the moment so impact on them should be low, any on the east coast around Tamatave should have been moved already. Tour opertors are advised to watch the situation if they have clients there or arriving there in the next few days.

When Giovanna gets to the island between late Monday and early Tuesday, the system should bring substantial impact. Sustained winds over 115 mph with gusts over 130 mph are forecast for landfall. Rough surf, flooding rains and storm surge will all be serious concerns to those on the island as well.

Locations away from the coast are not exempt, as torrential rains will only lead to mudslides in the mountainous rainforests inland.

Madagascar may not be enough to completely weaken the system by the time it reaches the west coast of Madagascar, and will enter the Mozambique Channel. Computer models currently point to the system successfully crossing Madagascar and entering the Mozambique Channel. There it may re-intensify before impacting the Mozambique coast.

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Thursday, 9 February 2012

Gorrilla's visit guests on safari!

Recent guests at a tented campsite in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Park had a major surprise when they got up early for breakfast. Rather than having to go trekking through the mountainous jungle to look for a family of gorillas, the gorillas had come to visit them in their camp.

The picture shows a whole family of mountain gorillas, including a silverback and several youngsters, wandering through the camp. They then decide to check out one of the guests who, much to his credit, sits stock still while several gorillas 'groom' his hair with a 400lb silverback sitting just a metre behind him.

The key activity that has helped preserve the Mountain gorillas is tourism. The money that they bring into the local communities is by far and away their largest source of income, which in turn means that they instantly have a very large interest in preserving these animals. Every visitor, apart from the park fees, stays in hotels, eats and drinks, and tips the guides (well most anyway).

So how can you help protect them? Easy; visit the mountain gorillas; they need visitors, and the experience never short-changes.

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Monday, 6 February 2012

Client Feedback

Hi Bruce,

We’re back today after our FANTASTIC trip to Zanzibar and to Kilindi. We had the most amazing time and Kilindi more than lived up to expectations. We really appreciated the attention to detail and the personal approach, including the fact that both the managers and the chef came and spoke to everyone every night.

We had Pavilion 11 at the back of the property (complete with roof terrace) so high up and with good views. On our last day, we even saw a monkey in one of the trees in our garden, we saw bush babies, had a couple of birds who shared our bathroom and a yellow-bellied bird came and had a bath in our plunge pool while we were in it!

The only downside for us (nothing to do with Kilindi, I hasten to add – the food was fantastic!) was that Marcus had very bad stomach/sickness problems while we were there which lasted from our second day through to the end – we had to get the doctor out at one point. [We now think it’s the result of a reaction to the anti-malarial tablets, Malarone, which we’ll check).

Our butler, Dowdi (not sure how you spell his name, he’s new and been there about a month, having moved from Star of the East) was fantastic and nothing was too much trouble. He was very kind while Marcus was ill and did so much to help.

And Alan and his wife, Maike, the managers who’ve now been there 10 months, were also fantastic (as was Duncan). We had several good conversations with them.

They could not have made us more welcome and where else can you go where, when you leave, the managers, butler and several of the staff wave you off? It was a tearful moment!

We also hired a car while we were out there and got to see quite a bit of Zanzibar independently – a fantastic experience and the locals were very helpful and eager to help when we got lost!

All in all, it was a truly unforgettable holiday and one of, if not THE, nicest places we’ve ever stayed.

I promised to share a few photos with you on our return so here are a couple to remind you of just how lovely it is …. !

Can’t wait for the Sky Safari now – we met a couple who had just completed it and were relaxing afterwards at Kilindi – it sounds exhausting (although enjoyable) and we may think about extending out stay at Arusha for a day either side of the trip if that’s possible (this would mean moving the dates at AfroChic slightly – do you think this would be a problem?).

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Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Encounters with Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda

Rwanda is a country in central and eastern Africa with a population of approximately 11.4 million (2011). Rwanda is located a few degrees south of the Equator, and is bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. All of Rwanda is at high elevation, with a geography dominated by mountains in the west, hence being called The Land of a Thousand Hills, savanna in the east, and numerous lakes throughout the country. The climate is temperate, with two rainy seasons and two dry seasons every year.

The population is young and predominantly rural, with a density among the highest in Africa. Rwandans form three groups: the Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa. These groups share a common culture and language and are classified as social groups rather than tribes. Christianity is the largest religion in the country, and the principal language is Kinyarwanda, spoken by most Rwandans. Rwanda follows a presidential
system of government. The President is Paul Kagame of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

This small and beautiful country makes one really think of its population efforts to move forward just 17 years after the Genocide, which took place in 1994. Upon arrival in Kigali, the country´s capital, when driving through the streets, one has the impression that “Rwanda works”: clean streets and conversations of a corruption-free country where the population is well informed about the benefits of tourism and everyone seems to push for common well-being goals.

We would like to feature the different tourist attractions of Rwanda along this year, starting with the best known one: the moving visit to the awesome Mountain Gorillas, that concentrate in the Parc National des Volcans. Because when visiting the Land of a Thousand Hills, one should not miss out on the magnificent opportunity to visit Rwanda's Parc National des Volcans (PNV) / Volcanoes National Park, consisting of 125 Km2 of mountain forest and home to the six Virunga Volcanoes and the world famous mountain gorillas. Nothing can prepare one for the impact of encountering a fully-grown silverback gorilla, up to three times the size of an average man, yet remarkably peaceable and tolerant of human visitors.

Parc National des Volcans is managed and protected by the Rwandan Office for Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN). Access begins in the lively town of Musanze, situated at the base of the entrance of the park. Musanze has long been the base point for gorilla visits and entertains a stunning backdrop of Karisimbi, Bisoke, Mikeno, Sabyinyo, Mgahinga and Muhabura volcanoes. Ranging from 2,400 - 4,507 metres in altitude, Parc National des Volcans consists of 6 extinct volcanic peaks including Muhavura, Mt Gahinga, Karisimbi, Visoke, Mikeno Aand Sabyinyo; these dramatic peaks form the backdrop to your gorillas tracking safaris as you track some of the last remaining mountain gorillas in the verdant foothills.

The Volcanoes National Park (PNV) is renowned for historically being the home to the renowned scientist, Dian Fossey. This is where pioneering studies were undertaken to evaluate and study the behavior of mountain gorillas in their natural habitat; prior to this people had literally thought that they were angry and aggressive wild beasts but it was through Fossey's work that we now understand the peace and tranquility that envelopes mountain gorillas lives. It is largely thanks to Fossey that we still have gorillas in our world today and for this reason, and many others, we should continue to protect them. The tracking starts very early morning, leaving the lodge where clients spent the night and driving to the Park´s Head Quarters to be grouped with other clients and be assigned a family to visit after receiving a comprehensive briefing from the Park wardens and guides. After the briefing, the visitors are transferred by their driver/guide again to the start of the trail that shall lead to the family they have been assigned to visit, where they will hike though the lushly forested slopes of the mountains form an appropriately dramatic natural setting for what is arguably world: gorilla tracking. The exhilarating climb to the gorilla’s natural habitat of shady bamboo forest offers fantastic views in all directions, before the trackers are immersed in the mysterious intimacy of the rainforest, alive with the calls of colourful birds and the chattering of rare golden monkey.

Rwanda's famed mountain gorillas, trapped for ten years in a war zone, have managed to survive, taking a small step back from the brink of extinction: over the past two decades, Rwanda's gorilla population has increased by a remarkable 10% despite a horrific human genocide, incursions into the park by armed rebels, human-spread disease, occasional poaching, government upheaval and constant pressure from land-starved peasants, who hoe their potatoes less than an hour's easy walk from the gorillas' sanctuary. Today, the world's most endangered gorillas slip through the misty rainforest below Rwanda's towering Virunga volcanoes and prospects for their survival are looking up as the war-torn region moves toward a fragile peace. "Protecting them is still a big challenge. It's a delicate situation," said Anecto Kyitare, a Rwandan naturalist who monitors the apes several times a week for the Nairobi based International Gorilla Conservation Program. "But after everything that's happened, the park and the gorillas are still here. I think the situation has improved a lot." The Government has made an awesome education work to the communities not only by directly assigning % of the tourism income to the well-being of the rural communities (water wells and health dispensaries) but by explaining the same and how tourism may be vital for the economic development of Rwanda and the Rwandans.

Altogether about 800 of the woolly black gorillas, first described by a German explorer a century ago and made famous by their murdered protector, American primatologist Dian Fossey, survive in two small areas of cool mountain forest in Uganda and on the Rwanda-Congo border. On a continent where great apes are disappearing with dismaying speed to hunting and habitat loss, they are the rarest cousins in the family. The mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) is one of the two most endangered apes in the world (with the Cross River Gorilla, Gorilla gorilla diehli). There are only approximately 800 mountain gorillas alive today, and all of them are found in the wild. They only exist in two small, protected afromontane forest patches in northwest Rwanda, southwest Uganda and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The two forest patches in which mountain gorillas are found effectively divide the roughly 800 into two distinct populations. One population, in Uganda, is found in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP), covering about 330 km2. The other population inhabits the Virunga Volcano Region, which sits across the international borders of Rwanda, Uganda and DRC. The Virunga Volcano Region (VVR) is ecologically homogenous, but separated into three national parks, in three countries: Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Volcano National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, covering an approximate total area of 300 km2 The mountain gorillas live in stable family groups with a dominant silverback male, his harem of females, and their offspring. The silverback male is usually the father of the offspring, although the younger males will take an opportunity to mate with a female if the silverback is not looking. They are not ferocious creatures but are, on the contrary, very peaceful. They only become aggressive if one of their group is perceived to be threatened.

Aside from tracking mountain gorillas there are also a variety of other activities possible in Parc National des Volcans including tracking the golden monkeys, climbing one of the Virunga Volcanoes or visiting the remains of the Dian Fossey Research Centre, her grave and the graves of the gorillas with which she worked with.

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