I spent 7 weeks taking photographs in Eastern Africa in August and September. The trip started with a week in Paris for fun, then flew to Madagascar for 17 days, followed by a week each in Kenya and Tanzania. Then a flight to Rwanda to learn more about their genocide in 1994 and how they were able to put it behind them and become a progressive modern country. And finally a short trip to Uganda to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest for a crazy hike to see the magestic Mountain Gorillas (in the mist!).
Click below to see the whole album for each area, including videos and interactive 360 degree images:
About the only way to fly to Madagascar is from Paris (Madagascar was once a colony of France). I love Paris, so I decided to spend a week there visiting museums and sleeping off any jetlag. Despite it being August (tourist month) I found a lovely apartment just a few steps away from Notre-Dame (still under construction from their fire). There were good restaurants nearby, and easy access to the RER train to the airport.
Lots of photos of art, monuments, historic graveyards, and buskers. I had my 360 degree camera with me, which I used to take amazing photos and videos of Sainte-Chapelle. Some of the 360 images allow you to scroll around to see in all directions!
Madagascar has been called "A World Out of Time", which is a very apt description. I went there with some people I know from Portland, who specialize in birds and other wildlife. And there were plenty of amazing animals and plants to see, much of it found no where else. Madagascar is known for its many varieties of lemurs, but they also have unusual chameleons, geckos, baobabs, birds, butterflies, reptiles, plants, and even insects (like hissing cockroaches).
Something I found interesting about Madagascar is that it is one of the poorest countries in the world. Housing and medicine is primitive. The avarage life expectancy is 50 years. Cars are scarce, and people often walk many miles every day for necessities and work. And yet, when you spend time with the locals, they are mostly happy and content. You see children playing everywhere. Adults are beautiful, friendly, and full of life. I ended up thinking that more developed countries (like the US) are doing something terribly wrong. It doesn't matter how many years you live, as long as you make the best of those years.
After Madagascar, I needed a break before I went on Safari. I also needed to get over the diarrhea that almost all of us got there! But I did spend one day, visiting the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and the Giraffe Center. Lots of good photos from those places.
After meeting my fellow safari travelers, we loaded up our 4x4 Land Cruiser for the week, and headed toward the Great Rift Valley. And we were immediately looking at all kinds of animals: monkeys, warthogs, fish eagles, cormorants, hamerkops, kingfishers, giraffes, hippos, ibis, zebras, and impalas.
Our first stop was at Elsamere, the home of Joy and George Adamson, where Joy wrote the book "Born Free" which became a hit movie. Elsamere (named for Elsa the lion) is on the shores of Lake Naivasha, which is full of wildlife. We did a boat tour of the lake.
Our second stop was two nights at Lake Nakuru NP, where we saw our first lions, a leopard, hyenas, gazelles, black-headed heron, buffalo, a dik-dik, white rhino, waterbuck, long-crested eagles, beautiful cranes, storks, flamingos, a tortoise, and baboons.
The rest of the week was spent at the Maasai Mara National Reserve. We started with a fascinating trip to a Maasai village. After that, we headed to our (luxury) tent camp for the night. The next morning we woke to hot air balloons ascending from nearby. Even though we had seen many animals already, there were plenty more new ones to be seen, including elephants, cheetahs, korrigum, jackals, guineafowl, wildebeests, hartebeests, an eland, tsessebe, secretarybirds, a ground hornbill, vultures, mongoose, and a pair of hyenas having sex right next to our cruiser!
After a week in Kenya, we thought we had seen just about everything to see. But Tanzania was going to surprise us. After all, Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area, and Serengeti National Park are some of the most famous places in Africa. It isn't that we would see new animals (although we did see a few, including ostriches, spurfowl, brown snake eagles, saddlebill storks, and kori bustard), but we saw more of them: vast herds of animals, predators stalking their prey, the prey running away quickly from the predators, and groups of animals doing things we hadn't seen.
We saw lakes teeming with hippos, and herds of wildebeests and zebras. We saw multiple lions, cheetahs, leopards, and hyenas enjoying their dinners. There were so many animals that we saw them everywhere, even close up and personal. They were often just a few feet (and sometimes even a few inches) away from us.
We also visited an Iraqw village where we dressed up in traditional clothing, and helped harvest coffee beans and try the result.
At the end of this week, I had a free day, so I hiked around Lake Duluti (near Arusha), which is an old crater. I saw a water monitor swimming there, many birds and monkeys.
The final week of my trip, I flew to Rwanda. I wanted to know more about the genocide that happened there in 1994. And even more importantly, how they ended it and became one of the most progressive and modern countries in Africa. We were able to visit several genocide memorials, but they don't allow photos in them (I don't blame them!). So not many photos of Rwanda.
Next, we traveled to nearby Uganda, to visit the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (which deserves its name!) and do a crazy steep hike to see the Mountain Gorillas (famous from "Gorillas in the Mist"). We survived, and I got lots of photos of these magnificant creatures.
It took four flights to get home to Portland. I slept and slept for almost a week!