Photography Tours and Expeditions
Photography Tours and Expeditions
THE MOUNTAIN GORILLAS OF UGANDA
May 31-June 6, 2018
Join professional photographer Doug Steakley on this seven day photo safari to The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda for an unforgettable close-up encounter with the mountain gorillas. You will always remember your first encounter in the highlands jungle with a large silverback and his family of several females, adolescents and babies. These non-aggressive, vegetarian gorilla groups are accustomed to visitors and are accessible by hiking into their habitats in the steep, forested hills of south west Uganda.
ROOMS AT BWINDI LODGE
We will spend five nights in Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge, a beautiful setting near the entrance of the park where we will make three treks in to see different gorilla families. Some of the groups are nearby and relatively easy to visit, while some may be higher up in the jungle and require several hours of trekking to see them. There are times when the gorillas walk through the grounds of the Bwindi Lodge and spend the night nearby. Mountain gorillas move to a different location every day, foraging for fresh food sources.
Recent renovations at the Bwindi Lodge means that visitors do not have to go without western luxuries, the elegant rooms now have full modern bathrooms with his and her sinks, flush toilets and solar showers. The lodge has 8 spacious cabanas that feature comfortable king size beds covered with mosquito nets, even though. mosquitoes are rare in this locale. Each room has an outdoor seating area overlooking the adjacent forest and each comes with an assistant who will ensure that your needs are met. The rooms are cleaned daily and include a turn-down service with hot water bottles placed in the beds to add warmth to the cool mountain nights. Gorilla trekking can be a muddy affair so guests are offered complimentary laundry and shoe cleaning. All rooms are decorated in colorful fabrics often worn by locals and stunning prints of the gorillas. While the rooms have simple decorations, the warm earth tones make for an inviting atmosphere, allowing one feel at home while being surrounded by the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
WHAT MAKES THIS TRIP UNIQUE?
We will make three trips to visit gorilla families and this can be very helpful for having optimal light. The best light to photograph the gorillas is when the days are overcast or cloudy. Sunlight on the black fur of the gorillas creates contrast, so we will be hoping for soft light, which happens frequently in this rain-forest environment.
I have made about 20 previous hikes to visit mountain gorillas families, and I will be available before and during the trip to provide assistance and answer questions about camera settings, exposure, clothing, equipment or anything else that may arise.
CAN I MAKE THE HIKES TO SEE THE GORILLAS?
The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, where the gorilla families live, ranges in elevation from 4000’-8000’ and is a tropical rain-forest. The treks begin along trails, but soon turn into following the guide and trackers through dense jungle growth. These hikes can be moderately strenuous and are not for everyone. However the pace is slow and the guides are accommodating and helpful, offering a hand when necessary. It is important to able to hike up hill at elevation at a slow pace for a couple of hours or more. Gorillas eat and move in the mornings and evenings and when we come to them they are usually resting or foraging. The guide-naturalist and trackers are very helpful and when we find the family they will often clear the brush so we will have better views and be able to see and photograph the gorillas in their natural habitat. We are asked to stay twenty feet back, but frequently a curious baby or adolescent will approach closer.
At the trailhead we will meet porters who will carry our camera bags or backpacks up to the gorillas. Some of the porters were former poachers so we provide employment which assists the local economy and also provides a viable alternative to poaching. Not carrying gear in the jungle makes the hike much more pleasant and enjoyable. Our backpacks contain water, rain gear and camera equipment.
We will be staying at the Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge which is located near the entrance to The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. The day begins early with breakfast around 6 am so we can have an orientation before beginning our hikes in to see
the gorillas. The trail-heads are located about a 1/2 mile walk from the lodge. We then trek into the jungle and visit a gorilla family for an hour. This may sound like
a short period of time but there are numerous opportunities for photography and
it is not unusual to take hundreds of images. If we return early we will have time to relax and enjoy the lodge and surrounding forest.
DAY ONE-THURSDAY, MAY 31
Arrive at Entebbe International Airport where you will be met by one of our guides and transferred to the luxurious Protea Marriott Hotel in Kampala to overnight. If you are joining this tour from Botswana and Zambia, it will be necessary to spend the night of May 30 in Johannesburg to catch a connecting flight on May 31.
DAY TWO-FRIDAY, JUNE 1
After breakfast we will transfer to the airport for our one hour flight to Kihibi Airstrip. Upon landing we will be met by our local guide who will drive us for two hours to the Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge. Depending upon our arrival time we may explore the lodge grounds with its clear mountain stream or visit a nearby village. Breakfast, lunch, dinner included all days at the lodge.
DAY THREE-SATURDAY, JUNE 2-GORILLA TRACKING
After enjoying an early breakfast, we will set off gorilla tracking. Trekking through the steep, densely forested hills and then finally coming across the gorillas in the vegetation is an inspiring and privileged moment. Tracking in the Bwindi forest requires stamina and sometimes can take most of the day. But the pace will be slow and porters will carry our gear.
DAY FOUR, SUNDAY, JUNE 3-GORILLA TRACKING
Today will be similar to the day before. We will get up for an early breakfast early and set off tracking a new family group in a different area of the forest.
DAY FIVE, MONDAY, JUNE 4-REST DAY AT CAMP
After two days of trekking in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, we will have a rewarding rest day. This will give us an opportunity to relax around the beautiful camp, get a massage or visit a nearby Batwa village. There are also several nearby walks available, including three waterfalls.
DAY SIX, TUESDAY, JUNE 5-GORILLA TRACKING
Today we will set out on our final day of gorilla tracking in the Ugandan forest. We will look for a different gorilla family and hope they are not far from our lodge.
DAY SEVEN, WEDNESDAY, JUNE 6-DEPARTURE
After breakfast we will transfer to the local airport for our flight back to Entebbe International Airport and connect with flights back to the USA.
COST AND DETAILS
The cost for the tour is $6480.00 per person, double occupancy and a $2500.00 deposit is required with registration. The registration fee covers deposits on the lodge rooms and permits to visit the gorilla families. This tour can accommodate 6-8 participants and a minimum of 6 will be required. The single supplement fee is $410.00
I will send out additional information about what to wear and what to bring well in advance of the tour.
Please read the Terms and Conditions. Print and fill out the Registration Form and Liability Release Form and return them to me by mail along with a non-refundable deposit check for $2500.00.
P. O. Box 736
Carmel Valley, CA 93924
~Driver and assistance from the Entebbe Airport and back and all transportation in Uganda
~Local flights as shown in the itinerary-Entebbe/Kihihi/Entebbe
~Professional English-speaking tour guide and driver
~National Park and Game Reserve Entrance Fees
~All meals at the Bwindi Lodge
~Three gorilla-trekking permits in Uganda's Bwindi Forest
~Photographic assistance and guidance
~Laundry and shoe-cleaning at the lodge
~Visa for Uganda, which costs $50 and must be obtained in advance
~Tips for the driver/guide and gratuities to porters and staff
A WORD ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHY
While this safari is designed with photography in mind, this is not a requirement. Non-photographers are welcome and encouraged. My experience in Africa has been that almost everyone wants to return with stunning images and improve their photographic skills., so I will be available to assist with questions about photography at all levels from beginners to advanced.
HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH THE MOUNTAIN GORILLAS
The good news about visiting and photographing mountain gorillas is that you are close, the light is often perfect and sometimes it feels like they are posing. Flash is not allowed, but the guides and gorillas are accustomed to visitors with cameras. A tripod or monopod can be helpful and I recommend taking them along. However, there may be times, if there is a lot of activity, when it may be easier to increase the ISO setting and hand hold the camera. Long telephotos are not necessary, I usually use a 70-200mm or even a wider angle for some of the close encounters. If possible, it is a good idea to carry two bodies with different lenses--a 70-200 on one and a wider angle lens on the other.
One hour sounds like a short period of time, but there are numerous opportunities to get great shots and there is always some interaction going on between the gorillas that makes the time with them special and unforgettable. The guides and rangers are very helpful and communicate with the large silverbacks with grunts and groans to let them know we are approaching. They will also let us know if one of the males is going to pound his chest or do a bluff charge. And the nice thing about having several visits is that you will be able to look at your images and make adjustments on following trips.