How to prepare for trekking adventure

It’s not as difficult or complicated as a first-timer might imagine. In fact, trekking is an easy activity that the whole family can enjoy.

It is, after all, a walk in the hills. And there are many kinds of walks: easy, enjoyable walks; demanding hikes; nature walks to observe flora or fauna; walks to reach a peak or fort; walks for a photo opportunity, a fishing trip, or camping experience. Everyone can choose a walk that suits them best. Your reason for going determines your destination, and how you prepare yourself to reach it.

1. Invest in a good pair of shoes

Your feet are your most crucial body part on a trek, and it doesn’t take much to keep them in toe-tappingly tip-top shape. First, invest in a pair of good-quality, water-resistant hiking boots; you want plenty of support and ventilation too. Then, wear them in. How do you do this? Wear ‘em everywhere. On your training runs, on walks to the shops, to work, to formal events (well, maybe not). 

You get the idea though; by wearing them in as much as possible in the weeks and months leading up to the trek, it’ll help avoid blisters, bunions and lost toenails. Then, stock up on a few pairs of really good hiking socks (preferably a wool/nylon blend), that will wick moisture and keep your feet dry. If you want to get a bit crazy, wear two pairs while walking to minimise your chance of blisters.

2. Train with a backpack

On almost all of our trekking trips, you won’t be carrying your main pack, but you will need to carry a small daypack, packed with essentials like your camera, snacks, sunscreen, water and wet-weather gear. So with all your days/weeks/months of training, make sure you’re challenging yourself with a weighted bag. If you really want to push it, pack your bag with a few extras, so it’s a little heavier than what you’re planning to hike with on the trip – it’ll make the eventual trek feel like a walk in the park (chortle).

3. Try using walking poles

walking poles will become your two new best friends. They take the pressure off your knees on the downs, and give you extra support on the ups. Incorporate poles into your training sessions so you get used to walking with them.

4.  Walk in all types of weather

It’s also unlikely you’ll get ten straight days of perfect weather on your trek, so prepare yourself for all conditions by walking in cold, windy, rainy, warm and humid conditions (where possible, of course!).

5.  Make sure you’re walking properly

You’ve been doing it since you were around one year old, but it’s super important to monitor how you’re walking and if you’re doing it correctly. Make sure you’re hitting the ground with your heel first, then rolling onto your toe, which propels you onto the next step (this will help reduce the risk of shin splints and tendon pulls – ouch). Walk with your head up, eyes forward and shoulders level.

6.  Start walking now (it’s never too early to start training)

This may seem like the most obvious step to start with (pardon the pun), but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do it. The best way to prepare for a really long walk? Do some really long walks. You should start with small-ish distances and work up to the length you’ll be trekking on your trip. 

When you start your training, leave a day in between each walk to let your body recover. But as your body gets fitter, try to do back-to-back sessions each day – it’ll help build your stamina for the relentless nature of a ten-day trek, where you won’t have the luxury of rest days. Ideally, you want to be able to walk 4-6 hours – comfortably – before you leave.

Facts about gorillas

Although gorillas are generally quiet, they have a range of complex vocalisations which are used to communicate information in numerous contexts including teaching survival skills to young, searching for food, and during courtship, they are even capable of learning basic human sign language.

Gorillas live in fairly stable social groups comprising of one adult male usually referred to as the silverback (because of the silver hair on his back which signals full adulthood) and multiple females with juveniles and infants. When young males reach the age of 8-11 they will usually emigrate away and either join another group or form new groups.

Gorilla family groups each live within relatively small areas of land. Different groups can however occupy converging areas and co-exist peacefully.

In Mountain gorillas, the ‘belch vocalization’ is a contact call and sign of contentment while foraging. Most gorillas will use a low grumbling sound to both locate each other and as sign of contentment. Aggressive displays, such as the beating of chests and charging are quite rare but will be used by male gorillas as a warning if surprised or threatened.

Gorillas are generally calm and passive animals, however, the Silverback will defend his troop if he feels threatened. They are highly intelligent and have now been observed using tools in the wild.

Gorillas have been observed displaying emotions such as grief and compassion for other primates, including humans Scientist have shown that gorillas display individual personalities.

Gorillas will groom each other by combing each other with their fingers and teeth. This ‘social grooming’ is an important aspect of gorilla groups which helps to establish and reinforce social bonds.

Gorillas are mainly herbivorous, with the majority of their diet consisting of leaves, shoots and stems, some fruit and some small animal prey such as grubs, caterpillars, snails, termites and ants. Western Lowland gorilla diets have a much higher proportion of fruit.

Females will start giving birth at about 10 years old and will have offspring every 3-4 years. When in oestrus she will be able to conceive for only three days in the month.

Gorillas have a gestation period of nine months like humans, but babies usually weigh less than humans at approximately 4 pounds, their development is however roughly twice as fast.

Gorillas spend a good deal of their time on the ground rather than in the trees, and will make new nests on the ground each night.

Gorillas have hands and feet like humans including opposable thumbs and big toes. Some gorillas in captivity have learned to use sign language to communicate with humans. Gorillas live in small groups called troops or bands. In each troop there is one dominant male Silverback, some female gorillas, and their offspring.

Gorillas live around 35 years. They can live longer, up to 50 years, in captivity. They sleep at night in nests. Baby gorillas will stay in their mother’s nests until they are around 2 ½ years old.

Gorillas were seen for the first time using simple tools  to perform tasks in the wild in 2005. They were observed using sticks to test the depth of muddy water and to cross swampy areas.

Uganda’s Cultural dress; The Gomesi

In Uganda, the gomesi is worn at wedding ceremonies during the introduction, also known as the kwanjula.  During the Kwanjula, all female members of the groom’s family are required to appear dressed in Gomesi.

The gomesi is a work of art, lending elegance and an air of regality to its wearer.  It is a luxurious display of colour and texture.

The gomesi was originally made from imported cotton fabric, with the aim of providing a loose garment that covered the breast. The baganda were the first nationality to wear the gomesi. Today the gomesi is the Kiganda cultural dress for women and is also worn by other ethnicities in

 Uganda.

The gomesi can be worn for any occasion, and in the rural areas it’s the form of daily dress. Residents of cities and urban areas tend to wear it on special occasions such as funerals, and . weddings.

There are many variations to the origins of the gomesi. One such is that the gomesi existed long before the missionaries and Indians came to Uganda, however, the missionaries introduced the use of cotton instead of the bark cloth, from which the gomesi was originally made. When the Indians came to Uganda, they added the various fabrics from satin/silk blends and the vibrant colors to the traditional attire.

According to some scholars, the first gomesi were made for schoolgirls in Gayaza, Uganda in the 1940s and 1950s. The Christian Missionaries who ran the school hired a Catholic Goan tailor to design the dress. The tailor had the surname of Gomes hence the origin of the name.

Traditional Ugandan clothing was made from barkcloth, though early photographic evidence from the nineteenth century demonstrates the arrival of cotton from the Sudan and from the East African Coast.

Leopard behavior

Leopards spend most of their days strolling through the savannah or the forests, hiding in tree or caves. 

The elusive leopard lives a solitary life spending the day up in the trees and hunting at night. The search for a leopard in Uganda is exciting as you are driven out on the savanna keeping your eyes open to spot a leopard.

The only time you can see them in pairs is during mating

But because they are solitary animals they do not multiply as much as other animals that live in groups.

They are very fast and stealthy and the spots on their skins provide camouflage which helps them hide and difficult to spot. They are also nocturnal and that is why it is extremely rare to spot them on a game drive through the parks.

Lions sometimes hunt and kill leopards, so they avoid lions. They also avoid hyena, which are annoying enough to steal their kill/food before they hide it.

In Uganda, If you can find Leopards in the following National Parks; 

Leopard in Queen Elizabeth National Park

In Queen Elizabeth national park if the target is to spot a leopard there are some special places to look, one being the track called the leopard loop. The beautiful cat is also known to be seen by the adventurous channel track, Kasenyi research track around the crater at Queen’s pavilion (recently seen with a cub here) and by the old mating ground in Kasenyi. There is as well a resident leopard around Kyambura Gorge. In the Ishasha area, the southern sector of Queen Elizabeth national park,  go for the Kigezi game reserve or  Ntungwe mating ground in the morning or late evening if the aim is to see a leopard in Uganda.

Leopard in Murchison Falls National Park: 

If your safari takes you to Murchison Falls national park chances are that you will see a leopard by the palms towards Tangi gate, along Buligi track in the elephant corridor and by Queen’s track through the sausage tree areas.

Leopard in Kidepo Valley National Park:

Leopards in Uganda are as well found in Kidepo Valley national park as you go exploring this untouched wilderness.

Leopard in Lake Mburo National Park: 

Here the leopard search should focus on Warukuri track, Zebra track and Lake side drive in the evening. There is a resident leopard around Mihingo lodge and Rwakobo Rock lodge.

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What do Hippos eat?

The common hippopotamus, Hippopotamus amphibius, resides throughout sub-Saharan Africa wherever there is water deep enough for it to submerge during the day.

Hippos graze on land; they do not eat while in the water and aren’t known to graze on aquatic plants. They prefer short, creeping grass and small green shoots and reeds. 

A Hippo’s  stomach is  multi-chambered and can store food for a long period of time which explains why they spend a lot of time in water and can only feed for longer periods in the evening. 

In the evening  hippos go out of the water for serious feeding. They can move long distances of up to 8 kilometers in search for food. During this nocturnal feeding activity, an adult hippo can eat an average of 40 kilograms of grass. The Hippo uses its lips to pull grass and its 20-inch long teeth to chew before swallowing.

In Uganda, Hippos can be found in the following national parks;

Queen Elizabeth National Park

Hutchison Falls National Park

Kidepo Valley National Park

Lake Mburo National Park

Semuliki National Park

Hippos feed during the night because they need protection from the hot savannah sun. Hippos have no sweat glands and therefore the hot sun is bad for their skin. This is why they hide in water for much of the day.

Hippos take the same path for grazing in the evenings. The feeding area can expand to as far as 2 miles from the water, they feed in a circle pattern and this pattern keeps getting wider and wider.

Even though the hippos stay together in groups, they  prefer feeding individually. They follow these feeding trails every day to feeding and trace back when the sun comes up high. 

Gorilla’s Life

When a baby gorilla is born it weighs on average 2.5 kg

When a baby gorilla is born it weighs on average 2.5 kg, which is about half the weight of a human baby. 

Gorillas live in groups consisting of about 25 to 35 members. Usually there is one leading male, accompanied by several females with their young

However, this baby develops twice as fast. Within 40 weeks it can walk and reaching three years it slowly becomes independent. 

At six years they are about 1.20 meter tall and weigh almost 70 kg. 

At this age the female gorilla matures, though they continue gaining weight for the next four years. Males on the other hand do not reach maturity till they are ten years old. 

When their black back starts turning into grey it is time for them to leave the parental group. They wander alone or join other males for some time, before attracting females who will join them. 

In this way they form their own family.

Gorillas reproduce slowly, hence the world population doesn’t increase rapidly. 

Gestation period is approximately 8.5 months and gorilla mothers give birth to a baby once every four years. Unfortunately at least 30% does not survive their first year because of diseases and accidents. 

Another situation that causes death among the baby gorillas is when their father dies and another silverback takes over.

 This new male often kills all the babies of his predecessor, securing his own genes in the posterity.

Hierarchy is clear and important within the gorilla family. The dominant silverback enjoys the highest rank and the adult females rule over the younger ones.

 Like with other species in the animal world, gorilla males achieve the high ranking because of their size.

Male mountain gorillas can weigh up to 200 kg and can reach 1.70 meter when they are standing upright. Besides the strength they also have to prove their experience and abilities. It is their duty to protect their family from danger and intruders

It is not difficult to figure out where the name silverback comes from. Around the age of twelve years, they develop light grey hair on their back, giving them a ‘silver back

What do Gorillas eat?

Image by Jean Paul Hirwa

The adult male gorilla can  consume up to 30kg of plants daily while a mature female can consume about 18kg. Gorillas process these quantities of food with the help of their chewing muscles that are quite strong and their teeth that are much like human teeth except the long pointed canines that are only possessed by mature male gorillas which are not used for feeding but rather for fighting other competing gorillas.

The Mountain Gorillas that inhabit the Virunga Volcanoes shared by Uganda, Congo and Rwanda and the pre historic forest of Bwindi in Uganda draw their food from about 38 varying species of plants majorly thistles, nettles, celery and galium. This stands in contrast to the western gorillas which draw their food from about 200 species of plants majorly from arrowroot and ginger families.

Gorillas stick to a mainly vegetarian diet, feeding on stems, bamboo shoots and fruits. Western lowland gorillas, however, also have an appetite for termites and ants, and break open termite nests to eat the larvae.

Besides plant species, gorillas also take in quantities of soil though irregularly which is considered to be neutralizing the poisonous substances contained in their food and that the soil contains some minerals that are missing in their plant foods.

Gorillas, the largest living primates, make their homes in central and east Africa. They function in a well-developed social structure and often exhibit behavior and emotions similar to the human experience, including laughter and sadness. Poaching, disease and habitat destruction remain threats for gorillas

Adult male gorillas weigh up to 440 pounds and can reach a height of six feet when standing on two legs. Mature male gorillas are known as “silverbacks” for the white hair that develops on their back at about 14 years of age.

Charismatic and intelligent animals, gorillas share 98.3% of their DNA with humans. They are our closest cousins after chimpanzees and bonobos.

Crested Crane of Uganda

The Crested Crane – chosen as Uganda’s Crest (national symbol) nearly 100 years ago, is one of the most cherished birds in the country. The Grey Crowned Crane, scientifically known as Balearica regulorum gibbericeps, inhabited Uganda’s swamps and fields long before the coming of tribes in our territory.

History

The unusual gracefulness of the Crowned Crane, aptly typifying the country and its people, attracted then Governor of Uganda –Sir Frederick Jackson who, in 1893, chose it to embellish the Union Jack with its exquisite form and heraldic dignity.

Sir Frederick was a famous ornithologist who surrounded himself with the beautiful cranes at the government House in Entebbe which he could feed from his own hands.

It is estimated that number of Grey Crowned Cranes in Uganda has reduced from more than 70,000 in 1970s to less than 10,000 in 2011. The global threat status declined from near-threatened to vulnerable to endangered in less than five years, and indication of global concern on the survival of Cranes in the region.

The ban on massive reclamation of wetlands of 1986 did give some relief to wetlands and Cranes but recent impunity in wetland reclamation could drive the species to extinction.

Partner for life

Crested Cranes practice what is called “monogamy” meaning that once they find a partner they will remain with that same breeding partner for life.

They form pair bonds while they are young and will remain with the bird they bond to for the rest of their lives, breeding together each year and raising their young together. The advantage of this adaptation is not entirely understood, but it is cute.

Omnivores

Their food consists of plant and animal matter including grass and sedge seeds, millet, rice, peas, corn, mollusks, crustaceans, insects (grasshoppers and flies), fish, amphibians and reptiles. They feed by rapidly pecking at food but they sometime uproot plants and rarely dig. They prefer seed heads of grasses and sedges.

Eco systems 

Since seeds are a major staple of their diet they spread the seeds in their droppings, inadvertently carrying them elsewhere so the foliage can spread. The cranes also serve to keep populations of bugs in check by eating them wherever they go.

Crowned Cranes are known to breed in swamps but a combination of increasing human population and improved agricultural techniques is leading people to drain swamps often to grow rice in eastern Uganda, dairy farming and vegetable cultivation in south western Uganda. Eastern and south-western Uganda are the major critical areas for the survival of the Crane.

The best campsites in Uganda

Image by Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp

Whether you are planning a trip to a prepared campground or are venturing out into the wilderness with your backpack, it is always important to know how to choose a good campsite to settle in for the night.

What makes a good campsite? There are a number of things to keep in mind when selecting the best campsites. In order to be comfortable, you should select a spot by looking at what is below you, above you, and in front of you, as well as what surrounds you and makes up your campground views.

how to choose the best camp site in Uganda.

1. Good campsites are found, not made

This goes hand in hand with much of the above. Remember the reason we go camping is to enjoy nature in all its beauty and glory. Always be mindful of your local environment and try to leave it exactly as you find it. If you’re wild camping this is especially important. Try to pitch late, leave early and, of course, leave no trace.

2.  Be aware of environmental hazards

Is your campsite safe from hazards such as rock falls, flash floods, high tide or avalanches? As mentioned, natural windbreaks can be really useful but also come with their own set of hazards. You need to be aware of the local environment and not camp somewhere you can get hurt or worse, especially in the wild where there may not be help for miles around.

3. Consider the sun

If you want the morning sun to warm you up, make sure your campsite faces south (in the northern hemisphere). If you’re planning to spend time in your tent during the day then make sure you’ll have some shade. A tent can easily turn into a sauna during the hottest part of the day.

Image by Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp

4. Wash rooms 

The worst thing about camping is getting up in the middle of the night and having to walk to the  wash rooms  block (if you’re lucky enough to have one). The wash room blocks are usually the busiest area so if you don’t want people walk past your tent all night, pitch a fair distance away. Just be prepared for a long cold walk in the night. If you’re wild camping, make sure your waste has minimum impact on the environment – always bury everything.

5.  Avoid compacted ground

Don’t pick a spot just because others have camped there. When people camp on the same site over and over, the ground underneath gets compacted. This can be bad news if it rains heavily. You can find your campsite suddenly swamped when the compacted area fills up with water. Don’t pitch your tent in one of these overused indentations. 

6.  Choose flat ground

First and most obvious in getting a comfortable night’s sleep is to make sure you pitch your tent on flat ground. Unfortunately, nature isn’t always accommodating so if you must pitch on a slope, pitch your tent in a way so you can sleep with your head at the top of the slope. Ground that has a slight incline will help to avoid puddles in case it rains. And it often does.

Elephants in Uganda


Uganda has got the Savannah and Forest Elephants. These different species can be well-observed if you travel to places like Murchison Falla National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park especially in Ishaha and make comparisons with the elephants which cross back and forth into Uganda and Congo from the Ntungwe River. You can notice the difference in size and colour and  the forest elephants are more destructive than those in the Open Savannah grass lands.

Savanna elephants are intelligent, sociable, affectionate. They portray behaviors similar to humans such as caring for weaker individuals, adoption of orphaned calves and grieving over dead companions. Living in family groups of varying sizes and led by matriarchs, elephants traverse vast landscapes in search of food and water, paying no attention to political borders. 

With a single mature individual consuming between 250 and 350 kg of vegetation and requiring 110 to 190 liters of water per day, the home ranges of these elephants can span several hundred square kilometers. As a result, elephants play an important role in the modification of ecosystems and creation of conditions suitable for the survival of some plants and animals. 

They maintain grasslands by reducing tree cover and create water ponds for other wildlife as they dig for water using their trunks and tusks. They help with the dispersal and germination of tree species such as Borassus palms and Balanitis aegyptiaca trees, which are common in Africa.

Elephants can live up to 80 years. A fully grown savannah elephant in Uganda will weigh between 3500kgs to 12000kgs. Females are known to be slightly smaller than males, a baby elephant (calf) will normally weigh about 105kgs after the long gestation period of the mother which runs for 22 months.

An Elephant will use its trunk for many purposes most especially to draw water and grass for feeding but will also use the trunk to create way in the wild and some times raise the trunk up with ears wide when it sights danger. The trunk can take in up to 15-liters of water in a single draw. 

The tusk of an elephant will also help it to draw water especially in clearing the weed away from the water, clear the thickets and get good grass, help push trees down to get fruits and also help in digging salt.

These tusks for a fully grown elephant, they can measure up to 3meters and can also weigh up to 90kgs. Elephants will spend around 16 hours feeding on grass, shrubs, tree branches and will consume at least 140-270 kgs in a day. They spend most of the time feeding and they will normally rest for about 2 hours.