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 Name: Melanie Modlin
 Email Address : meeps@rcn.com and mm354i@nih.gov
 Country of Origin : USA
 Length of safari : 3 days
 Safari dates : June 25-27 2008

 How was your safari?

Magnificent! From the moment we met our kind, professional, knowledgeable and courteous driver, Joseph, and sped off to SW Uganda, everything was pretty magical. Although it was a long drive, I’m so glad that we were able to travel through the countryside to southwestern Uganda, “the Switzerland of Africa,” with its lovely mountains. The trip helped us to really get the flavor for the villages and their people, with the colorful homes, goats, cattle and other animals, the schoolchildren in their brightly colored clothes, the bikes and trucks loaded with matooke, the home-crafted wooden scooters — all of it was eye-popping! We were thrilled with our tents, although that term hardly does them justice, at Buhoma. They were roomy and comfortable, with great wood-fired showers (terrific!) and cozy beds. We had a lovely deck that afforded a fine view of the forest and the food was great. Of course, the main event was the gorilla tracking itself. Just spectacular. Our Ugandan Wildlife Association staff was first-class, professional and kind, all the way. We were bowled over by the sight of the 7 gorillas in the one clan, eating, swinging on vines — basically going about their lives, oblivious to us. Stupendous! After we got back from this delightful, life-altering day, Joseph, after conferring with a wonderful UWA guide, Caleb, said that we should leave the Savannah Resort, where we’d just dropped our luggage, and make our way to Queen Elizabeth Park, to try and catch the tree-climbing lions. Caleb was true to his word — we first saw the patriarch, Daniel, up in a tree by himself. Next, Caleb took us farther into the savannah and we beheld a tree with 7 lions in it, of various ages. What a sight! We also saw some antelopes, monkeys and exotic birds, as the sun slowly set. So, we in effect got a bonus safari, and a wonderful one at that, after our incomparable trip through Bwindi, to see the gorillas. And I have to heap praise on the beautiful Savannah Resort. Lovely grounds, with exotic plants and birds. Beautiful accommodations, including a deluxe bath and four-poster bed. The staff was so attentive and dinner and breakfast were delightful. Two thumbs up, and thank you, Joseph, for that QE Park inspiration!
Comment about the driver guide‘s skills that is punctuality, driving ability, Knowledge, and other skills

Comment about the vehicle and driver you used on safari.
As we were leaving the Agip Restaurant, on the way to Bwindi, another guide came up to my friends and me and, after seeing that we were with Joseph, commented, “Ah, you’ve got the Chief!” He was right. Joseph was definitely the man to know in Uganda. Knowledgeable, friendly, polite, funny, he infused each day with lots of information about Ugandan agriculture, customs, politics, plants, animals — he knew it all! He also seemed to know very well people in every eatery, hotel and park that we visited, and he could always engage them in conversation in one of the 12 languages he speaks, including flawless English. I liked that he quickly learned the rhythm of my friends and me, and would stop to accommodate our need for coffee, bathrooms, snacks or whatever. He was so thoughtful and would never abandon us as we went on our various adventures. I like, too, that, sensing we would appreciate the adventures in Queen Elizabeth Park, he changed our hotel reservations and booked us in a place nearby. For us, he was in many ways our gateway to Uganda. Without Joseph, the trip wouldn’t have been nearly so interesting, rich and fulfilling. He was absolutely terrific. (Also, as a driver on some very challenging rutted roads, and some fairly dangerous hillsides, with many people and animals alongside them, Joseph was really amazing. He knew just how to dodge all ruts in the road and always maintained total concentration. We never once questioned his judgment or feared for our safety. Great job!)

 The four-wheel drive Toyota was perfect for these long drives. Its shocks and brakes held up remarkably well. We had just one problem — one day, one of the back windows got stuck, and my friend sitting on that side got quite a bit of red dust all over her, and in her eyes and hair. By morning, though, Joseph had somehow fixed in. We were fine after that. We did appreciate the supply of bottled water in the back, too. Really made the trip more enjoyable.


Were your expectations for this safari fulfilled or Overwhelmed?

As you can tell by my effusive description, above, my expectations for our safari were exceeded. It was a wonderful experience, made even more memorable by the presence of two scientists, who were studying how the gorillas behaved before we got there, during their time in our presence and after we left. I was particularly thrilled as our path became trickier and narrower. We started out on the wide, open road, then took some narrower trails and, by the time we were getting close to the magnificent animals, our guides were literally making our trails, using machetes. Exciting and adventurous, to be sure!

 Was the administration helpful?
Tanah Hadijah was the professional’s professional from my first e-mail to her, all the way until our departure. I appreciated her prompt and personal response and her kindness, even if only in cyberspace. She patiently answered all of my questions and seemed to anticipate my every need. I liked the fact that she and Robert, her boss, called us several times during our safari, to see how things were going, and whether we needed anything. It was Tanah, too, who suggested we might like to go whitewater rafting on the Nile, near Jinja. That was another trip of a lifetime! The only time Tanah and I had a communication problem was with the fact that we needed to bring U.S. bills that were minted 2002 and later. I didn’t realize that and, when we got to Uganda, and it was time to give the final payment for our safaris, many of my bills were from the 1990’s. It all worked out okay, thanks to Julia, my U.S. friend living in Uganda, and the nearby cash machine. That was the only small blip — otherwise, the kind and conscientious Tanah (whom I’m so glad we got to meet) was first-rate and wonderful.

Melanie Modlin, a contented mzungu and Abacus customer

Takoma Park, MD

USA

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