RTW Flight Tickets? Are They Actually Worth It?
RTW Flight Tickets? Are They Actually Worth It?

I had heard about Round The World (RTW) flights from a few different sources while planning our trip and they sounded like the way to go. I initially started looking into the prices and a few things seemed to steer me away early on from purchasing them:

a) Huge Constraints – you had to continue traveling in one-direction (East or West) and had many other restrictions. I didn’t like that this would put constraints on how and when we traveled. It just wasn’t going to work with the rough plan we had, wanting to chase the nice weather and trying to avoid peak season in Europe. If you check out the map of our travels here, you’ll see that we’re all over the map and a RTW flight ticket would not have worked for us at all!

 

b) No Savings in Cost – I felt like I could do it myself for the same price, if not cheaper. This was more of a gut feel and some very rough flight budgeting efforts I had put in.

 

So with those 2 issues, we abandoned the RTW flight purchasing idea and never looked back. Until now. I wanted to know for sure if we made the right decision – cost wise. Were we able to do it cheaper ourselves?

Let’s dig into our flight numbers and compare it to a popular RTW carrier, Airtreks, and find out if we made the right decision:

 

Our Epic 300 Day Trip Around the World:

Here’s a simple table showing our Flight Costs:

 

Airtreks Comparison Quotes:

Here’s a (~90%) complete list of the flights we took with a quote:

I tried an even more simplified version with just the main big flights we took:

 

Lastly, here I tried to see if I could follow the one-direction rule and just list only the major stops on the way to see what it would look like. Even still, our actual crazy itinerary was likely cheaper.

 

What a RTW Flight Buys you:

A RTW ticket will certainly give you peace of mind knowing that your flight prices are locked in, but at a pretty hefty premium. It also puts handcuffs on you in terms of your travel flexibility.

 

The Results:

No matter which way I tried to slice and play with the Airtreks estimator, you can see that we saved a ton of money booking our own flights (likely half the cost!). We did a mix of purchasing on-the-go, watching for flight deals and purchasing reasonably in advance. Thankfully I listened to my gut and not to what other people were telling me and what I read online.

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Using Google Maps to Avoid Taxi Scams
Using Google Maps to Avoid Taxi Scams

Google maps (with data/wifi) has been a life saver for us (in many ways!) on our world trip. One particularly interesting way was to help us avoid scammers and being ripped off by taxis or transportation companies/people.

Huh???

 

Well, Google Maps (mobile) has a neat feature where if you ask for directions and a ride-hailing service is available in your area (such as Uber, Grab or Taxify) it will give you price estimates from those companies. Google maps even lets you select “Open App” where it will automatically transfer the requested pick-up and drop-off locations to the selected app which makes ordering this service even easier/faster.

 

Here’s what it looks like in my Google Maps on my Android phone for a ride in Nairobi, Kenya. Notice that both Taxify and Uber operate here:

 

You now have an actual price for what LOCALS pay. Keep that in mind; this is now your weapon of knowledge.

a) You can simply order an Uber/Grab/Taxify and be done and not worry about negotiations or scams… and also hope the taxi driver doesn’t demand extra payment or refuse to take you when they arrive (this happens!)

b) Now armed with what a local would pay, you can start negotiating with a taxi (or Tuk Tuk, etc) you flag down or find on the street and know when they’re trying to take advantage of you. We found this very handy while we were in Bangkok.

 

It’s also a good idea to test a few different place-to-place directions (ie. Your hotel to a common tourist spot) in Google to get a sense for what the local taxis should cost. You can then extrapolate that on-the-fly if you’re going to flag down a Tuk Tuk or taxi on the side of the road and begin negotiating. Keeping in mind the general rule of thumb is you always want taxis to use the meter (if available; they’re not always willing even if they do).

 

 

It’s also a handy feature when trying to decide if you should take public transport or if the added expense of a private taxi is worth it, since in most developed cities Google can give you accurate information on public transport (time and distance only, not cost).

 

So keep this tip in mind, and make sure you have Uber, Grab and Taxify apps all set up and ready to go before you set off on your travels.

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Travel Insurance – Money Saving Tips You Probably Never Knew
Travel Insurance – Money Saving Tips You Probably Never Knew

Okay, keep in mind that these mainly pertain to World Nomads Insurance as a Canadian. Also, their policies likely differ slightly for different countries. I imagine many of the insurance companies operate similarly. I really loved how easy World Nomads was to get quotes, purchase and update my policy. I also called on a few occasions to speak with someone and they were very helpful (lots of these tips and info below came from them!). Please note that and I am NOT affiliated with World Nomads or get referral kickbacks and have NOT had to make a claim, so take some of this praise with grain of salt.

Disclaimer: I am NOT an insurance advisor or play one on TV. Make sure you read your policy fine print and get qualified advise as required. These are just my own observations and opinions as they applied to my coverage through World Nomads on our world trip.
Now onto the money saving tips…

 

Don’t purchase level 2 and 3 activity coverage for your entire trip.

World Nomads ranks its covered activities risks (like swimming, snowboarding or skydiving) from Level 1 to Level 3. It’s likely MUCH cheaper to purchase the Base Level 1 coverage for the entire duration of your trip and then purchase a new policy for only the days you know you are doing more dangerous activities (eg snowboarding) that fall in the Level 2 and 3 risk categories.

 

Look at Purchasing Expensive Regions Separately

World Nomads prices their coverage by regions (I forget what they are exactly, sorry). When getting initial quotes for our world trip I added the United States to my list of countries planning to visit and the price almost doubled. If you’re going to different regions on an extended trip, play around with the quote tool to see if purchasing separate policies in each region is more cost effective.

 

Purchase Only The Minimum Amount. Extend as you go.

We didn’t purchase the entire 10 months of insurance at the start because we were not sure if we’d get sick of travelling, run out of money or need to come home early for some other reason. So when our initial insurance policy end date was near I found it was significantly cheaper to extend our existing policy by a few months than to purchase a brand new policy for the same amount of time.

Note that you can’t add countries to your existing policy with World Nomads, you can only extend the policy end date. But if you have 1 country within that region listed, you’re covered in the entire region and don’t need a new policy for the country you missed.

 

Play With The End Date

We were originally only going to purchase 6 months worth of travel insurance, but I noticed the price didn’t change when I played with the end date (within a few days). This got me thinking there was some sort of break-point in the pricing with the number of days. So I added 1 more day extra and refreshed the quote until I found the step change at nearly 7 months! So in other words, the cost of nearly 7 months of coverage was going to cost me EXACTLY the same as the 6 months of coverage I was going to pay for. It appears they have a 30 day break-point window in which the cost stays exactly the same regardless of the end date you select. So you might as well pick an end date further out if it costs the same, in case something happens and you stay longer.

 

Take a Weekend Motorcycle Training Course to Get Licensed

I could write a lot about this topic, and I do so in this blog post, but basically, you may not have medical insurance coverage in the event of an accident if you are operating a scooter or motorbike without being properly licensed back home (ie. Have a valid motorcycle license where you live). In general, in Southeast Asia they don’t care if you are properly licensed, experienced or insured; put up the cash and you get yourself a scooter. It’s a pretty big financial and safety risk driving a scooter in another country without proper training, experience and licensing. This is why I would highly recommend you do a weekend motorcycle training and licensing course before your trip. Most insurance companies will not cover your medical expenses for a motorbike accident if you are not licensed to drive a motorbike. I suspect that an emergency medical evacuation back home after a serious scooter accident is a hefty bill that’s not in anyone’s budget and a real bummer when you wake from your coma to find that the insurance denied the claim.

You were wondering why the cover image is of me on this awesome pick scooter, didn’t you? This tip on motorcycle licensing is where it ties in. Also, you don’t always get to pick your scooter…

 

Hopefully, this all helps you save some money, stay safe and give you some peace of mind planning your trip!

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Our Favorite Travel Resources & Tools
Our Favorite Travel Resources & Tools

Here’s a comprehensive list of what we use for our travel planning. We use them all quite frequently! We’ve tried to include a short blurb about how and why we use each tool, as well as, any quirks you might have to watch out for.

 

Flights

Google Flights

Google Flights is great because it’s very fast to search. It also has some flexible searching methods in terms of dates and locations. This is usually our go-to when we have an idea of where we want to catch a flight.

Kiwi.com

Kiwi is great because it has loads of searching options which allow for flexible dates and locations. It also will look for the cheapest flight even if they are separate itineraries; careful though, we got burned by this. We will probably never book through Kiwi again but really like using their site to search for cheaper ways to get places (even when not direct) or for creating fun stop-over trips en-route to our actual destination.

Scott’s Cheap Flights

This is a paid service (they have a free one also) in which they send you flight deals based on the airports/countries/cities you choose. This has been great for a few reasons a) we’ve found a couple of great deals we booked with and b) it helps us understand what generally a good price on a flight should be and c) it helps us find and understand where the flight hubs are, so we now understand where to manually look for cheap flights/stop-overs using Google Flights or Kiwi. For Canadians, there is also NextDeparture which is what we originally used to find our first flight deal out of Canada. We originally purchased it as a round trip 2-week vacation but instead used it to kick off our trip around the world. It was such a good deal we didn’t feel bad forfeiting the return flight portion.

Skiplagged

This site will try to find you the cheapest airfare from Point A to B, even if it means that you purchase a flight from Point A to C, with a layover in point B. So you simply get off at Point B. This also means you cannot check any luggage (carry-on only). We’ve read that ideally you don’t book on points or use your airline frequent flyer account as the airlines don’t like you doing this. Use at your own risk. We used to search this website but honestly never found any deals so we stopped. As Canadians, we do know that many times it’s cheaper to fly to Europe (with a layover in Eastern Canada) then it is for a flight within Canada, so this might be an option for those looking to fly internally in Canada for cheap(er).

Air Wander

We used to use this site more often but usually do it ourselves now with Kiwi. Basically this site will look for stop-over destinations (for cheap) you can do a mini-trip in. You can even specify how many days you want in the stop-over.

Momondo/Skyscanner

We’ve read that some sites like Google Flights don’t have all of the small, budget airlines in their search engine and sometimes miss out on some of the cheapest flights. Supposedly Momondo and Skyscanner don’t miss these. We don’t use them much so can’t really confirm this.

 

Ride Sharing Apps

Uber

You can use this in many places around the world.

Grab

Grab is based out of Singapore and is more common in Southeast Asia.

Taxify

Taxify is based in Estonia and operates around the world, including Africa. Sometimes you need cash to pay the driver as they won’t accept your Credit Card through the app.

I highly suggest you install all 3 of these apps on your phone and get setup with App payments via credit card so you’re prepared anywhere you go.

 

Accommodations

Airbnb

We booked almost exclusively using Airbnb in Oceania and Europe. This is because we found it cheaper to cook some meals for ourselves so it was important for us to have a kitchen. In many cases we found it almost as cheap as booking a hostel for 2 people.

Booking.com

In regions where eating out is very cheap and buying groceries/cooking is not ideal (eg Southeast Asia), we booked using Hotels.com pretty much exclusively. They have both hostels, hotels, guesthouses and the odd entire home/apartment available. It’s easy to search and has a great mobile app.

Hostelworld.com

We didn’t really do the hostel thing but we’ve heard from several people that this is a great app for those solo-backpacker types looking for a cheap room to stay.

 

Train / Bus / Ferry Transportation Apps

Rome2Rio

Rome2Rio is a great way to help with logistics in figuring out how to get between cities from Point A to Point B (or also add multiple stops to Point C, D, E…). It will give you options on what type of transportation (flight/bus/train/etc) and fare estimates. We noticed their fare estimates weren’t always accurate.

GoEuro

Another great tool to figure out how to get from Point A to Point B within Europe. It will look at trains or buses. You can book directly through them but we never did; we used it to compare prices to determine if we should use one of our Eurail pass days or get a cheap bus or train instead. We found it usually better to book directly with the bus or train company and their website/app rather than third party ones like GoEuro, kind of like booking directly with an airline instead of Expedia.

12Go Asia

They don’t seem to have a mobile app yet but their website is pretty useful in finding and booking transportation in Southeast Asia. We found it very useful in Thailand, which has a well established tourism industry and is good at moving tourists around. We found it not very useful in Philippines however. We’ll update this as we travel to more of Asia.

Flixbus

For getting around Europe cheap and comfortably, this was great. It was usually the cheapest bus fares we found. Their app was great to purchase tickets and you get your tickets on the mobile app (no printing required!!!).They had comfy new buses with free wifi. Their customer service was actually very helpful when we got a notification that our bus was running very late and they helped us re-book on another bus.

 

Misc Travel Apps & Resources

Google Trips or TripIt

These are great to keep your travel itinerary information all within one place. Google will automatically take travel itineraries in your email, like flights or hotels, and put it into Google Trips. TripIt now has an integration with Gmail where you can give it access to your Gmail account and do the same, otherwise you can forward your email itineraries to a Tripit Email address and it inputs it for you. I personally prefer Google Trips (possibly because I just used it first and longer) as it also has a link to the actual emails of the itineraries, which is handy if an airline or immigration person wants your proof of onward travel.

Find Device (Android)

Kind of like FindMyPhone but for Android users. It’s nice if you want to find your significant other if you get separated. Also in the event you lose your phone or it’s stolen you can track it via GPS to try and recover it or wipe it remotely.

Google Translate

Very helpful in many different ways. Be sure to download the languages you need for offline use if you don’t have data.

Rick Steves Audio Europe

Amazing audio tour guides of popular places in Europe and for free! Not the fanciest app but it gets the job done with great content. It was better than some of the “free” walking tours we took.

Exchange Rates – Currency Converter (by Universal Currency)

This one is obvious what it does. It’s free (has ads) and is easy to add multiple currencies to the app home page so you can see several at a glance and work between. XE Currency Conversion is another popular one we heard of.

MotorHomeBookers.com

This site will compare many different rental companies. It made booking a campervan rental in New Zealand so much easier.

 

Maps/GPS

Google Maps

This is our go-to maps application. We haven’t tried or researched many others because 90% of the time it usually works for us. Definitely, in the less toursity/developed countries and cities, it got us into some trouble (not knowing one-way streets for instance!). Plus we have the ability to download offline maps while on Wi-Fi in case we don’t have cell service. The only downside is the offline maps are for driving directions only (no public transport or walking directions). On the plus side, the offline maps generally have the businesses/restaurants/atms/places you might be searching for, so this means the search function within Google Maps is still functional/useful even in offline mode (assuming you downloaded the offline map).

Maps.me

This is another offline maps option we’ve read and heard is great. We haven’t used it. We’ve heard this one is ideal for walking directions and also has many walking/hiking trails that Google Maps is missing. It’s probably a good combo to have with Google maps and between the 2 you’d be set.

 

Important Info Backups & Safekeeping

LastPass

We’ve been using this service for years before we started travelling. It makes travelling even easier/safer. We stored our important documents here as well as our logins/passwords. Another great feature is the Emergency Access system. Before travelling we set up a family member back home so that in the event of an emergency while travelling he would basically have access to everything in our lives (banking, travel insurance login, passport details, you name it). You can read more about why this is so important and how we set that up here.

Google Drive

We also setup a shared Google Drive folder to keep all of our important documents. The important feature here is we can make these files “Available Offline” on our phones, so that if we don’t have internet connection we still have access to these documents.

 

Entertainment

Audible

We love audiobooks and this works great for us.

Google Music

We’re big into Google products. Spotify, Apple, Amazon also have similar products.

Pocketcast

I love podcasts and this is one of the best podcast apps. Google Music also does podcasts but we never tried it.

Netflix

Obviously. It also has the ability to download some shows/movies for offline viewing, which is great for places with brutal internet (like the Philippines) or if you’re stuck on a train/plane/bus.

 

Budgeting & Cost Tracking

Good ‘ole Spreadsheet

Being a Project Manager I know my way around a spreadsheet and budgets pretty well so I developed my own to plan our world trip budget.

Toshl

We needed an easy/fast way to track our expenses real-time to make sure we’re staying below our daily budgets and also for long term tracking. Toshl is geared towards everyday type budgeting and tracking (think home budgets) but I found a way to make it work pretty well for travel expense tracking. One great feature is you can select the local currency and have it convert back to your “home” currency using the current exchange rate. It also works offline and will sync once you get a connection back on your phone. We paid for the Toshl Pro version because we needed more budgets. We did NOT like the automatic syncing of bank transactions because we had to go into them individually and edit them anyways, which took more time and then we usually forgot what they were for. So we enter all expenses manually when they happen (it’s really quick/easy otherwise I wouldn’t do it!). We also heard that TrailWallet was a great option and specifically designed for travelers but is only available for iOS.

Splitwise

This app was very handy when we met up with Lauren’s sister in Greece and traveled together for a few weeks and splitting costs. It helped keep our sanity and things straight about who-owes-who-what with shared costs by entering them into Splitwise to keep track of them all (eg. shared accommodations, car rental, or groceries purchased by one individual). It keeps a running tally of who owes what (net) and you can input expenses and work in multiple currencies (although the net calculation gets messy when mixing currencies so you have to do some math and conversions yourself; no biggie) so at the end of our time together we could easily get all squared up. Just remember to track all of your OWN expenses in Toshl regardless of who paid the actual bill at the time.

 

Websites for Various Travel Planning Info

WikiTravel.com or WikiVoyage.org

These 2 sites seem to have very similar content. They’re basically Wikipedia for travel places. Tons of great info on weather, logistics, things to do/see/eat in different places. It’s not always complete or as detailed and the accuracy might be out of date depending on when it was last edited.

LonelyPlanet.com

So much good planning information here also such as cost estimates, logistics, things to do/see/eat, weather, peak seasons, etc.

Reddit.com/r/travel

Lots of good info, pictures, suggestions. These are (usually) real, regular people and you get real opinion rather than sugar-coated bloggers saying how everything is super-amazing! Unlike most blogs, they’re usually not trying to just sell you something and you can get honest feedback.

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Lauren’s Top 10 Favorite Places To-Date
Lauren’s Top 10 Favorite Places To-Date

Coming Soon!

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Mark’s Top 10 Favorite Places To-Date
Mark’s Top 10 Favorite Places To-Date

We get asked all the time “what was your favorite” and it’s almost impossible to say as we love different places and experiences for different reasons. Here’s a list of my current top 11 places and/or experiences in no particular order.

Switzerland

Everything is so beautiful and clean. The lakes and rivers are only rivaled by what we saw in New Zealand. The mountains are amazing and seeing the little villages and homes way up on the mountainsides. Make sure you bring a ton of money as it was likely the most expensive place we visited.

 

Algarve (South Portugal)

Cheap and beautiful is what comes to mind here. We visited a few different cities in this region and really liked them all. Beautiful beaches and landscapes, cheap food, accommodations and booze could all be had. It’s also one of the cheapest places to go Skydiving and with a view of the beach and ocean made for an epic tandem skydive experience for both of us!

 

Greek Islands

The amazing water and beaches. Oh and the food! Plus it’s fairly affordable compared to many other European countries. I hated Santorini; it was a tourist nightmare. Crete and Ios were amazing and I really wish we had time to explore a few more of the quieter island (Sifnos and Siros) but a storm trapped us in Santorini longer than we planned.

 

Rogoznica (Croatia)

Croatia has some beautiful water like Greece but sandy beaches are hard to find. Croatia appears to be getting pretty touristy too, especially Split and Dubrovnik, so we found this very quaint little town near Split, Rogoznica, that was perfect for us and quite affordable.

 

Masai Mara Game Drive (Kenya)

This was what I pictured of Africa Safari all jam-packed into a condensed area. Luckily it was the last game drive for us on our 23 day trip otherwise the rest of the game drives would have been far less exciting as this one was epic.

 

Milford Sound (New Zealand)

The trip into Milford Sound and Milford Sound itself will have you saying “Wow” constantly. Some of the most incredible, if not the most incredible landscapes we had seen.

 

Budapest

Originally we were just going to spend a few hours in Budapest while on our way to Vienna. We liked it so much we changed our plans and stayed a few nights. It’s a weird looking city because it has the beautiful European buildings you’d see in other great cities and then has some ugly communist monstrosities mixed into it. Lots of interesting history to it also. And the best part of all, it had far fewer tourists than cities like Prague and Vienna and wayyyy more affordable.

 

Rome

Touristy, yes, but so much awesome here. Lots of interesting historical places to visit like the Roman Coliseum, The Roman Forum, Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica.

 

Jordan

Our whole time spent in Jordan was awesome. Petra: amazing. Wadi Rum: amazing. The people: friggin’ amazing. Prices: generally amazing (it ranged from very cheap to ‘holy-shit gouging the tourists’ prices).

 

Canyoneering (Cebu Island, Philippines)

This is an experience I’ll always remember. It’s hard to explain. I definitely recommend you book the “full course” canyoneering tour which includes both the Alegria section of canyon and the Badian section of canyon. It’s a bit confusing to try and book so you’ll want read more here about our experience.

 

If you’re counting then you realized I lied and couldn’t narrow it down to just 10 places/experiences. There might be a few more added to this list…

 

Siquijor Island (Philippines)

When I think of perfect tropical island destination this is it. Super chill. Beautiful beaches. Very affordable. Cool stuff to do and see. We lucked out and found 2 amazing accommodations with fantastic views and for crazy cheap. Also, lots of other tourist places in Southeast Asia have vendors constantly trying to sell you stuff and bother you; this only happened once when we got off the ferry when we landed (and it was mild compared to what we’ve seen).

 

Notable Mentions…

Gorilla Trekking (this would be in my top 10 but we got stuck with an awful family in our tour group who almost ruined it completely for me)

Lake Bled (Slovania)

Levanto (near Cinque Terre, Italy)

Dubrovnik (Croatia)

Dubai (UAE)

Abu Dhabi (UAE)

Singapore

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Gorilla Trekking
Gorilla Trekking

This was one of the crowning highlights of our entire world trip. We knew we wanted to do an African Safari with an overland tour group but when we learned more about the Gorilla Trekking option we decided to go with the longer tour package with optional gorilla trek. Here are a few of the main takeaways from our experience.

 

The good:

Baby gorillas are the cutest thing ever. I want one (or several). They are very curious and playful and can sometimes approach you. You’re not allowed to touch them; so Lauren just had to stand very still when one jumped up to try and grab the zipper on her jacket!

Gorillas are a protected species and it appears that their numbers are beginning to increase. Though trekking to see the gorillas is an expensive endeavor, tourism money goes directly to conservation efforts to help protect these beautiful creatures from poaching and from contracting diseases. Only 8 tourists are allowed to visit each gorilla family per day in order to minimize any disturbances to their natural habitat.

You can hear the silverbacks beat their chests somewhere in the jungle while hiking in. It can be a little scary but also builds the anticipation for finally reaching them!

You usually don’t have to trek long or far. The trackers are sent out hours before the tour groups arrive to try and locate the families then relay their position back to the tour guides. I think most groups find them within an hour. Our trackers had not found our gorilla family by the time we set out so we wound up trekking for around 3 hours trying to find them.

It sounds like it’s almost guaranteed to see the gorillas. Our tour guide did tell us that on one very rare occasion a group was out for around 12 hours searching for their gorilla family before they found them.

 

The bad:

Talking with our guide, the gorillas that are visited are “habituated”, meaning that they’re so familiar with having people around they are deemed safe to be around. The really wild ones, which could occasionally be heard, can be dangerous and should be avoided. Knowing they were habituated made it a little less special to me.

The silverbacks were smaller than what I had imagined. I’m not sure if it was television that skewed my perception but I imaged that even on all fours they would tower over me. Still, I’m sure new underpants would be in order if one charged at me.

Africa is hella-expensive, and especially the gorilla trekking. The gorilla trekking permits alone were almost $700 USD per person for 1-hour of time spent with them. I wish I was earning gorilla money wages!

Unfortunately, one of the things I remember most about Gorilla trekking is the family of 4 that joined us and 2 of our friends from our overland tour. There was a mother, father, son (around 16 years old) and a daughter (around 14 years old?) — I’m going to refer to them as JFF (Jerk-face Family). All of JFF were decked out with super fancy DSLR cameras with big expensive lenses. They would constantly push themselves to the front of the group and not allow our group of 4 to get into a good position to take photos. Note that you’re hiking through very thick jungle and are generally single file so being at the front was a big advantage to get the best views of the gorillas. At times all 4 of JFF were taking virtually the same shot with all 4 of their fancy cameras, whereas 1 of us in the group had a DSLR and the other 3 had just our cell phones trying to get a decent photo. So a note to the wise… have a discussion with your group before setting out on the trek to insure that everyone gets an equal opportunity at the front row.

 

 

The interesting:

This could be seen as good or bad – we had 2 armed guards with our tour. 1 in the front of the group with an AK47 and one in the rear with an AK47. We were told they were for our protection from wild animals, like a charging elephant, and that they would first fire warning shots to try and scare the animal away before trying to kill it to protect us.

There were almost as many “staff” with us as there were tourists: 2 armed guards, 2 trackers, 1 tour guide, 1 “bush cutter”, 1 optional porter (for JFF). So by my count, we had 8 tourists and 7 staff on our expedition. The tourists can easily be outnumbered if more pay for porters.

There were three silverbacks in the family that we visited. The dominant male silverback, “Coconut”, actually had a lame right arm, which you can see in this video. Our guide said he was born with it. I always thought the strongest male became dominant, so that assumption was either wrong or Coconut is a one-armed powerhouse.

This is a true jungle trek. It’s intense. There are virtually no pathways or trails and the tour guides are in front with machetes hacking away for you to get through. It’s very hilly with uneven ground and you may have to get pretty wet and muddy (we did!). You can hire a porter(s) to carry your bags for you and to even assist you (ie. Push/pull you up the mountain).

 

Where and How:

We booked our 23-day overland Africa safari tour through Absolute Africa. They’re one of the cheapest options out there. They organized our gorilla permits and logistics as one of the optional excursions of this tour; we just forked over tons of money and wound up at gorillas (easy peasy). We saw the gorillas at the Bwindi Nation Park in Uganda. From what we read you can also see them in Rwanda and the Congo. Rwanda gorilla permits were something like triple the cost of Uganda, so that was a no-go. The Congo I recall being much cheaper…but we didn’t want to go to the Congo at the time (for safety reasons!). Read this story about 2 tourists being captured for ransom in Congo and their park ranger killed during the attack — https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/05/13/british-tourists-kidnapped-democratic-republic-congo-released/. This happened just a few months before we were on our gorilla trek. Crazy.

Honestly, there is more good than bad and I hope this post doesn’t dissuade anyone from going to see the gorillas. They’re amazing creatures and something we’ll never forget. Just remember to try and coordinate with your tour group to take turns and be courteous about who gets the front spots… and you probably don’t want to cheap out and do it in Congo at the moment!

Check out the gallery of our photos below to see more awesome pictures and videos from this incredible experience.

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Dubai
Dubai

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Singapore
Singapore

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