Gorilla Doctor Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka Wildfoot Travel Launches Gorilla trekking adventures in Uganda

September 2018 marks 25 years of Gorilla tourism in Uganda so what better way to celebrate than to add Uganda holidays to our portfolio! Mountain Gorillas have survived in Uganda, largely due to conservation efforts and these are directly assisted by tourism. Back in 1993, just one family – named ‘Mubare’ after the hills in which they lived – was habituated to humans, allowing just 8 tourists a day to have a magical gorilla encounter.

Twenty-five years on, the number of habituated gorilla groups now stands at 14, with park visitors increasing from 1,313 to over 20,000 in 2017.

Uganda Wildlife Authority work with several other NGO’s and charities to maintain the forest in which they live and with no mountain gorillas ever surviving in captivity, it highlights just how vital protecting their natural habitat is to their survival.

Our MD Simon Rowland caught up with Uganda’s answer to Dian Fossey, Gorilla Doctor Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka to find out more about these critically endangered species and how we can help protect them.

Gorilla Doctor Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka
Gorilla Doctor Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka (photo credit: Conservation Through Public Health)
  • Can you tell us how tourism is directly helping the survival of mountain gorillas?

Tourism is directly helping the mountain gorillas by providing a sustainable source of income for gorilla conservation. Ecotourism with such an endangered species not only encourages the need to tread lightly through limiting the number of tourists to each gorilla group, but also provides benefits to local communities who are engaged in the tourism industry through employment, local businesses selling crafts, accommodation and food among others.

  • We read in the news recently that mountain gorilla numbers are now above 1000 for the first time. What has contributed to this growth in numbers?

A number of factors have contributed to the increase in mountain gorilla numbers from 650 when I first started working with gorillas in the 1990s to over 1,000 this year. This includes veterinary care for individual gorillas, improving community health to reduce disease transmission between people and gorillas and other community conservation efforts such as ecotourism and support to local coffee farmers, which improves community livelihoods and reduces their dependence on the gorilla habitat to meet basic needs for food and fuel wood; as well as law enforcement and research and monitoring to guide better management of the critically endangered gorillas and their fragile habitats.

A Gorilla in Uganda

  • How did you become a Gorilla Doctor?

I became a gorilla doctor after I conducted research on parasites and bacteria in the mountain gorillas at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park as part of my studies as a veterinary student at the Royal Veterinary College, University of London.  I had always wanted to be a vet and when I started a wildlife club in my high school, Kibuli Secondary School in Uganda, I decided that I want to become a vet who also works with wildlife. In the fourth year of vet school, I got the opportunity to study the mountain gorillas and was hosted by Dr. Liz Macfie, heading the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) in Uganda that was working with Uganda National Parks, which later became Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) to develop mountain gorilla ecotourism. The four weeks I spent at Bwindi in 1994, when tourism had just began was a life changing experience that made me want to become a full time wildlife veterinarian. One year later I got my dream job as the first veterinarian for Uganda Wildlife Authority because they needed a vet to look after the gorillas to minimize the risk of cross species disease transmission from closely related humans including tourists.


 Uganda celebrates 25 years of gorilla tourism this year, what’s been the biggest change in 25 years?

It is exciting that Uganda is celebrating 25 years of gorilla tourism this year. I have seen a lot of changes since I first started working with gorillas in 1994. At that time there were only two gorilla groups, Mubare and Katendegyere. Unfortunately Katendegyere gorilla group eventually disintegrated because of too many males and also suffered from the first recorded scabies disease outbreak in the mountain gorillas traced to people living around the park who have limited access to health services. This eventually led to more gorilla groups being habituated and causing the biggest change in 25 years, economic benefits from gorilla tourism that has transformed the local economy of Bwindi.  Since the number of habituated gorilla groups has increased to 14, the number of lodges and tourists to Bwindi has increased and so have the benefits to the local community and sustainable income for UWA and Uganda as a whole. This has in turn resulted in greater support for gorillas, the park and wildlife conservation in general. 

We know that every time we trek for gorillas we are helping through awareness and our permit price but how else can our readers support gorillas survival both now and in the future?

People can support gorilla tourism through adding a day or two after the gorilla trekking to learn about the local conservation efforts on the ground, how gorillas are looked after through health services and how the local communities’ quality of life is being improved through engagement in conservation and livelihood activities that enable them to coexist with the gorillas and other wildlife at Bwindi.

For more information on our work please visit www.ctph.org

To find out more about Wildfoot Travel’s trips to Uganda click here.


Victoria Falls Visiting Victoria Falls and when is the best time?

Anthony Gregory Africa Safari Guide
Wildfoot Travel’s Anthony Gregory is a life-long travel enthusiast with unrivalled experience working as a safari guide and travelling extensively throughout Africa.
Here he answers a common but all-important question we are often asked by newcomers to Africa, ‘what is the best time to visit Victoria Falls’?

As the largest waterfall in the world, Victoria Falls is a must-see for any visitor to Africa, and is a great start or end point for many of our tours to Botswana and surrounds. With its size and flow affected by the seasons though, it’s a good idea to plan your visit to see it at its most spectacular or to experience certain activities.

There are three main seasons to visit the falls, when the water will be at different levels based on the rain:

March to May – High water

Following the heavy rains that occur from January through to March, the falls are usually full and you’ll see the world’s largest sheet of falling water flowing at full capacity. At this time, the spray is so thick that you can barely see anything through the haze as you get close to the falls, so photographs are difficult to take without a waterproof camera. You’ll also end up soaking wet without a raincoat, umbrellas are useless as the spray comes upwards!

Even though the views aren’t great up close, the thunderous roars and sensory overload from the experience are something to behold! This is also a great time to take a helicopter ride over the falls and get an aerial view of its full magnificence, with the spray from the falls rising to over 400 metres. Be aware that some activities such as white water rafting and swimming in the Devil’s Pool are too dangerous to do at this time of year though, when the water is at its highest and fastest.

Temperatures during this time reach around 30oC in the day, dropping to around 14oC, and rain and thunderstorms are common.

January, February and June to September – Mid to High water

Most visitors would agree that the best time for viewing the falls is during these months, though there can be considerable variance between during and after the rains.

Parts of the cliff face are exposed during the mid-water period, and you can see all the way to the bottom with a decent amount of spray and thundering to make for an impressive experience. July is the best time for seeing the ‘moonbows’ (full moon rainbows) and getting a photo of these is high on most visitors lists.

If a safari is part of your trip, June to September is the ideal time as temperatures drop, the bush thins, and wildlife concentrates around permanent water sources. With the Chobe and Hwange right next door, there’s no reason not to take advantage of a quick trip into the bush!

Temperatures during January/February are around 30oC, with high humidity and lots of rain and thunderstorms. This is also when malaria is at its peak so be aware of this. From June to September, the temperatures are a pleasant 20-25oC in the day, dropping to 5-10oC in the evening so make sure you bring warm clothes!

October to December – Low water

From the end of September onwards, the water flow over the falls drops considerably, and only the Zimbabwe side still has water, as the Zambian side diverts theirs for hydro-electric power, which leaves it dry during the low water season. On the Zimbabwe side, water still flows year-round over the main falls and the Devil’s Cataract, the lowest of the five falls.

In October, it’s possible to walk the full length of the waterfall trail without getting wet at all – a big difference from the rest of the year. This makes it a good time for photography, as the lack of spray and ability to see the whole falls means some picturesque shots can be taken from up close without fear of ruining your camera.

November is the start of the green season, when the first spring rains start, though these don’t make any difference to the falls until a few months later, when the water has worked its way down from the Angolan foothills to collect in the massive gorges that feed into the falls.

For activities, November is the best time for white-water rafting as the rapids are very fast when they’re at their lowest. Walking down to the gorge is safer as well, as you’re not at risk of being buffeted away by the water, and the knife-edge walks on the Zambian side aren’t so precarious.

Temperatures in October are the highest of the year with the mercury rising well above 32oC, and as the humidity starts to increase, this makes for an uncomfortable climate. From November onwards, the rains start to arrive which bring welcome relief but are also unpredictable to prepare for.

Zimbabwe or Zambia?

As the falls sit right on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, you’ll also need to decide which side to see it from as both sides give different views and perspectives of Mosi-oa-Tunya  or ‘The Smoke That Thunders’.

It’s generally accepted that Zimbabwe has the better view of the falls as a whole regardless of season, but the Zambian side enables you to get closer to the falls.

In the dry season, Zambia has the famous ‘Devil’s Pool’ where you can swim at the top of the falls during low water, and are able to look over the falls if you’re brave enough! The times that you can swim though aren’t always the best times for the view, as the pool is safest when there’s little water.

Alternatively, getting visas for both countries isn’t difficult, so you can see both sides if you have the time to spare, it’s definitely worth it! Both sides have airports and local towns (Victoria Falls Town in Zimbabwe and Livingstone in Zambia).


The Falls are an incredible sight regardless of the time of year you visit, and you’ll never leave disappointed. We’d generally recommend visiting at a time when you’re likely to experience too much rather than too little water, but that depends on what you’d like to see there. The activities vary depending on low and high water, and if you’re there as part of a wildlife trip, then the best time is June to August when you can take advantage of the falls close proximity to the Chobe and other nearby game reserves. You’ll still have plenty of water going over the falls, an enjoyable climate, and great game viewing.

Ultimately, the best time to visit the falls is as soon as possible!



ADATA-512GB-External-SSD Reviewed A Solid Performance From The ADATA SSD SD700

Dave Cheetham Wildfoot TravelHere Wildfoot Travel’s Dave Cheetham reviews the latest in portable storge devices, an external solid state drive.
With travel and wildlife photography firmly in mind, Dave took this pocket-rocket for a test drive. Find out how it stood up to the test.

An external drive is a great addition to your travel and wildlife kit. It allows you more memory space to store and back up your shots. Recently, I set out to purchase a new external drive. After a fair bit of research I settled on the ADATA 512GB SSD. Here’s what I made of it.

As a guy who’s spent a lifetime using a computer to store and manipulate photographs, I have had my share of painful hard drive failures. When it comes to taking backups, I have learned the hardest way possible.

ADATA-512GB-External-SSD review

Several of those disasters lead me to be aware that hard disk drives are always vulnerable to failure. Their moving parts are vulnerable to damage by bumps, knocks, shakes, temperature changes, power surges, magnetic fields …. and the list goes on.

So the idea of investing in a SDD (solid state drive) which uses flash memory, with no moving parts, was very appealing indeed. Even though an SSD comes with a larger price tag than an HDD (hard disk drive), the added dependability is very reassuring.

At around £130 the ADATA SSD is pretty good value for the storage space it allows. On arrival, it was smaller and lighter than I expected. Slightly smaller than a beer matt and no taller than 4 or 5 of the same beer matts in a pile.

I was equally encouraged by its featherweight feel too. Described as ‘military grade shockproof’, the device is also very similar in weight to 4 or 5 of those trusty beer matts.

The rubber bumper that surrounds this drive offers a reassuringly rugged feel whilst also anchoring it down nicely, reducing slide or slippage on whatever surface you are working. The lead provided is chunky but short, so you don’t have to put up with yards of ungainly cable dangling around your feet whilst you work. The socket for the lead also has a neat, snug-fitting rubber cap too, sealing it up from the perils of dust, sand or unidentified travel-bag-debris whilst it is unplugged or in transit.

ADATA-512GB-External-SSD review

The drive looks and feels great. It is small, light and tough, making it ideal for travelling. But how did it perform in a real test?

Editing several large pieces of DSLR footage was this drive’s ideal first test, and one which I am delighted to say the ADATA drive passed with distinction.

The initial set up was as easy as plug-and-play. Once plugged in to an empty USB port, it loaded every clip  with lightning-fast efficiency and never once faltered during several hours of intense, memory-demanding video editing. Since then it has swallowed up whatever shots or footage I have thrown at it with unflinching electronic composure.

Today, I am still delighted with this external drive, cheerfully tossing it in my photography bag with a new-found reckless-confidence each time I head out of the door. I am so impressed, I have even ordered a second one, to use as a back-up drive.

In summary, this drive does everything it should do and it does that very well indeed. If you are looking for an external drive to store or back up your photos or video on your travels, this one really does take some beating.

(Remember, although they have no moving parts, even an Solid State Drive can fail, so always back up your data).

drake passage Crossing the Drake Passage

This is often the most daunting aspect of a trip to Antarctica and one which many travellers would prefer to avoid! There are horror stories about rough seas, injuries and sea-sickness and many of these are true; however, nowadays, modern ships are more stable and fewer passengers experience discomfort – in fact the crossing is all part of the experience and something to brag about!

And, if the prospect is too daunting, there are options for avoiding the crossing – by flying to King George Island in the South Shetlands and boarding ship there!

I have crossed the Drake several times and in a variety of ships and experienced rough seas, mill-pond conditions and everything in between. I am a proud advocate of the Drake and encourage visitors to try it out for themselves, so they can speak from experience.

birds drake passage

What is the Drake Passage?

It is a 600-mile-wide stretch of water between Cape Horn at the tip of South America and the South Shetland Islands. It is often one of the roughest stretches of ocean in the world, where the Atlantic, Pacific and Southern Oceans converge without a resistant land mass, creating rough seas or the ‘Drake Shake’, but also for many, calmer conditions or the ‘Drake Lake’!

Much depends on which ship is chosen for the voyage. There are lots of options from luxury ships to more basic expedition vessels. The former include vessels such as Silversea’s Sea Explorer, which offers six-star service and a dedicated crew, combined with modern stabilisation equipment. This ship carries a maximum of 120 passengers in first class conditions, with butler service for all. At the other end of the scale is Polar Pioneer, a converted Russian survey ship, which offers a more ‘authentic’ polar experience to just 50 travellers. This ship is stabilised, but to a less stringent standard than more modern ships; nevertheless, it is ice-strengthened and sails in the waters of Antarctica throughout the season.

The passage takes typically 2-3 days depending on conditions and the ship. Even when conditions are severe, there are great opportunities for bird and other wildlife viewing.

Wildlife Spotting

Not long after leaving Ushuaia or Punta Arenas, the ship is accompanied by birds. These start with South American species, such as … followed by true Antarctic birds like albatrosses and petrels, ducking and diving amongst the waves and defying amateur cameramen to catch a shot of them!

I have a basic camera, so it always takes me ages to reach a point where my shots include more than images of waves, with an occasional wing or head.

The crossing is also a time for spotting your first big mammals, especially whales. This is where a good pair of binoculars is essential, because most sightings are just a blow some distance from the ship.

The crew on the bridge are always on the lookout for wildlife and will call sightings over the PA – this leads to a scramble of those not already out on deck bird-watching and there is always somebody around who can tell you what species it is, just from a blow or a glance of a silhouette at distance – I am always overawed at the expertise of these people and took some time to be convinced that they were accurate.

Humpback Whales

Until you sail in southern waters, you do not realise just how many varieties of whale there are, and these creatures share the ocean with you. The most prolific everywhere are humpback and these will be seen on every visit to the Antarctic with their distinctive flukes or tails displaying as they dive below the surface.

basecamp antarctica

They are a particularly robust creature with a colour range from all black, through shades of grey to black and white. They are strong creatures and are known for their spectacular breaching, when they often jump fully clear of the water. They can be identified from a distance by a bushy blow of some 3m as well as their dive and fluke display.

Fully grown, they can reach 15-16m and weigh 48 tonnes. The female usually is bigger than the male and breeds every two years, giving birth to a single calf weighing a tonne and a half and measuring over 4m.

The have a particularly long pectoral fin or flipper of some 5m and cruise slowly, which made them easy prey for whalers in the 19th and 20th centuries. In fact, by mid 20thcentury, the world population declined significantly and is only slowly recovering. Humpbacks travel mostly in small groups, but are often encountered in herds of more than a dozen, which also made them easy prey for whalers and native hunters elsewhere.

In Antarctica, they congregate in the summer feeding in the krill-rich waters, before dispersing to winter in African, Australasian and American waters.

Spot the Blue Whale

The blue whale is the largest creature on earth and is often seen in Antarctic waters. This animal is a solitary creature and is distinctive because of the blue hue of it skin, as well as its sheer size of approx. 30m – if you are very lucky, you may see an adult with its young, but this is rare and especially rewarding.

Fully grown adults weigh 150 tonnes or more and can be identified by a massive 10m vertical blow as well as its amazing dimensions and distinctive shape. Females breed once in three years and give birth in warm waters to a single calf, which becomes independent when it reaches some 15m in length and can feed on their own on the available krill. Stocks were devastated in years past by unregulated whaling and, despite protection have hardly recovered, to the extent that the world population may be less than 10,000.

Minke Whale

Other whales which can be seen are Minke, distinctive because of its smaller size of approx. 8m and weight up to 10 tonnes, but normally 6-8 tonnes. It does not show a fluke when diving and has an insubstantial blow, which is hardly visible at distance, but does show its dorsal fin during dive. They are found close inshore within the pack ice, often many miles from open water, often moving very quickly at up to 16 knots.

whale spotting drake passage

Southern Right Whale

Known as the right whale because it was the ‘right’ one to hunt, rather than for any other reason. It is slow moving and easy to harpoon, so was popular with whalers: it also had the advantage of being rich in oil, so when killed, it floated on the surface and was easy to harvest. The animal is black-brown in colour with a large head characterised by lower lips, which extend upwards. There is also a profusion of callosities around the blow holes, which give a distinctive white-pink-orange effect. The blow itself is high and ‘V’ shaped.

Fin Whale 

This is a regular summer visitor to the Antarctic and sometimes confused with blue whales because of the shape. However, it has distinctive characteristics from size – it is quite a lot smaller than the blue – to colour, it has variable colours on its head – dark on the port side and paler on the starboard. This is thought to be due to how the animal rolls to scoop plankton. It also deep dives for fish and squid, sometimes as deep as 230m.

Seen in all waters, fin whales display a long vertical blow, repeated 4-5 times, before a dive, with a show of the dorsal fin and, occasionally a fluke. These whales travel quickly, at between 7 and 18 knots, which saved them from the early whalers: however, they became easier prey with the advent of faster catcher boats, and numbers dropped in southern waters until they attained protected status.

Sperm Whale

antarctic explorer drake passage

This was once the main target of early whalers, due to its size and profitability. Moby Dick was as sperm whale and became the great whale of literature. It has a massive head, which when surfacing, exposes an offset blow-hole, unique to this species. The blow is explosive and can be heard from a significant distance away.

Dives, which are near vertical, last from 10 minutes to over and hour and are followed by a series of blows. Because they cruise slowly at 3-4 knots, they were also a classic prey of early whalers. They eat a tonne or so of fish and squid a day, feeding at great depths, possibly as deep as 3000m or more. A bottom-dwelling shark was taken from the stomach of a sperm whale at 3200m. It is thought that the bright white interior of the whale’s mouth combined with the red tongue act as a lure. Sperm whales often have circular scars from the tentacles of giant squids around their heads.

Sei Whale

Seen mostly in the Drake Passage, this relatively small whale, between a fin and a blue in size, travels mostly in deep water. It was much persecuted in the 1940s and 60s and is now considered to be endangered. It has a characteristic blow of some 3m and often has scars from shark bites, indicating troubles encountered underwater.

Other Cetaceans

Apart from whales, there are many other species of cetacean to be encountered in Antarctic waters. Smaller whales such as Arnoux’s Beaked and Southern Bottlenose are the most common although, because of their size, they are often confused with dolphins.

Another relative of the dolphin, which is often found in the Antarctic is the orca, or killer whale. These predators travel in groups and families and prey on seals penguins and even other whales, such as minke.


seal drake passage

Seals are ubiquitous in Antarctica and include a number of discrete species, including the massive elephant seal, which can be seen throughout the region, from the Falkland Islands and South Georgia to the Peninsula itself. This seal is massive and the bull is always larger than the cow. The name derives not only from its size, but also from its appearance: the bulls grow a long appendage on its snout, which inflates on older animals (8th year onwards) to act as a warning to other males.

Other seals include the Antarctic fur seal, found throughout the region, notably on South Georgia, but also on South Orkneys, South Sandwich and South Shetlands as well as Bouvet and Heard. It is said that some also breed on Kerguelen, the island which gave the species an alternate name.

This is a true polar seal, with long, dense hairs insulating the neck areas – this was especially valuable to commercial hunters, because of its rarity. It also meant that the animal did not have a well developed blubber supply. Nevertheless, this seal is moderately aggressive and is known for its sharp teeth and speed of movement on land as well as in the water.

The crabeater seal is one of the most numerous in the world and is essentially a creature of the pack ice, although also found in non-polar areas, such as New Zealand, South Australia and South America.

The Weddell seal is one of the largest of all seals and is identified by its size and spotted fur. Unlike the crabeater, this seal is often found onshore. They are accomplished divers and feed on the Antarctic cod, as well as crustaceans and squid. Named for the explorer who gave his name to the Antarctic sea, these seals are found around the continent’s northern coast from South Georgia, where they also breed, down the Peninsula, almost as far as the Ross Sea.

One of the most fearsome Antarctic animals is the Leopard seal, named for its spotted appearance as well as for its aggressive nature. It is a sleek animal, with a huge gaping jaw and fearsome teeth, usually seen basking on an ice floe and not exploited commercially by man.

The least known of all Antarctic seals is the Ross seal, due entirely to its remote habitat on the polar pack ice. This animal is known for its trill vocal sounds, which enable it to communicate across large ice distances.


bird drake passage

Of all wildlife in Antarctica, birds are the most prolific and a subject completely on their own, from nesting albatross one South Georgia to petrels and other birds seen throughout the continent. Antarctica is truly a birders paradise.

Crossing the Drake Passage is a truly memorable experience which should not be missed. Get in touch with us today to start planning your adventure.