Photographers without Borders- Entre Mundos- Part 3

Entre Mundos is a home for those looking for volunteering opportunities throughout Guatemala. The purpose of our Volunteer Program is to connect the expressed needs of national and international volunteers who have specific skills with local organizations that have concrete needs and are interested in receiving volunteers. This is a collaboration that reflects our name, “Entre Mundos,” “Between Worlds,” and allows for personal and professional growth and development for both parties while bringing together two different realities on a shared path toward knowledge, connection, exchange on several levels, and friendship.

EntreMundos offers interested people the opportunity to volunteer with more than 100 organizations in the country, the majority of them in the western highlands. These entities work in fields such as education, health, nutrition and food security, hygiene, environment, renewable energy, agriculture, comprehensive rural development, community tourism, defense of the rights of indigenous peoples, of women, of children, and of youth, among many others. We cooperate directly with each one of these organizations to identify what kind of volunteers they need and to make sure that our potential volunteers do not only have an excellent experience, but that they also offer a useful service to the organization with which they work. (From the Entre Mundos Website).

He Speaks for the Trees... 

Marco Cruz has been working on rehabilitating the forests around Xela for over 20 years. He started out planting trees with 2 others. They would go out and replant trees to keep the forests alive. After 10 years his friends left to work on another project leaving Marco on his own. 

Marco started Chico Mendes (named after a tv show). Originally he was asked by the government to work together . They said that after 15 years they wanted the option of being able to cut down the trees again. Marco didn't want the trees to be cut down again so he decided to go off on his own. 

He worked closely with the chiefs of the different communities. They have given him permission to plant trees in hopes of re-establishing the Mountain Range. 

Marco uses both Local and International volunteers to help regrow the forests. The volunteers help maintain the trees currently planted. These volunteers go out once a month and clean around the trees clearing away weeds and other plants that may cause the baby trees to die. 

The volunteers also assist with planting seeds. The seeds that are planted are put in bags with composite from other trees in the woods, dirt, and sand. When the trees are ready to plant in the ground Marco will take the volunteers up the mountain side to put the trees into a specific locations to make sure that the forest will regrow properly. 

Most recently Marco and his team of volunteers planted 200 trees on a hillside. He has projects that will include planting another 2500 trees. Entre Mundos works with his organization by connecting volunteers who are interested in rebuilding the ecosystem. 

Community Organic Farming

Armando Lopez runs a community farming project. The goal of the project is to connect local families to trade local crops. 

Each family has a crop or two and instead of selling them at the market they trade what they have amongst each other. Trades include vegetables, flowers,  fruits, eggs, milk, meat, honey, and more. Each person in the community has their own specialty. 

Armando and the community farms utilize volunteers to assist with farming. While volunteering the volunteers have the opportunity to learn about organic farming and crop growing techniques. Armando shares his knowledge with volunteers and even offers classes. As a thank you for volunteering he offers a place to stay and fresh meals. 

Armando so kindly invited myself and Lilya the volunteer coordinator into his home. He shared with us fresh dried fruit, wine, a papaya and guava drink that all came from his farm. 

Photographers Without Borders- Entre Mundos- Part 2

Entre Mundos Community Tourism Projects

 

It seems like it was so long ago that I spent 2 weeks documenting Entre Mundos in Guatemala. I’m finally getting around to finishing some pieces on my experience !

 

The last article I wrote about Entre Mundos we explored the a few of their Small Grants Programs. We will visit more of those later. This article is about their Community Tourism Program. This Program, which EntreMundos has run since 2010, aims to help rural groups strengthen and improve their sustainable community tourism projects.

 

“The principal goal is for local communities to be competent and capable of taking charge of their tourism projects without external help or financial support. This goal anticipates a process of accompaniment and institutional strengthening that offers an alternative source of income for rural areas that depend solely on agriculture, preserving natural resources while allowing tourists to appreciate their natural environment, culture, ancestral knowledge, and lifestyle.  “ –Entre Mundos Website

While I was with Entre Mundos I joined Helvetas one of the community tour program companies that Entre Mundos supports. I traveled to various parts of Guatemala with Pam, Ana, Cesar, and Daniel.

The first stop for the day was a hike to see four of the twelve alters that are still used for rituals amongst the Mayans. The first alter is the Alter of the Toad, the second was an alter that appeared to look like an old man and woman. From the top of the hill you could see the valley of Quetzaltenango. On the distant mountain ranges additional alters presided. While on this tour we also went into an alter that was inside a cave. 

Our second stop on this day was to Paqui. Here we hiked to more ritual alters with Luis, Santos, and Juan from the committee on sustainable natural resources and environmental projects of Paqui. 

Our last stop on the first day was Parque Chajil Siwan. Here we met up with Santos Gutierrez who gave us a tour around the ecological park. The park is perfect for hiking, camping and bird watching. It also has a zipline that you can take around the park to get a true birds eye view. 

Over the weekend, we traveled to San Marcos to visit a few more Community Tourism Projects. The first stop was Sustentar. A beautiful park that is perfect for hiking. The park also has beautiful cabins for both large and small groups to stay in as they make their way up to the top of local volcano. The large cabin area fits up to 15 people in a community like setting. While we were there we met a few new rangers who were learning about the all the wildlife and plants that are in the area. 

Because of the rain (Note to travelers... it may be warm and hot in the US in June... it's cold and rainy in Guatemala.) we saved San Rafael Pie de la Cuesta for the next morning which. It was great because the weather was perfect. San Rafael is gorgeous. Known for it's hiking, and bird watching especially for the Quetzal. We spent the morning hiking around the park looking for the infamous Quetzal. Today they stayed hidden but we did see some amazing waterfalls. 

On our way out of San Marcos we made two final stops. The first was at a coffee plantation called Fica Villa Alicia . Roberto took us around his plantation and showed us how he develops coffee from start to finish. We were able to see the coffee plants being planted. 

Our last stop on the way back was to Granja San Fernando. This little farm off the side of the road is know for it's fresh goat cheese and tortillas. And they were delicious! The farm also serves fresh goat milk, eggs, and more. 

The last stop that I visited for the Community Tourism Project was Parque Regional Municipal Quetzaltenango. This location was tough to get to. We drove for about 30 minutes on really undeveloped roads. Here we went on a 2 hour hike up a mountain to where we had a view of one of the active volcanos in Quetzaltenango. After the hike we stopped at a little hotel that had thermal baths from the volcano. 

Photographers Without Borders- Entre Mundos- Part 1

I have been fortunate enough to be selected by Photographers without Borders to document the efforts of Entre Mundos in Guatemala. 

When I was first assigned to this project I went onto their website to find out what I would be documenting. Entre Mundos which was formed in 2001 supports organizations and groups that  are committed to the fight against poverty and the defense and promotion of human rights for the country’s most marginalized and vulnerable populations. 

EntreMundos firmly believes that it is possible to achieve positive change in Guatemala – principally in the most disadvantaged and vulnerable areas – through programs with a “bottom-up” focus on rural development, based on the needs, expectations, ideas, and initiatives of local populations, so that the communities themselves can fight to defend their civil, social, cultural, political, and economic rights and have a positive impact both at a local level(rural development) and at a national level (political advocacy). (From Entre Mundos Website)

It wasn't until I arrived and had my first conversation with Fabio the director of Entre Mundos that I realized exactly what that meant. Entre Mundos serves as an umbrella to smaller grassroots organizations. They provide assistance through funding with grants, finding volunteers, and promoting community tourism (amongst other areas). 

Day One: Small Grants Program

In 2013, Entre Mundos created the Small Grants Program, an initiative that offers economic support to local organizations that work in field of social development and human rights promotion in Guatemala and that otherwise would not receive any type of support for their projects. (From the Entre Mundos website)

With the assistance of Project Wheeler (one of the largest and prime donors) Entre Mundos is able to reach out and assist organizations all over the country. Every year these organizations put together a wish list of what they need and provide Entre Mundos with a grant proposal. Entre Mundos goes through the grants and with the money donated from Project Wheeler they disperse the money amongst these organizations by determining which projects fit their mission the greatest.

I started my visit with Entre Mundos by visiting two of the organizations that were recipients of grants this year. I was accompanied by Jessica the Coordinator of the program and Fabio the director of Entre Mundos. The first is a Woman’s Community Organic program and the second a School that is working of building a brighter future for the children of Quetzaltenango. 

Asoderam

Asoderam is a program created by the Minister of Agriculture in Quetzaltenango. The purpose is to teach Mayan woman how to grow organic crops. The purpose of this is so that they can feed their families with healthy chemical free vegetables and also sell their remaining crops. By selling the additional crops the Mayan Woman are able to bring home some money to help take care of their family.

There are 10 communities under the Asoderam program with approximately 75 woman participants.  

With the company of Eric, the minister of Agriculture, I was able to meet with three of the communities in the Valle de Palajunoj.

The first community was Llanos Del Pinal. This community was located in the valley of the volcano. Five woman shared a plot of land. They each had 2 lines to grow whatever crops they wanted. While we were there they had just started a new harvest that included lettuce, radish, broccoli, and Califlower.  The woman visit their crops once every week to clear the dirt of unwanted plants. The goal is to share the crops amongst their family and then sell the rest at the market. These woman travel to the market one time a week during harvest season. They typically make around $30/week.

Instead of using pesticides to keep bugs away from the crops they use Lavender and tea plants. One plant will keep the insects away from a whole row.

The next community we visited was Bella Vista which means good landscape. This community was located on the side of the volcano at a much higher elevation. Because of this they spent most of their season in the mist.

This community was similar to the first except that each woman had their own plot of land that was attached to their homes. Because the land was bigger they were able to grow more crops. Also in between seasons the woman grew flowers and sold them once a week at the market. Each of these woman had animals that also assisted with the organic soil fertilization process. They owned cows, chickens, and pigs which provided fertilizer. Chickens are said to be the best.

The last community we visited was Chuicaviol. This community was back at the bottom of the volcano and similar to the second was a much bigger space of land. The woman that we met worked with her sister to harvest the land. She grew a few crops that were different from the others. Potatoes and beans along with lettuce, radish, and broccoli. The potatoes were just for the family. The rest they would sell at harvest time. 

Semillas de Fe- Seeds of Faith

 

One of the ways people make money (small amounts of money) is to go to the dump and dig through the trash looking for recyclables to sell to trash plants. Although, this may sound easy it could take 2-3 days of digging through contaminated dirty garbage to find enough plastic to sell to the recycling plant. Of course the more hands to find what they need better so parents will often bring their your children with them. Day after day these young kids 10 and under will dig through the trash just to earn enough money for dinner.

 

Semillas de Fe was started to get children out of the trash and into school. To most this may sound like an easy thing to do. Wouldn’t a kid be happier in school then digging through trash everyday. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Parents need their kids help because two more hands helps gather the trash faster so they don’t encourage them going to school. That’s where Gaby and Carlos come in. They go out to the dump once a week in search of kids working. They then ask them a series of questions such as, what they want to do when they grow up, do they like digging in the garbage. They receive all sorts of answers to their questions including that the kids are happy in the dump and that they hope to be a garbage man when they grow up. Gaby has found that when the kids she meets really don't want to go to school she can win them over with love. She says to them... You know I love you don't you... Will you do me a favor and go to school with me. To which they usually answer yes. 

 

Semillas de Fe is a school run entirely on donations and volunteers. The parents of the students  donate what they can. That may be wood for a fire to cook lunch, eggs, or fruits and vegetables from their garden. They receive donations from local businesses of food and fruit drinks. All of the staff that works at the school are volunteers. 

Through their Small Grant with Entre Mundos Semillas de Fe received brand new tables and chairs for their school. They are hoping to get 10 new computers by the end of the year so that the kids can learn even more. 

The students receive free education and a warm meal for attending classes. They have one deal with the parents of the children. They can continue to attend the school for free as long as they keep their kids out of the dump. If they see the kids in the dump then they will no longer be able to attend the school. In order to encourage the parents to support their kids going to the school Gaby & Carlos go out to the Dump every other week with bread and drinks for the parents working at the dump showing that they care about them too. 

On top of bringing students to the school Gaby and Carlos also do checks on the students to make sure that they are keeping healthy. Many of the students that attend the school now are sponsored from families around the world. The sponsorship money is to ensure that these kids are able to live a healthy lifestyle. 

They currently have over 200 students enrolled in the school. However, they can't fit that many students in at the same time each group of kids meets on a different day or time. The program has officially graduated two of their students into high school with hopes of many more in the future.

Gaby has said that the same kids that use to want to work dump now want to be architects and doctors that help kids. Gaby & Carlos both share a genuine love for all the kids at the school. What they are doing is impacting so many young lives. Not just with an education but also with love. 

The Beautiful Faces of Vietnam

In 2006, I went to Asia for the first time. I went to go visit my cousin Molly who was living in Vietnam while working on her Fulbright Scholarship. I went with my two aunts and my uncle and really had the time of my life. 

This was my first real travel experience (Other then the US and Europe) and kicked off my addiction to travel. It's been 11 years but I still have vivid memories of the trip. 

My Aunt had was also visiting Asia for the first time and we actually had a few hilarious side experiences. I have two favorite moments that I am going to share with you. The first was when we landed in Thailand. Thailand loves their King and they have signs all over the airport that say so. After flying for 18 hours my Aunt and I were walking to customs when she says to me... Boy they really love Elvis here... I looked at her a little confused and she pointed at the We Love the King sign. I laughed a little and said... I think they mean they love the King of Thailand. 

 

Second Story is even better...

My cousin Molly was living in Ho Chi Minh City and told my Aunt and I to meet her so she could introduce us to some of the people she worked with. She gave us an address in Vietnamese and told us to give it to a Taxi driver. And then she left. My Aunt did what we were told. We gave the address to the cab driver who took us to an alley way. He pointed down the alley and said that is the address. And then in broken english asked if we were sure that was it. We weren't sure but said Yes. He told us he would wait a few minutes for us. 

We walked down the alley and up to the building and rang the bell. A woman walked about to the door who only spoke Vietnamese. We asked her for Molly. She looked at us and said... Oh Molly and shook her head up and down. She signaled for us to follow her, so we did. She led us up a set of stairs and signaled for us to remove our shoes. We were in a temple. She pointed to the alter and started to bow. We followed her lead mumbling to each other the whole time... "How many times are we suppose to do this..." We asked again for Molly. She looked at us with a smile and said Molly, Molly shaking her head up and down. My Aunt said to me nervously we should probably get out of here. I said to her let's just see where she leads. The woman lead us over to a fenced in stairway that two barking dogs came running up. My Aunt said "Oh Hell no...we're getting out of here." I asked again for Molly. She looked at me again and smiled and said Oh Molly... Molly. In my head I was planning an escape when my cousin Molly runs up the stairs and says hey you guys are here! Both my Aunt and I breathed a sigh of relief and followed Molly down the stairs. 

 

The images you see of the beautiful people from Vietnam were actually inspired by my Uncle. He woke me up one morning and said. Come with me. I'm going to take you somewhere that I know your going to love. We showed up at a busy market in Hanoi. We walked up and down the shop aisles and saw live fish,eels, snakes, and chickens, bowls of rice and tons of different fruits and vegetables. It was like a dream come true for a young photographer. I've still never experienced a market like those in Vietnam! 

 

Life on the Mekong Delta- Photography by Kathleen Ricker

This is a bit of a Throwback Thursday. In 2006, I went to Vietnam & Cambodia with my family. It was the first time that I had travelled further then Europe and the first time I had ever been to been to a Third World Country. 

In Southern Vietnam, the Mekong River unravels into nine sprawling rivers, forming the fertile Mekong Delta. It’s here the river rules. Daily life flows with the ever-changing waters, fisheries thrive during the annual flood and rice fields are quickly dug as the waters recede.

The towns bustle with vendors trading their fresh produce, an endless flow of river traffic passing through daily. Veer off into a smaller stream and you’ll find orchards, Buddhist temples and family homes clinging to the banks of the river.

This was 11 years ago and the first time I had the opportunity to photograph another culture. 

LifeontheMekongDelta-12.jpg

Travel Stories- Walking with Gorillas

Walking with Gorillas

By Kathleen Ricker

 Silverback from Virunga National Park

Silverback from Virunga National Park

 

It was a long strenuous hike. Our guides were swinging their machetes back and forth to make a path through the jungle. Sweat was dripping down my face and my knees were shaking in pain from keeping my balance in the mud. My bare skin was being attacked by mosquitos and stinging nettles. We had been hiking for a little over 2 hours but it seemed like forever. This was my second time in Virunga National Park which is one of very few places you can find Mountain Gorillas still in the wild. This part of Congo still has a lot of problems with poaching. Gorillas are killed mostly for bush meat but also for their land.

Today we were going to meet a family of 9 gorillas. Three Silverbacks, four little ones and two females. This was my 5th time trekking to see Gorillas in Africa. Second time out to Africa in 6 months to see them. I set a goal for myself 4 years ago to travel the world and see wildlife in their natural habitat. Gorillas were pretty high on my list.  

Finally, we reached the trekkers. They told us the family was just around the corner. We put on our face masks. These masks prevent the transfer of germs between us and the gorillas. We are so close genetically that even a small cold can be transferred back and forth between our two species.

I got my cameras ready. I had three cameras with me one with a 150-600 lens so I could get close ups and one with my 24-70 lens for portraits. I also had my 70-200 lens in my bag which came in handy. In my pocket I had a little point and shoot that I would use for video.  We have to stay a minimum of 6 feet from the gorillas but the gorillas can move as freely as they want. The little ones, like all little kids are often curious so they will come a bit closer which I had learned while traveling in Bwindi. 

We started towards where the family was. From one of the bushes we could hear the grunt of a silverback. He was letting us know he was there. Our guide grunted back letting him know it was safe. We turned the corner and there just laying out under the trees was the beautiful Munyaga Group.  As we walked toward them Jason, my husband felt a pull on his shoe lace. One of the younger gorillas was laying under some brush and grabbed his lace as he was walking by. As he looked down the little guy let go of his lace and shot out from under the brush to join his family. In the center of the group was Bilali the oldest female. She was watching over the three little ones as they ran around wrestling. I sat and watched her for awhile. She was so beautiful. Her facial expressions reminded me of any mother who was tired and her kids just wouldn’t nap. She sat straight up and I watched as her eyes grew heavy and closed for just a minute until one of the little ones jumped on her. At one point Bilali and I made eye contact. We both sat and stared at each other. I just melted into her big brown eyes wondering what was going through her mind. The books will tell you not to make eye contact with wild animals... I disagree. Unless there is aggression I find making eye contact engraves those moments and encounters in your mind forever. 

These gorillas are habituated but still extremely wild. Habituated gorillas means that they have been made familiar with humans.  Gorillas who are not habituated will typically just move or hide when humans are nearby. Many Gorilla families associate humans with poaching or kidnapping of their babies for zoos. Even habituated groups are extremely protective of newborns. While trekking with Gorillas in Uganda our guide got a little too close to one of the newborns. The mother sounded alarmed and within seconds the Silverback had crashed through the brush up the hill and started swiping at our guide.  I was sitting on the ground in front of our guides feet as this silverback came charging. I watched in awe. This male gorilla with his teeth barred could have easily taken down the guides and myself (since I was the closest to the gorilla) but he didn't. The gorilla didn't even seem to notice me sitting on the ground. He charged and swiped at the guides for about 10 seconds. Our guide was able to calm him down so we could continue our experience but he kept a constant eye on us the whole time making sure to keep his family safe. 

Habituation can take two to three years. It’s a process where trekkers will come across a wild family of gorillas and essentially join their family. They will eat like them, travel with them, behave like them. During this time they are learning more about each individual gorilla in the group. They learn how they behave and their different characteristics. With time, these gorillas get used to these trekkers and then the trekkers give each individual gorilla a name based on their personality. Once they are sure that these mountain gorillas are comfortable they bring a group of scientists or journalists to visit them. If everything goes well they open the family up for public trekking.

There are roughly 880 Mountain Gorillas left on our planet. They are only found in two isolated groups. One in the Virunga volcanos which spans the borders of Rwanda, Uganda, and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and one in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda.

I’ve been to all three locations to see the Gorillas and DRC’s Virunga Park is my favorite although Bwindi National Park plays a very close second. Bwindi is home to 480 gorillas which is half of the world’s mountain gorilla population. While all the locations are mountainous. Bwindi feels more like a tropical rainforest and where you would imagine gorillas to be found. Bwindi is also home to many other primates, some of the most rare birds, and forest elephants which I have yet to see! 

In Bwindi I was able to visit the Nshongi Group twice in 9 months. The Nshongi group is the largest family of gorillas in Bwindi with about 18 members but they often split off into smaller families. They were named after the Nshongi River where this group was first found.

In June 2016, I trekked with the Nshongi Group when I met this little guy named Raha (which means someone that likes enjoying) who was about 3 or 4 years old. He was jumping around in the tree tops banging his chest and then falling down rolling in the leaves laughing. He loved our attention. He climbed from tree to tree making sure that we were watching him the whole time. In March 2017, I was back with the Nshongi group and within minutes I saw Raha again. This time I would have the experience of a lifetime. Tired from the uphill trek I sat in the brush and photographed one of the mama’s and her little babies as she was cuddling him.  All a sudden out of the corner of my eye I catch Raha coming right at me. I stayed still to see what he would do. My guide who was not far behind me told me to pick up my camera so he doesn’t grab it. I did what I was told. Raha moved right in front of me. Like my guide said at first he reached for the camera but I moved it before he had a chance to grab it. He had this curious look in his eye and he reached out and touched my leg. My heart was racing in excitement and then he did it again! After the second time he jumped out of the way and moved to sit right next to me. I sat there with tears sitting in the corner of my eye barely breathing. His hand on my leg felt so human. Just a gentle curious touch to see what I felt like.  For an animal lover this was the ultimate moment. For a minute I felt like I was Dian Fossey an amazing researcher that lived and died with her Gorillas. You should never ever approach wildlife. However, under the right circumstances, if you are calm and patient sometimes wildlife will interact with you. Always remember wildlife is still wild and it is still extremely dangerous. 

Each trek with these beautiful animals has been so different and so magical. You only get one hour with the gorillas which is never enough time. I could spend the whole day just watching them. The more I look at them the more similarities I see between Gorillas and Humans from the way we move our hands to the way we interact with our young. The idea of a world without Gorillas is heartbreaking.  If we keep spreading the word and educating people about how precious these animals are and their habitat is for their survival then hopefully in the next 5 years we will have 1000 Gorillas and then some day they will no longer be Endangered.

 

What you need to know about Gorillas Trekking:

 

1-    There is no guarantee that you will see gorillas. Although there is a 98% chance you will.

In each of the parks Trekkers are sent up in the morning to go find the gorilla families. Once they find them they call down to the guides who will lead the guests up to experience the groups.

2-    Your trek may be 15 minutes and an easy walk or 8 hours and an intense hike.

Your guide will typically put you into a group that you can handle. You can also ask your guide ahead of time for an easier trek. Either way you still only get 1 hour with the gorillas.

3-    You need an advance permit for trekking with gorillas.

In each country you will need to contact the National Park ahead of time to get a permit. There is a very limited amount of people who can trek per day and the permits are not cheap (but so worth every penny).

Uganda Permit- $600

Rwanda Permit- $750

DRC Permit- $475

A portion of the permit fees goes to the villages & villagers that surround the parks to encourage the people to take care of the park and it’s gorillas versus cutting down the forests for farming or poaching the Gorillas.

4-    Warning ! There will be mosquitos and stinging nettles on the journey!

They call it trekking for a reason. You are in the wild and will encounter mosquitos and flies that bite. You’ll also experience stinging nettles which are the worst plant I have ever encountered. These plants have little tiny needles that as you walk past them they stick into your skin. You can’t see them but you can feel them and they sting!

5-    Anyone over the age of 15 can see gorillas.

While you have to be over 15 to see the gorillas (for safety reasons) there is no age limit. Even if your 95 years old and can’t walk you can see them. Porters have a chair that for a smallish fee they will carry you up the mountain to be with the gorillas and then carry you back down. They have brought people up who were blind so that they could experience what it’s like to sit with gorillas.

6-    Is it safe?

Keeping in mind that these are wild animals and that you are trekking through mostly undeveloped trails in a jungle it is pretty safe. Your guide travels with a rifle not to use on the wildlife but to scare them away if necessary. In DRC you do travel with two armed rangers just in case you run into poachers.

7-    Is it easy to get there?

Virunga National Park in Congo is the easiest to get to. You can fly into directly into Goma and the park is about an hour drive from there.

Bwindi is about 5 hours from Kigali Airport in Rwanda and 8 hours from Entebbe in Uganda. If you are going to go to see the gorillas I recommend doing a full tour of Uganda. Although Gorillas and Chimps are certainly the highlight of this country you can also see the big 5 in many of their parks. Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls are the other two highlights. Queen Elizabeth also is the only place you can find tree climbing lions!  

Volcanos National Park in Rwanda is about 3 hours from Kigali airport. Since this park is the easiest to access it is a little more touristy then the others.

On top of the permits for each location you will also need to apply for Visa’s for each country.

 

My Recommendations:

 

I recommend doing at least 2 treks. One hour is certainly not enough. You can do two treks in one location or you can do two treks in two different parks. If you are on a budget you can travel on your own and camp along the way. However, it’s much easier and safer (the roads are not the best or well-marked especially travelling to Bwindi)  to travel with a group. I highly recommend Wilson with Saso Uganda Safari’s.

I have travelled to see the Gorillas twice with Saso Uganda Safari’s. Wilson was our guide and is probably the best guide I have ever had. He is dedicated to making sure that his clients have the best experience possible. In Rwanda he didn’t like the room they gave us and then convinced them to put us in a suite.

I also highly recommend Rushaga Gorilla Camp. It’s right up the road from the meeting area for Bwindi National Park. The owner of the lodge is Francis who not only manages the camp but also runs a woman’s group in the village and is helping to bring nearby medical care to the villagers. The camp itself is stunning. The rooms sit on the side of the cliff overlooking the valley. I stayed here twice and both times it felt like I was at home. The staff was so friendly and the home cooked meals were delicious! Oh and in the room we stayed in the second time we could poo with a view.

 

 

 

 

Surf Competition Photography- 2016 Billabong Pipemasters- World Surf League

 

My secret photography love is Sports photography. I love the action and emotion involved in competition. While I was traveling in Hawaii in December I had the chance to watch the 2016 Billabong Pipemasters. I spent 3 days watching the competition. While there I was able to witness one of the youngest winners of the pipeline along with champion John John Florence. These men in competition were flying through and over the waves like they were nothing. I could have watched them all day. In between sets I played around with capturing waves in the beautiful Hawaiian light. 

Read More...

bb11de_907f07a3f76144b39f416a3a40ffe807~mv2_d_1500_2006_s_2.jpg