I’m planning on doing a 43-day overland tour from Nairobi to Cape Town. I also want to visit either Uganda or Rwanda on my own in advance, and go on a gorilla trek for three or so days. Which places in either Uganda and Rwanda, are best to see gorillas?
Sarah, via email
Uganda is easier to manage independently. Tourism is common and the capital, Kampala is a relatively safe city to be based in. Furthermore, as your priority is to see the gorillas, heading to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park – where almost half of the world’s mountain gorillas resides – makes sense. Security officials may accompany your tour, but this is fairly common. You should avoid tours that continue over the border into the Democratic Republic of The Congo.
It’s also advised that you have a good read of ugandawildlife.org for up-to-date security information before visiting any national park. Make sure you apply for your gorilla-trekking permit well in advance (through a reputable tour operator or the Uganda Wildlife Authority office in Kampala). I’d recommend taking an organised tour from Kampala, as you don’t have enough time to travel by public transport to Bwindi.
Both Rwanda and Uganda have no-go areas that you need to be aware of. Check out fco.gov.uk to ensure that you are up to speed with the most recent restrictions.
I’m thinking of going on a spiritual holiday to India. I’m not a big fan of organised trips and would like it to be more of an independent thing. I would love to stay at a small temple in a nice, green, quiet area, preferably in the south. Do you have any recommendations? Izabela, via email
It sounds like you’re after a stay at an ashram. An ashram is a spiritual retreat, where residents take on spiritual learning
and physical exercise in the form of yoga.
In Southern India, Kerala would suit you. The Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari ashram (sivananda.org/neyyardam) is less
than 30 miles from Kerala’s capital, Trivandrum. When you arrive, you could opt for a taxi, but buses run to walking distance from the ashram. Take a taxi from the airport to Trivandrum bus station (about four miles) and hop on the bus to Kattakada/ Neyyar Dam (you may need to change in Kattakada). The bus costs less than £1. The ashram is a 1km walk from the Neyyar Dam bus stop.
The ashram itself is located on the edges of the lush, green western ghats, so should provide the serene location you’re looking for. You must visit the ashram for a minimum of three days and the yoga courses last for two weeks. The demanding schedule includes yoga and meditation from 5.30am-10pm. Your stay will cost around £5pn (£20pn with air con), but you will be expected to help with tasks at the ashram for an hour every day, too.
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Box it up
Keep a ‘travel box’ at home with everything you may need for trips, so that you don’t have to go looking all over the place and try to remember what you might have forgotten when packing – because it’s all in the box! (Bandaids, safety pins, padlocks, power converters, tissues, sunscreen, insect repellent, hair ties, plastic bags, etc).
Ruchi Sheoran, via email
Power to the people
Take a powerboard with four or six outlets when you go backpacking. Then, you can share it with other travellers of the same nationality (stopping the fighting over the power outlets in the wall), or charge your phone, camera, laptop and dry your hair all in one go (no more flat batteries – yay!).
Belinda Goode, via Facebook