Expedition kit on a table top - Handbook Master Image

THE RWENZORIS

expedition handbook

This Handbook contains everything you need to know about this Secret Compass epic expedition to the Mountains of the Moon, the Rwenzoris.

Read on to discover our ethos and team-centred approach and for the nitty gritty like flight and visa advice, insurance requirements and kit recommendations. Use the buttons below to ask questions or to apply for this team or, once approved, to secure your spot on the team with a Booking Form and a £400 deposit.

Key facts

  • Arrive: by 1800 on 7 July 2018 into the team hotel in Kigali, Rwanda.
  • Depart: leave Kigali any time on the 21 July 2018 onwards.
  • Insurance: Ensure you have comprehensive cover.
  • Docs: send your flight, insurance and passport copy in.
  • Balance due: 90 days before departure on 8 April 2018.
  • Find FAQ and Testimonials online.

Aim

Climb volcanic Mount Karisimbi in Volcanoes National Park before heading out in search of endangered mountain gorillas. Trek into the little-visited Rwenzori mountains.

Summary

This expedition aims to climb volcanic Mount Karisimbi within Volcanoes National Park, sleeping on the slopes of the volcano before summits the crater rim for morning views across the surrounding peaks. Crossing into Uganda, explore the forests of Bwindi National Park in search of critically endangered mountain gorillas before travelling north to the varied terrain of the Rwenzori mountains, famed in history as the Mountain of the Moon and one of the sources of the Nile due to its rapidly retreating equatorial glaciers.

Highlights

  • Climb Karisimbi volcano, the highest peak in the Virunga volcano field of the Albertine Rift.
  • Take a gorilla trek in Bwindi National Park.
  • Explore the Rwenzoris: the Mountains of the Moon.
  • View equatorial glaciers before they completely retreat.
  • Safari in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Flights

You need to organise your own international flights to arrive at the team hotel in Kigali by 1800 on the 7 July 2018. We have a unique partnership with Student Universe (a specialist division of the Flight Centre Travel Group and no, you don’t have to be a student to use them). The dedicated Secret Compass team understand us, our destinations and use global buying power to save you money and offer security along with a 24-hour assistance helpline. Fill in a free, no-obligation Flight Request Form here or call (UK) 0844 560 9799 for assistance in booking international flights.

It is advised that you book a flexible flight ticket that can be changed or refunded if the expedition dates are changed or if it is cancelled for any reason. See our online Terms and Conditions.

Visas & Permits

Visas are required for Rwanda and Uganda and are your responsibility.

Rwanda. You will enter Rwanda twice. British, Australian, German, Israeli, New Zealand, South African, Swedish and US citizens can obtain a single-entry visa on arrival, multiple-entry visas can be applied for in advance at the relevant embassy. Citizens of all other countries should check requirements with the relevant embassy.

Uganda. Most visas-on-arrival have been replaced with an e-visa which must be applied for in advance of travel. Citizens of all countries should check eligibility with the relevant embassy.

East African Visa. There have been incidences of these being refused at border posts although reports vary.

Yellow Fever. All team members will require an original valid yellow fever certificate, issued more than 10 days before the start of the expedition. WHO advice now states that Yellow Fever Vaccinations are valid for life instead of the original 10 years claimed – please note that this information is not widely known so if necessary you should insist on a medical practitioner issuing a new, valid certificate or extending the expiry on your existing one. Do not accept an exemption certificate as an alternative to a vaccination certificate, as these too are not widely recognised.

Permits. All relevant tourist permits will be organised by Secret Compass.

Passports

All expedition members should have valid passports. These should have at least six months’ validity remaining from date of entry to Uganda. You should have at least three free pages for immigration stamps. Please send a clear, colour copy of your passport to Secret Compass ahead of the expedition and carry photocopies with you on the expedition in a safe place.

Insurance

Travel insurance that provides cover for emergency repatriation in case of a medical emergency is compulsory for all expeditions. You should be aware that many standard insurance policies may not cover you adequately for all aspects of a remote expedition and so we strongly recommend that you purchase a suitably designed insurance policy. Secret Compass cannot comment on the suitability of your cover so if you are in any doubt please contact your policy provider and ask them to confirm that you are covered to our minimum standard (below).

  • Emergency medical repatriation (to home country) including any associated expenses abroad of at least $500,000.
  • Activities: ensure that any expedition activities are included, these could be trekking, horse riding, rafting, MTB etc.
  • Geographical region: check the geographical region you are going to is insured (often the US and Canada or countries such as Afghanistan are not insured).
  • Foreign Ministry advice: check your insurance is not sensitive to any travel warnings issued by your respective foreign ministry. In the UK, many insurers will not insure you when the Foreign Office warns against travel to this area. Foreign Office advice will not necessarily mean we cancel an expedition or do not travel to a particular area. Please check @FCOtravel and the Travel Aware site.
  • Dates: make sure the period of cover begins at the departure and ends at the return to your home country. Many flights take a day or two and time zones vary. Insurance companies may prejudice your claims due to this.
  • Pre-existing medical conditions: disclose these to your insurance company and to Secret Compass.

Prior to travel Secret Compass will require the name of your insurance policy provider, their 24-hour emergency contact number and your policy number. For full information on travel insurance and links to suggested companies, please visit the insurance page on our website.

Day 1: Jul 7 – Kigali (Rwanda)

Arrive at the FivetoFive hotel in Kigali, Rwanda by 1800 for team dinner and briefing.

Day 2: Jul 8 – Volcanoes National Park

Breakfast at hotel in Kigali before driving to the Volcanoes National Park. Stretch your legs after the drive by exploring the local museum dedicated to Dian Fossey, the world-famous gorilla researcher and conservationist.

Day 3: Jul 9 – Volcanoes National Park

Start your trek to the summit of Mt Karisimbi, a dormant volcano overlooking the border with DRC and the largest peak in the Albertine Rift group. Accommodation tonight will be in tents on a basic platform on the slopes of the volcano.

Day 4: Jul 10 –Volcanoes National Park

After an early morning to take advantage of (hopefully) clear skies, reach the summit of Mt Karisimbi, an impressive dome at 4507m. After enjoying your surroundings, return to the jungle and descend the peak. Drive across the border into Uganda and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, home to half of the world’s populations of mountain gorillas and hordes of other wildlife.

Day 5: Jul 11 – Bwindi National Park

The National Park is home to rich biodiversity and you’ll have the opportunity to experience a range of environments as you head out on foot in search of elusive mountain gorillas. Spend an hour in their company before retracing your steps to camp.

Day 6: Jul 12 – Queen Elizabeth National Park

Drive from Bwindi towards Queen Elizabeth National Park travelling through forests, open plains and into sight of the mighty Rwenzoris mountains.

Day 7-12: Jul 13-18 – Rwenzori Mountains

After final preparation and meeting your local guides start your trek into the foothills of the Rwenzoris. This is a steady but challenging trek with views over multiple peaks including Mt Baker, Mt Speke and the highest peak in the range, Margarita Peak. Traversing an other-worldly landscape populated by bogs, giant lobelias and high mountain lakes, the team will trek during the day before camping or using mountain huts as darkness descends.

Day 13: Jul 19 – Queen Elizabeth National Park

Complete your trek and transfer to Queen Elizabeth National Park for welcome showers before heading deep into the park to reach the Kazinga channel in time for a sunset cruise amidst the wildlife. Return to your lodge for a comfortable night.

Day 14: Jul 20 – Kigali (Rwanda)

Leaving your lodge, skirt the National Park (with your eyes open for grazing wildlife) and cross the equator. Continue south to the border with Rwanda and, after formalities are completed, reach your hotel in Kigali. Celebrate this evening with a final team dinner!

Day 15: Jul 21 – Expedition Ends

The expedition officially ends after breakfast on the 21 July with team members free to travel anytime today. Many flights depart in the early hours so please be aware of check-in times given that the 20 July is a travel day.

Note on this expedition itinerary

Please remember that this itinerary acts as a framework plan. It provides guidance as to our intentions but will not be followed religiously. This is an adventure and by definition the outcome is uncertain. The leadership team may flex and change the plan depending on numerous frictions encountered en route. An adaptable, team-centred approach is required.

Fitness

All our expeditions are achievable by people with an active and healthy lifestyle. However, this is an arduous expedition that will test you and at times you may be sore, tired, hungry and possibly wet! You must be prepared physically and mentally for the expedition and for living in basic conditions for the duration. Please ensure that you train for the expedition and arrive fit and ready to go. You will be required to be fit enough for the following.

  • Grade: 270 degrees.
  • Daily activity: varies but up to approx. 10 hours per day.
  • Walk: up to 25km a day.
  • Carry: up to 20kg.
  • Terrain: cope with rough, rocky, wet, slippery, mountainous and steep terrain at altitudes up to 4,600m.
  • Climate: deal with an exposed yet temperate climate.

Previous experience

No previous experience is necessary to join this expedition but at a basic level, team members should be comfortable jogging for at least 45 minutes and be able to walk for eight hours per day for three consecutive days in the British hills (or equivalent) carrying 25kg.

Medical

Vaccinations. Please seek advice from your health professional on recommended vaccinations. The NHS Fit For Travel site and Travel Health Pro are both useful.

There is a high risk of malaria so you should seek advice on appropriate medication.

All team members will require an original valid yellow fever certificate, issued more than 10 days before the start of the expedition. WHO advice now states that Yellow Fever Vaccinations are valid for life instead of the original 10 years claimed – please note that this information is not widely known so if necessary you should insist on a medical practitioner issuing a new, valid certificate or extending the expiry on your existing one. Do not accept an exemption certificate as an alternative to a vaccination certificate, as these too are not widely recognised.

Dental. It is strongly recommended that you have a dental check up prior to departure. Dental problems far from help are very unpleasant.

Money

Rwanda. Bring US Dollars, to be changed into Rwandan Francs. ATMs accepting international transactions are available in Kigali.

Uganda. Bring US dollars.

US Dollars. Please ensure all notes are issued post-2009 and are in pristine condition. Notes with any damage or writing will not be accepted. Bring a mixture of notes with you as $100 bills are sometimes hard to break.

This expedition is all-inclusive so you won’t need much money except for costs of a personal nature such as tips (entirely optional but 65USD is a good estimation for the entire trip), beer in towns or souvenirs.

Secret Compass always suggest carrying an emergency fund of $100-$200 in cash.

Communications

Home to You. Secret Compass will have an Ops Room manned in the UK throughout your expedition. If your family need to get in touch with you due to an EMERGENCY your family can call the Ops Room on +44 (0) 207 096 8428. The Ops Room will ensure the message gets to the expedition within 24 hours. Unfortunately we are unable to pass routine messages between your family members and you.

You to Home. Secret Compass will have satellite phones for emergency use only and these cannot be used for personal messages home unless in extremis. Please reassure your family that we have their contact details (NOK information provided on your Booking Form) and that no news is good news!

Cell Phone. Your mobile roaming may work in Kigali and perhaps for sections in Uganda however you are very unlikely to get signal once in more remote parts of the country.

The following is Secret Compass’s recommended kit list for the 2018 expedition to the Rwenzoris mountains. There is a reasonable chance that bags may be delayed when transiting through airports on your outbound flights to Kigali. Try to keep essential items in your hand luggage (check hand baggage restrictions first). Good quality walking boots and waterproofs are very hard to replace so it is advisable to wear/take these on the flight. There will be the opportunity to leave a small bag at the hotel in Kigali with flight clothes etc.

Secret Compass have arranged team members discounts with Cotswold Outdoor, Nordic Life, Outdoor Hire and Expedition Kit Hire, details of these will be sent through on booking.

Baggage and sleeping

  • RUCKSACK: 50-70ltr, all personal kit must fit into one bag.
  • DAYSACK (optional): For use around town, day hikes and gorilla trekking.
  • WATERPROOF RUCKSACK LINER: Sealable “canoe” or “dry” bags made by Podsac or Ortlieb, etc.
  • SMALLER DRY BAGS: As above, but smaller bags to put essential items in. The large rucksack liners sometimes leak so anything important needs to be waterproofed individually.
  • SLEEPING BAG: Rated to at least comfort -5C comfort. At altitude, the temperature drops at night. Down is lighter and more compact than synthetic options but also invest in a waterproof stuff sack.
  • SLEEPING BAG LINER: Silk or cotton. Coolmax are ideal. Used for extra warmth.
  • SLEEPING MAT: Thermarest or equivalent. Bring repair kit.

Clothing

  • 2 x TREKKING SHIRTS: Thin trekking shirts that dry quickly. Long sleeves to provide insect and sun protection. At least one of these should be in muted colours for gorilla trekking.
  • 1 x THERMAL BASE LAYER: Long sleeved thermal top. Helly Hansen or equivalent.
  • 2 x LONG TREKKING TROUSERS: Thin trekking trousers that dry quickly and are comfortable.
  • 1 x MID LAYER: Fleece or equivalent.
  • 1 x INSULATED JACKET: It may be cold at altitude or in the evenings.
  • 1 x WATERPROOF JACKET AND TROUSERS: Gore-tex or equivalent. Thin and light as lower elevations will be very humid.
  • WATERPROOF GAITERS: To keep boots as dry as possible when walking on wet boggy gound.
  • 1 x WALKING BOOTS: Must provide ankle support and be worn in before the expedition, the Rwenzoris mountains are notoriously boggy so waterproof boots are highly recommended. Please consult your nearest outdoor store for advice on choosing the correct boot.
  • 4 x MID WEIGHT HIKING SOCKS
  • SANDALS: For use around camp (not flip flops).
  • WIDE-BRIMMED SUN HAT
  • WARM HAT FOR EVENINGS
  • GLOVES
  • 4 x UNDERWEAR: Sport or cycling shorts don’t chafe.

Eating

  • MUG
  • KNIFE, FORK, SPOON
  • WATER BLADDER OR ROBUST BOTTLES: You need to be able to carry a minimum of three litres of water in a combination of camelback and water bottles.

Health and Hygiene

  • WASHBAG, TOOTHBRUSH AND TOOTHPASTE, RAZOR, DEODORANT (optional).
  • SOAP (optional): Anti-bacterial and biodegrabale.
  • TRAVEL TOWEL/SARONG (optional).
  • WET WIPES OR BABY WIPES (optional).
  • ANTIBACTERIAL HAND GEL
  • TOILET PAPER: Travel tissues work well.
  • SANITARY PRODUCTS
  • LIP SALVE WITH UV PROTECTION
  • VASELINE: Keep readily available to prevent chafing skin and heel friction blisters.
  • INSECT REPELLENT: Minimum DEET 30%.
  • AFTER SUN/MOISTURISER (optional)
  • FACTOR 30+ SUN CREAM

Small first aid kit

A team medical kit with a comprehensive primary care provision will be carried.

    • WATERPROOF BAGOR TUPPERWARE BOX: Keep kit dry and safe.
    • PAIN KILLERS: Ibuprofen and Paracetamol.
    • ZINC OXIDE TAPE AND SMALL SCISSORS
    • COMPEED BLISTER PADS: Please not that Compeed produce several similar looking blister packs for corns, etc. Please ensure you purchase the standard/ original item.
    • DIARRHOEA TABLETS: Immodium.
    • DIORALYTE SACHETS OR SIMILAR REHYDRATION PACKS: Consider Nuun or Zero tables (non-caffeinated) for regular use.
    • ANTISEPTIC WIPES
    • ANTISEPTIC CREAM
    • PIRITON TABLETS (for allergies)
    • EURAX CREAM (for bites)
    • ANY MEDICATION YOU NORMALLY USE: Find out the generic/chemical name for your medication in case you need to source more in-county. Please also check that your medication is legal in your destination. You must make Secret Compass aware of any medical conditions before you travel.

Other

  • TREKKING POLES (optional but highly recommended): Many team members find trekking poles useful on slippery or uneven terrain or for steep descents.
  • WATCH (optional)
  • HEAD TORCH AND SPARE BATTERIES: Petzl Tikka head torch or equivalent. Check the torch works before you leave home.
  • SUNGLASSES WITH UV-FILTER LENSES
  • PENKNIFE (optional)
  • GAFFER TAPE (optional): For emergency repairs to your kit, you can take some off the roll and wrap it around something else in your kit.
  • 1 x KARABINER: For securing your rucksack (on top of minibuses, etc).
  • SPARE BOOT LACES (optional)
  • SMALL SEWING KIT
  • RE-SEALABLE PLASTIC BAGS (optional): For dirty washing, wrappings, etc.
  • SMALL PADLOCK AND KEY: To lock storage bag left behind.
  • 10 ENERGY/TREKKING BARS (optional): Keeps energy levels up if you start to feel low.

Our approach

Secret Compass organises expeditions, not sightseeing tours. Our expeditions are team-centred, flexible and dynamic. Teams are managed on the ground by Secret Compass staff: industry-leading professionals and guides of the highest calibre. They put the structure in place for your team to have an incredible experience while achieving your expedition’s aims. Our people are as passionate as you are about achieving the extraordinary in the world’s wildest places. Secret Compass teams often go to places that others don’t. This makes our expeditions truly different, taking you beneath the skin and beyond the headlines of the world’s most remote reaches. Inspired by history’s great explorers and challenges, you’ll be set ambitious goals and will overcome similar hardships to those experienced on the audacious journeys of the past.

Remember this is not an organised tour. It is an adventure. More often than not expeditions don’t run smoothly! The nature of the areas we operate in mean that we will encounter a number of challenges that we expect everyone to meet and relish. Friction and hurdles are all part and parcel of an arduous expedition and also to our success as a team. These make the journey more interesting and are often the best and most amusing parts when looking back. Each expedition is thoroughly reviewed on its return and team members will have the opportunity to provide feedback which helps to inform planning for future expeditions.

Local partners and bureaucracy

Our teammates can only achieve the extraordinary with the help of people in the communities we travel through. NGO and aid workers, guides, fixers and interpreters all work extremely hard and are generous in their hospitality to us and our teams: visitors in their land. They are crucial to our success. Please remember and respect that their perspectives and concepts of time, environmental responsibility and customer service might differ to yours. Occasionally there is no established protocol for outside visitors which means we encounter local power struggles or disagreements. Our leaders have years of experience in delicate negotiations like these and conversational chess – especially through an interpreter – and these interchanges are often memorable parts of any expedition.

Infrastructure and natural events

The areas we travel to often especially remote. Transport infrastructure can be ageing, inadequate or non-existent. Flooded roads, collapsed bridges, fallen trees and vehicle break-downs are all par for the course. Our teams thrive on overcoming challenges like these – be prepared to get stuck in and push occasionally! Natural phenomena like desert sand storms, early monsoons, landslides across key routes, winter coming early, gale force winds and driving snow can all make for a more interesting time on the expedition.

Food

In some areas our teams explore, we rely on local food sources. This can often be outstanding (but can also be very average) and we always make the best out of the resources available. In other cases, we will supply filling and high-calorie dehydrated expedition foods (ration packs)

Part of a team

Secret Compass fosters a team mentality across all its expeditions and projects. Like all teams you will have a leader who will give direction to your progress. Crucial to your team’s success – especially when the going gets tough – is the attitude of the teammates working together to achieve the aim. You really are part of a team, not a cosseted guest on a tour. We ask teammates to muck in and help out any aspect of the expedition, from fetching water and helping to prepare and cook food, to carrying some group kit and equipment if required. The working language of all teams is English.

Typical teammates

There really is no typical expedition member, though everyone needs to be fit, healthy and ready to take on the expedition’s aim by the time of departure. Participants range from 21 to 65+ in age and come from all over the world. Backgrounds include contract workers and engineers, IT specialists and students, teachers and literature lovers, journalists and keen photographers and so many more. What bonds our pioneering teams is their shared spirit of adventure and their sense of humour and positive outlook. A good teammate looks on the bright side when the 4×4 breaks down, the rain comes early and when a meal is distinctly pedestrian. Our teammates help each other, look out for each, encourage each other and help each other when needed. Our teams have done us proud in working together to achieve their common goal: the aim of the expedition. If this sounds like you, you’ve come to the right expedition company.

Teammate mentality

You need a robust, spirited and can-do attitude to cope with demanding days and rough camping in rugged and wild places. You’ll cover good daily distances (generally carrying your own kit and equipment), eating expedition foods or relying on local food sources. These elements combine to create the unique character of each expedition. On expedition, challenges, frictions and changes to plans are inevitable. Teammates should meet and relish these as an integral part of any arduous expedition and its ultimate success. Such things make the journey more interesting and are often most memorable parts when looking back.

Risk management

Secret Compass is an expedition company not a tour company. Expeditions contain inherent risk. This is part of the appeal for teammates. We do not make expeditions safe as, by definition, that is impossible. We construct and implement a three-staged risk management approach to reduce risk to what we perceive as a tolerable level.

  1. Risk assessment.
    We conduct a thorough risk assessment of potential hazards and threats that may be encountered on the expedition and provide recommendations to reduce the likelihood of harm occurring/ severity if it does occur.
  2. Safety plan.
    As part of our expedition plan, we detail actions to be taken to implement and resource the recommendations of the risk assessment. This includes a detailed medical and communications plan.
  3. Delivery.
    The expedition leader is responsible for dynamic risk management on the expedition itself.

Key risks.

Key risks encountered on this specific expedition include accident or medical emergency whilst trekking which is increased by the remoteness of the expedition, and road traffic accidents. If you would like to see the full Risk Assessment for this expedition, please email info@secretcompass.com

Incident management and medical

As part of the safety plan, Secret Compass has a full incident and emergency plan for medical and other emergencies. This will be discussed in full at the arrival brief, so everyone is aware what action will be taken. In summary, incidences are usually managed on the ground by the expedition leader in the first instance with remote support from Secret Compass’s 24 hour Operations Room before evacuation to the nearest appropriate medical centre.

Informed consent

It is your responsibility to understand the risks associated with adventure travel in remote areas. You also must understand that medical evacuation will take an extended period of time (potentially up to 3 days) and will require wilderness extraction techniques and long carries by stretcher. In-country search and rescue and emergency services are very basic or non-existent and the expedition will rely on internal resources for medical evacuation. By joining this expedition, you accept the risks associated with the venture. If you require any more information on specific risk management for this expedition, or would like to speak to us about our medical planning prior to the trip, please get in touch.

Testimonials

Read team Testimonials or watch this short video featuring expedition teammates (filmed on location in Ethiopia) for an insight into life on expedition.

 

Cultural

The Rwenzori Mountains. These mountains, AKA ‘The Mountains of the Moon’, are a world heritage site and the (rapidly retreating) equatorial glaciers are one of the sources of the Nile. The mountains straddle the border between DRC and Uganda and are home to many endemic flora and fauna species, which include giant lobelia, forest elephant, numerous birds and several primate species.

Queen Elizabeth National Park is understandably one of Uganda’s most popular tourist destinations. The park’s diverse ecosystems, which include sprawling savanna, shady, humid forests, sparkling lakes and fertile wetlands, make it the ideal habitat for classic big game, ten primate species including chimpanzees and over 600 species of birds. Set against the backdrop of the jagged Rwenzoris Mountains, the park’s magnificent vistas include dozens of enormous craters carved dramatically into rolling green hills, panoramic views of the Kazinga Channel with its banks lined with hippos, buffalo and elephants, and the endless Ishasha plains, whose fig trees hide lions ready to pounce on herds of unsuspecting Ugandan kob.

Terrain

This expedition will encompass travel through a variety of terrains with habitats varying from thick jungle-type vegetation at low levels to African-alpine vegetation and rocky lava flows at higher altitudes. We will be following known routes but we can expect these to be overgrown and badly maintained. We can also expect the paths to be very steep and possibly wet, involving challenging scrambling on rocky, overgrown and mossy terrain. You should be prepared for river crossings and deep mud / bogs in places, which will hinder speed of progress.

Weather

July in Uganda and Rwanda usually sees daytime temperatures between 20°C and 30 °C. Please note however that temperature will decrease with altitude, and at night it is not uncommon to experience frost and minus temperatures in altitudes above 3,000m. In July the Rwenzoris Mountains have a small drier weather window. These mountains get a staggering 3.5m of rain a year so you should expect to see a lot of precipitation.

Leader

UK. You will have experienced Secret Compass staff with you, with extensive experience of leading groups in remote locations and over difficult terrain.

Local guides. We are working closely with the Ugandan Wildlife Authority and excellent local drivers, guides and porters will assist the team throughout Uganda and Rwanda.

Food

Towns. In Rwanda and Uganda we will eat in local restaurants and cafes, whilst in the National Park meals will be a combination of fresh local produce and dehydrated ration packs with snack-style lunches. The first meal provided by Secret Compass will be dinner at the hotel in Kigali on 7 July. The last meal provided by Secret Compass will be breakfast at the hotel in Kigali on 21 July.

Transport

International flights. You need to organise your own international flights. You need to be in Kigali (Rwanda) by 1800 on 7 July 2017 and are free to depart anytime on the 21 July. We have a unique partnership with Student Universe (part of Flight Centre, and don’t worry you don’t have to be a student); a specialist team of travel consultants who understand us and our destinations, and who have a team dedicated to helping Secret Compass teams. They have a 24-hour assistance helpline and access to the best fares. Fill in a contact form or call (UK) 0844 560 9799 for assistance in booking international flights. Please keep transits through African cities longer than normal to help get your baggage on the same flight as you!

It is advised that you wait for confirmation from Secret Compass that this expedition is a confirmed departure prior to booking your flights, and/ or that your travel insurance covers your flight costs in the event of cancellation by Secret Compass (see Section 9 of our Terms and Conditions). Expeditions will be confirmed when they hit minimum numbers and team members will be informed immediately.

Road. If you are arriving on the 7 July and departing on the 21 July, airport transfers will be provided by the hotel in Kigali and coordinated by Secret Compass, if you are travelling outside of this window then airport transfers are your responsibility. Outside of Kigali, we will be using a large, private minibus for road transfers.

Foot. The majority of the journey will be by foot. Although the ascent of the volcano will be made with only 2 days of supplies, you should be aware that there will be days in the Rwenzori Mountains where you may be required to carry a full expedition pack and a share of the group kit. Further details are provided in the ‘terrain’ section, but you should be prepared for scrambling as well as trekking.

Accommodation

Towns. In Kigali we will stay in a comfortable mid-range hotel on a twin-share basis. There is a free shuttle bus from Kigali airport to the hotel on arrival and departure days. At other times, the team will stay in more basic guesthouse accommodation on a twin or triple-share basis as available.

Volcanoes and Bwindi National Park. The team will camp in the National Park using tents and basic shelters.

Rwenzoris. During the main expedition phase, we will aim to sleep in shelters and mountain huts. These provide limited protection from the elements and you will require a sleeping bag and mat. Due to the size and condition of the huts it may be that some of the team will sleep in tents. Tents will be provided by Secret Compass.

Reality of living rough for days. Occasionally people on our expeditions are not prepared for camping for multiple days. Living in these conditions can degrade your health and increase fatigue. You need to be highly organised so that your night and morning routine is done efficiently and quickly. If you are inexperienced at camping, it is essential that you get as much practice as possible prior to the expedition.

Communications

Secret Compass staff will be carrying at least two methods of communication, usually a Satellite Phone and a DeLorme two-way communication device. These will be used for regular updates to head office and for emergencies. Unfortunately, routine communication between team members and family/friends is not possible – please reassure them that no news is good news! If there is an emergency and someone needs to contact a team member, they can contact Secret Compass’s Operations Room on +44207 096 8428 who will endeavour to pass a message on within 24hours.

Here are some frequently asked questions that are specific to this expedition. Read our general FAQ too for questions such as ‘how do I join an expedition’ and more. Can’t find your answer? Contact SCHQ.

Will we definitely see gorillas?

We definitely hope so! One of the highlights of the expedition is joining the national park rangers to spend an hour with one of the gorilla families, whilst we can’t guarantee that your trip will be successful it is very rare for a group to miss out on this amazing experience. Secret Compass cannot guarantee gorilla sightings.

I’m a vegetarian. Can I join?

Teammates with dietary requirements are welcome to apply for this expedition and should state their specific requirements when applying. The food situation is outlined in the Practicalities tab and Secret Compass may request further information before approving your application.

Can I arrive a day late?

As The Plan outlines, there is a chain of transport to get teammates into Volcanoes National Park so late arrivals cannot be catered for. If you wish to arrive in Rwanda in advance of the trip or extend your stay at the end, you are welcome to do so but please make sure your visa covers your entire stay.

I’ve never been trekking before. Can I come?

Yes. As long as you fulfil the fitness requirements and have an adventurous spirit and willing to work as a team, then you will have no problems.

What if the volcano erupts?

Secret Compass have robust contingency plans and alternative routes for each aspect of the expedition and the volcanoes are constantly monitored by experienced park officials.

Can I charge electricals?

There will be charging facilities at the hotels in Kigali and Queen Elizabeth National Park but none during the trekking section of the expedition – you will need to be prepared with extra batteries or solar panels.

Will there be telephone signal?

There should be mobile signal in towns but you are unlikely to have any coverage in the mountains. Secret Compass carry a comprehensive emergency communications kit including a satellite phone.

Do you provide further advice?

You might find our Get Ready section useful, with further advice about fitness, flights, travel insurance, visas and our approach to risk management.

How can I apply?

Use the buttons below to contact Secret Compass with your questions or to complete our no-obligation Application Form to join this team. Someone will get back to you promptly.

The Journal