50 Percent Discount On KrisFlyer Miles For Silk Air Flights

From 12 June to 11 July 2017, enjoy a 50% discount when you redeem your KrisFlyer miles online for a SilkAir flight* on singaporeair.com. Choose from a list of 53 destinations across the SilkAir network, including popular destinations in Southeast Asia like Bali, Langkawi, Kuala Lumpur and Phuket, and travel from 1 July to 31 October 2017.


To redeem, please complete the following:
1) Log in to your KrisFlyer account with your KrisFlyer membership number and PIN at the top right corner of this page.
2) Select ‘Book a Flight’ on your dashboard
3) Click ‘Redeem flights’ and select your travel details



* Please refer to detailed Terms and Conditions


Economy Class – Southwest Pacific




(For full list of routes, please see their website)


This is a great opportunity if you are able to travel within July-October!

Planning A Birding Safari In Uganda

First of all, everything I write here works for a normal “Big 5” type safari or even the mountain gorillas (though there are more specific blogs on gorillas) so if you are not particularly into birding you will still find value in this post.  Of course if you ARE into birding, you will find even more value!

Uganda has so much to offer and is easily accessed by airline miles.  If you have limited time and finances you will really have to make some tough decisions on how many parks to visit.  It really helps if you know what species are your priority.  For some people this may be raptors or trying to check off all the endemics.  For me it’s always parrots first, then songbirds, then other birds and mammals.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to bypass lions or cheetahs though!


With so much on offer, you have to do lots of research online to find out your best chances of seeing the species you really want to see.  I always check trip reports on Surfbirds and more recently added Cloudbirders to that.  Xeno-canto has mapped locations where birders took sound clips of many species so that can pinpoint them even more.

I always check bird sightings on eBird, you can see my full guide on locating bird species .

I also look through trip reports by major birding companies such as Birdquest, VENT, Naturetrek, Rockjumper and more.  The trip reports will show you which parks you need to concentrate on.  Once you have this, you can start contacting birding tour operators or safari companies that are well-recommended for quotes.


Firstly I should mention that I had unusual circumstances regarding travel insurance coverage and pre-existing conditions so I could only make a short dash into Uganda.  Normally I would have spent at least a week here although I have already seen the Mountain Gorillas back in 1998.  I was prioritizing parrots knowing that plenty of other bird species would be in the same habitats.  There are 3 parrot species in Uganda.    The African Grey Parrot is one which I only caught a fleeting glimpse of in Ghana so I wanted a better look.  Same with the Red-headed Lovebird.  The third parrot is the Meyers (Brown) Parrot.  I didn’t want to stray too far from Entebbe so I found 3 good prospects:


African Grey Parrot — Psittacus erithacus

Red-headed Lovebirds — Agapornis pullinarus

Meyer’s (Brown) Parrots – Poicephalus meyeri


Best known for Shoebills though African Grey Parrots have been seen flying overhead.


Same as Botanical Gardens.

Here is a map showing the locations.


In Uganda, it’s very rare for tourists to self-drive cars and you will have to use some kind of transport with a driver included.  These drivers probably won’t know anything about birds so you will also need a guide at each park/reserve you visit.  There are usually guides hanging around national parks waiting for customers so this won’t be a problem.  You may decide that it’s more convenient to just join an organized tour such as those whom I mentioned above if you can afford it.

I booked a Shoebill Safari with Mabamba Shoebill Safaris which was well-recommended on Trip Advisor.  The first time we went to the Botanic Gardens we used a taxi-minibus from our hotel.  This didn’t work out well as the windows were shaded cutting visibility.  After the Shoebill safari, I struck a deal with their driver to take us back to the Botanic Gardens after the shoebills, then the next day to Mpanga Forest.  They had a more comfortable vehicle (SUV) and made a good price.  If you are a less-experienced traveler and not comfortable with “Winging it”, then you can contact safari companies in advance to book a driver.


Uganda has an e-visa system where you fill out the application, upload scanned copies of your documents and pay online.  The paying thing is new, when I did it, we paid on arrival, $50 cash per person.  The details and application is HERE.

You will need scanned copies of your passport, a recent passport photo, your Yellow Fever certificate (valid for lifetime) and details of your flights and accommodation.  It’s pretty easy and our were approved by email the nest day.


There’s a couple things to consider, the weather and potential crowds (especially if you are going to other parts of Uganda).  I always check the weather on Weather2Travel.  In my case, since we were going to other places in Africa we went in the rainy season (April 2017) but it wasn’t too bad, only a few showers in the evening.

If you have “must-see” bird species, always check eBird to make sure the birds are being seen that time of year by other birders.


Obviously a lot of thought and preparation needs to go into a birding safari to Uganda and even more so if you will be visiting Chimps & Gorillas.  The lower your budget, the more you have to do yourself.  For most people, this will be a once in a lifetime experience so take your time and get it right!


Getting To Uganda With Airline Miles

Most frequent flier programs place Uganda into the Africa zone.  You can find some generic recommendations on how to get to East Africa here.  I already have a blog with my recommendations for which programs to join if you are new to the world of miles and points.

The major gateway city for Uganda is Entebbe.     Once you have been in the miles and points game for awhile, you will get a feel for which airline to use where but if you are just starting out Wikipedia will show you all the airlines that fly into Entebbe.


The only One World member serving Entebbe is Qatar Airways via Doha.  You can reach Doha from anywhere in the world where Qatar flies to.


From North America you can use Egypt Air via Cairo, Ethiopian Airlines via Addis Ababa, South African Airways via Johannesburg or Turkish Airlines via Istanbul.

From Europe you can use Egypt Air via Cairo, Ethiopian Airlines via Addis Ababa, South African Airways via Johannesburg (a bit out of the way but UA might allow it) or Turkish Airlines via Istanbul.

From Australia and New Zealand there are no direct flights, you need to get to Singapore or Bangkok, then you can pick up Egypt Air, Ethiopian Airlines or Turkish Airlines.


From North America you can use KLM or Kenya Airways via Europe.

From Europe KLM flies direct from Amsterdam with connection to most European cities or Kenya Airways.

From Australia Skyteam isn’t the best option unless you travel via Dubai and pick up Kenya Airways from there.


Etihad and Emirates serve Entebbe from all over the world via their hubs in Abu Dhabi and Dubai respectively..


Every airline member of the 3 main alliances has it’s own frequent flier program.  Examples are in my East Africa post.

48 Hours In Dubai

It doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but this wasn’t our first visit to Dubai.  We had been there in 2006 and already done some of the touristy things like the dune-bashing and desert dinner in the desert so this time I know I wanted to eat some of my favourite Middle Eastern dishes, see a belly dance show for locals (not tourists) and shop!

Al Tannour in the Crowne Plaza Hotel has a delicious Lebanese fixed menu and an excellent show featuring a belly dancer and 2 singers.  We were the only tourists there and the locals in attendance were definitely in a party mood!  Everyone was up dancing by the end of the evening, including us!

Of course we had to pay a visit to the famous Gold Souk in Deira.  You can get there on the Metro.  I didn’t buy anything but I did have a gold ring repaired at a bargain price.

Then we had some yummy Persian food at Sadaf which was walking distance from our hotel.

The Dubai Museum in the fort has been vastly improved since I was there last and has some wonderful dioramas of Arabic lifestyles and traditions.

Near the museum/fort is Al Fahidi Street which has some really cool ladies clothing shops.

There are also some souvenir type shops near the creek.  I might have bought one of these lamps if I didn’t have to lug it around Africa!  This same area also has some money changers who stock African currencies.  I got some Ethiopian Birr, but struck out on Uganda Shillings and Zambian Kwacha.  The other thing I stocked up on was Doxycycline for malaria prevention.

The shopping continued at DXB airport in the transit area as we waited for our red-eye flight to Nairobi on KQ.

Hotel Review: Ibis Al Rigga, Dubai

I had some Le Club Accor points to burn and we just needed a well-located budget hotel to crash at night so I chose the Ibis Al Rigga, Dubai when Accor was running one of their sales.  They don’t always accept points during these sales but luckily for me they did on this one and breakfast was included!  The location is excellent, just 5 minutes walk from a Metro station.

It’s a decent budget hotel, really it’s the location that makes the place.

The staff are very friendly and were happy to make phone calls for me to check on restaurants so we wouldn’t have a huge phone bill.  They also gave us a late check out and kept our bags after check out as we didn’t have to go to the airport until 11pm.  I chose this hotel intending to use the Metro to go everywhere but that plan fell apart after the heat got the best of me and the Metro proved to be rather crowded, at least crowded enough to make getting a seat difficult.  We used Uber to go everywhere using the hotel wifi and that  worked really well.

Hotel Review: Holiday Inn Internet City, Dubai

We just needed a cheap and cheerful room for free on points as I knew we would be arriving around 2 am and found a good option using IHG Rewards at the Holiday Inn Express Internet City in Dubai.  It was one of the cheaper ones at 20k IHG points and also had a free shuttle to Mall of the Emirates.

We weren’t really that tired as we pulled up in the Etihad car as we slept well on the plane

The room was really nice, especially for a HIX which is at the budget end of the chain.

We enjoyed the breakfast buffet which was free, even on a points stay!

The shuttle minibus to Mall of the Emirates was being serviced so after a bit of coaxing, they paid for a taxi to take us and one other guest to the mall.  We passed the Burj al Arab on the way. 

Once at Mall of the Emirate, I made sure we complied with the dress code-we did.

I really wanted to try the Discover Ski lesson at Ski Dubai since I have never tried to ski in my life.  Unfortunately there was a public holiday giving locals a 3 day weekend and the place was packed!  We would have had a 3-4 hour wait and I didn’t want to hang around the mall all day so we just watched for a while.

Shake Shack for lunch, we don’t have this in Australia but I love their burgers and shakes!

Most of the mall shops were just like you would find in any large city shopping mall with an emphasis on luxury brands.  We walked around a bit, then decided to get the metro to Deira where our next hotel was booked.

Flight Review: Etihad Business Class, Perth – Abu Dhabi

Not only Hummingbirds can fly backwards, you can too if you fly on Etihad’s Dreamliner service from Perth to Abu Dhabi.  The business class configuration has some seats facing backwards and others facing forwards.  I normally dislike facing backwards on a bus or train but I still wanted to try it out in the air.  We didn’t have enough Velocity points to go all the way from BNE-AUH so I booked the cheaper PER-AUH flight (thankfully before the huge surcharges were added) using Velocity and added a BNE-PER segment using 10k AA miles each.  At time of posting, this flight costs 78k Velocity points + $358 in surcharges.  I only paid $105 in taxes.

At PER, we had access to the Qantas lounge.  They had a nice selection of food and drink and it was a nice lounge.

Soon enough it was time to board.  Although I heard rumours of some cool boarding music we didn’t get any. 

Now you can see the layout with some seats facing forwards and some facing backwards.

Here’s my seat, very comfortable as one may expect. 

The top of my husband’s head in a forward facing seat.

Of course I chose the champagne!

The amenity kits have the usual amenities and are themed by some of Etihad’s destinations.  I got Melbourne (blue one) and my husband got New York (black & yellow).  I later asked for the Abu Dhabi one and was told they were out but they brought me a Bangkok one as consolation.

I always take the opportunity to watch Bollywood or Arabic films with English subtitles as I can get English feature films any time.

The FA’s came around frequently with the champagne.

I kept the party going at dinner time and went with the Arabic mezze and lamb biryani.


Time to sleep!

Almost there!

Midnight arrival at AUH.  Passport and customs were a breeze with dedicated express lane and no visa required for Aussies.

Of course we had to try out the Arrivals Lounge so my husband could get a shave!  Unfortunately no perks for ladies, a facial would have been nice.

We were lucky to have the free chauffeur-driven car benefit as they did away with this little goodie for award tickets shortly after I booked our seats.  I gave them the address of the Holiday Inn in Dubai and off we went!

Overview Of Our African Trip – April/May 2017

You gotta do a Godmother proud and we started off right in Etihad’s wonderful business class thanks to Virgin Velocity points.

Then we had a couple days layover in Dubai to shop and sightsee.

Next it was off to Entebbe, Uganda on Kenya Airways using Flying Blue miles.  We stayed at the Lake Heights Hotel and hired local drivers to take us to the Entebbe Botanical Gardens, a day trip to Mpanga Forest and a Shoebill Safari.

Then we flew to Addis Ababa & Lusaka on Ethiopian Airways, then to Windhoek on South African Airways courtesy of United Mileage Plus points.

In Ethiopia, we had a 2 night stay at Lake Langano at the Hara Langano Resort, then 2 nights in Addis Ababa at the Ghion Hotel with a day trip in hired car to Menagesha Forest.

In Zambia, we used public buses to get around and started off in Livingstone where we had a day trip to the Machile IBA to see the Black-cheeked Lovebirds, then to Mfuwe for an amazing safari in South Lungwa National Park.

Finally it was off to Namibia for a massive road trip to Etosha National Park, Kunene River, Huab Lodge and Omaruru for some independent birding.

We returned to Brisbane on Qatar Airways in business class thanks to AAdvantage miles with a connection to BNE on Qantas from Adelaide as QF don’t fly to Brisbane.

The whole thing looked something like this.

So sit back, relax and enjoy the birds of Africa and learn how to do this trip using miles and points!

Back From Africa, The Godmother Was Amazing!

Although I have had posts appearing each week automatically, actually we have been in Africa on the “Godmother of all African Adventures” so I have missed over a month’s worth of happenings in May.  Not to worry, I am sure there will be more good deals in June!

I had to deal with “stuff” like replacing my 4 year old laptop and transferring my life over to the new one and I haven’t really gone through the photos yet.

For the time being, I will maintain my reduced posting schedule of 4 posts a week until I get caught up at least.  The Africa series starts Monday and I plan to keep posting Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

We went to 4 countries – Uganda, Ethiopia, Zambia and Namibia, each one amazing and totally unique!  We had layovers in Dubai and Doha while flying to and from Brisbane and flew business class in Etihad and Qatar Airways thanks to miles and points.

Did I outdo myself from the “Mother of All African Adventures”?

Here’s a teaser, see for yourself!


Manila To Mt Makiling In A Whirlwind

Continuing my historical report of our trip to the Philippines in Sept 2010.

We ran off the Cebu Pacific flight from Puerto Princesa and got a taxi to the bus station from where we found a bus headed to Banos.  I had asked the driver to let us out someplace we could get a taxi/jeepney to Mt Makiling.  In retrospect, we shouldn’t have tried to rush this trip but I was hopeful of seeing Guaiabero Parrots.

The place we stayed seems to have been renovated and renamed so here is their current website.

The trails go through some lovely rainforest habitat and there were other birders there who pointed the way to where they had seen Guaiabero Parrots earlier.  We hurried along and could hear parrots in the distance as it was near roosting time but they were too far to see.

We were hoping for more birding in the morning but got rained out.  We gave up and went back to Manila as it was our last day in the Philippines.

I got the Crowne Plaza on an IHG Pointbreaks for a bargain 5000 points!  It’s located in this mall which has a huge food court.

One last dip in the pool after a hectic adventure.

After leaving the Philppines, we flew on Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong to London with a rare op-upgrade to business class on HKG-LHR!  We had done a status challenge back when they were still free and held Platinum.  From there, we flew Iberia to Madrid, then to our final destination, Tenerife for our first time attending the World Parrot Conference at Loro Parque.