Mailbag: Gorillas, Qantas Awards on China Eastern and Shoulder Season Greece

Paul asks: I noticed one of your latter slides in the Chicago Seminars deck mentioned the Democratic Republic of Congo as a site for gorilla trekking. As I didn’t attend, I lack context. I aspire to a trip that will include gorilla trekking, and thought I’d send an e-mail asking for your recommendations; both for a base of operations and an oufitter.

It is a blog post I have been meaning to write. You have three options, none cheap. Uganda and Rwanda require a lot of planning and doing things last minute is tough because of demand and their permit systems. If you are willing to go to DR Congo, you are met at the Rwanda border, Virunga National Park can arrange the visa on arrival even last minute and added bonus is you can do the overnight camping at the lava lake, which is spectacular. Gorillas encounter is the best animal experience I have ever had. See more at the Virunga website (and Netflix documentary) and let me know further questions. Bonus: Virunga is a FlexPerks 3x charity when it comes time to pay online.

Virunga 06 Virunga 01 Virunga 02 Virunga 03 Virunga 04

William asks: I’m looking to book a one way award flight SHA-TSA. Checking on awardace, Qantas is a partner of China Eastern and the route should price at 10k QF miles. When I called in though, the QF agent claims she can only see CX/KA options, nothing for MU. (The space is clearly visible on the Delta website.) She said to check on the Qantas website, but that of course won’t show MU. Wondering what your experience has been redeeming QF miles on Asia routes? Is it worth it to HUCA? Don’t want to transfer miles in and be unable to book (like the mistake I made with Asia Miles, which no longer partners with MU).

I turned this over to two Australia experts, Zac at Points from the Pacific and Darren at The Flight Doc:

The Qantas partnership with China is not restricted to specific routes or bookings with calling back and finding the right agent, it should be ok.

William returns with his success:

I tried calling again last night and the agent was able to find the flight I wanted with the correct price. He said there was only one seat left (which is also what DL showed). Not sure why the earlier agent couldn’t find it, but hopefully will be able to book after the miles hit the account. Will let you know.

{interlude}
The miles from TYP –> QF hit my account this morning (took about 1.5 business days) and I called back to book. The reservations desk is only open from 7am to 7pm AU local time (so,

Once I got through, Agent was able to book SHA-TSA for 10,000 miles + $55 (I confirmed on ITA that the taxes/fees are correct). Process took a few tries but was fairly smooth once I got the right dept. You’re right about the YQ being high, but considering this is for New Years Eve and cash flights are $280, was a decent redemption. QF is distance-based, so could be a BA-like option for certain routes/partners.

Stefan asks: how can shoulder season Greece be such a bargain? Excellent guesthouses with breakfast for 30€/night?

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  • Andrew C

    Answer to last: Because Greece is amazing, and you’re just late to the game!!

  • @Andrew C – I was going to save it for symbolic last country, but with Syria and Yemen as they are I could not hold out any longer.

  • Andrew C

    Yeah, I know. I’ll be interested to hear your take on Greece. Certainly one of my favorite places in Europe, if not the world. What do you have left at this point besides war-torn hotspots?

  • @Andrew C – I don’t count transits, so my other 5 are Italy, San Marino, Monaco, Turkey and Seychelles. I have been to The Vatican but did nothing else so not counting it as Italy.

  • Shannon

    which one is that? In Athens?

  • P T

    Did love our gorilla trek in Uganda, and yes, planning and high fees required, but no regrets.