If you're following me on social media, you might have noticed this post (similar on Facebook, Instagram):
Africa calling!— Yoav Perlman (@yoavperlman) November 25, 2021
Thrilled to share that tomorrow night I will fly out to Uganda to attend the African Birding Expo. Before the expo I will travel throughout Uganda, and enjoy the spectacular wildlife of the Pearl of Africa. This is my first visit to Uganda, can't wait! pic.twitter.com/iRJYr5QIJD
I was invited by the organisers of African Birding Expo in Uganda, the Pearl of Africa, to attend the event and join the fam trip preceding it, with a wonderful bunch of good friends and excellent birders. I was all pumped up and ready to go, so excited to visit Uganda for the first time. Images of Mountain Gorillas and Shoebills ran through my head.
Last night I headed over to the airport to catch my flight to Uganda via Dubai. News of a new COVID-19 variant, Omicoron, spreading like fire in southern Africa was sitting at the back of my head, also the travel ban Israel imposed on these countries. I started the check-in process, when the person at the check-in counter notified me that Israel had just upgraded the covid status of Uganda, as most African countries, to red. Meaning that there's a travel ban to this country. Technically I could fly because my flight wasn't direct. The check-in attendant warned me of the real and possible grave consequences when I return. I had the worst dilemma - my heart directed me to go and fulfill my dream, and deal with the consequences down the line when they arrive. But my brain, my damn, logical, responsible brain, made the decision to cancel the trip. I was shattered, devastated. I was almost there, then everything collapsed. Cognitively I know I made the right decision. Emotionally, I don't know...
I want to express here my deep gratitude to the organisers of the African Birding Expo. They put it significant efforts to bring me over. I am sure they are disappointed and concerned as well. I hope that the trip and expo will go smoothly, and all travellers will return home safely.
I was invited to the expo to promote birding tourism into this wonderful country. I will do my best to promote birding in Uganda, even if I am not there. The expo organisers and Bird Uganda Safaris team, including Annette and Herbert, were extremely helpful, informative and responsive during the months and weeks before the event. I can highly recommend working with them. The gorillas, chimpanzees and shoebills will have to wait for me until I eventually make it. In the meanwhile, I recommend following the adventures of my fam-trip fellows, George, Ted, Dominic and Hannah and Erik Go Birding.
This era of covid is crushing the birding tourism industry worldwide. I can just hope that this period of escalating chaos will pass, and birding tourism, so important for local communities and conservation efforts, and for my fellow bird tour leaders, will resume without interruptions.
And me? I am OK. I was in a very bad mood for a while, but already went birding in the morning, which is always good for the soul. The checklist streak must continue. Rather than mourn over the lost opportunity in Uganda, I plan to celebrate the birding in Israel. My diary is empty for the next 2.5 weeks, and I have a Big Year to complete.