We met Steffi, our guide, at Entebbe airport, mountain gorillas were to be our highlight of this trip. We carried US dollars & changed some sterling into Ugandan shillings, distributed it around our pockets & headed out for Murchison Falls. Not for us the over night hotel rest after the flight. Places to see people to meet! Plenty of time to relax back in the UK.
We arrived at Nile safari lodge on the banks of the Blue Nile & headed out the following morning into the National Park,crossing the Nile at the Paraa ferry.
For us the park was disappointing, perhaps our expectations were too high for wildlife, although we did have good views of shoebills among the reeds.
We eat a picnic lunch on the banks of the Nile before embarking on a boat to see the falls. Unfortunately the trip was spoilt by a group who had little care for other people. Again, the reason why Kath & I like to travel alone.
We did have good views of hippo, elephant & Nile crocodiles if they were not frightened off by the noise from our boat.
That evening we drove, in a heavy storm, to the head of the falls in anticipation of the bat exodus from the caves. The bat feeding hawks turned up! We waited! The hawks waited! Someone forgot to tell the bats though! We believe that the storm had sent the bats low as they exited the caves instead of soaring into the evening sky. The night drive back proved interesting with a number of nocturnal cats caught in our head lights.
Our next stop Ndale Lodge, Kibale Forest & chimps, 8 hours away along the escarpment of the West Nile ridge.Travelling through Uganda is an experience not to be missed, children run & wave from every where lighting the day with their smiles. We coined the phrase “Miles & miles of smiles” People were so pleased that we were visiting their country, colourful school uniforms, colourful school names “ Golden Brain School” was one. “School For The Big Brain” another. Banana’s piled on the road side for collection.
We arrived at Ndale in time to join in the walk around the lake with the lodge dogs, as we returned we met a motor cyclist carrying a large amounts of prepared timber. On questioning the gentleman it was found that it had come from the lodge which was having new rooms built. Aubrey, lodge manager/owner, turned the gentleman around, with the timber, back to the lodge.
We continued the walk back for sundowners. “All my staff will now be sat around the table concocting a story that will satisfy & pacify me. It’s part of the game” He added with a chuckle. “ All part of the fun of Africa! Often it’s worth it just to hear the tale they put together” At dinner that night the story unfolded, the timber was poor quality & was put aside for fire wood to heat the water. Only that very morning the cook had broken her bed & the door of her house was rotten….And…. As there was plenty of fire wood, & nowhere to put this wood,…….!! Only in Africa, guests around the table that night included, a Canadian politician, two zoologists & an engineer plus their partners, oh! & an English crane mechanic & a clerk….Only in Africa!
We had a good Chimp trek watching a group feeding high in the canopy in Kibale Forest, difficult photography against the sky. The afternoon was spent with a local community project into the swamps & out into the fields tended by the women, part of the Mother Union initiative, plenty of birds & mammals, Red & Black Colobus monkeys. Back to the lodge to take the dogs around the lake before sundowners, bath dinner & bed.
Next stop Queen Elizabeth Park, & Jacana Lodge set on the edge of a large noisy lake! Frogs! Frogs! & more frogs! We tried to work out how many species we could hear at night!! Gave up! A crescendo of Croaks, chirps, whistles, We’re sure we heard a banjo in there somewhere!! We made alterations to our itinerary the next day for a trek in the Kyamburu Gorge. Amazing! A great scar across the African plains.
You descend from the plains of Africa into the forest, Hippo’s & chimps were the order of the day. Two chimps left the forest as if to greet Kath & I. The group we followed were very vocal, working up to loud calling & screeching. The river in the gorge was home to a number of hippo & babies.
The afternoon was spent deep in the forest by the lake exploring a low ceiling cave with thousands of bats. I was fascinated by them, being so close they became individuals leading their own lives, preening & squabbling with their neighbours.
Our walk took us to the blue lagoon. Legend has it that a herd of elephant was under attack from hunters. The matriarch held the hunters at bay while the herd escaped until she fell dying to the forest floor. The ground shook & split open as she fell. After the hunters had left the herd returned & distraught over her death the lagoon was filled with their tears.
Our next stop Ishasha tented camp & tree climbing lions. We found the lions late morning took photographs & returned to the camp for lunch. Steffi wanted to game drive but at our request we went back to the lions & witnessed them spreading out in the hope of an early ambush. All was lost though when the cubs decided to join the adults to this point only visible by the swish of a tale above the grass. Our memory is of the pride setting out in the evening light for the nights hunt. Yet another reason to safari alone. Steffi had never seen this before, with clients normally who want to “Click, tick & run” Our best sightings have been by just sitting & waiting.
Into the mountains at Magahinga National Park for gorilla! I have already posted an eventful night, see Gorilla in the mist under “Jokes related to Africa”.
We gathered at the Ranger HQ for briefing before setting off to track our gorillas, six Europeans, two guides, 3 guards & six porters, hired to put money into the community. We didn’t have far to trek before we were amongst 5 females, 3 babies & one silver back male. This group also nested in the valley beneath our hut that night.
The next day we climbed high into the mountains to find another group, hard going, steep climbs, if you do it, GET FIT! At one stage Kath sold my flight ticket & ordered a box for me to go home in! This group had three males, a number of females & boisterous babies!
Alas, I did not enjoy our meetings with the gorillas. The first group was alright, they moved through the valley & we followed. But this large group in the mountains I felt we were intruding… They were in a deep crater feeding, there were gorillas every where. We left the guards & porters at the rim & six Europeans, the two guides descended into their midst. I felt as if we had walked into a restaurant or some ones home& were walking round the tables watching them eat. We were that close to them. I had not expected this! I believe we were definitely intruding!
We returned to Entebbe via a night at Lake Mburo, with Bush Buck added to our highlights.
Our trip was booked through “Gorilla trails” & organised by “Wildfrontiers” We have travelled before booking with “Tiger Trails” & this was a new venture for Allan. We were his guinea pigs so to speak.