One of the best things about vacation is being offline. However, after almost 3 weeks it does take some time to catch up with everything. So at last, but not the least, here’s what we did in those weeks.
After an uneventful nightflight via Amsterdam and Nairobi, Kenya, we arrived in Entebbe in the morning, where our guide Gerald already was waiting for us with a big Land Cruiser. Before setting off to the capital Kampala, Gerald took us to Entebbe Zoo and a lakeside lunch. A relaxing start of the vacation, after the rush of airports and planes.
The next day, we were scheduled for a trip to Ngamba Chimp Island, but as we were the only ones going that day, the boat would be too expensive. So, we changed this with the rafting trip scheduled lateron. I’ll leave it up to the reader to figure out what happens if you in little over a day go from snow in Denmark to a day in the sun in a rubberboat on the river Nile.
The rafting was a great experience. Some interesting rappids, of course going overboard almost every time, and some long stretches of relaxingly drifting, or swimming, down the Nile.
Early morning, we set off from Kampala to start our safari which would bring us through most of the national parks of south-west Uganda. First off, Kibale National Park. Kibale is a dense rainforest known for its primates, such as baboons, black-and-white colobus, red-tail monkey, and chimpanzees, which was the destination of a walk the next morning. The usual accomodation throughout Uganda is a banda, which can take many forms from a stone house to a tree hut. The one in Kibale was quite luxurious, even with hot water supplied by using two old oil-drums and a small fire underneat, to the right in the picture.
The next couple of days, we spent in Queen Elizabeth National Park, the largest national park of Uganda and also the most diverse, with both rainforst and savanah and everything inbetween. My camera didn’t have enough space, nor I enough time, to take pictures of all the bird species there, but the most impressive must have been the african fish eagle and the most numerous, the weaver birds, which litterally weave their nests in trees, like the black-headed weaver and the yellow-backed weaver. It is impossible to avoid the wildlife in the park. Just sitting on the porch of our banda, we had frequent visits from a family of warthog, mongoose, hippo (bad picture as it only comes out of the water at night), and even a waterbuck dropped by one day.
To see some of the other big mammals, a bit more work was required, so we went on a game drive for elephant, buffalo, a hyena chasing a kob, and even some lions put up a show for us in the rain. A boatride on the channel between Lake Albert and Lake Edward, showed even more birds, hippo, crocodile, and much, much more. Another trip brought us to Kyambura gorge, which is a big gap in the savanah in which a rainforest grows. We had a very nice walk along the river, but the chimps did not feel like meeting us this time. Last stop was the bat cave in Maramagambo forst, which of course was inhabited by bats, lots of bats.
Going further south, we stopped at Ishasha Camp, on the eastern bank of Ishasha River looking out on the D.R. Congo, to try and find tree climbing lions, but to no avail. In the evening, we arrived in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, one of the few spots in the world where wild gorilla populations remain. In the early morning, we set off on foot up the hill to find the M-group of habituated gorillas. After about 2,5 hours of walking, we did find them and spent an hour watching them. Most of the group was hidden in the bushes, only revealed by the moving branches, but we did get a good, long look at the big silverback male.
With almost all of our safari behind us, we set off north-east towards Kampala spending the night about halfway at Lake Mburo National Park. It looked like most tourists skip this park, and drive to and from Kampala and Bwindi in one day, which is a very long trip and they do miss this overlooked attraction. Arriving in the afternoon gave us plenty of time to relax at the lakeside restaurant and watch the vervet monkeys, pied kingfisher, and the ever-present warthog. Before setting off for a tour on the lake, the rangers put up a nice show to answer one of the big questions in life: How many parkrangers does it take to put a boat in the water? :-)
Now, the only thing left was driving back to Kampala, and say goodbye to all the wonderful national parks. avoiding some livestock and stopping at the equator.
After a night in Kampala, we drove back to Entebbe for a few hours on Ngamba Chimp Island. If I’d had to name one disappointment of the whole trip, this was it. Especially after seeing chimpanzees in the wild, having to endure a very uncomforable speedboat trip, twice, to view them in captivity does take away the thrill. Also, I had a hard time fighting off the irony while having to sit through a half hour sermon on conservation, while being ferried to and from the island with a poluting speedboat destroying flora and fauna in the lake. The chimps, of course, knew exactly when feeding time was, and put up a nice show.
After Gerald took us to the ferry to Kalanga on Buggala Island, one of the Ssese islands in Lake Victory, it was time to say goodbye. A very big thanks to Winnie and Jaynefer of Great Lakes Safaris for putting together such a great trip, and even more thanks to Gerald, not only for being such a great guide and driver, on the sometimes, ehm, interesting roads, and taking so good care of us, but also for his interesting coversations about life in Uganda. Thank you all!
The last three days of our vacation just flew by. Finally some time to relax and do absolutely nothing, nothing at all. OK, I admit. One day I did go for a swin in the lake. Hornbill Camp is probably also the perfect place to do nothing, as there is nothing to do, except read a book in a hammock, go for a swim, and talk about life in Uganda experienced by mzungu, offering a view behind the scenes of major relief organisations as the UN, MSF (Doctors Without Borders), etc., which is not quite the same story as the one you read in the newspapers.
All that is left, is to say goodbye to Hornbill Camp, and to an airport filled with indian UN soldiers on the way back to India after a tour in the D.R. Congo, and to Uganda. Until we meet again!