had the most amazing day today. We left Kampala at 6:30 am for the 6 or
so hour drive to Queen Elizabeth National Park in southwestern Uganda.
We left green and luscious Kampala and headed out past Lake Victoria and
stopped at the Equator where I had my photo taken standing with a foot
in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. As we descended into the National
Park the terrain began to look more like what I expected Africa to look
like - dry plains with traditional flat-topped trees. On the road into
the Park we passed a herd of zebras, Ugandan Kobs, wart hogs, and water
buffalo. I stayed at the Mweya Safari Lodge which does not have fences
so there are wart hogs grazing all over the place, earlier they chased
a wart hog out of the entrance to the restaurant! They are right outside
my door and just look up for a second as I walk by then go back to either
munching or napping. The lodge is simply fantastic, beautiful facilities,
and amazing service. As we drove up we had to wait as the President of
Uganda drove out the main gate, he'd come to the lodge for lunch. I waved
as his car drove by and he smiled and waved back. At 3 pm we took a boat
launch along the Kazinga Channel, which connects Lakes George and Edward.
It was like being in the middle of a National Geographic program. We were
feet away from hundreds of hippos, water buffalo, and 6 or 7 elephants
- wow! Plus Ugandan Kobs and thousands of birds. I was in awe the entire
two hour trip. After dinner tonight I walked outside of the restaurant
and a huge hippo (is there any other type?) munching on the grass on the
other side of the railing that surrounds the restaurant, not 10 feet away.
Fortunately it ignored us completely, though we kept out distance just
to be on the safe side. It just kept eating as it worked its way around
the edge of the restaurant verandah. We did learn another reason to steer
clear of hippos, they mark their territory by vigorously wagging their
tail and spreading 'fertilizer' all over the place, not a pretty picture.
morning I woke up at 5:45 am and at 6:30 we headed out for a wild game
drive. It was pitch black outside and as the sun came up the land was crawling
with wildlife - a zillion Ugandan Kobs (they look kind of like a cross
between a deer and an antelope), water bucks, wart hogs and, finally -
lions! We saw two different prides during the drive, they looked so cute
(deadly cute), one of the younger was playing with a ball of dirt just
like a big kitten. Fortunately they looked lazy and very well fed as one
of the 4 tour vehicles got stuck. There were all theses people outside
trying to push the van out of the ditch not 100 feet from 7 lions, exciting!
After returning to the Lodge I ate lunch and watched the hippos and 4 elephants
on the other shore playing in the water. Later I saw a huge group of mongoose
running across the yard, I followed them and there were two scientists
feeding and weighing all the cute critters. I returned to the pool and
lounged for some more time before having dinner. After dinner we watched
a group of African dancers perform several ceremonial dances. Then I chatted
with a group from England, we chatted for hours, though we did have to
do several British to American translations, not to mention accents. Who'd
of though there could be so many different accents on such a small island.
Of course I did have to answer the question, "what is that whole Electoral
Collage thing you have", ugh.
again I got up at 5:45 am, checked out of the lodge and headed for Kyambura
Gorge for a chimp tracking outing at the eastern edge of Queen Elizabeth
National Park. The park warden gave us a litany of animals that live in/near
the gorge - chimps, monkeys, leopards, wild pigs, spitting cobras, pythons,
elephants, hippos, wild pigs, etc. etc., but said we'd all be okay as each
group would have an armed warden assigned to it! We spent 4 hours hiking
through the gorge looking at colobus monkeys, eagles, all sorts of birds,
and a few folks caught a quick glimpse of some chimpanzees (I didn't look
fast enough). It rained most of the time we were out hiking but the forest
provided for a great umbrella so we weren't too soaked when we got out,
just really muddy. From the gorge we drove back to Kampala, on the way
out we interrupted a huge group of baboons playing on the dirt road, they
didn't seem too thrilled with the interruption but it was great to watch
them play and run around like crazy. The drive back to Kampala was a little
bitter sweet as I knew I'd be leaving Uganda the next day, it was an amazing
safari, one I can't wait to repeat.