15 February 2016 - 28 February 2016 > 14 days
Travel report of our safari to Uganda.
Flight from Amsterdam to Entebbe.
Today we fly to Entebbe International Airport and arrive late at the Airport Guesthouse. It's exhilarating to be in Africa again. It's our first visit to Uganda and we look forward to seeing the Shoebill stork and lots of other birds and mammals.
Officially the bar is closed at the Airport Guesthouse but the manager is happy to serve is some chilled white wine and we enjoy the peaceful evening and thoughts about what lies ahead of us.
Travelday to Ziwa Rhina Sanctuary. Ending in Amaku Safari Lodge.
After breakfast we meet with our driver/guide and get our luggage to the car. The standard safari-vehicle in Uganda is a van, not a landcruiser as we were used to in Tanzania.
Early afternoon we arrive at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. With an armed ranger we go looking for one of the white rhino that live in the sanctuary. They all have 24/7 protection so it's not too difficult to find them. On foot we walk up to a mother and two youngsters. We can approach them pretty close, about 7 meters!
As it's still hot they are lying down, waiting for it to cool so they can go for a drink. The youngsters get restless and nudge the mother to get up. She does get up, turns around for a bit and lies down again. Still too hot for her (and we agree).
We go back to the Ziwa head office and receive boots and life jackets for our canoe trip the next morning. We drive to Amaku Safari Lodge where we will stay for the night. Sings remind you not to wander to far from the lodge as you're still in rhino territory and you might run into one.
Walking safari, boat safari. Traveling to Murchison Falls National Park with afternoon game drive.
This morning we wake up early as we're scheduled to leave at 6 am for our first chance for spotting the prehistoric Shoebill.
With a guide we walk through the marsh just outside the Ziwa sanctuary. It's a beautiful spot and very quiet. We see lots of birds but no shoebill. After the walk we go into the wetlands with a canoe. It is so very beautiful. The waterway is flanked by papyrus and water lelies. This waterway is part of the Lugogo River. We see African Jacana and Squacco Heron. Woodland, Malachite and Pied Kingfishers.
We did not see the Shoebill but recommend this early boat trip to everyone visiting Ziwa. It's a very beautiful place with lots of other birds.
After breakfast at Amaku Safari Lodge we leave for our next destination: Murchison Falls National Park.
After 4 hours we arrive at Murchison River Lodge where we will stay for 2 nights. In the afternoon we cross the White Nile River and head out for our first game drive. And right away we see lots of animals: Waterbuck, Oribi, Jackson's Hartebeest, Ugandan Kob, Northern Ground-hornbill. It's a beautiful park with little hills, grassland and rivers.
Morning game drive in Murchison Falls NP. Boat trip to the falls.
The next morning we take the first ferry across the Nile again for another game drive in Murchison Falls NP. We see lots of new species like the Patas Monkey and Rothschild (Nubian) Giraffe. The Patas Monekys are really beautiful and fun to watch. We also enjoy the scenery driving close to the lake. The only downside is the black patches of grassland due to controlled burning.
In the afternoon we are scheduled for a private trip to to the Murchison Falls. This is by far the best boat trip we ever had in Africa and it's a must-see/must-do for everyone visiting the park!
First we went a bit downriver where the guide surprised us with our first sighting of a Shoebill! It's huge bird and really looks prehistoric.
After the shoebill we went upstream and it's amazing how much wildlife you get to see on the shores of the river. Elephants were peacefully grazing, crocodiles sunbathing and protecting their eggs, buffalo and warthog taking a cooling bath. And we were chased by a hippo!
When you get close to the Falls the water gets spotted with foam. Then the Falls come into view and you feel the mist on your face and hear the roar of the water. It really is very impressive.
We turn back and enjoy the ride downriver and again see lots of birds and mammals. It's overwhelming and a feeling that is very difficult to describe. Words like peaceful, blessed, joy, and luck come to mind. Just the here and now and nothing else on your mind.
Boat trip looking for the shoebill. Travel to Budongo Forest.
Today we have another boat trip scheduled, this one downriver to Lake Albert. The prime target is the Shoebill. The shoebill is a tall bird (110-150 cm) with a wingspan of about 2.5 meters! They live in extensive freshwater marshes with lots of papyrus and reeds.
We're in luck and see 2 different shoebill. One is flying away and we are positioned perfect for taking pictures.
The trip takes us to Lake Albert and see lots of birds on the way there and back. We see a very large flock of grey-crowned crane which is a special and impressive site. They really are beautiful birds and we haven't seen this many together before.
After breakfast we leave Murchison River Lodge for our next destination, Budongo Forest, also part of Murchison Falls NP. On our way we stop at the Top of the Falls. It's impressive to see all the river force its way through the gap of rocks.
At the end of the day we arrive at Budongo Eco Lodge where we stay for two night in one of the forest cabins. It's a cosy camp in the forest and we are the only guests. We have a lovely diner and enjoy the campfire before we go to bed, looking forward to the Royal Mile walk of tomorrow.
Royal Mile birdwalk.
Today we leave early for a full day Royal Mile birdwalk. At the entrance we meet with our guide for the day. He knows a lot about birds and can identify them by song. We want to see lots of different birds but different species of kingfisher are top of our list. Besides birds this forest is also famous for its butterflies (290 species!).
In this part of the forest you could also see chimpansees and sometimes we can hear them. We stray a bit from the main road to look for them but as the are not habituated we are not allowed to get too close. On the way back we see a group of them, pretty close. Too far away for close-up pictures but we did get a good look at them.
Half way down the walk we found the Blue-breasted Kingfisher, a new subspecies for our collection. At the end of the trail when we were taking a break, our guide rushed into the forest and called to us to come take a look. He had found the chocolate-backed kingfisher for us!
At the end of the day we had a lazy afternoon at the lodge where we enjoyed a glass of wine and the company of some curious monkeys. In our bathroom we found a huge spider, we took a picture and the staff identified it for us the next morning.
Today we have a long drive ahead to Kibale Forest. We are not going to visit the forest itself but the wetlands surrounding the forest.
We leave early and arrive around 2pm at Kihingami Wetland Sanctuary. We are supposed to go for a walk at 4pm and there is no way we are going to walk in this heat. After some discussion with our driver/guide we decide to wait for it to cool down.
A little after 3 pm we start the walk. Kihingami is a community project and aimed to realize sustainable income for the locals so they have an incentive to preserve this beautiful bit of wetland.
First we cross the tea plantation and then we see both Black-and-White Colobus and Red Colobus monkeys up in the trees and a few birds. It's a beautiful place and we would recommend visiting it if you drive past but do not compare it with Bigodi wetlands which is much bigger.
After the walk we drive through the forest to our lodge for the next 2 nights, Kibale Forest Camp.
We had an exiting night. As the name says, Kibale Forest Camp lies in the forest and there are a lot of noises during the night. Mainly monkeys and frogs. It's a pity humans don't have night vision because we would have loved to see what was going on outside.
This morning we're off for a guided walk through Bigodi Wetlands. It is a birders paradise and we see lots of different birds. It's a beautiful trail through cultivated land, the forest and the papyrus swamps. We see Green Pigeons, Great Blue Turaco, Woolly-necked Stork and Brown-eared Woodpecker.
We meet a family of Grey-cheeked Mangabey, an agile monkey with a tufted crown. Later on we see the endangered Red Colobus monkey, staring back at us.
We have the afternoon for ourselves at the lodge. Kibale Forest Camp has a beautiful garden with lots of birds, butterflies and a resident family of Black-and-white Colobus monkeys. We watched them browsing and feeding and playing and took lots of pictures. An afternoon well spent!
On our way to Queen Elizabeth National Park we drive through Kibale Forest again. We stop to take pictures of what our driver-guide calls a S-tailed Monkey. At home we identified it as a Grey-cheeked Mangabey which we had seen in Bidogi the day before.
On our way we stop at a crater lake which looks a lot like the picture on the 20.000 Shilling bill of Uganda. We also drive past a lot of bicycles loaded with bananas. Not just some bananas, really loads of them and you cannot see the bike itself anymore.
When we're close to Queen Elizabeth NP we cross the Equator and stop to take pictures. If it was not for the landmark you wouldn't know you crossed it. Early afternoon we reach QE Bush Lodge where we stay for another 2 nights. It's really beautiful camp with nice tents. Lots of birds around like the African Blue-flycatcher. It forages among the leaves with half open wings and a fanned tail. It won't sit still so it's difficult to take the picture you have in mind. Behind the tented-diner is a bush full of mousebirds playing hide and seek with us.
At the end of the day we are headed for our first game drive to the Kasenyi Area of QENP. Our guide, a specialist in birds, hears a call and stops. Carefully we walk to the papyrus lining the road. Then we see it, the very very rare Papyrus Gonolek!
QENP is very dry this time of year and there was not much game around as at the end of the day they head to the river to drink. We saw lots of birds like the White-browed Coucal, African Wattled Lapwing and the majestic Martial Eagle.
Back at the camp we had a candle-lit diner under the stars. We had a great evening in QE Bush Lodge.
Today we were lucky as on our way to the game drive circuit we saw a leopard cross the road. Once on the other site he looked back at us and then disappeared in the bush.
We went to the Uganda Kob breeding grounds. Single males are claim territories, called leks, and defend it against other males. The ones with the best spot get the most females to mate with.
At the end of the morning drive we find a huge Nile Monitor and shortly after two lionesses feeding on a buffalo carcass. We also find a Long-Crested Eagle in a Candelabra Tree.
Back at the lodge we look for birds on the camp grounds. We had a long private session with a couple of Red-billed Firefinches and a beautiful Blue-headed Tree Agama lizard.
In the afternoon we were scheduled for a private boat ride on the Kazinga channel. The most spectacular thing to watch were the many elephant that came down to drive and play in the river. Something we could watch for hours.
We saw a Giant Hog going in for a mud bath. There were lots of Hippo and Buffalo in and out of the water.
On the way back we spot a white Kingfisher. It actually is a Malachite Kingfisher but a leucistic one. This means it has no pigmentation, but it's not the same as an albino.
On our way back, close to the lodge, we see a magnificent male Bushbuck. It's a beautiful bronze antelope marked with white spots and stripes.
Today we go chimp trekking down the Kyambura Gorge in the eastern section of Queen Elizabeth NP. The gorge is about 100 meters deep and several kms long. There are only a few habituated chimps living in the gorge so they are not a guaranteed sighting. But a walk in the gorge, with the very tall trees, monkeys and birds is well worth the time even without the chimps.
We are in luck and do find a chimp family! They are high up in the trees. Some are looking pensive, others are feeding.
We are very exited as we find a family of Red-tailed Monkeys close to the chimps. The other walkers are only interested in the chimps but these monkeys are a special sight as well. They have a white nose spot and an orange tail.
We have to cross the river on a rickety bridge as you can see in the pictures!
After the guided walk we drive to our next camp, Katara Lodge. We spent the rest of the day relaxing and birdwatching in their beautiful garden.
Our tent has a beautiful view of the Maramagombo Forest of Queen Elizabeth Park. We enjoy the sunset, take a bath and are completely satisfied.
Today we are going off the beaten track and will do two guided walks in the Maramagambo Forest. In the morning we walk the Kyadanduka trail around the crater lake by the same name and later on we are going to visit the bat cave.
We're supposed to collect a guide at the Ranger post but it appears we are not expected. The guide is on leave. An armed ranger is available and knows the way so our driver/guide steps in and takes us around the lake.
While we descend to the lake we have a beautiful view of the lake. Right away we spot a Red-tailed Monkey so the beginning of the walk is good. Then we encounter a family of Black-and-white Colobus monkeys. Most of the time you see them from below, but as we are on higher ground now we can see them on top of the canopy.
Then we see a Black Bee-eater! The live in the forest and as they are black they are quite difficult to spot. It's a highlight, even for our birder-guide.
We approach the big tree where the cormorants build their nests. You can hear the noise from far away and as we close in you also start to smell them. Hundreds of cormorant are breeding and flying off and on with twigs for their nests.
After a break we decide to do the Nyamusingiri walk before lunch instead of later in the afternoon. As the walk is through an ironwood forest it won't be too hot.
We reach the cave and again you can not only hear but also smell the occupants. Thousands of fruit bats were hooked up on the ceiling of the cave. We assumed bats would sleep during the day but they are very much awake and are flying about. We can see their faces very clearly and they walk the ceiling with the 'thumbs' of their wings/hands.
We finally see a live African Land Snail. We have found lots of shells but this is the first living one. They are really huge, up to 20 cm!
In the afternoon we go for another game drive, the scenic route of crater lakes of Queen Elizabeth NP.
Today we are heading to Lake Mburo National Park, the last wildlife reserve of this safari. It's the only park in Uganda with Eland, Impala en Zebra. We've seen lots of these animals in Tanzania but here they are special.
Driving up to the lodge we see plenty of Ankole cattle which have unusually large horns. We check in at Rwakobo Rock. The cottages are a bit outdated and in need of some repair but the location is terrific. It's located only 1 km form the main gate to the NP and from the rocky outcrops you have a view of the park.
Late afternoon we go for a game drive and immediately see zebra. There are also plenty of warthog, one of our favorite animals. We also see Topi, Eland and Buffalo.
There are also lots of bird species like the Striped Kingfisher, Palm-nut Vulture, Grey Hornbill and Red-faced Barbet.
Back at the lodge we watch the sunset and enjoy our last night in Uganda.
Our last day... It's amazing how time flies when traveling on a safari trip. Thankfully today is packed with activities. First we go for a game walk inside Lake Mburo NP. It's a beautiful park full of lakes and wetlands. Close to the marsh we spot a Verreaux's Eagle-owl, the largest owl of Africa. This is one of the best game walks we had as we are not only seeing footprints and droppings but a lot of animals close-by. Waterbuck, Vervet Monkeys, Topi and Zebra. This is pure joy.
After breakfast we leave for Mbamba Swamps, close to Entebbe, where we will look for Shoebill again.
On our way we cross the equator again. We stop for lunch and to watch the 'equator-water-test'. It is said that water is flowing down a drain in different directions depending on which side of the equator you are. It is said the earth's rotation affects the direction of draining water, the Coriolis effect. The test shows this effect very clearly and it is amazing. We do not trust it completely and want to see what happens when the water drains exactly on the equator. It goes straight down, no swirl. In our hearts we know it's a trick but a very well executed and convincing one at that!
Late afternoon we arrive at Mbamba swamps.We are very much looking forward to another canoe trip. You see lots of birds on the water and it's very peaceful. The main attraction is Shoebill. First we float through the water but then we take a right turn and the canals are getting more narrow. Our guide spots a Shoebill far away and we are headed in that direction. The weeds are getting thicker and thicker. First the boatman steps out and pulls our canoe. It's too heavy so our guide also steps out to push it. We feel a bit awkward still sitting in the canoe and ask if we shouldn't get out to help. No way, we are the guests! Finally we find the Shoebill and our camera's start clicking again. We navigate back through the swamp and enjoy our last moments in Uganda.