Searching for lions in Uganda
Uganda is a country with a troubled past, it still suffers under the cloud of the Idi Amin years and for many of us The Last King of Scotland is our enduring thought of this country.
But Uganda was once known as the ‘pearl of Africa’ and for those willing to overlook its troubled past it offers a diverse and beautiful landscape and some of the friendliest people on earth.
Our first encounter with the locals was at Entebbe during a quick overnight stay the first night we arrived. We ventured out to the local weekly market place – two white women in the heart of Uganda during their Presidential elections. I’m not sure what I expected, but we were left alone to wander past the stalls, take photos and generally just shop! No one hassled us, no one stared, everyone just continued to go about their own business.
The following morning we were up bright and early and ready for our first safari. We made our way to Murchison Falls, the largest National Park in Uganda. We were surprised how green the landscape was, but as we soon discovered its not that green everywhere. Despite being a relatively small country, the landscape in Uganda changes frequently, one minute dry savannah, next lush green forests.
Our first safari was actually a walking trek to see the rhinos in the Ziwa Rhinocerous Sanctuary. The Sanctuary was established to reintroduce the white rhino into Uganda. They currently have about 17 rhinos in the park. We trekked for about 40 minutes and found four sleeping under a tree.
Rhino have an acute hearing sense, but can’t see very well. Our guide assured us we would get three warnings if any of the rhinos were going to charge, we didn’t need to worry, it was so hot the rhinos barely even woke up and certainly weren’t moving from the shade of the tree.
Another four hours and we were in Murchison Falls National Park. Like the rest of Uganda the landscape within the park changed frequently – open savannah, dense forest, huge estuaries and swamp areas, all divided by the River Nile.
It’s an eight hour trip from Entebbe to Murchison Falls and with a stop for lunch and the visit to the Rhinos, time was against us, but as we made our way to our lodge we saw many warthogs, antelope, hartebeest and even an elephant or two; not to mention the most amazing sunset. I’m not sure what it is about Africa but the sun always seems bigger and more orange!
The next morning we were up early again to spot as many animals as we could. It was a successful morning, as well as more antelope, buffalo and warthogs we saw some very curious giraffe – I’m sure they found us just as interesting as we found them – elephants and not one, not two but three lions resting under a tree.
There is something quite magical about seeing wild animals in their natural environment. The thrill of travelling through great open spaces in search of these majestic creatures is an unreal experience.
In the afternoon we took a boatride out to see Murchison Falls. Apparently you can’t say you’ve been to Murchison Falls without actually taking a boatride out to see the falls! We opted not to do the walk up to the falls but in hindsight, we both wished we had taken the walk. The boat ride was excellent, very informative, but you don’t get as close to the falls as we would have liked. The Falls are said to be the most powerful Falls in the world – a massive volume of water squeezing through quite a narrow space. It was named after Sir Roderick Murchison, then President of the Royal Geographical Society. The Falls sit on the White Nile and it was quite a thrill to get our first look at the Nile!
We only had one full day at Murchison Falls, but it was long enough to see all the wildlife we wanted to see and to check out the waterfalls.
We stayed one night in Entebbe at Boma Lodge and two nights at Fort Murchison in Murchison Falls.
We travelled with Matoke Tours, our tour guide, Richard, was excellent.
Was it long enough? You can spend as long or as little time as you like on Safari, we saw everything we wanted to and more on our Safari, it was a good amount of time.
Highlights: Seeing lions in the wild, the boatride to the Falls (look out for the bubbles in the river – they look like soap suds and are formed by the strength of the waterfall hitting the river) and the curious giraffes.