- an expedition to observe or hunt animals in their natural habitat, esp. in East Africa.
We spent the first two nights in Entebbe Uganda and the first full day we had, we decided to hit the Zoo and Botanical gardens!
This blog will mostly a pictorial one, with some stories thrown in. I hope that I can capture the wonder of being in Uganda…I could retire here, make no bones about it. There is something raw and wild about this particular country! The people here are friendly, it is a safe place to indulge in nature’s beauty, despite what the media portrays. Two females on Safari in a secluded lodge in the middle of a Game Reserve with only male staff and not a hint of anything untoward is testament enough for me. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the quintessential Safari that everyone dreams of.
First stop, the Entebbe zoo. What a great set up they have for these animals…very little man made structures stand between you and the wildlife, which makes for wonderful photo opportunities. I believe that this may also be their version of a Rehabilitation center, due to the fact that some of the animals were banded, tagged or seemed to be recovering from injuries, like this Ostrich. He gave us no end to giggles watching him..what a thrill to see one so close.
I am not sure what type of primate this is..I haven’t had time to look him up, but the Primates were a complete source of joy and fun..although this fellow was caged, most of the monkeys run freely around the zoo and outside as well. Now there’s something you don’t see in Canada!! LOL I love the expressive faces!
This fellow was listed as a Serval Cat I think…damn, I should have written some of this down! Anyway, I was in awe of his markings and beautiful face.
I finally got to see the National Bird of Uganda, the Crowned Heron. What a stunningly beautiful bird! I can see why they chose it!
As we wandered around the park, the Vervet’s were everywhere, playing and carrying on their daily activities…it was a thrill so see the little ones. Here are some pics of them.
That is her “thrilled to have them so close” face! LOL
This little fella gave me no end to the picture opportunities! I love this one! So cute!
A mamma and her brand new baby. Can you say “awww”.
I loved how the light captured this little one in the protection of his mother’s arms, leaving her in shadow.
A family picnic
Grooming session..looks like someone is really enjoying this!
And just because I thought this was sooo funny!
Our next stop was the White Rhino enclosure. It’s pretty hard to wrap your brain around the fact that the ones housed here are only two of the remaining 18 left on the entire globe! Such beauty!
Now you KNOW, I can’t get a picture without getting a bird in it somewhere! LOL…this Cattle Egret looks as if he’s checking out some part of that Rhino best left to the imagination!
These two were constant companions.
On the way to the Rhino enclosure, we got a look at some Zebras, and right across the way, was the Hyenas….
Next we walked to the Chimpanzee area…we got lucky! There some rich American guy who had obviously paid big money to get driven around the park and get access to the restricted areas…but it worked out for us, because he had paid to watch feed the chimps and we got the side benefit free! 😀
It’s pretty cool to watch them…the apples and bananas get thrown into the water and the chimps have their own sticks they use to fish it out!
This old guy was the most vocal of the bunch! What a racket!
Walking around, we saw our first African Squirrel!
We came upon the Patas Monkey enclosure….they were more shy but I managed to get a picture of this old guy.
Of course no zoo visit would be complete without Giraffes! We walked to that area of the park and as it turns out, for a small fee, you can feed them. So, what the hell, I did! Meet Tanja!
Feeding a Giraffe is like feeding a horse…very cool, those purple tongues!
Yup! At the end of my feeding session, she decided my finger was a morsel worth chewing on..so much for not biting the hand that feeds you! Then she proceeded to stick her tongue out at me! LOL
Ummm note the hat I’m wearing! 😉
Now don’t even THINK that I wasn’t birding this whole time!! Here are some of the great birds we saw flitting, flapping and hovering around the lush green areas of the park.
Female Collared Sunbird
Plantain Eater playing Peek-a-boo!
Vieillot’s Black Weaver
I believe a Masked Weaver but have to confirm
Doing a little dance for us!
A way better picture of a Double Toothed Barbet!
We spent just over 3 hours roaming the zoo and soaking it all in. By this time we were hungry, so we proceeded to go to one of the local hotels for lunch. So how are we travelling you ask? Well, the nice thing about this country is that when you get a taxi somewhere, the driver tends to ensure that you keep giving him your business. On this day, we had three guys working for the same company that ensured we weren’t left without wheels..they tag teamed us with pick up’s and drop off’s at our request and never asked for a penny until we were safely back at out hotel. They were very conscious of our comfort, their availability and our safety and all for a nominal fee…I think it cost us 120 000 Shillings which would be about $50 US for the whole day of getting around.
Our next stop after lunch was the Botanical Gardens. We felt a little uncomfortable there at first, but when we noticed a lot of other females walking around freely, we started to feel better about being there. If you are into flora and fauna, butterflies and birds, this is the place to go!
The ant and termite hills here are humongous! I failed to get a picture of some of them that look like castles…what great architects these little bugs are!
Off course our day wouldn’t be complete without some more wildlife exposure!
My first Bee Eater! This is the White Throated one…and I know this because we ran into an older German couple who “snowbird” in Uganda…they were just heading back to Germany after having spent 8 weeks birding in the country. It was nice chatting with them for awhile and comparing lenses 😉 They were telling us that we would enjoy Murchison Falls (our final destination) and tried to help me ID some other birds we saw, but I can’t remember what they said, so will have to figure it out later.
A Great Blue Turaco, relative of the Ross’s Turaco for those of you who remember the pics I took of it in Kampala. Cool birds!
Water Thick Knee
A White Browed Robin Chat
Cute little White Eyes
My second species of Bee Eater…the European Bee Eater
And a bird that looks like it has a bad case of mites…not sure what this poor fellow is. It is thought to be a Yellow Wagtail in rough shape.
One the way out of the gardens, we were greeted by a swarm of Vervets heading for the zoo…apparently they go there every night at feeding time. However, we were rewarded with a good look at this red-tailed monkey as it ran behind us…my sniping came in handy..he was super fast!
I had to go and get some money exchanged into local currency when we got back to the hotel. When we went into the FOREX office around the corner from the hotel, a young woman had her daughter behind the counter with her. She was so cute, I asked on an impulse if she would let me take a picture of her. She was more than happy to oblige. She later told me that her daughter was born in the States, but she had to bring her back to Uganda to get major surgery done because she couldn’t afford it otherwise. A sad testament to the Western world I think. What a beautiful mother and daughter. 🙂
Our day was now done…time to have a relaxing evening. We went to a lovely restaurant overlooking Lake Victoria, where the swallows were swirling about in a frantic effort to get those thousands of bugs…what we would describe as Shad flies…I wish there had been more of them eating those things, because once the sun went down, the bugs invaded our patio perch and made for some very cautious mouthfuls during the meal! Ahhh beef fillet! What a treat to eat beef done properly! We can’t get good beef here in Juba, so it was a real treat. And fresh vegetables! Yum! After polishing off too much food, we went back to get ready for an early start the next morning! Off on the main portion of our Safari…Murchison Falls or bust!
Murchison Falls- 32000 Sq KMS of raw nature!
what promised to be the start of a great 3 day trip! Up early that morning to pack, grab breakfast and meet our Driver/Guide. His name is Godwin, and at the end of the trip, we really felt that Godwin was a Godsend! Beth and I are both in Logistics and we appreciated everything he did to make our trip seamless, relaxing and worry free. Both of us are in the business of taking care of everyone’s logistical needs, so it was nice to have someone take care of ours for a change!
With a seven hour drive ahead of us, we settled into the van and got under way, both of us trying not to fall asleep! We didn’t want to miss a single thing! The drive through Kampala delayed us by a couple of hours, which was unfortunate, but once through the rush hour traffic there, the rest of the drive was smooth.
Some of the sights to see on the drive.
It’s migration of cattle herders as well as birds!
A view of Masindi…it’s kind of weird how the buildings here resemble those that would be seen in an old duster movie!
Part of the package includes a stop over for lunch…and of course, birding can be done anywhere, so you guessed it! I was sitting at the table watching them flit around in the trees and the curiousity overtook me! I went for my camera and here’s what I found!
A Black Headed Oriole
A Greater Blue-Eared Starling
And finally, a Green Pigeon! How beautiful are those eyes??
After lunch, we were under way and getting closer to our destination…so exciting! And finally, we arrive at the Park!
We weren’t really sure what to expect when we got to the lodge…we knew that we would be staying in thatch roofed cabins, but here’s what we discovered when we did arrive!
What solitude! For the first night, there was only us and another 4 people.
There is no internet…not so surprising, but the big surprise is that they turn the power on at about 630PM and it’s only on until about 1030PM! We had to order our supper when we got there so between arriving, and eating supper, Beth and I perched on a bench and did some bird watching…I do believe she is completed converted now! She was using my binos the whole time and as she is trying to tell me about one bird, my lens picked up this little gem….
My first African Woodpecker…a Grey Woodpecker to be exact! Beth decided to go for a little catnap, so I started to wander around and I then discovered this!
First I found quite a few of these guys…Red Throated Bee Eaters. After standing and watching for awhile, I went down the hill, and discovered this!
A nesting colony! I had no idea that they had the same colony nesting habits as Bank Swallows…very cool indeed to watch them! After a wonderful supper, we went back to the cottage to take advantage of the little time we had left of power, then it was lights out…literally! We were bushed! We didn’t even make it to 10PM to notice there was no more fan stirring the hot, dry air that night!
Day 2… Part 1…the Safari Drive
The real fun begins. Up at 430am to get our breakfast and prepare for the best part. We drove to the Albert River crossing….we had to cross to get to where the actual driving safari started plus the cruise up the Nile to the falls portion is over there as well. While waiting for the barge, we were greeted by a wonderful sunrise over Uganda..what beauty!
The barge arrives…
Yes, those ARE AK 47’s…but all Park Rangers carry them for self protection…against both four legged and two legged varieties of animals…poachers are a huge problem in this country and the government is taking extreme measures to try to put an end to it…the day we left, they had passed a law that gave all Rangers the right to shoot poachers on sight. A deterrent? Who knows. I have ceased to be surprised at seeing weapons all over the place here….hotel guards, mall guards…anywhere there is security, there is a weapon. But the difference here is that they are disciplined in the use of them.
Once on the other side, Godwin suggested that we take a Park Ranger with us as a guide through the park…he told us it would cost a 20 USD tip…Beth and I said sure, so we loaded Henry into the front with his weapon, and off we went. Meanwhile, Beth and I just kind of looked at each other as if to say “what have we done!” LOL
It’s all good though. Henry was an excellent birding guide and we got to go to a few places and did a few things that I am sure we wouldn’t have if he hadn’t been along. Godwin’s first concern is our safety and so it was natural that he tended to be worried about us going too far from the truck etc etc..with Henry there, it wasn’t such a big deal. So, during our drive, here are some of things we experienced.
A female Water Buck
A Male Water Buck
What a gorgeous creature! I had never seen these before…Hartebeest.
We saw warthogs
And these little guys…I can’t remember the name of them!
We saw these guys..don’t know the name of these either! LOL
In Africa, the big five game animals are the lion, African Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Leopard, and Rhinoceros. The members of the Big Five were chosen for the difficulty in hunting them and the degree of danger involved, rather than their size. (Wikipedia). We saw 3 of the Big Five!
Piacpiac’s hitching a ride
And baby running after momma, having lunch on the go!
2. Cape Buffalo
I didn’t realize that a Yellow Billed Oxpecker was pecking his nostril until I went through my pictures…going where no other bird dares to go!
3. And finally, out of the just over 200 lions that inhabit 32000 Sq Kms of Reserve, we got to see two of them! Henry says that they are brothers…just before we came upon them, we saw the evidence of their kill…a dead water buffalo was by the side of the road just before we found them under a tree, sleeping off their meal. 🙂
Some candid shots while on the drive….
Beth soaking in the excitement of seeing our first elephants in the distance and Henry doing some bird spotting for me
These are two very happy campers…Beth figured out how to use the “selfie” feature on my point and shoot! LOL
Some beautiful scenic shots…
Henry took us offroad and down close to the river…we saw so many animals there it was overwhelming! Then we got to drive slowly through these herds..
The amount of wildlife here is astonishing!
Some of the birds we saw along the way! I was in heaven let me tell you!
A flock of Crowned Herons
A Saddle Billed Stork…gorgeous!
A Squacco Heron was kind enough to fly into a tree and pose for me.
A Fish Eagle
An Abyssian Ground Hornbill
A Silver Bird
And a Little Bee Eater…my fourth species of Bee Eater this trip! There were just a very few of the birds that we saw but the most stellar moment of the birding side of things was when we came upon this scene!
This is a Tawny Eagle and Bataleur (which I am sooo excited to just find out I have a good picture of!) along with a warthog, having a feast.
Everyone else took off, but this fellow stayed to put on a show!
As we were winding down the driving portion of our day and heading for lunch, poor Beth was feeling pretty downtrodden at not having seen any Giraffes…then all of a sudden she yelled “STOP! There’s Giraffes!!!” And here they were, in all their glory!
And we got the quintessential African Safari Giraffe photobomb pics as well!
Sigh, except when it came time to set me up for that great pic, all I got was the rear end! Looks like my bird pics! LOL
Off to lunch at Paraa Lodge…this is the more upscale Lodge that one can chose to stay in while on Safari…too uppity for us and far too crowded! Glad we picked the Sambiya Lodge instead. This is the sign near the eating area. And what a view!
After a nice break and some food, we headed down to the water where we caught our boat for the Nile Cruise to Murchison Falls…Godwin was great and went directly to the captain to say that I was a big birder. We left Henry behind for this portion, but not without him telling me how impressed he was about how many African birds I already knew about. What a great morning!
DAY 2, Part 2….the Boat Ride
While sitting on the boat waiting for everyone to board (most of them very loud and obnoxious I must say), I decided to try my hand taking a dragonfly picture…now here’s the challenge..he was flying and landing on this same reed, but the wind was blowing so hard, it was tough to keep focus on him…but I managed and here’s the result.
We got Hippoed out on this portion…but Beth was in her glory! She came to see Hippos and boy, did she get hippos! Lots of hippos!
Hungry, hungry hippo!
My Grandma, what big teeth you have!
And our absolute favorite pic; the hippo (for Beth) and the bird (for me)… live together in perfect harmony….
Cruising up the river we saw crocs…and got up close and personal…the one that was hiding decided to jump into the water right in front of the boat as we backed up away from it…caused quite the stir with the passengers…so much so, that they were all crowding to the front to see it and the boat started to take on water because all the weight was in the front! And the squealing! I told Beth that if I started to act like that, hit me! LOL
Wonder what he had for lunch?
Up close and more personal than I would have liked I think!
And we saw Baboons
And more elephants…this one was waving at us as we went by…
And more Warthogs
A whole Island full of African Skimmers!
A Little Egret
A Goliath Heron
A Grey Heron
A Yellow-Billed Stork
And take a good look at this picture…I didn’t see it until I processed it…can you see what I see?
A Fish Eagle…with a fish!
All of this and much much more, leading us ever closer to the culminating event of the trip….Murchison Falls.
What beauty, what splendor, what raw power! Just beautiful!
After floating around the currents there so everyone could get pics, we headed back to the dock…on the way, we decided to call home. We didn’t have internet to keep in touch with our loved ones. Poor Tim was surprised to hear from me and when I told him where I was calling from, I got a big long distance raspberry…but he was happy that I was enjoying myself and is still waiting patiently for this blog. Almost done, I promise!
Some candid photos on the boat trip…
Our stellar Captain of the African Queen!
Whew, what tired puppies we were that night! 14+ hrs of jammed packed excitement..it’s exhausting!
and time to pack it in. Not quite so early a start and then we were off to take a drive to the top of the falls. What beauty, what splendor…ooops, already said that! Enjoy
After about 30 mins wandering around the falls, sadly, it was time to leave this wonderful experience behind us and head back to Entebbe and then Juba. 😦
But! There were still two things on the way back that made both Beth and I smile from ear to ear…first, my best ever bird shot…ever!
A Grey Headed Kingfisher…I had been seeing a lot of them and trying to get a really great photo…what a nice parting gift!
And for Beth….
There was group of Black and White Columbus monkeys in the trees above us as we left the park…they are shy, and don’t come out very often…another lovely parting gift.
So that concludes our 4 days of nature walking, Safari and good fun.
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soldiermomma signing off