Liz's Uganda Trip


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July 2007

Uganda Safari Daily Diary

Day 1

A flight from Glasgow to Dubai, then a long, wait in Dubai Airport, then after meeting the rest of the trip participants, a flight from Dubai to Entebbe, via a very wet Addis Ababa.
The Emirates flight was made very pleasant by the wide choice of in-flight entertainment.

Day 2After settling in to the Windsor Lake Victoria Hotel in Entebbe, we went across the road for a stroll and some late afternoon birding in Entebbe's Golf Course
Day 3

In the morning, we went to Entebbe's Botanic Gardens for a walk and some birding in the gardens, and along the shore of Lake Victoria.
After lunch, we went to Entebbe's Wildlife Education Centre to look both at the native animals and birds on show, but also to look for the wild birds which use the grounds.
As well as the 'insurance' (but not wild) Shoebills, a highlight for me was the Chimpanzee group.

Day 4

An early start to go to see the Shoebills at Mabamba Swamp, a RAMSAR wetland site, and a community project enabling the local people to benefit from guiding keen birders into the swamp on canoes to see the Shoebills.
To my great delight, we saw two adult birds, one close enough to photograph, one further away.
Shoebill had long been my no 1 wish bird, as it had been for my best birding friend, John Burton, who, sadly, died before seeing it, despite trying really hard at Murchison Falls NP.
So one bird was for you, John.
After watching the Shoebill for about 45 minutes, we canoed back to the minibus and drove off to another spot on Lake Victoria for some more lakeshore birding, before driving on to a night of 'all mod cons' in the Sheraton Hotel in Kampala.

Day 5
We broke our journey at Lake Mburo National Park where we saw some antelopes, and some of the local, long-horned Ankole cattle as well as a variety of birds.
Day 6

We continued the long journey to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, stopping at suitable spots on the journey to stretch our legs and do some en-route birding.

Day 7

Only two of our group had opted to do the Gorilla trek, but we were given permits for different days. So Mike did the trek today and the rest of us walked along the path building up a good list of rainforest birds - and butterflies, not all of which were identified.
Our walk was curtailled by a heavy rain/hail storm.

Day 8

This was my day on the Gorilla trek while two of the group had a 'rest day' and the others went a long drive to look for Green Broadbill (IIRC)

My day started with being allocated to the Mubare Group, followed by a briefing meeting. There are three groups of Gorillas already habituated in this area, and I think two other groups used only by researchers, and another group is being habituated for tourists at present, a process which takes about two years. Mike had reported that there was another Silverback 'hanging around' the Mubare group. If an unhabituated Silverback took over the group, they would almost certainly not not be visitable by tourists, as the whole group takes their lead from the Silverback. However, this male was not in evidence today.
It so happened that the Mubare group was the furthest away, so I had a four-hour uphill trek. I'm totally unfit, so it was a struggle. But the group goes at the pace of the slowest person, and you get frequent breaks. One member of our group had ony 40% lung capacity, and as soon as we got out of the slightly sloping plantation area was really struggling. So the guides got some poles from plants, tied their jackets round them to make a stretcher and stretchered him up the whole way. It was clearly something they do often.
When we caught up with the Gorillas (the trackers set out about two hours before the tourist group to find them, and keep in radio contact with the guides), we had a wonderful hour watching them at very close quarters. The Mubare group had gorillas of all ages, from a very new baby, still fiercely protected by its mother, up to the Silverback.
The way down was much easier than the way up had been!
We discovered that the other two habituated groups had been much nearer to the starting place, one being only about 20 minutes walk along an almost flat route from the base, the other being about two hours trek. Them's the breaks!

Day 9

We again walked along the track into the forest, and not far from our camp we saw the Rushigura group of gorillas, right down next to the village. This provided great amusement to those in the group who had not opted to do gorilla tracking! However, their guards quickly moved us on. Although those allocated to th Rushigura group had a very short walk to see them, conditions for photographing them were much more difficult.
Some villagers have been trained to chase the gorillas when they come down to the village and eat their bananas, in such a way that they are safe and the gorillas are not harmed.
We saw some more of the rainforest birds and mammals - and it only drizzled a bit - no real rain!

Day 10 Another early start for the long journey to Queen Elizabeth National Park, with stops for birding on the way.
We signed in at the lovely Mweya lodge, which has lovely views of the Kazinga channel.
After lunch, we went on a boat trip on the Kazinga channel, for which the reserve is famous. From the boat, we could see lots of wildlife on the edge of the channel, mammals, reptiles and birds. Relaxing, excellent for list-building and lots of photo opportunities.
Day 11

A very early start with 'packed breakfast' had us driving out of the National Park and onto the Kusenyi track. Here we saw some Uganda Kob, Waterbuck, Buffalo, Elephant and some Giant Forest Hogs, but the game viewing isn't as good here as it apparently used to be, since local herdsmen together with others from the DRC and Tanzania have started to graze their cattle here, with a huge grazing impact of around 40,000 cattle and a war on predators. However, lots of interesting birds were seen, including Dwarf Bittern and Brown-chested Lapwing.
After lunch at Hippo Hill Tented Camp, overlooking Lake Edward.
As the sun was going down, we walked along the airstrip looking out for birds of the 'artificial' short-grass habitat like Senegal Lapwing, African Wattled Lapwing and Kittlitz's Plovers. Lots of other birds were around, and a small group of Warthogs were grazing in the margins.

Day 12

A slightly later (7 a.m.) start saw found us driving to Katurunguru, stopping en route for some lions. Our next stop was in a Papyrus lined area off the Kazinga channel where we caught up with the beautiful Papyrus Gonolek and heard a White-winged Warbler.
Nest, we walked some of the road around the Nyamasingiri Ranger station, adding some more birds - some heard only - to the trip list.
From the Ranger Station, we walked to a cave where thousands of Egyptian Fruit Gats were roosting - a really impressing sight. Robert pointed out an African Rock Python on a ledge behind some bats: it lives there and feeds on the bats.
In the afternoon, we drove a long way to Nyinaburitwa Country Resort, on the rim of a crater lake and near the entrance to Kibale N.P.

Day 13

Today we went to Kibale N.P. with the specific aim of tracking Chimpanzees. Although the low light conditions in the forest precluded photography, we managed to see some chimps with the help of the local guides, and the sounds of them calling and hooting reverberated around us at certain times.
In the afternoon we spent a couple of hours trying to find an elusive Green-breasted Pitta, without success.
On the way back to Nyinaburitwa Country Resort we stopped at a river and spend some time with some confiding and enchanting Cassing's Grey Flycatchers hunting for, inter alia, dragonflies and butterflies.

Day 14

Today a wet and misty morning saw us en route for Murchison Falls National Park with a stop for lunch at Hoima.
After lunch we slowed down, as there was more wildlife to be seen at the sides of the road in some places, especially near and inside the Park. We got the last fetty across to Paraa Lodge, a lovely lodge where we had rooms with great views overlooking the White Nile.

Day 15

We had a morning game drive inside the Park, which was much better for mammals then QE had been. We saw Uganda Kob, Giraffes, Oribi and Lelwel Hartebeest as well as manyu birds, including five species of Bee-eater. Surprisingly, one of these was a Southern Carmine Bee-Eater, apparently the second recorded for Uganda, and the first from so far north.
After lunch, we took a boat trip to the base of Murchison Falls. The weather was beautiful, but wildlife abundant and the falls are specatular - and noisy! The highlight was an opportunity to photograph a Rock Pratincole, on a rock near the base of the falls, but the 'Crododile Bar' was fascinating.
Just as light was falling, we went out to look for Pennant-winged Nightjars and were rewarded with views of about a dozen, some in full plumage. For me, this was an unexpected bonus, as I hadn't realised they'd have their 'pennants' in July.

Days 16 + 17

On our last morning, we got an early ferry back across the Nile and went up to see the top of the Falls. This is an incredible sight, as the White NIle foces its way through a 7m wide gap before hurling itself down the 43m drop.
After this, it was a long drive to the airport, with the poor state of the road and heavy traffic meaning that our driver, Fred, had a very hairy drive and must have been exhausted getting us to the airport just an hour before the flight departed.

Return flight via Addis, still very wet, to Dubai. Long wait at the airport and flight back to Glasgow.

Entebbe Wildlife
Education Centre
Mabamba Swamp Bwindi Impenetrable
National Park
Queen Elizabeth
National Park
Murchison Falls
National Park
I made this trip through Avian Adventures.
Thanks to the group leader, Peter Dedicoat and my fellow-travellers for a great trip!

Text and images © Liz Leyden, 2008
Email: liz [at] lizworld [dot] com
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