We spent a lovely few days in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest at Buhoma rest camp. When we booked the gorillas I booked the Rest camp, however when we arrived they had lost our booking so we got to stay at their sister lodge for half price in luxury! How wonderful that was as it was on the edge of the forest with abundant birdlife. We tried to identify some of them but in the end just enjoyed the whole place. It was fully catered and they were so kind to us- real Ugandan hospitality. Then of course there were the gorillas which was such a special experience…..
Heading north from there our first stop was Queen Elizabeth National Park where we stayed at Ishasha campsite.
When we arrived campsite one was full of lunch time picnic people so we opted for campsite 2 which had no shower and a pit toilet plus a family of about 50 hippos across the Ishasha River (border with the Congo). This caused great consternation amongst the rangers who insisted on giving us an armed guard to protect us against the roaming hippos at night despite our protests that we would be fine. On the first night we had a huge elephant visiting but no hippos!!! Alan rigged up the shower and it was marvelous, he was so pleased that it worked. Much better than the cold showers in campsite 1.
We had several visitors to the campsite, huge Olive baboons, black and white colobus monkeys and red tailed monkeys ( plus tourists picnining at lunch time). It was a lovely spot.
We hunted and hunted for the tree climbing lionesses visiting the wild fig trees a couple of times a day, but they proved to be elusive. Apparently they only climb the 20+ wild fig trees so they’re marked on the maps. We were there for 2 nights before heading to the North of the park some 100 kms away. We stayed at Mweya in the park and got there in time to go on the channel game cruise. The channel is called Kazinga and it links Lake George to Lake Edward which is in the park. We had a delightful park ranger Ruth who acted as our game guide, she had quite a quirky sense of humor. The cruise was great, herds of Buffalo, Topi, Elephants, Nile Crocs, Hippos were all at the water’s edge. Towards the end of the cruise we passed a bird sanctuary with lots of birds. Ruth was also a keen birder and pointed out many more birds.
That night we had Elephants roaming outside our room and a “tame” Waterbuck sleeping just in front of our room.
It’s hard to describe the beauty of the Park and the changes in vegetation. At times the savannah just stretches out in front of you for miles, then changes to riverine, forest and thick bush. The bird life is amazing. There’re flood plains with herds of Ugandan Kob, Topi and Buffalo and it’s really wild. You have the sense that this is the African bush!
We left there and headed to Fort Portal but first we crossed the Equator which was nicely marked on the road.
Arriving in Fort Portal was a pleasant surprise as it was the first town that we’ve been in, in Uganda that felt like a town. We hadn’t booked accommodation and found ourselves staying at a place called Sunrise- run by a chap called Colin from the UK. He’s a type of Missionary and full of interesting stories about his life here. We got the “pink” room to stay in as the camping looked dodgy! It was pleasant with a great view of the Ruwenzori Mountains that where mostly covered in mist whilst we were there. These mountains rise from the bottom of the Rift Valley between Lake Albert and Lake Edward and were formed by the tilting of a large slab of the Earth’s crust during the Rift Valley formation. They rise to over 4000m. I got quite excited as we had lunch at the Gardens Restaurant and had a toasted sandwich….. and Al had ice cream!!!! It was quite civilized.
On our travels we met a couple who recommended a place to stay on Lake Albert, and since it involved a small detour on our way north to Murchison Falls we picked it as a half way point. Well the road we took was the worst we have travelled on and it lasted about 50kms before we turned off to a secondary road that was so much better! There we were, travelling carefully, looking for the best line of approach on this rutted, holed and corrugated road when we heard a hoot from behind and a local in a Toyota corolla whizzes past us leaving us in the dust!!! We’re in the 4×4! The difference is that when something breaks, they sit and fix it on the side of the road. We have seen whole rear axles with open differentials being repaired in the dust and mud on the side of the road! Now we’re close to our destination when suddenly out of nowhere this beautiful tar road appears on our right- well we just laughed having spent hours on the terrible road the last 20kms were a breeze. We’re still not sure if we travelled on the right road or not. It was great to arrive at Lake Albert Safari Camp, their campsite is being renovated so they gave us a spot in the carpark, and opened a chalet for us to use for ablutions. It’s run by a South African couple who have just taken over management. It was lovely. We even got to swim it was so hot.
We were invited on a game drive with them to a spot where we watched the sunset, enjoyed some cocktails and snacks. We were there for 2 days before moving on to Murchison.
The Sani’s exhaust started blowing as during the drive to Lake Albert so we stopped in a town called Hoima to get it repaired. The staff at the garage were great even bringing a chair for us to sit on whilst we waited. An exhaust mounting bracket had broken and the exhaust pipe had separated itself from the center silencer. The guys removed the two pieces, took them off into the village to have them welded together and on returning proceeded to refit the entire single piece exhaust, feeding it in from the rear of the vehicle. It was achieved with much jacking, twisting and removal of certain strategic items. We then went to one of the local hotels for lunch where we experienced our first rainstorm since we’ve been away. Finally the car was cleaner!!!!
Well back on the dirt road we went north to Murchison Falls Park. Another beautiful place where we camped at Red Chilli Rest Camp a backpackers joint that was full of youngsters on tour. The first night two hippos grazed outside our tent- all you could hear was munch, munch, munch!!!!!
Access to the northern section of the park is via a ferry across the Victoria Nile and we spent a very pleasant morning game viewing there, but had to come back in time to do the river cruise to Murchison Falls.
The next day we got to see the top of the falls which is very impressive. Due to the volume of water that goes over the falls you can’t get too close on the river side, but the sight from the top is glorious. We stayed two nights here and then headed towards Kampala. We had discussed going on to Kidepo Park in the north, but decided against it.
We have spent the last 2 nights at Nile River Explorers Camp in Jija, just outside Kampala (80kms/ 3 hours mainly due to traffic)(also run by ex-South Africans) overlooking the Victoria Nile which flows over the Murchison Falls into Lake Albert. From there it takes a sharp northerly turn and exists via the Albert Nile which becomes the White Nile. Jija is widely claimed to be at the Source of the Nile. Denise braved a local hairdresser and looks as stunning as ever!
We leave tomorrow for Kenya.