The East Africa country of Uganda is home to one of the most varied and densely populated habitats of African fauna on the continent that is accessible and affordable while being more authentic and less predictable than the heavy weight African tourist destinations on its south and eastern borders. Famously referred to as the ‘Pearl of Africa’ by Winston Churchill, Uganda was home to Kevin (one of my former university flatmates) for the nine months prior to the arrival of a group of four of us to join Kevin and explore this African gem for 3 weeks.
The first part of our Ugandan intrepid adventure saw us rafting and bungee jumping near Jinja, afterwards we headed up country to where Kevin worked as the manager of a chimp trekking eco-lodge called the Budongo Eco-lodge, but affectionately known to us all as ‘Kevshood’. The eco-lodge is located in the Murchison National Park and as a side note be aware there is an entrance fee on arrival to the Park payable to the border guards. We would base ourselves at Budongo for a few nights and not far from the lodge is the Murchison Falls; a 40m high, 3m wide thunderous torrent of water where the entire volume of the White Nile passes through. This is one set of rapids we would not survive rafting down unlike the previous week near Jinja!
Murchison National Park is also well known for its game drives so an afternoon safari is easily one of the highlights of any trip to Africa; the wildlife, the colours (the sky, flora, the red earth tracks in late the afternoon sun etc.) and being able to share it with such good mates (or family if you’ve brought them along) is an amazing experience. I felt fortunate to have seen a variety of African fauna such as African buffalo, Giraffe, wild pigs (AKA Pumba), the long faced hartebeest, elephants, a diverse range of bright birds etc... We were having the time of their life as took turns on the roof.
We would camp in the Game Park near the waters of Lake Albert (one of the Rift Valley lakes) with the sounds of hippo’s and numerous other creatures all around us. Of course we’d enjoy a few quiet whiskeys and a sing-along around the camp fire that night, but that was brought to an abrupt halt when the sound of breaking sticks made us all turn our torches towards the dark bushes some 20 meters behind us. We were shocked to see a bull elephant grazing there and it was at this point (and later too for Kevin when he heard lions) we thought we probably should have got that ranger with the gun to come and keep the fire going while we slept… An uneasy night followed for a few of us.
In the morning (every one accounted for and all limbs intact), we were joined by other game drivers near some hunting lions (not far from our camp spot), but it shouldn’t be the lions or bull elephants that we should have been worried about, hippopotamus apparently kill more humans than any other animal in Africa. Random factoid - Hippos make funny noises and like to swim all day.
You haven’t been to Uganda and fished for the legendary Nile perch if you haven’t fished for Nile perch while in Uganda. We would take a boat up the calm waters of the White Nile below the Murchison Falls and fish for Nile Perch near the turbulent waters below the falls where the giant perch dwell. I spent a few hours fishing for one, but true to form, all I caught was my lure, however Gene one of our friends did one better! He managed to pull in a 34kilogram Nile perch; I could already smell him on the BBQ, only to be told he’d have to be re-released as per fishing regulations.
Back at the Budongo Eco Lodge we ventured into the forest in search of a family of Chimpanzee (a group of about a dozen individuals) and thankfully we got lucky as we not too difficult to find this day. We would watch them in the upper and mid tree level interact and eat jackfruit with Kevin remarking afterwards that “it was a near perfect chimp trekking experience”, he should know, he’s done it every other day for the last nine months! Next we’d leave the northern area of Uganda and set out to explore the southwest of Uganda!