Sunday, 02 February 2014

Ugandan Dreams

We set out from Entebbe in our rental RAV. Visiting the Mt. Gorilla Nest at the UWA (Uganda Wildlife Authority) in Kampala to buy permits for Gorilla and Chimp viewing. We knew already the permits were costly, and soon learnt that this authority was serious about protecting natural heritage. We had no idea what a life experience traveling Uganda would turn into.  

Dreamy lake Bunyoni with distant vistas of the Virunga volcanoes. It took a pinch to make sure it was real. Sensory stimulating dramatic landscapes all around Uganda calling for immediate internal reflection. There was no choice but to smell, see, hear, taste, feel and be with totally open senses. We found the tropical Africa we yearned for.

Bwindi was as mystical and secretive as impenetrable. Forests obscuring horizons and international boundaries. The last stand of Gorilla gorilla, and home to the unique Batwa people.  We were relieved to find local authorities and guides serious about the conservation of the forest and its inhabitants. Ruhija and Rushaga were great departure points of exploration.  

On our way north to Kihihi, a winding road through the highest slopes of Bwindi Forest.  We saw Pordocarpus Yellow Wood type trees. I wondered how many primates there were in Africas Primate history, and about all of us today.  

Stark differences await those who leave the forest. We had no choice, the way to Kihihi where the (in hind sight terrible) "modern supermarket" awaited.
But the destination was Ishasha, a southern section of Queen Elizabeth National Park. On our map it grippingly marked in red: "Tree Climbing Lions". Linda has some fixation with cats, so much more huge lions lounging and sleeping in Ficus trees as if they were born in the branches. Little did we know how lucky we would be.

Camping on the banks of the Ishasha river, with hippos andDefassa Waterbuck walking freely around day and night. On the second day of scanning, searching, tracking lions, we get a tip off with details of a certain area (and always look in the fig trees). Arboreal prides often rest in large trees when temperatures soar in the middle of the day.  The lions are as comfy up there as a cat on a couch. We spent five hours with the Tree Climbing Lions of Ishasha.  

Branch Manager
Long-crested Eagle (Lophaetus occipitalis) Uganda boasts arguably the best birdwatching in Africa. 
Both Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls National Parks teem with wildlife. Although the Amin-type slaughter of humans and other animals have left it's mark of destruction and extinction, perhaps tourism can boost the surviving radiating populations and species. If we can for example save the rhino, the veld in Uganda is prime for reintroduction.  

As we drove into Kibale Forest, we spotted a community of Chimps  (Pan Troglodytes).  The next two days we spent in both the wild and habituated primate communities of Kibale.  The most diverse primate communities in the world.  The amount of life changing experiences left us in awe and respect of our relatives.

Touring Uganda is the deep end in the pool of Africa's landscapes. One can depart a mountainous forest and arrive a few hours later in perfect savanna. A myriad of biome definitions can be drawn from incredibly compact natural diversity.
Loxodonta africana  

Timely research taught us the insecurities of Kidepo Valley. And it didn't help much that war had just broken out again in the Sudans to the north. Passing Kitgum, we held our breaths of what we would find. We found the Karamojong. We fell in love with the land of the Karamoja people.   

Kigelia africana, Sausage Tree

Driving in Uganda is notoriously interesting. Get a trustworthy driver and take your time. Distances can be deceiving and one rapidly learns to measure in time rather than distance. TIA, you know.  If you are on a self drive, good luck.  Roads range from footpaths to tarred and new. Public transport "death busses" swoop down tiny roads which they hardly fit on, so pull over and do bird-watching. Boda-bodas are amazing scenic coffins on wheels. Tragically we also encountered a freshly smashed up RAV, and met the naïve survivors the next day. Phew. 

People are super friendly and helpful, and everyone speaks English. Make an attempt to learn some Swahili and Buganda. 

Akorongimoe and Linda, new best friends

Have you heard of a shy stork called Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex)? Out in the open, three sightings in two days on the Nile Delta.   Praise the Shoebill. 
Travelling Uganda involves a criss-cross of the Equator. This is at Paraa Ferry in Murchison Falls National Park.

Ankole cattle. We got into trouble for not asking to take pictures. I said: mooo…and sorry. 

Wilderness Camping was at the order of the day. Linda preparing dinner,  and two buffalo guarding the camp sight.  Fruits and vegetables were delicious and abundant.  Nile Delta, Queen Elizabeth National Park. 

The perfect navigator, travel and life companion. Wife, I love you.

After rafting the White Nile and a visit to the Botanical Gardens, it was time for us to depart Entebbe and Uganda. We thought of our families and parents Leon, Moksie, Bessie and André who supported us in our wedding and this travel dream. Our sadness of leaving Uganda slightly waned as we thought of Biko and Clara. Ugandan dreams changed our lives for ever.  

morning safara

morning safara

Cape Town's 12 Apostels

Cape Town's 12 Apostels