When I travel I like to visit the famous places before I can check out the ones “off the beaten track”. For me the bucket list will always have some of the world famous destinations in addition to the hidden least talked about attractions. With Zimbabwe it was very obvious that the Victoria falls would be part of the places I wanted to visit. With dates confirmed we were ready to leave for Zimbabwe from Uganda as part of the Sanganai/Hlanganani travel expo that happens every year.
For any trips in Africa we have to travel between different countries before arriving at our destination, we do not have direct flights out of Entebbe to most destinations. Thankfully because of COMESA we do not need visas to Zimbabwe which was such a breath of fresh air. We arrived in Harare in the afternoon excited to visit a city and country which has been the centre of controversy for years in the media, it was exciting to see life happening in more ways than the media wants to admit even amidst the difficult economic times.
After check in at the Rainbow Towers in Harare we prepared for dinner thereafter were ready to explore the night life. Unfortunately the night life was such a disappointment because we could not locate any good hang out spot. Efforts to ask the hotel people for recommendations were futile, in fact we took a taxi and the guy literally knew nothing of Harare – I mean which taxi driver does not know the happening places in town? Anyhow we eventually gave up and came back to the hotel. On return to the hotel we found one of our hosts dressed ready to rock the night – we quickly joined her and set off once again to explore the night. One wonders why I insisted even after the earlier attempt but for me where possible I want to explore both the night life and day life of a city.
Harare though it was a short stay, I loved the town, it is greatly organized compared to most African cities I visited. The roads are quite wide, I cannot imagine how it was before the economic downturn. Amidst all the issues, the Zimbabweans are such a resilient people pushing on amidst very tough economic times.
I needed to quickly make up my mind between visiting Ol Pejeta Conservancy or Nakuru while on my visit to Kenya attending the annual Africa travel Association conference. For me Sweet waters was the easy choice because I find Rhinos fascinating and also compared to other big game, these are not easily seen. I had heard that this is the best place to see them in Kenya.
We set off early from Nairobi to destination Ol Pejeta with a short stopover at the Equator monument for photo sessions and a bit of craft shopping. Because I always cross the equator traveling home from Kampala or even when visiting the national parks south of Kampala, I was eager to see the monument in the Kenyan side compared to the one in Uganda. The sign did not blow me away maybe because I secretly hoped to find something grand but alas it was a mere signpost. Anyways since this was not my destination, after shopping for some crafts we started the journey again continuing on to Ol Pejeta.
We arrived and after clearing us we drove directly to Sweet waters Serena camp before we could start exploring the conservancy. Ol Pejeta conservancy’s flag ship animals are the Rhinos. It is home to the 3 remaining northern white Rhinos and over 100 black Rhinos are protected amidst the high poaching levels for Rhino horns in the world. One of the easily seen Rhinos at Ol Pejeta is Baraka – the blind Black Rhino now living in an enclosure where it is fed and taken care of because of loss of sight. The care taker informed us that Baraka lost his sight due to a fight and then a cataract, this allows one to come closer to a Rhino.
The plight of the Rhinos is a sad one as seen by the increased poaching and extinction of some species. Sad to note is that as of now only 3 northern white rhinos are left in existence, how sad! Ol Pejeta is home to about 112 Black Rhinos which is equally a sad occurrence when you compare them to the other mammals in the conservancy. I personally think the fight has to be taken to the areas where there is a demand for Rhino horns i.e. China and Vietnam. It is sad that human beings can be so short sighted as to bring an animal to extinction because of stupid believes of what a Rhino horn can cure or even for ornamental purposes. What will happens when all is extinct, will they then find another source of medication?
After all is said and done, I enjoyed my time in Ol Pejeta conservancy and highly recommend a visit to this areas which hosts other animals like Giraffes, Zebras, Impalas, buffaloes etc. There is also the Sweet waters Chimpanzee sanctuary where for an extra fee you get to feed the chimpanzees thus learning about them and consequently giving towards their protection. Sweet waters Serena Camp is a great location while at Ol Pejeta for all your excursions in this area with amazing animals sighting while at the lodge.
Today we spent the entire day in the heart of Murchison falls national park continuing on our bird watching safari. We started off from Bakers lodge with a morning boat ride towards the Delta on River Nile in search of the Shoebill in addition to other birds and wildlife. The Delta joins River Nile to Lake Albert and is the lowest point in Uganda at 621 msl. When everyone was on board, we stopped by the Murchison River Lodge to pick up more clients and then officially start the birding tour.
The first part of the journey accorded us the usual water birds like the elegant pied kingfisher, Black crake, Black heron, night heron, cattle egret, long tailed cormorant etc, but everyone’s interest was the magnificent Shoebill. We continued with the boat ride with sightings of Hippos and Crocodiles. At some point someone claimed to have seen the Shoebill but with closer look it was the Heron to everyone’s disappointment.
We eventually disembarked the boat as the rest turned back and we got into the car for the game drive to bird in the Savannah area. After birding for over 2 hours we decide to visit the hippo pool area again with hope of finding of sighting the Shoebill and voila. We spent several minutes photographing before eventually continuing on with the game drive. We were also treated to a sight of a pair of the elusive Sitatunga feeding in the open next to the papyrus reeds.
Thereafter we continued birding with a new interest of sighting the Leopard and Lions. These are usually more elusive than the other mammals already sighted like the Giraffes, Kobs, Oribis, Elephants, Jackson’s Heart beasts etc. In the evening as we left to catch up with time for the ferry, we found 2 lions by the roadside. One seemed wounded from probably a fight and another faithfully by its side. We spend some minutes photographing before leaving for the ferry.
This marked the end of a beautiful on game drive enjoying sightings of numerous bird species, mammals and the ever beautiful landscape. Unfortunately I did not proceed to Kidepo valley national park because I needed to travel to Djibouti – a country I only heard of in the news. This therefore marked the end of the tour for me as the rest proceeded and completed the remaining 5 days.
This was one of the best days on our birding trip because we were birding the beautiful Royal mile in Budongo forest which has a part inside Murchison falls national park called Kaniyo Pabidi and the part outside which we were visiting known as Royal mile. There is also a section known as Busingiro sector but we did not visit this section on this trip.
We spent the night in Masindi town which is over an hour away from the Royal mile section of Budongo forest. It is some drive on a dirt road but very active for birders. We must have spent about 2 hours on a stretch that should take about 40 minutes because of the various bird species we found on the way. We arrived at the gate of the royal mile about 8.30 am and prepared to start birding immediately. We were mainly birding along the ‘road’ and rarely on the footpaths off the road.
The royal mile in Budongo forest is one of the best places to bird in the forest in Uganda. There is generally good light which allows you to easily view the birds and photograph them. The birds are also generally on the ground or in the lower branches of the trees and not the high up canopies (some are but not too many) like while birding in many forest destinations. The bird species that were the highlight for the day were; Chocolate backed Kingfisher and African Dwarf Kingfisher, Nahan’s Francolin, Narina Trogon, Yellow billed barbet, African Moustached Warbler, Yellow-throated Greenbul, Yellow-mantled Widow bird, and Purple Starling.
We had a picnic lunch in the beautiful forest and soon started to bird. No sooner had we started to bird than it started raining, even though this is something to expect when in a tropical forest in Uganda, we were a bit frustrated because we had geared up for a full day birding. We returned to the lodge in preparation for the day tomorrow to Murchison falls national park through the Rift valley escarpment with views of Lake Albert. We climaxed the day with local food at Kolping Masindi which was an experience.
Today was a continuation of birding in Bwindi impenetrable national park – Buhoma sector. Yesterday after arriving in the early afternoon to the lodge, we had enough time to rest and recoup energies as we prepared for today’s birding on the waterfalls trail. The day started early at 7.30 am, we drove from the lodge to the gate where we started the birding.
Once on the main trail in the park, we were welcomed by Blue monkeys and L’hoest monkeys in the trees feeding. This was surprising because L’hoest monkeys are generally terrestrial monkeys. The clients have a high interest in the primates so we spent time to capturing pictures of these two monkey species before we officially started the birding.
The waterfall trail is rich in different Albertine rift endemics. We spent time birding this area which offered good photographic moments. The bird of the day must have been the Bar tailed Trogon which was kind enough to pose for photographs at various times, Purple breasted Sunbird was another good find but was difficult to capture on camera as it continually hoped on and off the branches. Unfortunately for me I forgot to charge my camera battery so today it blacked out a short while after the start of the birding. I know that for proper birding photography I need to purchase bigger lenses but for now I will enjoy watching more than photographing.
After a while birding, we continued the walk to the 3 water falls deep in Bwindi impenetrable forest. These provide beautiful views and rest while on this birding trail. We spent a few minutes admiring nature at each waterfalls stop as we took pictures and took in the sights and sounds of the forest. From the waterfalls, we walked back towards the lodge with brief stopovers of birding for only those species that were close by the road.
It was a good day, the terrain was generally flat except when we got deep in the forest towards the waterfalls but even this was manageable. This is what I needed after the steep terrain of Mubwindi forest. For any serious birder coming to Uganda, you must include Bwindi impenetrable forest on your itinerary because it has 23 of the 24 Albertine rift endemics especially between Buhoma sector and Ruhija Sector. Tomorrow we leave for Semuliki national park and Semliki wildlife reserve for the central African species.
This year because of increased work in office, I have not had much time to explore this beautiful country of ours – Uganda. So when I received an inquiry for birding, primates and photography safari around Uganda for 25 days I decided that I will be part of this tour. I was really excited to join in on the tour but was also not sure considering the amount of work piling up waiting for me. I want to try and write everyday I am on this Safari depending on how active the days are and availability of internet.
Day 1 was arrival of the guests and pick up from Entebbe international airport which is currently the only international airport serving Uganda. The rest are small airfields which serve the smaller air crafts traversing the country transporting especially tourists and NGO workers. Entebbe airport is by lake Victoria – the 2nd biggest fresh water body, this gives pleasant beautiful scenery of the Islands during the day but certainly not at night when it is more darkness than light.
We left Kampala about 7.10 pm with the plan of reaching Entebbe latest 8.30 pm because of the unpredictable traffic jam on the Kampala – Entebbe highway. This stretch is only 40 km but it can take one 2 hours or more to drive it because of the heavy traffic that comes from the numerous people who live along this route and the airport. For anyone taking a flight out of Entebbe from Kampala, we usually advise that you plan for 2.5 hours drive to be on the safe side otherwise you risk missing your flight.
We arrived about 8.38 pm and waited for the 9.00 pm flight. I spent time catching up Ugandan style with people I knew who were waiting to pick up a friend. We were then out of the airport about 10.30 pm arriving at the new beautiful Best Western Hotel in Entebbe town located on Victoria mall with beautiful rooms and great service.
The day ended with me arriving at my house about 12.00 am and taking a short sleep before starting the journey to Kihihi the next day for the afternoon pick up of clients who were coming with Aero Link via Kasese. They flew into Kihihi because the morning flight to Kisoro was full and the next best alternative was Kihihi in the afternoon. After this we then drove for about 4 hours to Mt Gahinga lodge near the entrance of Mgahinga Gorilla national park.
I am an adrenaline junkie and this partly contributes to why I do things last minute when the deadline is knocking. I have talked myself out of this habit but I am yet to succeed. I know it contributes negatively to my output sometimes but somehow I find myself back at it whenever I have a task. Some days I have felt so helpless and almost resigned to my fate but I know that growth requires me to keep on and not give up concerning an area I am convinced I need to improve. I must say that going forward I will pick up again and work towards planning and accomplishing tasks without waiting for the deadline.
Take for example assignments, I can have them for as long as a month but I will still keep pushing them aside until it’s the last day. One given Friday, the electricity was off for most of the day and night ( who makes these decisions at UMEME) and I needed to finish reading a book and a write a report on my reading before midnight. You should have seen me reading the book using the torch from my phone. This lasted up to about 11pm and later start the process of writing the report . Thankful that the computer had enough battery which allowed me work. Once the writing was complete and ready, the internet connections was playing hind and seek with me. It was difficult to attach the documents to the email. Thankfully eventually they attached and I was able to send a few minutes after midnight. The voice inside me (God) inquired why I do not consider doing all this much earlier to avoid the hassle.
And yet it is not only in tasks at work or school but even concerning travel. I usually know weeks prior to my travels and I wait until the night or morning before the trip to do the packing. This is disorganizing because I tend to forget some items which I need on these travels. It’s in times like these that I remember the advice from my dad while growing up. He suggested to me to consider packing my luggage at least one week before the travel ( this was especially in relations to school) because that way when I forget an item I am able to include it before the travel date. He even suggested that I consider making a list of the items I must pack.
Today while thinking about this I almost quickly acknowledged my weakness and accepted it as me but then I remembered that if this is not helping me be effective then I need to drop it and find ways of growing. In life if we hope to grow, we cannot allow certain areas of our being to go unchallenged but rather engage with them and come up with plans to improve them. I look forward to operate from the ‘not urgent but important’ quadrant as opposed to the ‘urgent and important’ quadrant which is draining. Which areas in your life which areas do you recognize need growth? What are you doing about it? Or are you justifying their existence instead of improving them?