Spent the day enjoying the beautiful Primate Lodge as the clients went out on the Chimpanzee habituation Experience which is normally a whole days experience. This gave me the much needed time to catch up with some work and also rest in the lounge in this beautiful forest.
The day went by lazily and I was glad, the weather was generally kind with the sun sifting through the forest and resting on my face. I was sitting in the lounge area where I spent quite some time catching up with tour guides I had spent a while without meeting as they passed by and dropped off their clients for their stay at the same lodge.
I really enjoyed staying in this place, the lodge staff were helpful making my stay in the lounge area enjoyable. The Clients soon returned in the evening after an entire day in the forest with the chimpanzee habituation experience. I listened to their experiences trailing the chimps and their highlight was finding the mother and baby chimp. What a highlight.
We later had dinner and I retired to my room after reading a few pages from Jim Collins ” Good to Great” a book I am taking as part of the Harvest Institute leadership class.
After 3 nights in Semliki wildlife reserve i looked forward to leaving and getting back into civilization. I hated the fact that the phone network was so difficult which made communication frustrating. This was my first time in this area but I must say that Semliki safari lodge killed my experience, I will not be returning in the nearby future.
Anyways we set off much later because we were leaving for Kibale national park which is only 2,5 hours drive without stopping, the roads are now all gravel except from the reserve to Karugutu which joins the main Fort portal – Budibugyo road. At exactly 8.30 am we set off and did not have much time birding en route like we had planned because of the morning rain which kept on until we were almost in Fort portal. We stopped for a coffee at Gardens restaurant and visited the Mpanga market. From the market the buffet at Gardens restaurant was ready with several local foods which the clients enjoyed.
We later set off for Kibale forest national park after the wonderful meal. We had 4 main stops which were not for long; first stop was to purchase bananas along the roadside fruit stall, next was photographing the tea plantations, had a field day photographing the baboons by the roadside as they groomed each other and lastly was trying to find some birds along the road in the park by a bridge.
Before long we arrived at Primate Lodge inside Kibale national park for our overnight. We will be staying 4 nights in total but i will leave after the second night to Fort portal. This place has lots of red tailed monkeys and black 7 white Colobus monkeys jumping all the trees which makes sitting out interesting. You will also find beautiful birds and butterflies for watching and photographing.
The day for the Shoebill on Lake Albert in western Uganda. There are about 4 main sites with high chances of sighting the Shoebill in Uganda. These are Mabamba wetland on Lake Victoria – this is the closest to Kampala and can be visited by some one on a day trip from Kampala or Entebbe. The second is Makananga wetland still on lake Victoria which can also be accessed easily from Kampala or Entebbe. The third sight is Lake Albert fringes in western Uganda in Semliki wildlife reserve and the last is the Delta area on River Nile, Murchison falls national park. There might be many other areas but these are the most common and have better chances of sightings.
We left the lodge at 7.00 am for the Lake Albert in Ntoroko, I think the entire reserve is in Ntoroko. The biggest business other than fishing which is obvious is trade between Uganda and DR Congo. You will find loads of tracks packed to capacity with cargo to DR Congo and the same to Uganda. We had minimum stopping for birding enroute because we needed to get there before the Shoebill left its fishing spot. Shoebills will normally stay in one place for even up to 2 hours finding food unless overly provoked. After about half an hour on the water towards the papyrus we sighted the Shoebill from a far.
We then moved towards the papyrus reeds to where the Shoebill was and we enjoyed several minutes photographing it from all the different angles. It was hunting for an breakfast and this kept us glued to the camera for perfect shots. Eventually everyone agreed that they had gotten enough pictures and watching the Shoebill and we started on our back. The boat was briefly stopped at different intervals for African Jacanas, Pelicans and Long-tailed Comorants. We spent a total of about 2 hours on the lake before starting our journey to the lodge for a more relaxed afternoon.
Day was spent in Semuliki national park birding the Kirumira trail for special central African bird species found only here in East Africa. We had an early breakfast for the 1,5 hours drive to Semuliki national park. Unfortunately it started raining a few minutes after leaving the lodge making the sighting of birds along the road difficult and photography impossible.
We eventually arrived at the park but had to wait to enter the forest because it was dark due to the earlier rain even though the it had now stopped raining. This caused most of the birds to stay inactive and therefore we decided to bird along the road as we waited for the sun to come out for us to enter the forest. We had sightings of horn bills and Blue cheeked mangabeys as we birded the roadside.
Eventually the weather eased up and we entered the forest taking on the Kirumira trail in Semuliki national park. We heard birds more than we saw them on this particular day because of the dull weather. The birds we saw were by use of binoculars and yet the clients are interested in photography. Nevertheless we managed to capture a few species on camera and the rest was spent enjoying the forest and the beautiful butterflies and sounds of Debrazza monkeys which are shy, we sighted them briefly before they went into hiding.
We eventually found a good spot to have our lunch after which we continued on the bird walk which was now mainly a forest nature walk with several colorful butterflies. We exited the forest about 4.00 pm for the wildlife reserve thereafter. We saw some birds along the way because now the skies were clear and the birds were having their evening dinners. Day 10 ended well and on to Day 11 the next day.
Today we took on the long drive from Buhoma in Bwindi impenetrable national park to Semliki wildlife reserve. We spent a total of 6 nights in Bwindi impenetrable national park visiting different sectors of the forest. We started with Nkuringo sector, to Ruhija sector and lastly to Buhoma sector. These offered us great opportunities of watching several Albertine rift endemics found in this forest on the various forest trails.
We checked out of the beautiful Bwindi lodge and started the journey to Semliki wildlife reserve via Ishasha in Queen Elizabeth national park. We had great stopovers of birding along the Ishasha road. We even had sighting of the tree climbing lions lazily resting near the road. They are normally said to climb up the trees especially in the morning after a night of feasting from the hunting. Some of the possible reasons why they climb trees include; for better sighting of the prey, because the ground is hot so they climb for the winds and or it is to keep away from the many flies in the tall grasslands. Whatever their reasons the tree climbing lions of Ishasha have become an attraction that you want to include on your itinerary.
We unfortunately got a Tyre puncture in Ishasha which consumed about 30 minutes of our time. After working on it we continued on our trip stopping for birding photography. We then had a brief stopover in Fort portal to repair the damaged tyre and proceeded on the journey to Semliki. We had a stopover in Katuguru where we enjoyed the packed lunch with coffee at the Irungu safari lodge. We eventually arrived in Semliki wildlife reserve later at about 6.30 pm ending our long drive.
After a nasty experience with the lodge managers at Semlike safari lodge, I prepared to rest myself for tomorrows long day on Kirumira trail in Semuliki national park for more forest birds especially the central African species.
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.
After the amazing time birding Mubwindi swamp in Ruhija sector of Bwindi impenetrable national park we were ready for Buhoma sector to continue our Uganda birding tour. Today the guide gave us a little more time to sleep in and we started our journey 8.30 am compared to the normal time which was usually between 6.00 am – 7.00 am. I was therefore glad to sleep in a little more before starting the packing process.
We have been staying 2 nights at each lodge we visit and usually the second night is hectic because we have to then get into packing and for some reason I prefer to pack early morning instead of the night before traveling. This packing and unpacking ritual gets tiring at some point but it is a necessary part of the journey.
Today our main stopover was the ‘neck’, a stretch of forest connecting Ruhija sector to Buhoma sector both of Bwindi impenetrable forest. We spent about 2 hours birding this rich area which is home to several Albertine rift endemics. My favorite birds in this area are the beautiful Black bee eaters but for some reason they like to patch high up in the tree tops making photographing difficult. Overly I must say the day was good because we did not have to travel for long time since the stretch is about 2 hours drive without stopping.
We arrived at the beautiful Bwindi lodge overlooking Bwindi forest in the afternoon. I quickly took a short nap to recoup the energies spent in Mubwindi swamp. After the nap I sat by the lodge terrace and enjoyed the lodge in its fullness. The chef in his open kitchen served us the famous Uganda rolex as a mini starter before the dinner which was later. Dinner was served later in the dining area where we joined other clients from different areas – it is the custom of the lodge to arrange one table for all the clients so that clients get to talk and share their experience. There was a young Italian couple who chose to celebrate their honeymoon in Uganda and included gorilla trekking on their itinerary, the lodge prepared a cake and sang celebratory song for them. It was really beautiful and thoughtful of them.
That marked the end of Day 8, I looked forward to day 9 where would be birding the waterfall trail. My feet are still aching from all the walking but I will persist and keep on until I end the 25 days. Looking forward to enjoy this my beautiful country Uganda.