Today we transferred to Masindi from Kibale national park. Primate lodge tucked in the middle of the forest was a great place to have a base as people explored kibale forest and the surrounding areas like the Bigodi wetland which is a community project and Top of the world, a hill that allows you to view Kibale forest, 3 crater lakes and tea farms.
I left Fort portal this morning and met up with the group somewhere and we set off for Masindi. Most of the road is under construction so the travel time was generally longer than usual, however this is good for us because in a few years it will be smooth all the way reducing the travel time along the way. We had a few stopovers of birding and generally scenery photographing before proceeding on our way. There are some good birding spots for birding but we did not stop for long because of the long journey ahead and the construction of the road.
After a few hours on the road, we stopped for a picnic lunch after Kagadi en-route to Masindi. When we have long drives we usually pack lunch from the lodge especially when the restaurants en-route are not good or where they are non existent. The lunch was good, we enjoyed it before starting on the last part of our journey to Masindi. It was also a good way to have the much needed break and stretching before continuing.
We arrived in Masindi in the early afternoon about 3 pm, checked in and rested looking forward to tomorrows birding at the Royal Mile in Budongo forest. Masindi Hotel is an old hotel which was built in 1923 and has hosted some of the most famous travelers like Hemingway. It is the best place to stay in Masindi and we planned to travel to Budongo forest early morning.
It has been a while since I blogged, I got carried away with other work and did not catch up on all writing accruing from all the travel that has happened over time. I decided to start from where I stopped and finish the series of the 25 days tour of Uganda the Pearl of Africa. Hopefully I will catch up with all the travels that have happened since then and have up to date blogs before the year ends.
Day 15 & 16 were spent a my Aunties house in Fort portal. It was a perfect getaway and good break coming in the middle of the tour. Uganda is very beautiful and each day brought new activities and sites but I think a part of me was missing interacting with people at home. It had been many years since I last visited my Aunt who also happens to be my god mother, therefore this was a perfect opportunity to link up with her and my cousins.
On the other side of the tour, the visitors had an opportunity to do a whole day birding in Kibale forest. They were looking forward to seeing the elusive Green breasted Pitta which has become localized in the forest. After hours of waiting, it eventually showed up but for just a moment. Over all it was a fruitful day birding after the previous day in the chimpanzee habituation experience. Later in the evening, they did a night game drive in search of the nocturnal animals especially the primates and they sighted a Bush baby also known as Galago and Pottos. This was a 2 hour night walk in the forest after which they returned to the lodge for the much needed rest.
After enjoying the ‘mini-break’ from the Safari, we continued we continued the safari to Masindi where we would be birding Budongo forest for some interesting birds and a few primates.
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.