So I am safe and home from my seventh visit to the Pearl of Africa and some of you want to risk being bored. Warning:- We saw 476 species of birds. Those not interested in Avifauna can stop reading right now.
Writing reports is a balance of doing it all in one shot or stringing along in instalments. What to do?
Well maybe getting the nitty gritty out of the way first will pave the way for some further detailed accounts of the what and where later on.
I have a habit of finishing a trip with a list of things I did not do but which then form the basis of the next visit. So it was this time. Several Lodges and camps had got my interest and some activities too. Other Lodges are regular haunts and no trip would be complete without a stay there. So it all came together nicely. This trip, in addition to the First Lady M, I had the pleasure of two friends neither of whom had been to Uganda before. So I kept mainly to a well trodden path that I knew well.
I had a good friend and top bird guide agree to drive and guide us and ground arrangements for my choice of Lodges were ably handled by the team at Churchill. I was sticking my neck out (nothing new there) by firmly picking the Lodges and camps we required so knew any blame would fall on my shoulders if they did not prove satisfactory. 14 destinations on the Itinerary and only 2 did not measure up.
The Land Cruiser was owned and driven by my very own Albertine Rift Specialist and all I had to do was feed the beast with Diesel at UgSh3500 a litre. It was pleasing to see some well treaded Tyres fitted and over the whole 30 days we never got so much as a puncture. We did shake a U bolt loose but fixed this in Kihihi in an hour or so.
Our chosen route was roughly a circle starting from Entebbe and heading to Mabamba, Lake Mburo, Nkuringo, Buhoma, Bwindi and to QENP via Ishasha before rounding the Ruwenzoris to Bundibugyo and Semuliki NP. Then back to Kanyanchu (Kibale NP) before striking north for Murchison Falls via Masindi and then back to Ziwa Rhino to meet some pachyderm friends of a few years and then down to Kampala Entebbe and the long flight home.
That was the plan.
Here follows the execution in edited highlight format. I really will try and spare your sensitivities and not recount every one of our feathered friends. Neither will I recount each and every incident. Details of Lodges will be found under the reviews I shall try and complete soon. And yes. There are some 2000 photos to be sorted and edited down to a reasonable number in due time.
Travel Logistics were easy enough. Four tickets with Turkish Airlines from England via Istanbul was the easy bit. Landing first in Kigali at 3.00 in the morning was a bit of a drag but the time change from Rwanda to Uganda moved the night along nicely and having had 22 hours layover in Istanbul to see this lovely city we were still relatively fresh at Entebbe at 4.35 or thereabouts. Through Immigration was a doddle, I knew which desk to hit before the rush arrived from higher seat numbers than ours. A very nice man stamped in our Visas, the luggage was on the Carousel and our driver, from Airport Guest House, was there to take us 'home'. Crept into our beds at around 5. a.m. and our trip was up and running.
A late rise for Breakfast and to find our feet and a few birds in the guest house grounds including Double-toothed Barbets and Ross's Turaco. (OOPs!). We needed Forex for the necessary pile of shillings and something called a Sim card for my friend's phone so he could ring home. We emerged from Entebbe town as Millionaires..We then had a Beer or two whilst we met the owner of one of the Lodges were were booked in at. A side trip to the Botanical Gardens in the late afternoon filled the rest of the daylight on day 1 and Airport Guest House had a BBQ for dinner. And a pair of Barn Owls in the Mango Tree under which to eat our meal.
An early start next morning, but it was Monday and the ferry was crowded, so we drove the scenic route to Mabamba for our Lake Excursion by Makoro to seek our first target bird, the enigmatic Shoebill Stork. We had two Makoros waiting our arrival and we were soon paddling out through the Reed and Papyrus in search of Balaeniceps rex. We soon made contact much to the dismay and annoyance of a Yankee twitcher who felt he had proprietorial rights. When he accused us of being Australians he came very close to being tapped on the head with a paddle and dropped in the lake.
After some excellent pictures of a co-operative Shoebill we headed to the main road and west to the Equator stop for lunch, and a Beer. A brief call at another swamp and 'we' put the Cruiser's rear wheel in a hole which took some extricating. On to Lake Mburo NP by late afternoon, well dusk really, and we checked into Arcadia Cottages for three nights. A lovely place with good food and comfortable Cottages. Lots of wildlife in the grounds which are close to the lake and so handy for excursions. We had arranged with a UWA Ranger and known birder, Moses, to take us on the lake to seek the African Finfoot. We found five and several other birds too. However the highlight was a lovely female Leopard we spotted (oops) on the shore. We quietly took the boat in close to her and she was so relaxed she watched us arrive and then lay down to study us as closely as we were studying her. I now have some of the nicest Leopard photos I have ever taken. A real lady. The arrival of another boat made her leave but I am told she came back to pose for them too.
Lake Mburo NP is really nice and I always take my time there.
Rain stopped play next morning so a planned long walk had to be cancelled. But later on we managed a brief Nature walk in sunshine and met a few buffalo and a not too friendly Hippo.
After a final breakfast we set off west for Kabale over an intermittent road before turning off to Nkuringo Camp and our home for the next two nights. Rain prevented the superb views of the Virungas from camp but the beds were pre-warmed with bottles and an early night called for. Next day we arranged to do some local birding and I got to meet a fine Rhinoceros Chameleon. We also arranged to meet guides for our planned walk to Buhoma through the Bwindi forest. I had long wanted to make this walk and tomorrow was the day it would happen or not. You can actually see Buhoma, some 13km distant as the Eagle flies, from Nkuringo but walking it was a different matter.