4th January. We liked our stay at Bush Lodge. We did wonder if the mess /restaurant would come under pressure at fully booked times but they coped. Lots to see in the grounds. One of our number went Chimp tracking at Chambura while the rest of us had breakfast at a more civilised hour. Whilst sitting on my stoop I spotted a small Chameleon and got it down from the tree by devious means. It was a young Flap-necked C. and it posed nicely for some photos. It was still around when the Chimp tracker returned from a successful encounter so the Chameleon was produced for him too. In the afternoon we returned to Chambura Camp so the others could enjoy it and the birds. Then we went to Jacana Lodge to check out the lakes and forest area. We found Blue-breasted Kingfishers but no Shining Blues. Lots of Monkey activity and we were not short of birds. Saw an Otter at Jacana too. On the return drive we met some friendly Ellies on the main road who obliged for more Ellie pictures. Next morning two of us rose early and set off for the Papyrus beds at Katenguru where we hope to lure out the colourful Papyrus Gonalek and White-winged Warblers that lurk in there. We were successful on both counts. On the return we met two more Giant Forest Hogs on the track. We then decamped to Mweya Lodge, our favourite, for a three night stay. Of course we did the UWA Launch trip on the channel as always and saw lots of African Skimmers plus many other waterbirds. Elephants and Hippo too. Our planned walk to the point was rained off as a humungous storm broke just prior to our scheduled start. We did venture down the airstrip later to see if RooAbroads Lions were at home but only found fifty Buffalo and Waterbuck. I did get my toes nibbled by a passing Mongoose though.
One morning we sent down to Kasenyi Plains but it was quiet. A group of cars indicated action but it was a “Somebody thinks they saw a Leopard over there” type of sighting so we did not linger. We went to the local Katwe Lake and found many Flamingo of both species at home. One enterprising soul came on a Motor cycle and suggested we hired a guide but we declined. We probably knew the area better than him. We found lots of Quail and Crake's up on the higher ground back in the NP and a rare sighting of Red-billed Quailfinch too. However the highlight of this part of the trip has to be given to an encounter with a family of Elephant. We spotted them just ahead on the track and positioned the car just right (for us.) The Matriarch and her escorts took no real heed but the sub adults took it upon themselves to “ask us to move along”! We stayed where we were. Several amusing mock charges later and they were really winding themselves up. I got some lovely video as they came right up to the car with ears flapping. Now and again as a change of routine they turned their backs at the last minute and ran backwards at us as if this made them even fiercer. So funny. Eventually Matriarch and entourage came behind them and prodded them with tusks to “get on with the job” of moving this cheeky car. No luck there either. So big mama decided to show how it was done and after a couple of quite hairy mock charges we felt she had made her point and reversed a bit. Then the darn kids chased after us blowing raspberries. The cheek of it.
Health warning. Do NOT take liberties with Ellies unless you 1. have a competent guide and 2. are sufficiently experienced to know what you are doing. Accidents can happen. Next morning on our way out we met a smaller herd and the Matriarch immediately charged us with little warning. Maybe she had heard of us?
Leaving QENP by the explosion craters we made our way via Fort Portal, despite the Diesel shortage over the Ruwenzoris to Bundibugyo. Two surprises. There is a grand smooth new tar road, that has destroyed what for me was one of the most scenic drives in Uganda, all the way to Sempaya, which was nice. And the standards of our Hotel fell well short of what we had enjoyed there before. The food was fine but no water (at all) is not conducive to a pleasant stay. We had arranged a Nature walk in the NP and at Sempaya Springs next morning. Knowing the road was good we checked out of our Hotel that morning for good. We would make Fort Portal or Kanyanchu. Now a word about UWA's daft fee policy. Be aware that they propose a “Birding Fee” of US$100, per person, to look at birds. This is plain stupid and off putting. Why charge $35 to enter a NP and for that we can look at Mammals but NOT birds? However the Nature walks are just $15 and so we nature walked. Coupled with that stupidity was the noise of timber extraction by locals over which UWA seemed to have no concerns. But the bloody birds did and made themselves scarce. So we moved on to Sempaya and enjoyed a cold Beer and a walk to the Hot Springs, where we also saw some birds, Oops! Then back through Fort Portal on that lovely road and on to Kanyanchu and Kibale Forest Camp. Now for 4 nights not 3. A nice place with pleasant grounds bordering Bigodi Swamp. We entered the forest next morning and found our target birds, Iliadopsis, Brown and Scaly as well as Green-breasted Pitta. We called in another birding group to this much sought after bird but they failed to find it. We also had a nice meeting with a Blue Duiker that allowed a close approach. We also found the Pitta again.
Next day we walked the Bigodi Swamp and got some more birds for the growing list as well as seeing Grey-cheeked Mangabey Monkeys. A first for us.
All in all a fruitful stay at Kibale and we are now placed to tackle that road up to Hoima and the north. Which we did without too much delay. We cut through the Tea Plantations to the Tar road to Kyenjojo and then headed north on dirt. The road was not as bad as feared and reasonable progress was made to Hoima after which the road improved and we got to Masindi and on into Murchison Falls National Park withut delay. Our first base was to be the Eco Lodge at Kanyo Pabidi for two nights.
That and our visits to Paraa and Ziwa will be in the final part for anyone still awake.