Uganda Trip ReportNovember 12th - 21st, 2009

Louise Steynberg and Alison Nolting

Chimps and Gorillas!

On arrival in Entebbe, Uganda we were met by a smiling Lydia who gave us a wonderful briefing, and then we met our Driver/Guide Benjamin Musisi and con tinued to the Kampala Serena hotel. You know you are back in Africa when you smell the dust and wood smoke !
The next morning we began our journey to Murchison Falls National Park . We stopped for lunch at Kaniyo Pabidi Forest where we heard that the newly habituated, resident chimp family was very close - maybe 15-20 minutes walk away. This was too good an opportunity to miss , so lunch was forgotten and we headed off to find the chimps.
After a mere 10 minutes we found a family of 30 chimps in a huge fig tree and spent a very enjoyable hour watching them up in the trees and down on the ground in the shade. They amused us with their cavorting and screeching as they played and chased each other . What a great start to our safari!
Onward to Murchison Fa lls where we spent the afternoon in the park and saw Rothschild's giraffe, elephant, wart hog, water buck, Ugandan kob, buffalo, bushbuck, hartebeest and Hyena.

 

 

We woke up the next morning to lovely views of the Victoria Nile from Paraa Lodge and then we were off back across the Nile on the ferry , to view the top of the Murchison Falls.
Our road travel took us onward to Kibale Forest and a night at Ndali Lodge.
The following day we set off on a chimp trek, and again we were lucky as after just 15 minutes we stopped to admire a monkey in the top of a fig tree , there sitting sunbathing on a neighboring branch was a chimp ! He was then joined by a second chimp and we watched as they came down onto the ground and bounded up another fig tree where the made themselves comfortable. We carried on through the forest see if we could find some more chimps and found two more in yet another fig tree. We also saw a huge black and white hornbill, a blue d iiker, Colobus monkeys and many more birds and butterflies.

 

 

 After lunch at Prima te Lodge we did the community S wamp Walk and had some fantastic bird sightings as well as red tailed monkeys and the L'hoest's monkeys.

Onward to Queen Elizabeth National Park where we drove around the craters and spent the night at Mweya Lodge which has stunning views over the Kazinga Channel and Lake Edward. On our game drive here we saw many elephant, Ugandan kob, water buck, olive baboons and wart hog.

   
Enroute from Queen Elizabeth we drove through the southern area of Ishasha, the open grasslands contrasted to the northern part of the park that has many volcano craters. This is where the tree climbing lions are found!  

A long drive had us arriving at the Nkuringo side of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the wonderful welcome at Clouds Lodge! Including a hand massage at the door!

 
The next morning we were up early a s we were trekking the Nshongi gorilla family and it was an hour's drive to the Park Head Quar ters. Bwindi forest is inc redibly beautiful and we trekked until 1:00pm before we found the gorillas. The terrain tends to be rolling hills, so there was lots of trekking up the hills, along the top and down the other side to then come to another hill! However the long trek was worth it when we found the gorillas - the family group of 36+ had only been recently opened to the public to trek since September 2009 .  

 

 

First we saw one of the silverbacks sitting under a tree, in the pouring rain I mi ght add. He didn't seem overly keen to see us as he hid his face behind the leaves of the tree. We heard the others before we saw them as they shrugged their way through the undergrowth. One of the black back juveniles climbed to the top of the tree where he stood up, waved his arms in the air, hooted and jumped up and down. The dominant silverback didn't seem at all perturbed as he continued eating. We saw 20 gorillas during o ur time with this family. Then we made our way back through the forest, sli ding our way down the muddy hills, crossing the river and finally at the end of the day back to our lodge for a hot shower and dinner in front of the fire.

 

The next day we explored the Nkuringo area to see first hand the incredible sustainable pr ojects they are introducing to the area including schools, the Batwa village where they are selling baskets and growing dye plants, and the local vill age where we purchased some Uganda home -grown tea. We also enjoyed some leisure time at the lodge before we were visited by the choir from the local orphanage .

The following day, instead of driving around to the other side of Bwindi with Ben our guide, we took the short cut and did the forest walk from Nkuringo to Buhoma. As we stopped often to look at birds it took us the better part of the morning and so we arrived at Gorilla Forest Camp in time for a very late lunch. Ian, the Manager filled us in the gorilla family groups and showed us the new Park headquarters.
That afternoon we visited the Bwindi Community Hospital and it was very inspiring to see all the good work that is being done there.This will be one of new projects we will be supporting for 2010.

www.bwindihospital.com

From Buhoma we drove to Lake Mburo where we spent the night at Mihingo Lodge. We had a very successful game drive in the park as we saw herds of zebra, impala and e land. The lodge is high up in the rock kopje with wonderful views over the plains. That evening we watched the bush -babies come down at sunset.

 

 

Our last day dawned and we headed back to Entebbe, stopping along the way to do some souvenir shopping and to re-pack and relax at Lake Victoria Hotel before boarding our flight home.

 

10-DAY CALL OF THE WILD SAFARI TO BOTSWANA

Shared Mobile Tented Safari to Moremi and the Khwai Concession

Program highlights:

 Enjoy an exclusive experience within the Khwai Concession (bordering the Okavango Delta) and the Moremi Reserve.

 This safari is paced for those who really want to concentrate on photography and game viewing from a vehicle. Limited walking is offered plus one full day in the Okavango Delta game viewing by boat.

 You use shared luxury mobile campsites in each area, which lessens your eco-imprint and enables you to meet other interesting travelers during mealtime .

This safari to Botswana began with the non stop Delta Air Lines flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg. I spent the evening at the Southern Sun O. R. Tambo hotel - comfortable accommodation and a very tasty breakfast. The next morning I met with two of our clients and that I had booked on the safari and we made our way by hotel shuttle to the airport. The shuttle was quick and efficient.

We met up with another client and we flew to Maun, Botswana. Air Botswana has a new plane with comfortable leather seating. The overhead bins are VERY small and my back pack back barely fit. Our AAC bags were checked plane side as they are too big for the bins. We arrived in Maun and the C apture Africa reps were there to take your bags and assist us to our charter flight. A quick 25 minutes and we landed and were met by the one and only - Nic Polenakis.

We began game driving to camp around 1:00pm. I was still in my traveling gear so as ked Nic to stop by a tree to change. Pulled on my safari gear and we drove to enjoy two bull elephants eating tree branches.

About an hour into the game drive I realized that my pants were missing - I had placed them on the floor of the vehicle and they had bounced out. I said ' Nic, I think I have lost my pants' We back tracked to no avail and Nic radioed Dave Carson, who found my pants about 50 feet from the elephants we were watching.

We continued game driving to camp and arrived just after sunset - by our choice.

Food and drink were very important to us

The camp was set up at the Bodumatau site - a path lit by lanterns and dinner awaited our arrival.

The nights in the camp were very active with a lone hyena passing through every night, hippos snorting and gurgling and lions roaring in the background. You did have to work harder for the game in Moremi.

 

Sitting around the fire at 5:30am                               Bodumatau was his favorite camp.

 

How could I forget the 7 hour cheetah vigil - eating lunch in our laps - waiting for him to come out from the bush. After about the 4th hour we were all suffering but could not leave the sight, after all if we left the cheetah would come out.

We moved to Kwai after 3 nights by a LONG road transfer starting with the boat ride on the Delta. The Kwai region is flooded in areas and resembles a land water camp.

There is a very large hole to the right -which we avoided

 

Kwai delivered - big time. Wild dog, roaring lions, leopa rd, hyenas mating in our kitchen, wild dog at sunset appearing at the pop of the champagne cork, viewing elephant splashing in mud hole. Kwai offers walking with the guide and we walked through mopane in search of elephant. Through the thick leaves

Nic's keen eye spotted water glistening on elephant skin. We were off - power walking through low trees to find the elephants. Can you hide a two ton beast behind a 5 foot tall Mopane? - Yes you can! Nic got us

very close. We sat and watch the elephants play in t he mud and splash each other cooling in the heat of the day.

Enjoying a morning coffee and walk to see elephant

 

There he is!

 

Nic "Now if the elephant turns and walks this way, just enjoy it!" Well he did turn and "walked this way" and our handy national park escort was no where to be seen, crouched behind a termite mound.

 

One of the best experiences was sitting with a male lion as he roared in our direction six times. He started roaring standing up, then sitting down, then lying down - raising his chest to roar and then finally so tired lying flat on the ground - roaring. Hearing a lion roar one time at you is very rare but 6 times is unbelievable. We left the sighting and Dave's group stayed. The lion kept roaring and Dave radioed the roar to us in camp!

The value of this safari is that you get a private specialist guide and private camp sites. You dictate the day and you are not tied to often 'scheduled' days of the permanent tented camps. We saw many camp vehicles the left sighting because they had to get back for brunch or dinner. We spent hours as sighting learning about behavior and witnessing very special moments that others missed.