The Engs family from California asked us where we recommend for their fourth safari with us, this time over Christmas.
It is however, an especially good time to be on safari in East Africa, which straddles the Equator and as a result has two dry seasons, one starting in mid-December. Although Tanzania’s Serengeti Plains are astounding at that time of year, they had been to the Serengeti several times, and wanted to go somewhere different.
So the Engs family found themselves flying in to Entebbe Airport (Uganda), on the other side of Lake Victoria from the Serengeti. They began their safari in a private camp on the north bank of the Victoria Nile in Murchison’s Falls national park.
They motored up river in a small dinghy and glided to within a few metres of elephants, massive Nile crocodiles and luckily, close to one of Africa’s most unusual birds – the Shoebill.
Many species that they saw here do not occur anywhere else in the main safari destinations of Africa (except perhaps Kenya), including the Abyssinian ground hornbill, Rothschild’s giraffe, Uganda kob, Jackson’s hartebeest, Patas monkey, red-throated bee-eater, and piapiac (a black starling-looking bird). They also encountered huge numbers of oribi (an antelope), herds of Cape buffalo, some lions, vervet monkeys, olive baboons, plenty of warthog and groups of Defassa waterbuck.
Next they flew to Bwindi National Park to track mountain gorillas, tracking and spending an hour with two different gorilla families on consecutive days. When they weren’t hiking through the rainforest looking for signs of mountain gorillas, they visited a local orphanage, a traditional healer, a brewer, and a community of Batwa (Pygmies).
Queen Elizabeth National Park is only a short one hours drive from Bwindi, and here they stayed in a small camp on the banks of the Ishasha river, in a remote south-west corner of the park. This area is renowned for its tree-climbing lions, and sure enough they did find them in trees one morning.
Overall it was a great safari. It is hard to imagine that it was only in 1979 that Uganda’s infamous president Iddi Amin was ousted from power. The country was in ruins, and wildlife in its once stunning parks had been decimated. Elephant populations were reduced to a population of only about 700 in the whole country.
A slow recovery began, and for many years the only tourism to Uganda were avid bird enthusiasts, and a few tourists going to track the rare mountain gorilla in the remote south-west corner of the country.
Today there are over 5,000 elephants in Uganda, and the highly endangered mountain gorilla is now the only ape, other than humans, to be increasing in numbers. The total world mountain gorilla population now stands at a minimum of 880.
It is uplifting to visit a country that has recovered some of its wildlife heritage, and hopefully some of our guests will request another safari in Uganda – a friendly and fascinating country in the heart of Africa.