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Safari day 5-7: leopards and elephants

sunny 31 °C

Day 5
In the morning we had the transfer to Queen Elisabeth National Park, which meant a few hours in the car. I was wearing my shorts since we were not planning on doing any walks that day and it becomes very hot in the car. We stopped at a gas station and I took the opportunity to use the toilet. I was getting a lot of attention while waiting for the bathroom. One of the gas attendants asked me why I was not all the same color. It took me a while to figure out what he meant. He had noticed my knees were darker than the rest of my legs, pretty observant fellow! During the drive the surroundings changed quite a bit. The area where Queen Elisabeth NP is seems drier than Murchison Falls was. It looks more like the pictures you see of an African savannah. We had lunch at a restaurant inside the park. A beautiful place overlooking the channel. During lunch we could hear the hippos in the channel. When I asked for a chicken stew with a mixture matoke, chapati and Irish, local food, the waitress asked how long I had been in Uganda. Probably not many tourists appreciate matoke. All these experiences make me realise how much more you learn about a country when you spend more time in one place and take or have the time to integrate with the locals.

After lunch we went down to the dock for our Kazinga Channel boat trip. Mainly a birding trip, but with the promise of some animals. The trip was almost two hours and took us along one side of the channel to one of the two lakes the channel connects. We saw many birds, shall not bore you with the details, but not much that I had not seen before. We saw a ton of hippos, lots of buffalo and even some elephants along the way. At the very end of the trip we found two elephants in the water, one fully submerged, bathing and drinking. So beautiful. We also went past a small village. There were people bathing in the channel, with visible hippos no more than 30 meters away! Also there was a buffalo lying in the fields, close to some of the walking paths the people were using to get down to the river. Buffalo and hippos are know to be very aggressive and when angry are very capable if killing humans. Either these people know when to get out of the way or these animals, or they are very stupid.

After the trip we went to our lodge. This one was also along the river and once again we were sleeping in a tent. The dining room was a large tent open at the front with a view of the campfire and the channel. The food was a set menu and very good. After dinner we walked back to our tent with our escort. And this time we realised why we had to be escorted. During our short walk from dinner to our tent, we saw two hippos walking along the edge of the grass. They can not have been more than 10 meters away! So awesome! Our tent is a bit further away from the edge than others, so I do not think the hippos will pass by so closely. Too bad. If we would have had a tent closer to the waters edge, I would probably have stayed up all night with my flash light ready to catch the hippos in action at the slightest sound.

Day 6
We left at 6:30 am for another game drive in a different part of QENP; Kasenyi. Here we were looking specifically for lions. Firstly we went to a salt lake where the locals had seen lions the night before, but we did not see any and the locals had not seen any either. They were asked to call us if the spotted one, just as the guides all call each other when they spot something. Unfortunately we did not see any, nor were there many other animals in this part of the park. But we saw buffalo, Uganda Kops, Water buck, some vultures and other birds. And, which was incredible, we saw a leopard in a tree. About 15 meters from the road there was a group of trees and in one of them lying on the bottom branch was a leopard. We briefly saw her cub climb down from the tree, but the cub stayed on the ground in the shrubs mostly. Up higher in the tree was a dead Kops, their kill. From the road we were able to see it with the binoculars, but they were a bit to far for our cameras. Going off-road in the park will give you a $150 fee. So what we did to get amazingly close to the leopard and get some fantastic pictures I will not discuss, but it involved calling a friend at the gate to check if there were any rangers in the park. After this we went back to the lake to check up with the locals. They had no news, but we had a drink and bought a souvenir. For lunch we went to another local restaurant. I think Jasper got to know our wishes by then.

After lunch we went to the Kyambura Gorge for a forest trek. As it turned out this was a chimpanzee tracking activity. We had already done this once before, but they always include the gorge into the program because it is so amazing. The gorge was formed 7 million years ago and it runs right through the savanna. The gorge itself is completely green, which is an amazing sight in the middle of endless fields of yellow grass. Within the gorge a few chimps can be found and we were going to track these. We took the car and went down into the gorge at a position close ti where the chimps were last seen the day before. We had 2 guides, one who explained things to us and cleared the way with a machete and the second one walked behind us looking nervous with an AK. There was one other couple that came along on the tracking. We had been walking through the forest for about 2 hours. We had seen some chimp tracks, but they were hard to find. We had also seen 2 hour old elephant poo and its footprints. Inside one of the footprints was a lions footprint, scary. We were walking on a small trail on the slope of the gorge. I was walking behind the guide and suddenly at a distance of 4 meter ahead I saw a large elephant in the bushes. I grabbed the guide and told him he was walking into an elephant. We backed away from the elephant. The guide took the rifle from the second guide and started hitting it. This made quite some noise and scared the elephant enough to make him back up a few meters. But this elephant was a very stubborn lone bull. Finally when the tapping of the gun did not work, the guide shot the gun into the air. This made a very loud noise which scared the elephant off. While this all was happening the second guide was urging us to move back and away from the elephant. The other women and me took this advice and were slowly backing away, the two guys were still stuck in place taking pictures and trying to film the massive charging bull. (After this Mattijs says I have nothing more to say about him chickening out when the lion passed. I say when the guide is still laughing you're fine. When he looks scared, you'd better listen to the guide.) The gunshot had probably scared of the chimps so we walked on the find a trail leading out of the gorge. Unfortunately the bull had formed the same plan of trying to get out of the gorge. We saw him again a few minutes later as he was heading towards us and we were cutting off his exit path. This time we hurried along and left the bull behind us, well, after we gave the guys a push that they really should walk away from a charging bull. Apart from after the gun shot, there is an amazing amount of noise in these forests. There are birds, which are very hard to spot through the dense trees. In this forest you can also hear the hippos in the small river in the bottom of the gorge. Then there are other animals that can be heard, such as monkeys and other undefined noises. And most loudly there are the cycades. These insects make a ridiculous loud noise. It seriously sounds like someone is using a saw to cut through massive amounts of boards. It is so load! After this adventure we went back to lodge. It was a clear and warm evening and the tables at the dining area were moved outside around the camp fire. We had another lovely dinner.

Day 7
Today we were leaving for Lake Bunyoni which is a bit further south. On the way we drove past some beautiful crater lakes. If I ever come back that is something that I must go and visit. Once again we passed more tea estates. We arrived at Bunyoni Lake around 3 pm. From the main land we had to get a boat that took us to the island where we would be staying. It was a backpackers belonging to the company that had organised our tour. We had a private room, called the geodome deluxe. It had no door and looked out over the lake. The water is solar heated, but it had been a cloudy day so we had a cold shower. We had dinner, which was very good. No meat on the menu, but lots of crayfish that are caught in the lake. Knowing we would have an early start we headed to bed early.

Posted by Elisebuiter 01:23 Archived in Uganda Tagged elephant safari leopard

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