Day 11 (15 June):
Awoke early, still reeling from last night’s adventure, for an early morning game drive before heading off to our next destination – Ndali. On the way to Ndali, we stopped by the Explosion Crater Lakes region and took an interesting 2 hour drive looking at a series of craters that were formed over 100,000 years ago. The region was as harsh as it was picturesque and the thing that struck me the most, was how devoid it was of wildlife – except for the tsetse fly which were in plague proportions.
After the craters, we headed for Kasese and then on to Ndali Lodge (where we were to spend the next two nights). The drive itself was relatively straight forward and not much different to what we had encountered over the past 10 days, but for some reason, the poverty of Uganda hit me harder on this drive than on any other. I am not sure if it was because we had just come out of the relative opulence of Mweya Lodge, or that the area we were going through was poorer than the others (I suspect not), or simply that the gravity of the situation facing the country finally caught up with me. More likely, it was a combination of all three! Either way, I found the drive quite overwhelming.
We arrived at the beautiful Ndali Lodge at 1800 and were immediately taken aback by the view over the crater lake (on which the lodge is perched). It was simply breathtaking. We were introduced to Aubrey and his wife Claire, who owned the lodge. It was nice to be at a place where we actually got to meet the owners.
We had a lovely dinner of roast chook and vegetables and I thought at the time that it was the nicest meal I had had in Uganda.
Day 12 (16 June):
another very early morning and quick breakfast before we departed for our Chimp trekking at Kibale. The drive through the ‘back streets’ from Ndali to Kibali took us just over an hour. We arrived at the VIC, were briefed on the days activities by the staff and then driven to our departure point. Once again, luck was upon us, as we had walked for all of 10 minutes before we were treated with our first view of a Chimpanzee. We spent the next 1.5 hours mesmerised and in VERY close proximity to these amazing mammals. The experience could not have been better. The first 45 min was spent watching 3 males (including the Alpha and Beta chimps) interacting on a fallen log. This was in a clearing, so our visibility was fantastic. Then the chimps moved off the log to join the rest of the troop, with us in hot pursuit. The walk was not strenuous but at times, the visibility was not great, until the entire troop stopped in another clearing and we spent the next 30 mins viewing and photographing their social interactions.
All too soon (as with the Gorillas), our time was up and we had to leave our new friends. Rather than being driven back to the VIC, our group elected to make the 2 hour hike back through the forest. It was a nice walk and a good opportunity to reflect on the recent experience with the Chimps.
I really enjoyed this experience and almost put it on par with seeing the Gorillas. During our journey, we have spoken to others who did their chimp trekking at in other parts of Uganda and did not have the same experience. Maybe we were just lucky, but given I have heard the same feedback a few times, I suspect that maybe Kibale is simply a better place to view these primates.
After the Chimps, we departed the forest and headed to the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, a community run project that supports and protects the local wetland area, but also injects money into the local community. It was a pleasant walk (but not brilliant). We saw quite a few birds and a couple of monkeys but apart from that it was fairly quiet. I think this was due mainly to the fact that it was in the heat of the day (approx. 1400) and was actually quite a hot day. So our feathered and furred friend were all taking shelter. The hike around the swamp took approximately 3 hours and we were both quite fatigued by the time we got back to the community centre.
The evening was spent back at Ndali Lodge enjoying dinner on the balcony, over looking the breath taking crater lake, which in the evening mist, looked simply prehistoric. Tomorrow, we have the longest drive of the safari, heading from Kibali to Masindi. Emmy has advised it will take about 7 hours straight driving and with birds watching stops, probably more like 9-10 hours.
Accommodation Review: Ndali Lodge
Thoroughly recommend this place if you are in the Kibali region. It is the perfect mix of homely hospitality and professional service. Aulbury and Claire ensure everyone is comfortable while the staff cater to everyones needs. It was nice to have the owners on site and engage with the guests. Guests were also encouraged to intermingle, which is a nice touch, especially on the back of Mweya, which while being nice, is a large resort.
Rooms at Ndali were nice and comfortable and the bathroom facilities were great. Our lodge had a full sized bath, the first we have seen on this trip. There is no power outlets in the rooms, so any recharging needs to be done in the common areas – which is fine.
The food here was (in my opinion) the best we had on safari. It was more like a ‘home cooked meal’ than ‘hotel food’, which I very much appreciated. The packed lunch we had was also lovely and certainly a cut above the other packed lunches we had earlier.
If you are heading to Kibale to simply see the chimps, there are closer lodges to where this occurs, but to be honest, I think the location of the lodge, the hospitality and the food more than made up for the extra distance needed to be travelled.
If I had one criticism (and it’s only very small one), it is that the lighting in the room is very poor, so basically we needed to use our torches as soon as the sun went down. But now I’m just nitpicking!!!
Day 13 (17 June):
awoke early, packed and breakfasted ready for our journey to Masindi. Emmy had warned us that this would take approximately 7 hours and encounter some pretty rough roads. Given the roads we had travelled on to date, this reference was not particularly welcomed !!
After a couple of early birding stops, we set our nose for Masindi. Today was Sunday and most of the locals walking beside the roads were dressed in their ‘church best’. The young children and ladies looked particularly beautiful dressed in their bright colours. I felt awful as we tore past them in our car, showering everything in its wake in a bloom of red Ugandan dust.
We arrived at the Masindi Hotel at 1800 relieved that our long days drive was finally over. Once again, Emmy seemed to know everyone we met and got along with them all. We had a quiet evening, with an early dinner and early bed.
Day 14 (18 June):
an early start again, rising at 0530 and preparing to spend the day birding the ‘Royal Mile’. This really is a beautiful part of the forest and incredibly scenic, but unless birds are your thing, there would not be much to attract you here.
We completed the Mile at about 1700 and headed back to the car, narrowly avoiding an incoming storm. Then headed back to Masindi, driving past hundreds of children on the side of the road, walking miles back from school in the poring rain. Again, it was heart wrenching to see all these beautiful children walking along the muddy roads, waving and smiling as we tore past.
Back at the lodge, we had an early evening and packed ready for our departure to Murchison Falls NP tomorrow. Very much looking forward to this part of my trip, particularly the likelihood of seeing bigger game.
Accommodation Review – Masindi Hotel
The Masindi Hotel was built in the 1920’s when the freight railway was built. It looked very colonial and was run by an Indian man, so the restaurant had a strong curry theme. The curries were great and a nice change to the food we’d had to date.
The rooms were basic and tired and (to Western standards) probably a little dirty. But they were certainly acceptable and given where we were, this was a virtual oasis.
The restaurant and bar facilities were ok, but again, given the location, more than sufficient There was plenty of hot water in the bathrooms, and the rooms had power outlets for charging.
Given the location of this hotel , I assume it would cater primarily for the birding market, and for this it would be absolutely fine.