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Uganda trip report - game parks and gorillas - July 2013

Silver Spring, MD
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Uganda trip report - game parks and gorillas - July 2013

Hi all,

Thanks again to everyone here for their advice. We had a great time in Uganda. Here is the first part of my report.

The trip began with two long flights - from Washington DC to Amsterdam and then Amsterdam to Entebbe with a stop in Kigali. Amazingly, everything was on time. When we got to the airport our luggage was there and so was Charles, our driver/guide from Churchill. yeh. Went to the Boma and crashed.

The next day did not start out so well. After a delightful breakfast and stroll around the grounds, we got a message that Charles was running late and would pick us up at 11 am instead of 10. Not a big deal as we only had a 4 hour drive to Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. However, before we had even reached Kampala, the car died. Charles called a mechanic who came by Boda Boda. He was able to restart the vehicle, but said it was not fixed. Limped into Kampala and stopped for lunch. In the meantime, we waited for another car from Churchill. By the time we got to Ziwa, it was getting dark and too late for our scheduled rhino walk. Disappointing.

We stayed the night at Amuka Lodge which is in the rhino sanctuary. Lovely place. There was only one other family there and the owner joined us for drinks and dinner. Found out that the best time to see the rhinos, when they are most active, is actually in the morning. This shows two things that we found throughout our trip - 1) something that appeared to be a problem actually turned out for the best and 2) many very nice lodges were not near capacity, even in peak season.

The next morning went to see the rhinos, which was great! We got quite close to five of them, including our president's namesake. Saw them eating and interacting with each other. Took lots of pictures. (BTW, photos will take a while to sort, but I eventually plan to post them on Flickr with a link to this report.) Then we hit the road to Murchison Falls. Once in the park we saw lots of baboons, warthogs and water buffalo. Stopped at the top of the falls for a picnic lunch and then took the ferry over the Nile to Paraa Lodge.

After check-in, we took another game drive. Saw lots of antelope and giraffes. As others have commented, Paraa is in a great location overlooking the Nile. Everything there worked fine, but it felt like a regular hotel, not a cozy lodge. The worst feature was the buffet food. The coolest "feature" were the bats. After nightfall, there was a whole swarm of them swooping back and forth in the breezeway between rooms.

The next morning it was raining - one of the few times for our entire trip. Initially didn't see much wildlife on our drive, but later saw lots of water buffalo, more giraffes and some elephants. In the afternoon, we took the boat trip on the Nile. Saw lots of hippos and crocodiles. (Did you know that crocs keep their mouth open to cool off in the heat? Looks really strange.) Then we hiked up to the top of Murchison Falls. This is a pretty easy hike with lots of nice views of the falls on the way.

To be continued....

Kampala
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1. Re: Uganda trip report - game parks and gorillas - July 2013

Waiting for part 2 and pics on Flickr.

thanks

Isle of Man, United...
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2. Re: Uganda trip report - game parks and gorillas - July 2013

Me too. Good to hear that the problem at the start did not mar the rest of the trip and actually had benefits..

London, United...
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3. Re: Uganda trip report - game parks and gorillas - July 2013

Thanks for the half-report. Sounds a bit like my proposed trip in 6 weeks.

A question about the Paraa bats - is this a rabies risk for the un-vaccinated? (sorry if I've opened a can of worms again)

Isle of Man, United...
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4. Re: Uganda trip report - game parks and gorillas - July 2013

Don't worry Mark. Whilst any mammal bite must be regarded as such, These Bats are Yellow-winged Bats and not given to biting anything bigger than a moth. They are common in tropical Africa. If you see a bush or tree with what look like withered autumn brown leaves on a game drive look closely. Bats roosting.

I would not pick one up if injured but I would not do that with any animal.

Vampire Bats get/carry Rabies from the blood of their victims. I don't think Moths carry Rabies.

State College, Pa
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5. Re: Uganda trip report - game parks and gorillas - July 2013

Yes, more please and pics! We leave in less than a month and the rhino sanctuary and Murchinsons Falls are but two new places (new for us) for second visit to Uganda.

Dick

Silver Spring, MD
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6. Re: Uganda trip report - game parks and gorillas - July 2013

The next day we got up bright and early for the long drive to the Fort Portal area. This was listed on our itinerary as 7 hours, but took around 9 hours. Another truism of Uganda travel - everything takes longer than you think. Saw some baboons and birds along the way, but mostly it was farmland. We finally reached our home for next three nights, Nyinabulitwa Country Resort. You can read my review here - tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g608446-d340578…

Then came one of the highlights of our trip - the Chimpanzee Habituation Experience, CHEX. Not sure why they call it that - what it really means is you spend the full day with the chimps, rather than just one hour after you find them. Got up in darkness and had a quick breakfast. Our driver was up, but couldn't get the car started! After what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only half an hour, he was able to get it going with several people pushing. eek. We rode the 30 min on bumpy roads to the start point for chimp treks and arrived just as it started to get light. We were joined by a guide and a delightful Welsh couple, Jill and Mario.

I can't recommend the full day chimp experience highly enough. We hiked about an hour and a half before the first chimp sighting. At this point, they were way up in the trees. However, later in the day, they came down to rest and we saw several up close and personal - both alone and interacting with others. Got some amazing pictures. If you do the trek, rather than the CHEX, you might see them on the ground, but your chances are just not as good.

The following morning we did the Bigodi Swamp walk. Saw several types of monkeys, some birds, frogs and a skink. Enjoyed talking to our guide about the preserve and how the neighboring farmers live.

That day was one of the few times it got really hot during our trip. (Generally, it was not nearly as hot as it is during July at home in the Washington, D.C. area.) Collapsed for a a couple hours and then decided to go into Fort Portal. Stopped on the way at the Top of the World to see the amazing view of three crater lakes at once. Went to see the Tooro king's palace. Unfortunately, it had just closed. However, we totally lucked out as there was a ceremony going on since the king had just returned from overseas. The guards were very friendly and invited us to watch. Then we started talking to people and met the Prime Minister of Tooro! (This is apparently a mostly ceremonial position, but we were still impressed.) Had dinner at Rwenzori Travellers Inn which I reviewed tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g608446-d2…

San Francisco...
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7. Re: Uganda trip report - game parks and gorillas - July 2013

I am so loving following along with you. Our trip isn't until next year.

Silver Spring, MD
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8. Re: Uganda trip report - game parks and gorillas - July 2013

The drive to Queen Elizabeth Park the following morning was only a few hours. When we arrived at Mweya Lodge, we were greeted by a committee of warthogs and mongooses. Very cute. We were also joined by some very friendly weaver birds at lunch. On our afternoon game drive, we went to the kobs' mating ground and watched the males defend their territories. There was a lion hiding in the grass, but he never did pounce on any of the kobs. Also saw a large monitor lizard, but it was too fast to get a picture.

I don't think I mentioned the amazing view from our room of the Kazinga Channel. We thought the crater lake view at our last lodge was impressive, but this may have been even better. The next morning's game drive had lots of elephants and various kinds of antelopes. In the afternoon, we visited the Katwe salt works. A local man explained all about the process of obtaining salt from the lake using a series of evaporating ponds. We again lucked out as there were some flamingos in residence, even though this is not usually the right season for them. After that, we took a boat ride on the Kazinga Channel. Saw lots of hippo's, water buffalo, elephants and birds of various types. This time we saw crocodiles actually moving - one was on the shore and then slithered into the water.

Kampala
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9. Re: Uganda trip report - game parks and gorillas - July 2013

It looks like CHEX activity in Kibale forest is picking up rapidly now a days as compared to a few years back.

I know its a great experience.

Silver Spring, MD
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10. Re: Uganda trip report - game parks and gorillas - July 2013

The next day we got up early for the longest drive of our trip - from Mweya through Queen Elizabeth Park to Ishasha and then on to Nkuringo. It started off with a bang when our guide spotted a leopard shortly after leaving the hotel. We watched him/her for a while - what a beautiful animal. (Did I mention we're both cat fans?) We went a little farther and then had to stop for the elephants in the road. Then we continued south for many hours hoping to see the famous tree-climbing lions. At one point we saw a car in front of us making a u turn. It turns out the driver had heard from a friend that there were now lions in trees visible from the road where we had just passed 20 minutes ago. Of course, we turned around also. Bumped our way back and stopped where the other two cars were and saw two lions lounging in a tree. Pretty cool.

After about 11 hours we arrived at Nkuringo Gorilla Camp. It's a really beautiful place with yet more amazing views - this time of the mountains. The service and food were also outstanding. Went to bed early as the next day was our first gorilla trek.

Got up at 5:15 the next morning so we could eat breakfast and then drive an hour to the trek starting point. (Even though we were staying at Nkuringo, we were visiting the Bweza group which is at the Rushaga start point.) We listened to the briefing, met the other members of our group and hired a porter for each of us. Hiked almost three hours before we reached the gorillas. (We found this trek to be very difficult, even though we regularly walk several miles a day. Partly that's because the trails were often quite steep, but mainly because we are from a low elevation and got breathless very quickly at the high elevation.) Once we found the gorillas, the time passed very quickly - an hour felt like nothing. We got quite close to a couple - in fact, one brushed past me when crossing the path! The main impression is just how big and powerful they are. Wow.

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