We have seen little wildlife in eight years of living in Africa, the exceptions being monkeys at the conservation centre in Lekki, Lagos and the chimps of Tacugama, Sierra Leone, and green monkeys in our garden, but not really the animals which come to mind when you mention Africa…
Having driven from Kampala and visited Murchison Falls, we arrived at our lodge late afternoon. However it wasn’t long before we spotted our first animals as we swept our new binoculars along the opposite banks of the Nile.
A lone elephant enjoying an evening drink. And nearby, those ‘stones’ turned out to be hippos! Their distinctive grunts were loud across the river.
That was a satisfying first evening supplemented by these gorgeous sculptures by the restaurant.
Before dawn the next day, we were on our way to catch the early ferry across the Nile to the game spotting areas. There was already a queue at the ticket hatch by the park barrier when we arrived with everyone jostling to be first across. However, no need to panic as the ferry makes as many crossings as it takes to get everyone over, so we waiting patiently, watching the sun rise, as the first vehicles made their stately way across the river and the ferry returned with a few vehicles heading south. All passengers have to leave their vehicles and walk on to the ferry, while the driver may be able to join them on deck, or be stuck in the vehicle depending on the parking slot.
Once safely on the far bank we picked up our ranger for the morning, Robert, equipped with his rifle and radio. Within yards of the ferry landing we were through the trees and out into real African savanna, seeing our first giraffes. As they majestically galloped away I could hear the dulcet tones of David Attenborough describing them … in my head! These are Rothschild’s Giraffes and this is one of the few places left where they can be seen in the wild. As they age, they tend to get darker. Last year a group was moved to the south bank and a documentary made about the move. See some pictures here of the giraffes being moved and crossing on the ferry. Another group was also taken to Lake Mburo in western Uganda.
Robert was able to spot and identify all the various kinds of antelope, buffalo, warthogs and birds as well as giving us other information as we happily snapped away out the windows on both sides. It was cool enough to have the windows down to enjoy the breeze and get better photos.
After exploring a couple of tracks, Robert had word of elephants, so we headed for the Albert Nile where we found a couple of elephants, herds of buffalo, more antelope and hippos in the water. We learnt that you can distinguish the male buffalo from the female by the shape of the horns; the male horns go back away from the face so that when males fight they do less damage to each other and therefore are less likely to harm humans. The female horns, however curl upwards and they will aggressively defend their calves. We decided not to try out our new-found knowledge by tempting either.
The sun climbed steadily and the heat increased. Animals began to seek shade and we headed back towards the ferry, happy that we’d seen a variety of animals in this amazing natural setting.
The grasslands are dry which is why animals head for the small pools which remain, or the riverbank for morning and evening drinks. We returned to the lodge for lunch and refreshments before setting out for our afternoon exploration.