Murchison Falls Safari

My apologies for the long delay in getting this blog entry up. Given the slow upload speeds in Uganda, and the number of photos that I wanted to share from the safari, I had been waiting until I could go somewhere with a better internet connection to post anything. Unfortunately, electricity has not been on my side… I have managed to get things sorted out now, and have posted a Flickr album of the safari, which you can check out here.

Since the safari matutu was passing right through Luweero on its way to Murchison Falls, we arranged to get picked up en route. While waiting at the post office, we met three of the other people in our safari group: Sarah, an obstetrician from the US, Khoon, a medical student in the UK, originally from Malaysia, and Celia, a physio from the UK. All of them were volunteering at a hospital in a town called Kiwoko, about 25 minutes away from Kasana. When our bus arrived, we met the other two members of our group, Eryn and Stephanie, who were both Canadians volunteering in a village near Jinja (where all the white water rafting/bungee jumping/etc take place). We ended up spending quite a bit of time together over the course of the weekend, since we travelled with this same group for the game drive, boat cruise, and hiking portions of the safari. After a slightly delayed lunch stop in Masindi (one of the Red Chili employees that was riding with us had to arrange an ambulance for an earlier safari participant who had a stroke while on the hike to Murchison Falls), we were off to the national park.

One of the Buffalo we saw on the game drive.

Once we’d arrived at our camp, the seven of us walked down to the South Bank of the Nile, where we would be leaving for our safari the following day. After trekking back up the hill to Red Chili, we enjoyed a delicious meal at the restaurant there, and eventually made our way to our bandas (tents), to get some sleep before our 6:30am departure. Bright an early Saturday morning, we took a ferry across the river and got into a pop-up roofed matatu that took us to the Nile Delta area of the park for our game drive. Although we didn’t see any lions, and only had a brief (non-picture yielding) encounter with a leopard, we did get great shots of elephants, giraffes, African buffalo, monkeys, Ugandan kob and hartebeests (two types of antelopes). Aside from the excitement of seeing all those animals, it was just nice to be surrounded by such beautiful scenery. I commented at one point that certain areas of the park reminded me of Saskatchewan, which everyone found quite amusing. It was the wide open fields and endless sky that brought that comparison to mind, rather than the particular animals inhabiting the space…

After a quick lunch break back at camp, we headed off down the Victoria Nile for the boat cruise portion of the safari. We all loved being out on the water, and since it was a 17 mile trip to the Falls, there was plenty of time to enjoy the experience. From the boat we saw many groups of hippopotamus, lots of different bird species, more warthogs and kob, and even some crocodiles. We also came across elephants right near shore, who were nice enough to stick around and literally pose for pictures (one of the elephants stood facing us, moving his ears and feet, while all of us in the boat took ridiculous numbers of photos). Our guide, Isaac, anchored the boat next to a rock by the Falls, where everyone took their turn posing for the requisite photo in front of the waterfall. All in all, it was a great day, and a nice mix of views from land and water.

Sunday morning we packed up our things and took a matatu to Murchison Falls, where our guide, Simon, lead us on a hike to the top of the Falls. We learned that the park actually boasts two waterfalls (Murchison and Independence Falls), through the latter had been hidden from view the previous day when the boat stopped down river, Seeing both together made for a pretty stunning sight. It was hard to capture the sheer power of the waterfalls with photos alone, so I took this video to give you a better sense of things. The shakiness is because I was climbing down a rock while shooting, so that I could pan out to where the Falls meet the Nile at the end of the video.

After spending quite a bit of time at the Falls, we took the matatu home, stopping at a market in Masindi for lunch along the way. We arranged to go to Kiwoko for dinner with the US/UK volunteers before Sarah heads back home this coming weekend, and Celia and Khoon are planning on coming over to our house on Sunday for Vanessa’s birthday. Up to this point, our social activities had been more or less limited to the four of us working with Shanti, so new friends are an exciting development.

It’ll be a quiet weekend (at least in comparison with last week!) and then we’ll be heading to Entebbe on the 19th, to meet up with Kristen when she returns from Canada. I’ve also got plans to do some kayaking/tubing/bungee jumping in Jinja over the next few months, and would love to spend some off my days off hiking. Lots to look forward to!