Saturday, August 25, 2007

Murchison Falls

From Kampala we organized a 3 day trip to Murchison Falls National Park in the northwestern part of the country. Murchison Falls is the location where the mighty Nile River squeezes itself through a tiny gorge just 6 meters wide, and is surrounded by forests and grasslands replete with wildlife.

The drive to Murchison was long, made almost intolerably long by our driver-guide, who's driving speed might well convince you he were 95 years old. When we finally arrived at the Kaniyo Pabidi Forest just inside the park entrance, we were itching to move our legs. After a short hike, we came across the forest's healthy chimpanzee population. We got to view several males in the trees above, munching away at branches and occasionally calling out to one another. As the afternoon wore on, the chimps got more active and at one point were jumping from limb to limb, throwing fruit down at us below. Clearly they were tired of being gawked at for the day, so we moved on to view some black and white colobus monkeys playing in the tree tops far above. It was amazing to spend time with these creatures not so unlike ourselves and it made for a great start to our safari.

The next day we took a ferry across the Victoria Nile and went on a wildlife drive on the north shore. Our viewing expectations were pretty low since the wildlife population was drastically reduced during the chaos of the Iman years - hungry soldiers from both Uganda and Tanzania relied on the game meat for sustenance - but we were pleasantly surprised. The first animals to greet us were a family of baboons on the river bank, putting on all sorts of antics. As we got further into the grasslands, we came across huge herds of grazing animals - hartebeast, Ugandan cobs, gazelles, dik diks and African buffalo. We also saw several giraffe, a herd of elephants and many amazing birds of all shapes and colors.

Later that day we took a boat ride along the Nile up to the falls, which allowed us to see hundreds of hippos floating in the water, with just their nostrils and eyes protruding above the surface. We also saw several crocodiles basking in the sun, and other animals coming to the water to drink.

The captain dropped us at the base of the falls and we hiked up to the top where we got a chance to experience up close the awesome fierceness of the world's most powerful waterfall. It was breathtaking and just a little bit frightening.

On the way back to Masindi where we stayed the night, our driver agreed to take a detour to Lake Albert. We stopped at the point where the Albert Nile emerges from the lake in the sleepy fishing town of Wanseko. We also got to experience some late night wildlife, like the honey badger that ran in front of our van! Randomly, we spent the night at a restaurants listening to an expat open-mic night featuring American folk songs, Irish jigs and Cuban sonatas.

It was a great trip. I'd recommend our tour operator, Mamaland Safaris, and our driver, Tony to anyone looking for a budget trip to Murchison.


Anonymous said...

Did everyone in the world forget you're out there???? Giraffe is amazing. Looking forward to some more animal pics! Also, sign me up for the white water rafting, not kayaking, but rafting. Everything looks wonderful and still sounds like you're having a great time - hurray for you guys. Stay safe - Love Momw

Bones said...

That is amazing that you got to see the origin of the Nile.

Lovin' the blog, please keep it coming. Although, I must be honest and tell you that it is almost painful to read because I want to be out there doing the same thing as you guys. We left for our trip right around this time last year, and I can feel it!

Have fun be safe rock on!

Love and miss ya lots!

Anonymous said...

this blog is really interesting! your writing is really informative jen. sounds like an awesome time.

joey said...

awesome to read about your travels. glad to hear you are still kickin ass. i should have stopped in uganda! anyway things in asia are well. maybe see you two in NZ?! keep up the good work and look forward to your next entry...

rita said...

Happy birthday Gil. Love you.