Uganda

Again, I’ve been MIA for a couple of weeks. This is because of two more journeys I went on – both of which I will blog about.

I will start with the longer and more recent travel. From the 3rd to the 15th of August, I went to Uganda with my father. This was a guided and thoroughly organized trip, as habitual in this sort of country, and this is what I would suggest to anyone planning to go there. With a guide, who knows shortcuts, good sights and what you should and shouldn’t do, you will experience the country in a different manner than if you go out with just your friends and a rented car.

Traveling to Uganda took more than 24 hours, so our first afternoon was relaxed – we went for an hour long walk through the botanical gardens in Entebbe. These were charming, with a large variety of trees and plants, and a good way to start the vacation.

The second day was when our journey started properly. We drove from Entebbe to the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, where Uganda’s only rhinos reside. Monsun-like weather washed over us the second we arrived, so taking pictures was difficult, but that didn’t limit the fascination of seeing these beautiful creatures. They’re cute – which is definitely not something I expected. Out of the 14 rhinos, we saw five, a good number, according to the ranger. As all national parks, the ZRS is highly protected and someone is with the rhinos at all times to protect them from poachers.

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We drove on to Murchinson Falls in the afternoon, the national park with the most dense population of animals. Although we saw a few baboons and monkeys on our way to the lodge, the safari was scheduled for the following day – we only stopped at the waterfall. With an immense force, 300 cubic meters of water tumble down 43 meters into the valley pro second, giving an impressive sight of the power of the element.

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The safari the next day was one of my favorite excursions. We saw everything – giraffes, elephants, kobs, waterbucks, bushbucks, eagles, cranes and even a lion, lying directly on the roadside, waiting for the lionesses to bring him food.

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Seeing so many wild animals so close is striking and unforgettable. Their lives go on, so unbothered by humans, but we are allowed to visually take part of it, at least for a couple of hours.

In the afternoon, we took a boat trip on the Nile to the waterfall. We saw no crocodiles, as we were hoping, but hundreds of hippos and many beautiful birds.

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The following day consisted of an eight-hour drive to the next lodge. Although that might sound boring, it wasn’t in the slightest. Uganda is probably the most beautiful country I’ve ever been to. With so much variety in its landscape – mountains, lakes, rivers, desserts, rainforests – you don’t get bored just staring out the window and occasionally waving to the small children on their way to school. Of course, seeing so much poverty is difficult. Never, not even in India, have I seen it to this extent and if you don’t have the ability to distance yourself from it, it can ruin your whole trip. Seeing starving boys with bloated bellies and young girls in ragged clothes because they can’t afford better ones is far from easy.

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We went to the Kibale forest early the next morning to do the chimpanzee trekking. Although we were divided into groups of four, the rangers communicated with each other, informing other groups on where the chimpanzees were. This lead to roughly one hundred tourists trudging after two chimpanzees who were walking through the forest. When the other groups started giving up, and only about ten of us remained, the chimpanzees started feeling more relaxed and showed us more of their normal behavior; one of them stole a wasp nest that he refused to share with the other one, who got so angry he almost attacked a bystander. It was incredible and also definitely something one cannot miss when going to Uganda.

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We reached Queen Elizabeth National Park that evening and did the safari the next morning again. Even though we barely saw any animals, the scenery was so beautiful that this didn’t matter much.

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We saw more wildlife in the afternoon, when we took a boat trip through the Kazinga Channel. Next to the thousands of birds, there were so many hippos both in and out the water, the crocodiles we had missed in Murchison Falls, elephants playing in the water, huge lizards and water buffalos cooling down at the shore.

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We drove through Ishasha, where we saw a leopard and a tree climbing lion, all the way to Bwindi forest the next day. This took us roughly ten hours – but, hey, when you get to see a lion sleeping on a tree, who’s going to complain about a long drive?

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The highlight of our journey came the following day: the gorilla trekking. Although it was planned for this to take between four and five hours, we found the gorillas in under ten minutes. You’re allowed to stay with them for an hour and it definitely was one of the most amazing hours in my life. The guides that accompanied us constantly had to indicate our presence to the silverback by growling, to which the silverback would reply with a similar sound. The guides could explain what each sound and movement they made was, whether it was the silverback telling the others to get back or one of them giving us a thank you for letting them pass. Gorillas share over 98% of our genetical structure, which means that many diseases can be transmitted to and from us from these creatures. This means you have to keep a certain distance at all times and have to make sure you are healthy when going on this trekking.

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We spent another relaxing day at Lake Bunyonyi, after which we went to Lake Mburo National Park, our last stop. Here, we saw antelopes, the freshly added giraffes, which were moved there from Murchison Falls, in the hope of them recovering from a skin disease, zebras, hyenas (although only in the distance) and so many monkeys. At the lodge where we were staying, klippspringers stayed by the huts, as well as a Jameson mamba (which didn’t fail to worry me slightly). In the night, bushbabys came by and they are probably the cutest monkeys I have ever seen. We went on a walk safari the next morning, before driving back to Entebbe to catch the plane home.

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I said it before, I’ll say it again: Uganda – all of it – was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. I would have never expected it to have such fascinating landscapes and such beautiful villages, such friendly people and for the safaris to be quite so multifaceted. If you’re planning on going to Africa any time soon, Uganda would definitely offer you many, many unforgettable experiences.

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