Ron, Hippo Hunter

Trip Start May 30, 2005
Trip End Sep 30, 2006

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Flag of Uganda  ,
Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The day didn't start too well. We had two buses for our big group, but the second one turned up at Africa time, one hour late. That wasn't so bad, however about 5 minutes down the road we ran out of diesel, not far from the petrol station that our driver was probably going to drive past anyway. This caused another delay of an hour and a half while they had to get fuel and get the engine going properly again. As we left Kampala, confidence was low.

Nicola had found a DJ in Kampala for the wedding, they became good friends over the few months before coming to Africa. David, and his wife Jennifer, even came on the Safari with us. I don't know if it was just to make sure that we didn't get eaten by lions or something. It was brilliant that they came along and we had a superb time with them.

Thankfully things improved and we had no further problems as we drove down to Queen Elizabeth's National Park, it just meant that we arrived a little later than we should have. We did catch sight of a few animals on the drive into the accomodation, which was a nice gentle start.

Since we were a little late in booking accomodation for our big group, some of us had to sleep in tents. While a few enjoyed the experiance, it wasn't everyone's cup of tea. I was in a tent with three others, and just as I was dropping off to sleep Rachel grabs my leg, "Did you hear that? There's something out there!"
"Go to sleep", that was all I could muster as my sympathy was at a particularly low ebb!

We were up early in the morning and off in the van, it's animal time. Straight away we found a large herd of Elephants right next to the road. Everyone went crazy with the amount of photos taken. We practically had to be dragged off, there are plenty more fish in the sea.

Sure enough we found them, warthogs, cobs (a.k.a Lion food) and buffalo. They perhaps don't sound exciting, but still excellent to see. At the end of the morning safari we saw a large collection of other vans and buses, which is where we headed to. Lions! they were all watching a pride of lions just chilling out, looking for a bit of shade. They were quite far off and I only managed to see one of their heads through some binoculars, but still, I'd seen some lions!

We had a bit of a long lunch without much to do before, although we did discover that the warthogs are not too shy, they wandered right into the camp and were really obliging to allow us to get all the close up shots that we'd ever want, you just had to be careful not to scare them as they would take off at the slightest provocation.

In the afternoon we took a boat trip up the Kazinga Channel. The animal life visible along here was brilliant. I got my wish and saw a hippo, and another, and another, in fact I'd have had to have been blind to miss them. We were also fortunate to see a few elephants taking a bath and drinking some of the water.

The bird life along the channel was also incredible, in fact it may have turned me into a bit of a twitcher as I twitched Fish Eagles, Pelicans, some with long legs, some that hovered in the air, some with short legs, and some that were really colourful. Whatever they all were they looked great and there were loads of them.

The day wasn't over though as we headed out for an evening safari. The animals become a little more active again as it starts to cool down a little. It was very similar to the morning safari though until we came across some lions. Right at the side of the road! There must have been about 15 of them and they were just wandering around, they hung around for a little bit before they headed off into the bush and out of sight. We couldn't believe our luck in getting so close to them.

I had another night in the tent, I really liked it. A few of the more 'nervous' decided to stay in a bed surrounded by four walls, the canvas wasn't so appealing for a second night. In the morning we left early again and out of the main section of the park towards The Kyambura Gorge, where we went Chimp tracking.

The chances of seeing Chimps in here are usually pretty good, but I think we suffered from the fact that our group was a little too big, and slow. Especially when it came to us crossing rivers. Crossing over using a fallen tree, with no handrails, isn't exactly a lot of fun, and by the time everyone had got across the first one of these the Chimps had heard us coming and had scampered.

Just as we were heading back to the van, a little dejected, we found a group of them handing around in some trees. It's brilliant to find animals like these hanging around in the wild, it's much more special than to see them in zoos.

With that we headed back to Kampala, but first we had to make a small detour. David The DJ's dad invited us over for a short time. It was pretty much on the way back to Kampala so we stopped by. The hospitality that we received from his was incredible, in fact they sacrificed a goat for our visit, serving it up goat kebabs as an appetiser when we first arrived. They then served us a huge meal which was great. Considering that he didn't know us from Adam it was truely brilliant.

We left a little late and we still had a long way to go, in fact the Ugandan driving isn't exactly very good, but our driver out did himself at one stage. He completely misjudged the oncoming traffic and tried an overtaking manouver that'd have scared Michael Schumacher. It was a close thing and gave everyone in the van a serious fright. I was so glad to get back to Kampala in one piece in the end, the couple of beers that I had tasted really great that night.
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