Leopard Experience in Queen Elizabeth NP

Trip Start May 04, 2012
Trip End May 16, 2012

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Flag of Uganda  ,
Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Today we were to travel west to the Queen Elizabeth National Park our next point of call. On the way we passed through more tea plantations covering the hills of the area. We also did a mini tour of the beautiful crater lakes of this region. Beyond the lakes are the Rwenzori Mountains of the Moon, the tallest mountain range in Africa. There are some great viewpoints from the road where you can get the best photos. These lakes were caused by volcanic activity 8 – 10, 000 years ago, exploding and spewing ash and rock far and wide.  Now they look serene belying their violent past. Many of the lakes still have sulphur in their waters. 

On the way we stopped at Fort Portal and David was able to fix the tyre we had damaged driving down to Kibale Forest. For me it was a chance to buy some more souvenirs. There were lots of basketry and mats made of elephant grass and palm leaves, jewellery and beads and wooden carvings. David only suggested shops where the crafts were made by local people and by buying we were supplementing their income.

Perched on the hill in Fort Portal is the circular Toro Palace built in the 60s. It was destroyed after the abolition of the old kingdoms and was restored by Gaddaffi. The current ruler of the Kingdom of Toro is only 19 and he is currently the youngest ruling monarch. It seemed to market day and everywhere we looked lorries, bikes and taxis were piled high with produce. Bananas seemed to dominate what was on sale; hundreds of hands of bananas still green, I couldn't believe that that many bananas could possibly be eaten.  

Another strange sight we encountered were prisoners working in the fields. A long line of them all dressed in bright yellow clothing flanked by highly armed guards. On the trip we were passing right over the equator so we had to stop to get our picture by the monument. Unfortunately one of the 'A’s and the ‘D’ had broken off. We had our packed lunch at the Queen’s pavilion originally visited by Queen Elizabeth back in 1954 and at the gateway to the Queen Elizabeth National Park. Today it is an information centre with picnic tables overlooking Lake Edward and Lake George.

Eventually we arrived at Mweya Safari Lodge. The lodge is located on a peninsular as has splendid views of the Kazinga Channel; the natural channel that links Lake Edward and Lake George.

That evening we went out for a short game drive. Another electrical storm was brewing and the telltale rumbles of thunder could be heard far off in the distance. With all our travels in Africa, we have been very unlucky seeing leopard so it was amazing that a few minutes into the drive David slammed on the breaks and pointed out a leopard lying in the long grass right by the roadside. We must have stayed there for forty minutes watching as the leopard lay in the grass and we wondered whether he would ever get up so that we would have a better view of him. By now we had attracted attention and a second safari vehicle and a huge GAP lorry full of young gap students had also stopped. As we waited for any action we noticed a huge black mamba cross the road behind us, slithering away into the grass. Having seen very few snakes in Africa, it was a reminder that deadly snakes are around and I was glad we were in the safety of the vehicle. The black mamba has a fierce some reputation for being aggressive and highly venomous and is among the world's most venomous land snakes.  

Eventually the leopard got up and we were able to take some fabulous photos of this beautiful animal. It looked young and in really good health and completely at ease despite the large amount of interest he was attracting. Then all at once he was gone disappearing from view into the dense vegetation. 

We travelled on with David pointing out the huge nests of the Hammerhead Stork or Hamerkop, one was absolutely huge and must have been made from literally thousands of sticks. We also came across a small herd of elephants and I noticed immediately the large tusks than those I had seen at Murchison Falls. By now we were nearing the end of the park so we did a u-turn and retraced our steps. Incredibly just a few metres from where we had first seen the leopard here he was again, only this time even closer to the road. We couldn’t believe our luck and he seemed much more awake and animated. I fired off a few more photographs including some of him yawning before eventually he disappeared for good. By now it was getting dusk and we returned to the lodge for dinner. Incredibly we appeared to be the only two guests in the whole lodge! We ate our dinner outside on the balcony of the restaurant watching the lightening as the storm grew closer.
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