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Another Uganda workout (Kibale, QENP and Buhoma)

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bushbaby

As I was debating which destination in Africa to go to in 2016 for my summer "big cat" fix, I saw the seminal Uganda workout report from pault in ST. One look at the chimps and I was hooked (even more than the gorillas). I had to go to Uganda !

 

I posted for advise from the STers

 

http://safaritalk.net/topic/15691-solo-trip-to-uganda-for-2016-too-late/

 

and got many useful tips / counsel from folks like MAC, atravelynn, inyathi and others.

 

Reached out to Churchill tours and travels and arranged for two gorilla tracking permits plus one chimpanzee habituation experience. Finalised the trip around those. The route (Mostly through south western tourist corridor of the country): Entebbe – Kampala – Fort portal - Kibale – Kasese – Kasenyi (Queen Elizabeth national park) – cutting through the Kazinga channel connecting Lake George and Lake Edward onto Ishasha – Bwindi. Took a bush plane from Kihihi air strip close to Bwindi back to Entebbe.

 

Unsurprisingly, it ended up as one of my most memorable safaris ever. What a beautiful country, amazing lodges and parks and variety of primates apart from the two iconic primates that it is well known for. With that introduction done, will get into the detailed day-day report !

post-14224-0-90175600-1471938211_thumb.jpg

 

post-14224-0-24928900-1471938225_thumb.jpg

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JulieM

Great! We're heading off to see the gorillas very soon, so I'm looking forward to hearing more!

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optig

Unfortunately, I forgot to book the chimp habituation experience when I went to Kibale National park in 2011, nevertheless, I simply loved Kibale National Park. I not only saw the chimps but also four species of monkeys as well. The chimp trekking was every bit as enjoyable as the gorilla tracking. I stayed at the Crater Lodge and the views were simply fabulous.

Edited by optig

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pault

Seminal???? My favorite trip report start ever!!!

(Just joking - am not that shallow)

 

Glad you enjoyed it as much as I did. I'm not sure if I should read this as it will make me want to go back too much.

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dlo

Seminal???? My favorite trip report start ever!!!

(Just joking - am not that shallow)

 

Glad you enjoyed it as much as I did. I'm not sure if I should read this as it will make me want to go back too much.

 

Couldn't agree more about wanting to go back, Uganda is absolutely my favourite country. The report was amazing too @@pault!

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kilopascal

Yay!!! I'm looking to a visit small portion of Uganda for the end of 2017. Can hardly wait to start reading about your trip.

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Alexander33

I'm hooked. More please!

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PHALANX

As I was debating which destination in Africa to go to in 2016 for my summer "big cat" fix, I saw the seminal Uganda workout report from pault in ST. One look at the chimps and I was hooked (even more than the gorillas). I had to go to Uganda !

 

I posted for advise from the STers

 

http://safaritalk.net/topic/15691-solo-trip-to-uganda-for-2016-too-late/

 

and got many useful tips / counsel from folks like MAC, atravelynn, inyathi and others.

 

Reached out to Churchill tours and travels and arranged for two gorilla tracking permits plus one chimpanzee habituation experience. Finalised the trip around those. The route (Mostly through south western tourist corridor of the country): Entebbe – Kampala – Fort portal - Kibale – Kasese – Kasenyi (Queen Elizabeth national park) – cutting through the Kazinga channel connecting Lake George and Lake Edward onto Ishasha – Bwindi. Took a bush plane from Kihihi air strip close to Bwindi back to Entebbe.

 

Unsurprisingly, it ended up as one of my most memorable safaris ever. What a beautiful country, amazing lodges and parks and variety of primates apart from the two iconic primates that it is well known for. With that introduction done, will get into the detailed day-day report !

attachicon.gifIMG_3688-L.jpg

 

attachicon.gifIMG_4319-L.jpg

Lovely pic's. We were not fortunate to find the chimps when we went to Murchisons fall Nat' pk, but thoroughly enjoyed the trekking looking for them. The right choice i think.

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bushbaby

Seminal???? My favorite trip report start ever!!!

(Just joking - am not that shallow)

 

Glad you enjoyed it as much as I did. I'm not sure if I should read this as it will make me want to go back too much.

It was indeed the first report that made me want to go to uganda ! So always one of my fav reports :-)..

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bushbaby
@@PHALANX I didnt know there were chimps up there (I did not go to Murchisons this time) -My sense was it was Kyambura and Kibale for chimps. Anyways, to kick start the report !

Day 1 : Landed in Entebbe from Dubai through the EK in a very uneventful flight. I had used the new online visa application procedure - you still have to pay the amount (50 USD) in person in immigration but the queue was only 3 person long. The non-online visa lines were 10-15 people long (not too bad either ways). Outside the airport was chaos - the person who was supposed to pick me had wrong name plate. So I took couple of rounds of all eager drivers with name plates, eagerly looking for my name ! As I was wondering what the next step should be, I saw a name plate with my tour company logo (Churchill safaris). Driver assigned to me was Thomas. So I approached the person with the Churchill safari logo (who had some other name on the board) to ask if he knew where Thomas was. It transpired after a bit of confusion that he was Thomas and it was a wrong name board he was carrying. So we cleared the air, shook hands and off we went to search for the parked Toyota Land Cruiser that would be my home away from home for a large part of coming week !


post-14224-0-27342600-1472062250_thumb.jpg


It had rained profusely and that meant the whole parking area was choc-a-bloc. After a 30 minute careful maneuvering we hit the toll booth and then onto Entebbe Kampala highway. Finally felt good to be in Africa again as the wind hit my face and I could smell the rain drenched earth. However, soon the traffic jams caught up with us and we snaked our way to Kampala ; ~2 hours for 40 odd kms is not really fast !

Overnight at Sheraton Kampala which was a great hotel - good rooms, great staff but also preparing for a loud music filled weekend. Thankfully, I won't be there next night to partake the rock band's performance in its gardens. In between, exchanged USD to Shillings and felt like a millionaire ! Driver asked to exchange 100-150 USD and I stuck to his advise (Which ended up to be quite a guess since all you spend in Shs is alcohol, curios and some tips since it was an all expense paid arrangement with the tour company ; for porters, rangers etc you can pay in USD). While doing so, saw a little bit of Kampala city


post-14224-0-97715500-1472062300_thumb.jpg

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Day 2 :


Early morning start after a quick breakfast in the hotel. Thomas promptly picked me at 8 and off we went on road leading us out of the city into the more interesting Kibale region. First stop was Fort Portal and we quickly planned that we will drive straight on and have lunch there. Going was initially slow through the markets full of people selling cloths and matokes (green bananas, a staple diet of people here), chicken and snacks !

post-14224-0-38893700-1472062486_thumb.jpg


Soon we hit good straight roads and could reach Fort Portal in time for a late lunch at around 145 pm. In between waiting to shoot a long crested eagle. Also had turracos and hornbills flying over us multiple times - a sight to behold !


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At lunch I saw the (in)famous red pepper tabloid but was too embarrassed to pick a copy though the front headline was curious to say the least !

post-14224-0-20920800-1472062653_thumb.jpg


After fort portal you hit non tarred road and for the first time it hits you how destructive the new high way through the kibale forest is. Its almost as if someone has shaved off pristine rainforest and the earth is bleeding red.


post-14224-0-25930800-1472062764_thumb.jpg


Till our primate lodge where we were put up, the red road reminded us of what could have been. By the time we reached the lodge which is 2 minutes from Chimp trekking start point, the vehicle and ourselves and cameras were all angry red. This under construction highway passes <200 m from the trekking point which is indeed sad. (later during chimp trek, we found a male feeding less than 15 feet from the road, covered in red dust!)


The melancholy of seeing the road was mitigated by sighting red tailed monkeys in the welcome party at Primate lodge. After a few cursory shots, I decided to move to Bigodi for a wet land walk. It is a gem that must not be missed. The funds go for communities around the wetland which in turn protects it and lives side-side to the monkeys which destroys their crops. It is an easy 5 Km circular walk. You don't need gumboots since there are raised platforms through papyrus reeds wherever needed.

post-14224-0-48975600-1472063237_thumb.jpg


I finished it along with a local guide in under two hours and saw great blue turraco, gray cheeked manga bay, red colobus, black and white colobus. Surprisingly, missed out on red tailed monkey (which I had seen at primate lodge) and L Hoest which I expected to see.


post-14224-0-96028600-1472063360_thumb.jpgpost-14224-0-81136700-1472063371_thumb.jpgpost-14224-0-52948100-1472063391_thumb.jpg


Over night at primate lodge in anticipation for an early morning wake up and Chimp habituation experience !!!


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Botswanadreams

Thanks for sheering your Uganda trip with us. I hope you had a nice Chimp habituation experience. We did it in 2014.

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michael-ibk

Fantastic start. Love the Touraco shot.

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Antee

I also saw the Great Blue Turaco in Kibale. Beautiful bird and nice captured with your camera!

Edited by Antee

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PHALANX

 

@@PHALANX I didnt know there were chimps up there (I did not go to Murchisons this time) -My sense was it was Kyambura and Kibale for chimps. Anyways, to kick start the report !
Day 1 : Landed in Entebbe from Dubai through the EK in a very uneventful flight. I had used the new online visa application procedure - you still have to pay the amount (50 USD) in person in immigration but the queue was only 3 person long. The non-online visa lines were 10-15 people long (not too bad either ways). Outside the airport was chaos - the person who was supposed to pick me had wrong name plate. So I took couple of rounds of all eager drivers with name plates, eagerly looking for my name ! As I was wondering what the next step should be, I saw a name plate with my tour company logo (Churchill safaris). Driver assigned to me was Thomas. So I approached the person with the Churchill safari logo (who had some other name on the board) to ask if he knew where Thomas was. It transpired after a bit of confusion that he was Thomas and it was a wrong name board he was carrying. So we cleared the air, shook hands and off we went to search for the parked Toyota Land Cruiser that would be my home away from home for a large part of coming week !
It had rained profusely and that meant the whole parking area was choc-a-bloc. After a 30 minute careful maneuvering we hit the toll booth and then onto Entebbe Kampala highway. Finally felt good to be in Africa again as the wind hit my face and I could smell the rain drenched earth. However, soon the traffic jams caught up with us and we snaked our way to Kampala ; ~2 hours for 40 odd kms is not really fast !
Overnight at Sheraton Kampala which was a great hotel - good rooms, great staff but also preparing for a loud music filled weekend. Thankfully, I won't be there next night to partake the rock band's performance in its gardens. In between, exchanged USD to Shillings and felt like a millionaire ! Driver asked to exchange 100-150 USD and I stuck to his advise (Which ended up to be quite a guess since all you spend in Shs is alcohol, curios and some tips since it was an all expense paid arrangement with the tour company ; for porters, rangers etc you can pay in USD). While doing so, saw a little bit of Kampala city
Day 2 :
Early morning start after a quick breakfast in the hotel. Thomas promptly picked me at 8 and off we went on road leading us out of the city into the more interesting Kibale region. First stop was Fort Portal and we quickly planned that we will drive straight on and have lunch there. Going was initially slow through the markets full of people selling cloths and matokes (green bananas, a staple diet of people here), chicken and snacks !
Soon we hit good straight roads and could reach Fort Portal in time for a late lunch at around 145 pm. In between waiting to shoot a long crested eagle. Also had turracos and hornbills flying over us multiple times - a sight to behold !
At lunch I saw the (in)famous red pepper tabloid but was too embarrassed to pick a copy though the front headline was curious to say the least !
After fort portal you hit non tarred road and for the first time it hits you how destructive the new high way through the kibale forest is. Its almost as if someone has shaved off pristine rainforest and the earth is bleeding red.
Till our primate lodge where we were put up, the red road reminded us of what could have been. By the time we reached the lodge which is 2 minutes from Chimp trekking start point, the vehicle and ourselves and cameras were all angry red. This under construction highway passes <200 m from the trekking point which is indeed sad. (later during chimp trek, we found a male feeding less than 15 feet from the road, covered in red dust!)
The melancholy of seeing the road was mitigated by sighting red tailed monkeys in the welcome party at Primate lodge. After a few cursory shots, I decided to move to Bigodi for a wet land walk. It is a gem that must not be missed. The funds go for communities around the wetland which in turn protects it and lives side-side to the monkeys which destroys their crops. It is an easy 5 Km circular walk. You don't need gumboots since there are raised platforms through papyrus reeds wherever needed.
I finished it along with a local guide in under two hours and saw great blue turraco, gray cheeked manga bay, red colobus, black and white colobus. Surprisingly, missed out on red tailed monkey (which I had seen at primate lodge) and L Hoest which I expected to see.
Over night at primate lodge in anticipation for an early morning wake up and Chimp habituation experience !!!

 

It was the Budongo forest in Murchison's. Your trip got of to an interesting start:) as I was reading it all I could think was "this is Africa" but all was well in the end. Your photo of the Great Blue Turaco is beautiful, just like the bird. I look forward to part two, or three or even four :)

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PHALANX

Hi again @@bushbaby. I forgot to say, superb shot of the red Colobus. I have only seen them in the Gambia. Also the Long crested eagle. The photo of the road brought back memories. As we drove up to Murchison the road seemed to go on forever. You did well with the amount of primates you saw. AJ

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Super LEEDS

FYI for those peeps not in the know......

 

seminal
ˈsɛmɪn(ə)l/
adjective
adjective: seminal

1.
strongly influencing later developments.
"his seminal work on chaos theory"
synonyms: influential, formative, groundbreaking, pioneering, original, creative, innovative

 

 

There's another meaning too which was the only one I knew about :unsure:

 

Looking even more forward to this TR now. Thanks for sharing.

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Alexander33

Very intriguing start. The turaco is just stunning.

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Zubbie15

It's interesting, when we flew back from Rwanda in February we had a stopover in Entebbe, and while we were waiting on the ground I was reminiscing about some of the trip reports I'd read on here and thinking that I'd enjoy visiting Uganda sometime! Nice start to you report, although it's too bad about the road through the forest. I agree that the turaco is beautiful.

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pault

I know I should be admiring the Turaco, but I keep on coming back to the padding with plum jam.

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bushbaby

Ok. So the day for Chimp habituation experience has arrived (Named Chex by the UWA) ! "Chexers" haev to mark their attendance the previous day in the park office (which is 2 minutes from Primate Lodge) (We had to put a tick mark against Chex and were asked to report at 7. So woke up pretty early all excited. Walked to park office on time. There is option for porters just like the gorilla one but I decided to forego the same. We were 4 of us to start with (2 more were to join a bit late). We soon started the trekking through very beautiful forests. It was a relaxed pace through Ok bush. However, we soon hit an amazingly beautiful swamp - covered in mist with the evergreen forests rising at the far end. Must confess that remains one of the most beautiful sights I've ever had ; I was so enthralled that I forgot to take my camera out of my gear bag and shoot. Also the fact that ranger asked us to move fast since its a favorite place for the forest elephants did not help either. Thankfully, I took an iphone snap.

 

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The ranger used a branch to beat the ground in front giving the snakes / others chance to run away while also clearing a path to move forward. A far better option than stepping on one and getting bitten far from any hospitals/ source of anti-venom.

Soon we hit the rainforest again and the tracking became more difficult. The weight of camera bag started to increase a little bit now especially as one had to carve one's path through vines and sometimes bend to go under. But overall I must confess I did not miss the porter. After around 30 minutes we reached the fig tree where the chimps were sighted the previous day but no trackers there. Soon after a 10 minute walk we heard hooting. As we were wondering what those animals were, we heard the same hoot from our ranger. He said he was communicating with the trackers who seemed to have found the group !

 

Finally we reached a big fruiting fig tree and there they were. A group of Chimps ! Ranger said its the Kanyantale group - one of the biggest but scattered now since in summer fruits are harder to come by (hence wider search parties). We started of with the groups feeding on the fig tree. Adults/sub adults alone and young ones on mama. No sign of the Alpha male (named Totty, I think!). Young ones swinging in the vines and generally having a gala time - when ever they took breaks from gorging the ripe fig fruits.

 

post-14224-0-27302000-1472221891_thumb.jpg

 

Soon it was time for the regular 1 hour group to join us. I feared the worst but the two groups that joined us seemed disciplined enough. But what then transpired was funny enough

There was a bit of a chaos whenever the chimps decided to relieve themselves from atop the trees (which was very frequent). The group oof 20+ would have to move away to prevent getting hot showered - but with so many chimps overhead and quite hidden sometimes, one had to guess from the sound of water falling on leaves overhead. Sometimes one misjudged or bumped into another group mate so that you did not get enough time to move away from the stream of urine ! The advantage was that we had had enough of chimps on trees so we relaxed away a bit enjoying the circus. But I did feel for the groups.

 

Thankfully soon the Alpha male came down from high up the trees. And everyone could get their fill of seeing chimp up close and personal. Many group members also now came to lower branches. As everyone surrounded the Alpha male who was very relaxed and decided to take a small nap.

 

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The other group members also got down and went deeper into the bush. groups now split and went with respective rangers in search of parts of chimp group. We stayed behind with the alpha male and followed him for an hour. He was met by part of the group latter.

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After a while we decided to have lunch. Post which a few us decided to put a halt to chimp tracking - I joined in the team taking the break since I had a long drive to QENP in afternoon and the group was now going further deep & light was becoming exceptionally harsh for photography. Also the group was very close to the road now and it was a bit sad to have the trucks roaring in the background as they went about their daily routine.

 

 

post-14224-0-92280000-1472221150_thumb.jpg

Edited by bushbaby

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SafariChick

@@bushbaby fantastic photos of the chimps! And very interesting to hear about the experience. I agree it IS sad to think about them being so close to roads. :(

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pault

Great pictures that sum up a great morning's chimp viewing. Did you get to see the little one in the last photo - the hands look tiny? Urine showers and snake-filled swamps and new hazards to add to the "why you should do CHEX" list.

 

What a beautiful swamp, and a slap on the wrist for not getting your camera out!

 

Sounds like you got a good workout.

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bushbaby

Ok continuing after a mini break !....

After the chimp trek, we got back to primate lodge. They allowed us to take a shower and relax at the bar though we had checked out in the morning given Chex typically lasts till post noon atleast. From there, the idea was to drive down straight to QENP. The drive was pretty much uneventful other than torrential rains just as we were reaching back at Fort Portal. By late afternoon, we reached the QENP main gate and into the office to punch the card. They have a decent system where you can buy a card like a credit card and then you dont have to buy separate tickets at each gate / sector.

post-14224-0-35994500-1472708477_thumb.jpg

I didnt have any lofty aspirations from QENP and hence i was very open to just relaxing and enjoying the wide vistas filled with Euphorbia candelabra trees / shrubs which are omnipresent in the park. A bit like cactus, i was told its mighty poisonous but the elephants kind of ingests them every now and then. And immediately we spotted a medium sized herd of Elephants grazing next to these shrubs.

post-14224-0-07534800-1472708738_thumb.jpg

That was all the Elephants we would see over the evening and the next day morning. Which for me was a bit of dampener since I was hoping Id atleast see good number of elephants. Later the day we did see huge herds of buffaloes (much more than I can remember in Maara atleast), many many water bucks (again more than I can remember seeing anywhere else) and ofcourse the Ugandan kobs.

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We retired in the evening under a slight drizzle to Kasenyi safari camp situated overlooking a salt lake with flamingoes.

post-14224-0-05032200-1472708997_thumb.jpg

 

The location is indeed blissful but the coffee - that's even better. Probably the best french press coffee ive had in ages if you stay here. Owner is a US returned Ugandan who had sold a few genetic companies in the early years of biotech boom. So was fun catching up with him and sharing stories including recent ugandan elections / non elections depending on which side of the line you are.

 

Next day morning was another round of QENP. the main idea for the day was to see Kobs mate! There are indeed two mating areas and trails leading to mating area - felt a bit cheesy to be honest. We tried old mating area and none of them seemed interested ! during the drive around, which was very peaceful with amazing weather and no other vehicles anywhere in the vicinity, we did see a few birds and a relaxing hyena early morning. birds includes grey kestrel, white backed vulture gang, eagle owl, red necked spurfowl etc.

 

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Finally we reached the new mating area. Its interesting to observe the patterns - over grazing (and over mating) has taken away all grass from the mating area and kobs just seem to like to come here to mate for what ever reason. Each male has its own lekking area which it guards. Females moves around each checking out the males and allowing the best suitor to mate with her. Its almost like a well choreographed opera barring the odd occasions when a male intrudes into another lekk. Which ofcourse leads to some sparring !

 

Female checking out potential suitors

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Males protecting lekk areas

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Finally one of the ladies chose a gentleman and they begin to have a good time :-) - atleast i think so !

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I could have spent lot more time there just watching all the action and fights but it was now time to go back to lodge, pack up and start on the long drive to Ishasha sector down south.

 

 

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Atravelynn

Gorgeous wildlife photos and the best headline shot ever! Hope you avoided the "showers." I'm glad the one hour visitors and you Chexers mixed well.

Mating to nursing, you have the kob spectrum.

Edited by Atravelynn

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bushbaby

..but before heading to Ishasha we had the much awaited Kazinga channel cruise crossing over to the southern side on the bridge. The channel connects Lake Edward to lake george and I had read / heard so much about the cruise. So with expectations very high, we drove over to Mweya lodge from where you get the booking for the boat. We opted for the private boat owned by them - it looked better and seemingly its cheaper than the UWA alternative. Anyways, I went up to top deck and took the front seat. Slowly it was occupied upto around 80%. So we started at around 230 pm which was probably bad timing but with heavy rains predicted later in the evening, the evening one might well be washed out (as it turned out they did not run the last one for the day due to rains).

post-14224-0-08771000-1473010957_thumb.jpg

The boat slowly started moving and I realized that in the extremely harsh weather, photography is not going to easy nor very great. So I decided to enjoy the scenes more. We did see loads of pied Kingfishers, hippos, around 10 African fish eagles, a glimpse of bush buck, warthogs, malachite KF, hammerkops and then towards the end the huge collection of many different species of water birds.

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But overall I was underwhelmed by the cruise maybe because my expectations were sky high and also since I've witnessed the mass congregation of water birds at much larger strengths in Bharatpur in India. We did not see any elephants either which was also a bit of a bummer. Anyways, I did see enough of one of my favorite eagles - so that was a high point.

post-14224-0-04373200-1473011541_thumb.jpg

 

But the real high point was latter in the evening back at the Kasenyi lodge where the security folks told us they saw a pride of 8 lions wandering just outside the lodge premises !! Once we were back in lodge, the owner took us out in his car to search for the pride. After two days of searching for lions in the QENP we finally found them outside our lodge. Just saw couple of sub adults relaxing right behind the hutment of people working in nearby art and craft shop.When we told them there is lion behind the huts, they were themselves shocked ! With all kids stopped playing around and went behind their mommas ! it was fun seeing how excited they were to see their new neighbours ! All in all an interesting end to the day.

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post-14224-0-24896600-1473011901_thumb.jpg

 

 

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