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dlo

@inyathi As someone who is isn't a birder I'd love your advice. If I leave where I'm staying in M.F. I can do a half day at the royal mile. Is a half day in the heat of the afternoon worthwhile or should I not bother. We went to Budongo before but we never had time on that trip either and also failed to find any chimps. It's a beautiful area but I'm short of the required days I need to see everything.

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Towlersonsafari

first a wonderful description of what is clearly a favourite place, and then a fascinating history lesson thanks very much indeed @inyathi

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Treepol

@inyathi how interesting to read about the Polish settlers - I wonder what they thought of being sent to this tropical land of elephant raids and watchful leopards? I guess they experienced more than their fair share of terrifying moments. 

Edited by Treepol
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offshorebirder

Thanks for the great info you shared @inyathi - I will put your advice to use on a future Uganda trip.

 

 

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inyathi

@pault Thanks, I think it’s important to make it clear as far the CHEX is concerned that what I described was just my experience on that day, and that as they don’t track the same groups each time, every trek will be different. I don’t want to add to any confusion and put anyone off doing the CHEX instead of the regular treks, I think the guy who thought it was perhaps a bit of a con at least the habituation part, was basing his opinion on what he had read on TripAdvisor, I certainly read an account there that expressed a similar view.  

 

@dlo If the idea would be to drive down from MF, bird The Royal Mile for the afternoon and then drive back to MF, I would want to know how long you’d actually get to spend in the forest to know if it’s worth the driving. Looking through some of the photos that I didn’t post, we sat having lunch for over an hour and by the time we started walking back it was nearly 3 o clock, we certainly saw blue monkeys not long after that, the first afternoon photo I took of one, was at 15:13, so there are monkeys moving around in the afternoon.  I can’t say whether seeing chimps on two entirely separate visits was just down to luck and is unusual or whether seeing chimps is not unusual at all. I think that for anyone who wants to see chimps it’s worth considering a visit to The Royal Mile, in addition to chimp trekking, just because you may get lucky. It may of course vary according to the time of year, although there’s no trekking the chimps are obviously pretty habituated and well used to seeing people, so it’s just a question of whether they are near the actual road when you’re there, if there are figs in fruit that may bring them to The Royal Mile.

 

If you are not lucky enough to see chimps, you’d still get to see a very beautiful place and I think you’d be sure to see monkeys and lots of hornbills, and plenty of butterflies. As you’re not a birder then it’s not so important to be there as early as possible and you wouldn’t need to be there as long, so I don’t think it would matter going in the afternoon.

 

If you were able to leave camp in time to fit in a good 3 hours or so on The Royal Mile then I think it could be worth doing. By the time we drove out of the gate after we’d finished watching the chimp, it must have been about 17:30 and the last photo I took of the church before we finally drove away from Budongo was at 18:51, so it was still light for over an hour and a half after we came out of the forest, but that would’ve been pretty much at sunset. I’ve just checked online and sunset at the moment in Masindi is at 18:54, I don’t know how long it would take to drive from MF because both times we went by the longer scenic route, which you wouldn’t be doing. Assuming it’s an hour or an hour and a bit, then I assume you could have a good amount of time in the forest and if you are staying on the south bank get back in time for sunset, as I presume you’re supposed to be back before dark.

 

I guess it comes down to what else you would do instead if you didn’t visit The Royal Mile and whether it’s a worthwhile trade, presumably you would be trading an afternoon drive in MFNP, you may feel you’re doing enough game drives there so sacrificing one doesn’t matter. And also, it depends where else you’re going and what you’ve already seen, if perhaps you’ve seen the monkeys before or will have done by the time you get there, then maybe there’s less reason to go. When I first went it was pre-digital photography so I was shooting slides and I only had a 70-300 mm lens and a limited amount of a film, my photos of monkeys and of the chimps were very disappointing. Besides wanting to see some of the bird species we’d missed, being able to go back with my digital camera and 100-400 lens to take I hoped much better photos of monkeys was another reason I was very keen to go. The Royal Mile certainly delivered as far as monkeys were concerned bearing in my 100-400 mm is a great lens but is not the longest of lenses.

 

@Treepol The refugees must have been extremely relieved to be out of the USSR and to have somewhere to live, but I would imagine that arriving at Nyabyeya must have been a serious shock, both the climate and the wildlife, when I look at my photo of the chimp, in the tree it seems very odd to think that 70 and a bit years ago there was whole community Polish people living just a stones throw up the road.

 

@offshorebirder glad to be of help, I hope to resume my journey before too long. 

 

 

 

 

 

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michael-ibk

Wonderful report, inyathi. As always I am pretty much in awe about how much you know about all things Africa, fascinating history lessons I've been enjoying a lot. And those Shoebill sighting, how good was that. Your chimp experience may have had a rocky start but the two guys at the end gave you a good show. Love all the birds of course, I would  really enjoy an itinerary like yours. Thanks so much for sharing all of this with us.

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michael-ibk

Double post, sorry.

Edited by michael-ibk

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inyathi

From Masindi rather than take the more direct route north to MFNP we had decided to take the more scenic route west on the Busingiro Road, this road cuts through the Budongo Forest allowing us the chance for some last forest birding, on beyond the forest it takes you to a road down over the Western Rift Valley escarpment to Lake Albert and Butiaba. At that point we would head north and on into MFNP from the southwest and on up to Paraa. On the following map the national park roads shown in white were already marked on and then I’ve added on in white what I think is the road we would have taken from the Busingiro Road up to the park.

 

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We left after an early breakfast and headed back passed the Kinyara Sugar Estates.

 

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Kinyara sugar cane fields, near Masindi

 

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This would all have been rainforest, part of Budongo Forest at one time but now it is cane fields with only remnant patches of forest

 

Once we entered the forest again we parked and walked up and down the road looking for birds, there were certainly a few birds there and Nicholas was very good at spotting them, there were also a few blue monkeys and somewhere very close some chimps were calling, however, almost as soon as we had parked it started raining. It wasn’t raining very hard, it was really just quite heavy drizzle but enough to for me to put my poncho on and for us to think that if stayed longer we would get quite wet, the calls from the chimps were loud enough and close enough, that I felt sure I would be able to see them from the road but they weren’t visible. So, we decided to give up and move on, once you leave the forest behind you’re driving through cultivated farmland until you start to approach the escarpment, just at the top of the escarpment the road follows the southwestern boundary of the Bugungu Wildlife Reserve that adjoins MFNP.

 

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Bugungu Wildlife Reserve

 

You drive past hills covered in dry bush/open woodland, home to an entirely new selection of birds, we got out and walked much of the last section to the edge of the escarpment with Nicholas, while Martin drove. It was interesting birding with Nicholas as like most good guides he was extremely good at spotting birds and here barring the most common widespread species almost every bird for him was a lifer. He’d never seen species like Namaqua dove and silverbird that are common in this area. It turned out in conversation that back at home in Bwindi he had been trained by a guide called Alfred, who had in fact been our guide when I went to Bwindi in 97, Alfred was without doubt the best birdguide in Bwindi if not in Uganda and clearly a good teacher. If Nicholas had a fault it was being too eager and too keen to show us everything he spotted, but this was really because he was only with us because we said he could come, and I think he was slightly worried that when we got to MFNP, we might say we didn’t need him anymore and he would have to catch a bus home.

 

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Black-crowned tchagra, Bugungu Wildlife Reserve

 

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Cinnamon-breasted rock bunting

 

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Speckled mousebird and silverbird

 

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Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weaver 

 

Besides all of the birding opportunities that taking this route provides, it is also of course extremely scenic as you wind your way down the escarpment to Lake Albert. Looking north gives you a great view up the lake to the delta of the Victoria Nile in MFNP and looking west a view across the lake to the top end of the Blue Mts. In the DRC.

 

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View of Lake Albert from the escarpment

 

 

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On the other side of the hill in the panorama above, right on the edge of the road is a monument to an Australian hunter called Pete Pearson who died in 1929, I say hunter, but elephant poacher would be a more appropriate term. He was an ivory hunter, who along with a number of other white hunters at the turn of the 20th century decided that hunting elephants for their ivory legally in Uganda or Kenya, was simply two expensive, so they opted instead to hunt them illegally in the Lado Enclave (see Part 1 for map and explanation). He was one of the hunters credited with killing over 1000 elephants, a claim to fame that today is totally appalling. I don’t know that much more about him, other than that he used to sit on a rock at this spot and lookout over Lake Albert and up towards the Lado Enclave, no doubt thinking about elephants, the monument is not in the best state of repair, whether that's due to it's age and the elements or due to vandalism I'm not sure. 

 

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Not much further on just round a hairpin bend are some ruins, I say ruins but really there are just some very low walls and concrete floors, I think Martin said something about this having been a hunting lodge but I don’t recall exactly what he said and I’m rather doubtful, as I’ve not been able to find any mention of an old lodge here, whatever the case we pulled off the road here for our picnic lunch. The view is spectacular and it was a great spot for lunch, whatever the building was that was here it wasn’t very big but this might just have been one of a number of buildings.

 

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It was a slight surprise down the bottom to see herds of magnificent Ankole cattle, as up here towards the top end of Lake Albert we were a very long way away from the Kingdom of Ankole. It’s quite a recent development that people have started moving their cattle to their cattle to other parts of the country to find grazing, a symptom of population pressure, on our last visit I only saw local Nyoro cattle here, which don't have the huge horns.

 

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Ankole cow near Butiaba 

 

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On the road to Murchison Falls National Park

 

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Fish on a bike (Nile perch)

 

On our last visit when we drove this way, we went down to the shore of the lake to look for birds and also visited the village of Wanseko, right on the Victoria Nile Delta just outside the park, there wasn’t time to do that this time, we were aiming to catch the 16:00 ferry, as we were heading for Paraa. If you are staying in one of the camps on the south bank, then you’d have plenty of time to visit Wanseko and the lake shore, and because you are staying outside the park, you don’t need to go through the park to reach your camp, so you can avoid paying the entry fee. You wouldn't have time to do anything worthwhile in the park, so there's no point in paying just to drive through, when you don't have too. 

 

I was pleasantly surprised to see a reasonable sized herd of Uganda Kob in the Bugungu WR as we drove past.

 

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Uganda kob 

 

I was not surprised and not quite so happy to see oil wells and other signs of oil drilling in the area, there seems a lot of oil in the Lake Albert region and unfortunately plenty within MFNP. Oil wherever it is found, cannot be just left in the ground, even if it’s in a national park, regrettably there are now I understand a good few wells inside the park, on the north bank of the Nile.

 

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Oil well 

 

Edited by inyathi

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inyathi

I’ve just re-read a book called “Wizard of the Nile: The Hunt for Africa's Most Wanted” to refresh my memory regarding an unpleasant chapter of Uganda’s recent history, that I neglected to include in Part 1. The book recounts Matthew Green, a Reuter’s journalist’s attempts to track down and interview, Africa’s most wanted man Joseph Kony.

 

So before crossing the Nile, something I wasn’t able to do on my last visit to MFNP, here is a bit more history, again I hope this is broadly accurate, but in order to keep it short, I may have left out some details.

 

During the bush war that brought Museveni to power, most of the soldiers that made up the NRA, were drawn from the south of Uganda (a good many from exiled Rwandan Tutsi communities, but that’s another story), the government and army that they were fighting, was dominated by northerners notably from the Acholi people, who live north of the Nile. The Ugandan army had been dominated by Acholis, since the days of the King’s African Rifles in colonial times, after Amin staged his coup and took power, he feared there might be a countercoup led by Acholis, so he ordered Acholi units of the army to return to their barracks and then had them murdered.

 

There’s an area within Buganda, known as the Luwero Triangle it was here, that the bush war started between Museveni and the Obote regime, and the location for a series of horrendous massacres, that took place during the war. Both sides have blamed the other and the truth is still not really known, the NRA laid the blame entirely on Obote’s troops, who were dominated by Acholi and Lango people from the north. 

 

After the NRA had captured Kampala in 1986, and Museveni had been installed as the new leader, and the military junta led by Tito Okello an Acholi had been deposed, they pursued the remnants of the Ugandan Army north. When they called upon these now rebel soldiers to return to their barracks, disarm and surrender, they were understandably reluctant to do so, fearing they would be murdered. The NRA were determined that the rebel soldiers had to be crushed, to prevent them from forming the basis of a northern rebel army. When NRA soldiers reached Acholiland, they were seeking vengeance, they burned villages and committed massacres and other war crimes. This brutal treatment of the Acholi, led to an uprising led by a mad woman, who called herself Alice Lakwena, she claimed to have supernatural powers and formed a movement called the Holy Spirit Mobile Forces, notably telling her fighters, to smear their bodies with shea butter, so that god would protect them from the army’s bullets. This actually kind of worked for a while, a lot of the NRA soldiers were very superstitious, seeing these chanting near naked fighters advancing on them, their oiled bodies glistening in the sun, put the fear of god into them and they ran away. Her army advanced on Kampala, but a major artillery barrage soon put an end to her march, she died in exile in Kenya, the remnants of her movement, along with some former Acholi soldiers, were recruited by another seemingly mad Acholi, Joseph Kony into what would become, one of Africa’s most brutal terrorist movements the Lord’s Resistance Army. Their aim was to overthrow the government and supposedly rule Uganda according to the 10 Commandments.  

 

The LRA never came close to posing a major threat to the government, their activities were basically confined to the north, however, they caused plenty of mayhem, terrorising the people committing numerous atrocities, murdering or mutilating people, kidnapping children for use as child soldiers, or to become porters or “wives”. It’s likely that Kony and his people would never have got anywhere and the LRA would have quickly fizzled out, had Museveni not decided to support the SPLA, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army over the border in Sudan, who were fighting for the independence of South Sudan, in retaliation the Sudanese government in Khartoum, started supplying weapons to the LRA and provided them with protected bases in the south of Sudan. Kony and his senior commanders, were the first people to be indited for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in the Hague, when it was established. It’s alleged that Museveni’s government, was not certain of their grip on the north of Uganda and so decided not to crush the LRA, when they had the chance, but to let the war simmer on, to give them a pretext to station large numbers of UPDF troops in the north. To try and defeat the LRA, the regime decided to adopted the strategy known as ‘draining the lake to catch the fish’, they set out to separate the general population from the terrorists, by rounding up the people and forcing them to live in protected villages or camps essentially. Eventually some 90% of the population around the town of Gulu, were moved into camps, where huge numbers died of disease, this didn’t help to improve relations, between the government and the Acholi.

 

Even when pushed by the Americans and provided with military aid they were not able to finish off the LRA entirely or capture Kony, however, they did eventually succeed in driving him out of the country, various senior leaders of the LRA, have either defected or been murdered on Kony’s orders, weakening the movement. After leaving Uganda they established bases in Garamba NP in the DRC and further west in CAR and are no longer present in Uganda, despite President Obama, sending US Special Forces to hunt down Kony, alongside the UPDF, he remains at large.

 

The activities of the LRA and the UPDF’s efforts to try and defeat them, made much of northern Uganda extremely dangerous for a good few years, thankfully, the LRA have not been active in Uganda since 2005. For a long time, the Acholi people supported the LRA to a degree, only because of their hatred of Museveni and his government. These days they have reconciled themselves to the fact that Museveni and his government aren’t going anywhere and just want to live in peace, Kony may have claimed to be fighting for the Acholi, but they suffered more than anyone as a result of his actions. We can only hope that the peace between the Acholi and the government can be sustained. The Acholi live in South Sudan, as well as Uganda and for a time some Acholi leaders, talked of northern Uganda seceding and joining South Sudan, I would hope that the ongoing civil war there, has put them off that idea and forced them to recognise, that their future lies in Uganda. At the same time, I hope the government has done or is doing enough, to heal the rift between north and south and is treating the Acholi and other northern peoples fairly.

 

The journalist Matthew Green, did eventually meet with Kony, but, the only actual recorded interview with him was made by two other journalists, at what must have been the same meeting in Garamba NP, just over the border from South Sudan, I wasn't sure if I should include the video as it does contain a few unpleasant images, if you don't wish to see a brief sequence of photos of Kony's alleged crimes, I would suggest you don't watch this video.

 

 

 

 

Edited by inyathi

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inyathi

UG1645.jpg.4a0e7d8335e39b84b508f9ea8a871284.jpg

 

At the Bugungu Gate before going in to MFNP, we wandered around for a little bit birding, while the paperwork was sorted out and found a spotted eagle owl amongst other birds.

 

 

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When Idi Amin was in power he renamed Murchison Falls and therefore the whole park Kabalega Falls, although many Ugandans regard King Kabalega the Omukama of Bunyoro, as a great national hero, for fighting the British East Africa Company, the new name never stuck. However, you will see Kabalega Falls National Park, marked on some old maps.

 

On my previous visit to MFNP we had opted to stay at the then newly opened Nile Safari Camp, now known as Nile Safari Lodge, which is on the south bank of the river just to the west of the park boundary. Then we had 3 whole days at the park, on the first day we bird watched in the area around camp in the morning, then in the afternoon took a boat trip down to the Delta, where we had reasonably good views of shoebills. On the second day we took a boat trip up to the Falls and then walked up to the top, at the top of the Falls we were met by a car from camp, we had a picnic lunch and then game drove back through the park and out to camp. We saw some game on the drive, but the south bank of the Nile doesn’t have as much game as the north bank. According to our itinerary, on our third and final day, we would take the ferry across the Nile and spend the entire day, game driving on the north bank at least that was the plan.

 

Well unfortunately, the South African manager of Nile Safari Camp, informed us the night before, that the security situation across the river was not good, in the morning it was decided, that on balance we should not cross the Nile. Apparently the UPDF were over on the north bank, hunting for the LRA, who’d set up camp in the park or were passing through, we had no idea what the actual situation was and if this really was the case. We'd not heard any signs of fighting, we just had to take his word for it, visiting the north bank was out of the question, it wasn’t worth the risk. Instead we had to settle for more birding around camp and another boat trip to the Delta. This disappointing turn of events, was one of the main reasons I was so keen to return to MFNP for a good length of time, it was also one reason, why this time we were determined to stay on the north bank at Paraa Lodge.

 

We had in fact visited the park once before, on a brief flying visit many years previously, but although we’d stayed on the north bank, we had not been able to do a game drive then either, but that was because the one vehicle we could have used had insufficient fuel. The main reason though for staying at Paraa this time, was that we had perhaps wrongly as it turned out, assumed that if we were staying on the south bank at Baker’s Lodge, as had been suggested, we would have to cross the river on the ferry several times every day, this takes quite a bit of time and would delay the start of our morning game drive, costing us precious birding time. We knew that Paraa Lodge is a big lodge and really the last place we would ordinarily want to stay, but the advantages of cutting out the ferry, seemed to outweigh the disadvantages. We could just have breakfast as soon as available in the morning and then head out on our game drive, and go back to the lodge for lunch and out again the afternoon.

 

27843366188_463bcf9d86_o.jpg Waiting to take the ferry across the Nile at Paraa 

 

It doesn't really take that long to get across on the ferry, but you do have to wait around for a while.

 

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Paraa Lodge

 

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While approaching the jetty we saw our first elephant since leaving Kibale Forest, in the past elephants would have been common in the Budongo Forest but they disappeared from there 40 years ago, I hope perhaps as the population in MFNP grows some might move south and recolonise the forest since it's not far. 

 

On our way to the main lodge we stopped to have a look at Queen’s Cottage, as there was no one staying there at the time, this would be the most luxurious place to stay at Paraa, although they two have 4 luxury tented rooms as well, Queen's Cottage was originally built for Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother who stayed here in 1959. It wasn’t however, quite so luxurious when I saw it on my first visit to MFNP, then almost all the windows were smashed, the contents had been looted and the walls were still pockmarked with bullet holes left by the TPDF, they "redecorated" it when they were pursuing Amin’s troops through the park during the Tanzania-Uganda war.

 

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Queen's Cottage at Paraa Lodge 

 

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As viewed later from the River

 

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The view from the garden in front is rather better than from the main lodge, where there's a fair bit of bush and a few quite big trees blocking the view

 

The main lodge building was likewise an empty trashed and looted shell. After Paraa was put up two more lodges were built in the park, Chobe Lodge in the northeast on the Victoria Nile not far from Karuma Falls and Pakuba Lodge in the west overlooking the Albert Nile. Chobe Lodge suffered the same fate as Paraa and was left as an empty looted shell, Pakuba’s fate was even worse, this government run lodge had always been a favourite haunt of Idi Amin’s, during the war as he fled northwards with his retreating troops, the TPDF heard a rumour from somewhere that Amin was hiding in Pakuba Lodge, determined not to allow the dictator to escape the Tanzanians brought up their artillery and shelled the lodge, reducing it to a burnt-out ruin, Amin of course, hadn't been there at all. In 1997 Paraa was rebuilt, I think from recollection they were still working on it at the time of my visit and it hadn’t quite reopened, Chobe has also been rebuilt and is apparently much nicer and more luxurious than Paraa, but, it’s location is less than ideal, it’s the opposite end of the park from the best game viewing, and a long way from Paraa where you do boat trips from. For some reason at Pakuba they decided to leave the ruins of the lodge and build an entirely new lodge on top of the old staff quarters, if you zoom in on the park on Google Earth next to where I've marked the lodge on my map above, you can clearly see the ruins. Pakuba has the reverse problem to Chobe in that it is in the area of the park that has much the best game viewing, but is apparently not a very nice lodge, at least according to the Bradt Guide, it also doesn't appear on the Africa Travel Resource website, we didn't go past it, so I don't personally know, quite what it's like.

 

Paraa is a perfectly good place to be from the point of view of seeing MFNP, you can just drive straight out of the car park and off on your game drive, or back down to the jetty to do a boat trip up to the Falls or down to the Delta. The problem with the lodge is simply that it is a large lodge and therefore much more like a hotel than a safari camp. As is generally the case in hotels the food was always a buffet, that’s not to say it was necessarily bad it just wasn’t that exciting and quite often leftover deserts from the night before would reappear. Having said that, there was usually a chef there cooking something alongside the buffet. I suppose mainly for the younger visitors they have a pizza oven next to the pool and can cook other snacks, pizza didn't really appeal that much in the heat. One evening the food was outside, I was expecting that this meant it was barbecue night and that the chefs would be cooking meat on a brai of some kind outside, in fact they’d just moved the buffet outside, there were a couple of chefs there but one was cooking naan bread in a tandoor oven and the other a pasta dish, otherwise the food was the similar to any other night.

 

Worse than the slightly unexciting food, was that the rooms were unbearably hot and you had to make use of a large fan on a stand, as well as a ceiling fan to try and stay cool, at night I opted to sleep with the doors onto the balcony open. Since the beds were surrounded by a mosquito net, and I was of course taking anti-malarial tablets, I figured I should be all right to do this.

 

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Being a big lodge with a lot of other people staying and quite a few groups of young people, it was at times in the afternoon quite noisy with people having fun in the pool.

 

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The swimming pool at Paraa Lodge, this photo was taken on one of the few occasions when the pool was empty, normally it seemed to be full of teenagers

 

However, during our stay we were subjected to a far worse disturbance than that, that made it very difficult to sleep during siesta time, although that’s something I usually choose not to do, by pure bad luck they had decided that the entire lodge needed re-thatching. The lodge roof is basically metal with thatch laid on top, during our stay there guys up on the roof all afternoon banging away attaching the new thatch.

 

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As with the noisy pool the issue with the re-thatching was something we wouldn't discover until the following day,  I don’t know how long the thatch lasts on average, but I would hope that future guests will be spared this inconvenience for sometime, I'm not sure if the lodge is open all year round but I would have thought they could have found a time to do it when they had no or very few guests. 

 

After what had been quite a long day driving up to Paraa from Masindi, we spent the rest of the day relaxing at the lodge, looking at birds and other wildlife in the garden, as we had 3 and a half days in the park there seemed little point in going out in to the park for a short drive, all the same I was very keen to get out in the morning and explore the north bank for the first time. 

 

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Resident common warthog in the garden at Paraa Lodge

 

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Edited by inyathi

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inyathi

Day 11 went to breakfast at around 06:15 which is when they open the door to the restaurant. 

 

A few days before our arrival in Murchison an Egyptian plover had been spotted hanging around the jetty area, I had had the good fortune to have a very good view of this special bird in Zakouma in Chad but would’ve been very happy to see one again. We decided to go down to the jetty first thing in the morning in the hope that it might still be around, it is a very rare bird in Uganda MFNP is one of the few places you have at least some chance of seeing it.

 

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Sunrise over the Victoria Nile

 

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Avoiding this was on reason why we’d chosen to stay at Paraa

 

Satisfied that the Egyptian plover was not around we headed off on our drive.

 

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Jackson’s or Lelwel hartebeest

 

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Typical Murchison Falls National Park landscape

 

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Oribi

 

I saw more oribi in MFNP than I have ever seen on any safari to any other national park in Africa, there were little groups pf them everywhere.

 

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African buffalo

 

The buffalo in MFNP looked for the most part like fairly typical Cape buffaloes, with reasonable sized horns unlike some of the forest x Cape hybrids in T-SWR

 

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Helmeted guineafowls

 

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Jackson's or lelwel hartebeest 

 

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Woodchat shrike 

 

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Bushbuck 

 

Having been in T-SWR where lions had sadly been wiped out a few years ago it was great to see lions in MFNP even if it wasn't a close up view 

 

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Lioness and cub

 

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Swallow-tailed bee-eater

 

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Angola swallows

 

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Lionesses and cubs on kill

 

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Common kestrel female

 

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Oribi

 

 

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Uganda kob

 

40683455635_20e4d57370_o.jpg View of the Albert Nile

 

Edited by inyathi

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inyathi

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Booted eagles

 

Not being able to cross over the Nile on my previous Uganda safari, had been especially frustrating, because it denied me my one chance of seeing patas monkeys on that safari, in Uganda this species only occurs north of the Nile, so is not found in the south of MFNP, they are only on the north bank and I really wanted to see one, as I'd never seen one before. In Kenya Patas have a pretty small distribution and are declining there and they're even rarer in Tanzania, with perhaps only 3 very small populations in the north, therefore they're not very easy to see in East Africa, except perhaps in the north of Uganda. Since that earlier Uganda trip I finally managed to see some patas monkeys in Zakouma NP in Chad and on my second trip there, I saw them every single day, even so I was still very keen to see them here, as they are I think such beautiful monkeys. I wasn't entirely sure how easy they would be to find, but in fact it didn't prove to be that difficult at all. 

 

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Male patas monkey

 

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Rothschild's giraffe

 

In Uganda, historically giraffes have never occurred anywhere south of the Nile River, they have always been restricted to the north. The giraffes here have always been called Rothschild's giraffe, however, recently the taxonomy of giraffes, has completely changed based on genetic evidence, a few years ago it was established that there are in fact 4 different species, the northern, the reticulated, the Maasai and the southern. When blood samples were taken from giraffes in the Gambella NP in Ethiopia, where the giraffes are Nubian, it was found that those giraffes, are genetically identical to these Rothschild's in Uganda, that they are the same subspecies (Giraffa camelopardalis camelopardalis), one of 3 subspecies of the northern giraffe, the other 2 are the Kordofan found in Zakouma and the West African now found only in southwest Niger. Strictly speaking they should therefore now be called Nubian giraffes, as the Nubian was named first and so its name takes precedence, however, all the guides still call them Rothschild's, so I've opted to do the same. MFNP has by far the largest population of these giraffes in Uganda, they are doing pretty well in the park, I've no doubt that their numbers would have been much reduced, because of bushmeat poaching, during the Tanzania-Uganda war and again when the NRA were pursuing Okello and his soldiers.Today they face another threat in the form of oil drilling, I understand that there are now quite a few oil wells on the north bank, as an insurance policy against any impact, caused by the oil, UWA recently ferried a group of giraffes across to the south bank of the Nile, where they had never naturally occurred. For any tourists in the park at the time, seeing the giraffes being taken over the Nile on the Paraa ferry, must have been quite a sight. Since then a population has also been introduced into Lake Mburo National Park in the south of Uganda, where again they were never found and yet they are thriving there. Evidently the Akagera River that forms the border with Tanzania, proved to be an insurmountable barrier for giraffes, the Maasai species naturally occurs in northwest Tanzania south of the river, but was never found in Uganda, nor west of the river in Rwanda, although they were introduced to Akagera NP in Rwanda in 1986. It was great to see plenty of these beautiful animals in MFNP.

 

The patas monkeys and the Lelwel hartebeest were not the only reminders of Zakouma that I saw, this flight of crowned cranes albeit of the more familiar grey species, reminded me very much of Zakouma, although they don't occur in such large numbers as the black species does there.

 

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Grey crowned cranes, over the Albert Nile

 

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Kittlitz's plover

 

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Senegal thick-knee

 

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Black-chested snake eagle

 

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Savanna elephant bull and piapiacs

 

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Starting in colonial times between 1925 and 1965, some 15,000 elephants were shot in Bunyoro to keep their numbers in check, growth in the human population along with hunting, left elephants almost entirely confined to the north of Bunyoro by the time Murchison Falls was made a National Park in 1952, human activities, no doubt caused elephants to seek refuge in the park, resulting in higher population, than was perhaps present in the past. By the mid 60s there were considered to be too many elephants and they were starting to have a noticeable impact on the trees, so it was decided that a cull should be carried out, between 1965 and 67 a total of 2,000 elephants were culled in the park from both sides of the Nile. At the end the end of the 1960s aerial counts put the number of elephants in MFNP at around 9,400. This population was very substantially reduced, by poaching particularly during the wars that badly affected the park, I've no doubt that the TPDF trucked out plenty of ivory from the park when they were here, the result of this poaching, is that the population was reduced to only around 100, with proper protection restored by UWA, the number has risen to around 1000. As mentioned earlier, elephants are no longer found in Budongo Forest, previously they moved between Murchison and the Forest, perhaps they will again before too long. The population should continue to increase and I would assume that there is still room for plenty more, before UWA have to start worrying about there being too many again.  

 

This had been a fantastic morning,  although as can be seen from the last photo of the thatchers on the roof in post 50, taken in the afternoon of this same day, the weather wasn’t great all of the time, on occasions it rained, enough that we had to put the roof hatch down, this was a nuisance as it restricted our visibility quite a bit, fortunately it wasn't serious rain and didn't last that long. 

 

Afternoon photos

 

26732156227_f335412552_o.jpg Buffaloes in the long grass

 

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Jackson's or Lelwel hartbeest calf

 

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Jackson's or Lelwel hartebeest

 

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Bohor reedbuck doe

 

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Significant areas of the savanna in the park are dominated by borassus palms, there are whole forest of palms and large numbers of young palms, the palms mark out elephant trails, as elephants are particularly fond of the fruits of these trees and they have planted them in their dung, everywhere they go. 

 

At the end of a great day returned to Paraa Lodge around 19:00.

Edited by inyathi

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dlo

I really hated waiting for that ferry on my first trip as we usually didn't get started until 7:15-7:30. So like you I'm going to stay on the north side but every place has an upside and downside to it. I am considering Pakuba as its location is perfect but honestly Bwana Tembo is fairly close to the action and I'm hoping it will be a little cooler sleeping in tents. I did find sleep hard to come by on my first visit and the heat seems to be an issue at most of the camps with power being turned off after midnight.

 

I'm enjoying you're continuing history lessons and glad you mentioned Wizard of the Nile. It's a very interesting book I read years ago and well worth a read. 

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inyathi

After breakfast at the same time, we went down and checked the jetty area again, but no plover. Martin having talked to some of the boatmen who’d seen the Egyptian plover around the jetty or along the river still thought that there was a possibility that the bird could still be around. We had suggested we should try an area called the Nyamsika Cliffs as we’d been led to believe that this is one of the main places where the plover is seen, Martin seemed curiously a little reluctant. Instead he’d arranged to pick up a UWA ranger, so that we could take a walk along the river bank to check a number of spots where it was just possible the bird could be. He’d also asked his boatmen mates to keep their eyes open for the bird when they were out on the river.

 

At the jetty we did see

 

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Wire-tailed swallows

 

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Water thick-knees 

 

We then drove back up past the lodge, to the ranger station to pick up our ranger Deo, who then led us on foot downhill to the Nile, I didn’t have high hopes of spotting the plover, but it was nice to have a chance to walk by the Nile. The path was a little tricky in places and it soon got very hot, but we did see some nice birds just not the plover.

 

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African darter and pied kingfisher 

 

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Orange-breasted bush-shrike

 

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Eastern grey plantain-eater

 

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Palm trees by the Nile 

 

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Guereza colobus

 

When we got back, Martin agreed that we should try the cliffs, I didn’t think to include the Nyamsika Cliffs on the map of the park I posted earlier, so here’s a zoomed in map that shows their location.

 

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it became apparent as we drove there, why he’d been a little reluctant, the short road down to the cliffs, had been effectively abandoned by UWA, was overgrown with grass, suggesting no one had driven it in a while. The reason for this became apparent as we approached the cliffs, near the end on a bend, the road had completely eroded away on one side, so Martin had to drive pretty carefully to get around. The drop where the roadside had gone was perhaps 4-5 feet, so he didn’t want to get his wheels too close to the edge but there wasn’t a lot of room on the other side of the road. It was only a very short stretch near the end, that was like this, but it was enough for UWA to stop using the road, they obviously haven’t as yet come up with a way to make it safe. This is a shame, because once we’d parked and jumped out we saw just what a beautiful place it is, from the top of the cliff you get a great panoramic view across the Nyamsika River.

 

39176013270_9ffa8207aa_o.jpg The view from Nyamsika Cliffs 

 

Down below a small family of elephants were drinking in the river, there were also a few hartebeest and warthogs and in the bush on beyond I spotted several giraffes.

 

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Savanna elephants in the Nyamsika River

 

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The river with its sandbanks looked like an ideal habitat for the plover, but if it was around, we couldn’t see it from the top, we decided to walk along the top of the cliff to the right (where Deo is in the panorama above) and then go down hill to check the river on beyond. We stayed there looking at the river, while Deo carried on to check around the next bend, he was gone for sometime, but eventually returned having seen nothing.

 

We’d passed quite a large herd of buffaloes on the way down and they were still there on the way back, although the buffaloes here look much like Cape buffaloes, some of them are I think a little browner in colour, than you might find with buffaloes in say Tanzania and further south.

 

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African buffaloes

 

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Edited by inyathi

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inyathi

Right back at the start of the safari, Martin had warned us that we might not be able to do the boat trip down to the Delta to look for shoebills, as there would be a major fishing competition going on, along the Nile during our stay, so there wouldn’t be so many boats available. We’d said at the time that we didn’t mind if we couldn’t do this, as we’d seen them well the last time and if we did the boat trip from Ntoroko in T-SWR and got lucky there then it really wouldn’t matter, fortunately, we were extremely lucky in T-SWR as shown earlier. Generally, you don’t see very much game going down to the Delta, certainly once you get into the papyrus, the trip is really about seeing the shoebills. Our priority was to drive on the north bank, it made much more sense to miss a game drive in T-SWR and try to see the shoebills there, so that we didn’t have to miss game driving time, doing a boat trip here. If we’d really wanted to see them here, then it would have been very annoying, if we had been told, that we couldn’t do the boat trip. However, while we could miss out the Delta, we couldn’t come all the way to MFNP and not go and have a look at the Falls, even if we had seen them a couple of times before.

 

After lunch at the lodge we went down to the jetty, I photographed a family of warthogs while we waited for the boat.

 

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Common warthog piglets under a car 

 

We boarded our boat, which is was run by Wild Frontiers and set off at around 14:30 up the Victoria Nile, to the Falls. Our boat was only small and just had a single deck, unlike some of the other boats which have an upper deck, however, it had a flat roof accessible by ladders and some of the passengers went and sat up top, they are quite happy for people to do this, as long as they sit in the middle and don’t move around. It struck me as a little crazy, given that you wouldn’t want to fall off into the Nile, in places it’s like crocodile soup. A good boat trip on an African River, is always fun and makes for a pleasant change from game driving, especially this boat trip, as there are plenty of animals to be seen on the way, not to mention a spectacular waterfall.

 

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Boating on the Nile

 

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Hippo pod and savanna elephant 

 

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This poor chap was in fact the same bull elephant we'd seen from the ferry when we first arrived, he evidently spends a lot of his time along the river, some years ago he caught his trunk in a poachers snare and lost the end of it, it doesn't seem to have effected him to badly, but a sad sight all the same. 

 

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Malachite kingfisher 

 

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The cow on the right looks distinctly pregnant, she'll no doubt soon have another calf, to join what I assume maybe her two existing calves

 

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Dead buffalo with Ruepell's griffon vultures, sacred ibis, a marabou and woolly-necked stork and a cattle egret

 

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Egyptian goose with goslings

 

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Goliath heron 

 

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Red-throated bee-eaters very common in MFNP

 

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Nile crocodile

 

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When you get close to the Falls you can get out and walk the trail up to the top of the falls, having done this the last time I was happy not to do it again, on that occasion the boat trip was in the morning, so we’d got there late morning, the walk up had been punishingly hot, however the view from the top is pretty spectacular and well worth the effort.

 

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Murchison Falls

 

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Big tree near the falls

 

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Rock pratincole, the bird to look out for at the falls 

 

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Murchison Falls actually consists of two huge falls side by side but you really don’t see the second waterfall to the left of the main falls, you see just a little bit of it from the top, you can only see all of it from a hilltop overlooking the falls or from the air. From the bottom in the boat you wouldn’t know that there was a second fall there at all, you just don’t see any of it.   

 

Some scanned slides taken from the top of the falls on my 1997 visit.

 

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Murchison Falls Invitational Fishing Tournament which I had not heard about before is an annual event that has been as far as I can find out since 2000 and lasts for 3 days. Going up and down the river we saw quite a few little boats full of fishermen and the river had clearly been divided into different sections marked out with flags provided by one of the main sponsors Nile Breweries.

 

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Boatman (don't remember his name)

 

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Five-legged elephant 

 

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The same bull as above with the missing trunk tip

 

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Defassa waterbuck

 

Edited by inyathi

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inyathi

While we had boated up to the falls, Nicholas had been instructed to hang around the jetty, in case there was any news of the non-existent Egyptian plover. I thought this was slightly tough on him, as he’d never been to Murchison Falls, I’m not sure that Martin really thought he had a realistic chance of finding the bird, I think he perhaps thought it would be a good chance for his young friend, to do some networking and meet various people. Whatever the case Nicholas said he'd fairly soon be returning to MFNP, so he didn’t mind missing the falls. Needless to say, he didn’t find the plover, I had already concluded that the bird must have moved on and was likely no longer in MFNP, we decided that in the morning, we would not waste more time on a fruitless search.     

 

On our final full day, in the morning we drove out to the Delta area of the park, we may have given up our chance of seeing a shoebill from the boat, but we would be going past a few places, where you can get lucky and see them from the road.  

 

This proved to be another very good morning game drive.

 

 

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Patas monkey

 

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Side-striped jackal

 

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Abdim's stork

 

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Black-headed lapwing

 

I'd hoped to see black-headed lapwings in Zakouma, but I'd had no luck there, so I was very pleased to see them a couple of times here. The highlight of the morning, came thanks to some other tourists on the road ahead of us, who we could see, were staring into some trees close to the road, it was obvious what they must be looking at, it was just a question of finding it, once Martin had parked in the right position that didn't take very long.

 

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Leopard

 

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I had a very lucky sighting of a leopard in Lake Mburo National Park on my last visit to Uganda, I really hadn’t expected, that I might get lucky again and see another one in Uganda. There were I think only two other cars there at the time and if they hadn't been there and found the leopard first, we might well have just driven past none the wiser. After that excitement, we drove out to an open area overlooking the edge of a papyrus swamp in the Delta, while there was a family of saddle-billed storks there, there were no shoebills. A surprisingly long way back from the water and the swamp, was a hide/blind, I went inside just for the sake of interest and almost the entire floor was covered in bat guano, it seemed to be doing a better job as a bat roost than as a bird-hide. on our way back to the main track we passed a bull elephant.

 

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Savanna elephant bull

 

We stopped at another wetland by the Albert Nile to see what we could see, which turned out to be mostly a few spur-winged geese and some kob and waterbuck.

 

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Wetland by the Albert Nile, with the hills of West Nile Province on beyond.

 

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Elephants on the way back to Paraa

 

Edited by inyathi

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inyathi

For our last afternoon in MFNP we would take the Albert Track and explore the some of the area by the Albert Nile.

 

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Uganda kob kid

 

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Common warthog

 

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Heuglin's francolin

 

This primarily Central African francolin is common in MFNP we saw quite a lot of these birds during our stay.

 

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Jackson's hartebeest

 

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Patas monkey with baby

 

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Patas monkey

 

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Bushbuck 

 

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Rothschild's giraffe

 

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Side-striped jackal and oribis

 

As you can see from the second giraffe photo, the sun was just starting to set over the Albert Nile, it was now 18:30 and we were a long way from Paraa, I'd looked at my watch a few times, thinking how on earth are we going to get back to the lodge by 19:00, as you're not really supposed to be driving in the park after then. Staying at Paraa Lodge, normally when setting out on a game drive, you would turn left and go south for a few minutes to the jetty, this necessitates going through a gate, once the guard has let you out, you turn in the jetty car park and take another road going north and then at the end of your drive, you return the same way. We had suggested a couple of times, that perhaps we should be thinking about heading back, but Martin seemed intent on carrying on and now there was no way that we could get back before dark. We'd probably only got about half way, by the time it was completely dark, it soon became apparent that Martin had chosen to go back to the lodge via a different road, so that he would arrive from the north, passing the ranger station rather than via the jetty and thus avoid having to go through the gate. He obviously didn't want to have to explain why he was driving after dark, I might have been a little annoyed at not getting back to the lodge until after 20:00, but on the road in the beam of the headlights we spotted a male standard-winged nightjar, and a Bunyoro rabbit or Uganda grass hare. The standard-winged nightjar is one of the strangest looking birds, we'd been extremely lucky to see one flying at Nile Safari Camp, on our last visit, the breeding male has a feather sticking out from each wing that has a very long narrow shaft and a broad ovate tip, as it flies it looks almost like it has a child's kite attached to each wing, or like it is being followed by two tiny little birds. Only the male has these 'standards' attached to it's wings, I only saw it very briefly as it sat on the road, but the feather standards attached to the wing, were unmistakable. The Bunyoro rabbit (Poelagus majorita) is really a hare, hence its alternative name Uganda grass hare, but it looks much more like a rabbit and is similar in appearance to a European rabbit, it is almost exclusively nocturnal and has a pretty limited distribution, so it's not an easy mammal to see, this was a lucky sighting.

 

Bunyoro Rabbit distribution map

Edited by inyathi

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inyathi

We were scheduled to fly out of MFNP and on up to Kidepo NP from the Pakuba Airstrip at 12:00, so had opted for our final morning in the park to do a short drive not too far from the lodge and then return briefly before doing another short game drive on our way to the airstrip. We didn’t actually really need to go back to the lodge mid-morning, as the toilets at the airstrip really weren’t bad, we could have just checked out straight after breakfast and left. Whatever the case we had two very pleasant drives.

 

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We saw some pretty good birds; the star of the show was a gorgeous pygmy sunbird a bird that I hadn’t expected to see.

 

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Pygmy sunbird

 

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Sooty chat male and female

 

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Abyssinian roller

 

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Black-bellied bustard female

 

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Spotted thick-knee (dikkop)

 

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Defassa waterbuck

 

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black-billed wood dove, a bird I'd last seen in Zakouma NP

 

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Bushbuck

 

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Red-throated bee-eater

 

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Defassa Waterbuck calf

 

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Grey-headed kingfisher

 

On our second drive on the way to Pakuba Airstrip we drove part of the Buligi Circuit a very beautiful part of the park. 

 

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Black-billed barbet

 

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African buffalo

 

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The beautiful Buligi area of the park seen here, was for a brief time, home to a small population of northern white rhinos.

 

The tragic tale of the northern white rhino

 

The other side of the Albert Nile from MFNP is West Nile Province, once part of the Lado Enclave described in Part 1, at the start of the 20th century the Enclave as well as having a huge population of elephants, was home to a large population of white rhinos. These northern white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum cottoni), were generally left alone by the local people who didn’t hunt them, but visiting big game hunters did, most famously Theodore Roosevelt, although a fair few were shot, no one back then was that interested in their horns. Until that is the 1920s when it became clear that white rhinos were being killed for their horns, by 1928 the colonial authorities had noticed a significant decline in the Ugandan population, a census recorded just 133 in West Nile. Protection measures were put in place and a number of rhino sanctuaries were gazetted, this proved very successful and the population recovered rising to around 500 animals in 1950. Unfortunately, at the same time the price of rhino horn increased markedly, leading to heavy poaching and within 10 years rhinos had been wiped out, from all of their established sanctuaries. By 1963 there were thought to be just 71 white rhinos left in Uganda, in response to this situation conservationists, decided to move some of these northern whites across the Nile into MFNP. In Uganda historically, white rhinos had always been restricted to West Nile, between 1961 and 1964, they darted 15 white rhinos and translocated them to the north bank of the Nile in MFNP. The last surviving northern white rhinos in West Nile, were in an area called Inde a new sanctuary called Ajai Wildlife Reserve was established there, by the early 70s a population of some 60 rhinos in Ajai had doubled to around 120. Meanwhile the population in MFNP increased to 25. But, by the end of the 70s poachers had reduced the number of rhinos in Ajai back down to 80, then came the Tanzania-Uganda war. After taking Kampala the TPDF pursued the remnants of Idi Amin’s army, up through MFNP and across into West Nile, it is generally accepted that Tanzanian soldiers wiped out the last rhinos in Ajai WR and almost certainly killed all of those in MFNP also. By 1980 the northern white rhino was believed to be extinct in Uganda. The eastern black rhino occurred naturally in MFNP, but it too was poached out, I would assume at around the same time, TPDF soldiers may well have killed the last of these rhinos also.

 

War has been a major curse for both people and wildlife in this region, with northern white rhinos completely gone from Uganda, just one population was known to survive in Garamba NP in the DRC. War had likely already caused their demise in the south of Chad and the north of the CAR and in South Sudan where there were once huge numbers in parks like Southern NP. Conservationists fought valiantly to try and save the last northern whites in Garamba, but in the end it just became to dangerous to operate there, because of the civil wars in the DRC and neighbouring South Sudan and ultimately the arrival of the Lord’s Resistance Army. The late South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony, made an extremely courageous last-ditch attempt to save the northern whites, travelling out to the DRC to try and negotiate with the Lord’s Resistance Army, in the hope of persuading them to protect the animals. He wrote about his adventures in his book The Last Rhinos, his efforts ultimately proved futile and Garamba’s rhinos were poached to extinction, he sadly died from a heart attack, just before his book was published. African Parks now manages Garamba, but they took over after the rhinos were already believed to be extinct, surveys that they conducted to search for white rhinos, found no evidence of any survivors.

 

After the last wild northern whites became extinct, just a handful of these animals remained in captivity, principally in the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic, though some were sent from there to the San Diego Wild Animal Park in the US. The original captive rhinos had been captured in the Shambe Game Reserve in Sudan (within what’s now Rep of South Sudan), amongst these original animals was a young bull calf that they named Sudan. The zoo had very limited success breeding the rhinos, despite trying very hard, eventually as a last role of the dice, it was decided that the rhinos that might still be capable of breeding, should be sent to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, in the hope that a more natural habitat would help. Ol Pejeta had in fact already built some rhino bomas, some years before, a plan had been devised to try and rescue the very last of Garamba’s rhinos and fly them to Kenya, the idea was that the rhinos would live and breed in Kenya, but remain the property of the DRC, however apparently some stupid local Congolese politicians objected, the rhinos were never captured and Ol Pejeta’s bomas were left empty. Until the rhinos were flown in from the Czech Republic. As many reading this will be aware, Ol Pejeta were unsuccessful in persuading the rhinos to breed, Sudan who was a pretty old bull by the time he arrived in Kenya, died just recently, leaving just two surviving cows that are incapable of breeding.

 

Essentially the northern white rhino is now extinct, but, there is at least a possibility, that science can reverse this and resurrect these animals, through the use of IVF technology and perhaps even cloning. Genetic material has been stored from all of the captive animals, if a “test tube” northern white embryo can be created, then vets could implant the embryo into a southern white cow, to produce a northern white calf. This has never been done before with rhinos of any kind, so it won’t be at all easy, one obvious problem if they do succeed, is that they only have genetic material from a tiny number of animals, this could result in inbreeding depression. However, recent research has shown that the southern white rhino, of which there are now still around 20,000 despite poaching, once went through a severe genetic bottleneck. It’s now thought that it may in fact be possible based on this evidence, to resurrect the northern white, without having a serious problem with inbreeding, I'd assumed that they would have to create a hybrid NWR x SWR population, but apparently not. It will though take a lot of money, I'm sure there are some very wealthy private donors out there who will be able to find enough spare change to fund this.

 

When the Rhino Fund Uganda decided to reintroduce rhinos to the country and helped establish the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, just south of MFNP in 2005, there were of course by then no northern whites available. The decision was therefore taken to introduce southern whites, 4 SWRs were introduced from Solio Tanch in Kenya and a further 2 from Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida. There are apparently now 22 rhinos at Ziwa, Rhino Fund’s mission is to ultimately re-introduce rhinos into Uganda’s protected areas, it is very likely that in the next few years, they will move some of their SWRs up to MFNP and release them there, presumably into the Buligi area where the NWRs were. When they first imported the SWRs they were considered to be an alien species because they weren’t northern whites, but until the northern white is resurrected if that proves possible, the point is academic. In the time it might take to produce 22 NWRs, Ziwa could very well have doubled its rhino population, if none are poached, so I’m certain SWRs will be introduced to MFNP long before there are enough NWRs to introduce them to the park. Whether they would then remove them and replace them with NWRs I don’t know.  Garamba currently is still the most dangerous national park for rangers to operate in I believe, although Virunga must be a close second, so I doubt it will be safe enough to provide a home for NWRs or not for some years at least.

 

Hypothetically in some years’ time, if science overcomes the various challenges involved, there could be a herd of NWRs at Ol Pejeta, I suppose then UWA could consider removing the SWRs in order to import NWRs. They could possibly just exchange them, or maybe acquire the NWRs separately and exchange the SWRs for some eastern black rhinos from somewhere, either Kenya or perhaps even Akagera in Rwanda. Akagera might not have rhinos to spare for a while, but they may perhaps have animals certainly bulls that they want to remove for genetic reasons. Or they could exchange them for other animals besides black rhinos that they want to introduce, wildlife exchanges between countries have taken place before in Southern Africa. However, this is all hypothetical at the moment, Uganda does though need black rhinos, if UWA can guarantee their safety, but that’s a subject I shall revisit later.

 

Departure

 

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Pakuba Airstrip

 

We went to the airstrip at 12:00 in plenty of time for our flight to Kidepo which I believe was supposed to be at 12:30, we were happy to sit and eat while we waited for our plane to arrive. After an hour had gone by, we were starting to get slightly worried that maybe Aerolink had somehow forgotten and weren’t sending a plane. At this point we would be waving good by to Martin and Nicholas, who would then drive home, Martin obviously couldn’t leave us until we were actually on board the flight. Nicholas was no doubt getting somewhat concerned as to where the plane was, since he had birding clients arriving at Bwindi 2 days later, if Martin didn’t get him back in time to catch his bus, his clients might not be very happy to be without their birdguide. Eventually the plane arrived at around 13:45 and our guides departed. If I were to return to Uganda it would likely be to go gorilla trekking in Bwindi or Mgahinga and if I were to do that, I would want to do a bit of birding as well and I’d certainly want Nicholas to guide for me if he was available. It was something of a relief when the plane landed as we were a little bored of waiting at Pakuba Airstrip.

 

The airstrip is entirely fenced to keep animals out,  as mentioned earlier elephants are very fond of borassus fruits, there used to be lot of these palms on either side of the airstrip, as these were attracting elephants which would then knock the fence down, they decided to fell all of the palms. However, elephants can still be a problem, if they arrive at the fence and want to get across to the other side, it's a long way to have to walk all the way around, they're not stupid animals, sometimes they'll push their way through the fence just to get across the airstrip. 

 

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Albert Nile from the air

 

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The Albert Nile from the air

 

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The Albert Nile from the air

Edited by inyathi

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inyathi

@dloBefore leaving MFNP, I thought if I ever return I might be tempted to ignore the negative comments about Pakuba Lodge and stay there on the basis that sometimes location is everything. It might not be the most convenient place to do boat trips to the falls, but I think for game driving it would be ideal. I hadn’t heard of Bwana Tembo before, it looks like it could be a nice place to stay, but it does seem quite far away. It looks like it might be pretty comparable in distance from some of the best game viewing as Paraa is, but, it may be a much nicer place, that wouldn’t be too hard. What’s annoying is that we opted not to stay at Baker’s Lodge which is said to be much the nicest camp, in order to avoid the ferry crossings, we were then told at the end of the safari by Wild Frontiers who run the lodge, that if you stay at Baker’s you don’t need to use the ferry. Instead you can just use the Lodge boat, we hadn’t been told this before but apparently having taken the car over on the ferry, they can leave it overnight on the north bank, I assume in the jetty carpark at Paraa I don’t know, then they can just take you over by boat whenever you want, so you’re not tied to the ferry timetable. Besides not wanting to waste time in the morning, I presume if you’re doing 2 game drives you really need to take a packed lunch and stay out all day, to avoid have to use the ferry 4 times a day, which could get boring, but then you’d miss having a siesta in camp through the hottest part of the day. But, if you can come and go on their own boat, then going back to camp for lunch wouldn’t seem like such a bad option.

 

I’m rather concerned about the future of MFNP, having seen the oil wells and other oil infrastructure on the way up the park gate, I didn’t see any evidence of the oil drilling on the north bank, but I know that it’s going on, I guess the wells are sited away from areas where tourists might see them. At the moment the wells are capped because they haven’t as yet constructed the pipeline that will take out the oil. One serious concern is that Martin told us that when they come to put the pipeline in and connect up all the wells, UWA will close the whole of the north bank to tourism for 2 years (I’m sure that’s what he said) while this operation is carried out. I’m not sure exactly when this will happen, but I assume it’s true I can’t believe he would have told us this if it isn’t, this is going to be a major blow to the all of the lodges/camps on the north bank. It makes me wonder whether the decision to move giraffes to the south bank was just about safeguarding these animals because of the disturbance caused by the oil or whether it was also to improve game viewing in the south of MFNP. I understand from what I have read that the oil company is Total, what really concerns me more than the temporary closure of the north bank, is whether they will make good on their promise to do minimal damage to MFNP and whether when the oil runs out and they depart they leave a whole load of mess behind. Besides the obvious possibility of an oil spill polluting the Nile or Lake Albert. My impression is that oil companies are very good at promising not to make a mess. but aren’t very good at keeping their promises or it’s just very hard to avoid making a mess. Whatever the case if you’re considering a visit to MFNP I wouldn’t hold off too long, in case they do go ahead and close the north bank.

 

Oil is not the only thing to threaten the park, the Chinese have been very busy constructing a huge hydroelectric dam at Karuma Falls on the western boundary of the park. We were told about this also but I hadn’t taken it too seriously until I was greeted by the following horrendous sight when I was looking at the park on Google Earth and zoomed in on Karuma.

 

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What really worries me is what effect this will have on the Murchison Falls when it is up and running, the falls are after all the parks major attraction and anything that disrupts the flow can’t be a good thing. I hope that my fears are unfounded, besides its huge conservation value, MFNP is apparently Uganda’s most visited park so I would hope that the government knows what it’s doing allowing these developments to go ahead.

 

Whatever the future the holds for MFNP, the park delivered some good birds and good mammals with so many patas sightings and then a leopard, and who knows if we’d been there just 1 week earlier, we probably would have seen the Egyptian plover.  

Edited by inyathi

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dlo

@inyathi Location is definitely first priority so for me its going to be Pakuba but I may spend a night at Bwana Tembo just to check it out and get some nice Italian food! When I checked Bwana's location its only a half hour from Pakuba and if the first ferry is still at 7:00 I'd still get to Buligi earlier than being on the south side.

 

We are going in January so I'm not to worried about oil affecting my visit but that is really sad news about the future of the park. I honestly don't know if an oil has ever not left a mess in its wake but I'd love to be wrong. I do know I'll ask a lot of questions when I'm there and if I learn anything I'll be sure to let you know. I did read recently in the Daily Monitor that they were going to build a refinery in Hoima but that will take at least a couple of years but I have no idea if they are trying to refine everything in country or just start exporting immediately.

 

On a side note I really enjoyed your Royal Mile trip and have made some big changes to my trip. By cutting out a lot of driving to the East I can now go the Royal Mile and I was able to add a day at MFNP as well I'm going to Ziwa to see the rhinos and do a shoebill trek from Ziwa as well. Can't wait for Kidepo as it might cause even more changes.

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inyathi

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Northern Uganda from the air

 

Kidepo Valley National Park

 

Kidepo located in the far northeast of Uganda on the border with the Republic of South Sudan and very close to the Kenya border, is without doubt Uganda’s most remote and off the beaten track national park. The number of visitors is slowly growing, but it must still receive far fewer than almost any other national park in the country. A big problem until recently, was that in order to drive there from MFNP, you would go via Gulu and then Kitgum and both of these towns, were major centres of Lord’s Resistance Army activity, so it just wasn’t safe to drive. Even after the LRA had been very largely driven out of the area, there was still something of a problem with banditry and within the Karamoja region, there has been a certain amount of inter-tribal conflict, you might say that cattle rustling in this region, is something of a national sport or rather international sport, so until very recently the FCO was advising UK citizens not travel to Kidepo by road. Starting in 2001, to try and pacify Karamoja and because they would prefer to be the only ones with guns, the UPDF was sent in to to disarm the Karamajong, this was a bit of a disaster, because everyone in this region is armed to the teeth, with AK47s and similar guns, to protect their livestock and their women from their neighbours. As soon the Karamajong gave up their guns, their Kenyan neighbours the Pokot and Turkana saw their opportunity and launched violent raids, stealing large numbers of cattle, Toposa raiders also crossed over from South Sudan. This situation wasn’t particularly good for relations between the Karamajong and the UPDF and the government. Now it is generally considered safe to drive, the trouble is simply that it’s a very long way, from MFNP it is around 273 miles or 440 Km and takes I believe roughly 8 hrs nonstop, the Bradt guide says this drive is doable in a day, if you start very early. Driving up from Entebbe/Kampala, it’s really just that bit too far, to sensibly do in a single day, so you need to beak the journey and stay the night somewhere, that makes it a two-day trip. For a lot of tourists Kidepo is just one stop too far, because the driving is just too long and the alternative to fly in is expensive, this has kept visitor numbers down. Although the park has some great birds, very few birders ever get to the park to see them, I’m not aware of any international birding companies that include Kidepo, but I’m sure Ugandan companies that offer birding trips may do. Most people come for the wilderness and the big game.

 

We’d considered driving to Kidepo, but had decided we really wanted as much time as possible in the park and thought that flying was the better option, from the Pakuba Airstrip. it’s only just over an hour. It is expensive, for that reason we’d thought that if we were going to spend the money. then we’d better make it really worthwhile and stay in the park for a proper length of time, this obviously of course made it even more costly, but it didn’t seem worth going just for a couple of days. If Kidepo was as special as we had been led to believe, then it would be worth it, and we would very likely not come this way again. Visiting Kidepo was one of the primary reasons for returning to Uganda, so we wanted to make sure it was a real highlight to end the safari on.

 

Having been very keen to visit Kidepo for such a long time, I was very slightly concerned that the park might not quite live up to my expectations, that maybe having visited Zakouma twice, I would be a little underwhelmed. Not so much by the park itself, but the amount of game, besides the vast herds of buffaloes that Kidepo is famous for, I wasn't sure how much other game there would be, since I knew there had been terrible poaching, resulting in the loss and near loss of various species. The park does have some birds that really aren’t found elsewhere in Uganda, or only in the very far north, but I’d already seen some of these, although they are just over 1000 miles apart Kidepo and Zakouma have a good deal of overlap, when it comes to bird species. I would be very happy to see these birds again one of them in particular, but I wondered how many new ones ‘lifers’ I might find. Having said that, I’m always excited to visit new places and not really knowing what to expect, apart from a great wilderness experience, if anything added to the excitement. Any doubts I might have had soon disappeared as we flew over the Nangeya Mountains and the landscape of Kidepo came into view, the park is almost entirely surrounded by mountains, every direction you look offers a spectacular view. If I was asked to compile a list of Africa’s most scenically beautiful national parks and I visited a few very beautiful parks, I think I’d have to put Kidepo top of the list.  

 

 

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The Nangeya Mountains

 

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We landed at about 15:20, from the airstrip or one might say airport as it has a small terminal building it was only a few minutes’ drive to our chosen accommodation Apoka Safari Lodge, we just needed to sign the visitors book and then jump in the lodge vehicle. I’m not quite sure why visitors have to register on arrival in Kidepo as we weren’t asked to do this elsewhere.

 

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View of Apoka Safari Lodge

 

 

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Views of the Narus Valley from the Apoka Airstrip

 

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Isabelline wheatear

 

The Lodge at Apoka is very nice and run by the same outfit as Semliki Safari Lodge, being at Apoka was certainly a huge improvement on being at Paraa. The lodge is built on a small kopje in the Narus Valley and consists of a small reception building a large main building with the usual dining room, bar and lounge and then 10 bungalow rooms spread out down below.

 

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Apoka Safari Lodge

 

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Next to the reception and the lodge’s water tower is a viewing tower, if the views aren’t good enough from below you can go up stairs to the top of the tower.

 

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The lookout tower 

 

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View from the tower

 

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From the lodge you get a 180-degree view of the stunning Narus Valley.

 

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View from Apoka Safari Lodge

 

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Swimming Pools are not something I really need on safari or something I would consider beautiful, but as pools go the one at Apoka is very nice, having been built into the rock. Besides the umbrellas and sun loungers, there’s a little pool house where you can relax and get out of the sun or if necessary shelter from the rain, as you can see in that last panorama there was a certain amount of rain falling in the valley.

 

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When you arrive at the lodge you are assigned your own personal waiter/butler to look after your group during your stay, a bit of a step up from Paraa and even at Semliki they didn’t do this.

 

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Ponsiano as well as serving us all of our meals was always ready and waiting with the cold towels when we returned from a drive. 

 

 

During the introductory briefing, we were told that they have the most amazing chef and that if the menu doesn’t appeal, he can cook anything you want, before jokingly adding, except salmon. However, while the food generally wasn’t bad, it was perhaps just a little variable and what you were given didn’t always precisely match, what was written on the menu. On one occasion for lunch, we were given for desert, what the menu said was mango martini zabaglione with coconut biscuit crumbs, this exotic concoction sound not unappealing, when it arrived however, it turned out to be a mixture of pureed mango and assorted breakfast cereals, served in a martini glass. No evidence of the coconut biscuit, now I’m no expert on Italian food, indeed I’m not even certain I’ve had zabaglione, but I know roughly what it is and I know it’s not pureed fruit. It tasted okay, but this was really more the kind of dish, that a student might knock up after they’d checked their cupboards and found that all they have is cornflakes, rice-crispies and a mango, rather than something a supposedly amazing chef would make.     

 

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Breakfast first course of fresh fruit salad, yogurt and granola

 

Besides the odd curious dish, one issue that is not that uncommon a problem in Africa, is that the staff during their training have been taught that white wine must always be served cold, but not red wine. Everyone has this idea that red wine has to be served warm or at room temperature, this is of course true, if you are somewhere with a temperate climate, but when you’re somewhere very hot as in Kidepo and room temperature, is therefore very hot, red wine has to be chilled, otherwise it’s really not pleasant to drink. It was only a case of requesting an ice-bucket, but it just seemed slightly silly that they’d always bring an ice-bucket with white wine, but not with red, because they'd not been taught this. I wasn’t too bothered by this, it’s just a bit surprising in what is a fairly high-end lodge, but then, I did think when considering the wine or the food, that obviously all of this was completely alien to the average Karamajong, so the local staff wouldn’t know anything at all about wine or international food, until they been trained. Up until this point it hadn't really been an issue, as we'd mostly been drinking beer.     

 

Of course, we weren’t here for the food or the wine.

Edited by inyathi

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offshorebirder

Wow @inyathi - Kidepo Valley.   Hard core.  Good for you helping the ecotourism scene.  

 

I hope you were rewarded with some nice birds and wildlife.

 

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douglaswise

I was interested in your discussion on the northern white rhino in post # 68.  I very recently met John Forrest in Hluhluwe Umfolozi during a tour of South Africa in which I was lucky enough to have discussions with many conservationists and former Park wardens. John, himself, had previously managed the Park in which I met him and, through him, I was introduced to the present director and his head of research.  However, this is somewhat beside the point.  John went on to become President of the Game Rangers Association.  In this capacity, he was asked to give advice on how to save the last Northern Whites in DRC, which he visited.  He told me that, at the time, there were 27 left.  He advised that they could either be defended in situ or moved (presumably) to Kenya.  He warned that the former approach would inevitably lead to some human mortality (rangers and/or poachers). Authorities would not countenance such a eventuality, but neither would they accept the alternative of relocation.  Hence, the demise of the species.

 

That said, my real purpose in commenting was to ask you to explain why you think it important to resurrect the Northern Whites as a pure species when your comments indicate that it would be an expensive and time-consuming endeavour with no guarantee of success.  I must admit that I'm a "lumper" and you appear to be something of a "splitter".  It would seem that Southern Whites would be capable of hybridising with Northerns and that the offspring would be fertile.  Hence, my key question:  In what significant way do the two species differ - I am thinking about morphology, physiology, behaviour, dietary requirement etc?  I accept that geneticists might detect subtle differences, but do they matter in the great scheme of things?

 

I would hate to see the extinction of all white rhino, but I fear that this will happen if a legal horn trade is not soon instituted.  In the absence of the latter, I have wondered whether it would be better for conservation of African wildlife in general for the extinction to occur sooner rather than later.  It currently costs at least 4 times as much to attempt to protect public protected areas from poaching when rhino are present than when they aren't and attempts are often insufficient to prevent population decline.  Funding of many public protected areas without rhino is already inadequate to enable proper management.   

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inyathi

@douglaswise 

According to a science paper from 2010 northern and Southern whites should be considered different species, genetic evidence apparently suggests that they have been separated for over 1 million years.

 

The Sixth Rhino: A Taxonomic Re-Assessment of the Critically Endangered Northern White Rhinoceros

 

I don’t think this view is widely accepted, although the situation might be different if the northern white were not effectively extinct, at present the question is rather academic. I don’t know whether they really are different species or whether it is helpful to regard them as such. I’m not a serious splitter at all, at least not with mammals, I recently bought the book Bovids of the World by Jose R Castello, I don’t know if you’ve seen this book or have a copy of it, in it he describes for example 11 different species of klipspringer, which I find rather absurd. I think that’s the most extreme example in the book, it doesn’t matter to me that the oribis that I saw in MFNP, are according to the taxonomy he's used Sudan oribis and not just oribis, I can’t tell the difference. Having said that the old Collins Field Guide to the Mammals of Africa by Theodor Haltenorth treated all oryx, the gemsbok, beisa, fringe-eared, Arabian and scimitar-horned as one species, that's if anything even more absurd than 11 species of klipspringer, to believe that beisa and fringe-eared oryx are the same species is fair enough, but not scimitar-horned or Arabian. I would probably sit somewhere between the two, but I'm not a mammalogist  or a taxonomist, is splitting helpful from a conservation stand point I don't know.

 

One of the arguments presented for saving the NWR as a distinct species/subspecies is that they may have specific genetic adaptations to living in the northern savannas of Central Africa, that the SWRs lack. I don’t know if this is really a significant issue, I’m sure if you could release SWRs into Garamba they would survive well enough and the fact that they might lack certain northern genes would not matter. Having said that I do think we should at least try to preserve northern white genes if possible, my assumption was that this could only be done realistically by creating a hybrid population, the recent research that I mentioned, indicates that this may not be necessary. Resurrecting the NWR will be a very expensive operation, back in 2015 I posted something on Ol Pejeta’s fundraising campaign Make a Rhino, they have a go fund me page asking people to donate to resurrect the NWR, I don’t know if their target has stayed the same or has changed, but their aim is to raise £9 million, their total so far (today) stands at £47,566. They list recent donations and many of them are just £10 or £20 at that rate, it will take a long time to get to their target, however, I suspect there maybe some very wealthy donors out there, people like just for example Di Caprio, who will actually donate a good deal of the necessary money, but obviously not via go fund me.  Looking at the size of their target and how much money they have raised so far in nearly 3 years, a lot of people might wonder why bother, as it looks like they’ll never get there. Here’s the link

 

Make a Rhino

 

I know that for sometime zoo vets, were trying to produce an SWR calf using IVF, in order to master the technique, so that they could then use this method to breed NWRs, but they’ve not been successful so far. Just overcoming this obstacle will take a lot of time and money, but, I believe it will eventually be done, and then it will be possible to breed NWRs. If it is going to cost £9 million it’s certainly a fair question, to ask whether that money, could be better spent protecting surviving white and black rhino populations, I think there’s a very strong argument for saying it could. However, I think the attempt will eventually be made to produce an NWR calf and since it is, I believe IUCN policy. to avoid hybridisation except as a last resort, I assume they will try to avoid creating a hybrid population, if they don’t have to. My point really would be, that if they succeed in creating a herd of NWRs and if they want to keep them pure, they will need to find a safe home for them in Africa, where there are no SWRs, at the moment, MFNP would be the obvious place, otherwise Zakouma NP is perhaps the only other suitable park that I can think of. The likelihood though as I said, is that during the time it will take to produce these animals, the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary will have already bred enough SWRs to provide animals for introduction to MFNP and UWA will have gone ahead with their introduction there. Unless Ol Pejeta are going to send all of their SWRs to other places, I don’t otherwise know, where a population of NWRs would go, reintroduction to Garamba will be out of the question for some years, and it will be long time before reintroduction to South Sudan or CAR could be considered.

 

While on the one hand, I think there’s a case for saying that the £9 million could be better spent, on the other hand I think perfecting the technique of producing IVF rhinos, could be a very important development. I have just read an article, about how some conservationists, are advocating that all Sumatran rhinos left in the wild, should be brought into captivity, because there are so few left, that this may prove to be the only way to save the species. IVF could prove very important, in trying to breed more of these animals.

 

In my view, the priority has to be keeping rhino species alive for as long as possible, until the horn trade issue can be resolved, whatever the answer is, whether it’s legalisation or whether it is attempting to stamp out the use of rhino horn. However, I don’t wish to start engaging in a debate in my trip report I’d rather do that elsewhere.

 

So, I will return to Kidepo.

Edited by inyathi

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inyathi

Before we set out on our first game drive we’d already seen a certain amount of wildlife at the lodge.

 

Down below the dining room is a little artificial waterhole to attract animals

 

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Two of the so called "retired generals" the hang around the lodge area

 

I knew that I’d definitely made the right decision to come here, when we spotted a patas monkey drinking from the swimming pool.

 

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Patas monkey drinking from the swimming pool

 

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Side-striped jackal

 

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Dwarf mongoose

 

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Helmeted guineafowls

 

At around 17:00 we met up with our driver guide Dennis and headed out, we saw a few more patas as we drove out just below the back of the lodge, I saw a few more after this in Kidepo but didn't get good enough views to take photos, but for the one at the pool we had better sightings in MFNP. It didn’t take us very long to find our first Clapperton’s francolins, this is one of the birds in Uganda that's not found outside this region. I’d seen these francolins very well on my last visit to Zakouma, but only once, here they seemed much more common or at least easier to see and I would see a lot of them during my stay.

 

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Clapperton's francolin

 

Kidepo is said to have the largest herds of buffalo in Africa, I’m always a bit sceptical of claims like this, and in the case of buffaloes I’ve seen huge herds in Katavi and Ruaha NPs in Tanzania and in Zakouma in Chad, I wondered could the herds here really be much bigger? My initial thought was there are certainly huge herds here, but I’m not sure they’re really that much bigger, by the time I left Kidepo I’d revised my opinion and don't doubt that the park does have more buffaloes than anywhere else, almost any view of the Narus Valley will have great lines of buffalo in it. Driving through these herds is certainly impressive.   

 

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Lesser kestrel and African buffaloes

 

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African buffaloes

 

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Female Bohor reedbuck 

 

At least I think this is a reedbuck and not a kob, she appears to have a faint spot below the ear that's partially obscured by the plant stems which indicates Bohor reedbuck.

 

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Some of the buffaloes here especially the younger animals are really very brown in colour, according to the book Bovids of the World they should be West and Central savanna buffaloes (Syncerus brachyceros), the same as those in Zakouma, but to me, barring a few brown individuals most of them looked just like Cape buffaloes (Syncerus caffer) more so than Zakouma's buffaloes, and I'm not sure that these different buffaloes, really are separate species rather than subspecies anyway. 

 

While we were with the buffaloes, we spotted some giraffes in the distance and set off to get a closer look.

 

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Rothschild's giraffes 

 

When we reached them, I counted around 14 in total, but there could have been one I’d missed, this herd amounted to almost one third of Kidepo’s entire giraffe population. I mentioned the near loss of species, in my earlier post, the northern giraffe is one of the species that very nearly vanished from Kidepo, the giraffes here belong to the Nubian/Rothschild’s subspecies, the same as in MFNP.  

 

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Kidepo was not directly affected by the Tanzania-Uganda war, the TPDF never made it up to the park, this was a blessing, although the war undoubtedly contributed to an increase in the number of guns in Karamoja. Even so, I knew that there had been terrible poaching in Kidepo and wondered how there could still be enormous herds of buffaloes and yet other animals, had been wiped out or nearly, so in the case of these giraffes. I put this question to Denis and asked about the poaching generally in the park and have also tried to find out what I could since.

 

There was once a good-sized population of giraffes in Kidepo National Park, back at the end of the 60s early 70s, there were around 400, but they were hit very hard by poachers, due to the chaos and lawlessness during Uganda’s civil wars. In the past during the Amin years, when he could not pay the army, they were told to go into the national parks and feed themselves, a good deal of poaching in Kidepo was done by Ugandan soldiers, stationed in the park, because of its location on the border with South Sudan, the wars over the border didn't help the situation. However, most of the poaching of giraffes, was I believe done by local Karamajong people, because giraffe tails in this region are very highly prized and worth a lot of money. As in many traditional African societies, young Karamajong men, in order to get married, need to be able to pay a so-called bride price or dowry, normally this would be paid in cattle. A young man from a family without too many cows to spare, might instead pay the dowry with a giraffe tail or use it to purchase cattle to secure them a bride, possession of a giraffe tail, is seen as a great status symbol. The giraffes are not usually eaten, once the tail has been removed the carcass is left to the scavengers.

 

As a result of this poaching, the population of Rothschild’s giraffes in the Narus Valley in Kidepo was reduced to just 3 animals, without intervention Kidepo’s giraffes, were doomed to extinction. To prevent the loss of these animals in 1997 UWA, approached Kenya to obtain some new giraffes, to reinforce the population, 3 Rothschild’s giraffes were captured by KWS in Lake Nakuru National Park. The intention had been to capture 5 animals, all females, however, the number of giraffes in Nakuru, proved to be lower than first thought and capturing the animals more difficult than hoped. As a result, only 3 animals were captured and one of them was a young male, the giraffes were kept in a boma (enclosure) in Nakuru, for a while before they were flown up to Kidepo. Once in Kidepo they were kept in a temporary boma, when the time came to release them, UWA rangers located KIdepo’s last giraffes and carefully herded them towards the boma, before letting the new giraffes out. Unfortunately, the young male Nakuru giraffe, was predated by a lion, the reinforcement has had the desired effect and the giraffe population has risen to 45. At some point a further reinforcement will have to be carried out in order to reduce the effect of inbreeding, this will undoubtedly become a problem otherwise. It would appear that all of the younger giraffes are descended from just 5 animals, I hope that in the near future UWA, will bring in some new giraffes from Murchison Falls National Park, where the population is very healthy. The Giraffe Conservation Foundation, might perhaps give UWA a bit of a push and provide funding and other assistance to get the job done, as they have done with previous giraffe translocations in Uganda.

 

Saving Uganda’s Threatened Nubian Giraffe

 

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It was great to see these lovely animals, in the beautiful landscape of the Narus Valley and this was quite a lucky sighting, we only had one other distant view of giraffes, during our time in Kidepo. Shortly after leaving the giraffes, we stopped for a quick sundowner, the sunset wasn't the best, but the view was pretty good.

 

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Edited by inyathi

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