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To Speke about Lake Victoria and the Nile. Feb-March 2024.


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To Speke about Lake Victoria and the Source of the Nile.

February March 2024.



Every skuleboy is taught that the world’s longest river is the Nile and its source is at Ripon Falls in Jinja in Uganda as it empties from Lake Victoria. Declared as such by British explorer John Hanning Speke first in 1858 and ratified by his 2nd visit in 1862. It is Speke, with fellow explorer Richard Francis Burton that is held to be the first European to have seen Lake Nyanza and named it after his Queen and Empress Victoria which is the name by which it is now known throughout the world.

Speke’s name is forever linked with that lake as the large inlet on the eastern lake shore now bears his name, Speke Bay.

But what he then described as “the source of the Nile” was puny at a mere 2,300 miles, 3,700km from Jinja to where it enters the Mediterranean Sea at Rosetta in Egypt. 

The reality is much different. There are now two main contenders for the title, two in Birundi and one in Rwanda either of which will increase the total length from source to sea to 4,130miles/6650kms depending on which one you go for. And that is merely the modern river system as in pre historic times the Nile  almost shared a common source with the Mighty Congo in Bangawelu swamps in modern day Zambia. Only the eruption of the Virunga Mountains blocked Lake Tanganyika and its tributaries emptying into what would now form the Nile.


So what has all this to do with my trip? We have been attracted to seek the lower reaches of a much more famous Nile tributary the Mara. This river rises in Kenya’s Mau highlands and empties into Lake Victoria in Tanzania after only 395km 247miles and as it does so it passes through some very interesting country that we noted when passing that way last August. (2023)  And as most of our trips ‘need’ a purpose it was felt that this was reason enough to return and have a closer look. That we would also take the opportunity of passing through the western Serengeti and staying at the lovelySpeke Bay Lodge once more is pure coincidence. Honest!


Logistics dictated us flying to Kigali in Rwanda and driving into Tanzania via Rusumo Falls and then in stages anti clockwise around the lake to the Mara Estuary and up river to some interesting wetlands where the main road north crosses the river on a new bridge at Kisumu.

On the way there and back we would take time to revisit the lovely island of Rubondo, the new National Park of Burigi-chato, Speke Bay Lodge (again) and the western sector of the Serengeti to Ikoma.


An enjoyable spin off of this route was the lack of any pre booked Visas for the countries to be visited and even the one individual who needed to buy a Tanzanian visa could get this quite simply on arrival at Rusomo Falls border crossing by flashing his Yellow Fever Certificate wrapped in a $50 bill.


Once again we would rope in the able assistance of my good friend Achmed Phillips in Arusha to book  the Tanzanian accommodations needed and another close friend and birding expert Emmy ‘volunteered’ to come from Uganda to drive ‘us’. Us being myself plus two regular companions.  Emmy who, as an EAC resident, avoids the steep fees levied on Non Residents. NOT that this has any bearing on him coming as we would cheerfully pay much more for his skills and expertise.

At the outset it was agreed that birds, whilst of interest to three out of four of us, would not be the main interest and our focus would be more widespread. A Galana report without birds. Who am I kidding? It's a contradiction in terms.




Here is a rough outline of our planned route. Kirumibridge.JPG.77fa408e1d7514e7655b51b7808172bf.JPG


Lodges used will be reviewed as we progress and the trip broken into sections for ease of both narration and illustration purposes.

This all sounds very fussy so let us fast forward to the start on St.Valentine’s Day, 14th February and get on with it.

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Ha ha, great title!  And a fascinating itinerary.

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@Galanayou do such interesting trips, really looking forward to this report.

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Dave Williams

I have a feeling if you had been born back in the day, you may well have got there first and discovered the source of the Nile Fred.

Good to see you back on ST again.

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I have been looking forward to this.

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Posted (edited)

Thanks everyone.

Hope the wait is worth it.

Not many photos yet. First we have to get there.


Part two.

It HAD to happen one day.


I still travel with my Minox binoculars and a Nikon P1000 bridge camera but as the loyal and lovely   Lady G had “found better things to do than chase birds around East Africa” I had to find extra space in my small hand luggage for my Netbook. That’s it! I am packed with the other non-essentials such as a change of clothing, soap and razor and such like needed to satisfy sensibilities even in the Bush.



As above we had chosen a new route from IOM which was good despite including the perils in transiting London’s Heathrow. Basically IOM-LHR T2, quick transit to T3 and Rwandair LHR-KGL to arrive next morning, 06.30 where Emmy would be waiting with his vehicle for a 300km drive on tar to First base at Chato Beach Resort for two nights.

Simples! What could possibly go wrong with that?   Oh Fred listen to your senses for a change.

You are playing long odds after thirty years of relatively trouble free flying and the short straw is still in the bundle.

It HAD to happen one day. And today, St.Valentine’s Day 14th February, is THE day! And I did not even get a bloody Card.

The day dawned bright and with Lady G riding shotgun I first picked up D and then headed for the Airport. As we got south the weather looked a bit iffy but on arrival I got a farewell hug from Lady G and we checked in for our 12.05 flight with time to spare. The mist gathered and a few lucky pax escaped. BUT we got the Tannoy we dreaded. “Loganair regret to announce that their FlightLM675 for Heathrow has been cancelled! Pax to return to check in for full refund or an alternate flight.”

Quick thinking ensued. Do we dash for the harbour and take the ferry or take an alternate flight? Priority is get off the island! No chance of making LHR by 17.30 check in for 20.30 ETD. We will get the plane tomorrow.  “Oh no you won’t! There ain’t a flight to KGL on 15th” said my new best friend Tanya of Rwandair when I rang her. “We can book you on Friday’s flight if you wish!”

Nah!  "Mark us as no show to preserve the return coupon and we will get to Rwanda somehow".

Cost us a $200 change fee but hey we were not waiting 48 hours. D phoned C who lives in Kent and was told of the problem and told to take the booked flight and meet Emmy and await further news. Meanwhile I had fixed on Manchester as our best bet and accepted seats on a flight to Liverpool at 16.00. After looking at various routes, SN Brussells almost got us seats at £900 O/Way each, but just as we were paying, their site crashed. A blessing in disguise. We then got Qatar offering O/W via Doha with a tight connection with Rwandair onwards to KGL. For £466 each. Grabbed them.

Now we needed taxi from Liverpool to Manchester and a bed for the night (well Two beds actually but you know what I mean.). Booking.com got us two rooms at a good price and we were good to go.

Liverpool flight got us there at 19.00 , with luggage, and a friendly Taxi man took us on to Holiday Inn Express for another £100. A call home reassured Lady G and D’s family that we were off island and heading for KGL after all. We would land at 07.15, almost 24 hours to the minute and this news was passed via Instagram or whats App interweb thingy to Emmy and C who promised to meet us with the engine running next morning. And so it came to be although poor D nearly collapsed trying to keep up with me in Doha as I walked briskly from one end of a huge terminal to the other. No way were we going to be late at the Gate.

Flights on time and after very brief waits we were stamped into Rwanda and re-united with our luggage and our two friends by 06.28. (We won an hour as Rwanda is only 2 hours ahead of GMT)

We had lost a day which meant we would miss out on Burigi-Chato NP but our beds in Chato were secure.



Rusomo Falls One stop Border crossing was fine and easy and we were in Tanzania with a new Visa each just after Noon after driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road for 166km. Only another 180km to go.. Phew.

Almost an anti- climax as we checked into the Chato Beach resort on the shore of Lake Victoria.



A very nice place if needing some finishing touches.



Separate lounge.


Great Sunrises.


Obliging but vain birds.



Food was OK and my first for 24 hours. Nice Beer.

We have lost a day so tomorrow we shop for supplies as we are self catering on Rubondo Island NP for three nights.

Edited by Galana
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Never miss a Galana TR, Speketh Fred. 

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Looking forward to this report Fred, fascinating itinerary. Sorry to hear about the flight hassles but you made it. 

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Posted (edited)

The flight is now behind us, except for insurance claims, and the trip goes on to rapidly improve.


Rubondo. One of Tanzania’s hidden gems. Truly a Treasure Island.





Emmy and I, along with Lady G had been here before and “as we were passing” I needed little excuse to return here for a few days. To be open and honest I don’t recall giving my friends an option or not. Just put it on the itinerary and priced it. I never heard any grumbles so it must have been OK.

The ‘posh way’ to visit is to fly in to the Asilia Lodge for an all inclusive stay at a somewhat exclusive price. Their “ blurb” boasts of solitude and exclusivity, well it would, would it not but it is not strictly true.

There is another more economical way to visit, and as I am often guilty of saying “The wildlife don’t care whether you stay with hot and cold running Butlers who put rose petals around the bath or snuggle down in a sleeping bag under an Acacia” the birds and beasts are there for everyone, rich and poor alike.


TANAPA have a permanent presence on the island for their Rangers and have built half a dozen excellent self-catering Bandas for tourists to use at a fair price. Park Fees are currently US$30 pppn and transport can be booked on a launch that plies over from Musanga and return for your party and your supplies. Vehicles can be left safely at the TANAPA office at the ‘dock’ in Musanga where willing hands will assist you loading the boat and you may well be sharing the 30 minute crossing with staff and families. Enjoy.


The island’s wildlife are mainly the survivors of imported endangered mammals placed there by Frankfurt Zoo. Bernard Gryzmek, author of “Serengeti shall not die!” was involved as they sought a refuge or reservoir for wildlife in the post independence uncertainty. Elephant and Giraffe mainly, but later the island proved an ideal location to re-habituate Chimpanzees rescued from illegal captivity and it is possible to track these during your stay. Other wildlife include Sitatunga, Bushbuck, Spot-necked Otters as well as ubiquitous Hippo and some of the biggest Crocodiles you will ever see. Being mainly forest, with some Savannah, the island is also home to over 300 bird species. Activities include Game drives, walks and launch trips around the islands protected waters. Or just kick back, enjoy the peace and quiet and something cold in a glass whilst watching the coming and goings of the local wildlife.



My self contained Banda was very comfortable.




One surprise for me was that a local sounder of Bush Pig paid regular visits to our ‘camp’ and were often quite relaxed about our presence. 



Some local Hippo were also somewhat prone to come ashore even in daylight so even when dozing in your chair you need to keep at least one eye open to prevent involuntary encounters and at night a torch is needed for transits to and from dinner.



We arrived mid afternoon after a shopping expedition to Chato for essential supplies, meat, bread pasta and Konyagi and Beer and settled into our self contained Bandas. Arrangements were made with resident cook and kitchen staff for use of cooking gas and, oh joy of joys, a fair price for cooking our food. A far cry from our Seaside boarding house days of “use of Cruet extra!” Truly a real Treasure Island.

Our first excursion was a launch trip from the beach just outside in a TANAPA launch for birding and general wildlife viewing. The weather was less than clement but we rode out the storm, this is the 2nd largest lake in the world, and went ashore at the southern Ranger station to wait out the downpour for an hour or so. We saw elephant and giraffe as well as numerous birds and a few otters.1-DSCN3230.JPG.2472d238a74ac5c84e789fc99237857c.JPG

On our last visit our propeller had fouled a poachers illegal net and as we hauled it up we ‘liberated’ about 30 Tilapia. Of course we surrendered these to the Rangers but somehow miscounted a few which made an excellent dinner that evening.





Well would you believe in coincidence or lightening striking twice? Blow me down if our hawk-eyed crew did not spot a boat hidden in a reed bed close to shore. It was of course promptly confiscated by the Ranger and taken in tow for burning. Rangers can’t burn the forest trees for cooking can they?


The Firewood store!



And investigation of a large sack aboard revealed a decent haul of fresh kicking Tilapia that would otherwise go to waste. 1-DSCN3343.JPG.68f0ab147485988868b907b26f5b9cbb.JPG

  Delicious. Our share did two full meals.





Our other activity was a game drive during which we encountered many birds and mammals but I will let the photos speak for themselves. The undergrowth is quite thick as the place lacks few browsers such as Black Rhino to control it but those introduced in 1966 were promptly poached out. Quite how the giraffe get through it I do not know but we encountered at least twenty of them including young calves.

Back at camp after dark it was fish again for dinner.


Some beasts we saw.


Swampies were everywhere.



Mocker Swallowtail in close up.



Emerald Cuckoo seeking his friend Georgie.



He's NOT here!




African Monarch.



Soldier Commodore.

We saw a kill.


The winner looks very smug.



African Pygmy Kingfisher.



Sitatunga are diurnal but shy.




We reluctantly left the island on the fourth morning to regain the car and as it was early we went up to the Chato gate to Burugi Chato to see if we could enter there. Evidently the system only works if you have a booking number and of course being a private trip we lacked this and it looked like we would be turned away.

Fortunately by the wonders of Cellnet and a very helpful Achmed of Basecamp in Arusha a Booking reference appeared and the Duty Ranger switched off the Football on TV, donned his uniform, grabbed his trusty rifle and climbed into the back seat to guide us into this new Park. We were good to go.



This was a very overgrown park of few open tracks but we got along OK. Highlight was a Long-legged Buzzard and a family of very shy Red Colobus which we found both out and back but never managed a clear photo amongst the dense Mango foliage. From what glimpses we got of the fleeing animals we formed the impression that they were much greyer in pelage than ‘normal’ red colobus  and wonder what subspecies they may be? @inyathi might know. Worthy of a return to check these out.

And so after an interesting few day we returned to Chato Beach Resort for another night ahead of a long drive tomorrow to our next on the eastern lake shore.













Edited by Galana
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@GalanaVery interesting, I'm keen to read more about Burigi-Chato, if anyone else had told me there were Red Colobus in the park, I might have said don't be silly, there can't be, purely because a few of the Tanzanian safari websites I've looked at, with info on the park, state that there are both gorillas and chimps in the park, a claim that reminds me, of the misinformation that I kept reading, before I visited Zakouma NP, for the first time, that wildebeest had been introduced along with other animals as part of some restocking exercise, someone comes up with nonsense like this, puts it online and it then other people read it and blindly repeat it. I don't know why someone thought Burigi has gorillas and chimps in it, but two or three or more websites I’ve seen, repeat the same claim and these things always seem to be repeated verbatim, so it is clear, that they have just copied the info from somewhere. I suppose it goes to show how unknown the park is, but it is a bit annoying, when you are trying to learn a bit more about the park and clearly indicates that they haven't been there. I am quite used to reading that some park has Black Rhinos in it, that's a bit more forgivable, but I always wonder why it didn't occur to whoever found that information, that it must be quite likely 40 or 50 years out of date and that the park could not possibly still have rhinos in it now. 


I have to say thank you, because I have learned something new, I really didn't know that there were Red Colobus in Burigi-Chato, because I hadn't looked in to it, I would have just assumed that there weren't and that the idea was almost as absurd as gorillas, imagining that the park is savannah, miombo woodland and swamp and what forest there is, would not be sufficient for such a forest species, I guess there is perhaps more forest there than I imagined, I might assume that they are something of a relict population, stranded there from a time when the Congo Rainforest extended further east than today. To answer your question, I am going to say that the Red Colobus there, are Ashy Red Colobus (Piliocolobus tephrosceles), that's the name I prefer, I think the taxonomy of Red Colobus has changed a fair bit and is complicated, the book a Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Tanzania, calls them Eastern Red Colobus and suggests Central African and Ashy as alternative names, and gives the scientific name as Procolobus rufomitratus tephrosceles, the name Eastern only really makes sense, if as the book does, you regard them as the eastern subspecies of a more widely distributed Red Colobus from the Congo, but the IUCN Red List, treats them as a species in their own right, and of course, the Tana River, Udzungwa and Zanzibar Red Colobuses all live further east. As they're not now considered a subspecies of a Red Colobus found in the Congo rainforests, the name Central African makes no sense either, hence in my view Ashy is the best name. The Tanzania book dates from 2014, so the taxonomy would have changed after the book was written, it shows a nice big blob on the map covering the eastern part of Burigi-Chato NP, this species is the same Red Colobus that you find in Uganda in Kibale Forest and Bigodi Swamp,  in Tanzania they also occur in Gombe and Mahale Mts NP and a couple of isolated populations occur or did occur in some very small forest reserves west of Lake Rukwa near Sumbawanga, but reading what the IUCN info says, a couple of these forests have already been effectively destroyed, it maybe that the colobus in Mbizi Forest, near Sumbawanga mentioned in the book, are sadly now the only ones left there.


Ashy Red Colobus map


What is interesting and curious, is that in Kibale and Bigodi, besides Ashy Red Colobus, you have Guerezas, Blue and Red-tailed Monkeys and Uganda Mangabeys, the last of these does occur in Tanzania, but only just, in Minziro Forest right on the border, Minziro FR appears to also have Red-tailed Monkeys, that also occur further south in Gombe and Mahale and the wider area there, but not in between, Angola Black and White Colobus, that otherwise occurs just in Mahale Mts and the Eastern Arc Mountains, Guereza Colobus only occur in northern Tanzania east of Lake Victoria. Blue or Mitis monkeys (C. mitis dogetti) occur in Minziro and in Burigi and then in Mahale, but it is a more widespread forest monkey, it seems surprising that Red Colobus occur in Burigi, but none of these other monkeys, besides Blue monkeys, I would have thought that Red-tails at least might occur there, but evidently not. I'm not that surprised that the Uganda Mangabey is not there, but I'm slightly surprised that it doesn't occur in Mahale. I presume that when the rainforest retreated and gave way to miombo and savannah, some of these forest monkeys were able to cling on better than others, in whatever forest remained. It is not actually completely absurd that Burigi could have chimps, as they do occur in Ugalla River National Park, that is the least forested protected area in the Eastern Chimpanzee's range, so when I first read that Burigi had chimps, I did have to check and make sure I was right, that it doesn't, just for that reason, no need to check if there are gorillas, there are obviously no gorillas anywhere in Tanzania. 


The IUCN Red Lists states that the presence of Ashy Red Colobus in Burundi, DRC and Rwanda is uncertain, so it looks like the species is probably endemic to Tanzania and Uganda, I have seen them in Bigodi, Kibale and Mahale Mountains. I couldn't say that I saw them well enough in Mahale, to see if they looked any different to the ones I've seen in Uganda, I think they look very much the same, so I'd assume the ones you saw in Burigi, should look much like ones, you must have seen in Uganda. 


I have not read anywhere recently, that Zakouma was restocked with wildebeest, I’m pleased to say that misinformation seems to have disappeared, so maybe when a few more tourists have been to Burigi-Chato and the park is starting to become part of a new tourist circuit, I won't find any websites stating that there are gorillas and chimps there, having said that, I decided to look up Burigi-Chato and find one of the offending websites and I am pleased to say, that I actually struggled a bit to find one, this surprised me as, I looked up the park only a few weeks back and found several sites with this misinformation. 


Here is one site, Tanzania: Kagera RC Invites Investors At Burigi-Chato National Park




Previously a game reserve, the newly inaugurated national park is home to a wide collection of wildlife, including elephants, buffaloes, antelopes, lions, leopards, zebras, giraffes, chimpanzees and gorillas.


A company called Burigi-Chato Safaris Co Ltd that claims to be the best rated Tanzania safari operator, also states the same misinformation, but their website won't allow me to copy their text, I wouldn't be too inclined to a book a safari through them to Burigi-Chato, if this is an indication of their knowledge of the park.

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for the comprehensive response @inyathiI did think it would attract you.

I know the area well from previous visits. I birded Minziro a few ( ten) years back. Got arrested but that is a tale for another day!!

From my travels all that 'peninsular' of Tanzania between Rwanda, Akagera river, and Lake Victoria is much the same eco system. Not as lush as virgin Ituri and more hilly with sandy subsoil. Miombo.  See that track in my photo.

No way would a Gorilla dream of living there. Chimps are a possibility and other primates are definitely there.

Said to be on Rubondo also but we never really looked.

The red Colobus of Burugi were a surprise. I do wish we had got better looks at them. David got a sort of shot as one sat and stared at us from deep cover. I shall ask him for it.  We saw them twice, going in and returning (I had marked the GPS.) but each time they fled into deep Mango cover. Our Ranger said he sees them often when working in the Park but did not know what they were.

Thanks for your link to the map. that photo is spot on with our impressions of them and of course the map is showing Buruji chato. How I wish I had known before going as much more time would have been allocated.

Tanapa site has a Pdf if you need more https://www.tanzaniaparks.go.tz/

Eland are there and I would not be surprised to find Dogs.

We were due to spend a whole day in the main park but as you have read that got lost due to our late arrival.

I would willingly go back and devote more time and I am sure Emmy will want to go too. Marked down as 'unfinished business'.

Getting back would be relatively easy now. Meet Emmy in KGL. Cross border. Sleep in Biharamulo. Interested? Visa free too.


As for that eponymous safari outfit. Not casting asperations, don't know them but anyone can set up a website for a few $$ and become an overnight success.

I had to laugh at their blurb on Rubondo. "Sitatunga fleeing from predators???" Which one would that be then. Spot necked Otter?


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@inyathiHere is our best sighting.

Spot on.  I don't need an excuse to go back.1-K3307332.JPG.d1c324caca26137923e6677a59304969.JPG

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Welcome back Fred. Good to read what you've been up to.

As I am sure Lady G has told you, you did not miss much while you were away; political shambles and more rain.



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Thanks, that looks like an Ashy Red Colobus, I only had the Tanzania book to hand when I posted my last comment, I've since looked at both MOA and Kingdon, Mammals of Africa (2013) says the same as the Tanzania book, suggesting it is a subspecies of Central African Red Colobus Piliocolobus rufomitratus tephrosceles, and gives Uganda Red Colobus and Ashy as alternative names, in Kingdon 2nd edition (2015) he decided to call the Central African species Oustalet's Red Colobus, and make the Ashy a subspecies of it, Piliocolobus oustaleti tephrosceles. The IUCN's taxonomy follows Colin Groves's 2007 revision making it a full species, therefore that predates the Tanzania book, so as always it is just scientists disagreeing, simplest thing is to agree that it is an Ashy Red Colobus and let the scientists argue over whether it is a species or subspecies. 


Thanks for the TANAPA link, I have read their info before, I will have another look at it sometime, but not today, for some reason TANAPA's website doesn't seem to be working today. Although the Tanzania book is now quite out of date, because it predates the creation of the newest parks, so they don't feature in the brief national park section at the end, it is still really quite informative, as the text for a lot of species that occur in northwestern Tanzania, mentions the various game reserves, that have become new parks. Looking up Sitatunga, it says in Burigi-Biharamulo GRs (both GRs are now Burigi-Chato NP)



numbers have been significantly reduced due overhunting and they are now very uncommon. Sitatungas are easily hunted or snared because they regularly use the same favoured river channels and pathways     


Rubondo Island was I think the only TZ national park, that had Sitatunga, now I would think that Burigi-Chato, Ibanda-Kyerwa, Kigosi, Rumaniyika-Karagwe and Ugalla River all have them, I'd assume that they are very common in Kigosi, but Rubondo will likely remain the best place to try and spot one for some time yet. I'd guess that they are not the only species to have suffered overhunting in Burigi-Chato, I would hope that now it is a national park, TANAPA can reduce the amount of poaching that is going on. 


It is always seriously annoying, when you end up losing an entire day or sometimes more, because of flight troubles, it is one of the hazards of wanting to escape the British winter, I got seriously snowed in at LHR once trying to go on my first Namibian safari and lost I think two days and then another time missed my one decent shot at seeing Geladas in Ethiopia, due to fog at LHR, luckily those are the only two occasions, when the weather has messed up my flights, if you fly often enough at this time of year, it is bound to happen eventually, and in my case, I only have one island to try and get off, rather than two, you've been lucky if you've only had trouble this one time. I haven't been back to Ethiopia to see Geladas, I hope that you might get the chance to go back and revisit Burigi-Chato NP, to see what you missed out on. I did recently read am account by a safari guide/operator (I can't remember the name) who went on safari there a couple of years ago and was advertising a follow up trip, but I don't know if that safari went ahead.


I've just now come across, a couple of Swiss wildlife photographers, Jean-Louis Carlo and Maha Zein, who call themselves Les Bectrotters, they visited Burigi-Chato and Rubondo in 2021, perhaps you have come across them, as it would appear that they went with your friend Emmy, this was part of a 4 week Tanzania-Uganda safari, in the intro to the trip on their website Tanzania and Uganda: 12.07-08.08.2021, they say






We travelled back with our Ugandan guide and friend Emmy Gongo (rangerafricasafaris.com) to these two wonderful countries for four and a half weeks. For once, the bectrotters were together with one of Jean-Louis' best friends, Pierre Girardin and his son Gilian (11 years old and a promising naturalist), his godson. One of the goals of the trip was to show him our cousins the Chimpanzees and Mountain Gorillas. We landed in Dar-El-Salam as this time we travelled through southern and western Tanzania along Lake Tanganyika, and then up into Uganda via Lake Victoria.



It took me a while to discover :rolleyes:, that putting the mouse over English at the top of the page on their website, gives you a menu of their trips, their reports are not hugely informative, but they have some nice photos, they went on an earlier Ugandan safari with Emmy, in the report that I linked to, if you click on Mahale, they have a couple of shots of Ashy Red Colobus. Their report mentions that some government accommodation is under construction in Burigi-Chato, I would hope that they have now finished that, so perhaps there are now some TANAPA bandas, that you can stay in on your next safari.

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Thanks for the additional input @inyathiand the link to Emmy's Swiss guests. I had known of them previously as following their first trip with him they sent a Calendar of photos of their trip for me to take out to Uganda. I knew he had been to Biharimulo 'relatively recently' and guessed it was with them. The TANAPA bandas are still very much 'work in progress' in Birugi but the village is not far away and they stayed there I am told. That visit was post my trip in 2020 so when we met in 2023 he was 'full of it'.

Rubondo is excellent for Sitatunga with sightings guaranteed although they are shy..I also see them regularly in Lake Mburo NP, Uganda.

If these 'experts' are not fiddling with birds they are arguing about mammals.

I quite like the name Ashy so why not?


Next part in course.

@SoukousUK politics and Lady G are poles apart. We both leave it to you lot 'across' on that other island.

There was an attempt to unseat our CM whilst I was away but it fizzled out and was not serious. Just the usual few blowhards and 'Manx crab ' syndrome.

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Posted (edited)

Pt 3. Eastwards from Chato.

Bridging the Gulfs.

After another uneventful night at Chato Beach Resort we set off around ‘the lake’ to our next base on the eastern shore. Geographically we would leave one stretch of water carrying the name of one explorer to another stretch named for another.

Emin Pasha to John Hanning Speke.

But we were not going to do this by water. We will drive around the lake. A drive of about 330km mainly on Tar which should take us about seven hours. There would be little time for wildlife but no doubt we would see something of rural Tanzania and the way of life of the people who live there.





We made good time south and soon picked up the main east west highway T4 at Bangwa before encountering the mobile road block known to Emmy as Katoro which is always busy with vehicles and pedestrians on both sides of the road as well as down the centre.

Then the scenery improved as we approached Geita and the wooded mineral rich hills that support Tanzania’s gold industry. Then it was more open country until the road appeared to split and we took the left turn towards the almost estuary like large inlet that we must now cross by way of Ferry.

This was very interesting and busy but as  Emmy knew the procedure the passengers got out of the car and made our way to the queue for tickets whilst he

stayed with the car and kept his place in the line.


Having gained the ticket counter we paid for three waZungu and one Uganda plus the car. I think the ferry on foot was about 14p per person and the car cost the enormous sum of 3000TZ sh or about a Pound. Hardly a huge sum for a crossing that would take about 30 minutes or so and provide us with a welcome break at the bar on board. Beats the heck out of our Ferry at home that takes 3 hours or so and costs a small fortune £170 for our car and two pax and only has two sailings a day whereas this ferry ran nonstop in both directions.

Foot passengers gather in a large waiting shed to avoid the sun before the gates open to allow access to the boat whilst Emmy brought up the car and boarded alone.1-DSCN3582.JPG.f4aa3ae58f1512eff78db8f87fbdc369.JPG


 The two boats have multiple decks for sitting out or inside during the short voyage during which we could see the new bridge under construction and very close to completion.

1-DSCN3579.JPG.416b7e022428f058c21dd4246140b04f.JPGOn arrival at the far side we joined the throng to disembark to meet up with Emmy and the car and our seats.1-DSCN3584.JPG.266a5168b70d7481b79a2ae034a501db.JPG

Quite an experience and worth every shilling.


We now took the road around the large city of Mwanza which is famous for its Port facilities serving lake traffic and some very interesting rock formations.



A Baboon??

1-DSCN3591.JPG.69e1327729b6b298f71851ffdc9afda8.JPGA bird of prey?

As we drove the scenery flattened once more and in places large areas were given over to Rice Paddies that looked very productive and green.

This part of Tanzania is certainly quite unlike the drier arid areas of the ‘Northern Circuit.’

The coastal areas of Lake Victoria drew closer as we progressed and soon the west was given over to Palm trees and water which was also very attractive.

We had pre-booked two nights at our next stop ‘Sandmark Lodge’ to give a break from travel and to hopefully explore the area nearer the Serengeti ‘border’ and were not disappointed.1-DSCN3592.JPG.cc3880f36c3b2ccadf4a85648616e1a1.JPG1-DSCN3593.JPG.307e2540f87732cb2a7bec58f330fc87.JPG1-DSCN3594.JPG.db81edaf81fe0e8c18bb58b7ae27b025.JPG1-DSCN3597.JPG.a4076171e55e312fa2cbd09f44f39151.JPG1-DSCN3598.JPG.19506ef020d9c11bb95a7b157772dee5.JPG

The Lodge is some sort of ‘resort’ right on the lake shore so quite ‘birdy’. Our rooms were well laid out and modern and there is a pool available. Meals can be taken inside or out in the grounds on request and all in all was a good choice (when Speke Bay could not take us).

A strange oddity were the meals. A large multi page menu was produced with a flourish but T.I.A many prices had been blanked and overwritten and that was particularly irritating when having chosen a dish at a price it was found to be unavailable. One of our party , not me, voiced the opinion that the whole menu was a waste of paper and he would have been perfectly happy with the usual 3 course fixed ‘Meat and two veg’ offering.

Breakfasts were taken outside by the lake although on our last day we were ushered away as some V.I.Ps were booked in for a conference.  Beer was cheap.

We made a drive up close to Ndabaka Gate to the Serengeti where a track parallels the ‘fence’ through a WMA.  There was a gate but it was not manned or even womanned so we simply drove in. Lots of good sightings including a Montagues Harrier and various antelope and Zebra.  Several elephants were observed in the tall grass as we left.



Cut Throat Finch.

1-DSCN3635.JPG.8253132c81324e2c4e20b16d220f6c3b.JPGFischer's Lovebirds.


Coqui Francolin.



Free range Ellies.

Somewhere worthwhile and ‘free’. 

The lodge was also nice and clean and the beds comfy after our seven hour drive. Two nights was nice but any longer and we would have struggled. More of the lodge and its surroundings.1-DSCN3608.JPG.c796b83dc1789de9f9ce3d4ad69bfdf5.JPG1-DSCN3601.JPG.2ac82bfe0a76eb27ad40cdb09564d288.JPG1-DSCN3607.JPG.4031377e6036e82ac1bb96414a9f3c15.JPG1-DSCN3613.JPG.207ae8d23bdc8e213b65e72f62a7a084.JPG


End of another day or two.

Edited by Galana
text correction of layout
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Welcome @mungoparkAnother great explorer of a different river system. (My wife is actually related to this family but now confines her peregrinations to the local High Street..);)

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Very interesting report @GalanaI have driven from Arusha to Mwanza (actually was driven) many years back but we have been thinking of making the trip again and going to Rubondo. If you exclude the pricey airline months (for us anyway) of June, July, and August, do you have a sense of when you would go if you could choose?

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Posted (edited)

Last August we drove, well Emmy did I just navigate and act as spotter, from Karatu to Ikoma and described it as the drive from Hell. This trip we did Ndabakka to Ikoma and it was much better (but I am getting ahead of my report.

I think of all months in the year I have travelled more in Africa in February. Generally quite good with clear skies and no dust but all over East Africa it had been very wet Dec/Jan but our timing brought drier times. There were some storms but more localised and a couple of miles away there was nothing. I think that boat ride at Rubondo was the worst we experienced and we never 'lost' a day through rain.

February just works for me as it gets rid of winter at home (but not flight problems this year. Grrr!) and fits my calendar well by dodging Easter traffic with a nice Scottish trip looming in May.

I would be tempted into May if not for our love of that month in Scotland.

Feb will be peak in Serengeti of course but you cannot win every time. Go when you can. Just avoid peak travel times when the world and his wife seem to be on the move. Thanksgiving for you folks, Christmas, Easter and school out.

Enjoy Rubondo and try for Buruji-Chato while there. Emmy has just mailed me to say there may be good lodgings in B-C shortly. This is an extract from his mail

"I saw some constructions in Biharamulo,that means that soon there will be a good Hotel to stay and I am thinking of going there soon to scout and will be able to give you a report."
Wrong font. NOT Emmy.
This is due to the fact that there is a western part of this national park that I have been wanting to go to but have been with limitations. But the western central part of the national park soon will have facilities and the wildlife there is good compared to the place we visited.
And for the monkey would be a great Idea to go back for more research and observations.
Maybe 2 nights at Chato, 3nights at Biharamulo,and 3 Nights at Western central Burugi.
Totalling to 8 days would do. 
Speke bay is good too maybe 4nights. "

I might road test this with him later.


Moving on.

Edited by Galana
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@Galana Glad that you recognized my  avatar. :) very interesting choice of itinerary and look forward to reading the rest.  

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Posted (edited)

Through the Serengeti to Ikoma and beyond.

We enjoyed our short stay at Sandmark and have started off our elephant sightings and increased our checklist of birds. Now it was time to enter the Serengeti proper at Nadabaka gate just up the road.



Today’s drive was not that far at about 210km so we were in no particular hurry and had a leisurely breakfast before leaving.

This was to be our first resort to the ubiquitous speciality of Safarilife. The dreaded ‘Packed Lunch’. I don’t know who invented this delicacy but whoever it was deserves a rightful place in the Safari Hall of Infamy. Two sorts of dead chicken, one still wrapped in its shell and the other in its skin, having being scorched with a Flamethrower to 900 Celsius before being wrapped in Aluminium foil to prevent it running away. Washed down by a carton of indeterminate juice accompanied by a dry bit of cake of dubious provenance. Only kidding but a bit of imagination is needed here. Whatever happened to the good old Game pie and a bottle from the cooler? Chardonnay might be a big ask but a bottle named for our surroundings would do well and save on the washing up.

So after paying at Ndabaka Gate and heading into the Serengeti, some US$290 lighter in our wallet, we were in wildlife central Whilst we were ‘at the wrong end’ for much action what we saw we enjoyed.


Another couple of months and these grassy plains would be full of animals.



We meandered along ticking of a few birds and beasts and taking a look at the Grumeti River which was still running high after the rains.


The going was much better than last August but as the day wore on we were all getting rather weary despite a stop for our excellent lunch and a nap. So upon reaching the junction with the main track north we decided to drop the idea of heading down to Serenera and turned left, North, for our next base at Moivaro’s Ikoma Tented Camp which we had enjoyed last August.

After all we had three nights here and there was plenty of time for further drives. Or so we thought.



A welcome drink for the weary travellers.



Tent number 7. My home for the duration. Everything worked and the remade bed was a daily delight.


How sweet. I hardly met the girl responsible for this artwork but we did carry out a relationship of sorts by proxy.



I will save our  experiences for the next episode.

Edited by Galana
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Fascinating itinerary, you are very imaginative in the places you visit 

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pedro maia

Never read anything about that first part of your trip Fred, seems interesting, I’m looking forward for the rest of the bed linen, and the birds and beast, of course.

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3 hours ago, TonyQ said:

Fascinating itinerary, you are very imaginative in the places you visit 

stay tuned. Later we set sail on the Mara river on a boat that was old when the African Queen sank the Koenigin Luise.

More bed linen to feed  @pedro maia's obsession too.:o.

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On 3/14/2024 at 10:10 PM, Galana said:

A Galana report without birds. Who am I kidding? It's a contradiction in terms

Never too late to read an excellent trip report but I counted already 18 birds from the start Fred 😉

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