QUEEN ELISABETH SAFARI
Wow!!! We've just come back from safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park right over in the west of the country bordering the Congo, about 8-9 hours drive from Kampala. It was an organised tour we went on - the first time I've ever been on safari - but was actually quite nice to have everything planned out and organised for you. QE is the second biggest national park in the country, and is home to a wide range of animal species including African Elephant (Loxadonta africana), Buffalo, Lion, Leopard, Hippo, Hyena, Warthog, Water buck and also the Indigenous Uganda Cob found no where else. It also has the highest diversity of bird species found anywhere in Uganda, and I really was in my element! I feel soo at home in the African savanna... I automatically assumed the 'ranger' role and started reeling out information about all the animals we were seeing - I think Pieran and Nicola became rather sick of this after a while, but sorry, I can't help it - I'm a zoologist! The geography of QE is amazing, located right in the center of the West Rift Valley, the rift is still forming through regular earthquakes, and a river channel lies at the bottom of this connecting two lakes - Lake George and Lake Albert. It was amazing to be right in the cradle of human evolution...
It was amazing to see things in real life that we had covered in lectures... the lekking behaviour of the Uganda Cob, how all the males spaced out at equal distances with the females going around inspecting them. On the afternoon of the second day we took a boat trip on the channel between Lake George and Lake Albert where we saw a variety of Hippo, Elephant, Water buck and bird species etc. at close distance bathing in the water, the one thing I loved watching was all the Pied Kingfishers with their nest holes in the banks flying around - I could not help thinking of Ben Hatchwell talking about how they would harass other pairs to convert them in to helpers - I am such a geek!
I will never forget the ride back from the boat trip... wow! I loved every second! The three of us sat up on the top of the safari truck in the luggage rack as the truck hurtled its was along bumpy dirt tracks, the savanna rushing past us... with the wind in our hair and the sun setting over the savanna there was no where I'd have rather been...
CHIMP TREKKING IN KYAMBURA GORGE
On the first morning there we went chimp trekking down in to the stunning Kyambura gorge in the middle of the Rift Valley. It was amazing to look down on to, flat savanna either side then this gorge dropping away in the middle filled with tropical forest - it was like looking down in to a lost world, very surreal! Our guide 'Steph' led us down a steep cliff to the bottow where a river lay, the gorge had a diameter of 500m at its widest point. Walking down you were surrounded by huge tropical hardwood trees with enormous butress roots, vines were strung between trees and you could hear the calls of many tropical birds, Hippo's and smaller Black and White Colobus Monkeys. The floor crawled with awsome bugs and insects and spiders, many of which I had no idea what they were, I'd love to learn... and a saw trails of the dreaded Siafu ant - they really are evil!!! It really is an unreal place - like Tarzan! We saw two Hippo in the river at the bottom of the gorge, and Black and White Colobus Monkeys in the trees, an amazing site! We found the tracks and signs of where the Chimps had been the previous evening, the nests they had made and left earlier, however all signs suggested they had headed up to the savanna to feed and sleep, we had no chance of finding them there... it was a shame not to find them, however the gorge was such an amazing place, and a truely incredible experience that I really did not mind too much - I would not have missed it for the world...
--- Lyndsey ---