We have had our first visitors from the Netherlands! Marloes’ friend Eva, who brought along Karine, visited us during the first two weeks of April. We hastily got our shower fixed (it broke down 2 days before they were supposed to arrive) and borrowed a spare bed to put in the guest room, so we were all set to receive them. After Marloes picked them up from Entebbe airport in the early hours of Sunday April 1st, we were very happy the next morning to find out that they brought us some Dutch candy, a bundle of recent Dutch magazines and some H&M clothing (shopping ain’t too good over here) . Marloes took them for a little tour of the surroundings and on Sunday evening we had dinner at Cassia lodge where they met some of our local friends and their guide for the next day, because on Monday the girls set out for a Boda Boda tour of Kampala. They were bound to see a lot of Uganda in the two weeks that they were spending here, as on Tuesday they already headed out by bus to Lake Bunyonyi, where Marloes and I spent a weekend in February (see the previous post, I have also added some of their pictures to the gallery down below). After they relaxed there for a few days, we picked them up on Thursday in Mbarara, so we could embark on our coolest trip in Uganda yet: Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP)!
Completely on top of this post there is a video of a wild elephant we saw while taking a boat trip on the Kazinga Channel in QENP, just a few miles from Mweya Hostel – our accommodation on a peninsula inside the park. Since we had to pass through Mbarara in the west, it was quite a trip, starting from Kampala at 10 AM where we picked up the Toyota Rav 4 we rented from Laura & Okke’s Roadtrip Uganda. After the four hour trip to Mbarara and picking up Eva & Karine we drove up in the general direction of Kasese, On the way we passed some beautiful views of the savannah plains where we would be making a game drive on early Friday morning. Besides the obligatory photo stops, we also had to slow down a few times to let some very interested baboons pass our car.
We arrived a bit late at Katunguru Gate, one of the entrances to the parts of the park which are protected by armed Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) rangers to keep out poachers. It was already 6 PM and getting dark, and we had about half an hour to go on a dirt road to reach Mweya Hostel, which had another gate which would close at 7 PM. Amazingly Google Maps on the iPhone showed the main tracks towards the hostel (which lies on a small peninsula on the shores of Lake Edward), so navigating was quite easy. And, the time of day actually must have been our luck because the moment we passed through the gate we immediately spotted a grazing hippo, a waterbuck and a few warthogs. Around sundown a lot of the animals in the park come out of hiding to drink or eat. Marloes did some proper dirt road 4×4 driving to get us to the hostel in time, all the while passing just 1 car which actually was driven by an acquaintance from Kampala – what are the odds 400km from home in a 2,000 square km park!
After some cold Tuskers we went to bed early, as the next morning we left at first light at 6.30 AM to go spot some game! As you can see from the pictures, we weren’t disappointed. Besides a beautiful sunset, we quickly saw a large herd of elephants and some buffalo’s going for a drink in one of the volcanic crater lakes. QENP is close to the Rwenzori Mountain range – you can actually see some of the 5,000 meters high giants in the background all the while you are in the park, and some of these mountains are extinct volcanoes. We then drove up to another part of the park which has a lot of breeding ground for various kinds of antelope, which in turn attracts lions and other big cats. Unfortunately we didn’t spot lions, just some of the remains of meals they had, but we did see a lot of warthog, buffalo, waterbuck, Uganda kob and some hippo’s in a village on the shores of the small Lake George.
We headed back to the hostel around midday where, during a very violent thunderstorm, we celebrated Karine’s birthday with some apple pie we brought from Kampala. Luckily the weather cleared up so we could get on a boat to make an afternoon launch trip on the Kazinga Channel (a narrow natural stream between Lakes George and Edward). Besides a lot of birds & hippo’s and buffalo’s relaxing in the water, the absolute highlights were a number of crocodiles and a single drinking elephant which was so close we could almost touch it – see the video on top of this post. While fooling around with the settings of our camera I also made this cool slowmotion video (no sound) of a bird which was flying alongside our boat:
The boat trip was cut short when another thunderstorm broke out, which even prevented the boat from docking at the jetty for about half an hour, while big parts of swamp were suddenly floating past – a very odd sight. We were a bit scared if our car, which I stupidly parked just a few meters from the water, was either going to get stuck or would slide together with the mud into the water, but neither happened and we could easily get back to our hostel, just up the hill.
In the evening we had a splendid buffet at the nearby Mweya lodge, after which we left the next morning to head back to Kampala, via a scenic road past Fort Portal in the north. This was another great drive, first past some more elephants and dueling Uganda kobs, then getting some great sights at the Rwenzori Mountains and on the way back from Fort Portal to Kampala passing some beautiful forests and jungle and also seeing some more monkeys and parrots just beside the public road.
See the pictures below for some nice shots of the wildlife we spotted. The next few posts will be about trips Marloes, Eva and Karine made to Jinja, to the east of Kampala, and Murchison Falls National Park, midway up to the north of Uganda.
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