Out and About: Entebbe Wildlife Sanctuary.

The Entebbe Wildlife Sanctuary, popularly know as the Entebbe Zoo, is one of the places one must visit when in Entebbe or Kampala.

It is located in Entebbe, but not that far from Kampala; about a hour’s drive, which makes it an excellent family outing option.

We have been there several times already, but this time round was more special to us as we had yet to see the two Bengal Tigers the zoo acquired sometime last year.

There is a lot to see at the zoo. From chimpanzees, to beautiful lions, cheetahs, giraffes, elephant, snakes, otters and even the elusive Shoebill stork, usually found at Mabamba Bay. I have already written about our visit there here.

There were a few changes we noticed while there. Obviously, there are standard Covid 19 prevention protocols to be observed, the zoo is now charging parking fees, and there is a small vehicle to drive those who do to want or are unable to walk around, (at a fee of course).

There is a big playground filled with different activities for children, a restaurant (that serves some awesome fish) and an area one can picnic at on the shores of Lake Victoria.

This time round though, we just wanted to see the animals. We began at the tiger enclosure. Such majestic creatures.

The lions, cheetah and leopard were all asleep though, I guess it was big cats nap time.

Can you spot the leopard?

They also have a caracal and a serval which I find so beautiful with its black spots, long neck and long legs which make it a great jumper.

The zoo has two rhinos too that are so good at minding their own business, just grazing peacefully.

The kids were fascinated by the tigers, the rhinos which we were lucky to get really close to, the chimpanzees as well as the otters.

It was also our first time to see the otters up close as most times they hide out in the water.

Other fascinating sections were the reptile section, with the snakes and crocodiles.

If you are an avid birdwatcher, you will be able to hear and spot a few birds in the trees as you walk around the zoo. We spotted other animals too that are not part of the captive ones such as vervet moneys frolicking in the trees and a monitor lizard.

How many monkeys can you spot?

There is a botanicals section too, that is very informative on indigenous plants and their healing properties. Sadly this time round the guide was not available and the garden looked a bit rundown but I was able to get a few photos and information. It is one of my favorite parts of the gardens as we get to learn how many plants and trees around us, including some we view as weeds, were actually used in olden times to heal and manage various diseases and disorders. Quite intriguing.

The zoo has many other animals, warthogs, giraffes, baboons, red tailed monkeys, crowned cranes, ostriches, buffalos, waterbucks, a zebra, elephant and many more.

Rothschild giraffes
Ostriches.

PS: I know there are people who do not like going to zoos as they do not want to see the animals in captivity. Well, for me, I see it is a learning opportunity. We get to see many animals and learn about them without having to travel to do so. Travelling to see animals in the wild is not within reach for many. Some of the animals are also rescued from the wild as they are at risk of being poached or endangered, so it is part of animal conservation efforts undertaken by those entrusted to care for them.

Many of the trees around the zoo had signs indicating their names, both local and scientific and if they are indigenous to the region or not.

Some also have installations around them to promote conservation and how to reuse plastics that are a menace to the environment.

These used water bottles are being used as planters for tree seedlings.
These tree base has been reinforced with used soda bottles in the concrete and plastic bottle caps on top.

We all enjoyed ourselves despite being a hot day and the place being quite busy than all the other times we have been there.

When you decide to visit the zoo, wear comfortable shoes and clothing, sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses will not hurt too as there is quite a bit of walking around to do to see the animals.

Definitely worth a visit.

Out and About: Murchison Falls National Park.

Murchison Falls National Park, is one of Uganda’s largest and beautiful game parks. It was established in 1952 and gets its name from the majestic Murchison Falls found within the park.

The park is located in North West Uganda, it covers over 3,800 square km of abundant wildlife, grassland, forests, water features and birdlife to name just a few. This place is not short of attractions to amaze any one who visits.

Located on the Albert Nile, you experience Africa’s largest and longest river, get to hear and see the thundering roar of the World’s most powerful waterfall, and let it drench you. See hundreds of palm nut trees, brought via elephant dung years ago when the elephants began migrating back to the area. Spot giraffes in the savanna grassland, buffalos grazing, elephants headed to the water, lions basking after a successful hunt and feed, come across hyenas in the thickets, spot leopards in the trees, and little oribi antelopes grazing. Visit chimpanzees and enjoy a swim in a lodge as the baboons and warthogs watch on. Enjoy beautiful sunrise and sunset views as you listen to birdsong from the many birds in the area. To name just a few. It is an amazing place that is definitely worth a visit when one is in the Pearl of Africa.

These palms are all over the park, thanks to the elephants’ movement and love for the tasty fruit.

The park is managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and their rangers are the best guides when one visits. Murchison Falls N.P is not a one day visit, with so much to see, you can take at least a minimum of three days to be able to enjoy most of its attractions.

Once you head out of Kampala, the first attraction is the Karuma Falls on the Kampala Gulu highway that is on one of the park’s extreme ends. Because it is on a busy stretch of road with some hairpin turns, and due to security reasons, one may not stop on the side of the road, but you will see and hear the water roar, it is a sight to behold. Because of the rock formations and the direction /speed of the water flow, there is so much foam, crashing waves and huge roaring sound that will just amaze you and trust me, I am unable to describe what an incredible sight it is to behold. You will spot some baboons on the road side and various bird species as you head off the bridge over the Nile.

This is the “calm” side of the Karuma Falls.

There are several lodges and camping sights located around the park outskirts, as well as a rhino sanctuary, which is closed to visitors at the moment due to Covid pandemic. There are also a few lodges located right inside the park if you want the full bush experience. This entails baboons, warthogs and waterbucks grazing outside your room door, or hearing hyenas at night as they scavenge after a big cat’s kill. If your lodge overlooks the Albert Nile, you have an amazing view of the water, and hippos and crocs chilling as the other animals head for a drink of water. And if you are in a lodge near the Murchison Falls, you get to hear the water roaring down the whole time.

The must dos are an early morning game drive, you get to see the sun rise over the savanna, as the animals are still grazing and roaming around.

The other must dos are the trip to see the Falls. The top of the falls is just a boat and car trip away, and the bottom of the falls is a 2 hour boat trip, see why you need at least three days? You will only have time at the lodge to eat, sleep and maybe squeeze in a dip in the pool.

Night game drives are also possible, but we opted to do the morning ones. It took us 4 hours and we did not get to cover as much as the park as we wanted to, it is that vast.

We were however lucky to spot patas monkeys, giraffes, hyenas, buffalos, a lone leopard, warthogs, oribi antelopes, Jacksons’ hartebeests, lions, Abyssinian hornbills, elephants, side striped jackal, water bucks, bush bucks, guinea fowl, Ugandan Kob, harrier hawks, Abdim’s storks, grasshopper’s buzzard, palm nut vultures, lilac breasted roller, lapwings, sandpiper, monitor lizards, to name just a few.

How many oribi antelopes can you spot? They are small antelopes that are swift, gazelle like with small horns and a black tail, and apparently a delectable leopard treat.

Our early morning game drive began by a visit to some old ruins of the old Pakuba lodge, that is a known leopard lair, we did not spot any unfortunately but found some antelopes and waterbucks grazing in the vicinity. You will need a 4 wheel drive to manoeuvre some of the road trails due to the heavy rains, some trails and even bridges have been washed away. It was fun seeing who should spot what first. From a lone elephant grazing in the distance, a shy bush buck in a thicket, water bucks in the swampy areas to the birds, all with the sun rising beautifully in the distance.

We came across Abyssinian Hornbills, also known as “pedestrian birds” as they prefer staying on ground rather than the air, Jacksons’s Hartebeest, which I had never seen before, and our ranger guide informed us is quite the forgetful animal.

It is a large antelope with a beautiful golden brown hide and grey horns. They are many dotting the park. We spotted the Patas monkey that is a ground dwelling monkey native to the savanna and woodlands, and the fastest primate when running, going up to speeds of 55km per hour.

The Patas monkey.

Spot the leopard?

We also came across a leopard chilling out in a tree, coming up slowly till it sensed us and climbed down to the long grass and disappeared. Also came across a pride of lions with several cute cubs that were frolicking in the Savannah grassland, such a sight to behold. The ranger informed us they had been born during the lockdown so were not used to the vehicles yet, or human presence. Buffalos spot the landscape, as well Rothschild giraffes.

This calf was not more than three days old. Such a beautiful sight.

Unfortunately, this calf did not survive the day, thanks to a pack of hyenas hiding in a nearby thicket.

They were so well hidden, calculating and waiting for the perfect moment to strike and capture the giraffe calf.
It may look away now, but this hyena was part of the pack that descended on the poor giraffe calf.

As we drove on, we came to another thicket that had tracks leading to it, indicating a carcass had been drawn inside. We drove around the thicket and found this lioness resting after the heavy meal.

The lioness seemed quite unbothered by our presence, guess a heavy meal does take a toll and all she wanted to do was nap in the shade in peace.

Other animals spotted were warthogs grazing peacefully, different birds, buffalos and elephants.

There are earmarked places one can stop to use the restroom and view the Nile up close. This is where we got to see various bird such as African jacana, common sandpiper, lilac breasted roller, lapwings, storks, among others. A Nile monitor lizard and a school of hippos in the water.

Water bucks minding their own business.

The park’s main attraction however are the majestic Murchison Falls. Must do is a boat ride to the bottom of the falls. This takes about 2-3 hours on the calm waters. You will see African fish eagles, Nile crocodiles, many hippos various birdlife and animals headed to the water for a drink.

Such a beautiful sight.
These rock walls are covered by numerous tiny holes that are the kingfisher and bee eater birds’ tunnel nests.

The kingfisher and bee eaters’ tunnel nests are a sight to behold.

An African Fish Eagle.

Apparently years ago, one could get off the boat as you neared the bottom and hike to the top, but this is no longer possible. Heavy rains in recent years have seen water levels rise and the currents get stronger. There are many parts of the park that were accessible a few years ago but now under water.

You know you are nearing the falls when you see the water begin to get foamy and will even feel the boat rock with the heavy currents. Because of rising water levels, we could not get too close.

The visit to the top of the falls was my best experience. Seeing the water, rushing deep and roaring wild, it does something to you. To say the falls are amazing, magnificent and amazing to behold are an understatement to be honest. It is something you just have to experience, and soak in. We were lucky to be the only ones there with our guide and sitting there in silence just watching the water and listening to the thundering roar, is a magical experience.

There are steps you can climb to view the falls from the top and enjoy the water spray as well as a lovely full rainbow that is always there.

I did not want to leave!

The only thing we didn’t do is go to see the chimpanzees but that’s the perfect excuse for a return visit.

If you are in Uganda, and have not visited Murchison Falls, what are you waiting for?

If you are planning a visit to the region, spare a day or two, to experience the beautiful Murchison Falls National Park. It is worth it!

Out and About: Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Formerly known as the Kazinga National Park, the Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of Uganda’s oldest national parks. It spans over 1,900 square kilometres of savanna grassland, riparian wetland and bush that is home to a wide variety of animals. From mammals to birdlife, the diverse array of flora and fauna will please any nature lover who visits the park.

It is located in Western Uganda, about 400Km outside Kampala, on a winding scenic route towards the peak of the Western Rift Valley spotted with various crater lakes and tea plantations.

Fun Fact: The Albertine Rift Valley (as the Rift Valley branch in Uganda is called), is actually longer than the Kenyan Rift Valley.

The park has several key attractions. There are tree climbing lions found in the Ishasa sector (only two kinds of lions are known to do this in the entire world), the beautiful Kazinga Channel that I have posted about here , Lake Katwe, one of the region’s oldest salt mines, the beautiful but foul smelling (due to sulphur deposits) Lake Nyamunuka, as well as other crater lakes and volcanic features present in the area. Another plus is its location at the back of the majestic Ruwenzori range and the presence of chimpanzees too.

The best time to visit the park is well, any time, as the park is open throughout the year. However, the roads may be impassable during the rainy season and this is Uganda, when it rains it pours in the wet seasons of April/May and September/ October. The dry seasons in Jan/Feb and June/August are said to be better to watch the wildlife though as the animals are more visible as they search for water.

You know you are nearing the park when you begin to spot the wildlife right off the highway.

Some of the wildlife you will spot in the park are buffaloes, Ugandan Kob, leopards, waterbucks, lion, elephants, Nile Monitor lizards, Nile crocodiles, warthogs, colobus monkeys, baboon giant forest hogs, serval cats. There are however no cheetahs, rhinos, zebras or giraffes.

These antelopes were a bit camera shy.

QENP, as the park is more commonly known, is a favorite for bird watchers too. There are over 600 bird species in this park that is a world registered Important Birding Area (IBA) and the bird variety found here is the biggest of any East African National Park! Amazing, right? If you visit during the wet season, you can be lucky to spot some migratory birds too.

The location of the park and adjacency of the area to the deep Congo forest, its diverse flora, water features among other factors attract various bird species. Some of the birds you are lucky to spot here include the African green broadbill, African Skimmer, pink backed pelican, flamingos (on the crater lakes), ring necked pigeon, red chested warbler, various sunbirds, lapwings, grey herons, marsh harriers, African jacana, cisticolas, crakes, African palm nut vulture, African Kestrel, various sandpiper, oxpecker, woodpecker, bee eater and kingfisher species, the list goes on and on. The bird life is amazing and diverse from one part of the park to another. Just carry your binoculars though spotting them is not that difficult.

We did not get to see the leopards, but spotted a lot of birds, elephants, hippos, buffaloes, antelopes and a couple of lions.

We stayed at Buffalo Springs Lodge within the park, they have a pavilion that looks out onto this watering hole favoured by warthogs, baboons, buffaloes and elephants.
The park has over 1000 buffalos, you will spot them in huge herds or grazing alone.
With an elephant population estimated to be about 3000, these gentle giants may be the biggest but not easiest animals to spot as they graze or head into the water.
The famous cactus climbing lions.
See how well hidden this fellow is?
We spotted these elephants while on the path in the lodge. Exciting!
The total hippo population in the park is said to be the largest in the East African region, at around 5000 hippos found in the various water bodies in the park. The Kazinga Channel is the main water body in the park and is host to many schools of hippos such as these ones in the picture.

There are people living within the park and around it. It is not uncommon to hear of attacks by crocodiles when someone is fetching water, bumping into hippos and even find young boys shooing away elephants coming to graze too close to their compounds. But the existence is generally peaceful.

QENP is a must visit when one is in Uganda, the diversity of both flora and fauna, the crater lakes, the Kazinga Channel and other geographical features will excite any curious visitor. There are various hotel within and around the park that favour different budgets, and of course do not forget your sunscreen, hat, binoculars, and spirit of adventure when you set out to experience the “Medley of Wonders” that is the Kazinga National Park.