Showing posts with label Murchison Falls National Park. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Murchison Falls National Park. Show all posts

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Murchison Falls National Park Wildlife - Wow!

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Aren't they beautiful? I've seen giraffes in zoos and pretend wildlife parks in the USA and never gave them a thought. In the Ugandan bush where they really live, they brought tears. They lope in slow motion, they neck, they play. They're shy but seem aware of admirers. Through much of this magical two-hour game drive, I was overwhelmed and the giraffes.....well, I have a new love.  We saw hundreds. This photo makes me want to be there again. I did not expect African wildlife to affect me so deeply. But it did. Giraffes! If reincarnation is real, let me be one. We saw so many that they became almost commonplace. What we were really looking for that morning after bush camping was a lion.

Kara and PK are keen on sighting lions from their perches atop the Land Rover. They're hopeful, but they are not the tracking experts. The expert? That would be Dennis.

Dennis brings out the binoculars, but what he mostly did to find lions was read the tracks and the signs. He sniffed the air. And then he directed Pete Meredith to go this way or that, down the rutted road or off into untracked territory, around bushes, back onto the red mud road. We made numerous twists and turns and then............

It was breathtaking to see a lioness and two cubs. We weren't this close, of course. It's the  telephoto lens effect. Dennis estimated the cubs to be about two months old.

One of the cubs turned to look after the other had slipped into the tall grass. 
Then mama checked us out before they all disappeared into the brush.

We were patient, and finally, the cubs crept forward to satisfy their curiosity while mom, her blonde haunch visible behind them, settled down for her morning nap. Not long after this photo was taken, another safari vehicle arrived and the lions hid. It was 9 a.m., and we headed back, in triumph, I must add, to our camp a mile or so away. 

I've taken thousands of photos and never had such an emotional response to capturing a good image. There isn't time to set up a shot; on game drives, or game treks, it's pretty much luck and trying to keep the camera still and not tearing up or shaking with excitement. I took hundreds more photos than I will ever display. What do I have for my efforts? Visual reminders of some of the best moments in my life. More of them are below, most captured in Murchison Falls National Park between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m on Monday, October 7, 2013.  Best Monday ever. 
The Crested Crane, Uganda's national bird.
Totally lucky shot. This gesture lasted a second or two.

Moments later, they all flew off. 

Cape buffalo are a big presence in the national parks we visited. In their protected state, they appear healthy, although no animals are completely safe from poaching, if only by villagers, for food.
A more sober looking buffalo, this one about 10 feet from the vehicle.

We came within a few feet of this elephant in a small boat on the Nile River
as we made our way back to our night's lodging.
On a morning boat trip in Murchison, this elephant came down to the river to feed.

A rhino named Obama (his father was African, his mother imported from a Florida zoo.) We did not see him in Murchison but en route to the park at the Ziwi Rhino Sanctuary. There are currently no rhinos in Uganda outside of sanctuaries. They have all been poached because stupid people think their horns have aphrodisiac qualities. 

Hartebeests pause from their incessant eating to take a look. They are prime lion fodder, I think. 

A jackal, one of a pair, doesn't seem too concerned about us.

Cheeky little oribi, about 3-feet tall, taking a leak in the middle of the road. Pete stopped
the Land Rover and we watched and waited. 

After a lengthy discharge, the little beastie
decided to deposit some pellets as well. Then he bounded off.

Hippos (river horses) are thick along the Nile River in Murchison. We saw this family on a morning boat ride. Hippos secrete a reddish goo that acts as a sunscreen. They spend most of the day partially submerged and venture onto land at night to feed. They mate and give birth in the water.
Nice job, honey. Leyla Ahmet Meredith gives Pete Meredith a bit of a boost.
The Meredith team does river, game and hiking trips as TIA Adventures.

This day, and several more, made possible by TIA Adventures. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Camping in the African Bush, Murchison Falls National Park

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Morning in our bush camp on the Victoria Nile Delta/ Lake Albert in Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda. Deluxe set up, eh? Actually, it was perfect. Except for our group of six, there was not another soul in sight. 
My family has done a lot of camping, much of it along Oregon's Wild and Scenic Rogue River. Our "scary" wildlife includes commonly sighted black bears and rattlesnakes, and also cougars, rarely seen. Things are a bit different "bush" camping in Africa.
Dennis, our bush camp guard and our game-drive guide. Yes, that is an AK 47.
Bush camping, you need a guy like Dennis, if you're lucky enough to find somebody as good.  He's a local from a nearby village, and TIA's guard/guide of choice.  TIA Adventures is the company hired to show us Murchison Falls National Park and many other Ugandan wonders. Dennis stayed up all night keeping a fire alive and making sure predators (lions! leopards!) did not enter the camp. In the morning he reported hearing a lion roar,  and during the night, he had shooed away hippos lumbering in our direction. Hippos spend most of their time in the shallows along rivers or lakes and come aground at night to graze. Hippos look comical and harmless, and make ridiculous huffing-grunting noises, but they are one of the most dangerous large animals in Africa, known to attack humans in boats and on land. (This tidbit from Wikipedia.)
This is what the "bush" looks like shortly after entering Murchison Falls National Park. The vehicle is a Land Rover driven by Pete Meredith. That's Leyla Ahmet Meredith in the pony tail. (PK searching for game.)  Leyla and Pete own and operate TIA (This is Africa) Adventures, and they shared the Africa they love with us for four wonderful days. Four people can sit comfortably atop the vehicle.
What's the "bush?" As far as I can tell, in Uganda, it is undeveloped and uncultivated national park land covered with mixed brush, trees, and grasses and populated with all manner of protected wildlife. Anyplace in Uganda that isn't protected is developed and/or cultivated, and wildlife is mostly missing. Uganda is an agricultural country, and fruit and vegetable farming and cattle and goat raising do not mix well with elephants and antelopes, lions and leopards.

That red rig? Unbelievable, but it has a Halliburton logo and a Texas license plate.
And it is headed to one of numerous oil extraction sites in and near the national park.
We heard a lot of talk about what oil might mean for this incredible place. None of it good.
We're tooling along in the bush and it is late afternoon and near the equator and light is fading. PK and I exchange looks. When are they going to find a camp? we silently ask one another. We, who like to set up camp several hours before dark in our wilderness world back in the USA, mostly so we can sip vino and watch the river roll by as we cook dinner and enjoy the sunset. 

There is zero stress going on that we can see or sense, and we go with it. What else can we do? The red-dirt one-track road is mostly mud after a pelting rain storm the previous day, and the ground is spongy. As we near the Nile, where we think camp will be, the land is flat and soggy. We veer off the road, such as it is, and toward the river. I think about sleeping in water. Suddenly, there seems to be a slight rise in elevation. A foot maybe? Anyway, it is enough and the Land Rover stops on more-or-less dry land. This is it! Bush camp. Pete unfurls a blue plastic tarp on the ground and the rig is unloaded in minutes. 
Dennis is restless, though. Gotta make a fire. He searches the area for wood and comes up with dripping sticks and punky chunks not likely to burn. He and Pete jump in the Land Rover on a wood-gathering mission, and the rest of us work on tents and dinner. 

Success! It took Dennis a long time to get the game fire going as a separate cooking fire was underway.

Here's Kara Blackmore wrapping a whole well-seasoned chicken in
three layers of foil to bake directly on the fire. 
 The chicken roasted perfectly and foil-baked potatoes were also delicious. 

Somewhere around the tiny kitchen is a spade stuck in the dirt with which to dig your own latrine when the time comes. Hope it doesn't arrive in the middle of the moonless night. You do not want to enlist Dennis's aid for such a task.
Camping is camping. The little tents could be anywhere. It just so happens they're  pitched in habitat where four of Africa's Big Five reside: lions, leopards, elephants, and buffalos.  The rhino, included in Africa's Big Five, is absent. Sadly, there are no rhinos left outside of sanctuaries in Uganda.
Here's Dennis ready to track down the lion he heard roaring during the night. The object of bush camping is to be in the center of game country (the bush!) early in the morning. We were ready to roll by 7 a.m. after a quick shot of coffee and a bite on the run. Let's go on a game drive! 
Game drive post up next.