Mandy, who completed our rhino sanctuary volunteering and safari in Uganda project in 2018, tells us all about the Murchison Falls Safari. Thanks Mandy!
Leaving the sanctuary
Today I am sad, as I am leaving the rhino sanctuary. I have had a fantastic time here and feel like I am just getting settled in…but off on to the next leg of the trip…to Murchison Falls!
My driver, Fred, was coming from Kampala to pick me up and drive me to Murchison falls and around the park, then back to Entebbe in 3 days. He arrived late (but had informed the lodge) as he had car problems and then hit the congested traffic in Kampala. That’s ok as I realized throughout my stay at the sanctuary that this happens…it happens to the regular travelers and drivers too! This gave me more time to watch the weaver birds by the pool and to relax and say my goodbyes to all the wonderful people that hosted me at the project.
Once Fred arrived he loaded me and my things up quickly and we were on our way. When we arrived at the main road I realized I had been living the last 10 days in a bubble…truly a sanctuary and that Ugandan life in the real world was different…we are so lucky and privileged a good reality check to remind me how fortunate we are in Canada. Fred was very good at pointing out the sights along the way and answering all my questions! We passed the Karuma Falls crossing the Karuma Bridge, where I learned that photography of government bridges etc are not allowed! The falls were beautiful though.
After about 3 hours we arrived at the Tangi Gate of Murchison Falls National park which is at the Northern Park Boundaries. We checked in and went to pick up our guide for the afternoon. The guide filled us in on the history of the area and what we can be prepared to experience. As it was getting dark we did not have a lot of safari time but I got the basic initial tour and saw lots of animals. I saw giraffes, elephants, hippos (on land), Jackson’s hardebeest, bushbucks, Ugandan Kobs along with a wild dog hiding in the bushes (thanks to the guide for spotting that!).
Fort Murchison Lodge was our next stop only a short drive from the park entrance and I was glad to be at my resting spot for the next couple of days. I was quickly checked in and escorted to my tent, where I spent a few minutes unpacking. I then headed for a quick dinner at the lodge restaurant, then back to my tent for an early night as I was to be up early in the morning for breakfast and then a day of Safari.
An early start as the animals are easier to see in the cool of the morning. We picked up our guide and on our way we went. After seeing many more giraffes, elephants, antelopes and birds (I am fascinated by the birds) we went to the Hippo pond. It was so exciting to see so many hippos in the water! This was a great spot to stop and have a snack while watching the hippos and the many birds flying around.
The afternoon involved a river boat trip down the Nile to the base of Murchison Falls. Lots to see along the way-so have your camera ready! This was also a great chance to chat with other travelers and hear the highlights of their adventures in Uganda.
This was an extra early morning for me as I had booked a Hot air balloon ride safari in the park (booked through Kombi Nation Tours, Uganda at an extra but worthwhile cost). There was a bit of a rush to get to the balloon as they had a busy schedule, but I made it! The park is so beautiful in the morning. I joined a group of ladies from Denmark in the balloon and up up and away we went. This was my first time in a hot air balloon and it was a great adventure. What a fabulous way to see the park, the animals, the Nile and the sunrise. We were up for about an hour. Our pilot was fantastic and found us some lions to see…I realized I wasn’t getting many good pictures so I put away the camera and just enjoyed the ride and scenery.
Upon landing, Fred picked me up and we did a bit more safari before heading to the ferry launch. We crossed the Nile and drove through the park on the other side, to get to the top side of Murchison Falls. This side of the park was not as scenic…very forested and the roads were rough but I knew I was in good hands. After a stop at the falls, we headed out of the park towards Masindi and on to the road back to Entebbe.
It was a long ride back…that’s just the way it is. There was lots to look at along the way, little villages and shops and lots of culture!. We arrived at Kampala during a busy time, and even though it was a Sunday night there was a lot of activity out on the streets. After a long day we arrived back at the Airport Guesthouse where I bought a beer from the bar and headed to my room for a good nights sleep.
My flight home did not start until Monday late night so I had all Monday to pack and to do some souvenir shopping in Entebbe. The Guesthouse organized a driver to take me to the markets and patiently waited for me while I shopped. So many souvenirs to choose from but only so much space in my luggage! I also took some time to walk to Anna’s Café, just a short walk from the hotel, to have lunch and a coffee and do more souvenir shopping. Apparently this is the local expat hangout, with great food and coffee and I chatted with some of the other customers who were there for various reasons but all gave me suggestions of other places to check out…will have to save those for another time though.
This was truly a fabulous trip and I would like to thank Anne at Oyster Worldwide, Kombi Nations Tours, Airport Guesthouse and everyone at the sanctuary for making my trip so wonderful. Anyone thinking of taking this trip is welcome to contact me through Oyster Worldwide or any tips you may want or questions you may have!