Each of the two national parks Wendy and Rick visited–Murchison Falls northwest of Kampala and Queen Elizabeth near Uganda’s southwestern border—had wonderful animals as seen on the Uganda Animal page. Plus each had unique geographical elements. Along the way to Queen Elizabeth Park, they stopped at Uganda’s Equator Marker as well.
Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls, situated in the northern part of the Albertine Rift Valley, is Uganda’s largest and one of its oldest National Parks, which is split by the “Victorian section” of the Nile River–jungle on one side and savannah on the other. The water is
quite wide above the falls then narrows dramatically to cascade 45 meters down a gorge heading north toward the “Albert section” of the Nile and eventually spills into the Mediterranean. It has received many well-known visitors such as Winston Churchill and Ernest Hemingway and of course the British royals at various times, including the Prince of Wales, Edward VII in 1930 and Elizabeth’s Queen Mother in 1959. And Murchison Falls have appeared in a couple of movies with Humphrey Bogart, including African Queen which was shot in the vicinity of the Murchison Nile along with Lake Albert.
To reach their hotel on the savannah side of the park, they had to cross the Nile via ferry. Over the next 3 days they would cross the Nile several times by ferry, overlook it from our hotel dining room, then take a 3 hour boat ride on it to view Murchison Falls. The 30-foot tarp-roofed boat not only pushed upstream against the current but had to shelter twice from torrential rain, thunder, and lightning under trees by the river bank for almost an hour, with the horizontal rain soaking all ten passengers. The current helped the boat return to the hotel. In the river alongside the boat was this odd, white floating foam which the captain claimed was foam from the falls combined with sediment. Rick and Wendy hoped it wasn’t affluent released from farms and villages…Despite the extra time under the trees and being soggy for 3 hours, they really, truly enjoyed the fauna and flora along the Nile. About 20 crocodiles–the most ever–only about 30 feet from the boat were chillin’ along “Crocodile Bar,” an extended sandy riverbank. 150 hippos or more–the most hippos they’d ever seen–were “chewing the grass” with waterbucks and other antelopes or just peeking their ears and eyes above the river surface. Clearly the Nile in Uganda is prolific with wildlife.
Unexpected Side-Trip to Queen Elizabeth National Park
In August 2007 on one TechnoServe business trip to Western Uganda to observe dairy and banana cooperatives (see separate Success Stories), Wendy and Rick with two other colleagues were able to visit Queen Elizabeth National Park. It is only 30 miles from the DRC border, i.e., the infamously violent Democratic Republic of the Congo. They took a boat ride on the 35km. Kazinga Channel connecting Lake Edward to Lake George. The few villages “grandfathered” into the park barely survive on fishing, and are susceptible to the occasional raids by the park’s lions, buffalo, crocs, etc.
They viewed lots of animals by boat and Land Rover. The highlight came in the last 30 minutes of the last afternoon’s safari drive, thanks to the sharp eyes of both the guide who spotted lions and their TechnoServe colleague who saw the 2 pairs of ears in the straw-colored grass. The 4 ears belonged to leopards pairing their one week per year to mate. Other than that and when mothers are with their babies, leopards live out of sight and hunt alone. Rick and Wendy will be eternally grateful to the lioness who must have seen them coming and wanted a better look so climbed on the termite hill behind which she was hiding, to perfectly pose for us.