We drove to Queen Elizabeth National Park, crossing the equator near the mining town of Kasese surrounded by cotton fields, and drove up to the rim of what looked like a mini Ngorongoro Crater, stopping the jeep frequently to check out new birds. The landscape was similar to the Serengeti in Tanzania but greener and with a steeper pitch to the slopes. The tsetse flies were particularly bad along this stretch, and they bit — hard! — right through our clothing. We would encounter more of them in Queen Elizabeth itself.
The park is bordered by the Rwenzori Mountains to the north and Lake Edward in the south, and the lovely Mweya Safari Lodge is situated on a bluff overlooking the Kazinga Channel and Lake Edward. The lodge features beautiful construction, fantastic food and relative luxury for being in the middle of nowhere. Outside our room we came across a big family of warthogs stretched out on the ground, surrounded by an even bigger family of mongoose gleaning ticks from them, poking in every nook and cranny, the warthogs relishing the thorough grooming service.
In late afternoon we went for a game drive and found a group of elephants near the track, two young males bashing each other with their trunks and fighting clumsily for nearly half an hour as we watched from the jeep. At dusk on our way back to the lodge we had to stop for a troop of baboons in the dusty road. Minutes later they all ran excitedly towards something around the bend in the road. We followed them just in time to see a huge rock python trying to escape into the bushes, a few baboons screeching and hopping about to attack the poor snake, with many other baboons craning their necks to watch the action like children crowding around a schoolyard fight.
The next day we spent the morning on another game drive and found a pride of lions out on the savannah while a wary herd of kobs called nervously to each other. These antelopes have a raspy snort somewhat like the oribi I mentioned in the Murchison Falls segment. We watched five adorable little lion cubs playing on some termite mounds until their mothers got them to move on and we moved on as well in search of more birds. The animals we saw the most of by far were waterbuck and warthogs — too many to count!
In the afternoon we took a boat trip along a small part of the 33km Kazinga Channel that connects Lake Edward and Lake George. We saw hippos, crocs and loads of wading birds: African skimmers, spoonbills, yellow-billed and marabou storks, two species of pelican, the funny hammerkops that build enormous stick nests in the trees — the list goes on and on. This was a fabulous trip that I highly recommend for anyone staying in Queen Elizabeth National Park, but again, many other people on the boat didn’t have binoculars. Insane!
The next day we set off for Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, one of the few places in the world where you can find the highly endangered mountain gorilla.