On Sunday November 3, 2013 we were fortunate to have clear skies in Kampala and able to witness a rare hybrid solar eclipse. This is a composite of the eclipse as it progressed through the skies above Kampala, Uganda.
Monday, November 4, 2013
Thursday, October 3, 2013
Several thousand wildebeest gathered on the bank of the Mara River, nervously milling around, pacing forward and backwards. Slowly they moved closer to the rivers edge and then quickly retreated upon getting spooked by something in the water. This cycle replayed over and over as the herd built up and the anticipation of a crossing heightened. Eventually two zebras without any hesitation marched into the muddy water and began to swim to the other side. My heart raced.... will the others follow? Will the zebras survive? Phew, they made it, but the others didn’t follow. The cycle started again and while we patiently waited we watched as crocodiles well camouflaged in the water swam closer into position. After more than two hours of waiting, it came without warning that one wildebeest waded deeper and deeper into the river. This time the others followed. Mayhem ensued!!
|The start of the first river crossing we witnessed.|
Driving through the Masa Mara National Reserve there were tens of thousands of wildebeest as far as the eye could see. The migration was evident all around us, but what we really wanted to see was a river crossing. I had no idea what to expect. I had seen it on television many times but it didn’t prepare me for the real thing. From the moment the first wildebeest entered the water and others followed, my heart raced. Soon after, I was overcome with emotion. The sounds, the dust, the splashes, the cries, the chaos caused tears to flood down my face. I found myself rooting for every animal to make it across even knowing that their death is life for the crocodiles. I witnessed death before my eyes and it was hard. The wildebeest driven by instinct, by life, by greener pastures. No matter what I write here I can’t explain the power of witnessing this event. I feel truly blessed for being able to witness it and recommend the opportunity to everyone that has the chance. The migration truly is the greatest outdoor show on the planet! The scene of a young wildebeest wandering on the banks after a crossing, looking and crying out for its mother, a lion dragging a young wildebeest it has just killed to the other members of its pride to eat, these scenes are real and a reminder of the circle of life. Death is essential for life to carry on. It is everything that the Great Migration is about.
|The Mara River|
|A procession of wildebeest|
|A lioness dragging her wildebeest kill in the early morning after a river crossing|
|There was wildebeest as far as the eye could see across the plains of the Masai Mara|
|Over a hundred wildebeest taking shade under a tree in the heat of the midday sun|
A compilation video featuring three of the five river crossings that we were witness to.
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
|Riding through the savannah with zebra in the background|
My husband and I are inexperienced riders and were unsure of how our backsides would fare on a long ride, so we started with a one hour safari in the late afternoon. The stables are a short distance from Mihingo Lodge where we were spending a couple of nights. When we arrived at the stables for our safari we were met by Joseph the stable manager. Joseph showed us around the stables and he introduced us to all of the horses and ponies. The stables and facilities were clean, organized and had a number of spacious paddocks for the horses to graze.
|One of the horses in the stables|
After we were acquainted with the facilities it was time to visit the tack room and get ready for our ride. Trail saddles, stirrups, chaps and helmets are all provided for your guided safari. Riders should wear long pants, a strong pair of shoes and most importantly bring your sense of adventure. All geared up we were ready to meet our horses. I was riding Summersong and Kevin had his trusty steed Vallas. Joseph gave us a few pointers and instruction about riding our horses and we were all set.
|Inside the tack room|
|Ready for the safari|
We left the stables and began our safari riding through the savannah. I had been told that game and wildlife is extremely relaxed around horses allowing riders to get very close to them but some things need to be experienced to be fully understood. Not only did we get very close to animals but what surprised me the most was their calmness. We were able to maintain a normal volume of conversation and they didn’t flinch or seem bothered. Our guides Joseph and Charles were very knowledgeable about the wildlife and their habitat. As we rode through the bush and grassland we came across many species including warthogs, zebra, eland, dwarf mongoose, impala and bush buck as well as various birds. Horseback safaris are not ideal for photography as your hands are needed on the reins and the constant movement is not conducive for photos. Small manageable point and shoot cameras are ideal. The whole experience is very relaxing and personal. While sitting on your horse you can enjoy the scenery and make mental memories.
Feeling confident after our first ride, we decided to go for a longer one in the morning. This time we left the stables at 7:30am for a 4 hour ride that took us outside the park towards Lake Kacheera. Animals were plentiful and the landscape and scenery was beautiful. For those that have never been on a horseback safari it is a special experience. Without the confines of a vehicle and a rumbling engine you can take in every sound and every movement. The horses at Mihingo were relaxed and calm so there was never any fear of being taken on a sudden gallop. Having no previous experience, I never felt worried or stressed.
After the rides, Mihingo lodge was a stunning place to have a swim in the infinity pool overlooking a waterhole, have a full body massage, enjoy gourmet food and take in a bit of Mihingo magic. We thoroughly enjoyed our first horseback safari and didn’t suffer from any aches, pains or sore backsides. We left only with plenty of memories and smiles on our faces. It was definitely an adventure that we will never forget.
To enjoy a Mihingo horseback safari, no previous experience with horses is necessary. They are fully equipped for adults and children and offer rides starting from 30 minutes to several hours as well as overnight trips, bush breakfasts and picnic lunches.
For Information & Bookings
+256-752 410 509
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
We picked up our Uganda Wildlife Authority guide Lawrence just before sunset. He had a large spotlight with him which wired directly to our car battery. Lawrence decided to perch himself on the roof of the Land Rover so that he had a good vantage point. We were all set and started driving towards the Research Track. By this time the sun had set and darkness was setting in. From inside the Land Rover we watched as Lawrence moved the spotlight quickly from left to right looking for animals. It was Kevin that heard Lawrence say "leopard, stop!" I was driving. I quickly pressed on the brakes and started looking around "where?" A male leopard was in front of us and just off of the road to the right. We turned off the engine and watched as he walked through the grass towards a thicket. For over 30 minutes we watched the leopard as he slowly made his way from thicket to thicket, pausing at each one to look around and survey his surroundings. Eventually he walked off into the darkness leaving us with adrenaline pumped bodies and big grins. Fantastic!! This sighting was enough for me, I was so happy to have had such a good spotting of a leopard that I was prepared to head back to Mihingo lodge where we were staying and revel in our night drive experience.
As we drove back, we saw buffalo, zebras, a white tailed mongoose and a genet cat. We were not far from the lodge when Lawrence asked us to turn onto a small track to look for hyena as he knew of the general location they hang around at night. Close to the road, we saw a figure dart away from an anthill and into the thick bushes nearby. We shone our lights and could see two eyes staring back at us. As we crept the vehicle closer to the bush, we realized it was a leopard!! Another one! How exciting was this?! Another male, this time never leaving the protection and cover of the bush. We admired his beauty, his large golden eyes resembling giant glass marbles, his long whiskers and rosette patterned coat. After about 30 minutes we decided to leave him and let him get back to his leopard business. As we drove back to Mihingo, we giggled at our fortune of seeing two separate leopards on one night drive.
If you are visiting Lake Mburo National Park, I can highly recommend this exciting activity. Although there is no guarantee of seeing leopard, a guided night drive gives you the chance to experience the animals in their habitat at night as well as giving you an opportunity to spot nocturnal species. For us, it was a super night!
Friday, July 5, 2013
Our journey to the gorillas began from the Mweya peninsula in Queen Elizabeth National Park where we were bush camping with our husbands. Full of excitement we scurried around our camp packing up, organizing our things and getting a few last minute photography tips from Kevin, my husband and avid wildlife photographer who we would soon part ways with. The guys were spending the next couple of nights in Ishasha (the southern sector of Queen Elizabeth NP) while the girls would carry on to Bwindi. Once our camp was packed up, we jumped into the 4x4’s and headed south. When we arrived at the park gate to Ishasha, we pulled off the road, said goodbye and climbed back into our vehicle and were off like a shot. We couldn’t wait to be sitting at our lodge in Bwindi Forest but this would take a little longer than we anticipated. As we drove through small villages we passed dozens of people immaculately dressed walking home after Easter Sunday church services. We rounded a bend in the road and came across a truck that had tipped over and completely blocked the road. PANIC!!! Was this going to prevent us from getting to Bwindi? Was there another route? After some discussion we decided to return to the nearest village and attempt to find someone who could give us directions and advice on another route. Just as we arrived in the village, we spotted a tourist vehicle approaching, so out the window my arm went to flag him down. We explained the blocked road ahead and asked if he knew of an alternative route. With a confident “yes” he ordered us to “follow him”. A huge sense of relief washed over us. Yes!! We WOULD get there. Now as the driver of our vehicle, all I could focus on was keeping the green safari vehicle we were following in my eye sight. The driver knew the road well and therefore kept a swift pace, much faster than I normally drive, but I had to be sure not to lose him. As we followed we enjoyed what we considered to be a much more scenic route on a better road. By late afternoon we were driving through the entrance to Bwindi Impenetrable Park.
|A truck blocking the road en route to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest|
We checked into Buhoma Lodge, ordered a well deserved cold beer and sat on the verandah of our tree house room. We stared at the forest and watched the mist constantly changing shape, floating over the peaks of the mountain and hanging in the valleys. Somewhere inside of that forest were the mountain gorillas that we came to see. It all seemed so real now. Tomorrow we would trek deep into the African jungle and come face to face with mountain gorillas.
Moments before my alarm went off, I woke up. It was still dark. I switched on a light and soon we were both buzzing around the room getting ready for the day. It seemed that even the birds were excited for us their cheery songs getting louder and louder as daylight emerged. Once we were layered with clothes and ready for any kind of weather, we sat down for breakfast and a hot cup of coffee. We ate because we knew we needed the energy but our stomachs were more occupied doing flips of excitement rather than thinking about food. Nevertheless, we ate. After breakfast we chose a walking stick for the trek provided by our lodge and made our way over to the briefing.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority gave us a warm welcome and shared information about the gorillas and the guidelines for trekking. We broke into smaller groups based on the group that we were trekking and met our fellow trekkers as well as our guide, Ruth. We would be trekking the Habinyanja group. We both chose to take a porter and got acquainted. There are many advantages to a porter besides the obvious of carrying your backpack. Foremostly it provides employment for people from the surrounding villages but beyond that they make great trekking companions. My porter Caleb was a wealth of knowledge and he constantly reminded me to drink water. When the going got tough he provided a helping hand and the occasional push up hills and when I seemed to need it the most, he made me laugh with his witty sense of humour and his jokes.
Our starting point was a 20 minute drive away from the briefing centre. Once we arrived at the base of the trail, I parked the car and we got ourselves ready. Backpack, check. Water, check. Camera, check. Walking stick, check. Rain jacket, check. Sense of adventure, check. We began our ascent through farmland.
|Starting our ascent|
Villagers were tilling their fields, young children came from every direction to wave and say hello and older children had artwork spread out along the path in hopes of making a sale. Bananas, matooke, cassava, beans, children, men, women, goats, chickens, pigs, we passed them all. After an hour or so of nothing but uphill trekking, we entered the jungle.
|Children from one of the villages we passed|
Surrounded by dense forest we followed a trail that led us through a never ending series of hills. The going was somewhat tough and we could feel slight effects of elevation but this didn’t stop us. We made short stops as we needed them, drank lots of water, and kept moving at a steady pace. By midday, our guide informed us that we could be in for a long day as the trackers who had been out since the morning, still had not yet found the exact location of the Habinyanja group. Just as we were bracing ourselves for the long day, we were told that the group had changed direction and were now heading towards us, we were very close. We fueled up with a quick dried fruit snack, some more water and left our packs on the trail to traverse the thick vegetation of the forest floor to get close to the gorillas.
Off the trail the vegetation was thick, the ground uneven and much more difficult to maneuver through. The guides were clearing a way for us to get closer to the gorillas. We could hear them making noise in the valley floor but we couldn’t see them. The first gorillas we saw were a mother and a juvenile. They looked at us casually as everyone in our group stood and watched them in amazement. Beautiful. Big. Hairy. Then we noticed two young gorillas swinging, playing and chasing each other in a nearby tree. We watched them for several minutes as they entertained us with their antics. Their ability to move up, down and around the tree with speed and accuracy was fascinating. They carried on with their fun and games like we weren’t even there. The guides continued to clear away a makeshift path for us to get closer to more members of the Habinyanja group. Eventually we all gathered in a small opening in the forest that the guides had cleared for us, sat on the ground and immersed ourselves in the company of the gorillas. The Silverback was laying down in the forest not far away however the most we could see of him was his silver hair shimmering in the sunlight between the branches. We could hear him making noises and could clearly smell his flatulence. Juveniles played in the trees around us, females sat munching on leaves and one of the new mothers was letting her young baby move around on the ground close to her after it was finished suckling from her breast. The baby was so small and so very cute! Their feet and hands were amazing to see, their digits and fingerprints seemed almost human. The gorillas drew me in, their large chestnut colored eyes, relaxed personalities and gentle movements made me want to sit there and watch them forever. At the end of the hour, it was extremely hard to leave the gorillas. With great reluctance we followed our guide back to the main trail where we had left our backpacks.
|The foot of an adult gorilla|
|The foot of a baby gorilla|
Back on the main trail we sat down on the ground, ate a sandwich and discussed how wonderful it was to spend time with the Habinyanya. After some food and a brief rest, we began to walk back to where we left our car. This took several hours of traversing through the forest in the opposite direction from our way in. When we reached the car we were tired. It had been a long day but a good one. We drove back to the UWA headquarters and were presented with certificates for trekking and then back to our lodge. We were looking forward to a hot shower.
|The view from the edge of the forest|
That evening over dinner we shared a bottle of wine and talked about what an awesome day we had. On one hand we were tired and on the other so full of adrenaline and excitement that we knew it would be hard to fall asleep. Trekking the gorillas is such an incredible experience, one that can be shared but never replicated as every encounter is different. As I lay in my bed that night I thought about the Habinyanja and wondered what they were doing. Where were they sleeping? What had they done for the rest of the day? It was an experience that will stay with me forever. When I think back to that day, I remember every detail and cherish it not only for myself but that I was able to share it with such a good friend. It is a bond that we will share for the rest of our lives. Simply incredible!
|Gorillas from the Habinyanja group|
Sunday, June 16, 2013
Trekking mountain gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest of Uganda is an incredible opportunity, one that I was eagerly waiting for. The fact that I was sharing the experience with my best friend from Canada only elevated the excitement. I couldn't imagine there was anything that could make our experience richer, but our stay at Buhoma Lodge did. The service, atmosphere and attention to detail made this once in a lifetime trip absolutely magical!
Buhoma Lodge is nestled in the forest approximately 200 metres from the park entrance and near the Uganda Wildlife Authority headquarters. Upon arrival, the manager Ken kindly introduced himself and took us into the main lodge and dining area. We sat down together and Ken shared with us facts and information that we would need to know about the lodge and its amenities. Ken’s demeanor was very calm which I found to be a nice balance to the excitement and anticipation that I was feeling inside for our gorilla trek the following day. He checked which gorilla group we were trekking and confirmed that it was one of the groups around the Buhoma area and also gave us an idea of where our trek would start from the following morning. We were told that we were going to have to drive approximately 20 minutes to the starting point for the Habinyanja gorilla group. This information was helpful to have the night before so we were prepared to take our vehicle the next morning.
|ELEVATED TREE HOUSE ROOMS|
The accommodation at Buhoma Lodge is individual tree houses. Their slight elevation off the ground allows for wonderful views of the steep mountain forests that surrounded us. The mesh windows gave us great views as well as plenty of fresh cool crisp mountain air. We sat comfortably on our private veranda enjoying the unique sounds of the dense forest and as I gazed into the impenetrable forest, my mind was racing with anticipation for our gorilla experience knowing that somewhere very deep inside that green lush Ugandan jungle we would come face to face with the rare mountain gorillas that make Bwindi their home. This was real, very real, I was deep in the heart of Africa! Our room had two comfortable single beds, night stand tables, lamps and plenty of hanging as well as shelving space for our clothes. The ensuite bathroom was a blend of natural materials of wood and stone. The spacious shower was wonderful as it had great pressure and hot water. Buhoma believes in being eco friendly and provides shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and lotion in ceramic bottles.
|INSIDE VIEW OF TREE HOUSE ROOMS|
Dinner was served at 7:30 in the warmly lit dining room and consisted of four courses, a starter, soup, main course and dessert. The food was outstanding, great flavour combinations, reasonable portion sizes and top notch presentation. The atmosphere in the dining room was enjoyable. Tables of other guests talking, laughing, sharing bottles of wine and stories of their experiences in the forest. Small clay chimney fireplaces were scattered about the dining room. The warm glowing coals helped to keep the chill out of the crisp night air, a truly charming ambiance.
|MAIN LODGE/DINING & BAR AREA|
After dinner when we returned to our room, turn-down service had been done. Full length curtains were drawn to give the room a pleasant and private feel. When I got into my bed I was pleasantly surprised to find a hot water bottle between the sheets, I thought that was a very nice touch. I drifted off to sleep, warm, cozy and full of excitement for the next day.
The next morning a gentle knock on the door followed by “good morning” and the aroma of coffee woke us up. While we sipped our coffee and prepared for a day of unknown trekking, the darkness turned to light and the birds of the forest began to sing. We sat down for breakfast at 7am. We were asked to bring our gorilla permits and passports to breakfast which I assumed was a tactic to keep us organized. We had an enjoyable breakfast of fresh juice, cereal, porridge and cooked eggs that we had ordered the night before. As we tried to control the butterflies of excitement in our stomachs, we were unaware that the staff was registering us for the trekking at the park headquarters, that was the reason for bringing the paperwork to breakfast. When we were finished eating, we were told that we could head directly for the briefing. How awesome was that, we didn’t have to worry about the logistics, it was all taken care of. On our way to the briefing, we picked up our packed lunches and water packed in stainless refillable water bottles as well as a wooden walking stick for our trek.
Our trek to see the Habinanya group was a full day. We set off up the steep slopes of the forest at 9am with our guide and the others in our group. The scenery was incredible. We passed through small settlements where children and adults came to the edge of the footpath to greet us and sing. Once inside the forest, the terrain continued to be challenging but delighted us with a vast array of plant life and interesting creatures such as the giant earthworm and numerous vibrantly colored butterflies. Once we were close to the gorillas, we left our packs behind on the trail and armed with a sense of adventure and our cameras, we negotiated the dense forest floor until an opening was cleared out for us to sit and marvel at the gorillas. The babies kept us entertained and had us giggling at their antics. After an incredible hour, we began our trek back to the lodge.
The lodge offers complimentary massage for each of their guests. This was definitely a part of our stay that we absolutely loved and after 8 hours of trekking the full body massage was much needed and well deserved. A small fireplace warmed the room and the massage table was a wonderful place to relax and unwind as the masseuse melted away the tension in my muscles.
Buhoma Lodge has a well stocked gift shop full of nick nacks and reasonably priced souvenirs including books, clothing, jewelry and much more. The shop was our last stop before leaving the lodge. We chose out a few special momentos of our time in Bwindi.
I can not recommend Buhoma Lodge enough. There wasn’t a single part of our stay that needed any changes or improvements and we felt like the staff was always one step ahead of us ensuring that every aspect of our stay was comfortable and memorable. If the opportunity arises in the future to experience the gorillas in Bwindi again, I will definitely spend my time at the Buhoma Lodge. Our experience was absolutely magical, one that we will never forget and will cherish forever. Thanks to all the staff for an amazing time and a job well done!
Booking and Reservations
Exclusive Camps and Lodges (G&C Tours Ltd)
Ph: (+256) 414 321 479
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
|Main Lodge with great views over Lake Mburo National Park|
The large main lodge overlooks part of Lake Mburo National Park and the adjacent Ankole cattle ranches and homesteads. This impressive thatched roof structure has a bar and reception area near the entrance, a hammock strung between two eucalyptus poles and a few sofas and chairs to relax in. There is also a nook with a glass bottle wall and built in adobe style seating covered with cushions, a nice place to sit and enjoy some of the magazines, books and games that are provided. At the far end is the dining area with a view of the watering hole that has been constructed to attract birds and wildlife. At the time of my visit, this sizable main building was sparsely furnished. I was told that more furniture and furnishings were planned to fill the voids and create a more comfortable atmosphere. Rwakobo Rock definitely has something to grow into.
|View from the Main Lodge into Lake Mburo National Park|
There are 8 cottages interconnected to the main lodge by murram pathways. Rwakobo Rock offers rock rooms that look out into the community land and bush rooms that are tucked into the surrounding vegetation. Our cottage was a rock room and was a few minute walk from the main lodge. We entered the cottage from the back and inside was a large bed covered by a mosquito net, a chair and an open unit for hanging clothes. Through an archway was the bathroom with sink, large walk in shower and toilet. Large netted windows in the bathroom make up the one side of the shower and provide a view outside. Each room has its own solar water system so we had an ample supply of hot water for showers. The decor and furniture in our cottage was simple and functional. We did miss not having a towel bar so had to get a little creative with where to hang our wet towels. Off the front of our cottage was a small veranda with a couple of chairs and a view that looks onto a large relatively flat expanse of rock that drops off into the bush below. We had coffee delivered to our room in the morning which we sipped while sitting on the veranda, a great place to start the day and enjoy the sunshine while many species of birds drank and bathed in small pools of water on the rocks.
|Inside our cottage|
There is no shortage of things to do around Rwakobo Rock if you’re looking for something more than just relaxing and enjoying the views. Game drives are an obvious choice. As we were rather unfamiliar with Lake Mburo, we asked Chris and Katie (the lodge owners) for suggestions. They recommended that we follow the Research Track in search of game and that a drive up to the Kazuma Hill lookout was a great place for 360 degree views of the surrounding area. We weren’t disappointed by their suggestions. The research track was densely populated by game and birdlife and although we arrived on top of Kazuma Hill in the pouring rain, we waited out the storm and when the skies cleared we were astounded by the beauty around us. Night drives are another popular choice and can be booked through the UWA office in the park or through the lodge. With the increasing number of leopard being spotted in the park, I would guess that this might be an exciting activity to try. Boat trips on Lake Mburo are run by the UWA several times a day and if you are a keen birder, you won’t pass up this opportunity to spot the African Finfoot. Other highlights of the boat trip are hippos and crocodiles. The lodge has a couple of bicycles for hire which can be used to explore around the lodge outside of the park boundary. The lodge also offers nature walks. We did a couple of small walks around the lodge and enjoyed both little jaunts which gave us the chance to explore what was around us.
|Mother Zebra with her young|
A few things to bring:
Evenings can get chilly on top of the rock so be sure to bring something warm with you.
A decent flashlight/torch as some of the pathways are narrow and unlit.
A pair of close toed shoes may help out on the murram pathways and other areas as things could get messy in the rain
Binoculars to enjoy the views and birdlife around the lodge
Rates & Booking Information
Chris & Katie
+256 755 211771