After a slight shock to the system with the early breakfast and departure, we set off from Kampala for our 3-day safari in and around Murchison Falls and the national park. After what seemed like hours (and literally was hours), we arrived at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary for an amazing opportunity to walk with the rhinos who are being cared for in the sanctuary. Sadly there are no rhinos in the wild in Uganda due to decades of poaching, but the Ziwa sanctuary is seeking to increase the number of rhinos in the country before progressively releasing them into the national park.
After the safety briefing, which included how to avoid rampaging rhinos by not playing dead and hiding behind trees (because rhinos cannot see ahead of themselves due to the placement of their eyes), we headed off with Thomas and Herbert, our guides for the day. In strict single file and in silence we entered the relative wilderness in search of the rhinos. Within minutes we were in sight of mother and child seeking shelter from the late morning sun. It was an amazing experience to be literally metres away from such magnificent creatures. However, an even greater sight was around the corner, and little did we know.., Led stealthily by Jenna, who in no way broke the silence by temporarily discarding her water bottle, we were even more privileged to see one male rhino and 4 female rhinos. Given that there are only 19 rhinos in the 70 km2 reserve, to see 7 of them was a fantastic experience. And so it was that we returned to the bus, stealthily no less, but not before Mr Brewer took another ‘danger selfie’ in front of the dozing rhinos.
Hitting the road again, it wasn’t long (yes it was!) before we arrived at Sambiya River Lodge and the rather welcoming juice, cold towels and outdoor pool. An early dinner and the earliest bedtime of the trip beckoned, due to the impending 5.00am wake up that would begin our safari day.
Bright eyed and bushy tailed, the team awoke to the gentle purr of the generators signalling it was time to get up. Skipping on breakfast for the time being, our driver Juma wound the bus on its way to the serene banks of the River Nile for our 7am ferry to begin our land safari. Our sights included, in approximate order, water bucks, antelopes, giraffes, plenty of wild boars (cue cries of “aaawww…” from the girls), hyenas, the grey crowned crane (Uganda’s national bird), an eagle, elephants, lions, cape buffalos and hippos. Over a late breakfast of sausages and rolex on the banks of the Albert Nile, we were somewhat scarred by the sight of two bull hippos sparring for control of that particular part of the riverbank: blood was spilt but the victor was unconfirmed. Following another ‘danger selfie’ from Mr Brewer with the hippos, we headed off into elephant and giraffe country for one final round of photos.
The view from lunch over the national park was a fitting backdrop as we refuelled, and the afternoon saw us on a water safari along the Nile to the foot of Murchison Falls. Plenty of hippos, buffalos and crocodiles were in evidence and we had an opportunity to see the incredibly impressive falls from the bottom. At the end of river safari the staff attempted to leave the rest of the group behind by departing early, but were quickly summoned back by our guardian angel… Angel! Back at the lodge, the highlight of the day for some was the opportunity to try out their various waterproof phones in the swimming pool amidst dives, underwater selfies and slow motion hair flicks in the style of shampoo adverts.
Having seen the falls from the bottom the previous afternoon, an early start saw us take in the falls from the top. The river was high and the force of the water was incredibly impressive, as were the rainbows across the falls. Group photos followed, as did the ubiquitous Mr Brewer ‘danger selfie’ which by now was getting a little bit tiring. A long drive followed, punctuated by a similarly long lunch break, and we gratefully arrived back at Namirembe Guest House for the evening’s entertainment: individual and collective forfeits! The Rev chaired the distribution of forfeits completely fairly and impartially, as indeed is his way (see the Kampala Challenge in the second blog for further evidence), which had accumulated throughout the trip for various misdemeanours such as punctuality (Ruth), forgetfulness (Mr Brewer), painting skills (Miss Hargreaves), cynicism (Sophie), niceness (Becky, apparently), Eddy (his passion for fresh fruit and veg), dancing anywhere and everywhere (Jenna) and other crimes that cannot be mentioned in a family blog.
A welcome late breakfast was well received by all members of the party and, following a quick stop at the currency exchange, the group hit the shops for souvenirs and lunch. Not all members of the party spent their money solely on souvenirs; Ed and Harry decided to indulge in a massage back at the guest house to prepare them for the final day of travelling.
We are all sad to be going home after what has been a truly amazing experience which we hope many future students will have an opportunity to share in. We would like to thank the people of the Pearl of Africa for their hospitality and we look forward to a straight forward journey home tomorrow, during which we will be loudly wishing Lowie a happy birthday.