Queen Elizabeth National Park

YEP

YEP

Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park

African Stuffed Animals

African Stuffed Animals

In the weeks leading up to my arrival in Uganda, Marcy had suggested that we should go on a game drive.  She had informed me that the trips could be pricey.  I figured that since I  headed all the way to Africa, the best things to spend money on was the things that where classically Africa!  Game drives can’t get much more African.

While we where still in Fort Portal, Marcy was in contact with yet another PVC, Sarah that was placed very close to her own site in Soroti.  They had become good friends and she was setting up a game drive for some of the students she taught.  She was paying for the hole thing herself, and had all the logistics already worked out.  She was offering us a few seats on the bus.  The price was half of what we would have payed otherwise, and I figured it would be fun to go with a bunch of kids, plus we could donate a little money to the trip and help out Sarah with the day to day stuff if needed.

The biggest downside to doing the game drive this way was that we needed to decided whether to stay in Fort Portal for 3 more days to meet the bus on the way down to the park, or head back up to Soroti, spend a day, and then take the bus that Sarah had rented, with the kids, all the way back to the park, a estimated 11 hour trip.

Fort Portal to Soroti

Fort Portal to Soroti

Since Marcy hadn’t been back to her site, or house for over 2 weeks, and I was running out of clean clothes we decided to make the trip back up to Soroti.  It took 4 hours to get back to Kampala and we stayed there for the night in a motel.  The next morning we got onto another bus for the 6 hour trip north back to Soroti.

We went back through Jinga and over the Nile river again, passing where we had just been a few nights before.  The further north we went the flatter and more arid the land became, although still lush and green, as the tropics always are.

6 hours into the trip we sputtered into Soroti.  I was excited to see Marcy’s site and see first hand all that I had been described and heard about through her.  We got off the bus and walked over to a median in the middle of the road, under a large mango tree and greeted several boda drivers.  A few knew Marcy and we negotiated for the 3k ride to the outskirts of Soroti Town and Marcy’s site in Madera.

We spent a day at Marcy’s apartment and then at 4am woke up, had two bodas meet us at her compound gate and headed back into Soroti to meet the bus bound for Sarah’s school and the game drive.  We where heading to Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Soroti to Queen Elizabeth NP

Soroti to Queen Elizabeth NP

Washing clothing in Marcy's apartment. This is my first time washing a load of laundry by hand.  it took me a long time.

Washing clothing in Marcy's apartment. This is my first time washing a load of laundry by hand. It took me a long time.

We met up with Sarah and all her students at a very Christian secondary school (middle and high school).  After the bus was blessed, all the kids, cooked food, fire wood, and other assorted supplies where loaded and we headed off.  16 hours later….on a bus….. we arrived at QENP.

Bus All Loaded Up

Bus All Loaded Up

The last 3 hours of the bus ride where serene, driving over a mountain pass, along huge tea plantations and then, the first bit of untouched jungle I have seen on the trip. We where on a ridge on the pass road and got a spectacular view of the rolling hills covered with jungle.  Clouds seeped up from the canopy in the valleys from the released water vapor of the trees. Mist hung over the valleys and contrasted the rich green of the foliage.  We passed huge craters created by ancient geological activity, and then, as we came over the pass, we got a birds eye view of the great plain that housed the reserve and National Park.  I was not able to take pictures as we where hurling down the road and on a rickety bus, but I will never forget the view I saw that day.  It was a classic African vista.

We pulled up to the gate of the park right at sunset.  Once we went through the rigmarole of payment for access into the park, we started to drive to the lodge and camp ground.  It took another 45 minutes to reach the camping complex….this was not expected.

We finally pulled up to the camp site well past dark.  There was a bright moon out and it cast a brilliant dark light over the area.  When we got out we where greeted by a camp official.  They told the children to stay in the camp at night.  Mind the warthogs that hung around the camp, and be careful when wandering to the latrines at night.

As we started to walk towards the bungalows we watched the park ranger put out his arms in a stop! pose.  And I heard the word hippo!.  About 50 feet away, in the dark was a 3 ton hippo and her calf!  It was massive.  I remember thinking, “how can that body be supported by those legs.  It was like a massive barrel, with gray skin and a pink belly.  The ranger informed us that they can be quite dangerous when they half a calf with them, so they used a pick-up truck to heard the calf and momma through the campsite and back into the park.

Right at that moment another PCV who works at the park drove up in a truck.  Apparently we where staying with her at her house just up the road a few hundred yards.  We hopped in the truck, spun around and headed back to the house.  All of a sudden the headlights flashed across a massive animal, and I got a full, lit up view of the momma and calf walking gingerly up the road.  The driver once again used the truck to heard the hippos off the road and deeper into the park.

We arrived at a house, although it was not the PCV’s house, it was one of her friends,  a grad student from Denmark.  He is a mongoose researcher and on a 3 month tour around the area studying the mammal.  He was a great, friendly guy with crazy eyes and the most vivid memorable laugh ever.  He looked like he had been in the bush for his whole life (he had been all day).  The house was fine, and had a big kitchen.  We had our own room with a bed.  There was no shower, just a tub, but with running water. I took my first bucket bath!  It works well.

After my shower, I came out to a dinner of pizza from the large, high end safari lodge and the researcher’s homemade tropical rum punch that was icy cold, sweet and fruity.  We sat and watched a movie on his computer.  Before we turned in for the night, the PCV told us to stay in the house as there was a pride of lions reported to be near the camp that night!  Holy S#1*!!!!  We are also warned that if we heard rustling in the back garden it was probably just elephants, noting to be too alarmed about.  Really!?!

The next  morning we woke at 6 am, met the bus, and were off on a game drive.  Nothing to say that the pictures can’t say 10x better…………

Early morning overlook of the lake.  This is at 6 a.m. right before we caught the bus for our game drive.

Early morning overlook of the lake. This is at 6 a.m. right before we caught the bus for our game drive.

Sunrise.  On the bus, headed into the heart of the park.

Sunrise. On the bus, headed into the heart of the park.

Deeper into the park still

Deeper into the park still

Group of Kob

Group of Kob

Kob and Egret

Kob and Egret

Crater Lake Along Road

Crater Lake Along Road

Tree

Tree

Running Kob

Running Kob

Kob

Kob

Big Buck

Big Buck

Posing Kob

Posing Kob

Cape Buffalo Herd

Cape Buffalo Herd

Wart Hogs

Wart Hogs

Signs

Signs

Along the drive we stopped along the lake in a small fishing village.  This place was amazing, and I took some of the most interesting pictures of my life.  There where groups of kids running around and fisherman coming in with there morning catch.

End of the Road

End of the Road

Eastern 'n' Connection

Eastern 'n' Connection

Boats and Boy

Boats and Boy

Children and Boats

Children and Boats

One of Marcy's photos.  Children in water

One of Marcy's photos. Children in water

First time they saw this Mazungu

First time they saw this Mazungu

Another Marcy shot.  Sister and Brother

Another Marcy shot. Sister and Brother

Latrine Village

Latrine Village

This massive dead tree was out behind the village.  There were sever different bird species and a cape buffalo just hanging out.  It was a pretty surreal scene.

This massive dead tree was out behind the village. There were sever different bird species and a cape buffalo just hanging out. It was a pretty surreal scene.

As I was shooting the tree, these kids started to come up to me to take there picture.  This little guy snuck up behind me and I accidently elbowed him in the head.  I swear I wasn't petting children.

As I was shooting the tree, these kids started to come up to me to take there picture. This little guy snuck up behind me and I accidentally elbowed him in the head. I swear I wasn't petting children.

YO!  I got this fish, man.  What you gonna give me for it!?!

YO! I got this fish, man. What you gonna give me for it!?!

Fishing Boat

Fishing Boat

Chillin' in the Boat

Chillin' in the Boat

********

********

Fishremen

Fishermen

Morning Catch

Morning Catch

Yes, those are hippos!

Yes, those are hippos!

School Girl and Fishing Boat

School Girl and Fishing Boat

Hippos by Village

Hippos by Village

Hippo

Hippo

As I was taking pictures of the hippos, my friend here came up and grabbed my finger, he wouldn't let go.  He has the largest head, he is going to be a large human.  I feel sorry for his mom.

As I was taking pictures of the hippos, my friend here came up and grabbed my finger, he wouldn't let go. He has the largest head, he is going to be a large human. I feel sorry for his mom after that birth.

Marcy and I walked into the village to get a picture of the great "end of the road" sign.  The kids really started to mob us.  I was able to step away for a second and snap this.  For some reason they are all posing.

Marcy and I walked into the village to get a picture of the great "end of the road" sign. The kids really started to mob us. I was able to step away for a second and snap this. For some reason they are all posing.

Happiness

Happiness

I picked up some anchors on the way back to the bus

I picked up some anchors on the way back to the bus

Marcy took a picture of probably the cutest child on the planet.

Marcy took a picture of probably the cutest child on the planet.

On the way out of the village, we stopped at an over view of another crater lake.  This one had marsh fields all around it.  An aerial shot of this would have been amazing!

On the way out of the village, we stopped at an over view of another crater lake. This one had marsh fields all around it. An aerial shot of this would have been amazing!

another shot of the lake

another shot of the lake

After a quick look at the lake, we got back on the bus and started to journey back towards camp.

After a quick look at the lake, we got back on the bus and started to journey back towards camp.

On the way back we ran into these guys

On the way back we ran into these guys

Elephant!

Elephant!

Elephant

Elephant

Elephant

Elephant

Elephant

Elephant

Elephant

Elephant

Around 1:30 p.m. we came back to camp for lunch.  The camp is great and there is various forms of wildlife just hanging out, right there, a few feet away as you chow down.

Water buck under tree at camp site

Water buck under tree at camp site

Wart Hog getting out of his mud hole at camp

Wart Hog getting out of his mud hole at camp

Ugly Creature

Ugly Creature

Mongoose looking for food scrapes in camp

Mongoose looking for food scrapes in camp

Waiting for lunch under the trees near the termite mound.

Waiting for lunch under the trees near the termite mound.

These two where about 20 feet from where the children and we were sitting eating lunch.

These two where about 20 feet from where the children and we were sitting eating lunch.

Same one sitting up

Same one sitting up

Close up

Close up

Family

Wart hog Family

After Lunch we hopped on a boat for a ride on the channel that connects Lake Edward to Lake George to look at the wildlife along the shores during the hot afternoon sun.

Safari Boat

Safari Boat

On the safari boat

On the safari boat

Hippo with calf along channel edge

Hippo with calf along channel edge

Hippo

Hippo

Cape Buffalo with Egret on its back

Cape Buffalo with Egret on its back

Crane

Yellow-billed Stork

Cape Buffalo and Hippos lounging by the channel side.

Cape Buffalo and Hippos lounging by the channel side.

Friends

Friends

When we got back the bus was headed back out for another few hours of game drivin’ in the late afternoon, but by this point Marcy and I were fed up with buses and decided that a beer at the lodge and some relaxation sounded much better.  We drank Tusker and ate popcorn and g-nuts (peanuts) and where attacked by birds.  During our drink, right around sunset a massive thunderstorm rolled in, and there was a torrential downpour.

Tusker Beer, g-nuts (peanuts), popcorn and birds, a great way to spend an afternoon after animal watchin'

Tusker Beer, g-nuts (peanuts), popcorn and birds, a great way to spend an afternoon after animal watchin'

Birds like popcorn

Birds like popcorn

Thunderstorm Rolling In

Thunderstorm Rolling In

That night we had a PVC and mongoose researcher cooked dinner and crashed out for the night.

Since I was the only one with a camera on the drive, all the school kids, and especially the teachers wanted me to document the trip.  This was a group picture I took on the way back to Soroti.

The Group

The Group

The next morning we were up at 5 a.m. On the bus by 5:45 and headed back to Soroti.  16 hours later, well after dark we returned.  This is what one looks like after a trip like that.

After 18 hours of travel....16 hours on a bus....finally home.

After 18 hours of travel....16 hours on a bus....finally home.

The End

The End

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4 responses to “Queen Elizabeth National Park

  1. Great Blog, Great Pics! Much Respect!

  2. Absolutely amazing! I love the pictures of the wildlife and the children, too!! Thank you for sharing this with us.

  3. My favorite pictures were the ones of you with the children : )

    The animal pics were amazing, too . It had to be awesome to see elephants up-close in a non-zoo setting.

  4. Great storytelling. Brilliant photography. Can’t wait to read the book!

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