Published: July 26th 2009July 26th 2009
My other big trip here in Uganda has been to Murchison Falls, a vast waterfall on the Nile several hours downriver of my current home in Bujagali, with a game reserve and rhino sanctuary nearby. I travelled up with a friend, joining another six people at Red Chilli Backpackers in Kampala for the six hour drive north-west.
I’m getting more used to journeys here now: the long, dusty roads, the massive billboards advertising beer and cooking oil, the enormous speed bumps at every trading centre, the hands of bananas, meat on a stick, bottles of water and cassava chips thrust through the window, children waving and yelling, “Muzungu, Muzungu!’, the dirt tracks, pot holes and lush vegetation. The uneventful, smooth roads of home, with their shiny clean service stations, informative road signs and total absence of loose goats will seem very tame - although London’s traffic jams certainly rival Kampala’s!
We arrived hot, sticky and immensely relieved to find a decent loo - not to mention very excited about finally seeing the falls. Hiking down a steep pathway we heard the water before we saw it: a muffled roar that grew in volume until a viewpoint revealed a vast
mass of tumbling, churning, boiling water which sends spray firing back up the rocks and churns up eddies so powerful they turn the current back on itself. At the base of the falls a thick, soapy-looking scum floats more than a mile downriver towards Sudan and, ultimately, Egypt. It’s an awe-inspiring sight and one I’ll let the photos try to convey a little more succinctly than me.
The Red Chilli campsite is a few hundred metres from the river and is set in scrubby bush overlooking a watering hole. We were warned not to leave any food in tents, due to the wandering warthogs who frequent the camp, and advised on the procedure if we happened to encounter a hippo during the night! The following morning, after a restful night in safari tents (with beds - and no hippo encounters) we were up at dawn for a game drive. We were pretty pleased with spotting giraffes, elephants and hippos, plus a variety of birds and buck, but the animals saved the best for last: a herd of around 60 elephants emerged at the river edge while we waited for the ferry back!
We spent the afternoon on a
river cruise up to the bottom of the falls, finally spotting some whole hippos (as opposed to nostrils and ears peeping above the water!) and a scary number of crocodiles. Temperatures up at Murchison are a lot hotter than in Bujagali so it was blissful to bask in the shade, and even more so when our guide produced a box of cold Nile Specials… I have now drunk Nile on the Nile (as opposed to beside the Nile) sand can recommend it highly.
The last day brought a final and pretty awesome animal encounter at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. White rhinos were completely wiped out in Uganda during the Amin era and they are now being reintroduced through a breeding programme using animals from Kenya and America. The six residents at Ziwa are tracked at all times to ensure their safety so you’re guaranteed to see them, and as they’re very docile creatures, you get astonishingly close to them - we were only about 20m away from a pair who were dozing in the shade of a bush. Both are currently pregnant, and I believe at least one of the babies is set to be called Obama in honour
of its Kenyan/American heritage!
It was such a privilege to be able to see so many animals and especially so given that most Ugandans never have the opportunity to do so. Tourism is a major source of income for the country but few people, especially in the rural area where I’ve been living and working, will ever have enough money to go on a game drive. It was good to get away for the weekend too - I’d been feeling a bit tired and jaded, but arriving back in Bujagali and Eden Rock felt like coming home and made me all the more determined to make the most of my final few weeks here in this beautiful and varied country.
There are more photos below