december2012 097

It is New Year’s Day and I am still trying to write this blog…. I have had one challenge after another. I wanted to write and post this blog from Queen Elizabeth National Park which is in the western section of Uganda about 4 to 5 hours drive from Kibaale but the network stopped working. Then it was time to travel back to Masaka; once again the network was not cooperating. Each time I start working on this blog…. I would get company. Now company is not bad; in fact it is good… but I truly wanted to complete this blog before the end of the year. Well, it has been a busy week, I have traveled to Lake Mburo and stayed a night in what you would think is a typical safari lodge… Each room was an independent thatched hut with a four poster bed and windows overlooking the savannah grasslands. It was an exciting adventure traveling across the wet grassland following an imaginary road to get to the lodge. Then there was the trip over good paved road to get to Kasese and visit Queen Elizabeth Park. Now, my vacation is over and I am back in Kibaale only to figure out that I had run out of airtime for my internet to work…. So off to downtown Kibaale I went to buy airtime. Of course, all this takes time….

So, what was so special that I had to blog….. I had this amazing trip to see the animals of Queen Elizabeth Park. The park is almost 2,000 square kilometers in size boasting 95 species of mammals and 612 species of birds. It is an awesome place…. you are right in the middle of a real life game reserve…. this is where the animals live; cape buffalo, elephants, leopards, lions, Ugandan Kobe, baboons and hippopotamuses to name of few.

On December 27 just before 6 pm we had arrived at one of the gates to the park….. after paying the entrance fee we asked the park rangers if they had heard any news about lion sightings…. Yes, four lions had killed an antelope that morning and the kill was close to the road. They explained exactly where to go.

The park opens at dawn and closes at dusk which is around 7 pm so we did not have a lot time to travel the dirt roads of the park to the exact location with great hope that one or more of the four lions were still in the area. An antelope is a good size kill and it is unlikely that the lions would be able to eat the whole animal in one “sitting”….

We were about half way to the location when we came upon an Ugandan riding on a motorcycle with a back flat tire. He was riding on the rim when he stopped. It was clear that he was not going to be able to ride it any further. When the park was established in 1954 there were 11 village within the newly created park boundaries. These villages continue. The village where this young man lives is about 10 to 15 minutes past the location of the kill…..So, what were we going to do? Could we leave him to fend for himself and push or walk through the park to his village? It was decided that we would lift his motorcycle into the back of the Toyota pick up and those who had seen a lion before would travel in the Toyota to the village whereas the visitors from Canada would squeeze into the Noah and try and see lions.

It did not take as long as expected to arrive at the young man’s village… even though the motorcycle almost slipped out of the back of the Toyota a couple of times… Once in the village, the young man had friends to help him unload his motorcycle. We waved goodbye and turned around and headed for the location of the lions. We had high hopes to see something before the sunset.

We arrived back at the last sighting of lions to be told nothing was happening… a lion was about 200 feet from the side of the road hidden by the tall grass. As we came parallel with the other vehicles, she became restless… she would stand up for a few seconds then lay down …. she was hardly up long enough for a photo….We stayed and watched her for at least 20 to 30 minutes and we were about to leave when we heard from some other folks that there were two or maybe three more lions hidden by the tall grasses less than 300 feet to the right of the first one…. We moved our vehicle passed the bushes and watched…. Sure enough I could see a head pop up at two different locations and the swishing of a long black tipped tail. It was exciting to see heads and tails of three lions in one location….

It was getting dark; too dark for photos… I was putting my camera away when suddenly the second lion stood up and with an amazing grace moved quickly towards a large thick clump of trees. I guessed that she was heading into the trees to get away from our prying eyes….. but that was not the case. The third lion was on the move… he or she was moving so gracefully that within seconds he or she was beside the second one. They were now active…. racing across the savannah, jumping and bounding with powerful ease….and out from behind the bushes came the first lion. It was time to play…. or that is what it looked like… the game was on…. and who was going to win the race as they vanished into the darkness….

It was dark and it was going to be at least 30 to 40 minutes before we were back at the lodge……..the safari for the day was over but what majestic beauty, what amazing power ….. my mind was memorized by these three lions…I did not want to leave. I wanted to somehow be able to stay and observe their activities even though I knew that it was not possible.

The road to the lodge is paved if you can call it that… there are potholes every few feet and some of them are so deep that a vehicle could be swallowed up…. We were still within the park when we came upon a very large snake on the road… It had to be somewhere between 6 and 8 feet long and at least the width of my upper arm in the middle…. It was moving fast and we had only seconds to see it. No one has been able to discover what kind of snake we saw…

I cannot help but think that the sighting of the snake reinforced the fact that we were in a park… and not at the zoo. Queen Elizabeth National Park of Uganda is a real life habitat for hundreds of wild animals, birds and reptiles. It is their home and we are the visitors…..

Now, you know why I had to write this blog…. what an amazing and exciting adventure!!!!!