Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Safari with Rob and Lou - 5 Murchison Falls National Park and Budongo Forest

From Queen Elizabeth NP we headed back home to Buloba for a couple of nights to do some washing and to have a second try for the Shoebill at Mabamba Swamp.  Then we headed off on the final leg of our safari - to Murchison Falls NP and to the Budongo Forest west of Masindi.  We stayed three nights at Red Chilli Rest Camp and one at the New Court View Inn, Masindi.  

A guest at Red Chilli Rest Camp.

The ferry was in great demand.

Getting up before dawn most mornings had its rewards.

Unlike our previous visit in December 2016, the park was very busy and we were unable to get onto the boat trip the afternoon we arrived as we had hoped.  We booked in for the Falls boat trip for the next afternoon.  Otherwise we drove the tracks on the north of the river - taking the first ferry over each day.

Hartebeest enjoying the lush grass but not the tsetse flies


Rothschild's Giraffe

Nice to find our own elephants on a drive

Rüppell's Vulture

Rock Pratincole (immature)


Red-throated Bee-eater


I was expecting the park to be dry and dusty as Lake Mburo NP was a week or so earlier.  However the wet season had arrived late and good rain had fallen right up to our visit.  Everything was lush and green but there was no mud.  Perfect - except for the tsetse flies that seemed to relish the conditions and the opportunity for fresh Australian blood.  

Grey Kestrel

Black-headed Lapwing

Pin-tailed Whydah

Fishermen in the Victoria Nile Delta

Vinaceous Doves

African Elephant

Dung Beetles doing what they do best.

Borassus Palms and lush grasslands.

By far the best birding was on the morning drive out south to Masindi where we detoured via the track to the top of the falls and the Honeymoon Track.  Unfortunately birding from the car (and the tsetse flies) made it hard to get onto everything and there were a few that went unidentified - we still saw 41 species.

Black-bellied Bustard and Abyssinian Ground Hornbill

Heuglin's Francolin

Yellow-throated Longclaw

Tsetse Flies on the car bonnet

After lunch at the New Court View Inn, Rob and I headed out towards Budongo Forest for a recce prior to the next day’s Royal Mile walk.  It was lucky we did as we encountered a 2 km stretch of road that had been graded but not yet compacted and heavy rain in the morning had turned it to deep mud.  One large truck was stuck midway and we only just managed to get through.  A slide onto either roadside and we would have been going nowhere.  We pushed on to the Busingiro section of Budongo Forest and picked up a few species then headed back to Masindi searching for a way around the bog.  A detour through the big sugar cane farm did the trick.

Next morning we met up with Royal Mile guide Vincent and spent a productive 3 hours walking the road through one of the best patches of rainforest in East Africa.  It was quieter than on our previous visit in December 2016 but I was happy with great views of a pair of Chocolate-backed Kingfishers.  A Marsh Tchagra and a Grey-headed Oliveback were bonuses in a patch of scrub on the way back to Masindi.

Chestnut Wattle-eye (the female has chestnut back, wings and chest).

Blue Monkey

Red-tailed Bristlebill building a nest

Next we drove home to Buloba, had yet another morning at Mabamba Swamp, a night in Kampala and saw Rob and Lou off to the airport on Friday morning.  The whole trip was a great success with all of our objectives met.

Nearing the end of our journey

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Safari with Rob and Lou - 4 Queen Elizabeth National Park

After Bwindi we drove down steep mountain roads to the southern, Ishasha section of Queen Elizabeth NP and then north-east to our home for the next four nights - QE Bush Lodge.  Soon after we were settled into our tents I was startled by a huge Forest Hog that wandered past.  I’m not sure how dangerous these are but it was a massive male and I read later that they weigh up to 235 kg and are typically twice the size of a Warthog - so I didn’t challenge his right to pass through our campsite.

Giant Forest Hog

The helpful team at Bush Lodge removed our car’s roof rack which by now had another two broken struts.  It was sent into the nearest town on the back of a motorbike taxi to get welded up and returned a few hours later better than new.  It gave us no more trouble and the repairs cost only $Aus 28 which was reimbursed by Roadtrip Uganda.

Kazinga Channel near Lake Edward

Sunset over Kazinga Channel from Bush Lodge.

Over the next few days we took a boat trip on the Kazinga Channel that drains water from Lake George into Lake Edward (which in turn connects with Lake Albert and the Nile River) and drove the trails on the northern side of the channel.  Rob took one morning off to tempt birds with his mealworms (brought all the way from Australia) around the camp.  He missed out on a nice sighting of a somewhat dusty Papyrus Gonolek in roadside papyrus near the bridge over the channel.

Nile Monitor

Palm-nut Vulture
Egyptian Goose

African Elephant

Marabou Stork and Nile Crocodile

Pink-backed Pelican and White-breasted Cormorant

The drives were excellent with lots of mammals including distant, well hidden lions, a Zebra Mouse, abundant Kob, Warthogs, Buffalo, Elephants and a Uganda Grass-Hare.  Birding was similarly rewarding with many new species and great photo opportunities and light conditions.

Cape Buffalo with Western Cattle Egrets in attendance



African Elephant

Common Warthog


The park is spectacular with the diverse habitats and good network of trails.  We particularly enjoyed the Katwe Explosion Crater section with its deep crater lakes surrounded by lush acacia forest.  Bush Lodge was an excellent place to stay and could only be improved with a swimming pool.  Jenny and Lou enjoyed a swim at the very high-end Mweya Safari Lodge one afternoon.  

Crowned Lapwing

Senegal Lapwing

Temminck's Courser

Grey-backed Fiscal

Ring-necked Dove

Marabou Storks like to look their best

Common Buttonquail

African Paradise Flycatcher

The only negative was the condition of the access roads.  This is the most visited park in Uganda and the roads in are dreadful.  From Kampala you can either enter via the southern Ishasha section with its long stretch of dusty corrugations or via Mbarara into the central section.  This has about two hours of the most potholed bitumen imaginable.  Either access route is an embarrassment to the people of Uganda.  The contrast with the road conditions leading to Murchison Falls or Kidepo Valley National Parks is stark.

We did enjoy a couple of signs...

I think "Check for mongooses before starting your car" should be a motto for life.

Sometimes it's obvious what they mean...