Friday, 13 May 2016

Murchison Falls National Park - 3 Days trip.


Covering 3,983 sq.km in the north west of Uganda lies one of the oldest and
largest protected wildlife reserve. The Murchison is one of the well protected game reserve inhabiting over 76 mammal species and over 451 bird species. Apart from the wildlife and bird life populations, Murchison inhabits one of the most spectacular things that have ever happened to the longest river in the world - The River Nile. Bisecting the park into two forms the southern bank and northern bank to give it a wonderful experience of its own.

When Johan and Chris from Canada working for an international NGO in southern Sudan came to Uganda for work related trip, they had an extra week in Uganda before they could return back home. Here they searched “as I was told” the internet for the best car rental company to handle their ground transportation to the Murchison falls national park like they had decided. No so long did they find us on trip Adviser, the worlds travel site and had to call us directly from their hotel room. On short notice my boss assigned me this trip for the 3 days to the Murchison falls National Park and here is how it all played out.

Day 1 Meeting and briefed them about the trip.
It’s my continued behavior and ethical to brief the clients just before we start a trip. This sometimes feels boring for clientsas they are so anxious of the final destination but forget that the small things we talk about are so much important and are what make a trip a success, I would like to give a full briefing package here but I will reserve that story for another day. After I met and introduced myself, it was/always a weird look. Many clients always mistake me for a young lousy boy and under estimate my age. At 30 years now, many tourists i guide in Uganda always mistake me for a 25yr old. However after a distant ride I believe they must have changed their thinking of age estimation on me. At 8:30am, we managed to get out of the congested Kampala city heading north-west of the country through kawempe and north thereafter.

Our program was laid to drive to the Murchison Falls Park with a visit to the top of the falls with a lunch en-route masindi. However being creative in guiding is something every safari guide must do which others tend to ignore. When we got to masindi at 12:14am, Johan and Chris were not hungry and I had to be creative about this. “How about a fruit/coffee picnic at the top of the falls”? Would sound nice and interesting instead of sitting in a quiet restaurant and eat boringly. 

Along the way we bought some fruits which the two liked so much including the small sweet nice bananas. In Masindi I bought some coffee pack and milk to the list. Through the budongo forest were a wide range of animals including the olive baboons, water bucks, buffalos, antelopes, waterbucks and the native Abyssinian ground hornbill. And because of the bumpy road after the entrance gate of kachumanyobo, made the two hungry and now wanted to eat. In few minutes i set up under a shade of a breathtaking tree a table and chairs for them to sit enjoy.
Surprisingly they didn’t expect this. 

With a coffee plunger we made our Uganda grown coffee, the snacks we had and
made use of all the fruits we bought along the way. Definitely that was more than just enough for a lunch time. As Johan kept surprised at the service, his wife kept reminding him, “Remember we are dealing with professionals sweetheart.”

After the nice river overlooking picnic, we descended down to the main gorge where the placid river bangs. Starting from the northern part, is a 50m wide river that bangs itself in a 6meters river gap and falls 45m down. This rainbow formed placid bang is the most spectacular thing that has ever happened to the longest river in the world. 200m up of the main fall is the Uhuru falls that was formed in 1962 when Uganda got its independence. Uhuru is Swahili word to mean independence. 

After the awesome and incredible visit of the falls, they wouldn’t leave without an audio souvenir of my audio guide about the falls. We later left the falls and headed up to the Murchison falls on the paraa side for the ferry crossing. Paraa is the jetty place and a name that means hippos. At this area of the river Nile are large schools of hippos. Reason for the name paraa. We were late about 10 minutes for the 4 o’clock ferry and we had to wait till 6 o’clock to cross headed for the paraa safari lodge.

The paraa safari lodge is a high end lodge in this park overlooking the Nile River to the south. It blends a uniqueness of luxury comfort and wilderness experience. Johan and Chris were booked in a luxury safari tent that overlooked the river Nile, a self contained tent that provides the greatest comfort of luxury in the wild.

Among our Pre-booked trips on either self dive in Uganda are options for the paraa safari lodge. Check it out and maybe can be useful. Dinner and overnight was spectacular, this is what they told me in the morning as I picked them up for the next day activity.

Day 2. The long waited Game drive and the incredible boat ride.
This was a day to explain the true uniqueness of the Murchison falls National
Park. 

On the earlier evening when I dropped them at the hotel and handed them to the hotel staff, we had a briefing and shared ideas on how we could make the next day interesting. This is what we decided on as a team. As others rushed to take very early breakfast and rush to the game park for the ride we decided/to my suggestion that we only take a small cup of coffee and a small snack and let’s make this special by having a bush breakfast. It would be awesome, right? 

Before I even finished, we all agreed on that. I did make sure everything was right and all the packed breakfast was ready. As others rushed we took it slow and did our own routes in the park. Because of our “slow but Sure” and teamwork oriented we were able to spot a female lion with its 3 cubs hunting just immediately we entered the park to start the game drive. The female lion with the cubs were doing some hunting session but this needed attentiveness to spot then. 
Chris was a good spotter and there we did see what others didn’t see. I would say it’s the teamwork thing. I always say to the clients I take on, “the trip is not all about me, but it’s all about us”.  As others cars kept following each other in anticipation of seeing what others would see, we decided to take our own track in the park. It wasn’t long that we spotted a pride of other lions besides two anthills and hardly recognized.  As we stood there waiting for any movements of the lions, other safari vehicles came to see what we were gazing at. As more vehicles came up, we decided to leave and head back to the other tracks and see other wildlife. We/i knew these lions at that time would stay there till evening. Lions are very lazy animals. They sleep all day light and usually very active during the night, so basically the hunting is always in the night.

We proceeded to the parts of the park and saw lots of other animals including the tall and stunning giraffes, kobs, waterbucks, Buffalos, elephants, oribis and so many bird species. We docked at the hippo pool on the Albert Nile where there lives a huge school of hippos and fishermen. On the other side of the hippo pool were elephants and buffalos ascending to the river. This is where we decided to set up our table for the bush breakfast thing. That was an overwhelming and exciting breakfast as we sat and enjoyed the elephants, hippos and buffalos in distant. The feeling was just as frightening and interesting but very safe. After the great photo short relaxed breakfast, we did embark to the second round continued game drive. But this time around, we were headed to the end of the game drive and back to the lodge. 

I decided to use the route where we left the pride of the lions on the anthills. After joining about 3 other safari land cruisers and tourists waiting as well, the lions stared shifting in search of good shelter in a thicket. This was our side and here we stand spotting a pride of 1male, 3 females and 4 cubs wagging their tails moving in our direction, passed in between our vehicles and crossed the track road to the thicket behind us. Great shots, great experience and close encounter with the kings of the jungles. What else would we want? As they all entered the thicket, we left and headed back to the lodge for relaxing and lunch just before we headed for the afternoon boat cruise to the bottom of the falls.
At 1:45pm after the great lunch, I picked up Johan and Chris and headed down to the paraa lodge jetty to get ready for the cruise. Great position they got and what happened as they went on the boat cruise would surely be their story to tell. But all they could say is “incredible” experience". I dropped them back to the lodge for their evening relaxing and had their dinner later. As usual we had a team talk and shared ideas how we could go about the next day. We agreed on a relaxed breakfast and cross the Nile with ferry to the southern side by 10pm.

Day 3 - The journey back to Kampala and the Rhino tracking experience.
It clocked 9:30am and i was there at the lounge to pick Johan and Chris for the ferry crossing. The ferry crossing is one experience of its own. Getting on this ferry and the experience you have to balance on the ferry is another interesting one. The feeling of being in the middle of the River Nile spectating at the great sceneries, sunrise and the hippos groaning in the waters is just marvelous.

It takes us about 10mins to cross this ferry to the southern banks. We started driving through the park roadway to the southern gates. Hardly had we gone half way than we found road construction ahead of us. “this isn’t a road, this is a potatoe field” Johan was nervous wondering and joking how we would manage this. This is where the 4x4 land-cruiser or any 4x4WD from Auto Rental Uganda is necessary for such trips. You never know what to expect with the roads. 

However we managed to drive through the constructing and muddy road till we got to the southern gate and here the road was great. We drove for more 1 hour down to the Ziwa Rhino sanctuary to check in for the Rhino tracking experience.

The ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is a huge protected reserve (call it Ranch) sitting on a 70sq.km piece of land. Under the management of the Rhino fund Uganda, 16 Rhinos roam around this sanctuary and are all available for the tracking experience. This sanctuary was started with an intention to re-introduce Rhinos into the Uganda National game reserves that were extinct by 1991 with the last black Rhino poached in the Kidepo valley national park.

We headed to the visitors center and after the $45 per person payment; we had a
guide and headed for the rhinos. On this day, the Rhinos were very far and we had to drive through the thorny shrubs before they started walking to reach them. The experience Johan and Chris had been spectacular. Chris confessed to have been so close to the Rhino than she expected. After the Rhinos, we drove out of the sanctuary and this was about 2pm in the afternoon. “So where do we have our lunch Alex?” Johan asked. With our packed lunch boxes, I just drove, and randomly found a nice tree shed with spectacular view on the roadside, stopped
and set up the tables and chairs. Our coffee accompanied with the lunch in boxes was good enough for our last picnic . After our well deserved lunch, it was time to cut and try the famous Jack fruit that they have never seen before. They were surprised how it looked inside and they absolutely loved the taste. However I must admit, that it was too much ripe to give the best taste ever but it was good for the day. We packed our
belongings back to the vehicle and drove towards Kampala. 

I did drop them to a Hotel in Naguru, I must admit I hadn’t been to this place though it looked a nice one Palace “something”. After getting lost finding it we finally found it. And then it was time for our last farewell briefs. After my last words, this is how it ended; Johan folding his hands like shaking my hands, “this is for you, thank you so much Alex….. Hey, it’s not for the company, but for you, you did a great job”. i quote him saying. You can imagine the smiles on my face. Anyways, it always feels nice to be appreciated.

Well, Did this interest you? Or do you want any similar safari experience, Drop us an email and let’s take you discovering the pearl of Africa.

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