The first couple of days we stayed in National Park Murchison Falls, the largest national park of Uganda. The park borders to Lake Albert at the border with Congo and is divided in two parts through the White Nile. For a long time it was believed that the White Nile arose from Lake Victoria. From there it flows into Lake Albert via the Murchison Falls and flows from Lake Albert northwards to join the Blue Nile at Khartoum further to Egypt. But in 2005 it was discovered the Nile arises in the Nyungwe Rainforest at Ruanda and that the Kagara river which flows into Lake Victoria is in fact the source river of the Nile. However, this discovery is not completely undisputed.
At the south side of Murchison Falls you'll find Budungo Forest ( www.budongo.org ) where the most of Murchison Falls' chimpanzees live. It's famous for its 4 different species of Mahogany trees. Before starting with our hike we were urged to use the toilets, because you were not allowed to pee and defecate unthinkingly, because at this way diseases can be carried on to the chimps. For emergencies the guide has always a spade and would dig a whole of at least 35 cm.
Just after we started an enormously rain shower break loose. In the poring rain we walked further, to a big fig tree where the chimps regularly come to eat. Fortunately after 15 minutes it was dry again. And indeed in the fig tree you saw 5 chimps, 2 with a baby at their belly. Unfortunately they sat quite high and they were a little difficult to spot, only when they were walking around you could follow them.
We stayed in Paraa, at the Red Chili rest camp, nearby the Nile. From the park border to the camp it was still a two hours drive. Along and at the road there was a lot to see. Continually baboons were sitting at the road, but they were quite shy and ran into the bushes. As soon as we passed they returned to the road. After a rain shower they often sit at the road, they don't like to get wet and prefer not to sit under the wet bushes or into the wet grass.
You also saw many oribis, kobs (both antelope species), buffalos, warthogs and many birds. Murchison Falls has about 450 different bird species. Murchison Falls is a savannah region, as it was the raining season, it was beautifully green.
Against the evening we arrived at the campsite, where we were welcomed by a wharthog family with 6 young ones. They were snooping around the tents and cabins. The campsite was located at a high bank of the Nile. As it became dark we heard already the first frog concerts down from the Nile. We took our flashlights and wanted to walk down, but we were warned not to go down in the dark, besides frogs you would find hundreds of hippopotamus and several crocodiles along the banks of the Nile. It would be adventurous to go down, but as it was the beginning of our holidays, it was not the intention that it would become also the end of our holidays. So we stayed wisely at the campsite. The first night I got awake in the middle of the night and had to go to the toilet. I heard a wild graze, much louder and heavier as from the warthogs. It turned out that we had 2 hippopotamus grazing next to our cabin, one stood almost against our cabin. Great!
Our bathroom had some residents, toilet- and sink frogs, the afrixalus quadrivittatus, a nice and cute little striped leaf frog, which regularly came out of the drain.
The following morning we had already very early a game drive. It was still dark when we drove to the river where a ferry-boat was waiting for us to bring us to the other side. The most of the big game is located at the north side of the Nile. In the meantime it was getting light and we saw already the first hippopotamus alongside the ferry. We came just ashore and we saw already the first elephants. Under Idi Amin, the wildlife got rather decimated, but since the nineties the wildlife grows well. Besides the many elephants, it was completely full with all kind of deer, little duikers, giant wapitis, oribis, kobs, wildebeests etc. We also saw frequently giraffes. We were told that we had little chance to see lions or leopards. But after 15 minutes we saw already our first lion, a male with big manes. Only his head arose above the grass. Great, but unfortunately a little far away. Then he got up, walked towards us, but after 20m he dropped down in the grass again. But a little later we had more luck. Just in front of us, along the sandy road we saw 2 lionesses with 10 young lions. WOH! Some of the young ones were playing just in front and next to our car, jumping and ambushing one other. We stayed here for quite some while, until they were too tired from playing and laid down to sleep. At that time both lionesses thought it is time to find a saver place to relax and disappeared with the young ones into the bushes.
A little further away we saw a saddle bill stork, a real beauty, one of Africa's largest birds, more than 1,5m high. He's protected. The males you can recognize at their black eyes, the females at their yellow eyes.
At the end of the morning we were back at the campsite. After lunch we went by boat to the Murchison Falls. A great boat ride, along the banks of the Nile we saw hundreds and hundreds of hippopotamus. From the most you only saw their head coming out of the water, during daytime they mostly stay in the water to prevent them from super heating, dehydration and sunburn. But some were resting at their side or were grazing at the banks. But they mainly come ashore at night to graze, often they even wander about 10-15 km and graze about 50-60 kg grass a day.
The hippopotamus is considered as one of the most dangerous animals of Africa, the most people get killed by hippopotamus. They can be quite aggressive; they even can bite a crocodile of 3m in half. But besides of some fake attacks towards our boat, we had nothing to worry. Many hippopotamus had young ones, these stood often at the edge of the river, while mom and the rest of the group were lying in the water. We saw again many elephants along the riverbanks, many deer, warthogs, baboons and buffalos. Some buffalos were enjoying the water and laid next to the hippopotamus.
I must not forget to mention the Nile crocodiles. In contrast to the many hippopotamus we saw much less crocodiles, every now and then one or two. Only just before the falls we saw a big group of crocodiles.
It was great to see how rough and with all the power the Nile thundered down through a small canyon.
The next morning we had another boat ride, this time to the delta of the White Nile into Lake Albert. A bird safari, in search for the rare, in the seventies, almost extinct shoebill stork. They wished us much luck that we could spot him.
Again hundreds and hundreds of hippopotamus, many elephants, deer and warthogs. Just after arriving at a side branch of the Nile, our guide shouted 'shoebill stork'. At about 20-25m in the cane a shoebill stork, what a beauty! 1,3-1,4m high. With its undeniable broad mouth, with a kind of hook at the end, he looked a little prehistoric as if you were landed in Jurassic Park. Normally they are quite shy and fly away immediately, but this one stayed a while posing for us. Great to see him from that close. Our guide told us he had never seen a shoebill stork from that close. He told us that there were 10 couples of shoebill storks in this park. An hour later we saw our 2nd shoebill stork, a little further away, but still very good to spot. We could take some good shots when he was flying away. With a few jumps the shoebill stork can take off almost vertically. Almost at the end of our boat ride we saw shoebill stork number 3. We were really lucky said our guide, 9 out of 10 times you see no shoebill stork and we even saw 3!
The shoebill stork mainly lives in Central Africa in the impenetrable papyrus swamps. After an increase in the eighties and nineties the population decreased under the 5000 through impoldering of many swamps for agriculture.
But we saw also many other beautiful birds, many kinds of herons and kingfishers, many weaverbirds building their nests, in trees but also in the papyrus. And again some saddle bill storks and several crowned cranes. This distinguished bird is the national bird of Uganda, you even can find it at their national flag.
In the afternoon we went again to the Murchison falls, this time we could see the falls from above. What a water mass thunders down per second! Soon we were completely soaked by the haze that comes up through the fierce power and huge amount of water that thunders down.