Thursday, July 14, 2011

Queen Elizabeth National Park

After four gorilla treks a few safari game drives in the comfort of a car were very welcome and there’s no better place in Uganda then Queen Elizabeth National Park. The park is home to many of the mega fauna or “big game” of Africa. I hate using the hunting terms, but they’ve crossed over into new safari vernacular so excuse my use of the word “game.” The park has all of the big 5 except rhinoceros, which were hunted to extinction in Uganda over 30 years ago. They are being slowly reintroduced and June 8, 2011 marked the first birth of a female rhino in Uganda in 30 years brining the population of Rhinos to 13 in the country. So you won’t see rhinos, but you will see hippos, lions, leopards if you’re lucky, buffalo, antelope, wart hogs and thousands of birds. You can also go on crater walks to search for the elusive chimpanzee. Other than rhinos the only other animals missing from the classic East African safari are zebras and giraffes, which are non-native to Uganda. One particularly exciting animal to see in Queen Elizabeth is the tree-climbing lion of Ishasha. Lions normally do not climb trees because most African trees can’t hold their weight. However, in Lake Manyara, Tanzania and Ishasha, Uganda you can regularly see lions hanging out in the shade of large fig trees. They can be very hard to spot and we actually drove right by one without noticing and another car told us at the entrance gate that they saw a lioness in a tree so we drove back to find her. When we approached she decided to hop out of the tree and settle in nearby tall grass, but our driver spotted right behind us two more lionesses in a huge tree that the other group had missed. So keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready in Queen Elizabeth!

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We stayed at the Mweya Lodge, which I loved and would highly recommend. It is right on the edge of Lake Edward and Lake George and you can watch hippos and buffalo on the Kazinga Channel below while you eat your meals at the hotel’s restaurant. The rooms were also very clean and bug free (except for the stowaway beetle that got into my dad’s bag at the last lodge and made a break for freedom at Mweya).

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Mweya was a very welcome change after a week in eco-lodges with composting toilets, bucket showers, and gigantic insects and bats in the room!

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