Uganda 2017 – Week 1

My 3rd trip to Uganda has been a roller-coaster! I’ve had both my best and worst experiences working with the QEPP on this trip. It was fantastic catching up with old friends, meeting new friends and seeing plenty of wildlife and stunning views! I also had some time to work on Geomission Uganda.

For first time, I flew direct into East Africa. Rwandair’s new London to Kigali route was a dream, although delayed 3 hours, the staff did a great job of organising missed connections. Arriving late into Entebbe I spent my first day resting. By Sunday morning the whole team had arrived and were ready to make the journey west. We made it to Mweya, Queen Elizabeth National Park on Sunday night, and prepared for the week ahead.

We kicked off the week by catching up with the staff on Mweya and planning for the coming events. We also made a trip to the nearest town, Kasese, to stock up on water and other supplies. Our first task was to re-orientate ourselves with Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP). Our drive around northern section of the park gave us a chance to see what wildlife was about. We managed to find warthogs, waterbuck, cob, elephants and lions. We also spotted a leopard in a tree! The afternoon boat trip on the Kazinga channel was just as successful, with crocodiles and a baby hippo wandering close to the water’s edge.

Wednesday was an important day for the team, visiting the park HQ and meeting with senior management. We also met with law enforcement rangers, who gave us a wonderful and slightly haunting insight into the park’s anti-poaching campaigns. They showed us snares, spears, guns and other weapons used to poach animals. The store of ivory and other animal products was shocking. While some of the items were collected by rangers in the field to prevent any products from natural deaths entering the illegal market, much had been confiscated from poachers. The law enforcement rangers do a fantastic job, despite the many dangers they face while on duty!

The end of the week saw us make the long journey from Mweya to the Rwenzori Mountains National Park. I’d only ever driven past this park, though shortly after arriving, I wished I’d visited sooner! A lush green forest lead into the lower mountains, with rivers carrying fresh glacial water from the rocky upper slopes. One of the rangers explained that the water in the river is thought to have healing properties, and that drinking the water brings a good life. The water was extremely cold. I drank a handful out of curiosity – it tasted good! The rangers had many anecdotes and folk lore stories to tell. We found a tree with ‘lucky leaves’ which bring you luck on your journey!

We ended the week with a visit to see an old friend, Robert, who has been to the UK on a ranger exchange. We met Robert at his current base in Kyambura Gorge, and followed him on a trek into the forest of the gorge. He told us the story of the chimpanzees in the gorge and explained the challenges facing this area of QENP. It wasn’t long before Robert had tracked down the chimps. We scrambled up the slopes of the gorge and were rewarded with amazing views of the chimps in the trees. Just as we were leaving they decided to jump down to the ground. Returning from our walk, we decided to drive up to the rift valley escarpment for a proper catch up over a drink. We drove up fault scarps though a heavy rainstorm, which cleared the air and gave us stunning views across the rift floor to the opposite escarpment! A fantastic end to a great week!

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