African Safari: Searching for the Big 5 in Uganda

African Safari: Searching for the Big 5 in Uganda

Today I have a special treat for you! One of my adventure loving travel buddies is currently hanging out in Uganda (no big deal) and wants to tell you all about her incredible 4-day safari. The quintessential African safari has so far eluded the check on my bucket list, but this post has majorly reinforced my NEED to go and SOON! I mean… just look at these photos!

Guest Blogger: Katie Smith

My dad and I started our African adventure when we landed at the Entebbe airport and were greeted by my aunt, a local in Masaka. We drove through the capital, Kampala, on our way to Masaka, and made a stop at the Equator.

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After a week in Masaka, my dad and I embarked on a 4 day safari.

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On day 1 we travelled from Masaka to Kibale Forest Camp. The drive took about 5 hours but was well worth it. We were greeted by 10 red-tailed monkeys swinging from the trees.

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We stayed in the budget accommodation, which was a tent underneath a thatch cover. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find two twin sized beds in the tent! Who says camping has to mean sleeping on the floor?

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That night I fell asleep to the sounds of monkeys crashing through the trees.

On day 2 we went chimpanzee tracking in Kibale National Park. We hiked through dense brush for 3 hours trying to track down a family of chimpanzees. When we finally found them, it was even better than I had imagined. Since many of them were habituated to humans, some would come very close to us, not seeming to care that we were there.

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That afternoon we drove to Queen Elizabeth Bush Lodge. We were driving through Queen Elizabeth National Park at around 5pm, the perfect time for an evening game drive.

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Queen Elizabeth Bush Lodge was similar to Kibale Forest Camp. The major difference was that instead of red-tailed monkeys in the campsite, there were hippos! The camp borders the Kazinga Channel, which has one of the highest concentrations of hippos in the world. During the day you could hear them snorting and roaring from the channel. At night, however, they would come into the campsite to graze right outside our tents. They come so close that the camp requires  multiple security guards on duty every night just to keep hippo watch! The guards stand with large flashlights and escort you around the camp after dark to avoid any unwanted hippo encounters.

On day 3 we woke up bright and early to be in the park by 7am for a morning game drive.

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That afternoon we went on a boat safari in the Kazinga channel, where we saw more hippos, monitor lizards, Nile crocodiles and an incredible array of birds.

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Day 4 was meant to be a travel day for the long journey back to Masaka. However, we hadn’t yet spotted a lion, and our guide insisted that we couldn’t come to Africa without seeing a lion. So first thing in the morning we went to the Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park for another game drive. Five hours later we found a tree serving as a siesta spot for 5 lionesses.

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On the search for the lions, I also spotted the Grey crowned crane, the national bird of Uganda. As the story goes, it’s the national bird because it contains the 3 colours of the country’s flag: red, yellow and black. Red represents familial blood lines; yellow represents the sun; and black represents the people of Uganda.

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Seven hours later we were back home in Masaka.

Most people want to see the “Big 5” when they go on an African safari: lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards and buffalo. These are the 5 most dangerous animals to hunt in Africa. There were no rhinos in these particular parks, and we never spotted a leopard, but seeing 3 out of 5 was still very exciting!

When you go on a Ugandan safari, you have the option of driving a rental car yourself or hiring a driver to be your guide. A guide at Your Way Tours was recommended to us, so we took that route and I’m so glad we did. In addition to the facts that they drive on the left side of the road and that we would have had to navigate through a completely new place, the roads were absolutely terrible! They were unmaintained with uneven ground and frequent large potholes. Even with an experienced driver and a proper safari truck, the journey was rough at times. The guide was also able to communicate with other guides to locate where specific animals had been seen that day, and he had a trained eye to spot elusive animals that otherwise would have gone unnoticed. Lastly, the traffic police in Uganda are notorious for being corrupt and finding any reason they can to issue you with a ticket. They are frequently on the side of the road and chances are you will be pulled over at some point. The tickets can usually be retracted with a bribe, but when we were pulled over it was great to have a local who knew how to deal with it! I highly recommend hiring a driver.

If you ever have a chance to go on a Ugandan Safari, do it!