From Mountains to the Migration
“Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference. The least I can do is speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves. The greatest danger to our future is apathy” – Jane Goodall
For returning guests Jim and Debra, journeying to the Great Apes and Great Migration of East Africa have always been items on their bucket list. We began our adventure in Uganda in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest for gorillas and the Kibale Forest for chimpanzees. The diversity of the rift valley where these mountain gorillas and chimpanzees are found, is truly something to extraordinary to behold. Our journey was one of self discovery, incredible imagery and lifelong memories in this amazing country.
We started in Entebbe, on the shores of Lake Victoria. A search for the rare and elusive Shoebill was also on the agenda, so under dark stormy skies we headed in the direction of the Mabamba swamps. The weather was proving to be rather unhelpful, however what fun it was to be cruising on the largest lake in Africa and canoeing through the dense swamp itself in search of one of these rare birds. The following day, we were off to Bwindi’s Mahogany Springs Lodge. Nestled on the outskirts of the forest, with a gigantic Mahogany tree looking over us, this intimate and charming lodge was our base. The staff here are always warm and friendly and the Ugandan culture of great hospitality, big smiles and immense comfort shines through. In addition, what a wonderful place it was to engage in some more birding, rewarding us with a number of amazing photographs!
The day of trekking starts by eating a delicious hearty breakfast, before heading off to the park headquarters for your permits to be issued and for your party to be assigned to a gorilla group to go in search of. We were assigned the Habinyanja group.The gorilla group we were given are usually close to the forest edge, and are normally quite quick to locate. On this day, however, this was definitely not the case. They had moved a long distance away from the forest edge and into the density of the forest, meaning we had a lot of walking to do. After climbing up numerous hills and descending down a number of valleys, we finally caught up with the elusive group of primates. They were initially up in the trees, but very kindly obliged us and came down to the forest floor, allowing for great photographic opportunities of the family’s interactions. After our permitted hour was up, we started the long walk home for some well-deserved refreshments. A tough day in the forest but definitely worth it!
The next day, we were assigned the Rushegera group. Just like the previous group, they decided to be rather energetic too and made us work for the reward of seeing them. Once we had caught up to the group, they were extremely relaxed, on the ground and in the open. The silverback, blackbacks, and mothers with youngsters all played their part. A very rewarding hour for all the tough work that was put in.
Onto the next leg of the journey, Kibale Forest! To get to our next destination, we hopped on an aircraft and flew over some of the most breathtaking views in all of Africa. Queen Elizabeth National Park lay beneath us and the recent rains had produced an artistic pallet of blues and greens. Ndali Lodge was to be our home base for this leg of the journey, and what a beautiful place it is. A working Ugandan farmstead surrounded by a mixture of indigenous forest and coffee plantations, lying on the rim of a naturally occurring crater lake. The views and vistas of the great Ruwenzori mountains, and the lake below, just exude relaxation and recuperation, which was much needed after our gorilla trekking antics.
To get to Kibale, it is about an hour drive from the lodge to the park headquarters, where you meet your guide for the day. We were doing a full day habilitation trek, which allows you time with the chimpanzees in order to experience this interaction to the full. Luckily, the terrain is much flatter here and therefore allows for an easier trek. Sunrise that first morning epitomised the beauty of the forest – what a scene!
We found a few members of the group after an hour or so, and this was our first breathtaking view of the Kibale chimpanzees. They were quite spread out and they often split up to explore other areas of the forest. This leads to a lot of whooping and communication, which adds to the cacophony of sounds that already fills your ears. There was some rain about, and because of this they ended up resting in the trees. We had great opportunities to photograph them in the drizzle until the heavens opened up and made this slightly more difficult. For most people this would have been a bit disappointing, however, we stayed and sat at the base of an ancient tree, letting the forest guide us into a natural mediation to the sound of the rain. A couple of hours later, refreshed and feeling connected to everything around us, the chimps finally descended. We followed the chimps and watched them feed, lounge around and just do what chimpanzees do. What a transcendent experience followed by an incredible chimp viewing session.
Flying via Kilimanjaro and Arusha, Tanzania and the Grumeti region of the Serengeti was our next adventure. We had amazing views of Kilimanjaro and managed a quick photographic stop en route.
Singita Sabora is a lodge like no other. It is a permanent luxury tented camp on the grassland plains, meaning that animals can move freely through the lodge, including the migration. The next few days we were spoilt by the incredible animal biomass and diversity present here. The stunning backdrops, vast landscapes and incredible sightings we had were one of the best I have had the privilege to experience. A hot air balloon ride was an amazing way to view this!
Everything culminated in our last afternoon game drive where we saw a mating pair of lions, a leopardess in a tree with a kill, and another pride of lions all within 500m of each other. With the golden sunset giving us multitudes of colorful light which ever way we turned, we were left feeling completely in awe of what was around us and personally enriched by Mother Africa. It was the perfect way to end an incredible safari!
Welcomed by some grumpy, muddy protectors of the Savannah.
Thank you to Debra and Jim for such a special safari!
Chris and the Safari Architects Team.