Volunteer Blog

26-7-2017, Suubi Safari For 8 and "one other"

Cate and Karin head to the airport to fly back home today. A huge thank you for everything they did during their time with us and the way they embraced every situation that came their way. Before they left, Cate put together a blog about their safari experience; one part of their very special time spent in Uganda.......

"Stay safe "was the constant reply when we told our friends and family we were off for Safari at Murchison falls Uganda. To be near the source of one of the streams feeding the White Nile via Lake Victoria was a completion for me.I had already cruised on the Nile in Egypt from Cairo to Aswan and had also viewed the end of the Nile Delta emptying into ocean ,courtesy of an Etihad aeroplane window. Our Blue Costa bus comfortably seated our group of 8. Loretta, her hubby John,daughter Beth, friend Aaron, Steve and wife Joan, who had already completed their Suubi trip. Karin and I had previously arranged in crossing paths with the Suubi group to join together forming the "Suubi Safari." Our driver, organised by David, was Fred, who invited his friend Roger, who became the "one other" along the whole 4 day 3 night Safari trip. Roger was between jobs and had never been to Murchison Falls area; he became our self appointed guide and payment organiser, for the separate excursions which included himself. Except on the Rhinotrekking where unfortunatley for him, Roger's thong foot wear excluded his participation for safety reasons.

As Helen Brown had explained, Ugandans have a very sharing social culture. We found ourselves adjusting to this concept, not quite sure what the protocol was towards our "one other" Safari companion. Roger soon became a very practical helper, swatting the suspected Tse tse flies that flew into visit us inside the bus. I thought Karin was exaggerating about not wearing royal blue or dark cothing as this attracts the fly. All along the road were many Tse Tse fly traps in royal blue and black....I was glad my condensed wardrobe for those few days had other colors, respectfully then I listened to Karin and her google resevoir of what to do and not do on Safari.

Our first night was at Kabalega Resort, on the outside of Murchison National Park, which I had booked via booking.com. It was to be our last. We cancelled our third night of the safari there due to bed cockroaches, bugs nesting in curtains, noisy traffic, the included breakfast, very limited and .oh oh ..the clincher.. no running water..On a positive note, their grounds were well kept as we glimpsed our first monkeys hiding in the background.

Inside the National Park, on road to our accommodation, we saw many various types of monkeys, like Colobus monkey and Baboons.

Red Chilli Rest Camp was our only option for accommodation within the park for our group of eight. The other accomodation was either fully booked, far too expensive ie Parra Lodge or restrictive ie Sambiya Lodge. They had room for all of us but lost this revenue...due to no onsite credit card facilities. As pretty woman pointedly put it, they lost out ."Big time".

The first night we were safely ensconced in Bandas, concrete rendered thatched huts.The second night we were moved into tents as we needed to find another night within the park to fit in our to do list. That second night was certainly cooler overnight in the airy tents.




However, uninvited visitors called early in the evening and early morning...3 gigantic grunting, fighting "Pumbas" (Warthogs ) bailed me up in the tent as next door in the Banda, the new 20 something group, had left an empty pizza box outside. Warthogs have an acute sense of smell, there are warnings everywhere "Do not leave any food, packaged or otherwise. Fines start at US 100 dollars if tent is torn."...Needless to say I wondered what to do if the hogs came at me! There were also newspaper articles at Red Chilli of rangers being chased by Hippos past the Red Chilli sign. The hippo's top speed is 45 kms..We heard them grazing around the bandas and tents in the early morning..Advice is do not approach, do not shine light on either species....?.Maybe pray is all you can do for deliverance, as 85 % of Ugandans are Christian..and 25% Muslim, pray is powerful here.

Before our first night, we ventured across the river by ferry with Roger to the other side for our Murchison River cruise about 3 and half hours. Well worth the US 32 .00 per person.





It was sureal seeing these zoo animals close to the river so free and plentiful. In contrast, we were the animals enclosed in the river boat cell bars. Elephants in herds and rogue males, isolated. A sudden deluge occured after we boarded, then stopped as quickly as it descended. This brought more Nile crocs to the surface and hippos grazing in the long grass, some fighting each other, which apparantly can go all day. 



There were many different deer and antelope, water buffalo and warthogs. The bird life was abundant, including the regal African fish eagle, patrolling the Murchison River and Nile.

The menu at Red Chilli each night was one white meat dish, one red meat and one vegetarian. It was all very tasty and appreciated, as we looked out over the beautiful valley then warmed ourselves by the camp fire after sunset.

The safari started off early at 8 am but as we had no vehicle organised nor guide, we were finally ready and paid to leave Parra Lodge at 10.30 am. This entailed another ferry crossing over to join our vehicle and drver. It is hard to express the amazement of seeing three of the huge beasts in their natural state, where once there were four, now there were elephants, lions and giraffes minus the near exinct White Rhino. One matriach elephant, who wanted to shepherd her calf across the road in front of us, was not pleased with our proximity, which resulted in us as one chorus yelling "Go,Go,Go." It certainly added to the thrill. In hindsight however for a future tip, choose a National Park guide for their knowledge and spotter ability. We had organised a tour bus from Para lodge ourselves but it did not come with a guide, instead Roger became our self appointed guide; at one stage was asleep or riding shotgun position outside, blocking our view. The driver needed to concentrate on the road conditions. A hired guide would have instilled more confidence in safety issues too. Other animals we saw were 2 lions, hyenas, jackets, vultures surrounding a kill. It got to the point we were ignoring the many smaller animals like deer, antelope, warthog to find the greater numbers in an elephants herd or giraffe. For Loretta and most of the other group they were our favourites.









The following day was the highlight of the Rhino trekking situated in Ziwa Conservation Park.Currently they have bred upto a herd of 19. Once they reach past 20 they can start to move these endandered giants, back into Murchison National Park. The Rhinos were wrongly named White Rhino due to a South African translation error what they meant was Wide mouthed Rhino. Their full grown horns are worth a million dollars each on the black market...mainly mainland China. 64 Patrol guards are responsible 24 hours to monitor their charges. Bribery is lucrative and they choose their staff with due diligence. The strength of these beasts 3 tonne of muscle and thick hide is countered with their poor eyesight. However their hearing is acute....It was the quietest our group had ever been at one time...our lives depended on it! We were so close to them 




 we could smell these magnificent creatures. They definitely must have been able to smell us, respectively fearful, yet deeply appreciative to be able to help the cause to protect them. Maybe they sensed we were friendlies not foes, or just it was too hot to move being midday and they needed to conserve energy, as they cannot sweat to control their internal thermostat.

If you do come over to see Suubi Centre with the Secondary School and the unique and special programes set up by HUG and Smiling Hearts personnel, enjoy the whole Ugandan experience and do a safari at some stage of your visit. Learn from Rogers example, when the opportunity presents itself, embrace it with an open heart and Go for it! 


The repose, after the trek with Helen and David, minus yours truely, at Lizzie's "The Guinea Fowl" An oasis accommodation with hot showers and great tucker in Entebbe!

Post Script:In gratitude to photos, other than mine , contributed by Bethany, amazing.



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