Rhino trekking and safari in Murchison Falls National Park

I truly love safaris. The thrill of not knowing what you are going to see and the adventure of it reminds me a lot of scuba diving, I guess they are both safaris in a way. I also love seeing the joy and happiness it brings David, he turns into a little excited kid and it makes the day so much fun. Our first safari in Uganda was in Murchison Falls National Park, the largest protected area in Uganda. We departed Kampala at 6:30 AM and started our road trip towards the park. The drive was beautiful, on crazy dirt road through villages. I loved the smell of the fresh air, and the weather was still moody. We were driving through hills but the valleys were soaked in a thick fog. About three hours into the drive we had our first stop, called Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. Ziwa is a pretty special place, as it is home to over 30 northern white rhinos. Sadly, these rhinos are extinct in the wild in Uganda, but this sanctuary is slowly building up the population by bringing in rhincos from other countries, which have naturally reproduced and they are slowly building up a healthy population, which ultimately they plan to release in the wild. Ziwa has many wildlife rangers who observe and protect thaese animals as part of their job. They are passionate about the conservation of rhinos and it is amazing. 

We arrived and met the ranger, Khaled, who was guiding us to trek and find the rhinos. In an effort to not disturb the animals, instead of using walkie-talkies to communicate with the other rangers, they used a sort of whistle using their hands, which helped guide us to a family of rhinos who were resting in the shade. Khaled was able to recognize the individual rhinos by their markings, and he taught us about how long each rhino had been there, and how they were related to each other. He not only knew their names but he knew all of their birth dates as well, it was quite impressive. Rhinos are herbivores, eating mostly vegetation, though they still can be aggressive as they can be territorial. I am not going to lie, I was a little nervous, especially as we sort of spooked a few and they got up and moved and we got a close up view of how big they are.

Posing near a rhino family

This experience was my first ever walking safari, and it really was thrilling to be so close with these animals. I loved it and recommend the experience to anyone who goes to Uganda. I really think this organization is doing great things for conservation and I was happy supporting their cause. This is another reason why it is so great that we organized with Lifetime Experience Safaris, we didn’t even have to do the research on what we did, they had it all planned for us and it was fabulous.

A little too close for comfort

After the rhinos. We headed to lunch at a lovely outdoor restaurant, called the New Court View Hotel. I had an amazing homemade veggie burger and fries and David had a veggie enchilada. The garden of this restaurant was absolutely beautiful with colorful flowers. There were also massive marabou storks around, and a very adorable dog that I fell in love with.

Enjoying the flowers

After lunch we drove to Murchison Falls National Park for our first game drive of the trip. We popped the roof up and had the fresh air in our faces as we peered to see animals. The ecosystems changed, starting through a forest and eventually getting to a savanna. In the forest we saw a variety of primates, including the black and white colobus monkeys, loads of baboons, and somevervet monkeys.

Eventually we came to a bridge that crossed the Nile, and suddenly we saw loads of wildlife which was such an exciting moment. From the bridge we stopped the car and spotted loads of wildlife. We saw a couple of crocodiles, one was crossing the river. We saw hippos both in the water and a few out of the water grazing. There were elephants nearby eating vegetation, and even a warthog family hanging out, and as always, loads of birds. We drove a little further and came across some taller grass that was home to different antelope species, including Ugandan kobs, waterbucks, and jackson’s hartebeast. We also saw loads of buffalo, which are one of the big five animals to see on safari. The highlight of the afternoon for me was the massive family of Rothschild’s giraffe, which are one of the most endangered species of giraffe in the world. These giraffes were just hanging out in the middle of the road eating and it was super cool to see so many in one place, they were all just staring at us, it was super cool.

Lovely giraffes

Once it started getting dark we headed to our accomodation for the night, which was in a safari tent at Fort Murchison Lodge. The dinner was another fancy multi-course meal, but one of the random highlights was at night when we were headed to the tent, the nearly grass was lighting up with lightning bugs, which I haven’t really seen since living in Maine. It brought back many memories of the lakehouse and catching these super cool bugs. Also, when we went to the bathrooms to shower a noticed a bunch of bugs attracted to the lights, and some of these included stick bugs, which were so camouflaged that I am surprised we saw them at all! That night we passed out and got ready for an early morning game drive the next day.

Stick bug

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