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Bush camping safari – Off the beaten track in Uganda

We had a request for an unusual safari from three Belgian young men and accepted the challenge of putting together a great trip for them, an off the beaten track safari with bush camping in Uganda. They had been for safari in Kenya and Tanzania and were not looking for classical game-drives on the savanna once again in Uganda but to mainly experience the people and the culture mixed with seeing the Mountain Gorillas. A plan was made and in July they set off together with a chef, camping equipment and Tony as their guide.

 

We started off with an evening visiting Ndere cultural center in Kampala where a cocktail of East African local dances, great colorful traditional clothing and storytelling was enjoyed. The off the beaten track adventure continued with bush camping in Murchison Falls National Park, arriving late, setting up the tent in the middle of nowhere and making a fire fending off animals in pitch dark. Bush camping is only allowed with the company of a ranger and because of this senior birder George Cafu with a fully loaded AK47 joined us for the days there making sure we were safe from the big five members. Day break Africa was a surprise to the team; with the sounds of the animals in the night the visitors thought we had a wall of bushes around us! In the morning the Nile and hippos retreating back were just 100 m away from the camp. The benefits of bush camping were obvious as only driving a few tracks in the park prides of lions, hyenas, jackals and herds of buffalos were seen before other cars arrived. We returned to our camp where our chef welcomed us with a continental breakfast and after that we continued for another game-drive focusing on the water birds, being lucky we were able to spot a pair of The great shoe bill stork, saddle billed stork- most beautiful in the family, great white pelicans, painted snipes and a lot of raptors including the Verreaux eagle owl.

bush camping safari Uganda
bush camping safari Uganda

After leaving Murchison Falls National Park we headed towards Semuliki National Park spending a night in Kagadi at the Rural African women’s university on the way. Along the way we visited the family of a peasant farmer and stayed with them for some cultural exchange. We went with them to the well to fetch water, played football with the kids and enjoyed lunch prepared by the lady of the house. Arriving at Semuliki Bumaga camp we set up our tents and in the evening went to visit a Batwa village. Back at the camp dinner was enjoyed before heading off to a neighborhood bar. The locals were happy to see “Mzungu” dancing and demolishing roasted goat meat. Next day was spent with a visit to the Sempaya hot springs and birding in Semuliki National Park.

bush camping safari Uganda
bush camping safari Uganda

Next stop was Kibale forest to take part in chimpanzee habituation. This is a full day activity and lets the visitor and the chimps study each other in a unique way. We then continued on to Pumba Safari Cottages at the edge of Queen Elizabeth NP to set up our tents in the garden. Then the journey went up in to the Bwindi Mountains for the highlight of the trip, trekking the Mountain Gorillas. Three happy men returned from seeing the mysterious giants. After this exciting experience a day was spent resting by beautiful Lake Bunyonyi. With fresh energy we set off towards Lake Mburo NP and the camp was set up by the home of a local Ankole cattle “long horned cattle” herdsman.  A walk in the park was enjoyed and in the morning we took part in milking the cows. Not that easy, but well worth the effort when fresh milk could be enjoyed for breakfast! On the way back to Kampala a stop was made at a music teacher’s home and the visitors were given a lesson in playing a variety of local instruments such as the long drum and the tube fiddle and taught a traditional dance. To amusement both to our visitors and the on looking children on how hard it was to get a tune out of these instruments were as Kasim the instructor would pluck out a lot of good sounds.

bush camping safari Uganda
bush camping safari Uganda

Back in Kampala the morning of the next day was spent seeing the city and the afternoon was spent at a local hairdresser turning two of the visitor’s hairs in to dreadlocks. The day was finished off with a visit to a Kampala bar. It had now almost reached the end of the trip and the last day was spent at Uganda Wildlife Educational centre (formerly known as Entebbe zoo). Early in the morning we set off from Mamaland Guest Home towards Entebbe. The visitors made a behind the scenes visit to the center and got to tag along for the feeding of the animals. This took them close up with for example a Great Shoebill Stork and giraffes. The last night of the off the beaten track safari was spent at a hotel in Entebbe before flying out the next day.

bush camping safari Uganda
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