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Uganda. Entebbe, Kampala, and Murchison Falls National Park

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Old Wednesday 2nd February 2011, 20:42   #1
forthbirder
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Uganda. Entebbe, Kampala, and Murchison Falls National Park

Hi to all. This will not be an exhaustive report containing detailed site info or long lists of birds seen, rather just a few impressions gained from a recent trip to Uganda in January this year.
I flew with KLM from Edinburgh to Amsterdam, and then to Entebbe. Journey times were 90 minutes to Amsterdam, and eight hours to Entebbe. Everything went very smoothly and I have no complaints at all about the service. I arrived at Entebbe on time and was picked up as arranged by a driver from the Green Valley Guest house in Entebbe. This is a really nice place to stay, with good clean accommodation, good food, and very friendly staff. I paid $35 dollars a night for an en suite room, with tv, breakfast and airport pick up included.
I woke the next day to my first sight of Africa (it was dark when I arrived), and was knocked out by the birding on offer in Entebbe. Five Great Blue Turacos in the bushes just outside the guesthouse, a good start! I walked into Entebbe town and down to the botanical gardens, ( this is very safe, I walked everywhere, alone, and never had a minutes hassle from anyone). The botanics had cracking birds like black and white casqued hornbill, ross turaco, white throated bee eater, pied kingfisher, black kite, fish eagle, palm nut vulture, a whole host of sunbirds and weavers,army ants, massive spiders and butterflies, plus the amazing black and white colobus monkey.
I then went for lunch at the China Garden restaurant and had a good meal while listening to the bizzarre gutteral call of the giant marabou storks nesting overhead.
For the next few day I explored Entebbbe and I have to say I have seldom felt more relaxed and at ease in a new country. As I said I walked everwhere and had no problem but if one is feeling lazy there are boda bodas everywhere. I then went to Kampala for a few days. I stayed at the Red Chilli hostel, an en suite room for 50,000 schillings (about 20) a night. It cost about 3000 schillings for a boda boda into town, where there are numerous bars, clubs and restaurants. I was initially a little pensive about wandering around a strange African city but I soon got rid of that feeling as the Ugandan people are very relaxed and welcoming. Even when I was the only white face in a pub with two hundred football fans I got no hassle at all. Well, in some places a white male will get a Lot of attention from the local ladies but its all done in a very cool way and theres no bad vibe about it. If you don't like it just say no and they will melt away.
Red Chilli hostel offers budget group trips to Queen Elizabeth National Park and MurchisonFalls National Park. I chose the Murchison trip. It lasted three days, and included a trip to the top of the falls, a boat trip on the Nile, and a game drive to the delta area of the park, plus a trip to a sanctuary for re-introduced white rhino on the way back to Kampala. It cost $280 and I stayed in a really nice banda with fan and mosquito net.
Highlights included, at the top of falls, rock pratincole, martial eagle, red throated bee eater, and a pair of abyssinian ground hornbill. On the drive to the delta, even though the emphasis was on mammals I still saw some great birds no problem. Secretary bird, more abyssinian ground hornbill, spoonbill, hadada ibis, hammerkop, african skimmer (skimming, just yards away ), african marsh harrier, fish eagle, batleaur, martial eagle, saker falcon ( I think), swallow tailed and northern carmine bee eaters, shrikes, weavers, sunbirds, oxpeckers, vultures, it was all too much to take in. The birding there really is quite overwelming for a first time Africa visitor. Mammals seen were numerous elephant, girrafe, kob, buffalo, oribi, hartebeeest, waterbuck, bushbuck, some mongosse, and best of all, a lioness with two large cubs making their way towards a herd of buffalo.
The boat trip was fantastic too. Best birds were point blank sightings of saddle billed stork, red bishop, african darter, fish eagle, walhbergs eagle, dozens of pied kingfisher, black kite catching a fish and a colony of red throated bee eaters, black headed gonolek. The stars however were the enormous nile crocodiles and huge numbers of hippos. There were loads of other mammals too, most notably two large herds of elephants drinking and playing by the edge of the Nile.
At the camp, which is unfenced, a pair of warthog wander around just yards from the guests, and every night a huge hippo comes up to graze. He was right outside my room one night. I just lay there listening to him chomp away while the hyenas were calling in the distance and I was finally in the Africa I had always dreamed of visiting.
For anyone thinking of going to Africa I can't recommend Uganda highly enough. Those who are into keeping lists would undoubtedly get an enormous number of birds no problem at all, while those who are a bit more casual like myself will be blown away by just the common stuff one sees every day. The Ugandan people are really cool and have a very relaxed attitude towards strangers. I loved the place and can't wait to go back.
All the best, Mark
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Old Thursday 3rd February 2011, 17:57   #2
Larry Sweetland
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Nice one Mark, you've made it sound very tempting.
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Old Thursday 3rd February 2011, 21:29   #3
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Thank you for the report Mark.

It takes me back to 2 weeks in Kenya in 2008 (still the best holiday of my life, well maybe jointly with my recent trip to Australia). I think maybe Uganda will be the next destination!

Ian
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Old Friday 4th February 2011, 01:00   #4
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A nice report - it all sounded so incredibly easy and hassle free for a great set of birds.

Cheers
Mike
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Old Friday 4th February 2011, 09:59   #5
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Hi to those who replied.
Uganda is a very easy country to visit independently. There is an excellent and inexpensive public transport system, the people are great, and the birds and other wildlife seem to be everywhere and much less skittish than in Europe. I only gave the very briefest list of birds seen, I forgot to mention bat hawk every evening in Entebbe, standard winged nightjar at murchison, and ibis and bats by the thousand in Kampala. Obviously I have never visited any other African country, but from what I hear it is not such a good idea to wander so freely in certain other countries in the region. Another good thing is that there are far fewer tourist so when I was at Murchison there was the feeling of having the place to ourselves. I've seen footage of about fifteen safari vehicles surrounding one lion in other National parks in Kenya and South Africa and it looks kind of a weird situation. Without sounding like an advert for the Uganda tourist board now is a good time to visit, as bizarrely the exchange rate is excellent at the moment.Happy birding, Mark
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