PARADISE IN THE WILD, THE WETTEST BOAT RIDE &THE ELUSSIVE LEOPARD.
Leaving the rhino sanctuary, a great start to the safari, we stopped off for lunch at the Kabalega Diner, this place is really nice. Large spacious gardens which we opted for, clean bathrooms and the food was simply superb! My stir fry was delicious. Lunch done and dusted, it was off to Packwach, we would be staying at Parkside Safari Lodge.
I’ve observed the Kampala-Gulu highway’s a pretty good road, I don’t recall any major potholes and the drivers were all very civilized, Masaka road could pick up a few tips from the sitch out here. The landscape this side of Uganda is incredibly beautiful, nothing but vegetation as far as the eye can see, occasionally the odd grass thatched hut popped up here and there until eventually as we went on, the clusters grew bigger, I’d like to spend a night in a hut, while it rains so I can find out which I liked best, rain on a grass thatched or corrugated iron roof.
Drifting in and out of sleep, we came to that bridge with the most beautiful view of R.Nile; it’s got lots of monkeys and baboons. It was a long ass drive, I’d say about 5 hours. Eventually I got a glimpse of Lake Albert and perked up with excitement knowing we were almost there. Lake Albert is not as impressive as dear Nalubaale (Victoria) but it’s got its charm as well, arriving late in the day was ideal as the sun hanging low made for a really beautiful sight to behold. About 30 minutes later we arrived at the lodge.
PARKSIDE SAFARI LODGE.
This place is beautiful! Driving in, there’s a large central hut housing the reception and restaurant bit, to the right are the cottages about 5 or so. A very friendly lady showed us to our abode, its view was everything! We had the lake a few meters away. Dumping our luggage we settled in and went about taking pictures and enjoying the sun set when we saw it...not too far away was a freaking elephant! Hattie named it Jumbo.
We were the only guests there, not surprising as this is the off season. We went down for dinner at about 7pm.this place had the cutest lizards ever, yellow bodied, blue tailed, hadn’t seen these before. For dinner we had a 3 course meal, this was hands down some of the most delicious food I’ve had in a minute, note to self; I need that chef’s mushroom soup recipe! The owner of the lodge, Tom joined us as we concluded dinner informing us they’d got the camp fire up and roaring. It was lovely and warm, very much welcome as the wind outside was blowing something fierce. Tom told us about himself and some stories from his 25 years in the tourism industry. I would have loved to stay out there but it was way too cold and looked like it was going to pour so we said our goodnights and made arrangements with Johnson to set off for the game drive 6:30am the next day. Tom mentioned animals, elephants and hippos mostly came alive in the night time. In that moment in life, all Hattie wanted was to see or hear hippos frolicking(do hippos frolic?) by the cottage. It didn’t rain a drop by the way.
SAFARI GAME DRIVE
Getting up at 5am, we had breakfast and were on our way by 6:30am with our packed lunches as we’d be staying out all day with the boat cruise and hike up Murchison falls. Murchison Falls National Park is the largest game park in Uganda and was one of the first to be established. We went in through the Tangi gate and immediately saw a lone elephant going about its day. The sun rise and various sounds in the wilderness were out of this world. Moments like this are what drive me in life!
After paying the fees and getting our guide for the day, Edward, off we went. Along the way we saw eagles, lots of waterbucks, females mostly and this one lone majestic giraffe. I learned the other day giraffes have been added to the endangered species list! So sad. This one looked so beautiful against the backdrop of the blue sky. Then we had elephants, the little ones sticking close to their mums, so cute! Some buffalo and lots of kobs. We then took this path that led us up to ruins of what could have been an epic hotel had it been finished, it looked very creepy overrun by bush and thickets .Sammy then remarked she’d seen a dog!, out here?…strange. Upon further investigation it was actually a hyena, we laughed at that for a while. The ruins reminded me of the jungle book in a way, I loved it.
More Giraffes, Elephants, Crested cranes, Impala and plenty weird spiny plant things. If I had to pick a favorite between Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchison, it’s the latter any day. I like the terrain and effortlessness way better. Edward got word on his walkie talkie that a lioness was nearby. We found her by herself stretching, Edward reckoned she was taking a moment to herself, I feel you girl we all need those! Then it was off to the trees near the shore to look for Leopards. Leopards are famously elusive to find let alone catch a glimpse of. We drove for a long time until calling it quits being unsuccessful on this run.
We then drove to a point that’s safe from predators so we could all tinkle in the bushes. this pretty much marked the end of an epic 3 hour game drive. Worth every penny!
PAARA SAFARI LODGE.
Leaving the park, we drove about 25km to the jetty for the boat cruise, we were a good hour and a half early, whipped the packed lunches of chicken and fries which had at that point become cold, soggy and generally inedible. With that we decided to hit up Paara Safari lodge for a spot of lunch.
Paara is a 5 star type place, its look, colonial sheek. It’s a beautiful rustic but dated establishment, so much so in the art they have hanging on the walls, one in particular caught my attention, a colonist being carried on the backs of slaves referred to as “a liter”. I don’t know why that’s still proudly hanging up there in this day and age. It did get some sort of rise out of me I must say. I suppose one could argue it’s for historical purposes. I just stopped looking at it and kept it moving with my day. Sitting by the pool, wilderness in my view, Hattie and I opted for the Bacon ceaser salad while Sammy had a sandwich. The food did not disappoint, my salad was plentiful and heavy on the bacon. Joy!
We got done and made it back just in time. There was a large turnout. Boarding, everyone else gunned for the top deck while the three of us stayed at the bottom. At 2:45pm we set off.
The vessel was clean and well maintained which is reassuring as I do have a somewhat deathly fear of drowning. Just as I got good and comfortable however I noticed the sky had taken a very dark rain filled hue, which we were heading straight for. We saw some hippos and a water buck when we hit the rain, People! This wasn’t the usual light drizzle or normal torrential rain. It was a full blown storm! The guide, Patricia struggled to let down the plastic flaps to shield against the rain, that wind was strong! Everyone upstairs ran down super quick, they were all soaked through. The fog was so thick; Captain Charles stopped the boat entirely. I turned round to check on the girls and lo and behold, the back of the boat was low key flooded! Oh crap! Now we would be super screwed if we had to jump ship, between the Hippos, Crocodiles, hypothermia and Bilhazia, we didn’t have a prayer. Luckily though, it was just trapped rain water which was quickly dispersed with a handy bucket.non existent crisis averted, yay!
Patricia was on the comms apologizing profusely about the weather. With outdoor activities anything goes, sometimes you get the best weather or this. I like to think everyone on the boat understood, I can only speak for myself. I did. This did mean we couldn’t do the hike. I didn’t particularly care; I’d done it once before so I wasn’t gutted. Shit happens!
The rain did clear up a good 40 minutes later, as I was dressed for a hike, shorter than short shorts and a flimsy shirt, I was frozen! All I could think of was my warm jumper in the van. the pain was real. When the cruise resumed, the animals on the shore were surprisingly plentiful, loads of Giraffes, Buffalo, Hippos and another Crocodile. We got super close to this one when it suddenly jumped back into the water, I jumped back with exhilarating fright ,although really, when I think about it, where did I think the thing was going to go, up a tree? I amuse myself greatly.
We went passed the Nyamusika erosion cliffs, magnificent to see, there were lots of burrows occupied by weaver birds and monitor lizards at any given moment. Eventually we got to the falls. Murchison falls is simply majestic, the spot we stopped on due to the rocks was beautiful, even with that weather, hiking to the top would be the most ideal way to enjoy the falls but with that rain we had to make do with marveling at a distance. Ooohs and Aaahs, photos taken that was pretty much the end of it. The boat turned round and it was back to where we started. Getting back on shore however, we were kind of stuck, Johnson was waiting for us at the finishing point of the hike, a good hour and then some away .there is absolutely no signal over there to call him and have him come back soonest .Patricia however was very helpful and got one of the guides on that end to communicate with him.
As we waited, these mafia looking baboons arrived on the scene, all mean spirited looking, these baboons are notorious thieves with no chill, they will come up to you and snatch you up! Guides normally caution guests about them all the time. Now here we were 3 lone females with backpacks just ripe for the picking. Yeah we were out! We found a nice gentleman who gave us a ride back to Paara where we could wait for Johnson.
Sitting in the warm and comfortable lobby, complimentary Cocoa in hand because they are cool like that, my mind kept wandering off to fantasy adventures and musings of what the past around here was like. Paara will do that to you. I like the place; I’d like to come down here again for a proper stay.
Johnson came an hour later and off we went, along the way he hit the brakes suddenly and exclaimed, “LEOPARD”! There it was in the bushes, we had a stare off for about a minute, then a second one came, it didn’t linger as long but I got a good look! With that the safari was complete! We got back to Parkside, had the most scrumptious pan fried pork dish for dinner before retiring for the night happy and exhausted.
We were up the next day at about 9am after a good lie in, had breakfast and it was back to Kampala. This experience was hands down one of the best I’ve had. It was a shame to leave but there’s always next time. Ethel and Barbara of Y Save safaris, thank you so much for organizing this wonderful trip, Johnson you were wonderful, good looking out with the Leopards. Parkside our stay with you was comfortable and everything we wanted, the hospitality and cooking were bang on point. Till next time. X.