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Safaris require one thing above all others. Money and expertise will give you a great and enjoyable time, but if Lady Luck is on your side an amazing experience can become truly exceptional.
Lady Luck smiled on us the entire trip. At Ndali Lodge the weather was hot and sunny in the day as we hiked around the still crater lakes but once we had retired to the veranda a storm of booming thunder and vivid forked lightning provided a stunning show to end the day. The morning sun dried the ground sufficiently the next day that by the time we came to track chimps in Kibale Forest in the afternoon we found a large group playfully running at ground level or camped less than 10 feet high posing for photos. Even when we decided we’d had enough and turned to allow two late group arrivals to enjoy the scene we were faced with a giant male, who decided to leap across from a felled tree to a standing one, pause and then climb quickly out of sight.
From the crater lakes and tea plantations of Fort Portal we travelled to the savannah plains and mountainous backdrop of Queen Elizabeth National Park. On our game drive the following morning we found ourselves thirty foot from two female lionesses and their cubs playing by a thicket. A lone Ugandan cob stood in the background oblivious. One of the females started to stalk through the long grass, her muscular body slowing to a sleek, gliding rhythm as she silently edged forward. It was not to be, however, as the cob spotted its potential assassin and skipped away. We were about to leave the scene when a giant male strode from behind the bushes, all thick mane and battle-worn hide. His appearance broke the silence of the scene with gasps followed by our camera shutters being let loose.
Again the weather had played into our hands. As we set off for an early evening boat cruise on the Kazinga Channel between lakes Edward and George thousands of animals flocked to the water to quench their thirst and cool themselves after the sunny day. In one shot we managed to capture hippos, buffalo, an elephant and a fish eagle! On our journey back to Kyambura Gorge Lodge after the cruise a herd of at least fifty elephants –male and female, old and young – counter-flowed against us either side of the track heading to the water. Once the numbers became apparent and the futility of pointing out more became obvious the only noise was the quiet stomping of the animal’s feet.
by Gary Almond
Tracking chimpanzees in their natural habitat, as they swing from the branches in the canopy high above the forest floor is nothing short of exhilarating. The chimps effortlessly cross and scamper through the trees above the gorge, and visitors on the other hand must cross the river using natural bridges in order to keep up with the chimps. So although the walk usually lasts only 2–3 hours, descending the steep gorge and crossing the log bridges over the river requires some agility and fitness.
Chimpanzee tracking is also available in nearby Kalinzu, a forest reserve 30 minutes drive from Kyambura Gorge Lodge where there is a community of about 40 habituated chimpanzees.