We spent our first night at Bush Lodge in Queen Elizabeth National Park. The Lodge, which includes 12 raised bungalows, sits atop a ridge that overlooks an inlet of the Kazinga Channel that joins Lakes Edward and George. Overnight hippos roam the grounds of the Lodge and we could hear hyenas cackling as they made their rounds through the brush. The night sky was spectacularly bright and we could see many of the constellations of the southern sky, including the Southern Cross and a band of cosmic dust.
Our first morning at Queen Elizabeth, we awoke to overcast skies and light rain, but that didn’t dampen our spirits. We set out seeking lions with James Kalyewa, senior research assistant with the Uganda Carnivore Project (http://www.uganda-carnivores.org/) which conducts scientific research and monitoring of Uganda’s large carnivores, including lions, leopards, and hyenas. Using radio-collars, the Carnivore Project monitors the health and movements of all the carnivores (except us!) in Queen Elizabeth National Park. One of Uganda Carnivore Project’s principal goals is to work with local communities promoting conservation education outreach in village schools, community outreach regarding wildlife conflict, and sustainable community economic development through participation in eco-tourism.
Using a radio signal detector, our guide, James, was able to track 13 lions over the course of our five-hour journey through the park. A male lion in one of the groups we saw was actually hurt from fighting for dominance with another set of lions. Yet another group consisted of three males by the same mother. These lions were not far from the injured male, so James had our vehicles “herd” them in the opposite direction for several kilometers. In the course of our journey around the park, we also saw a leopard, which is extremely rare. It was virtually invisible due to how it blended into the high grass. And is if that weren’t enough, just as we were recovering from seeing the leopard, we came across a rock python in the middle of the road. The rock python is the largest snake in Africa, averaging 3 to 5 meters in length. This particular python must have been a juvenile as it was only about 2.5 meters long. Sitting in some mud on the road, its green skin really stood out. It was breathing heavily, taking in air and then letting it out with a wheeze in what may have been a defensive gesture to ward us off.
After our game drive, we visited Mweya Lodge, a high-end luxury safari hotel, to access internet and enjoy the gorgeous views of the Kazinga Channel. On the way back to Bush Lodge, we came across a herd of elephants, including a small baby elephant. The mothers were very protective and always kept the baby between them. We enjoyed a wonderful 4-course meal under the stars upon our arrival at Bush Lodge. Another amazing day!