What you need to know:
GETAWAY. Queen Elizabeth National Park is more than the wildlife, writes ERIC NTALUMBWA
The driver guide swerved off and sped to where a fleet of tour vans and Toyota Land Cruisers assembled as tourists pointed at the lurking pride of lions in the shadows of the of thickly gathered trees. The lion was everything I had hoped for when I woke up at 5.30am to prepare for the early morning drive, although there was uncertainty whether we could sight it in the morning. Earlier, Deo Bukenya had been driving along a narrow trail where we caught a glimpse of African buffalo, hippo, warthog, Uganda Kob whose Instagram-worthy images filled my camera. Queen Elizabeth National Park.
We chose to embark on a six-hour journey to the hilly Rubirizi District. Two weeks before, Caesar and I sat at little Ritz and discussed the 5As of tourism; accommodation, accessibility, activities, amenities and attractions for our three-day getaway.
Rubirizi was carved out of Bushenyi District in 2010 to stand out effortlessly with her scenic terrain and beautiful wildlife. Queen Elizabeth partly is located in this geographical boundary and falls within the western arm of the East African rift valley. Approximately 1978 square kilometers, which includes two wildlife reserves-Kyambura (157Km sq.), and Kigezi (330Km sq.). The convergence of West African rainforest and East African grassland biomes in the park has resulted in the protected area representing a significant reservoir of biodiversity. This includes more than a quarter of Africa’s bird species more than any other park in Africa.
We opted to access by road from Kampala through Mityana town, Fort Portal and Kasese. We set off at 7am in order to have lunch at our lodging. We sought the services of Pinnacle Africa, a trusted member of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) through a referral. Besides Bukenya behind the wheel of the 4x4 tourist Toyota land Cruiser, on board was Shakira and Patrick, the two company staff with in-depth knowledge of our destination ready to offer valuable insight while taking care of every safari detail. Our ride had a roof pop-up.
Everyone has their idea of a break from heavy city traffic, constant telephone calls to emails. We rewarded ourselves with a man-cation at Buffalo Safari Lodge. The facility in a prime space of 24 acres with extensive sightseeing opportunities that offers the best of Queen Elizabeth National Park to Kazinga Channel.
I was checked into a modest deluxe cottage but with a view of the seasonal Lake Rubirizi. In the middle of the night, I could hear elephants trudging through the bush, making vuvuzela-like sounds. We delighted in the thrills of fine dining, board games and watching the European Premier League on TV at the spacious lobby and dining area. Our techsavvy selves even got better with fast free Wi-Fi Internet in the lobby and on the terrace. This could also do great for an hour or two for workaholics. Manager Nathan ensured we had a peace of mind from arrival to departure.
With myriad safari activities the Irungu boat trip creates quality water experiences at Shs50,000 per person. For two hours, we interacted with the skipper and Geoffrey Mande, the knowledgeable and experienced tour guide. “I don’t know whether some of you have been here before (It was my fifth time). This channel has many hippopotami, elephants, and bird species,” he said, adding, “The nest you see belongs to the hammerkop. It is the biggest bird nest,” he pointed across the waterway.
Mande gave us a commentary of the places and animals as we made stops along the channel; it could pass for a tourism lecture. I wish I had carried a souvenir from Buffalo Safari Lodge. Nevertheless, I will be back!
Kazinga Channel joins Lake George in the east and Lake Edward in the west. The soundless channel distracted by motorboat engine noise is sustained by a number of streams that spill out from the extraordinary Rwenzori mountains that are north of the lake.