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Uganda Adventures | My Visit to Queen Elizabeth National Park and Kasenyi Safari Camp!

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Posted January 18, 2017 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Tourism and Conservation ~ 3,565 views

     

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By Ronnie Mayanja — In 1907 Winston Churchill embarked on an African safari, setting off from Mombasa and traveling through Kisumu to Uganda. At the end of his sojourns he would write a book, My African Journey, and coin a phrase that would later be used to describe Uganda to the outside world.

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For magnificence, for variety of form and color, for profusion of brilliant life — bird, insect, reptile, beast — for vast scale — Uganda is truly “the Pearl of Africa.” The Kingdom of Uganda is a fairy tale. The scenery is different, the climate is different and most of all, the people are different from anything elsewhere to be seen in the whole range of Africa….what message I bring back….concentrate on Uganda.

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Churchill’s descriptions came to mind as I headed to Western Uganda from Kampala on a 6-hour, 400 km journey to Queen Elizabeth National Park. The park includes the Maramagambo Forest and borders Kigezi Game Reserve, Kyambura Game Reserve and Kibale National Park in Uganda, as well as Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and occupies an estimated 1,978 square kilometers (764 square miles). I had last visited the area as a youngster when my dad took us along on his many safaris.

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For this trip I had received an invitation from a friend and old Budonian diaspora returnee, Philip Kiboneka, who moved back to Uganda with his son after more than 30 years in the US where he worked for a biotech company. Philip left a successful life, choosing to return home to help tourism in Uganda live up to its potential.

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Without a concession from the Uganda Government or the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Philip managed to buy some land outside the park boundaries and construct Kasenyi Safari Camp, which sits on about 40 acres of land in a prime spot frequented by tree-climbing lions in close proximity to Lake George, huge volcanic craters, lakes and various ecosystems of the African savannah.

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I arrived with my niece Angela her best friend Anita around midnight and were greeted by Philip and his crew who had stayed up to direct us at the edge of his camp. It was quite interesting driving this stretch of vast savannah in the dead of night, the natural setting only interrupted by the security checkpoints that dotted the way till we got to the National Park. Security has been beefed up in the Rwenzori region due to sectarian unrest in recent years. After exchanging some pleasantries, Philip moved us to our cottage that had been built in an area I could call “lion alley”, being a popular spot for lions and their prides in the area.

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I was pleasantly surprised to find, after driving many miles from Kampala, a hot shower and a flushing toilet on the fringes of a protected national park. Following a long day of travel I soon fell asleep, only to be awakened a few hours later by our host, who wanted us to experience the morning game drive at 6am., this being the ideal time for animals to do their hunting before going into seclusion to escape the savannah heat.

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The view was spectacular and those doing hot-air balloon safaris must have enjoyed the panoramic sky view of the lakes and craters.The first night in the camp went smoothly but on Day 2 in the dead of night I startled from my slumber to a sound like no other– a male lion calling its pride to go hunting. It was then I knew why they call lions the king of the jungle.

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Nothing can prepare you for the roar of a lion and it is no wonder all the animals tremble in fear when they hear it. I was stone-faced when I realized that our tent was the last one and perhaps most vulnerable to lion attack (later Philip would tell me that this adds to the adrenaline rush for some tourists). Later that morning I would learn that this was one of the biggest pride sightings, resulting in more than 100 vehicles driving down to the edge of Kasenyi Safari Camp to get a look.

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The drive around this vast savannah was also the most interesting and the view a spectacle to behold, even exceeding my experience at Murchison Falls. I was able to see craters that were filled with thick forest and those that perhaps have not been disturbed by civilization since their formation.

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This must be part of the underground forests that define the western Rift Valley and stretch down to Kyambura Lodge. We also drove 40 kilometers to Kazinga Channel, a body of water around Mweya Safari Lodge, rich in hippos, buffaloes, Nile crocodiles, elephants and a wide array of bird species.

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The hippo boat ride provided some cool refreshments and a closer look at some of the amphibious life and scenic beauty of Kazinga Channel and Lake Edward. For the birders this would be described as ground zero given the many species of birds you will find in this area.

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Whether we have done justice in marketing this part of Uganda is a story for another day but for those living in the diaspora and have not experienced Uganda’s wildlife, Queen Elizabeth National Park will help you understand why many have described Uganda as “gifted by nature”. I was impressed by the UWA staff and the patrols there to enforce park regulations.

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If you are looking for a safari that will allow you an opportunity to see lion prides up close and experience the sprawling savannah grasslands, you need to book a safari with Kasenyi Safari Camp. The professionalism of Philip Kiboneka, his son Wasajja and staff, along with the amenities offered, will leave a lasting impression when touring Queen Elizabeth National Park, the most visited national park in Uganda.

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A night at the Kasenyi Safari Camp will range anywhere from $288 dollars for singles and $390 dollars for doubles. For details on how to book a Safari experience in Queen Elizabeth National Park call +256756992038 or +256791992038 or please visit www.kasenyisafaricamp.com or https://www.facebook.com/kasenyisafaricamp/

Photography by Ronnie Mayanja and Phillip Kiboneka.


About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.

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