The last 3 days were just spent in the truck; driving a long, long way. I loved just watching the world go by, seeing how different people live; passing through villages, markets and farms; and bringing beaming smiles to 100s of children with a simple wave. As we whirled through Kenya, the Savannah was slowly replaced with tea plantations.
At the Kenyan-Ugandan border we had to be forceful with the African men trying to push in front of us, otherwise it was relatively straight forward crossing. I was surprised to learn Uganda, a land locked country, is mostly water and swamp, so on entering Uganda the landscape changed dramatically. The view whizzing pass my window was now dense, green, lushest jungle; and banana and papyrus plantations.
After 3 long days on the truck, we finally arrive at Queen Elizabeth’s National Park. Our site for the next few nights was called Hippo Camp; aptly named after the lake we passed with lots of wallowing hippos, which apparently, at night, they leave their daytime bath, to feed on the grass at our camp site.
So, after dinner everyone was keen to go for a walk to find the hippos. We were at least a kilometre from the lake; I didn’t believe their little legs could make it as far as our campsite, but apparently they will travel up to 6km for fresh grass. Patrick had a torch and we followed blindly in the dark after him. I was a bit nervous as I wasn’t sure where I was stepping, so I was glad to be wearing my hiking boots, in case of snakes. Also, I was conscious the creatures we were trying to find, on foot, are very dangerous animals. We only walked a few steps, literally just behind our kitchen, when we could see eyes shining in our guide’s torch light. We sneaked around to the back of them, which was just behind our tents, gulp!!! And there they were, 6 hippos, heads buried in the grass, chomping away. Seeing them out of water was a pretty awesome sight.
That night I did not sleep very well, it was just the joys of roughing it in a tent, rather than being scared of the hippos. I felt pretty comfortable being so close to these creatures, you just had to keep your distance and not to stand in their highways back to their watering hole.
Did you know a hippo can run 40km/h?
I did venture out for 2 loo visits in the night; I didn’t see any hippos but I could hear some grunting behind a bush. Our chef, Simon; however, had a fright. When he got up at 5am to start preparing breakfast, he found a hippo sleeping in the kitchen. Apparently, when he went to switch on the light, he made the discovery and quickly jumped out of the window to safety.
The following afternoon we did a water safari on Lake George. It was very enjoyable, sipping a shandy and watching the wildlife from our double decker boat. There were lots and lots of hippo families. I eagerly tried to capture the famous yawning hippo shot; however, I did not have much joy.
I was also hoping to photograph an elephant drinking at the water edge, but the 3 elephants we spotted all runaway when the boat got close.
We did see lots more buffalo, some crocs; also Queen Elizabeth National Park is known for its 612 bird species, so we saw also saw heaps of kingfishers, storks, pelican and many, many more but, not being a twitcher I can only describe them as, for example, small, yellow birds or red bird with blue chest.
On leaving Queen Elizabeth National Park, we went down to lake to say good bye to the family that had shared our camp site the last two nights. It was lovely to spend one last time with these incredible creatures.
I missed a few more hippo yawning photo opportunities, but did get to see a couple being very intimate and some hippos just playing with each other.
A wonderful end to my time at the Queen Elizabeth National Park.