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Ugandan Photo Safari, Part 1: Three of the Big Five

Ugandan Photo Safari, Part 1: Three of the Big Five

Murchison Falls State Park, Uganda

  • Author: HappyTraveler
  • Date Posted: Mar 20, 2015
  • Category:
  • Address: Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda

UgandaMurchisonJWell!  While I was in Uganda, I HAD to do a photo safari, right?  And safari I did! I chose Murchison Falls State Park, in north western Uganda.   However, in keeping with the “winging it” flavor of this journey, I did NOT book a tour.  No, I did not.  Instead I borrowed a pick up truck, paid for gas, and hired one of the NGO’s talented drivers, David, to haul me around.  So, on the cheap, I had a personalized visit to an amazing place, Murchison Falls National Park.  I could go where I wanted, when I wanted and, within reason, stop and get out and get to know some of these animals up close and all personal like.  I mean, what giraffe wouldn’t want an eager, slightly absent minded, foreigner coming up and saying howdy-do?  Exactly.



What I COULD have reserved.

What I actually got.

What I actually got.

David, way below at the end of this post, was astonishingly patient with me, only getting firm with me about what I should not do…just a few dozen times.  For example: “Sir, the lion may LOOK like she’s resting and calm and chill but do NOT get out of the truck.”   Harumph.

So  there’s not much commentary here, I hope you just enjoy the animals as I saw them.  There’s a hand held shaky 30 second movie of giraffes if you stick with the scrolling long enough.  All pictures are  mine, taken as close as I could get without annoying David.  And presumably the animals.

This is part 1, the land animals in Murchison. Part 2 will be the Nile river animals.  Part 3 will be the rhino preserve about an hour east.  Fun!

Acacia tree in the distance...

Acacia tree in the distance…



You can’t really get an idea for how expansive Murchison is from these pictures, all told it encompasses almost 1,350 square miles, and the skies are just Wyoming big.  This is the sort of landscape here.





Our strategy unfolded thusly:   David would drive the truck down “barely can call them roads” and I would yell STOP.  Frequently.  David would sigh.  Stop.  Watch me get out of the truck.  Watch me take photos of dirt.  Or some animal that he’d seen a million times before and held about as much fascination for him as a groundhog would for us North American types.  On occasion he would urgently “ask” me to get back IN the truck.  We did this no more than a million times.





This guy is a Ugandan Kob.  In both pictures, he is proving to be camera shy.



This would be the Hartebeest. Pretty big guy.  One seemed to like me.  The other, bottom right, I couldn’t seem to make a connection.



Waterbuck.  A stout ruminant.  We’ll see him again during the Nile River shoot.





Now who doesn’t like a gruff, standoffish warthog?  I mean he/she carries birds on her/his back and he/she lets little warthoglets hang around.  (I did not check the gender of these noble beasts.  I thought it would be impolite.)

Okay so now we’re getting to exotica!   Let’s start with the lugubrious giraffe (I may be using that word incorrectly).





All of these pictures were taken from the seat of my truck.  David thought it would be imprudent of me to chase after them for that perfect shot.  Still, they were RIGHT there, maybe 20 meters at times, from the road so I was giddy!





There are over 2,400 giraffes wandering around Murchison. I have to say, while I appreciate the role zoos play in our world, watching these animals just….roam…with no wall or fences, left me feeling sad.  Even the best zoos, like San Diego’s, with all of their “humanely designed confinement areas” can’t possibly even mimic what I saw in Murchison.  On the other hand, the rhino was poached to extinction here in 1983.  And only with the help of rhinos in zoos are they making a comeback in the wild (see part 3 of this series when I visit the rhino preserve.).

And now, as a special multimedia treat, I offer you…. a shaky hand held 30 second video of giraffes!


What else do we have?


Ah yes. Our friend the Cape Buffalo.  The first of our “Big Five” African mammals viewed on this expedition.  The “Big Five” is apparently a marketing thing, or a blast from the past when people would shoot these fine creatures (I guess some still do).   The Big Five are the Cape Buffalo (above), Elephant, African Lion, Rhinoceros and Leopard.  I never did see a leopard, regrettably.   (I did spot 2 hyenas running along the landscape, too far to photograph, but …well…okay.  NOT the same as a leopard.)  I shall provide you with lovely shots of the rest.

Starting now!



What’s not to love about a momma and baby elephant?

I’ve been really fortunate that I’ve now seen both Asian and African elephants.  Spent a day with Asian elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and although they weren’t truly wild as the African elephants here, they were not caged nor abused.  Which goes a long way for an elephant these days.  I got to within 30 meters of Mom and Baby.  🙂

Okay, now for a demonstration of Nature’s amazing camouflage.  Spot the lioness…



No?  How about this one?


This is what she looks like, from 20 feet (and, thanks to David, from INSIDE the truck).


Now go back and see if you can find her!!!!  It’ll be fun!!

And if you really can’t, click on this small photo and smack yourself on the forehead.


So how, you may ask, did we find this needle in a haystack?  A resting lion under some shrub, barely visible, in a park of some 1300 square miles?  Well…I hired me a guide with a mobile phone who had a bunch of other guide friends with mobile phones who told her where it was, that’s how!  Best $30 I ever spent.   We also got up at 6am to get there.   Really excited to see a live wild lion.  Even with David nervously telling me to roll up the window.

That was a lot of excitement for one day.  So we headed out of the park (the river cruise that I’ll post next actually happened the day before).   But on our way out we had one more surprise!


What could it be?  Surely it will run off before we can get close enough to see!


A baboon! And he’s…he’s not moving out of the way?



No. In fact he never moved.  We pulled up right next to him, 3 feet away.  And I rolled down my window and took this shot.  He barely looked at us.   David wasn’t happy but even he could see this primate had zero interest in us.

This was as close as I got to any animal.  I would have reached and and pet him on his furry little head but, well,…my driver seemed anxious.


And then we left.  This is David negotiating our exit.  You see, when you enter the park you get a time stamp, and then you have to leave by 24 hours, or to pay for another day.  We were, maybe 15 minutes late and thus….negotiations ensued.   Before the guard lifted that gate he and David talked for awhile.  I don’t believe any money exchanged hands because I never got a bill.  David was/is a really good guy.  He was a great driver,and  traveling companion.  I would NOT have been able to the have the experience without him.  Good guy!

And that was Part 1 of this Ugandan nature adventure.  Part 2 will be about the river cruise we took (WITHOUT the cheesy guide like they have in Disneyland Jungle Cruise, but most of the same features), and Part 3 will be about the visit we made to see 14 rhinos that are the first rhinos to live in the wild in Uganda since 1983.  Stay tuned!



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