Lorna and Spacey go Hiking and Abseiling at Sipi Falls in Kapchorwa

I sat inside the bus to Mbale impatiently waiting for Spacey to show up. The driver seemed fed up with my countless pleas of “she is on her way, ssebo (meaning sir in Luganda) “please be patient she is on a boda boda(motor-bike) and will soon be here!’

“But Madame you have been saying that for the last 15 minutes. It’s 10.00am and we are supposed to take off right now’’ he argued back as I sat helplessly wondering why she was taking so long.

Just as the driver was about to leave the bus station, she breathlessly appeared, and jumped into the seat next to me. “I am never on time, Lorna, and am always late!” she said with an apologetic grin. She could see that I was exasperated after repeatedly calling her to hurry her along and cajoling the bus driver not to leave without her.

Spacey and I were in the same class in 2016, we both pursued an IATA course, graduated and started working in the Ugandan tourism industry. However, we had never done a tour together. This was our chance!  We dreamed up the idea of exploring Sipi Falls in Kapchorwa, a beautiful series of three waterfalls that lie on the edge of Mount Elgon and the Kenyan boarder.

The Sipi Falls area is perfect for a number of exciting activities like trekking along the magnificent water falls, rock climbing, nature walks, coffee farming tours, cave visits and birding safaris.  We opted for backpacking since we were both on a shoe string budget. That is why we were using public transportation through Mbale town to Kapchorwa. The drive to Mbale was rather long and uncomfortable, inside the rattly bus. It was really hot inside, and the dusty road outside made it unbearable to open the windows. It was a huge relief to finally disembark in Mbale, and take a few photos with the famous Wanale hill in the background. We ate a quick snack at a restaurant then grabbed a taxi to to take us to our accommodations in Kapchorwa.

We chose to sleep in a back-packer’s lodge since most of the Accommodation in town were fully booked. Of course, it was also the option that perfectly fit our budget. We got to our room late, and the weather had turned extremely chilly. The water in the shower was cold enough to induce hypothermia. I squealed, shivered and danced around until I felt clean enough to get out of the frigid water.

The next morning, we awoke to a lovely sunny morning. We were super excited about the Adventure that awaited us. Sheriff Chebet, one of our guides, picked us up on a motorbike and drove us to the office to register, make payments, and to meet our other guide, Juma Chebet. We safer with each of us having our own guide to provide the information and assistance we needed.

Grabbing long bamboo poles that aided us in our trek up and down the falls, we set out. The view was captivating and gave us the chance to pose for pictures inside the caves and to dance under the water falls. One of the three water falls had a massive pool underneath it that prompted us to quickly change into our swimming attire and jump into the water. We splashed water on each other, screamed our lungs out, and danced as we sung off-key to Beyoncé’s songs. Juma and Sheriff watched with amusement, and took photos of us.

Lorna sipi falls 11

We decided to wind up the day by walking to another fall and abseiling 100meters beneath it. As soon as we arrived, we were welcomed by Robert, the Director of Rob’s Rolling Rock Company.  He helped us each to wear a harness around our waists in preparation for our decent.

Even though the guides had warned me not to look down, my curiosity got the best of me and I did. ‘’Girl, I don’t see myself going down there ‘’, I muttered to Spacey as I was overwhelmed by fear. I started to wonder why we ever came up with this idea, I knew we were out looking for adventure but we didn’t need to risk our lives in the process. We had already paid a non-refundable fee of UGX 100,00 (about 30 USD). If we decided to walk away, we would have lost our money and feel disappointed for the rest of the day. We decided to go for it, with Spacey opting to go first. I watched her shake like a leaf as Robert instructed her to place her feet on the crossbar, hold tightly to the rope, and let go. She tried at first but then begged to be pulled back up, she was really frightened and wanted to give up. “Lorna come and do it first, I will follow after you’’ she said. ‘’No, you can do it Spacey, it’s going to be fun!’’ I yelled back. In reality I was even more scared than she was and probably didn’t sound too convincing.

Lorna sipi falls 15

Photo:Spacey getting ready

Robert did a great job of encouraging Spacey’s confidence. “I won’t let anything happen to you. Just relax and trust me!’’ he repeatedly assured her. “What if the ropes break?”  What if I fall down?’’ Spacey stammered out a number of anxious questions, and he answer them reassuringly until she eventually gained the courage to let go. Her first screams of fear were followed by shrieks of laughter and excitement ‘’I love you Robert. This is so beautiful!” she screamed. “I love you too Spacey. Now look at me and let go of the rope” he shouted back as he shot a great memorable picture of her.

Fifteen minutes later, Spacey was safely on the ground 100meters below and it was time for me to give it a try. I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up, my heart was beating faster than Usain Bolt has ever run. My stomach churned so loud it sounded like an active volcano was about to erupt through my mouth. “Spacey did it, I need to do it too!’’ I repeated over and over again to calm my jittery nerves.

“Place one foot on the crossbar, place the other against the wall, hold the rope and slowly let go. Be careful not to get too close to the wall as you may hurt yourself.’’ I heard Robert say as I fumbled around to put my feet on the crossbar. It felt so unstable, and I could barely stand on it since the wind made it shake from one side to side.

‘’Do I have had to stand on the crossbar?’’, “Can’t I just hold the rope and go down? ’I asked as I struggled to get my feet firmly on the pole.

‘’Yes, you can…Are you ready?’’ he asked. I was too nervous to reply and quickly let go of his hand, held the rope tightly and let go.  My eyes were tightly shut until I heard Robert shout “You are doing it Lorna, open your eyes and look at the beauty around you.’’ I slowly opened my eyes and glanced at the Jaw dropping beauty that surrounded me. The reddish-golden sun sinking in the horizon, the rays of light glimmering in the clouds, images of a magnificent waterfall as white as snow, all dazzled me magically. The waterfall roared majestically as the perfect background for the stunning view of the distant hills and beautiful valleys. It was spellbinding!

Lorna sipi falls 12

I could hear gleeful cheers from Spacey and Sheriff who were watching from below. My spectacular ride lasted about ten minutes. On the ground, Sheriff hurried towards me and helped take the harness off my waist. Spacey was jumping up and down in excitement “Lorna we did it!’’ as we both hugged and laughed. It was such a great experience from fear to a rush of utter joy and excitement.

Lorna sipi falls 14

We all posed for more photographs and then jumped on Sheriff’s motor bike to ride back into town. We went laughing, screaming and singing. It had been such a lovely day. We ended it that evening by drinking Ugandan Waragi, eating chicken, listening to music, dancing, gossiping, and laughing out loud until we finally fell into an exhausted sleep.

We woke up to a lovely breakfast the next morning at Noah’s Ark hotel. We took a lazy walk around the town, and then grabbed a taxi to head back to Kampala that afternoon. We felt brave and content from our great adventure!

Many thanks to my friend Spacey for going on this adventure with me, and of course to our lovely guides Juma, Sheriff and Robert for their commitment and professionalism. I highly recommend them as the best guides to contact at Sipi Falls. You need to experience this too!

Republished with permission www.lornasadventures.com

Advertisements

You Think You are tall? Just wait until you see your friends inside…!

IMG_20171005_152012

By Lorna

That was the first comment the gate keeper made as he saw me walking through the gates of the Giraffe Center, located in Langa’ta, approximately 5kms from Nairobi City.I smiled back in amusement; such comments are not new to me. My height has been compared to that of a giraffe since I was in Kindergarten. I remember being taller than all of my peers.

IMG_20171005_145016

The last time I visited the Giraffe Center I was just 4 years old. If my memory serves me correctly, I cried out loud as my mother carried me up on her shoulders, encouraging me to stretch out my hand and touch one of the residents there. In my defense, I think Giraffes can look very scary to a 4 year old, with their large eyes, strange Hairy horns (called Ossicones) and incredibly long tongue.  I didn’t remember that visit being very successful, so it felt good being back 23 years later to give it another try. And yes, I am 27!

 

I climbed up the stairs of the raised observation platform with no trepidation, only excitement. The main attractions for visitors there are seeing, handling, feeding and even kissing the giraffes (yes that is a thing there). I was very excited when one of the guides gave me a handful of pellets; I was then ready to make amends for my childhood fears all those years ago.

IMG_20171005_144731

One of the giraffes stretched her neck, raised herhead and stuck out her long slimy tongue towards my hands. She was named Daisy and this was the closest I hadever been to a wild animal. I was concerned and cautious at first in case she would bite me, but after popping a few pellets into her mouth my fears dissipated and my confidence increased as I watched her eat greedily, but gently, from my hand. She was so calm and gentle with me, allowing me to reach out my hand and pat her on the head as she remained still. I am sure she enjoyed it as I saw her close her eyes, just like we humans do while receiving a relaxing head massage. She let me do this until someone else moved beside me with a fresh handful of pellets. I swear she almost winked at me as she made her move to her next new friend!

The Giraffe Center was established as a tourist destination in Nairobi 1983 by the late Jock Leslie-Melville, a Kenyan citizen of Scottish descent. He and his American wife Betty devoted their lives to protecting and breeding the Rothschild’s Giraffe species, native to East African grasslands. They started with one Giraffe calf (also named Daisy) in the 1970’s and the programme has been a success since then, resulting in the introduction of several breeding pairs into Kenyan National Parks. Sadly, Rothschild’s Giraffe remains on the endangered species list to this day, but they can be seen in the wild in both Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya and Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda.

To be able to get so close to these majestic animals, feed them from your hand, look them in the eye while giving them a head rub – all while supporting the protection of the species through simply paying your entrance fee – I’d say the Giraffe Center really is a “must do” destination when visiting Nairobi.

IMG_20171005_152124

http://www.lornasadventures.com

Eco tourism at Budongo Forest

Budongo forest

Budongo forest est.825 sq.km is in the northwest of Uganda near Masindi town. It’s located in the Albertine Rift valley. It was home to mostly the mahogany trees which were planted for purposes of supplying timber for construction,furniture, flooring and boat building. It was also favoured because it was resistant to borers and termites. Currently it has a mixture of other trees like the fig tree, iron wood and other species. The mahogany is listed as a vulnerable tree species by the IUCN. The forest too is threatened by encroachment and illegal pit sawing.

It is also a birding paradise with about 360 bird species, 290 butterflies species,130 moths species,465 tree species and 24 mammals ,nine of which are primates.

On this adventure I also found myself immersed in the bird watching activity.Being a tour organizer and guide, such places are visited frequently to check on their availability to tourists and also refresh the birding skills with friends.

We made a stopover briefly at Kakonge swamp to do some birding. Birds seen in this area include Singing cisticola, Cooper sunbird.We later continued to Masindi town.

Kakonge swamp

DSC08994

We arrived late due to a tyre puncture. Overnight was at Masindi Hotel built in 1923 by the Riftvalley railways and harbours.

DSC09182

Car Tyre Puncture

Royal mile

This spectacular wide forest avenue was first enjoyed by King Kabalega of Bunyoro earning its name ‘The Royal Mile’. It is a 15 km drive from the eco-tourism site and visitors must pay a forest entry fee before entering the forest reserve. On an early morning visit visitors cannot fail to see some spectacular forest birds such as the Chocolate Backed Kingfisher and Paradise Flycatcher.

Royal mile is a popular birding destination in Budongo forest for both local and international bird watching enthusiasts. Royal mile avenue was once a historical hunting ground for King Kabalega, the nationalist ruler of Bunyoro Kingdom before he was exiled to Seychelles. During his reign he used it as an escape route too. He was later captured by the British Colonialists at Dokolo.

DSC09041

Nyabigoma trading centre

Along the way, Nyabigoma trading centre is named after a big celebration that took place during the reign of King Kabalega that involved drumming by his subjects. A drum in Runyoro is known as E’ngoma. and ‘Beating the drum’ is “Okutera ebigoma.

The King a revered hunter, killed a leopard that crossed his path during his hunting expeditions.At this point, his subjects did a lot of drumming as a sign of victory for their king and a lot of merry making after hearing the good news that their King had successfully wrestled a Leopard. He always enjoyed hunting alone. He later stopped going for solo expeditions when his throne was threatened by the British colonialists.

Royal mile birding

On the next day we embarked on our trip to Royal Mile.On our way we were able to see sugar plantations owned by Kinyara Sugar works.This route too before Royal mile was rewarding with bird species that included the Pin tailed whydah,speckled mouse bird,woodland king fisher,great blue eared starling.

Birding along the Royal mile brought to our attention birds that we considered lifers (i.e birds seen for the first time by a birder). Some of the Birds seen by our team for the first time included the blue breasted Kingfisher, Chocolate backed King fisher, Ituri Batis,White thighed Horn bill. Non lifers included Narina Trogon, Spotted green bull, Dwarf kingfisher and its nest, Collard sunbird, Woodland King fisher, Western Nicator.

Primates seen included the Blue monkeys, Red tailed monkeys, Olive Baboons and black and white Colobus monkeys.

Forest stories

Raymond the site guide was full of stories. He told us a story of how elephants previously crossed to the forest from the nearby Murchison Falls National Park. They ate leaves of certain tree and got drunk .They rioted and caused a lot of destruction in the forest. You can imagine how they enjoyed themselves to the fullest. To control the elephant riots, the trees were cut down and replaced with other tree species like the fig,mahogany and iron wood trees.

“Strangling Fig trees”

Our guide also informed us of how strangling fig trees are ‘expert stranglers’ of host trees.It is interesting if two different species of strangling trees met on a host tree they will “connive” to strangle the host tree at root level as they grow in opposite directions.

DSC09036

Busingiro Ecotourism centre.
The site is located in Budongo Forest, Masindi District.It was a common Royal “relaxation place” for King Kabalega. Busingiro means “relaxation place”. It is about 4-5 hours drive from Kampala City.
The Eco Tourism Centre is part of the Budongo Forest Ecotourism Project with the aim of conserving the forest by working closely with the communities residing near the forest. This provides local employment and sustainable income for local communities.

The area is famous for chimpanzee viewing, nature and primate walks and bird watching among others.It is also a famous habitat for butterflies.

Busingiro Trail butter flies

Polish refugee church at Nyabyeya

This former camp was built in 1942 for the Polish World War II refugees who had fled Germany due to prosecution.The Camp at the time consisted of 6 small villages and hosted about 3,635 Polish.The Polish refugees belonged to the Catholic faith.A church was later built between 1943 and 1945 which is still existence till today.There is also a cemetery with 60 graves of Polish Nationals who died between 1945 and 1948.After the World War II ended most of the Polish refugees were resettled in England, Canada, Australia.The graveyard and church are maintained by the Catholic community in Nyabyeya .

History of the Polish migration to Africa

The first group of exiles arrived in Africa in late 1942-44. Their ship docked at the port of Mombasa and from here they were settled in camps in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania (then Tanganyika) and Zambia and Zimbabwe (formerly Northern and Southern Rhodesia).

The two refugee camps in Uganda were built at Koja, on the shores of Lake Victoria and Nyabyeya, Budongo Forest Reserve in Masindi district in northwestern Uganda.

The campsite at Nyabyeya, some 30 kilometres east of Lake Albert, was uninhabitated. No towns or villages were in existence.A small piece of land was demarcated for them which was previously covered by the lush tropical forest.More land was cleared to enable the construction of mud and thatch huts.

As they settled in,they utilised the fertile land in the area to grow crops like pineapples, maize, tomatoes, sunflowers and also kept livestock to supplement their diet and keep them busy.

The Cultural king at the time,Omukama Sir Tito Gafabusa Winyi IV of Bunyoro frequently paid occasional visits to the camp.

Photos:Polish Church,Graves and Catholic faithful

DSC09143DSC09136DSC09170

Bunyoro Kingdom Anthem

After birding we were entertained by the village kids who sang the Bunyoro Anthem.Our hearts were touched by the confidence and singing. We gave them tips.

In Picture: Team leader Arshley Brian..giving tips to the youngsters

DSC09166DSC09160

Culture Norms

Every society has its norms.In Bunyoro a praise or pet name (Empako) is recommended. It is common to use the Empako for greetings when you interact with the locals.It is a form of respect.The use of formal names is sometimes considered “disrespectful”. The locals will always address you by it in subsequent interactions.
The pet names given to ordinary people are Apuuli,Akiiki,Amooti,Abooki,Araali, and Adyeri. Okali is a reserved for only the king and Bala is for chiefs.

In Toro too,a breakaway kingdom from Bunyoro in the 1830s also adopted the empako names and dance traditions.

Courtship in Bunyoro

In Bunyoro, a courtship dance is performed by young men to choose a partner for marriage.The dance was named after the “ebinyege” rattles that are usually tied on the boys’ legs to produce percussion rhythms that blend well with the drum beats and songs.

How to get there: You can use private transport and public transport (to Masindi and Budongo separately) or you can use the services of tour operators to the destination.

Best time of the year: All year round but best between November to April and June to September.

Age group restrictions:None

Possible Tour extensions:

  1. Murchison Falls National Park-Game drives, boat cruises,hiking to the top of the falls.
  2. Budongo Eco tourism site-Nature walks and chimpanzee tracking.
  3. Rhino Sanctuary: Home of rhinos
  4. Boomu Women Group: True African experience in the village
  5. Kaniyo Pabidi tourist site in Budongo forest:Chimpanzee tracking
  6. Hoima town (57 kms away from Masindi): Palace and Royal Tombs

How many days do you need for the tour: 2 days (Budongo& Busingiro only), extensions 9days . Total  11 days with extensions.

Amabere Caves- Explore history and Crater lakes

This is a popular historical site about 10 km from Fort Portal Municipality. There is a legendary tale that has kept it lively till today. Waterfalls and Caves welcome you. The picturesque crater lakes nearby are breathtaking. This tourist site in Kabarole district.It is preserved by the Rubombora family. They have preserved it for the future generations. The guides at the site are quite knowledgeable about the historical and scientific formation of the breast like formations on the rocks.

The locals explain that these breast like features hanging below the cave are associated with a legendary tale of a daughter who disobeyed her father.She was an attractive beautiful girl.It is told that King Bukuku of the Cwezi dynasty that gave birth to the current Tooro and Bunyoro Kingdoms cut off her breasts for refusing to marry the husband chosen for her. She later fled to this place and disappeared without trace. Therefore it believed that the oozing pillars on the rocks represent her breasts and milk.

Scientists call the hanging pillars that look like breasts, stalagmites and stalactites. The site guide explains that the oozing milk is calcium that rolls over the rocks as a result of the waterfalls over the rocks. He cautions you to avoid touching them, because they take several years to grow to their current size otherwise you risk breaking them thus hindering them from further growth. Stalactites and stalagmites are considered as part of a Country’s natural heritage and are protected by law in some countries.

The largest stalagmite in the world is in the cave of Cueva San Martin Infierno, Cuba. It is 220 feet high (62.2 metres).

Guide explaining the formation of Stalagmites and Stalactites

Guide sharing information on Stalagmites and Stalactites

As you walk down the caves you will enjoy the Nyakasura Waterfalls that pours its waters to the basement of the caves. During the rainy season the paths are slippery so it is advisable to watch your steps.

An extended walk to the surrounding is quite enjoyable and requires physical fitness. You will enjoy the crater lake scenery and have the chance to view them at the top of the hill.

How to get there

Amabere caves can be accessed by private transport. Since it is a short distance you can hire a taxi or tour operator to the site from Fort portal town. If it is part of your itinerary to other destinations, most tour operators will drive you there.

Accomodation

The Rubombora family has B&B accommodation on the site.

More accommodation is available in Fort Portal town that fits your budget.

This site combines well with nature walks, culture and cave exploration.

Other destinations that can be visited alongside the caves include Semuliki National Park, Kibale National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Mabira Forest Eco-tour

Mabira forest is a perfect destination out of the City Centre. It is 60km away from Kampala. It is one of the largest forest reserves with over 315 bird species, 312 tree species. It is also home to butterflies and primates that include the Uganda Mangabey monkey, Red tailed monkey. It is a popular birding destination for the birding fraternity. It has accessible trails which can be accessed with the company of a guide who is knowledgeable about the forest.

It is a forest reserve managed by the National Forest Authority which has encouraged the promotion of forest tourism in the recent years. It was gazetted as a forest reserve in 1932 .Over the years several organizations have campaigned to restore it .Ecotourism opportunities have been advanced and developed thus supporting the communities around the forest.

Other activities include Mountain Biking, Environmental Education and Research, Camping and Picnics, Primate Watching, Butterfly Identification and general Forest Exploration.

Our birding group has continued to explore places to hone our birding skills. Mabira forest was yet another destination we explored away from Kampala city. It is an ideal place for nature lovers.

dsc08392

 

16559347_10154333603963424_158725673_n

Our main objective on this trip was birding, forest walks and tree species identification. Lesser striped swallows welcomed us at our accommodation. They stayed nearby till night fall. The weaver birds too in the neighborhood caught our attention nesting. The Male weavers are known to be family nest builders before a female weaver “fully” accepts to visit. The female will check ‘thoroughly’ the ‘comfort facilities’ in the nest before accepting ‘matrimony’. This behavior is similar to human beings(Male) who are known Bread winners. If a man does not have the required resources and facilities to support the woman, the woman will not visit.

16522513_10154333598123424_1174037605_n
Lesser striped swallows

 

16522788_10154333594768424_2076934538_n
Black headed Weaver

During this trip, 45 birds were seen. Among the 45 birds sighted, some the birds included the Brown eared woodpecker, Yellow crowned woodpecker, Blue shouldered Robin chat, Red capped Robin chat, Black throated Apalis, Forest wood Hoopoe, Forest Robin, Jameson’s wattle eye.

Red tailed monkeys and tree squirrels were sighted.We enjoyed the long forest walks too enabling us breathe in fresh air thus boosting our oxygen reserves.

Accommodation: Self catering accommodation and camping facilities are available at the eco-tourism site for budget travellers. Mabira Rain forest lodge is also another eco –friendly within the forest with 12 independent timber cabins, Swimming pool, Sauna and massage and Conference and seminar facilities ideal for the mid –range/luxury  traveler.

Location & Accessibility: Mabira can be accessed by both public and private transport off the main road to Jinja at Najjembe trading Centre at 60km from Kampala City or 24km from Jinja another tourism Haven, home to the Source of the River Nile..

 

dsc08483
Our safari van

Other ecotourism sites near Mabira that can be visited include the Griffins falls Camp also known as the the Mabira forest camp  located near breath taking falls. This camp was founded by the Mabira Forest Intergrated Community Organisation (MAFICO) to improve the livelihoods and welfare of the community by conserving the environment. The “Star” activity at the site is the Canopy “zip line” that sends you soaring high in between the rainforest trees.

dsc08441
Group Smiles at the end of our trip

Birding with BBC World at Mabamba

Behind every successful man there is a woman and in my opinion the reverse is true. Women empowerment movements today may think otherwise. Well, I believe that the ladies just want to express their natural power and intelligence that existed behind the scenes for a longtime. True on this day January 15 2017, the birding ladies’ prowess was finally recognized by BBC World in Uganda. BBC World on this maiden trip chose the Uganda Women Birders Club a ladies birding division of Uganda Safari Guides Association (USAGA).

DSC07900

Mabamba is a Ramsar Site since 2006 due to its importance as a habitat for the globally endangered species like the Shoebill and a stopover for migratory birds. It supports over 300 species of birds, community livelihoods through eco-tourism, fishing, agriculture and other activities.It is an ideal place for a one day trip or an add-on to other safaris in Uganda.

Meeting point was at Uganda House on Kampala road the tradition meeting point for USAGA FAM trips. That morning the ladies managed to keep time to make the trip. The team leader was Judith Mirembe the Chairperson. For the gentlemen like me and others we also managed to join the ladies because…behind every successful woman there is a man too. I know the readers of this blog post will agree or disagree with what makes a man or woman successful but that can be a story for another day.

mabamba-2017-with-bbc-copy
This is Catherine Byaruhanga reporting for the BBC

Mabamba marsh land is an Important Bird Area for the Shoe bill and other bird species .It is a popular destination for birding. Birding is done by boat with the guidance of the community site guides.When we arrived at the site, we did not waste time on pleasantries. Boats were organized and each of us was allocated a boat in groups of 5-7 individuals with the assistance of Herbert Byaruhanga  a renown birding enthusiast and also the Chairman of Uganda Safari Guides Association.

DSC07925

At Mabamba, we glided through the water channels bordered by papyrus plants. The bird search started immediately. Although our mission was to spot the Shoebill, normal birding activity involves the identification other water birds. The search continued to trace the Shoe Bill. I was lucky to be on the leading boat with the site guide Ismail who was very knowledgeable about the birds. He managed to identify several birds along the way before he sighted one Shoe bill in flight after  about 1 hour and twenty minutes of searching. We thought it will land on the marshes but it just continued farther up in the sky. We thought our chances for seeing it had run out. Our eagle eyed guide,asked his colleague to move the boat ahead for another chance in the marshes. To him it was good signal for another one nearby. Indeed he applied the “Never give up” expression. The search continued and a few minutes later he spotted one in the marshland.

dsc07887_renamed_16586
Our guide Ismail seems to ask “Where are you Shoebill?”

Some birds seen on that day included the Purple Heron, Black Crake, Hammerkop, African Jacana, Lesser Jacana, Long toed lapwing, Blue-breasted Bee eater, Malachite Kingfisher, African pygmy Goose, Angola swallows, Pied Kingfisher, Winding Cisticola, Fan tailed widow bird and Yellow billed duck.

hamerkorp-2
“Fake Mounting” by the Hammerkop bird

There were quiet celebrations on our boat since we were the first to see it. We were joined by other boats,tourists and BBC crew  who were making their first excursion to the site. We positioned ourselves to have a clear glimpse of this iconic bird with our binoculars. We did not want to get close for fear of scaring it away except for the BBC team that moved a little closer to have a clear view for their story that was aired on Focus  on Africa on the 23rd January 2017.. Uganda: The rise in bird watching tourists http://bbc.in/2kGXjDj

IMG_0632_renamed_25802
Shoebill

This bird is known to stay in one place for long hours as it waits for its prey which may be fish or frogs. Indeed on that day it stayed in one place until we started our journey back to the landing site. Even if you are not a birder or birding enthusiast, the tour of this renowned Shoebill habitat is always an exhilarating experience not to be missed on your itinerary.

mabamba-2017-with-bbc-2
Excitement at take off

Mpanga Forest Eco-tourism site

Mpanga Forest Eco-tourism site is situated 37km away from Kampala city, enroute to Masaka. Previously the Forest reserve was only reserved for scientific research. However today it is also a perfect destination for bird watching and a day or weekend escape from the city. It has over 550 tree species with some trees over 100 years old and over 220 bird species.

Our 1 day excursion to this site was so exciting especially when it was time to see the White spotted fluff tail. This shy bird is not easily seen until you imitate its calls. On our trip we were lucky to have Arshely Brian an avid birdwatcher on our Destination birding team who can imitate the calls naturally. He managed to call it up several times for us to see. You should have to see the anxious faces and smiles of the team before and after it was spotted. If you missed it, Brian was always ready to imitate its call so that you have a glimpse of this shy bird. It is always amazing to see him imitate the bird calls. It is recommended to stand still or even take cover to avoid disturbing its presence until it comes out of its hideout. It does not stay long since it will has missed ‘meeting’ its imitator (bird) but for birders in the midst, the mission is accomplished.

Arshely Brian our expert bird imitator with a friend.

 

Mpanga forest 6 2017 (2)

Our main mission of the day was bird watching so that we can polish our bird identification skills and also relax away from home. Our walk through the forest trail about 3km stretch to the swamp was worth it. It gave us a chance to enjoy the fresh air and also exercise your legs.

During our forest walk to the swamp,we went off track,thus getting lost.We were lucky to meet young firewood harvesters who volunteered to lead us to the swamp. In this porous forest, firewood harvests are only allowed for fallen tree branches (i.e Old trees that fall naturally. Cutting of trees is illegal). This young team (Justine,Brian,Joel and Joram) with their dog in pursuit did well to show us some areas we had missed. We gave them a tip as a token of appreciation.

Mpanga forest 4 2017

Birding is usually a rewarding adventure if you are patient. The birds seen on our day trip include: White spotted Flufftail ,Blue throated Roller ,Grosbeak Weaver ,Great spotted cuckoo ,Little Greenbul, Lizzad Buzzard, Marico Sunbird ,Green Hylia ,Western Nectar, Chestnut Wattle-eye ,White throated Greenbul, White throated Bee-eater ,Rufous Flycatcher Thrush ,Spotted Morning Thrush
Red headed Malimbe ,Splendid glossy Starling ,Green Backed Camaroptera, Red cheeked Cordon Bleu, Black and white Shrike Flycatcher ,African pied Wagtail , Vieillot’s black weaver ,Copper Sunbird, Scarlet Chested Sunbird ,Green Sunbird ,Pintailed Whydah, Yellow throated Longclaw ,Eastern Plantain-eater, Brown backed Scrub Robin ,Dark capped Bulbul, Green throated Sunbird ,Northern grey headed Sparrow ,Black and white casqued Hornbill, Crowned Hornbill, Great blue Turaco, Blue throated roller, African Harrier Hawk, Ayres’ Hawk eagle, African Harrier Hawk.
We also sighted a Lesser bush baby and Red tailed monkeys.

Therefore a visit to the eco-tourism site is so rewarding that you have a full plate of activities like Forest walks, Bird watching, Butterfly identification and Primate watching. You will also have a place to relax after a day’s adventure in the forest. Accommodation is available too for those who who like to spend more days away from home. It has double and twin rooms,space for camping and self catering facilities.For a day’s excursion,I recommend that you carry your own snacks.

Mpanga forest 7 2016

 

Birding can be done twice in a day that is early morning when birds are still in their nests, leaving or hovering around their nests in search for the day’s meal and in the evening when they return to their nests for a night’s rest.

Mpanga forest 2017

 

The Eco-tourism site can be accessed by both public and private transport. The site is approximately 1km off the Kampala to Masaka Highway after Mpigi town.

Also shopping for crafts can be done on your way back at Mpambire trading centre along the main highway. Items available for sale include Baskets, Mats, Drums, Stools and a variety of household tools.