After a gala farewell dinner preceded by raucous limericks about the trip, the group began the journey home.
Sarah Taylor summarized the trip during dinner, and I was impressed! From the surprise backstage visit to the Entebbe Zoo, through chimps and lions and gorillas, we covered much of Uganda and a bit of Rwanda.
Of our 13 travelers, only one had not been to Africa before. This is not usually a first-timer’s trip, unless the first-timer is specifically interested in primates or birds. The big game normally associated with an African safari is actually quite limited.
And the primates did not disappoint. Everyone enjoyed two treks for chimps and two treks for mountain gorillas. And the list continued. We saw two species of black-and-white colobus, a subspecies of sykes, red-tailed, grey-cheeked mangabey, red colobus and of course, vervet and baboon.
The exotic bird list is too large to enumerate, but I’ll summarize it this way: the Great Blue Turaco is one of the most sought-after sightings by birders worldwide. It’s as large as a wild turkey, as funky as Groucho Marx, and looks like it just dipped itself in neon-colored paint.
We saw them in several places, but my great joy was when I stepped out of my tent in Ishasha to open the backside flaps and flushed five of them from the tree above me.
We had the chance to compare – as so many potential travelers wish they could – the differences between mountain gorilla trekking in Rwanda and Uganda. I’ll be blogging more about this in the future, but suffice it to say, now, that I think most on this safari would choose Rwanda over Uganda, if both countries in a single trip as we did were not practical.
And everywhere we were impressed with the local guides: from the enthusiasts at Semliki to the guide on the boat on the Kazinga Channel, to the chimp and mountain gorilla guides. Striking a bond with foreigners on short trips is very difficult, but when a deep interest – like conservation – is so dearly shared, the bond forms quickly.
Although we did start with a charter flight, flying from place to place in Uganda and Rwanda is quite difficult and usually impractical. So we drove. And we drove. And we drove. There are certainly rewards to overland travel: you see things locally that fliers miss completely.
But for the most part these roads are pretty bad compared to what today is available in Kenya and Tanzania. So everyone earned boot camp stripes they had never intended to get!
We left outstanding Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge just after 8 a.m. on Saturday morning. By Saturday night everyone was on their way home: to Cleveland, to New York, to Chicago and to Philadelphia.
Farewell Africa; I’ll be back, soon!