Friday, February 15, 2013

Uganda at the Gorillas



4 to 14 February, 2013 – Kampala, Bwindi, Lake Bunyonyi - (Uganda)

We certainly did gander at the gorillas, in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Two days in a row, for one hour each day.

Day one was the Nshongi family, accessed via the Rushaga gate. The tracking here was through thick forest with a fairly dense canopy overhead. After two and a half or three hours, we got to the gorillas. We had an hour of viewing. We had to move around a bit, as the gorillas kept moving. So we would work our way around in an attempt to get good angles to view them. In total, we viewed four or five gorillas, including one silverback and one baby.

Loving my Greens
Loving my Greens
A young gorilla just doing what gorillas do. Eat.


Young Gorilla
Young Gorilla
There is always time to take a break from eating, if it's for a photo.


Mama Lounges in the Garden
Mama Lounges in the Garden
An adult female.


Glance
Glance
A silverback gorilla (adult male) takes a look at us.


On day two, we entered the park via the Nkuringo gate, and tracked to view the family of the same name. This time, the tracking was through the open, skirting around the park to where the family range is. However, it involved a few hours of significant descent, (and obviously ascent on the way back) in the sun, through some villages and farmland. This family was much bigger. We saw around 10 or 11 of the family members, including two silverbacks, two or three babies, as well as some adult females and adolescents of various ages. We tried to not let the mid viewing disaster affect our enjoyment of the moment. The experience here was even more enjoyable than the day before. The family were more relaxed, and were lounging around a clearing. They allowed us to get much closer, within a metre or two, and a couple of times the young members ran towards us, perhaps hoping we would interact with them. Certainly, I am sure we could have engaged them in play, but touching them is strictly prohibited due to the chances of disease transmission (both ways!) Also, they were in an area of forest which was more open and they were not really moving about. All these factors made it an incredible time. While the younger members were quite active, the older ones seemed most focused on eating. Wrenching large branches down, they would snap them in to manageable lengths. Using their teeth, they would strip off lengths of bark which they then stuffed in their mouths and chewed for quite some time before swallowing. They would then chew and suck on the newly exposed flesh of the plant. They also seemed to like the leaves of a particular vine, pulling them through their mouths like dental floss, stripping the leaves off as they passed through. The rate of destruction of vegetation in the process of eating made us realise that this was probably not a clearing before the gorillas had come.

A-climbin' we Will Go
A-climbin' we Will Go
A juvenile gorilla makes his way up to the juicier leaves at the top.


Silverback
Silverback
One of the silverbacks from the Nkuringo group.


And the Winner is ...
And the Winner is ...
Just too beautiful for words.


Wrestling Kids
Wrestling Kids
Two baby gorillas wrestle enthusiastically. This was very hard to capture!


Sob!
Sob!
I guess there is never a good time for this to happen. However, in the middle of photographing gorillas, we felt like there couldn't be a worse time.


I wonder if lollypop men and women in Uganda get any danger money. I was astounded when a man at a school crossing carrying some flags and waving at traffic to stop for the kids about to cross the road had to jump back to avoid being run over by a motorcyclist who clearly indicated he had absolutely no intention of slowing down, let alone stopping.

Stork Nests, Kampala
Stork Nests, Kampala
Downtown Kampala. This tree seems to be a favourite for the storks. Although, certainly not the only.


Mama's Coming
Mama's Coming
Baby storks open their beaks in anticipation of being fed.


Now, That's Long Horned
Now, That's Long Horned
Ankole cows, typical in western Uganda, grazing by the road.


Dawn at Lake Mutanda
Dawn at Lake Mutanda
View from our cabin as the sun comes up over the islands in Lake Mutanda. Volcanoes loom in the background.


Panorama: Lake Bunyonyi
Panorama: Lake Bunyonyi
The walk up from the lakeside campground was not too strenuous, and well worth the effort. Light lunch was consumed while enjoying the view.


Waving Children Greet Us
Waving Children Greet Us
These kids interrupted their games of soccer to come over and greet us. When their teacher came, he got them all to sing some songs for us. It was a beautiful welcome.


Graffiti in a Torture Chamber
Graffiti in a Torture Chamber
"I NEVEr forget My husband WAS killed people of Obote". This graffiti has been scrawled on the walls of what used to be cells where people were tortured and murdered under two former regimes, those of Obote and Idi Amin.


Friday, February 8, 2013

Kenya – It's All About the Wildlife (Part 2)



23 January to 4 February, 2013 – Nairobi, Masai Mara, Naivasha, Nakuru, Kisumu - (Kenya)

After Nairobi, we travelled to Masai Mara, Lake Naivasha, Hell's Gate, and Lake Nakuru. As the blog title says, it is all about the wildlife. The photos speak for themselves, especially the camping at Lake Naivasha.

Bull Elephant
Bull Elephant
A grazing elephant at Maasai Mara National Reserve.


The Cheetah Whose Dinner Got Away
The Cheetah Whose Dinner Got Away
We watched it stalk a pair of gazelles, and finally run hard after one.  But, it choose the wrong one.  It went for the male gazelle, who was bigger, and appeared more alert and swifter than his mate.  A bit further away, a pair of gazelles panted heavily as well.  It is so easy to watch it and think of it as a show, but this is survival on the savannah, and a missed gazelle means another night hungry.


Sunset Over An African Savannah
Sunset Over An African Savannah

Hitch-hiker
Hitch-hiker
A bird gets a lift, and in return, eats parasites from the zebras coat.


Zebras
Zebras
Zebras have safety in numbers. If stalked by a predator, they gather together, and the stripes make it hard for a said hunter to pick one individual out of the group.


A Stripey Behind
A Stripey Behind
Sometimes you don't need to see the whole animal to identify it.


Giraffe and Gazelle
Giraffe and Gazelle
Maasai Giraffe and Thompson's Gazelle :)  (I think...)


A Topi
A Topi
I have never heard of a topi before.  I rally think they are beautiful, though, and I think from they are my favourite from the antelope / gazelle / deer type animals.


Lion Cub
Lion Cub
Playing in the grass, not far from the pride.  I would take one home, but not sure if our pussy cats would appreciate a growing lion as a playmate or not.


Lions
Lions
A pair of lions lounge in the late morning.


So Awkward
So Awkward
A giraffe is at its most vulnerable when it has to drink.  The legs have to spread wide, meaning it is not ready to run, and the head goes a long way down, meaning it is not able to keep an eye out for danger.


Elephants
Elephants
Various adults and babies, wandering at their own paces across the open plane.


Another Warthog
Another Warthog
Showing us his most excellent profile.


A Spotted Hyena
A Spotted Hyena
The rest of his pack are just visible, lazing in the bushes.


Olive Baboon
Olive Baboon
It is hard to describe such a creature as cute.


Some Buffalo Keep a Watchful Eye On Us
Some Buffalo Keep a Watchful Eye On Us
I wouldn't want to take on an angry one of these.


Maasai Warrior Leaping
Maasai Warrior Leaping
This is the leaping that is so typically associated with the Maasai people.


Showing Us His Piercing
Showing Us His Piercing
I asked to take this guy's photo, because of the elongated earlobes.  His friend thought it hilarious and decided to highlight the situation.


Lions
Lions

Lioness
Lioness

Lion
Lion

Grey Crowned Cranes
Grey Crowned Cranes
Gorgeous birds. This is actually the national bird of Uganda.


Leopard
Leopard
We didn't have long with this magnificent cat.  Soon after snapping this pic, it disappeared in to the long grass.


A Hippo at the Camp Ground
A Hippo at the Camp Ground
Camping by Lake Naivasha, the only real hazard is the presence of hippopotamuses. Generally, they stay in the water until sunset, with only their eyes and ears showing. In the early evening, though, this one started getting hungry a little earlier than his (or her) friends, and started feeding on the vegetation by the shore. Once the sun was down, the hippos all get out of the water and graze on the camp ground lawn. It really is a heart in mouth experience to be only a few metres from a wild hippopotamus. Sure, there was a “fence”, but not one that would keep an angry hippo at bay. Luckily, they are “generally” docile creatures, and leaving them alone and keeping some distance is the best policy. Probably the more important role of the fence is to keep us people from getting too close to them, not the other way around.


Camping at Lake Naivasha
Camping at Lake Naivasha
Storks were not our only visitors. There were the geese and the monkeys and the colobuses and the ibises and … Oh, and the hippos, of course.


Zebra Crossing – Ha Ha!
Zebra Crossing – Ha Ha!
Cycling through Hell's Gate National Park, you share the road with zebras, gazelles, impalas, warthogs, and giraffes. It is a fantastic experience.


Checking Us Out
Checking Us Out
A Rock Hyrax in Hell's Gate National Park.


Dawn, and an Egret Lands
Dawn, and an Egret Lands
Lake Nakuru National Park.


A Waterbuck in the Morning Mist
A Waterbuck in the Morning Mist
A male waterbuck grazes early near the shore of Lake Nakuru.


Waterbucks
Waterbucks
Mum keeps an eye on us to make sure we don't get too close while her young one feeds.


Buffalo
Buffalo
At Lake Nakuru National Park.


White Rhino and Offspring
White Rhino and Offspring
OK, so I don't know if this is mum or dad. I think both were there, though. The three of them appeared, grazing, quite some distance from the road. We were amazed that over the next twenty minutes, they gradually came closer and closer until they were almost upon us. It was then that they seemed to first be aware of our presence, and they backed off a bit.


Here I Am!
Here I Am!
No attempt to camouflage by this lizard.


Jackal
Jackal
Near the shore of Lake Nakuru.


Piggy-Back Ride for a Baboon Baby
Piggy-Back Ride for a Baboon Baby
Olive Baboons.


Sucking Down Those Leaves
Sucking Down Those Leaves
A Rothschilds Giraffe enjoys a tasty shrub.


Spoonbill
Spoonbill
A bill, not only with a great shape, but great colouring too.