As our trip nears its end, today was a day full of excitement and discovery. Before waking up at around five o’clock this morning, we had a fun night meeting a group of students from Wales. We conversed about McDonald’s, of which there are many in the UK; Harry Potter, where most Americans get their views of the UK; and the Welsh language, which is rarely heard anywhere except for in Wales, before finally hitting the sack. Sleep at the Simba Safari Camp was hot and buggy, but I survived to tell the tale, so it must not have been so bad.
We woke up earlier than usual and ate a quick breakfast before hitting the road at 6:30 AM. We left so early because of the increased chances of finding wildlife on the game reserve in the early morning, and find animals we did. We first saw the buffaloes, and then we spotted the Kobs. Along with the crested crane, the Kob is a national animal of Uganda. We didn’t see only everyday Ugandan animals, though; we also spotted some of the rarest sights in the park. We found the lead lion of a pride mating with a lioness, and they were only 100 yards away from twenty Kobs. The Kobs didn’t even bat an eye; I think they knew what was going on. After this rare sight, we saw another rare sight; a pair of crested cranes with their children (They stay and mate together for a lifetime, so it’s like a bird marriage.). The crested crane is the champion animal of Uganda, although their numbers are slowly dwindling. The colors of the Ugandan flag are based upon the plumage of this bird, and an image of the bird appears right in the middle of the flag. After seeing these two species, we were told of their possibly unfortunate futures. There are only 135 lions in the whole of Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP). The figures are so low because hyenas often kill the young cubs to eliminate predator competition for the antelopes. If you’ve ever seen Disney’s African Cats, you’d know exactly what I’m talking about. The crested crane population is declining because of overdevelopment on Ugandan wetlands. If you eliminate their habitat, you eliminate them too. It’s a shame, though, because these two animals are some of the most majestic and beautiful animals in all of Uganda. Later, we saw another type of antelope and numerous other birds.
After having steak for lunch near a luxury hotel, I visited the visitors’ center and the museum inside. Soon afterwards, the rest of the group followed. We learned about the origins of the Rift Valley and how early humans made tools out of rocks. There was also a collection of dung from eighteen different animals. We then proceeded to chat for about an hour before going on a boat cruise through the Kazinga Channel. The Kazinga Channel links Lake Edward and Lake George in the Ugandan portion of the Great Rift Valley. While on the two hour boat cruise, we saw over ten types of birds and many other small animals. We saw over a hundred buffaloes and almost as many hippos. The buffaloes were lazily lounging about along the side of the river, and the hippos kept diving as soon as the boat neared them. Among the birds that we saw, the most powerful one was the African fish eagle. It was a slimmer and sleeker version of the American bald eagle but just as quick and dangerous. Afterwards, we saw many elephants and then encountered a crocodile right before the end. One thing that was a bit saddening was seeing a hippo with about a quarter of the flesh on its back exposed. I don’t know if it will survive, but I hope it doesn’t join the company of a dead buffalo that we also saw on the cruise.
After the boat cruise, we came back to the Simba Safari Camp and I had even more steak for tonight’s dinner. Sadly, like all good things, our trip must come to an end. It has been an amazing, eye-opening experience, and I hate to see it go. We only have a few days left, but I’m ambivalent about our return. We’ll leave many good friends behind, but also come back to see our family and friends at home. We’ll never forget this trip, and neither will the people we met along the way. See ya guys, on Wednesday.