Friday was a day we had been looking forward to our entire trip, as it was the day we would head to Murchison Falls National Park. After a long, hard night of rain, we woke Friday morning slightly concerned about the weather and our upcoming safaris. Our driver picked us up around 10am in a large white safari van complete with a pop-up roof, ideal for taking photographs.
The park entrance was approximately 21 km from our hotel; we were required to pay a park entrance fee at the gate of $35 USD/24hours. Once inside the gate, we had to drive approximately 85 more kilometers on the uneven, bumpy road to the ferry, which would take us to our hotel, Paraa Safari Lodge. However, getting the ferry requires some planning because it only crosses the Victoria Nile in one direction, once every hour. Since we were only able to cross the river to get to our hotel at noon and 2pm, we decided to stop along the drive at the top of Murchison Falls.
As soon as we stepped out of the car we were able to hear the roar of the falls. Following about a five-minute hike, we were able to see the falls as well as feel the refreshing mist from the water. From the highest outlook, we were able to see the cascading falls to our right and the Nile River flowing to our left. It was a great opportunity for photographs; however, the mist from the falls was so heavy it was difficult to snap a photograph before my camera lens was covered in water.
We arrived at the ferry in time for the 2 o’clock crossing. The ferry was similar to a barge, holding 8-10 cars; it took just about five minutes to cross the Nile to where our hotel was located. Once crossed, we noticed a few baboons walking amongst the tourists. They seemed very tame and didn’t seem to be bothered by us but I was a little nervous to be so close to them! There were about 15 in total, and several were just 10 feet away from me!
Once checked in a Paraa Safari Lodge, we grabbed a quick lunch and got ready for our first safari game drive at 3pm. We had a National Park guide come along to tell us about the animals, as well as help us find all the animals we wanted to see! The safari was incredible; I felt as if I was watching a movie! Within the first hour we saw giraffes, hippos, warthogs, water buffalo, as well as several species of antelope and birds. Seeing the giraffes in their natural habitat was amazing; they were definitely my favorite! Our guide told us that their hearts weigh around 10kg, about 22 pounds! Their hearts have to be so large in order to pump their blood all the way up their long necks. Because of this, they never lay their heads down, even when they are sitting.
Although, we had already seen many amazing animals, we were determined to find elephants and lions, and our guide was willing to help us. We were told that the lions often stay in the brush during the daytime heat and do the majority of their hunting in the evenings and nights. We drove to several brush locations where the guide thought lions might be. Our drive drove the van right up next to a large brush area so that the branches were poking through our windows. The guide slid open our van door so we were able to peer through the brush, and sitting there were a male and female lion! It was too difficult to take pictures through the thick brush, but we were still happy to be able to say we saw two lions on our safari! As it began approaching sunset, we started to head back to the hotel, losing hope of seeing an elephant. When we were almost back, our guide pointed ahead to a herd of 4 elephants walking through the grassland. It looked like a photo; tiny birds were perched on the elephants’ back as they slowly marched ahead. The guide informed us that the birds weren’t just hitching a ride, but actually picked parasites off of the elephants’ back. We arrived back at the lodge around 7pm, our 4 hours of safari was very successful as well as exciting and tiring! After dinner we were all ready to get to bed and rest up for the next day’s adventures!