With full bellies after our lunch, we headed back down to the Nile for an afternoon river cruise.
After glimpsing the hippos on the first evening in Murchison, we were very excited to get another look at these massive beasts. The whole river was lined with hippos, lazing about in the water. The Murchison area is one of the hottest in Uganda, so the hippos here spend most of the day playing in the water and sleep in the bush at night. Although cute and playful with one another, hippos are actually quite dangerous and kill many people each year and are considered the most dangerous animal in Africa.
As we moved farther upriver, we started to come across groups of elephants. At one point, we even counted a group of 36 together! There were huge lumbering giants with bright white tusks and “little” youngsters tagging along behind. There were even pairs playing in the water, wrestling and splashing one another.
(A note to my Mother-in-law or anyone who doesn’t like reptiles, skip this paragraph) Once at the base of the falls themselves, we started to see Nile Crocodiles. They congregate near the churning water below the falls because of the number of fish killed going through the falls creates an easy meal. They swam in and around the hippos, seeming to get along with them just fine. However, we did notice one elephant with half of his trunk gone, thanks to a crocodile waiting in the water for him.
Since the force of the waterfall is so intense, we couldn’t get too close and had to turn back for the evening. On the ride home, we watched kingfishers hunting for their evening meal. The birds hover about 10’ above the water, with their heads pointed down as they search for fish. Once they see their prey, they dive straight down into the water. It was an awesome sight.
We slept soundly that night, knowing that we were protected by a resident pair of warthogs who slept right outside our tent, snuggling together in a depression they’d dug into the ground. Totally habituated to people, they continued to snore a soft grunting noise, even when approached by us. As tempting as it was to rub their hairy bellies, I took a look at their tusks and decided it wise to refrain.
On the third day, we got a chance to get up close to the Murchison waterfall itself. At the point of the falls, the Nile River is compressed down to a channel only approximately 12’ wide. The force of the water coming through the narrow trough creates a fantastic roar and huge boiling current as it slams into the rocks. It was truly awesome and we could have spent all day mesmerized by its power.
Instead of heading back to Kampala with the rest of our group, we chose to be dropped off at the Kaniyo Pabidi Eco-tourism site, a project currently being managed by the Jane Goodall Institute, for whom I’m volunteering in Entebbe. Located in the southern end of the park, where ancient mahogany and ironwood trees have surprisingly survived centuries of logging in the area, are several groups of resident chimpanzees. So we decided to pay our not-so-distant relatives a visit.