Today has been mainly a travelling day with us making our way from Lake Albert to the Kaniyo Pabidi Forest in Murchison Falls National Park (MFNP). Most of the south of the park is forest, Kaniyo Pabidi is the northern extension of the larger Budongo Forest. There is also forest to the east of the park known as Rabongo. The northern part of MFNP towards the Victoria Nile is more savannah and this is where the game viewing takes place. In the forests it is all about primates, chimps in particular, and birding. The Golden Mile, a stretch of the main entrance road is said to be the best birding spot in Uganda. I will be going on a 3hr guided walk there tomorrow. We of course, have done the chimps elsewhere but Kaniyo Pabidi is the cheapest of the lot and usually the viewing groups are smaller. I do not have enough info to compare the various chimp experiences at the choice of about 5 sites in East Africa.
Other than the forests I have always been confused about the differently named parts of the Nile River. As it flows out of Lake Victoria it is known as the Victoria Nile. Further downstream it empties into Lake Albert and here it is the Albert Nile. On leaving Lake Albert it is the White Nile which then joins the Blue Nile in Khartoum, Sudan to become the Nile. The Blue Nile arises in the highlands of Ethiopia. Here endeth the lesson.
In fact today was a very pleasant day's travelling along fairly decent roads, although we had hoped for more tar. Perhaps the secret is not having too far to cover in unfamiliar territory and not placing oneself under pressure. We even had time to stop and take some photos of the incredibly large horns of a herd of the Ankole cattle we had been seeing since Tanzania. The herd lad demanded payment! This was not granted. The first part of the road is immaculate new tar, apparently built because of the high prospect of rich oil reserves around Lake Albert and MFNP. This is likely to become a very touchy conservation topic. To our surprise neither the road between Hoima and Masindi or that between Masindi and MFNP were tarred despite both our map and T4A appearing to indicate that they were. This mattered little as the dirt roads were reasonable and we were able to cover the 170km in about 4hr. There were surveyors on these roads and I suspect that it is just a question of time before they are surfaced too, not so much for tourism as for the oil.
We entered the park from the south obviously, at Kichumbanyobo Gate and winced as we paid the very high park fees. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why tourist numbers are down! Foreign vehicle entry fees (per visit, not per day) US$150, personal entry fees US$40 pppd and then still camping fees to come! We had to go the rather cumbersome route of handing over the cash, then having our smart card (still from QENP) loaded and then having this swiped before getting our payment reciept. We were told to keep the reciept handy as it would be needed at the Park HQ at Paraa. This is where we would book further camping. At this stage we envisage one night at the site at the top of the Murchison Falls and then a couple at the unserviced campsites in the rich game viewing section of the Park north of the Nile.
First we headed for the Kaniyo Pabidi Camp (also known as Budonbo Eco Lodge), part of the same group as Primate Lodge in Kibale NP. Camping has traditionally been allowed here and if we pushed I suspect we could have organised camp in the car park. The manager was only returning that evening so we were at a little bit of an impasse. However the rustic but comfortable large wooden cabins in the forested grounds were only US$30 pppn and the camping would not have been cheap, plus rain was also threatening. so we settled on a cabin. We also booked dinner at US$18 per head. Also booked for me was a guided bird walk for 7H00 tomorrow along the famed birding area of the Golden Mile on the road north.
The cabins are simply but comfortably fitted out and have lovely solar powered showers, but to Anne's disdain, in keeping with their image, eco-toilets. These were en-suite and totally odourless. The rain came bucketing down later in the afternoon, apparently the first of the season. What a fortuitous move not to be camping. Hopefully I can get some photos of the facilities tomorrow, in the meantime feast your eyes on the horns of these cattle.