Sunday, March 27, 2011

Uganda - Saturday March 19th - Entebbe Botanical Gardens

So our final day in Uganda, with an 00:40 departure from Entebbe on Sunday morning. We had planned ahead and decided the best bet was probably to visit the Entebbe Botanical Gardens. The weather was poor with rain an almost constant companion as we drove from Masindi to Kampala, though the road is tarmac the whole way so a relatively comfortable if long trip.

Kampala, by the time we got there, was very busy. It took us around an hour to navigate two roundabouts but once through the road to Entebbe wasn't too bad. Dodging rain showers, we decided to explore the gardens, as we had a good six hours or so before sundown.

A Striped Ground Squirrel has the look of a guilty conscience:

Some (by now) familiar birds, like Ruppell's Long-tailed Starling: and Ross's Turaco: Red-throated Cuckoo: Red-chested Sunbird: Mingled with some real surprises, like Golden Weaver: African-Open Billed and Marabou Storks: Lizard Buzzard: Hamerkop: Great Blue Turaco: Golden-backed Weaver: Eastern Grey Plantain-Eater: Crowned Hornbill, displaying: Broad-billed Roller: And a huge surprise, this Black-bellied Seedcracker: Harriet is a very experienced birder and bird guide and when she tells you it's only her second ever sighting of a bird you know it's scarce! Black Kite, distinct from the Yellow-billed Species that tends to dominate in Uganda: African Open-billed Storks:

African Fish Eagle:

Woodland Kingfisher:

Winding Cisticola:

At another spot on the shore of Lake Victoria we spotted and went over to view a flock of White-winged Black Terns:

In our last wander around the gardens we bumped into the local troupe of Vervet Monkeys going about their business:

We headed closer to the airport for tea and coffee and a snack, then, rather than hold on to Harriet and Confidence, we got them to drop us at the airport early so they could head home to their families. We killed time in the airport watching football before finally being allowed to check-in and start the journey home proper.

We really enjoyed our visit to Uganda. The food, apart from some of the packed lunches, ranged from odd, through fine to excellent. The beer is very good and even in Simbaya, still good value. The level of poverty the majority of the population lives in can be a shock.

However, for wildlife and birding it is the richest place we have yet visited, we just hope it stays that way. Confidence is a great driver, very considerate, and a very good birder in his own right, Harriet is a fantastic bird guide, the best we've worked with yet, anywhere, she's also a bit of a celebrity in her own right in Uganda, being the only female bird guide gets her a role as a spokesperson on environmental issues and she is very tuned in to those issues.

I wish we'd had more time to spend in Bwindi and Budongo - in fact I'd recommend a longer trip if you're planning a visit and can make the time, this will mean less time travelling, you'd probably want to end the visit no later than mid-March too to get the best of the weather but GO. There are no security issues at all and for birdlife in particular it is amazing!

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