Uganda was once one of those countries you only heard about in Europe because of the wrong reasons. Political turmoil, military takeovers and unimaginable horrors. Thankfully those days are long in the past and today it is a country striving to develop and progress in the modern world. Boasting half of the world’s population of Mountain Gorillas, growing numbers of typical African big game such as Elephants, Buffalo, Hippo and Lion as well as a bird list of well over 1200 species, all within a country that is a similar size to the British Isles, makes it justifiably one of the finest destinations any lover of wildlife could wish to visit.
Despite the undeniable lure of seeing Gorillas, Chimps and one of the African continents most impressive and sought after birds; the Shoebill, my predicament was the high prices constantly quoted by the majority of western- based wildlife tour companies. It kept Uganda well out of my financial reach.
Things, however, unexpectedly changed upon a chance meeting with Herbert Byaruhanga of the Bird Uganda Safaris at the annual British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water in August 2003. His friendly demeanour and knowledge of his country left a lasting impression, and following a series of e mails that initial meeting brought to me the real possibility of visiting Uganda with a local ground contact, who also, most importantly knew his country’s birds and all the sites I wished to visit.Two friends, Emma Russell and Galen Skeet, with similar interests were likewise impressed by the initial plans and with a price negotiated that fell within our budget; all was set for a three-week trip in March 2004.
Now that I am back home and trying to write a brief review of the trip, attempting to pinpoint the overall highlight is far from easy. The great beauty for a European naturalist visiting Africa with little experience of the continent is that with every corner turned there is something new to look at, usually in amazing bewilderment.