I just couldn’t come to Africa without going on some kind of game safari.
So with the help of my friends at the Red Chilli Hideaway backpacker in Kampala, Uganda, I set off with a van-load of camera-toting tourists in search of that magical moment with wild animals.
After the heaviness of Rwanda, I needed something different. I wanted to see something beautiful or at least something that made more sense to my mind. A trip into the wilds of nature has a special way of doing this for me.
With the White Nile flowing through the heart of Murchison Falls National Park, I stepped into a beautiful scene of abundant nature. There was a time when it was more abundant, but during Idi Amin’s time and afterward much of the large game was wiped out to poaching. The elephant population went from 15,000 to the current 1,100 and was as low as 250 in 1990.
With the nature on the rebound, the park is a wonderful place to see animals up close and personal. For three days I explored the park by car and foot. For movie buffs, this is the very location where they filmed the classic flick "African Queen" staring Bogart and Hepburn. And even Hemmingway spent a great deal of time here hunting, so I felt I was following the footsteps of good company.
After arriving at the campsite, I walked down to the river before darkness set in to take in a view of the White Nile. The volume of water that flows through the Nile was impressive. I glanced off to my right and popping up from the silver water was a hippo making his way to land to graze for part of the evening. It yawned with its large mouth as it poked its head out of the water. "Cool," I said to myself. This place was just what I needed.
Early the next morning we took a ferry across the river to take our game drive on a series of tracks through the park.
A zoo is a wonderful place to see animals, but it can not show you a herd of giraffes racing across a horizon punctuated by acacia trees. Only a trip to Africa can offer this magic.
As our vehicle wove its way through the park we saw elephants, numerous types of antelope, African Buffalo and a pride of female lions roaming in the savanna grass, colorful birds of all types and sizes.
In the afternoon we embarked on a three-hour trip across the Nile to get up close and personal with numerous hippos, African buffalo, elephants and crocodiles. The highlight was a spectacular view of Murchison Falls, as it crashed through a narrow gorge in a white furry to lower lands.
Standing on top of the falls, it became clear how powerful the waterfall is. A random thought floated through my mind: If you slip and fall here, there is no chance. If the falls don’t get you, the crocodiles will.
But there are more miles to travel.
Sitting in a coffee shop I met a young Sudanese student named Hakim Idris going to medical school in Uganda.
I asked him about going back to Sudan one day.
"I just want to be where I feel like I belong," Hakim said.