Stories from Africa

  • cape buffalo with birds on head
    A lone male cape buffalo looks over the tall Savannah grass in Murchison National Park of Uganda.

    Real Wildlife: Catching a Glimpse of Uganda's Animals

    "Lone cape buffalo are old males who have been kicked out of the herd," our safari guide explained.

    We were driving on a red dirt road through Murchison National Park, the largest park in Uganda. Alongside the road in the tall yellow grass stood a lone cape buffalo. His large black head was crowned with a couple of birds.

    "Once kicked out of the herd, they are not allowed back in. They will also hang out with other males who have been booted out," our guide said. "We refer to them as the losers," she said with a laugh.

    Switching to a more serious tone, she continued, "The lone males are the most dangerous; they are mean, grumpy and will charge you."

    I guess if I was kicked out for being old and had birds always perched on my head, I'd be grumpy and charge people, too.

    "Over here we have the Ugandan Kob, which is part of our national symbol," our guide explained.

    The Ugandan Kob is an elegant antelope. The male kob has a set of horns that gracefully arch back and up. It resembles an impala.

    In Murchison National Park, Ugandan Kob is one of the favorite meals of the African Lion. But the lions had eluded us. A wild game drive is not a trip to the zoo, so you never know what you will see.

    Nile crocodile sunning
    A male Ugandan kob looks across the Savannah in Murchison National Park (left).
    An African Lion cub looks through the branches (right).

    Our guide instructed the driver to go off road. Supposedly this is forbidden, but our guide was also a park ranger and she apparently knew where to look.

    "Soon we will see the lions. This will be brief, so be ready." The driver was told to follow two lanes through the scrub bushes to a small open area surrounded by bushes.

    "Look in these bushes," our guide instructed as she pointed out the window. "This is where they like to go to escape from the heat of the day."

    I scanned the bushes for any sign of life. After a few seconds, I spotted some tan fur through a few small openings in the branches.

    "There they are," announced one of the passengers in our vehicle.

    I was too busy trying to figure out how to take a photo of something buried deep in the bushes than to announce the sight of lions.

    The van stopped for 15 seconds, and that was all the time we had to take a photo. The driver then turned the van around. As he did, he came so close to the bushes where the lions were lying, I could almost reach out and touch them.

    Through the branches and green leaves, I could see the eyes of a lion cub. Its eyes almost seemed to be asking, "What are you doing?"

    The guide said it would be brief, and it was. Best to be short if going to drive in the front door of a lion den.

    With one good lion photo on my camera, our safari van left and headed back to the camp.

    During the return trip, we had an expansive view of the savannah wildlife. Ugandan Kob, warthogs scurrying in the tall grass and an occasional tall head of a giraffe poking above the trees.

    herd of giraffes
    A herd of giraffes and Ugandan kob graze on the Savannah of Murchison National Park.

    It felt and looked like Africa. And for some strange reason, watching the giraffes walk gracefully through the acacia trees brought the Jurassic Park movie theme song floating through my head.

    But this wasn't a movie - it was the real thing. And no matter how many movie theme songs that passed through my head, my heart was happy. Not for the song in my head, but because of the view in front of my eyes. There just is no place like Africa.

    Fremont Tribune

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