Last weekend I had my first quintessential African experience. I went on a safari in Murchison Falls, which is located several hours northwest of Kampala. When I do touristy activities in Uganda, I am really happy that I also decided to do volunteer work here as well. If not, I would never be able to engage with the local populations to the level that I have because of my time at Reach Out. The safari was great though, and I was able to meet many other muzungus, all of whom are also volunteering in Uganda. Our safari started early Saturday morning with a 6 hour drive to Murchison Falls that involved miles of road dotted with speed bumps every 30 feet or so (we still can’t figure out why there are so many), and we arrived around 3:30 in the afternoon to a beautiful, but scorching hot, campsite. We were given a run down of the activities to come, as well as a warning about the warthogs and hippos that like to come onto the campsite. Me and three other North American girls (2 Americans, 1 Canadian) settled into our luxury tent, complete with actual beds inside and mosquito nets. The rest of the evening was filled with a walk to the Nile and an amazingly good pumpkin and peanut curry prepared by the incredible Red Chilli chefs.
The next day was when the real fun began, despite the 6:30 am departure time (which luckily did not include a run in with the hippos, who like to scavenge around the campsite in the mornings). The nine of us on the trip together hopped into our van, which was converted to a safari machine by the lifting of the roof of the van, which allowed us to stand up inside and take pictures of the wild animals. I think we saw all of the animals on offer at Murchison, including giraffes, elephants, antelopes, buffalo, warthogs, various birds, and lions (we were one of the few groups to see them that day!) Our game ride was 4 hours of blissful hair blowing in the wind, sunshine on the face (although my arms became a nice shade of tomato afterwards, despite my SPF 50 protection—one of the downfalls of my Irish heritage I suppose), and views of amazing scenery in an amazing place.
We headed back to the campsite and ate another unbelievably mouthwatering meal before preparing to leave for our boat ride of the Nile. Unlike the rafting experiences of the Nile that I’ve heard so much about (and go on tomorrow, yikes!), our boat ride was calm and peaceful, with views of multitudes of hippos (somehow I never get tired of looking at hippos, with their huge heads peering out of the water) and some crocodiles. The ride was certainly beautiful and capped off a very busy day nicely. After the boat ride, we were once again treated to amazing food, good company, and a ridiculously early bedtime (one of my favorite parts of camping).
During my conversations with my fellow safari friends, we all discussed how much we love Uganda and the reasons why. The common answer was always that the people here are so great and friendly, in contrast to the more reserved and cold attitudes of people in western countries to strangers. People are constantly greeting each other here, with huge smiles on their faces and cheerful dispositions. Despite the perception that people in the west have everything, I think we can take away a lot from the people of Uganda and Africa about how to treat each other and live life. Sure, maybe we have a lot of stuff, but with so much stuff I feel we come more isolated from others as we become more consumed with protecting the things that we have rather than caring for each other. There seems to be so much more humanity in this part of the world in the way that people care for their family, friends, and even strangers.
The next day was our departure from Murchison Falls, which we were all sad to leave. Before heading back to Kampala, though, we went on a nature walk to the falls, where we go to see the full force of them up close. This was another highlight of the trip for me, with the power and might of nature surrounding us. Our ride back to Kampala involved more beautiful scenery, small catnaps, and of course the ubiquitous speed bumps.