Friday morning we were picked up at the UCU gate and headed up to Murchinson Falls for a weekend safari. About halfway to Murchinson, we stopped at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary and walked through the bush to see the rhinos.
There are maybe 7 rhinos in Uganda, and we saw two of them. We had to sign a waiver essentially saying that if we were attacked by rhinos the Sanctuary wouldn't be held responsible. We were told to listen to the guides, and if a rhino started charging we needed to run to the nearest tree and climb it, or hide behind a really big tree. The rhinos were just lazing about though, so they weren't too threatening. There were a few times that I was a little nervous though. It's kind of scary to be near a huge beast with a horn and no fence between us.
There are guards that keep track of where the rhinos are at all times, and they just follow them around, so after the guard called this one's name a few times, it was kind enough to stand up for us so we could see a little better.
After the Rhinos, we stopped for lunch, and then continued the drive to Murchinson Falls National Park. Once we entered the park, it took about 2 hours to get to our campsite. There were warthogs that roamed around the campsite. One stole Drew's backpack and started to run off, but he chased it down. Dean wanted to get a photo, but I guess he was a little nervous. I don't know how well that tent would hold up against the warthog's horns.
We pitched our tents when we arrived, ate dinner, and went to bed since we were leaving at 6:30 the next morning.
After our vans were loaded with our snacks for the safari, we drove a few minutes to a ferry, and crossed the Nile so we could go on our game drive. We drove over this hill, and there were giraffes on both sides of the road. It was beautiful. The sun was still rising, and there was mist on the hills, and it was just an awesome scene.
Giraffes are just beautiful, and when they run, it looks like they are going in slow motion. We saw a lot of giraffes on our game drives just grazing and going about their day.
We saw elephants. They are so majestic. The babies are adorable.
Saturday afternoon we went on a boat cruise along the channel, and we saw so many hippos, along with other animals. At one point there were hippos, water buffalo, elephants, crested cranes (the Ugandan national bird), crocodiles, and other birds all in one spot. Amazing.
The boat ride was sweet, and we got to ride on the top of the boat for a bit, and it was just beautiful and relaxing.
The boat cruise ended at a waterfall, and that was just amazing. We got off the boat and hiked to the top of the falls. It was kind of a magical time. There was a rainbow perfectly spaced above the waterfall, and the rocks we hiked over were all shimmery like glitter. Everything seemed perfect, with a little rain, the waterfall, seeing all the animals, and the lovely weather. And then Saturday night was an amazing lightening storm that turned into a huge thunderstorm. Loved it.
Sunday we left at the same time but had a shorter game drive because we needed to catch the 10 a.m. ferry back. Our driver got a phone call, and we suddenly turned around and started driving really fast, because apparently some animal had been spotted, but we weren't sure what. Turns out it was a lion, and I took a video of it walking. Wow and wow.
Our drivers were sweet. There is a $150 fine for driving off the path, and the day before he had driven off the path and drove us right next to another group of lions. They did a great job of pointing out animals and telling us little facts they knew.
Watching the sun rise over the Nile was a sweet moment. The lyrics from the Snow Patrol song Chocolate popped into my head. "This could be the very moment I'm aware I'm alive. All these places feel like home."
I don't know exactly how 'at home' I feel here or in the savanna, bouncing around the van with animals everywhere, but I definitely felt alive. It was just a relaxing weekend, and I'm so thankful that I got to experience it (thanks Mom and Dad!).
I've got to do a lot of sweet things this semester, like rafting down the Nile, seeing giraffes and elephants and lions in the African savanna, and just traveling all around this beautiful country. Having 7 months of summer has been pretty awesome, although I am looking forward to winter. It's going to be SO cold though.
9 more days, 2 more papers, and a lot of packing to do, then home. Crazy!