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Murchison Falls – a Safari in Uganda with a Smile

by Olivia-Petra Coman

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Arriving in Uganda is a color shock. Landing in Entebbe meant staring at the red earth I had only encountered in Argentina and not willing to let go of that sight. Driving the 40+ minutes to Kampala made me realize that I wasn’t hallucinating, by any means, and that I was indeed in a very beautiful and diverse country. 

The following morning, after some more staring from my hotel terrace found in the Ntinda area and offering postcard sunset/sunrise views, I started to understand that I was adapting pretty fast to the hectic life of Uganda’s capital and that I felt no longer intimidated by the traffic jams. On the other hand, the fascination for the Marabou storks lingered, my first animal encounter on East African soil. So far so good.

The road out of Kampala and up north continued to be a reddish/green contrast, with some very scenic ascents and descents and a heat that was literally too much to handle. My offline map app stopped working, so my boyfriend and I had to resort to asking the locals. This was fun because they all spoke excellent English, gave us very good directions, and were extremely kind and friendly. It so goes that, in-between baboon sightings, asphalt roads turned into dirt roads and shrank in size. We had made a right turn at Purongo, anxiously waiting for our Uganda safari adventure to begin. The scenery was already dazzling!



© Marcel Bancila

‘There is a slight problem,’ we were welcomed with a smile while paying the entry tickets at Murchison Falls National Park.

Everybody paused.

‘The ferry isn’t working. So, in order to get to your accommodation, you must leave your car and proceed by boat. From there, you will have to walk probably 600 meters.’

Aaah, only that. This is the Ugandan fashion, and I’ve grown accustomed to it quite fast. I simply know that I needn’t fuss about it, that things will fall into place in the end.



© Marcel Bancila

I don’t think that we were ready for what followed. The animals in Murchison Falls National Park are nothing but shy. And there’s a whole lot of them to see! Ugandan kob, impala, waterbuck, the hartebeest, which you can only spot in Uganda, or the ever-watchful warthog – they all stick close to the road. Of course, the Marabou storks are still accompanying us and, after a turn, there’s our first animal of the famous Big 5 – an angry buffalo.



© Marcel Bancila

Puzzled, that’s how I feel, by the multitude and beauty of the animals I see. I got so caught up in observing them, that I didn’t have a chance to look around: the park is lovely! At times, you’ve got shady parts and then valleys follow as far as the eye can see, full of tall grass and sealed by a row of palm trees on the horizon line. Quite a romantic setting!

We both nod and we are then in awe when I hear Marcel scream ‘Look! A giraffe!’. I know that we are not supposed to get out of the car, but we do, only for a few seconds, to feel closer to this majestic creature!

Nature is wonderful, these moments fill you up with joy and we seldom realize how happy we get – these were my thoughts all the way to the mighty Nile. We left the car, paid for the boat and managed to cross in no time. A ranger was also heading to the other bank. His trained eyes could see the three hippos in the water in milliseconds. Humidity was stark, but we were smiling because we knew that we were witnessing a perfect ending to our day.

That night we had dinner three meters away from warthogs and slept in a tent while hearing a baby hippo delicately grazing.



© Marcel Bancila

We headed back in the morning and helped a very nice local get to the main road in Purongo. He told us about the Borassus trees originally from South Sudan and seemed terrified when we stopped to take pictures of another buffalo. It looked ready to charge, indeed. Animal watching in the bright morning light turned into extraordinary memories. Talking about Ugandan lifestyle completed the entire picture. We saw so many giraffes… one of them actually stood still, at the end of the trail, waiting for us to get closer and making us wonder if curiosity was instilled in our hearts as much as it was in its own.


Murchinson-Falls-Porongo- Uganda

© Marcel Bancila

As soon as we got out through the park gate, we noticed a gracious and colorful young woman carrying something on her head, an image that screamed ‘Africa’ to me. We stopped and asked her if we could give her a lift. She said she lived two houses away and smiled.

The dust of the main road seemed to wake us up and prepare us for the long drive ahead, south this time. Some sweet banana muffins in our packed breakfast bag made us linger, though, in the reality of the wilderness that was all around, not only framed by invisible natural reserve boundaries.      

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