Sunday, October 14, 2012


I'd be lying to tell you that there weren't some serious perks to missionary life. And having my parents here was an excellent reason to venture out to one of the most striking gifts God has given Uganda to offer the world: a safari on the African savannah.

Safaris differ based on region, and ours took us to Queen Elizabeth National Park along the southwestern edge of Uganda, home of the Rwenzori Mountains and Lakes Albert, George, and Edward. It's also the location of President Museveni's tribe, the Myankole (Me-on-koh-lay), so it's notably wealthier--more permanent structures as opposed to mud huts; more crops; more livestock, like the abundant longhorn cattle; and nicer roads for the president's travel.

We were all glad to see a more holistic view of Uganda outside Kampala's urban crush and incredible traffic. The landscape was breathtaking at times, dotted with lakes, villages, banana-tree covered valleys, and hills of perfectly-manicured tea plantations where the air has this intoxicating herbal smell. Except for John, it was the first time for each of us to go into the southern hemisphere. I wonder, do the toilets flush clockwise or counterclockwise on the equator? Shoulda checked.

I'll let the photos and captions fill in the rest. The entire trip was such a unique opportunity to worship an inventive Creator who even displayed His sense of humor (see warthog below), and just enjoy a priceless time together.
We rose at six to be breakfasted and out by seven in our rockin' safari vehicle, which smelled a lot like my dad's old Chevy Scottsdale pickup, probably thanks to the dust. We still missed most of the big cats. They sleep during the warmth of the day to save their energy for hunting (which still isn't all that warm in Uganda; it was around eighty degrees). The open top made it fun to ride standing up, so we could try to spot more animals.


Queenie has over 8,000 antelope. This one's called a waterbuck, which the lions don't like; the males put off a strong stench when they're frightened that taints their meat.

Remember that Veggie Tales' song, "Everybody's Got a Water Buffalo"? Well, we certainly saw a lot of them. This one was actually what our Ugandan guide called one of the "losers". When some males get old and too agressive, they get kicked out of the herd. This guy looked a little rough around the edges. One speared water buffalo reportedly stalked its hunters, who left in a vehicle, and killed four out of five of them several hours later when he found them. Sounds like Bob and Larry don't want to mess with these guys.

I obviously got the wrong end of the elephants here. But the highlight of the safari for me was the baby that I didn't get on camera. It was about seven months old and slick with water from the lake. He was running to keep up, and it was a-dor-a-ble.

The kids were thrilled to see this three-foot rock monitor lizard from their My First Book of Southern African Snakes and Reptiles book chomping some eggs by the side of the road. It looked massive in real life.

Side note/drastic tangent: our guard did catch our first snake at our house two nights ago, which may or may not have been poisonous (it's best to assume the worst here). That's when the stories started coming from our guards about the reptiles they've caught in the village, like the four-meter python as big as his thigh that needed two spears and a panga (Ugandan machete), or the Nile crocodile that leapt over the side of their boat that they had to kill in the water. Ever have that feeling that someone's life experiences are so vastly different from yours? Like, I killed a cockroach one time...

This is, and I quote, the most dangerous animal in Queen Elizabeth national park. If you get between a hippo and water, they can feel threatened and actually crush you. A friend of a friend had a lung collapsed and a few ribs and a pelvis crushed by a hippo's bite. They're vegetarians that eat at night, so they stay cool in the water during they day. They also have a three-inch skin made largely of fat, so if they're injured, they need to stay out of the water until healed. One of our guards who lived by Queen Elizabeth mentioned that hippos always used to eat their vegetable gardens at night. Don't you wish those pesky hippos would stop munching your carrots?

Uh-huh. That's an antelope crossing.

These graceful birds are Uganda's national animal, the crested crane.
This nest is made by some birds that would fit in my palm, but are extremely constructive: It weighs about 200 lbs., and houses many other species of birds.

I realize it's hard to see, but for the record--here's one of the three lions we saw.

Here's a herd of warthogs. The guide called them "very stupid". Their short memories mean that when they hear lions out hunting, they come out of their burrows. ...Might have to agree with the guide on that one.

African fish eagles.

This infant vervet monkey was lunching by the side of the road. You can see his family hanging out in the tree below. They're not as big as the ones that live next door here in Kampala, but there's a lot more of them. From what I've heard, never let them see food, because what's yours is theirs.

This is one of many salt lakes created by volcanic craters throughout Uganda. Its Myankole name means "hot argument." The rectangles are man-made salt flats, created by locals to harvest salt from the natural minerals, in an agreement following a long dispute with the park. The park realized that allowing the villages within its borders to use salt for income decreased poaching.

And--here's the lodge, which was modest but strikingly beautiful, especially in its views of the savannah.

The pool and its glazed-tile-over-concrete waterslide were about as fun for the kids as the safari. Check out the vista below: The pool was positioned on the edge of the savannah, which we could see for miles. My dad saw a troop of elephants there, and we could watch the safari vehicles going out for the night game drive with their spotlights to watch the lions.

I love that I was able to catch this moment of C. with my mom.

As my oldest quoted regarding this photo, "History has so many wonderful moments."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Did you know that the chance to see some pictures of animals from your safari can be used to motivate kids to get ready for bed quicker??! It's true!

-Matt H