Ugandan Road Trip Day Five and Six – Rhino’s and Shoebills!

After a lovely breakfast it was pack-up, leave Jinja and head east back to skirt round the outside of Kampala and head north east through the countryside of Uganda. Dead straight roads meant we made really good time. Passed a car that had just been written off as it had hit a cow, which was dead by the side of the road.  Thanks to some expert map reading and estimating of distances we managed to underestimate where we were by about 50kms.  Luckily there was a sign by the road that signalled the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary as we were hurtling along at 100kmh otherwise we would have been looking for it god knows where.  So we turned off and entered the sanctuary.  Booked in and collected our wellington boots ready for the morning. Jackpot – we had had an upgrade as nobody else was there – they had given us a whole house instead of a couple of bandas.

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Quite an upgrade – we had the place to ourselves!

Spent the evening lounging about watching some superb starlings and warthogs.  Went to bed early-ish as we had to be up at six to go on a shoebill hunt – an incredibly elusive bird.  Woke in the night as I could hear munching sounds outside my window – it transpired that it was two rhino’s !!

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Shoebill 1.

So up early, had breakfast and picked up our excellent ranger, Robert. About a 30 minute drive through the sanctuary and we arrived at the swamp.  The ranger couldn’t believe it – we literally got out the car and there, in the distance, was a shoebill.  We slowly got closer and managed to get some reasonable snaps – it seemed completely unbothered by us.

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Sunrise over the swamp.
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Shoebill 2.

Spotted some other birds including saddle billed stork, fish eagles, red headed weavers, white African flycatchers and open-billed storks.  After splashing about for ages we headed back to the car to get the canoe for the next part of the morning – a canoe through the swamp.  Drove to the place to get the canoe and we were met by several people who informed us that there was another shoebill about 150m away.  Through the swamp we walked to see yet another shoebill – this was turning into a good day.  Watched it for about 20 minutes and then it was into the canoe – it was beautiful gliding through the swamp watching African jacanas, kingfishers and other exotic birds. And then, lo and behold, another shoebill – 3 in the space of 2 hours !  Our ranger informed us that some people stay at the sanctuary for a week and never see 1.  At the end of the canoe trip it was back to the house.

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Canoeing across the swamp.

After lunch it was meet up with the ranger to see if we could find a rhino.  We only had to drive a kilometre and there were 3: mother, baby and male.  We got out and walked towards them being wary about how close we got – I was surprised we were out the car !!  It was magical watching them from about 50 metres. The male and female were squaring up to each other over feeding rights to land.  After about 20 minutes we set off to see if we could see any others. After about 30 minutes we came across another 3 and then finally another 2, making seven in total. It had been a truly fantastic day and we had been blessed with sightings of rare animals at close quarters.  To cap it all, after dinner, there was a huge electrical storm.

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Squaring up to each other.
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Squaring up to each other.

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