Paraa-dise in Murchison Falls National Park
We spent a weekend in Murchison Falls National Park with tourists from Netherlands. Not as one of the wild animals, of course. But as happy humans, who stayed at Paraa Safari Lodge.
The rooms of the lodge are so expensive that some people would rather build a house than stay there for the night. However, to us (Nile Basin Safaris) and our clients, they are worth every penny.
As Phil Collins would say, with less regret, they represent another day in Paraa-dise.
It all started with a smooth ride to Masindi district, which is 177 km from Kampala.
As you turn off the smooth main road leading to the north, your ride will suddenly be roughened up by a gravelly road fetching up to the Murchison Falls National Park.
Immediately, upon entry in the park, we were assaulted by an airborne armada of Tsetse flies. They bit us hard as a punishment for not rolling up our windows.
As we approached Paraa Safari Lodge, we decided to take a lunch detour to an unpretentious restaurant called Red Chilli.
So as we walked in, the said rest of the lunch guests in restaurants looked up at us with smiles. Then they promptly got back to their meals.
The food was a delightful mix of international & continental. And I am afraid, some of our guests drank a little too much.
Later, we were back on the road and driving across the rolling wilderness of Murchison Falls National park while baboons, giraffes and the odd solitary wildebeest looked on.
To get to Paraa Safari Lodge, we had to get on a small barge that floats you across a small river as our car remained parked and protected on the port we had departed from.
During the river crossing waterbucks, Bushbucks are visually served up for tourists’ bucks as giraffes, warthogs, antelopes, buffaloes, Jackson’s Heart-beasts, Uganda Kobs, elephants and other animals in kaleidoscopic array are found on land.
There were numerous hippos which were bathing and sunning themselves with the abandon of someone in an outdoor Jacuzzi. We were told that they are vegetarians yet weigh at least a tonne each! One of us asked if the lions or other big cats disturb these massive creatures. “No, they will flatten a lion!,” the game ranger stated as images of a lion serving as a trampoline while the Hippo jumped up and down on top of it like some overeager wrestler came to mind. Chapatti-sized Lion anyone? Surely a vegetable diet gives our hippo friends more bounce to the ounce.
Incidentally, the Jackson’s heart-beast is a favorite of the lion. That’s because it has a minute-long memory span. So it can be running away from a lion one minute, the next its ‘chilling’ with the same lion after having forgotten that it’s on the lion’s menu. Thereafter, the lion pounces on it with a diner’s relish.
To be sure, this African antelope suffers from short-term memory loss and so forgets where it has been every five minutes.
This means it can be pursued by lions off some patch of land as it races unmolested to safety.
Five minutes later, the slate of its memory is wiped clean.
It thus returns to the same spot it almost got eaten at with the air of someone saying, ‘wow, I’ve never been here before…let’s see what it’s about.’
The lions strike again, this time the Hartebeest is lunch to lions which subsequently take naps while saying, “That Johnson Hartebeest sure is dumb and delicious.”
Anyway after checking into the Lodge, we were given the programs for game and boat rides. For the former, we could wait till morning in order to heighten the possibility of seeing lions. Since, we were informed, they are largely nocturnal.
But we were too eager to wait for dawn and thus got into our vehicle along with a hired game ranger and set off deeper into the park.
At Murchison Falls National Park, Lake Albert was a steadily serene presence in the backdrop.
As we merrily rode along, our guide told anyone who cared to listen that lions aren’t the kings of the jungle.
“That’s just myth…he was saying in conclusion.
But his voice trailed off as jaw soon dropped.
Right there before us sat two lions: male and female: husband and strife.
I mean, wife.
The male one looked so huge that you would have thought it was a pregnant buffalo… if it never looked like a lion!
It just sat there in the shade, sphinx-like as it looked into the sun-struck horizon. Occasionally, it would look sidelong at us.
In fact, I think we heard it say:
“I will just pretend that I haven’t seen those goggle-eyed tourists. But if one of them gets out of the car it will be a Shanghai Express to my stomach. Yeah, they’ll know why they call me the calm-before-the-storm king. I’m so bad that I eat the ‘Gr’ in my ‘growl’ for breakfast and lunch…that way I’m left with an ‘owl’ for all-night growls. But wait just a cub minute; is that a Ugandan with those American tourists over there? The dude that said lions weren’t kings of the jungle? Please God of the lion kings; let that dude get out of the car for a split-second…please, I’m as hungry as a vulture in a land with no carcasses.”
Quite a monologue, right?
Well, there was more…
As the male lion imagined us on a plate for supper, the lioness sprang up. Then she briefly defecated, and then sprinted to a halt near some kobs.
Thereafter, she crouched down, crept ever so gingerly forward. But five minutes into her creep, the kobs took off fast!
The lioness didn’t give chase because of the distance and speed of her would-be dinner.
As we cut through the park, we encountered a leopard holding its prey just as the game ranger had told us that seeing one would impossible.
“They are extremely shy,” he said with an air of finality. “I haven’t seen one in two months!”
And just as he said these words, one materialized right before our eyes.
As soon as it saw us looking in shock at it, it sprinted away while holding onto what seemed like a dead kob. We thus gave chase in our game ride Land Rover until in disappeared into a thicket and that was that.
It probably only emerged when we were long gone.
As we continued along our way, the game ranger pointed at a solitary bird on the branch. I can’t recall its name, but he told us that it is monogamous. And when its partner dies, it flies high into the sky then folds its wings before descending from the sky and plummeting to its death!
It seemed like a strange story since we have only heard of penguins killing themselves, not random birds.
Intriguing and sad all at once.
Later we drove to Pakwach town, which is nearby, for dinner and thereby missed the complimentary bottle of wine that comes with dinner at Paraa Safari Lodge in Murchison Falls National Park.
Returning and reaching Paraa Safari Lodge at the end of the day, we went straight to our rooms. And, besides being the lap of luxury, these rooms are purpose-built to give one a taste of nature.
Indeed, the closer your room is to the river which separates Paraa Lodge from the world, the more likely the wildlife is to wander into your room.
So you’d do well to shut your floor-length plate-glass windows. Otherwise you might wake up with a lion by your side, even if your name is not Johnson Hartebeest.
In the morning, we went down for breakfast at 6:00 am.
And what a spread it was!
A buffet table stretched around a ballroom-sized dining hall with every species of food you can think of from bacon and beans to caviar and crackers!
Okay, the latter two weren’t there but it felt like they belonged there….so royal was the meal.
Breakfast started at 6:00 am and ended at 10:00 am; that’s four hours of gorging oneself on the best cooked food in that part of Uganda. I must say, if that sumptuous breakfast was a game of Poker those four hours would represent Four Aces, and you can’t lose with such a hand.
After breakfast we then booked a ride on the river so we could catch sight of the Nile crocodiles and also journeyed as close as we could to the bottom of Murchison Falls.
Due to its sheer power, we couldn’t get so close. So we decided to drive towards the entrance of the game park and then detour to up an escarpment leading to the top of the Murchison Falls.
A game ranger ensured that we didn’t get so close to the edge since the power of the Murchison Falls has a seductive power which is so powerful in allure that you might be tempted to jump in and join the falls!
What an experience!
I must say, this trip made us appreciate our country and nature so much more that we feel the need to go back with other clients every so often just to share with them this beauty of Murchison Falls National Park.
Uganda is indeed the Pearl of Africa!