Uganda is a beautiful country - lush and green (which means it gets its fair share of rain). Uganda has a variety of wildlife and birdlife that is unmatched by almost any other country, with the big draw being the mountain gorilla. But there are lots of other things to see along the way. We planned a 12-day tour which covered most of the south-western part of Uganda. For Uganda, we decided to use a tour company, who provided a car and driver for our 12-day itinerary. We decided to not self-drive in Uganda to give us some time to adjust to what being on the road in Africa might be like. It turned out to be a good decision!
Our first stop on our tour of Uganda was to visit the Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranch in Nakasongola. It is about 176km (100 miles) north of Entebbe / Kampala and takes about 2 hours to drive, which makes it a great stopping point on the way to Murchison Falls National Park.
Uganda at one time had a healthy population of both black and white rhinos, but sadly by 1983, they became extinct in the country due to various factors, primarily the civil war and poaching, as well as urbanisation.
In 2005, Rhino Fund Uganda reintroduced the highly endangered rhinos in Uganda at the 7,000-hectare Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. Initially, six breeding rhinos were brought in from the US and Kenya. The sanctuary is currently home to 33 herbivores of the southern white rhinoceros family and the lone breeding centre in Uganda. The plan is one day to take some of the herd at Ziwa and reintroduce rhinos into the National Parks of Uganda.
As well as offering rhino tracking the sanctuary offers a shoebill trek and canoe ride, bird watching and night walk.
They recommend arriving between 8 and 10 in the morning or between 4 and 6 in the afternoon as this is when the temperatures are a bit cooler and the rhinos are more likely to be active. When we arrived it was about 11 in the morning, so we had some concerns all the rhinos would be hiding in the bush for shade.
Once we arrived at the park we headed for the main office to pay our fees (which were $50 per person for adults). Here we met our guide. The guide travels with you in your vehicle to some point in the sanctuary where you all jump out and begin the trekking.
The landscape is mainly flat, with grasses, thickets of bush and some small trees. Walking is easy, but there are no defined trails, so you do need to watch out for holes and tufty divots of grass that you might trip over.
Whilst the sanctuary is for the rhinos, there are reminders that this was once farmland, the most obvious of which are the cows. Rhinos and cows get on fine, and the cows do provide a service by keeping the grass low and therefore reducing the number of flies, especially the horrible, biting tsetse flies.
Tracking the rhinos is not so hard as they are constantly being guarded 24/7 by armed rangers, who protect these magnificent beasts from poachers. When they are eventually re-introduced into the wild I wonder what will happen then.
By the time we found our first rhinos, it was getting very hot so they had taken coved under some bushes. But it was still great to see these huge animals at such a close range. These rhinos have become accustomed to people and the white rhino, despite their size are largely gentle creatures, so we were quite safe approaching them on foot.
After a bit more walking we arrived at a larger area of pasture land with a clump of trees in the middle. Another group of rhinos had chosen to hang out here for a bit. To our delight, a couple of the rhinos, despite the heat of the day were up and moving around. A great opportunity to see the rhinos move around foraging. The white rhinos are larger than the black rhinos (which are not black – in the same way, that white rhinos are not white). They are also grazers, feeding off the grass, so their neck are shorted (but more powerful in order to lift their large heads) and they have flatter lips to feed on shorted grass. Black rhinos are more temperamental (so more likely to come after you) and have longer necks and pointier lips. They feed of bushes and trees, as well as grass.
This was our first outing in Uganda and was truly amazing. Being able to get up and personal with these incredible beasts was an unforgettable experience.
Planning your visit to Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
|Telephone:||T: + 256 774 347 729|
|Hours:||08H00 to 10H00 or 16H00 to 18H00 (but it is available all day)|
Adults: Park entry $20 & Rhino tracking $30
Children: Park entry $15 & Rhino tracking $20