I woke before my alarm on the ninth morning of the Masai Mara and Gorillas tour with Nomad Adventure Tours. The bustling of the other campers around me getting out of their tents, taking them down, and attempting to speak quietly amongst themselves is actually a lot louder when you’re literally in the middle of nowhere. When I glanced at my iPhone to check the time I realized it was nearing 5am and just about time to get up and start moving for the day.
By now, Lisa and I were pros and getting the tent taken care of. We had a great system that we’d worked out between the both of us in the mornings. Where I generally would shower at night and not really have too much to do besides wash my face and brush my teeth – I would try to tackle taking the thin camping mattresses up to the truck, as well as bringing my own personal belongings. By the time I returned, Lisa generally had the tent down and was in the process of rolling it up.
After our usual breakfast was eaten and cleared up, each member of my Nomad Adventure Tours family made themselves comfortable on the truck. We were going to be heading to Queen Elizabeth National Park for a two-night stay. Not having done any prior research, besides learning that the park was known for it’s tree climbing lions, I was pretty excited to get to another national park and enjoy some game viewing and have plenty of opportunities to take heaps of pictures since it had been nearly a week since our visit to Hell’s Gate National Park and Lake Nakuru National Park. I spent the better part of the first half of the drive dozing off, listening to music and chatting with others on the truck.
However, once we got within an hour or so of Queen Elizabeth National Park, the ride to the national park became a nightmare. It was long. It was bloody hot. It was stupidly bumpy. It was the worst drive yet. It was so uncomfortable. Because it was so dusty, we couldn’t have our windows open. And because it was about a thousand degrees with the African sun beaming through the windows – sweat teemed out of every pore.
By the time we reached camp, we were dying for a little bit of shade, and perhaps a cool drink. Only to find that there was NO shade in the camping area – that our thick canvas tents would have to be put out in the sun – essentially meaning that they would soon turn into 2-man saunas.
Once settled into the camp – and learning that there was in fact, no wifi – Nyika and Noah let us know that they had prepared lunch for us – our standard lunch fare of sandwiches… although today they were spiced up with the option of guacamole. We were then told that we had to get ready for our game boat ride- this extra activity cost $20USD and was hyped up quite a bit.
Sandile drove us down to the docks where we boarded the Simba 2 – a two-level boat that would take us up and down the river. Our guide, a young female from the local area, went through the rules and started giving us a brief lesson in game viewing from a boat. As we sailed along the riverbank we captured photos of elephant, buffalo, crocodile, hippos, and more species of birds than I can name.
We also learned about the various communities that live within the park. Since they had been on the land prior to it becoming a national park, the UWA agreed to let them stay and even assist the communities by ensuring that tourists go through the villages as a part of their visit to the park. To me, it seemed very strange to have these little fishing villages randomly popped up along the riverbank – to have communities living so close to where wild and potentially dangerous animals call home. In that moment I felt uneasy as I watched a large bull elephant trudge down the hillside, awkwardly close to homes in the village, as he made his way towards the river. It just felt wrong.
In all honesty, after about an hour of going up and down the river I found myself getting bored. I got a perturbed feeling from knowing that humans were infringing on the animals territory. Since volunteering with ALERT, helping out in lion conservation efforts, I know how much of a negative impact humans can have by encroaching on animals natural habitats. I found myself almost relieved when the boat docked back where the river cruise had started. After the previous two days being so jam-packed with my Nomad Adventure Tours group going mountain gorilla trekking, visiting the Batwa tribe and then sponsoring a child at an orphanage, I was simply feeling the need to have some quiet time. After enjoying my share of dinner – a delicious shepherd’s pie – I made my way to the bar and enjoyed a drink with a few others on my tour, then decided to turn in for the night.
The next morning was another early one – we were up and on the truck at 6am to go for a game drive through the park. Sandile drove us through the park for what seemed like hours – and all we kept seeing were Ugandan kob – a breed of antelope.
We then started down a road that had a few houses on it. We had entered one of the villages we had seen the day before along the riverbank. Unlike other villages in Africa that tend to welcome tourists with happy smiles – these people were downright rude. We had stones thrown at the truck. Rude gestures were made. Some even spat in our direction after yelling at us. It was the most uncomfortable 20minute drive I’ve ever been on. Once we’d reached the river – and the heart of the fishing community’s work- we were told, by the park ranger who had accompanied us, that we were free to get off the truck and mingle with the locals. We all looked at him as if he were on drugs. Nobody moved.
“There is NO WAY in HELL that I am getting off the truck. They don’t want us here.” Someone piped up.
And that was it. We didn’t get off the truck. Unfortunately we had to make our way back on the same road through the village, so once again, for 20minutes we were made to feel severely uncomfortable and unwelcome. Not that I can blame the villagers for not wanting people to come and watch them go about their daily routine as if they were nothing more than the animals we viewed in the rest of the park. It just felt wrong.
It was about that time that I decided I really was not enjoying myself at Queen Elizabeth National Park and I even questioned why Nomad Adventure Tours would include it on the itinerary. Then I remembered the optional afternoon activity – chimpanzee trekking. I was personally not up for doing another big trek. It seemed like a lot of money for something that wasn’t guaranteed. There was a fairly decent sized group, however, that did decide to go on the trek. So after we had returned to camp after our morning game drive, ate our brunch consisting of popcorn, sausage, pasta, crepes and bananas; they set off for another animal encounter while myself, Lisa, John, Jess and Ralf made ourselves comfortable in the bar – chatting and watching National Geographic on the communal TV.
The hours passed as we lazed around – enjoying a quiet day amongst friends. Before we knew it was nearing dinnertime and the group still hadn’t come back. We joked about how maybe since Emilie and Lise were there that perhaps their truck had broken down – as it had en route to the Masai Mara, and coming back from the gorilla trek. As we settled in for vegetable soup and irish stew dinner without half of our group – we laughed that they must have bad vehicle juju. After dinner we found ourselves in the bar enjoying some cold ones – and finally – at nearly 8pm the others finally made it back to camp. Unfortunately they had not seen any chimps in the wild, but were excited with the fact that they’d heard them. Personally I was happy I didn’t pay the extra $120 just to hear chimp noises.
Lisa and I eventually turned in around 10pm – to the rondavel that she had upgraded to (a traditional round African house). We chatted like little girls at a slumber party until we finally fell asleep. Personally, I was simply looking forward to leaving Queen Elizabeth National Park and getting to experience a new adventure.
Start reading about my experience on the Masai Mara & Gorillas tour from the beginning! Click HERE for Day 1
Click HERE to read the next chapter of my adventure on my Masai Mara & Gorillas Tour with Nomad Adventure Tours.
**DISCLAIMER: While Nomad Adventure Tours asked me to partake in this tour and did provide me with a discounted tour price, all expressed thoughts, opinions and experiences remain my own.**
**If you would like more information about Nomad Adventure Tours and their products – contact me!**