Dreaming of Africa
It’s hot outside and inside… I am drinking the WHE brew, a Belgrade beer made upon a Neolithic Turdas-Vinca culture recipe (a great brew, my only complaint: bottles are girly-small!) and dreaming of a place where the heat is moderate, beer snake-cold and birds innumerable…
Let’s say, where the average annual maximum varies from 22 to 24 degrees Celsius / 72 to 75 Fahrenheit and where some 700+ bird species – 24 of them endemic – are waiting for an intrepid birder… Answer to the riddle? Directly under the Equator: southwestern Uganda!
While the country as a whole has almost 1100 species (it is possible to nail up to 665 of them in three weeks), the area to focus on is the southwest (like in the US). What is 665 birds? I am 50 years old and 665 is ten species longer than my life listl! (Phoebe Snetsinger had that experience while birding East Africa for the first time and seeing as many birds as she did in the US for the previous 50 years.)
Queen Elizabeth National Park has more than 600 species of birds, while the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest has more than 400. Also, Bwindi with all 24 Albertine Rift endemics found in Uganda and Mgahinga NP with 13 of them are the most accessible sites for endemics such as Handsome Francolin, Rwenzori Turaco, Rwenzori Batis, Dusky and Shelley’s Crimsonwings, and the highly localised African Green Broadbill (above – photo by Nik Borrow). In “Where to Watch Birds in Africa”, Nigel Wheatley says: “In terms of its size, Uganda is the richest country for birds in Africa.”
Add to this picture local cultures of Batwa, Bakiga and Bafumbira ethnic groups; then mammals like Mountain Gorillas (recent DNA tests indicate that Bwindi and Mgahinga population may consist of two different Mountain Gorilla subspecies – both Critically Endangered), Chimpanzees and Golden Monkeys, both Forest and Savanna Elephants, both Red and Savanna Buffalos, etc.; also the crime rate lower than in developed countries, stable politics, reasonable prices and landscapes as green as can be.
Bird book of choice is the “Birds of East Africa” by Terry Stevenson and John Fanshawe, a Helm Field Guide covering Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi – also the first complete guide to cover the 1388 species found in this region. Try to lay your fingers on a copy of “Where to watch birds in Uganda” by Jonathan Rossouw and Marco Sacchi (this one I still miss). A travel guide for birders should be the “Bradt Guide to Uganda” written by Philip Briggs, who is a birder himself!
Also, find some practical and down to earth travel advices for the Mountain “Gorilla Highlands” region (southern Uganda and northern Rwanda) in this pdf brochure (40 Mb).
I sure hope to get there. And would love to meet you there. In case you find this blog a bit short, don’t blame me: my tiny bottle of WHE is already empty.
Cover photo: volcanoes in the Mgahinga Gorilla National park seen from the Mutanda Lake. Photo by Marcus Westberg / Gorilla Highlands