‘He is called General Curly’
‘Oh yes, why is that?’
‘He is the most aggressive elephant here’
Here, is Kidepo National Park in the North East of Uganda. The General was blocking the road eating a bush. We drove round the corner and there he was facing us down. Our guide made us stop and wait for the elderly military gentleman to calm down, no-one likes being interrupted during their acacia breakfast do they? Once General C. was fully occupied again we reversed away, very quietly and very slowly. The second time in two days we had to stop for big animals.
The road up from Kitgum to the park is passable in the dry season, but according to one of our fellow volunteers who had done it, truly terrifying in the rains; it was easy to believe her. We had arrived the day before, congratulating ourselves on an easy journey as we swept through the park. Wondering what we might see, we had to stop. Why?
A lioness was sitting on the road, unprepared; our photos were poor but the experience wonderful. She seemed to be searching for something.
An Italian priest we met that night, saw the lioness later, she would have been rounding up her cub he said. He had two builders from Pesaro with him, brought over to Uganda to work for his mission, they sat and watched the mother and cub together for a long time, apparently.
Kidepo is spectacular, an enormous valley surrounded by the mountain ridges of an old volcano. We stayed in the Uganda Wildlife Authority bandas, which are fine with good views and the obligatory wart hog families. But, dotted around the peaks are some splendid campsites (you hire an armed guard to keep out the wildlife if you stay there) and from one of these you can leave the car and see the sun go down.
We watched huge herds of water buffalo move in search of water beneath us and listened to our inner David Attenborough describe the scene in breathless fashion.
This really was the Africa of the television screens we thought
as some of our party drank sundowners (warm Gin and Mango juice) and we all ate canapés (stale potato crisps) what could be better?
There is a very expensive Safari Lodge option: bar and restaurant and swimming pool and external bubble baths with views of a watering hole; way out of our league. Tempting? No; warm cocktails and old snacks every time.
Like Lake Mburo you can (with guide) walk here, there are zebra
(a different type to Mburo, stockier, slightly different markings and less inquisitive),
and the usual Water Buck, Water Buffalo, Jackson’s Hartebeest etc.
The main pleasure is just walking near them.
Somewhere so big means spotting wildlife is not easy, unless you almost drive into them. It didn’t matter, Kidepo is so beautiful we have to return; under canvas next time. Perhaps then we can get to the bottom of why such a large and aggressive elephant is called Curly.