It is my last week in Uganda. 10 weeks have never passed so quickly. Although I am not yet ready to leave Uganda, Emily and I spent our final weekend in the best way possible - henna with our neighbor and a 3 day safari to Murchison Falls. Our neighbor, who had recently visited Tanzania, brought home a cone of henna so she could show us traditional Indian henna. I have never gotten henna before and couldn’t believe the intricacy of the design our neighbor gave Emily. It was absolutely beautiful.
On Friday afternoon, after arriving home from work, I stopped by my neighbor’s apartment to say hello and ended up sitting so she could do my henna. I had found a few designs online which I thought were pretty but not too extravagant. When I showed them to her, she told me “children could do those” and set to work finding a more appropriate (i.e. intricate and extravagant) design to base my own henna off of. She has been doing henna since she was 15 and can even draw it on herself as well as on other. It took her only about 30 minutes to complete my design. She had hoped to cover my palm and connect the henna on the other side of my arm but ran out of henna. The finished design was one of the most incredible things I’ve seen.
The following morning, Emily and I set off at 6:45 am to go across town to begin our safari journey. We were meeting another friend but would be traveling with 5 other strangers for the three days of the trip. The first day included driving west to Murchison Falls where we took a short hike to see the actual falls as well as Uhuru Falls. Uhuru Falls was created when the Nile River flooded and jumped the bank, creating a new waterfall next to Murchison Falls. The falls came into existence in 1962, the same year of Uganda’s independence. The name “Uhuru” is a celebration of that event.
After our hike in Murchison, we continued on to our camp. The following day we took a game drive through the northern part of Murchison National Park. Murchison is home to the “Big 5” animals - African lions, African elephants, buffalo, leopard, and white or black rhinoceros. Although we didn’t see any leopards, we were lucky enough to see the other four. We saw many giraffes, including a black giraffe, indicating that it was a very old male as male giraffes darken as they age.
We also saw a number of lion cubs with their mother during our drive.
That afternoon, we took a boat cruise on the Nile, observing hundreds of hippos lounging in the water.
The following day, we visited the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. Home to 15 white rhinos, Ziwa offers “trekking” for interested visitors to enter the rhinos’ habitat and see them up close. Guides stay with the rhinos twenty-four hours a day, observing them and ensuring that they’re happy and healthy. The two rhinos we saw were siblings - Laloyo and Justice. Their mother, Kori, had another baby in January 2014. When rhinos give birth, they push the older children out to care solely for the new rhino. While the older children are not out of the family, they cannot return until the other child is older. They will begin their own family at age 7 and a half for females or from 7 to 10 years old for males.
Laloyo and Justice were sleeping underneath a tree when we walked up. They didn’t seem relatively intimidating until you heard them either snore or move. Apparently rhinos are extremely cowardly creatures. Our guide told us that rhinos sleep all day until about 4 when they wake up to graze. They only wake up during the day when they’re afraid. When asked what frightens such massive beasts, our guide responded, “Antelopes or wind.” And he was right. Every time the wind blew, the rhinos would lift their massive heads and look around. He also told us another time of a journalist that came to take pictures, setting up a tripod for his camera in the field. The tripod frightened the rhino, so the rhino charged at the tripod. The rhino then was afraid when he got near the tripod and ran away. I really enjoyed learning about the cowardly nature of rhinos, particularly when they seem so frightening to people.