Living close or inside the national park is an exciting idea because of the many possibilities, challenges and opportunity it might offer to you depending on what you will be doing there. Its, been 18 months living in Ishasha Area of QENP just 5minutes away from the katokye gate of Ishasha. The love of nature and work brought me here managing Ishasha Jungle Lodge. After all these many months i have never got used to the environment or the pleasant sometimes not very pleasant surprises that come my way every day.
The morning wake up call, an opera performance by the various bird species is an amazing experience that any avid birder or nature lover will always treasure. However, after a few months of the everyday same time performance by these beauties you realize what an annoying experience it has become. You only pray the loudest singers and most disorganised performers will do so from another tree not the one right behind, in front or anywhere near your cottage. That being said, some mornings and evenings are better than others especially when the weavers are on a road trip for a few weeks.
This performance quiets down by 9am but not the weavers, they are more actively performing a few hrs on, the butterflies and all sorts of insects are out and about from flower to flower, the many different types lizards and geckos are looking for sunlight and warm on the backs of big trees pathways and buildings. Its amazing to watch all these wildlife life activity going on, hatchlings are learning to fly, weavers are still busy building the new nest to attract a mate and another unhappy mate is tearing it down because its not happy with it. By mid day all the beautiful sun birds are out and others like the woodland kingfishers, Ross Turaco, the great blue Turaco and watching how graceful and attractive they are make you forget that they can be so loud and annoying in the morning.
You are enjoying all these dazzling creatures minding their own business and you hear the sound of trees breaking, still wondering what could be going on and move your gaze to the direction of the sound and its troupe of baboons ,quick and naughty and heading straight to the vegetable garden. They are determined to get whatever they can get their dirty hands on. The worst kind of pest i have ever had to deal with. The scary bit about these pests, they are not afraid of women, they will not move an ich when a woman tries to chase them away but when a man goes after them, they run so first and will disappear in the near by bushes and tall grass that leaves. I have learnt that they are also afraid of snakes so i hang plastic snakes around the vegetable garden to scare them away but they have the determination of a snail, they will find away to get that fresh cucumber, passion fruits or whatever it is they want. Mid day and the monitor lizards are out around the river banks and others are crawling fast to the chicken and duck house. Its a collective effort of every staff members around to chase these creatures back to the river or whoever they came from. Now we have learnt poultry farming is not a good option for anyone living at the border line of a national park , at least not in Ishasha area. You will spend more time guarding your birds than doing anything else night and day.
Most part of the day will go well until around 5 or 6 pm. Trumpets down by the river and its the elephants, they have come for a drink sometimes accompanied by a few savannah buffalos. This means you cannot go down to the river especially with the buffaloes around. Thank goodness the tourism policemen are always alert and here to control their movements less they cross to the village and destroy all the crops of the farmers.
While all nature is preparing to go to sleep , the nocturnal are about to wake up, leopards, Genet cats, Buffaloes ,lions, hippos and Roan Antelopes are the most common nocturnal in my area and they are a part of us we accept them and i think they accept us. The leopard likes to prowl around freely around the camp from 10pm and finally rests infront of one of the rooms and goes off into hiding by 5:30am according to my observations. The rest of the nocturnal we see from their foot marks that they have been around and before we would know they are around when there is chaos in the chicken house. Keeping or living with Pets is a hard job here. I moved here with my three beautiful cats, Dino, Bruno and Estelle. However every night was a nightmare for me and for them, they can never prowl freely within the property. The big cats always pounce on them. Now they are smarter, they stay indoors at night.
It is almost difficult to decide whether the area is more busy and active during the day or at night. Activities go on for both human beings and animals throughout the day and night. Night time is worse for the local farmer, he has to watch over his garden from make shift house on his farm and put afire and prepare to bang tins and scream to chase the wild animals away, but they must not kill these animals, its a serious situation for the farmer and his family because farming is his source of livelihood. Harvest time is the most challenging as the animals can smell grain from three miles away and will travel through the night to get some.
Mosquitoes are very common here especially in the evening time from 530 onwards, its best to always wear long sleeves, trousers and have repellent on. Luckily Malaria is not common here but typhoid is, so you do well to always drink bottled water or treated water. Tse Tse flies follow the Buffaloes and baboons wherever they go.
Ishasha Area of QENP is the most popular area south of QENP mainly for the famous tree climbing lions that are common and top attraction. Many travellers find them very fascinating. Game drive/wildlife drive in search for other animals is another activity that make this area very popular. Elephants, Buffalos, leopards, hippos and hyenas are very common wildlife that can be easily spotted in this area.
Apart from the tree climbing lions and the savannah game drive, this area is the perfect stop for connection between Queen Elizabeth National Park and Bwindi impenetrable national park which is about 2hrs away from Ishasha area and the same for those from Gorillas to north of QENP for boat cruise on the Kazinga channel.
There is so much more that this area offers to any traveller who is not in a hurry for the next major activity such as gorilla tracking or boatcruise on th Kazinga Channel in the North QENP.
Birding: Any avid birder will find this area a paradise of sorts given the many different species found within this area. Best time to watch them between 6:30-9:00am and from 12.00-3pm and evening hrs from 5pm. The most interesting and most amazing birds for me have been the Great blue Turacos, Ross Turacos, the African horn bill.
Nature walks: River Ntungwa and Kameme Village walk which is roughly 2 hrs to go and return depending on your pace is a great way of discovering the area and its people and way of life. You will walk through typical homesteads, village farms, visit the local school and interact with teachers and pupils.
Bush breakfast and bush lunches is another activity you can enjoy when you visit this area. Most lodges around here do offer bush breakfast and bush lunch experience for an extra small fee but the experience is priceless. Having your first delicious meal of the day down at the river in a beautiful spot covered under the riparian forests , sounds of nature is an unforgettable experience.
You can enjoy Bush camping activity in this area and this is done inside the park area under the supervision of UWA rangers to provide security. Also most lodges outside the park area will offer camping with own tent, others offer tents and charge fullboard and also accept you to cook your own food.
Sundowner Game drive ; is one of my most exciting experience in this area of QENP. Spectacular display of lights as the sun sets over the savannah plains, relax with your favourite drinks and nibbles.
Campfire, after a long day in the park, end your day at the campfire with cool drink, watch as baboons and monkeys groom and nest for the night on tall trees across the river or if you are lucky, you can drink with the elephants and other wild animals as they also come to cool off.
Cultural encounter is another amazing experience you can enjoy while in Ishasha Area of QENP. Lake Edward cultural performers will entertain and educate you about their life and how they have learned to live in harmony with wildlife around them.
Ishasha Area offers a range accommodation options for every budget. From luxury, Midrange and budget, you will not fail to find accommodation facilities to meet your needs or budget.
When you visist this area, take time to enjoy all these activities and experience. It will be something you will remember for a long time.