East Africa Safari – Episode 2 – an Elephant and an incident
On our third day in Uganda, we proceeded to Queen Elizabeth National Park to continue our safari. We entered the park in the late afternoon and began to see many of the iconic animals of the African plains. Mike and Katherine (our friends, neighbors and traveling companions) had never seen many of these animals in the wild so it was wonderful to share their introduction to the safari experience.
In particular, Katherine has a special affection for elephants so it was wonderful to be able to share her reaction to seeing our first elephant of the trip. As African elephant sightings go, this one was not noteworthy – it was a single male and quite distant from the road we were on. That being said, Katherine was ecstatic and her enthusiasm excited us all. I thought I’d share a photo of that first elephant here so that maybe you can imagine seeing this majestic animal walking free for the first time.
We continued through the park enjoying the lovely afternoon/evening until we came upon a few safari vehicles stopped by the side of the road. We were told that there was a pride of lions about 100 yards off the road relaxing in the high grass. We could actually see a tail of one of the lions as it wagged above the grass. After waiting a while for the lions to stir, we continued on our way but returned a short while later to see if the lions would start their evening prowls. We watched patiently with numerous other safari vehicles for over an hour as the sun started going down but there was no movement. Then, all of a sudden, one of the vehicles decided to drive off the road and proceed directly at the lions who, of course, were roused from their sleep. To our astonishment, the vehicle then began to actually chase the lions around, rampaging through the grass at about 20 mph and circling to pursue the lions as they tried to avoid being run over.
After about 5 minutes the vehicle finally returned to the road and rejoined the other observers. As I said, we (and our guide) were incredulous at this behavior and we began to discuss what we could do to try and prevent this type of issue for the future. We finally decided to talk to the Uganda Wildlife Authority at one of the park entrances. They were very interested in the report (and my photos of the event) and they took down my contact information. A few days later I received a very nice email from the senior UWA officer informing us that the driver had been fined and that the incident would be used to deter other guides from harassing the animals. We were extremely impressed that the park officials had taken quick action and that they had taken the trouble to let us know that they took this situation seriously.
As dusk fell, we continued to hope to get a glimpse of the pride beginning their evening hunt but they may have been spooked by the encounter and never appeared. We were a little disappointed but we were treated to this scene as we departed – not a bad way to end a nice day……