My husband, my daughter and I write this “open letter of thanks” to Jon Blanc and Geoffrey Mugambwa of Kabiza Wilderness Safaris, for an absolutely marvellous 4-day safari over Christmas which absolutely met, and exceeded, our expectations after almost a year in planning!
For the third time in two years, our family has had the thrilling experience of a safari to Murchison Falls with Kabiza Wilderness Safari tours.
The planning was outstanding in every respect, and the plans were carried out flawlessly! Jon Blanc, in the planning of these four days many months beforehand, and Geoffrey Mugambwa, in his constant care of us throughout the safari, really did everything possible to make this one of the most memorable experiences of our lives! I had written to Jon beforehand, about what we hoped to experience, and his planning and the trip itself were highly responsive. The best use was made of every moment of the trip, with every possible need anticipated and attended to. The cost of the flights, the cost and difficulty of arrangements for my handicapped daughter’s care while we were away – all was worthwhile even had we travelled to Africa for purposes of the safari alone. At the same time, given how busy wedding events in Kampala kept us (kwanjula on 22nd, civil wedding on 29th, and numerous related events etc.) we really benefited in body, mind and soul, from our time in the Ugandan wilderness!
Accommodations at Chobe and Parra Lodges were quiet and lovely, clean and restful and comfortable given our very busy two-week schedule in Africa and at home before and after our trip, and exquisitely in keeping with the surrounding natural beauty of Murchison Falls National Park – each overlooking the Nile River with spectacular views. Beds were comfortable, bedding and bathrooms very clean, rooms very exceptionally attractive and well-kept. Food at the both lodges, and at the Masindi Hotel on the way back to Kampala, was also absolutely first-rate. Employees of Chobe and Parra Lodges were outstandingly pleasant, welcoming and accommodating. It would have been easy to have spent another night or two in the “luxury tents” at Chobe (on the upper level to the left of the main building as one approaches the latter) where we could hear the rapids and hippos all night long and also have fresh air. In this regard we thank Kabiza for its recommendations and organization. Unfortunately, our short trip to Africa did not allow this additional time! Our 24-year-old daughter felt very safe and content on her own in her tent, next to ours – although I had expected I might need to share with her! Nature walk as sunset approached, with the Ranger George, was lovely and informative. Coming from cold wintry Canada it was also an exceptional experience to relax at the pool and on the dining terrace so close to, and with such spectacular views of, the Nile River. Accommodations were similarly pleasant at Parra, where Kabiza had thoughtfully booked two adjacent rooms at the far end on the second story of the row extending to the left as you enter the main building. We could still see the river from the balconies, and it was very quiet. Kabiza’s recommendation that we not bother with air conditioning, in favour of ceiling fans, was a good one: It was comfortable sleeping under the ceiling fans in the quiet rooms. The food in both lodges was astonishingly superb, for such small lodges in such remote locations! There was absolutely nothing more one could have desired, whether in the natural and unspoiled beauty of the location, atmosphere/ambiance, comfort, food, services.
Kabiza’s recommendation that we use the drive from Chobe to Paara as a “game drive” was also an excellent one. It was a thrilling experience to drive for four hours, through such stunning landscape, seeing a multitude of animals very close to us (monkeys, the inevitable baboons, more giraffes than could be counted, cape buffalo, Uganda Kob, Jackson Heartbeast, wart hogs, jackal, countless beautiful birds) and variety of landscapes at every turn, and meeting only I think about two other vehicles – apart from which we saw no one until quite close to Parra! Geoffrey is of course an outstanding safari guide as well as driver, and gave us a wealth of information about the animals, the vegetation and the geography. Rain and thunderstorms kept us indoors that evening but Parra is a pleasant place to relax and talk about one’s ongoing adventure! Christmas Day – from 5:00 am to 8:00 pm – was a day to remember for sure. We had spectacular game drives in the morning and late afternoon/early evening, driving down to and around the delta area. Obviously it was quite something, for us, to be able to see the famous Victoria and Albert branches of the Nile as they meet at the top of Lake Albert and with the hills in the background across the water. Even more exciting was the sight of two lions, resting on the grass near the river, close to one elephant (with others across the trail) and deer (Jackson Heartbeast) also quite close to the lions – quite a scene! On the two drives on Christmas Day, we were joined by Ranger Sarah, who was extremely informative and very helpful in supporting Geoffrey as a guide. She was able to assist in locating the wildlife we only dreamed of seeing, and she gave so much information about the behaviour of the animals, and about the vegetation. We felt privileged to have been able to have experienced both sunrise, and sunset with the moon coming up, in this stunning environment. Our trip up the Nile to the base of Murchison Falls during the afternoon of Christmas Day, was also an unforgettable experience, and an opportunity to see so much more wildlife (beautiful water birds incluidng “cliff-dwellers,” hippos, crocs, monkeys, elephants, warthogs)! The “African Queen” was very clean and comfortable, and the staff very helpful. Boxing Day’s drive to Murchison Falls, and our time there, was equally memorable. There were so many different spectacular views of the Falls, and we were sorry to leave. Geoffrey made the best of the long drive home, too, taking us through the forested area of Budongo I believe. He was kind enough to lend his “sim” card to my daughter, so that she might copy photos he had taken with his own camera including numerous photos of the three of us – for which we are particularly grateful since we had purchased new equipment the day before travelling to Africa and we had a hard time figuring out how to use it properly! He had thoughtfully taken some wonderful pictures of all the highlights of the safari, including of the three of us. It is obvious that he knows and loves the natural beauty of his own country!
We felt that the cost was very reasonable, for such individual planning and attention, for such a full and rich itinerary, and for the lovely accommodations. We are glad that we had the opportunity to have had an individual safari, for we were able to maximize viewing opportunities – and there’s so much to see!
We know, realistically, that this may well have been our only opportunity to visit Africa and if that turns out to be the case, we are certainly lucky that we were able to have this experience in Uganda, and that our son and daughter-in-law had told us about Kabiza! The Kabiza website also certainly appropriately engendered well-placed confidence and left us so well-informed about all aspects of Uganda that we were really as well-prepared as any North Americans or Europeans could have been. We do hope that circumstances might permit our return in the not too distant future, and that we might be able to be accompanied by other family and friends. If such a trip may be again possible, we will certainly be in touch with Kabiza again, with a view to planning, once again, such a rewarding experience individually tailored to our situation and interests – but a longer safari, hopefully.
I should add, that our son and (now) daughter-in-law were very happy with their more modestly priced safari two years ago, and that our son, his friend and his mother were similarly delighted with their safari in December 2012 prior to our trip. Thus, as noted, ours was the third wonderful safari planned and carried out by Kabiza.
From cold and wintry (but pleasant) Napanee, Ontario, Canada – rather missing the Ugandan sun – and with thanks again, to Jon Blanc and Geoffrey Mugambwa of Kabiza Wilderness Safaris for such a life-altering experience in beautiful Murchison Falls National Park!