Murchison Falls National Park

We crossed the upper Nile at dawn. We had had an early start to the morning, wanting to get to the game drive on the savannah plains across the river early enough to improve the odds of animal spotting. Because there was no power in the tent, I didn’t try to give Sam his medications, including his ADHD medication, given it would be too hard to organise in the dark. My headlight torch was on the long list of lost items from the trip.

The diesel-powered car ferry chugged across the smooth waters below the falls. On the other side of the river the landscape was dramatically different. The dense forest disappeared and soft waist high grasses covered the undulating hills, stippled with thornbush, acacia and palms.

The wildlife was jumping everywhere, and so was Sam. We both jumped a bit more when we got bitten by tsetse flies, which hurt but fortunately don’t carry sleeping sickness, a fatal disease any more; well at least in this part of Africa.

‘I’ve been bitten by a titty fly!’

‘That’s tsetse, not titty, Sam.’

Sam also wouldn’t stop talking; Harry Potter, girls, impersonations of animals and different races, Malawi children, Harry Potter, girls. I hoped he was not going to annoy our fellow travellers, but they took his noise and chaos in their stride; we continued to be blessed with such impressive groups of people on the tours we’ve joined.

Giraffes, elephants, buffalo, water buck, jackals, oribis, Ugandan kob, hartebeest, hippos, olive baboons, patas monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, mongoose; the place was pumping.

Charlie, a young English woman, currently employed in an orphanage in Kampala, had worked in a wild animal park in the UK for six years and was helping the guide decipher animal tracks on the dirt road. She was christened Tracker Charlie by the folk in the back seat.

There are over seven hundred species of birds in Murchison, and it seemed like we saw most of them. Tiny scarlet red bishops and carmine bee eaters flicked in the thorn bush, and spotted thick-knees hid in the thickets, palm-nut vultures soared above, a giant ground hornbill, his satin black plumage glistening in the sun, strutted his stuff across the road in front of the bus.

As we exited the park to go back again on the ferry, we climbed out of the bus and I noticed Sam patted Tracker Charlie on the bum as she got out.

‘Sam, don’t do that!’

He had a sheepish smile.

‘Sorry.’

Tracker Charlie shrugged and smiled as she walked onto the ferry.

‘You go over to Charlie and apologise appropriately.’

He walked over and said sorry, giving her a hug. As he was hugging her, he sneaked a kiss on her cheek.

‘Sam!’

He had a sheepish smile again. Charlie laughed. ‘Don’t worry, that’s the highlight of the day!’