About Me

My photo

I've been a Canberran since moving here from Adelaide on the first day of 1980. I now live in suburban Duffy with my partner Louise Maher, ABC 666 radio and on-line journalist. Among my early memories is following Sleepy Lizards (Shinglebacks) around the paddocks north of Adelaide, guarded by the faithful bull terrier. I have always been passionate about the natural world, trying to understand how it works, how the nature of Australia came to be, and sharing those understandings. My especial passions are birds, orchids and mammals. For much of my life I have been a full-time naturalist, running bush tours, writing books etc, doing consultancies, presenting a regular radio slot on local ABC, chairing a government environment advisory committee and running adult education classes. Recently I have eased back somewhat, but am still writing, teaching, doing some radio work and running overseas tours - as part of my fascination with our Gondwanan origins I've been running tours to South America for the past decade. I was awarded the Australian Plants Society Award in 2001 and the Australian Natural History Medallion in 2006, both for services to education and conservation. In January 2018 I was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for 'service to conservation and the environment'.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Lake Mburo National Park

Lake Mburo National Park was the last park I visited in a very memorable trip to Uganda (mostly birding, though by no means just that) a couple of years back. It wasn't the most dramatic place I saw, but I have good memories of it, along with a tiny frisson when I think of the pre-dawn walk on my own to breakfast, wondering how far the lions had moved on!

It is in the far south-west of Uganda, in the savannah country, focussed on big Lake Mburo, part of an extended wetland system.
The accommodation was relatively simple, in comfortable permanent tents on wooden platforms, perhaps my favourite of the trip - I always sleep best in a tent!
My tent; note the shower system to the left. On request it is filled with warm water; the flow is regulated from
inside by pulling chains to turn it on and off. Very sophisticated I thought!

My verandah; a most pleasant place to sit, read, write and contemplate.
The view from the verandah. over the low woodland to the distant lake in front of the hills.
Uganda's parks suffered terribly in the Amin years, with most big mammals being shot by troops for food and entertainment. They are recovering very well now though, and we were warned to be wary of buffaloes wandering the unfenced camp. Seeking some reassurance, if I'm truthful, I asked Alex, my 'house attendant', "When I go to breakfast in the dark tomorrow [a 300 metre walk on paths through the scrub] is it dangerous?". "No, it is not dangerous." "Are there no buffaloes then?" "Yes, there is buffaloes." There seemed nowhere for the conversation to go after that...

We had been told that neighbours had shot out the lions from Mburo, but were pleased to hear distant roaring on the first evening.Then at about 4am I heard a party of lions coughing and growling nearby; the tent suddenly felt very flimsy. It was not a totally relaxed walk to the nice open-air dining room a scant couple of hours later.
Camp dining room.
A highlight was a boat ride on the lake, where Finfoot was a high priority for me. Bingo, as soon as we arrived!
African Finfoot Podica senegalensis, early morning Lake Mburo.
This is an intriguing species whose only relatives seem to be the Masked Finfoot of south-east Asia
and the South American Sungrebe.
African Fish-Eagle Haliaeetus vocifer Lake Mburo.
Their pulsing whistling duets are one of the most evocative sounds of Africa.

Malachite Kingfisher Alcedo cristata; no matter how often I see this little jewel - and it is widespread across Africa - it is never enough.
Parks staff washing vehicles in the lake - and yes, there are crocodiles here!

A walk in such areas is not the same as a walk in Australia, where nothing is likely to stand on or gore you with malice aforethought. As we ventured into the edge of a swampy area (putting our faith solidly in the hands of our Ugandan guide) a distant group of buffalo and we viewed each other suspiciously, but we each kept our respectful distances.
Swampy habitat, Lake Mburo.
Saddle-billed Stork Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis, a magnificent big hunter of fish and frogs, and a close relative of the Australian and Asian Black-necked Stork.
Greater Blue-eared Starling Lamprotornis chalybaeus; the magnificent glossy starlings of Africa constantly delight me.
In southern Australia the only starlings are two highly destructive exotic species,
which can't provide much satisfaction here.
Mburo's mammals are another source of great pleasure, with zebra and antelopes prominent.
Plains Zebra Equus quagga, common in Lake Mburo. A small group accompanied us into camp on the first night, perhaps nervous of lions and glad of our temporary protection. The extinct Quagga and the Plains Zebra are now considered the same species, and as the Quagga was named first its name takes precedence.
Impala Aepyceros melampus, truly a most elegant antelope.
Waterbuck male Kobus ellipsiprymnus; another typical Lake Mburo resident.
A powerful antelope, rarely found far from water.
Lake Mburo is a highly recommended part of your visit to Uganda, a country famously described as 'the pearl of Africa' by Sir Winston Churchill. Certainly recommended by me anyway...
Sunset, Lake Mburo National Park.


Flabmeister said...

A friend who did a walking safari (note 'safari' is Kiswahili for 'journey')in Serengeti was told that lions think tents are rocks as long as they can't hear any noise from inside. Given that adult lions can weigh up to 250kg and like sleeping on rocks I am unsure if that was much assurance!

Ian Fraser said...

Anyone who tried to suggest that lions don't have a sense of smell would be incapable of reassuring me of anything at all...