One animal had escaped our view during the game drives in Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda.

The Lion.

Of course, this is not a zoo, so there are no guarantees of what one will see when you go on a game drive; it’s an expansive wild place.

But, it’s a numbers game, the more game drives, the higher the chances of seeing animals. It’s one of the reasons I like to stay longer in the park.

The sun was coming up as we crossed the Nile River. We picked up the park ranger on the other side and set off to find lions.

The park ranger hopped into our van.

“Hello everyone, my name is Maggie. I will be your guide today in the park,” she said with energy and a broad smile.

Our diver, Hasan, leaned over and whispered to me, “She’s a good ranger.”

“Welcome aboard,” we all replied.

“We have one main goal today, Maggie,” I said, “to find lions, everything else is a bonus.”

“Then let us go,” said Maggie.

Our van darted over the red dirt road as it headed deeper into the park.

This outing was our third day of game drives, and we had yet to see a lion. I was aware of the University of Nebraska Sig Ep students’ desires to see them and was determined to do everything possible so they got the chance.

The morning was cloudy, which created beautiful light to take photos. We headed to a location where I had spotted lions in the past, but I kept seeing animals and scenes of incredible images.

It was an ongoing struggle; do we stop and take a quick photo, or charge ahead?

A pair of hornbills sat perched on top of a dead palm tree along the road. I had seen them before, but never so close together.

We stopped the van to take a moment to watch and listen. The birds talked back and forth to each other. The first call came from the female, and then the male would answer. This same call pattern kept repeating.

Hasan turned to me and asked, “Do you know what they are saying?”

“I don’t,” I replied.

Hasan said with a smile; “The female is asking, do you love me? And the male replies, so much!”

We continued down the road. The savanna was active with animals. It was morning, combined with cloud cover; this extended a period of cooler temperatures.

We saw a jackal, which looks like a coyote. There were warthogs, milling around antelope and Rothschild giraffes were everywhere. Murchison National Park is considered one of the best places in the world to see giraffes with a population of 1,200.

I kept urging Hasan to continue driving until we came to an endless stream of Ugandan Kob.

“Wow,” the students said out loud. A steady stream of Ugandan Kob meandered the savannah as far as the eye could see until they disappeared over the hill. They were moving to new pastures.

The Ugandan Kob is beautiful, so much that it is featured on the symbol for the county, along with the crowned crane.

But my intuition told me we should keep going.

After a few more minutes, we came to a location where a couple of tourists vans had pulled off the side of the road.

They were watching lions.

Maggie, our park ranger, turned to me, smiled, and said, “here are your lions.”

We not only had our lions, but the pride was in the middle of eating a fresh kill from the night before. Rare opportunities to witness nature unfold in real-time.

I climbed out the window and onto the roof of the tourist van to get a better view.

Most of the adult lions had already eaten their fill as the younger members of the pride chewed on the leftovers.

The male had a cut around his entire waist.

Maggie explained; “He was caught in a poachers snare, which is an ongoing problem for the park. The snare was probably meant for a different animal species; poachers don’t eat lions.”

We parked there for 20 minutes and watched the lions eat and interact with each other. Happy with a full stomach, they had a playful moment with each other.

“Do you want to go see where Idi Amin’s favorite safari lodge once was,” asked Maggie.

After seeing the lions, this sounded like an excellent bonus.

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Dean Jacobs of Fremont is a world traveler.


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