While in South Africa earlier in March, I wrote a brief post about the wonderful accommodations at &Beyond’s Ngala Tented Camp, a luxury camp on the western edge of Kruger National Park and right on the Timbavati River.
But we were so busy tracking animals and eating amazing food that I didn’t get a chance to post a summary of our overall experience there.
Ngala is extremely rich with carnivores. We saw lions and leopards every day we were there, as well as jackals, a pack of hyenas — technically a “cackle,” as our guides informed us — and wild dogs at rest and on the hunt. You can watch all these animals and more on Ujuzi’s YouTube channel:
Our group had three guides and three trackers. The guide and tracker I went on my game drives with were Barney and Earnest. They were both Shangaan South Africans fluent in Tsonga and English. Here’s Barney explaining to us the importance of termites and termite mounds to the local ecology.
Our schedule at Ngala was a little different from that at Kirkman’s Kamp. We woke up to room-service coffee and a light biscuit at 5 a.m., then headed out on the trail at 5:30 a.m. just as the sun was peeking over the horizon and the wildlife were beginning to wake up. This is a great time to spot wildlife, since predators are quite active in the early morning hours.
Habibu Muhereza was born in the Bushenyi district of Uganda, which borders Queen Elizabeth National Park. After working as a teacher, he started his conservation career as a Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) ranger and interpretive tourist guide. This work gave him the opportunity to get to know all the parks in Uganda. Impressed with his excellent work and dedication, the UWA appointed him as its head guide for Queen Elizabeth National Park, where he managed wildlife and educated his local community about living alongside the many important species in the park.
Habibu has completed the Uganda Safari Guide Association tourist and guiding course, as well as guiding and birding courses in Queen Elizabeth, Kibale Forest and Bwindi Forest National Parks. He consistently gets rave reviews from travelers, such as this one from a safari-goer in 2011:
“Habibu Muhereza was the best guide Iʹve ever had on any safari, ever — and this was my fifth trip to the African continent! There arenʹt enough superlatives — he was exceptional!!!!”
Since his childhood, Edward Kabagyo has had an avid interest in the animals of Uganda. For the last 15 years, Edward has been involved in wildlife and conservation within Uganda. Edward started his conservation career by caring for orphaned or injured animals, specializing in mammals and reptiles.
Working in direct contact with a huge variety of animal species, he has gathered wealth of knowledge on animal behavior. He is able to tell safari goers about the social structure of animal groups, reproductive behavior, hunting strategies, and myriad other interesting animal facts.
A member of the Munyoro tribe, Edward was born in the Hoima District in Western Uganda. He is married with three children.
“But above all was our superb guide and driver, Edward K., who enriched our experiences beyond beyond the abilities of a mortal. For example, on our first full day in [Murchison Falls National Park], we came across a group of other vehicles who had just seen a lion, and who were all parked together waiting for the lion to reappear. Edward, instead of staying with them, moved elsewhere, and within moments the lion emerged from the reeds and came right up to our vehicle, as through the two of them (Edward and the lion) had pre-arranged it. Every day, Edward accomplished similar feats. His knowledge of the beasts and the birds, the fauna and topography, is truly phenomenal, as is his ability to spot targets of interest from unimaginable distances.”
— Gary Barringer, 2013
Ujuzi is excited to be working with longtime safari guide Graham Johansson in South Africa. Graham is an avid wildlife photographer and loves to help others capture the best visual records of their safari experience. He’ll be guiding the Cape Town segment of Ujuzi’s South Africa safari in March 2015.
Sulaiman “Sula” Iga spent his early years growing up in Queen Elizabeth National Park, where both his parents worked for the Uganda Wildlife Authority. It came as no surprise when Sula decided to follow in his parents footsteps to become a wildlife expert, earning a diploma in tourism and safari tours before working for a research organization studying the flora and fauna of Queen Elizabeth National Park. He has been a guide for the past six years.
An avid birder, Sula is very passionate and knowledgeable about the many bird species found in Uganda. In his spare time, Sula loves to read and watch wildlife documentaries, comparing the wildlife of Uganda with other countries. He is married and has two children.
“Sula is an incredible man [with an] unfailing concern for our safety and comfort, and a great knowledge of his country’s geography, history, culture and of course wildlife. He found lions for us on both our game drives in Ishasha when no trackers had found any for several days!”
—Cheryl, January 2013
Jennifer Johnson of Wisconsin has been on safaris before, but her trip to Tanzania with Ujuzi stands out as the best. “Every day something happened that you thought couldn’t be topped. And then the next day, something happened that topped it.”
Johnson went on her Ujuzi safari in November with a group from Henry Vilas Zoo, Madison, Wis. “This trip was about a 1,000 times better” than a previous safari she had gone on with a different provider, Johnson says. “We saw twice the animals. The wildlife was more abundant, and we were closer to it.”
She credits Ujuzi’s planning and expert guides – Modi Magesa, Chris Magori, and Shadrack Didah – with making the trip such a success. “Our guides were fantastic, very easy to talk to, and very knowledgeable. They were very safe and very educated about all the animals,” she says. The guides’ familiarity with wildlife enabled them to anticipate good viewing opportunities. For example, Johnson’s guide led her group to watch a pride of lions successfully hunting a zebra, then bringing out their cubs to eat it.
Johnson also got close-up views of a leopard, a rhino, many elephants and elephant calves, and migrating wildebeests. One park she especially enjoyed was Lake Manyara, a lush green forest and waterway where hippos, baboons, flamingos, and other birds were plentiful. “If anyone’s a birder, they’re going to want to go to Lake Manyara,” she says. “I don’t even know how many species of birds we saw there.”
Another highlight of the trip included a night drive where she saw serval cats, honey badgers, bat-eared foxes, and baby hyenas.
The safari experience continued at the lodges and camps where the zoo group stayed. Johnson especially enjoyed Tarangire River Camp, which is perched on the banks of an ephemeral riverbed in north-central Tanzania. “There were elephants in the riverbed digging for water, so you could go outside and look over the bank and watch them” at lunch or before the sun went down, she says. At night as Johnson fell asleep, she could hear elephants roaming about and lions roaring in the distance. “When you’re sleeping and you can hear the animals outside, it’s having an experience twenty-four–seven.”
Her group also enjoyed a presentation by the African People & Wildlife Fund about “living walls” – fences created from living native trees and acacia thorns. Maasai people build these fences around their livestock areas to protect them from predator attacks. Before the living walls were in place, carnivores attacked Maasai livestock in the Tarangire area about 50 times a year, and communities killed 6 or 7 lions a year to protect their livestock. Where living walls are being used, human killings of lions, cheetahs and hyenas have dropped to zero.
Johnson enjoyed the safari so much that she’s already planning to return to Tanzania in 2016. “I’ve never been on a trip before where I loved something so much that I wanted to go back to the same place again,” she says. Her next trip is also a joint venture of Ujuzi and Henry Vilas Zoo and will include a visit to Rwanda, where her group will track mountain gorillas.
Clara Premsingh is one of the first people that many Ujuzi travelers meet on arrival in Tanzania. She greets them at the airport, briefs them on their upcoming safaris, and answers questions about Tanzanian culture. Travelers are impressed by her warmth, welcoming nature, and courtesy. Clara is fluent in English and Swahili, and also enjoys singing, traveling and playing guitar.
Clara was born in Moshi, Tanzania. Her father’s family is from the Singh (“lion”) ethnic group, and her mother’s family is from the Chagga tribe. She is the youngest of three daughters. After graduating from secondary school, Clara managed a children’s home and attended the College of Tourism in Moshi. In 2012, she earned a certificate in tour operations in reservations, hotel management, and marketing.
Stephan “Stephano” Kilevo was born in Arusha, Tanzania, in 1960. He is from the indigenous Wa-Arusha ethnic and linguistic group. After completing his primary and secondary education, Stephan underwent training as a park ranger under the Ngorongoro Conservation Authority, where he was responsible for enforcing regulations, patrolling for poachers, emergency response, firefighting, and guided walks and other informational services for visitors. His passion for wildlife and the environment led to him becoming a professional safari guide in 1994.
Stephan is fluent in English, Swahili and Maasai. His hobbies include listening to music, and playing and watching soccer and volleyball. He is married and has four sons and one daughter.
Emmanuel “Imma” Nassari was born in 1984 along the slopes of Mt. Meru in Tanzania. He is a Maasai and is married with one daughter.
Imma’s love of wildlife and nature came from grazing his father’s cattle in the wild when he was a boy. He attended primary and secondary school before enrolling at the Mount Meru College of Tourism, where he received an advanced certificate in tourism and guiding in 2003. In 2004, he enrolled in Italian, French and computer courses.
Imma has been working as a professional safari guide since 2006. He is fluent in English, Swahili, Italian, French and Maasai. In his free time, Imma enjoys traveling, watching movies and playing basketball.
Male Asumani is one of our guides in Uganda. He grew up in Mukono village on the outskirts of Kampala and is married with six children. Guiding is his second career; he previously worked for the Ugandan government as a presidential driver. In 1995, he decided to follow his love of wildlife and became a guide after attending courses and receiving certificates in guiding and birding. He has 31 years of experience in driving, and 17 of these have been as a safari guide.
Male is cool, calm and collected. His knowledge of Uganda, his warmth and his ability to deal with all situations make him a wonderful guide to have on a safari.
We had a wonderful experience in Uganda. Of course, the gorillas were the highlight but we also loved Semliki for the chimps and the ferry ride at Queen Elizabeth. Male was exceptional, special, impressive, and honest. We thought he was a very good driver-guide, and his many years of experience definitely showed during our trip.