Friday, June 13, 2014

The Albertine Rift

There are few places in Africa with a more evocative name than Bwindi Impenetrable forest. 
Africa’s, and in fact one of the worlds best known and largest geological features is the Great Rift Valley, starting in the Sinai peninsula and stretching over several African countries. Geologically it’s a landscape in turmoil as the Somali plate (or the horn of Africa) is tearing away from the Continental or Nubian plate leaving a host of hot springs, volcanoes and indeed some of the most impressive mountain ranges like the Ruwenzoris in its wake. Although imperceptible in our eyes its indeed a turbulent geological time as the shelves twist and contort in its separation from one another.

Such a large geological feature also limits movements of some species of animals and often species or subspecies are confined to either the eastern or western side of the rift valley.  The rift valley is also not just linear and around lake Victoria it splits to form the eastern and Western or Albertine rift.  The Albertine Rift in itself is a hub for endemism and a host of birds and other creatures are encountered nowhere else on the planet. It is also some of the most accessible areas to encounter Africa’s Great Apes as well as a host of other primates both diurnal and nocturnal.

A large male Chimpanzee descends a feeding tree in Kibale Forest. 
Some cool nocturnal photography techniques photographing this tree frog, Leptopelis kivuensis, Not sure of the ID yet. 
It is here in the Western or Albertine Rift that we went exploring. Although I guided this safari for Premier Safaris it was as much a visit that allowed me to familiarize myself with this wonderful country. Our first stop being the 79 500 hectare Kibale forest. Kibale is one of Africa's best locations to view the first Chimpanzees. Premier Safaris arranged a special night walk in the forest, looking for the nocturnal primates like Potto, and. Although we only had fleeing glimpses of an unidentified Galago, other life forms kept us enthralled.  

A Forest Cicada, newly emerged. 
Success at finding Chimps the next day as well as a host of other primates including red Tailed Monkey, Grey Cheeked Mangabey. Other that can be found in the forest includes L'Hoests monkey, Black and White as well as Red Colobus. 
Red Tailed Monkey youngster peering at us from the folage in from of the Lodge. 
Unbeknown to many Uganda has some spectacular Savannah Parks such as the 179 800 hectare Queen Elizabeth National Park. Again Premier Safaris arranged an entire morning with the resident Lion researcher, Dr Lugwig Siefert from the Uganda Carnivore Programme to accompany us where we found more than five different prides or individuals! And a real privilege to gain some insights from someone who has spent almost four decades in the country involved in the conservation of its carnivores and other wildlife. View more of their work here

Boat ride on the Kazinga Channel, which is basically the bottom of the Albertine Rift and links lake Georgo with Lake Edward. 

Unusual coloring of  Hippo on lake Edward, probably partial albinism.
Then it was off to Bwindi for one of Africa's highlights. Tracking the endangered Mountain Gorillas. Their numbers have grown over the past years. A few years ago only around 250 were remaining but due to the tight monitoring and conservation their numbers stand at around 880 individuals with Bwindi harboring nearly half of that.  In addition it is also home to 23 of the 24 Albertine Rift endemic species of birds as well as wild Chimpanzees and a host of other forest creatures. 
Youngster Feeding. 

A Contemplative female Gorilla in the undergrowth. 

Mountain Gorilla Portrait

 The possibilities are endless and although we saw so much we hardly scratched the surface of what occurs in the Park.

We are already discussing future dates for the next safari to Uganda an if anyone is interested in joining our special photographic safari  to Uganda for next year contact me here.