My guide Hassan Mutebi took this picture. I'm standing on the equator marker between Kampala and Masaka. We stopped here on our way from Mabamba Swamp to Lake Mburo National Park. I used a similar shot to illustrate my editorial in the February 2008 issue.
Photo Editor Ernie Mastroianni did a great job of finding photos to accompany my article. Gray Crowned Crane, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Southern Red Bishop, Woodland Kingfisher, Papyrus Gonolek, Shoebill -- they're all in the magazine. What he didn't have room to include were the many hooved and furry critters I saw during my trip, like these zebras. I took this snapshot while standing with my head sticking out the top of a land cruiser at Lake Mburo National Park.
I write in my article that I awoke "comfortable in a luxury safari tent" at Lake Mburo. This is it. It's completely covered and raised off the ground, and it contains two single beds, a dressing area, toilet, and a pull-chain, straight-down shower. (An attendant brought the warm water.) Listening to Gray Crowned Cranes and other birds while lying in bed in the early morning was a high point of my trip.
Another high point was looking down into this valley, located between Mbarara and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. We had been driving for a while and stopped to stretch our legs. I remember I was looking down at the tea covering both sides of the valley when a vivid green bird materialized before my eyes. It was a small parrot, a lovebird, with a cherry-red face. Because it had been raining, I left my camera in the car, so there's no photo of the bird (Red-headed Lovebird, Agapornis pullarius), just of the spot where I saw it.
On birding trips in southeastern Arizona and Texas, I've had to stop my car for herds of cattle. In Uganda, we had to stop for olive baboons. These lollygaggers made us wait in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
The many elephants we saw in the park preferred to keep their distance. Only one paid much attention to us. An elephant the size of a mountain, with long white tusks, he strode toward our vehicle, stopped, and flared his ears and exhaled loudly while looking us straight in the eye. There was no mistaking his message: Go away.
The elephant in front of the Mweya Safari Lodge is a statue. We understood it to mean, Come on in. Bold Slender-billed and Yellow-backed Weavers steal sugar out of the bowls on the tables in the outdoor dining area on the far side of the building.
Keeping company with the hippos in this photo, taken from a boat traversing the Kazinga Channel, are a Gray-headed Gull, one Black-winged Stilt, a whole lot of Egyptian Geese, and a buffalo. When we set out on our cruise, the surface of the water was alive with hundred and hundreds of Bank Swallows darting every which way.
The list of mammals and reptiles I saw in Uganda is long: banded mongoose, lion, African elephant, Burchell's zebra, hippo, warthog, buffalo, bushbuck, Uganda kob, topi, Nile crocodile, and impalas like these. I'm still in awe of the experience. Just as one of the elemental joys of birdwatching is finding alive and wild a bird that existed previously only as a picture in a field guide, one of the profound pleasures of going on safari is discovering that you can actually still stand in the midst of scenes like this.
The list of primates is fun to recall, too: black and white colubus monkey, olive baboon, vervet monkey, red-tailed monkey, L'Hoest's monkey, mountain gorilla, and chimpanzees. This thoughtful guy, photographed at Kibale National Park hours before we raced back to Kampala to catch my flight home, gazed down at me placidly while one of his colleagues, up just as high, loosed a rain of fruit pits and chimp piss. --C.H.