BY Chris Mugasha
Viewing Kyambura Gorge from above, one may think there is nothing more than shrubs in a valley. But brave the slope down and your eyes will be treated to nature’s hospitality.
Kyambura Gorge is to the north east of Queen Elizabeth National Park and is 100 metres deep. The width varies at different points.
The sounds of different wild animals and birds, in the trees and in the water, sprinkle the air with rare music. On top of being a home to chimpanzees, there are other primates to be found here, including red-tailed monkey, black-and-white colobus and vervet monkeys. One can also see hippos and large hogs. River Kyambura snakes its way through the bottom of the valley that is framed by different species of trees over 100 years old.
Some trees’ roots have grown so big and elaborate that they appear like gnarled wooden boats, while others lie on the ground, having started their decay process right where they fell years ago.
The dry season left much of Queen Elizabeth National Park parched, but this beautiful gorge is the much needed oasis, both for animals seeking refreshment, and for humans, seeking a sight for weary eyes. Water flows from rocks and makes the gorge green. Rocks that seem to be in various states of tumbling stand out, probably where they rolled to a stop thousands of years ago when the volcano threw them up in a violent shake.Kyambura Gorge is sometimes called the Valley of Apes.
Writer with UWA guides
Tourists who fear to traverse the gorge view it from the top. Braver souls hike down via well beaten tracks, with or without the help of a tour guide. Bird watchers would love it here. In this paradise, winged beauties fleet from tree to tree, from water surface to hidden nest in their daily errands.
“There are a lot of different eco-systems in this gorge which need to be conserved,” says Nelson Guma, the Queen Elizabeth national park area conservation manager.
The crested crane dances to your tune
BY Matthias Mugisha
Uganda is a birding paradise, attracting thousands of tourists every year. Each week, we will feature a different bird in this section. Today we look at the The Grey Crowned Crane
The grey crowned crane is Uganda’s national bird, falsely called the crested crane. It has a majestic walk and is usually calm and friendly. It attracted then governor of Uganda, Sir Frederick Jackson, in 1893 to seek permission to make it an emblem for the Uganda protectorate by embellishing it on the Union Jack.
The reply from Great Britain to his request read thus: “His Majesty (George V) has approved of the golden crested crane being likewise adopted as the badge to be inserted on the flags flown by the governor of Uganda and all vessels belonging to the protectorate government.” Its crown has the three colours also found on the national flag — Black, Yellow and Red.
There are 16 different species of cranes in the world. Four are in Africa, including our national bird. The grey crowned crane is endangered. It is losing its habitat and people use it for witchcraft. Crowned cranes eat grass, seeds, insects, fish, and small reptiles. Crowned cranes are monogamous and pair for life. They have elaborate courtship performances, dancing and making love-calls to attract partners.
Did you know that some cultures rely on the cranes to tell the time of the day? Like cocks, they make calls at specific times. Cranes have the ability to dance when people clap and sing.
They breed in swamps but unfortunately, their breeding grounds are diminishing due to rampant wetlands reclamation in Uganda. Nature Uganda estimates that the numbers of grey crowned cranes in Uganda have reduced from more than 70,000 in the 1970s to less than 10,000 in 2011. If drastic steps to protect them are not taken, the crowned cranes might