“You walked four hours looking for a bird? Why!? Why!? Why!?” That’s the usual reaction I get when I share my Shoebill trekking experience. Although I am no bird watcher, it feels good to be ahead of the pack on this one.
Shoebill trekking was one of the activities I opted to engage in at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. It’s an early morning activity that starts with a 6:00am briefing at the sanctuary. Driving at the stipulated speed limit, we took 20 minutes to arrive at the start point. Given our openness, we were combined with another group of happy trekkers. These guys were the real deal bird watchers.
Part 1: Armed with appropriate wear, we launched off for the first part of the trek. And because this elusive bird plays hard to get, we needed gumboots and a life jacket (these are provided by the sanctuary) to get us through the swampy ground. A slow walk punctuated by herds of cattle, sightings of sly foxes and sneaky charcoal burners filled up the void left by the elusive Shoebill.
We also spotted a couple of other birds whose names I cannot recall, but they were beautiful. And as if to shield us from the persistent drizzle, a visibly full arched rainbow accompanied us for part of the trek.
Part 2: The second part involved a gentle canoe ride through Lugogo swamp. As I mentioned earlier, this bird doesn’t like being seen. So, it sent a tiny kingfisher to accompany us for most of the ride and even bid us sweet farewell with its vibrant colours and delicate frame.
Part 3: Standing high on an isolated rock, this was our last attempt to find the Shoebill. And with no luck once more, we headed back to the sanctuary and had a sumptuous breakfast. Nothing like a Ugandan pineapple to cheer you up; sweet as sweetness.