I’ve been to some of the most beautiful places on Earth.
But I made my home base for my trip to Africa near Kampala, Uganda, because it’s by far the most incredible landscape I’ve ever seen.
It’s the heart of Africa, and it’s unique because it’s where the dense, Western forest meets the dry savannah. West are the mountain forests and east are the volcanic mountains… and just a bit south and east is the Serengeti.
In fact, the whole ecosystem is the western part of the Great Rift Valley, and Uganda is right on the edge of that.
The former Miss Uganda has been my guide throughout my trip to Africa. She’s an amazing person and a star wherever she goes here.
You can take a drive and see it. I even climbed up to the headwaters of the Nile, which I’ll show you photos of soon. From there, you can see the Nile below, and the great savannah and all the different ecosystems coming together.
When Winston Churchill saw Uganda, he called it the “Pearl of Africa.” And I can see why.
You might think of Uganda as the country that has gone through a difficult history of dictators and civil war.
But Uganda has been recovering since then, and now it’s stable. It’s a democracy, and they are very welcoming of visitors. Although, it does take a bit of time to get things done when you’re here. They move a little more slowly than we do in the West.
Luckily, I have some help.
My guide is a former Miss Uganda, and she’s a real star around here. Everyone knows her, and she knows exactly what to do and how to get places. And she has access to people I might not have.
I’ve been privileged to see an impressive country. I’ve found a wonderful variety of life and landscape here.
It’s one of the only locations in the world you can see monkeys, baboons, chimps, and gorillas all in one place. I’ve also seen giraffes, white rhinos – which are now extinct in the wild – hippos, water buffalos, crocodiles, elephants, warthogs… the only animal I haven’t seen yet is a lion.
And you don’t have to go far from Kampala to reach the headwaters of the Nile river, a body of water called Lake Albert. You’ve probably heard of Lake Victoria, but a little north and west of that huge lake is Lake Albert. The beginning of the Victoria Nile.
And I swam in it.
I took a cruise to Lake Albert and swam near the spot where the lake turns into the Nile River and heads toward Murchison Falls National Park and on toward Egypt.
Have you heard of Murchison Falls? It may be the most powerful waterfall on Earth, because the entire Victorian Nile (also called the White Nile) squeezes through this little slot on its way toward the Mediterranean.
I took a ride up to the falls, which I’ll be writing to you about soon, but the park was a white rhino sanctuary. It’s the last place white rhinos were seen in the wild. They were poached out of existence.
The horns on the rhino are worth more than gold on the black market, and poachers would cut off the horns and leave the animals to bleed to death. Now there are none left in the wild.
There’s the Big Boss rhino… a LOT bigger than I expected!
This kind of thing is happening everywhere I go in Africa. The wild animals are losing their habitat, because everything is becoming a mono-culture. So preserving what’s left has become very important.
That’s why, since the new Ugandan government was established, they created the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, which my guide tells me the locals call the Ziwa Ranch. The U.S. Forest Service even donated money to help the ranch get started.
They’ve brought in rhinos from Kenya, South Africa, and even the U.S. They’re breeding them so they can put white rhinos back into their natural habitat. But it’s going to take about 30 years before they have enough of a population.
I took a tour of Ziwa Ranch and got a look at the big boss rhino – up close.
We’re lucky to have an animal sanctuary near my clinic in South Florida that has rhinos, but they’re not as immense as these guys were.
Poachers used to cut the horns off these majestic animals and leave them dying on the ground. The horns are worth more than gold on the black market.
The rhinos roam freely at the ranch, which is dry savannah, laced with swamps.
The land is also full of Euphorbia candelabrum trees.
You have to see these if you get a chance. They grow to be about 40 feet tall, and look like cactuses at the top. But they are extremely poisonous. Just one drop of sap will give you a vicious blister.
The park also has a 10- or 12-foot electric fence surrounding the entire 30 square miles. That sounds big, but there is only room for 40 or so white rhinos and 10 black rhinos. So Uganda will have to donate more land to the project if they want to continue preserving and increasing the population.
Another animal population that’s confined to a small area is the chimpanzee.
I went on a chimp trek after my rhino excursion, and it was the single most amazing thing I’ve done so far. And I’ll tell you about it next time!