Wildlife Watching, All You Need To Know
Wildlife watching, the number and variety of large animals on view out in the open in the Uganda National Parks are amazing. To be in the middle of a Ugandan landscape teeming with wildlife is an unforgettable experience.
But to fully appreciate what you see on safari, you need to know where and when to go Wildlife watching. The more you learn, the more fulfilling your safari will be; and the more you will want to safeguard the survival of African wildlife for generations to come.
What you need to know:
- Herbivores spend most of their time eating and digesting, and carnivores spend most of their time sleeping, so these are the activities you will most often see on a game drive during Wildlife watching.
- Those who take some time to watch the animals are more likely to see interesting behavior than those who spare only a passing glance. We are not suggesting stopping and just waiting for something interesting to happen although, a day- or night-long vigil, for instance at a waterhole, can be the ultimate safari experience.
- Watching a bunch of antelopes or buffaloes chewing the cud can quickly become boring. But if they are moving around and interacting, the chances are good that something interesting is going on or likely to happen. That is the time to stop, look, and listen.
- Whether we are doing fieldwork or guiding a safari, we routinely go out at first light to spend three hours or so game-viewing (Wildlife watching) before breakfast.
- If we are not on the road before sun up, I feel that we are missing all the excitement: the chance to see lions and hyenas still on their kills or even hunting, to spot a leopard out in the open, to watch antelopes engaging in their morning frolics and skirmishes, and to hear the dawn chorus of birds and beasts.
Lions at Murchison Falls National Park, during a game drive
- Early morning and late afternoon are activity peaks for most animals. The transitions from dark to light and light to dark trigger all kinds of action. Nocturnal species are still active, while the diurnal animals leave their night refuges to begin foraging.
- Relatively little activity occurs during the heat of the day, when many animals avoid overheating and water loss by resting, preferably in the shade.
Lions and other carnivores that eat big meals at long intervals are typically asleep.
However, many herbivores are active during the middle of the day, as are various diurnal carnivores, such as cheetahs and social mongooses, as well as baboons and other monkeys.
Many animals go to water and engage in all kinds of social activity at this time.
Watching them coming to water is always interesting, vastly entertaining when elephants are involved, and sometimes dramatic, as when lions or crocodiles seize the opportunity to ambush prey.
The big carnivores, except for cheetahs and wild dogs, do most of their hunting at night.
Diurnal antelopes and most other terrestrial herbivores have one or two night feeding bouts.
And many strictly nocturnal creatures, such as the aardvark, porcupine, bush babies, striped and brown hyenas, white-tailed mongoose, genets, civets that are rarely seen in the daytime are often encountered at night.
- Visitors who have no opportunity to go on a night drive need not despair. Nocturnal animals often hang out at game lodges and campgrounds, attracted by the presence of nearby waterholes, salt licks, and garbage. Through habituation to people, many become remarkably tame.
In addition to the nocturnal species already named, one can see or more likely hear the tree hyrax, fruit and insectivorous bats, owls, gecko lizards, and in the rainy season choruses of frogs and toads.
The chances of finding particular species are greatly improved if you know where as well as when to look for them.
Guides and drivers are generally expert in this department, and keep one another informed about sightings of leopard, cheetah, lion, rhino, elephant, and locations of kills.
- Nevertheless, simply knowing that some animals have very particular habitat requirements while others tolerate a variety of habitat types and can be seen nearly everywhere can be put to practical use, if only to avoid wasting time looking for a species where it would never normally be.
- Many carnivores, for example, are equally at home in wooded and open areas. Leopards, however, will not go far from cover. Among herbivores, the elephant has the broadest habitat tolerance by far, ranging from rainforest to semi desert plains.
- Among animals with more specialized habitat preferences, hippos must have water to submerge in and nearby grazing grounds. The sitatunga’s elongated hooves are adapted to life in swamps.
- Giraffes cannot subsist on open plains without trees or woody plants for browse. Most primates need trees for food and safety.
We hope you learnt the first step towards observing animals in the National Parks (Wildlife watching). If you need a combined Ugandan safaris that feature, Wildlife watching, game viewing, gorilla trekking, cultural experiences among others, please let us know.