1st. March 2021 – SANDIE COX (ARPS DPAGB) – “Gorillas, Chimps and More”

Extending our variety of speakers to our Monday evening sessions we were able to welcome the return of Sandie Cox (ARPS DPAGB) with her talk “Gorillas, Chimps and More”. This particular visit took the form of a travelogue. Which took place in 2017 and was, fundamentally a wildlife expedition in Uganda and Rwanda.

Starting in Uganda and wasting no time at all she was busy in the gardens of the hotel, having spotted host of butterflies in the “gardens,” some colourful flowers, a hornbill, shrubs and trees. This set the scene for the two-week trip where a wonderful variety of buildings, local people, flora and fauna were photographed.
The group were taken to the Mabamba swamps, principally to see the shoebill stork. The journey there allowed us to see the hazardous ferry journey across the river, accompanied by throngs of locals, with their produce, and minimalistic boats, preparing to set up a market. Arriving at the swamp the area seemed little more than a grassy mud patch though images of bee-eaters and pied kingfishers were much in evidence finally finding the storks, rather an unattractive large bird (around 90cm tall) with a heavy thick set body which begged the question as to how much energy was expended in becoming airborne.
The expedition continued with interesting photographs showing the local people, children, the enormous variety of goods transported on bicycles and motor cycles, which included potatoes (a huge crop in the area), pineapples, meat hanging in the open air and being sliced by a butcher with little apparent care for health and safety, bananas en-route to strategically placed lorries, woven goods to be sold at market. At last, the chimpanzee research station was reached, regrettably during a rainstorm, though the light was poor and everywhere soaking the chimps didn’t seem to mind. The next port of call was Kibale National Park with a pride of languid lions relaxing in trees! Amongst other species was a Verreaux’s eagle owl, with pink eyelids, a grumpy looking Colobus monkey, a hawk with horizontal breast markings and a group of red-tailed monkeys.
Crossing back across the river was a bloat of hippos with their usual entourage of birds, who simply regarded them as a perching point in the water, a shore hippo feeding on lush grass, a water buffalo, with ox-peckers feeding on its tics and flies, a malachite kingfisher, a jacana (known as the Jesus bird as it appeared to walk on water), squabbling pelicans, and an elephant pushing a tree,
Back at the hotel a fluffy bad hair day bird appeared and clouds of multi coloured butterflies.

The next expedition, was to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, along roads notably in poor condition, much pot holed which forced most traffic to seek a smoother ride on the verges – Gorilla advertising was everywhere. Visitors were divided, at the Centre, into groups according to their fitness. The terrain is almost Himalayan and would have been impossible without a porter/guide. When the Gorillas were finally located there had been an altercation amongst them and they had divided into two parts, their behaviour was erratic and restless with few of the familiar family interactions. The local terrain and house building techniques certainly facilitated a number of fine landscape shots. The now familiar pictures of beautifully dressed ladies, carrying their possessions in pots on their heads were shown along with smiling children and much evidence of the poverty in which they all live.
The next section was the country of Rwanda and the Volcanoes National Park. Suddenly life here seemed a little more organised and Westernised. A group of entertainers sung and danced at the hotel and the children were bemused at the visitors taking photographs of the birds. A field of glamping huts were seen that was used as part of the animal poaching rehabilitation programme and the visitors purchased simple goods to encourage the activities. A graphic 7 metre distance guide was presented to warn the group not to get too close to the Gorillas. The trek to find the animals soon found a more traditional band, they were not at all bothered by the appearance of humans, armed with Canons, Mum and baby were playing, the huge silver back was just chilling out, the 7-metre rule had completely disappeared and interesting images of their feet, hands and features created the impression of a family pic-nic.
A most enjoyable evening with an interesting commentary by Sandie. A trip that very few, if any of us will ever take, well received by our members.
To see more of Sandie Cox’s extensive travels visit: https://sandiecox.zenfolio.com/

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