A Safari in Nimule National Park, South Sudan

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Nimule Elephants

The decision to go to Nimule National Game Park has been one of the best I have made. I was not prepared nor could I have imagined what breathtaking beauty awaited me as we rolled into Nimule, situated in the Southern part of South Sudan. This new destination is one of the less visited countries though a lot await you on your next African safari through this land.

After an hour and a half drive out of Juba on a newly constructed smooth tarmac road, we arrived in Nimule.

We reached the Game Park at 8.30am and caught up with our guide Isaac and the animal tracker. We set off into the wild and drove through some pretty rough terrain frequented by elephants and rhinos. Our prayer was to not encounter any elephants or get in their way because according to Isaac, they have been treated so terribly by humans that their first instinct is to kill anyone they come across. After a harrowing drive, we got to a point beyond which we could not drive. We parked the car, pulled out our cameras and hit the trail. And boy was it some trail! First rule of the jungle is to strictly follow the tracker’s footsteps: when he crossed a stream aiming for only particular spots, we did the same even though it entailed getting our shoes soaked in water; when he went through a thicket, we followed suit. This was particularly uncomfortable for me seeing as I am not graced with the height of a South Sudanese . Most of the time, I literally disappeared under the tall grass and emerged on the other side to see if I was still on the right track.

River Nile at Nimule, South Sudan

After a while, we got to the most amazing sight- the River Nile! Forget what you’ve been told about the Nile, or what you have seen in Jinja-this part of the Nile, the White Nile, is something else. Words elude me! Majestic, magnificent, violent, romantic, and awesome are a few I can think of.  The force with which the water run, the cascading falls, the rapids, the beauty, the awesomeness-I was gobsmacked. There were 4 sections: falls 1, 2, 3 and 4! Imagine, to this day, this place is still very, very virgin – undiscovered, untapped, uninterrupted!

After, we took off to our hotel and waited out the scorching sun before heading out again to shoot more fantastic scenery. Suffice to say, day one was a huge success!

Day two: Elephant tracking

Elephant Tracking at Nimule

Isaac, our guide, had planned that we get up early, go to the pier somewhere and use a boat to the inner parts of the Park where we would track elephants and other wild animals. I was rather skeptical sailing on the Nile for 30 minutes after what I’d seen of the it the previous day, but I was assured that all would be well even if the boat had no life jackets.

We were up by 6.30am and on the road by 7am. God must have heard my prayers because as soon as we called Isaac, he informed us that the elephants were in Commando village, which was on their side of the park. Lucky for us, after a few minutes walk, we found the elephants. Those animals are huge! I clicked away, zooming in until I thought the animal was right in my face! They must have smelt us then because they suddenly took off.

Turned out we were chasing a large herd of elephants. Through the thickets, down the valleys, up the mountain, we went. All the while I was dodging thorny bushes, sharp rocks, and inwardly praying there were no snakes in that long grass because I was dressed inappropriately.While the guys in the team had worn army boots and trousers tucked into their socks, I had on a short sleeved T-shirt, flared jeans, and some ‘canvas’ shoes that wouldn’t really pass for trainers. Two guys even had AK47s and one had a nice cute little pistol tucked away in his belt.

We must have walked for at least 15km before I came to the realisation that I really needed to start working out again. I panted my way up the hills trying to be brave. Most amusing though was this old man who is also a tracker. We had met him the day before. Upon inquiring what he was doing in Comando village, I was duly informed that he was a tracker. I expressed my disbelief that someone so old could walk up and down those hills. Ironically, the old man turned out to be the one who picked me up every time I fell and held onto my hand to pull me through some thickets. He did all this while carrying both his gun and the camera tripod stand with ease. Not once did he break a sweat. We communicated in a mix of broken Swahili (on my part) and broken English (on his part). By the end of the day, we’d become the best of friends.

Then we got a little scare: some silly baboons sitting high up in a tree watching our every move took it upon themselves to warn the elephants that they were being trailed. The elephants then decided to lay a trap for us! Suddenly, we were surrounded- we saw elephants behind us, above us and on both our sides. I, not really knowing what that meant, just kept clicking away at the elephants I could see. That’s when I saw the guys take their guns off their shoulders. I knew we were in trouble.

The decision was then made to head towards the top of the ‘mountain’ away from the elephants. Up and up we went till I could walk no more, and neither could my shoes. They split right there in the thicket-mounds of muddy water, among other things, had taken their toll on them.

By the time we reached the summit, we’d given up tracking elephants and decided they were too clever for us. Then the descent started. I must’ve fallen at least 10 times, but thankfully, my Mzee was quick to pick me up and guide me. After about fifteen minutes of that painful descent, and with thorns nicely lodged in various parts of my butt, we finally got to the bottom of the hill. By this time, I had given up on my torn shoes and acquired an interesting walk cum dance as a result of the stones and thorns piercing my feet.

As a token of appreciation, I gave my once closed shoes to Mzee to fix and given to one of his children. He was quite happy actually, which calmed the guilt I felt for donating old things.

What a day! I thoroughly enjoyed myself and would love to take another trip to Nimule National Park, this time appropriately dressed and fit.

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