The reputation of this small country in the heart of Africa speaks for itself. Winston Churchill named Uganda the “Pearl of Africa” after a trip with his wife to the African continent. Much of the film “The Queen of Africa” with Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn was shot in Uganda. Ernest Hemingway was involved in two airplane crashes here during one of his hunting trips. The “Last King of Scotland” showed to the world the tumultuous past of this nation, the great unknown of the East African Community.
KAMPALA… RHYTHMS AT NIGHT
Kampala is like an abstract painting on movement, you cannot define it at first glance…music beats until the end of the night, top cuisine from every corner of the world, motorcycles twisting around cars on the streets, luxury hotels, expats everywhere, infinity pools and smiles, because undoubtedly if there is something that makes you feel at home here, it is the kindness of its people. You can find yourself having eggs benedict with an ice mocha in a French restaurant while your friends are coming in Boda Boda from the fish market, or dancing surrounded by NGO expats with a malt whiskey in your hands. Everything here is possible and you only have to look for it, be patience or the Ugandan concept of time will drive you crazy and make sure that you have your eyes open, because every day here is different.
BWINDI, THE IMPENETRABLE FOREST
Mountain Gorillas. I’m sure that two things have come to your mind: Rwanda and “Gorillas in the Mist”. You will forget those two ideas if I tell you that Uganda has 400 mountains gorillas while the total world mountain gorilla population stands at 880, and the cheapest place to visit and find them is here, at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. You just need to take in advance the permits from the Wildlife Authority (half price in low season), drive 8 hours from Kampala and do gorilla trekking for two hours to be surrounded by an entire family of mountain gorillas (Silver Backs included). After spending one hour with them go back to your lodge (the closest one is the one of Lake Kitandara tours) and have a refreshing beer. If you are not yet tired go to meet the pygmies, try some banana wine and pick up some Ugandan Congolese handicrafts.
GRADE 5 WHITE NILE WATER RAFTING
The spectacular White Nile and East Africa’s Adventure Capital, Jinja, home to some of the world’s finest grade 5 white water rafting is waiting for you two hours drive from Kampala. After an intense week of meetings and hard work there is nothing better than pure adrenaline. I’ve never done rafting before and doing it in Africa’s largest river with grade 5 can sound a little bit crazy. After two hours, 10 rapids (we flipped over in 6 of them) I can tell you that we got to the end in one peace.
LOOKING FOR LIONS AT QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK
If you have never done safaris before you will notice that one of the most difficult things to see are the lions, especially the male ones, so lazy to move from the shadows of the African savannah. We spent two days in Queen Elizabeth National Park, the first day we saw hippos opening their mouths, elephants coming out of the water, buffalos, gazelles, hundreds of birds, crocodiles, antelopes and “pumbas”, but no trace of lions. As we were quite frustrated we decided to speak with the rangers, and… Do you know what? We saw at least 25 lions, males and females, little “simbas” and we did all that driving off road. Do you want to know how we made it happen? Visit Queen Elizabeth National Park and…ask to the rangers.
HEMINGWAY’S DREAM AT MURCHISON FALLS (THE BIG FIVE)
If you read the book “Green Hills of Africa” by Ernest Hemingway with a good glass of whisky as he always did during his travels, you will understand why he crashed twice with his airplane at Murchison Falls National Park. For a lover of hunting (now it is illegal) having the opportunity of seeing the big 5 in the same national park was a dream. For us seeing the big 5 and feel the roar of the falls was spectacular. Last but not least is that what you are going to pay here is half of price of a safari in Kilimanjaro, Maasai Mara or Ngorongoro, and for sure less crowded of tourists.
ISLANDS IN AFRICA’S LARGEST LAKE
Despite Uganda being a landlocked country if you want to feel next to the sea go to Entebbe and take a ferry, in just two hours you are going to be at the biggest lake in Africa. You are not going to be able to swim in the lake unless you want to feel sick as the water contains a lot of parasites, however there is one lodge with a swimming pool. We went there for a weekend and it is worth it if you need to escape the hustle and bustle of Kampala.
“Now, being in Africa, I was hungry for more of it, the changes of the seasons, the rains with no need to travel, the discomforts that you paid to make it real, the names of the trees, of the small animals, and all the birds, to know the language and have time to be in it and to move slowly.”
Ernest Hemingway, Green Hills of Africa
FERNANDO DIÓGENES MORA Senior Project Director AFA – PRESS