This is the first part of our trip to Uganda.
We left a cold and damp London on Boxing Day 26th December with Turkish Airlines via Istanbul and Kigali and arrived slightly tired but very excited at Entebbe at 4.30am and were picked up and taken to Airport Guesthouse where we were booked to stay until 28th.
After catching up on a few hour’s sleep we enjoyed our first breakfast and strolled through Entebbe to spend a few hours at the Botanical Gardens. We were lucky enough to be approached on the way by a young guide who was on his way to work and he really was a very knowledgeable about the plants, trees, animals and birds. This really was a very peaceful and enjoyable walk.
Our lunch was taken at a Chinese restaurant on the way back to the guesthouse and the behaviour of the Chinese tourists to the local staff was appalling and seeing them spit whilst they were eating added to my annoyance, I try not to be judgemental but this really was not acceptable.
After a lovely evening with dinner being served in the pretty gardens we had a full night’s sleep before the start of our tour.
After getting a terrific amount of info from this forum and also individuals within it we had chosen Hog Safari’s as our tour operator and had agreed on the places to visit and where to stay after quite a lot of e-mail traffic and this was based on a mixture of budget and mid-range accommodation. Joseph turned up on time and we made our way towards Kampala to meet the owner of Hog Safari’s Mr Ben Katumba, we were unfortunate in that after only 15 kilometres we had a tyre blowout. This was the first opportunity we had to see how very efficiently Joseph dealt with any issues and we were soon on our way, after a brief chat with Ben (I had met him in London in November and was confident I had chosen correctly) we made our way in time for lunch to Ziwa.
Our walk to see the rhinos in the late afternoon was with a very good guide called Taban who was also very good with bird identification. We had about 20 minutes in close proximity with these incredible animals and it was a very enjoyable time and made me understand what a good job is being done at the sanctuary and hopefully we will soon be seeing rhinos being released within the parks. We had another very good dinner sat under the stars but the beer really was not cold enough
We had an early start and made our way to Budongo Eco Lodge via Masindi where a good lunch stop is the Court View Hotel. I have a slight criticism about the lodge which probably is a small failing within the whole tourism industry and that is advising people of problems. We were shown to our lovely log cabin in the forest and not advised that they had no electricity or running water and had to go back to ask what was happening, however we managed to have washes standing in a bowls and using water from the well and enjoyed a romantic meal prepared in the dark and served outside again (although we did have Joseph with us for company) and I will accept that the beer was not likely to be warm enough. I would though like to point out that I would return here without any hesitation and the staff were great at dealing with the problems. Have to say that the birding though did not live up to my expectations.
Another early start and we were on our way to the Top of the falls at Murchison and this was incredible and the force and power of the water was a sight to behold. A pretty good lunch (and cold beer) was had at Red Chilli camp and we then did the cruise to the base of the falls and this brought us a great afternoon of both animal and bird spotting. We took the UWA boat rather than the private one and felt this was a great move as the boat went slower and the knowledge of the UWA staff was excellent. We left the boat on the north side at Paraa and had a good game drive on the way to our next stay at Pakuba Lodge which really is in a stunning location looking out over Lake Albert and has good rooms and we had a terrific buffet dinner with very cold beer (we may have struck lucky this day as the owner was entertaining a number of guests as well). We had an issue with our shower not draining and the staff dealt with this very quickly and we moved to another room.
One of the good moves we made was to take a couple of pillows with us both to help if those in the room were not high enough and also to make it more comfortable in the back of our Land Cruiser, however this night I did not take them into the room and could not be bothered to pester Joseph late at night so I put a fleece and jacket under the single pillow and you probably have guessed I managed to leave them there in the morning.
After another early breakfast we left to meet our guide who was also called Taban and had a very enjoyable early morning game drive with sightings of striped hyena and a lot of other good animals however the lions proved elusive.
We stopped at the Nile Safari Lodge for lunch and enjoyed this looking out over the river from a lovely balcony and had a nice cold Bell.
We made our way to Hoima for our New Year’s eve stay at the Kontiki Hotel which is a comfortable place to stay although the loud music from 4 pm in preparation for their party was a bit much. A nice dinner was followed by a few quiet drinks before retiring early (first time ever that we have not made midnight) as we had a very early start for the long drive to Kibale District.
We arrived after a lovely drive at the Chimpanzee Forest Guest House which is located in a wonderful setting looking out over tea plantations and a crater lake. We stayed in the old house which was used by the plantation owner and it was a trip back into the past with a wonderful selection of old photos and a bookcase with an early copy of the Dark Continent, we really enjoyed our stay here and thank Noah and his staff for their company.
After breakfast we went on the walk at Bigodi Swamp which was a chance to support a really worthwhile community initiative which is helping to ensure that this wonderful wetland area does not get used for cultivation, we had a large number of new birds here but sadly not the Papyrus Gonelek which I had hoped would appear.
A good lunch was followed by a drive to stay at Queen Elizabeth Bush Lodge which is located on the banks of the Kazinga Channel and has safari tents set in super locations. They have a very well organised format here with efficient staff good food and a great atmosphere. After a slightly noisy sleep due to the close proximity of hippos we had a great breakfast with company from the dawn chorus.
We went to meet our guide for the morning Matthew and the early drive was in the Kasyeni area of the park and were very well rewarded with sightings of 10 lions some only 3 metres from our truck. This area of the park is superb for game and the rangers keep in touch with each other to advise what is being seen but not in the way that I have seen in Kenya where you get 30 plus trucks crowding a single lion. A pleasant lunch at the Mweya Hostel was followed by a drink at Mweya Lodge looking out over the Channel which has a lovely view but is not my sort of place as it felt impersonal as I prefer the smaller places.
Our afternoon boat trip on the Kazinga Channel was incredible with sightings of more animals and birds than I have seen on any of my numerous previous safaris and this was topped off with a sighting of a leopard sitting quietly in a tree whilst on our drive back to our lodge.
We enjoyed a very good dinner with some friends that we kept bumping into who came from Switzerland discussing all that we had seen on this incredibly exciting day.
To be continued……