After another slightly noisy night (a party at another close lodge mainly) we set off to travel via Ntungamo to Kabale where we had a less than inspiring lunch and on via the very poor road to Nkuringo Gorilla Camp which we got to in time to relax with a very cold beer and take in the stunning views of Bwindi Forest on one side of the ridge and the Virunga Mountains and the Congo on the other. We had a lovely dinner before we retired for bed early as we knew the next day would be very tiring.
We got up for an early breakfast and I was very nervous about the day and was unable to eat anything not even a banana, we travelled about 1 hour and 15 mins to the start of our trek which was to be the Nshonghi Group. After a briefing from the UWA guide David who was going to lead our trek we set off, Leita and I took a porter each to carry our gear and this was a really good decision. It took us a 2 and a half hour hike up the mountain about 8 kms to get to the ridge on which the group were located and I really paid the price for not being able to eat anything and I was probably about 400 metres from the point where I would have to give up, I then spotted the silverback about 200 metres away in the valley and this was the lift I needed.
We took about another 10 minutes to get close to the group and spent a wonderful hour watching them eat and generally enjoy themselves, sadly they were not in a great position for photographing them but no matter how many times I will look at those we took in the future my memory of the silverback watching me will be my abiding memory. It was a much easier descent down the mountain fuelled mainly by adrenalin from this visit.
Our guides and porters were great and their encouragement along with the other tourists in our group helped me to achieve the greatest moment I have had in all of my travels.
We arrived back at Nkuringo to a lovely bowl of soup followed by the most needed shower I have probably ever had.
We went down for dinner early and met Robert the owner of the lodge and had a couple of hours with him discussing the gorilla trekking in particular and the tourism industry in Uganda in general, he really is an interesting guy and has some great ideas. We enjoyed our stay here more than anywhere else in Uganda and the work that they are doing in the community is one of the major reasons for this. I even got up and danced with the young entertainers from the village and if you know me that is not something I normally do.
We sadly left in the morning for our trip to Lake Bunyonyi via Kabale to carry out a little repair to the truck and stopped at the Arcadia Cottages to have a beer and take in the lovely view of the lake before heading down the hill to our next stay at Kalebas Camp on the lakeshore that I had chosen . It really is in a lovely location but this is where my compliments end, we have visited a large number of countries during our travels and I have to say this is the worst run establishment we have ever stayed in, firstly we had to ask for towels in our room and were then questioned why we wanted one each instead of the one they brought to our room. I could give a list of the things that were wrong about it here but it is not worth it. It is owned by Nature Lodges who also run the excellent Queen Elizabeth Bush Lodge where we stayed earlier and I think they need to get someone from there go down and sort out the lazy and incompetent staff here.
We did enjoy a trip in a canoe around the lake seeing a number of birds not seen before.
We departed early for the trip to Lake Mburo which was a pleasant drive having stopped for a super lunch at Mbarara at the Agip Hotel, we arrived at the Arcadia Cottages Mburo having had a game drive from the park entrance.
The cottages are very well appointed and we had a really enjoyable dinner here although we did encounter more mosquitoes here than anywhere else on our tour. We set off early and met a ranger called James and went for a really good birding walk and you have probably guessed that we heard the Papyrus Gonelek again but did not see it.
We continued our game drive in the park before leaving to go to the shores of Lake Victoria to have a 2 night stay at the Garuga Resort Beach Hotel which had been chosen to allow us to have c ouple of days poolside to recharge our batteries, sadly the weather was not ideal for this but I would have been watching the birdlife and monkeys even if the sun had been out. The food here was a bit limited but was none the less very enjoyable and our appointed member of staff James from Gulu looked after us very well.
On the last day of our trip Joseph drove us to the Mabamba Swamp hopefully for us to see the shoebill, after about 30 minutes going through this beautiful area and found the shoebill standing close to the shore in the main channel and this was another wonderful moment spending time watching one of the most amazing birds I have ever seen.
On our way back our guide heard a Papyrus Gonelek calling in and we pulled over to see it, Leita had a good view and just as I realised where it was it flew off into the swamp and I missed it.
We came ashore and Joseph drove us to the Airport Guesthouse where we had booked a couple of nights before coming home and we had a great evening discussing our trip with other guests we had met on our travels.
We visited the UWEC centre the next morning and even though I know they do a lot of good work here I found it sad to see the animals in enclosures, on the walk back to the guesthouse I fancied a beer so stopped at the Entebbe Golf Club and although it is officially members only we were invited in and spent a couple of hours on the balcony overlooking the course. This was probably the friendliest club we have ever visited and unbelievably the cheapest beer of the whole trip.
I had mentioned to Joseph a couple of days earlier about the clothes I had left at Pakuba and he spoke to Ben who got in touch and between them they arranged for them to be brought all of the way back to Entebbe and Joseph and Ben knocked my door a couple of hours before our flight to give them back to me, I thought this showed the extremely terrific level of customer service offered by Hog Safaris.
Our trip back with Turkish Airlines went very smoothly and I will be happy to used them again.
My overall thoughts on Uganda are that it is a beautiful country with some of the friendliest people I have come across and wonderful animal and birdlife. Travelling can be hard at times due to the standard of the roads and maybe we should have had a couple more 2 night stays.
I managed to see all of the animals that I wanted to except the Papyrus Gonelek and that gives me a great reason to return.
Finally again I would point out that overall we made the right choice of accommodation and definitely the right choice of tour operator.
I will post a link to my photographs as soon as I have sorted this out.