Self-drive trip to Uganda

We thought you might be interested in some slightly belated comments on
our self-drive trip to Kenya & Uganda. Our overall experience was good,
but rain did curtail activities in the afternoon which was frustrating.
A petrol shortage also caused trouble. Most people were very welcoming
and friendly.
The only poor interfaces were with a few who wanted to extract money
from us, but at no time did we feel unsafe. We were asked again and
again to spread the message that “Uganda is safe” and we would like to
help do this. Roads in so many places are horrendous and watching out
for lunatic drivers is essential. Being independent was fine.

Wildlife was scarce (except for buffalo in Murchison) and so could not
be photographed, but boat rides did provide some better viewing and
relaxation. Park fees in Kenya and Uganda seemed exorbitant for the
little we saw. Facilities in Kenya were exceedingly poor – what do they
do with the high fees?

Kampala:  Red Chilli was crowded and both water and electricity
failed. Situation not good the following morning when loos couldn’t be
flushed. Katch the Sun restaurant was good – decent food and good local
music on Thursday night.

Fort Portal:  Rwenzori View Guest House – We had booked dinner for
our first night. No one else was there. Dinner was appalling and not
worth even a few shillings. Perhaps they try harder when there are more
guests. On the second night there was no hot water nor the next morning.
Eventually they arranged for me to have a shower in another room, but
were rather bossy about it. We would not go back. (Zoe, the resident
German Shepherd, was enthusiastic and welcoming.)
Rujuna Guesthouse – we stayed for three nights. Edith Katama and her
staff were very welcoming and helpful; late one night we all sat in the
kitchen talking. Our room was spacious and comfortable. Meals were
carefully prepared. Be sure to ask for proper coffee.

Kibale Forest: Primate Lodge – the night we were to spend in the tree
house was disastrous as we were attacked by safari ants on the way and
never got there. A long story.
Our chimpanzee experience was exceedingly poor and we think you should
warn people that much depends on their guide. We sent the following to
UWA, also a named individual there, Richard Wrangham, and the Jane
Goodall Institute in Uganda. None replied.

“We would like to bring to your attention the most unsatisfactory
experience we had at Kibaale National Park when we went chimpanzee
tracking on the morning of the 16 November 2008.

After a very short briefing, our group of six people was driven to the
beginning of the walk and then marched up to where another group of six
was already watching three chimpanzees. So twelve visitors and two
guides spent almost an hour crowding around our nearest relatives and
jostling for position to take photographs. It was incredibly
disappointing as, for much of the time, the less aggressive humans could
not enjoy reasonable views. Only one young blond woman (half the age of
many of the more senior visitors) was allowed to be slightly closer to
the chimpanzees so she could take photographs. Others were denied her
position and privilege.

When we finally descended, we had to ask for some identification of and
explanation about other animals and plants in the forest. This had not
been forthcoming. Our guide pointed out that he worked with
Richard Wrangham as if this association would bolster his own image.

Contrary to the views of some people, many Western visitors are not
wealthy and must save for a considerable time to have the opportunity to
visit countries like Uganda. We paid for two days’ park fees while we
waited for places on a walk as well as the US$70 fee each. This money
was wasted on a very frustrating and demeaning experience. As far as we
could tell, the three chimpanzees on the ground did not seem unduly
disturbed by the larger than normal group of humans. We thought that
limiting the group size to six was for the benefit of both species.

When we returned to the main reception of the park, there was no one
senior to the guides with whom we could discuss this. When we tried to
tell the guides that their behaviour was unsatisfactory, they all turned
their backs to us. It seems as though commercialisation and greed has
reached some of Kibaale’s guides.”

Murchison Falls: Red Chilli camp suffered from very muddy conditions
which made traipsing to the loos at night slippery (huge warthogs wedged
in between vehicles – fortunately they are very laid back.) On
the second day, some workmen had removed the doors from 2 of the 3
women’s loos so these couldn’t be used. This put stress on the only
functioning toilet in that block. On the third night we had a
self-contained banda which was better. Food ok.

QENP: Mweya Safari Lodge – we had two evening meals there, one buffet
and one a la carte which were good, if expensive. So we ordered a picnic
box to take when we left the peninsula. We did not check these until we
got to Ishasha. The boxes were weighed down with bananas and a rotten
apple. Samosas were left out and there was hardly anything to eat aside
from the fruit. At 20,000Ush for each box, it was robbery. We sent an
e-mail when we got back here and never received an answer.
Mweya Hostel – awful including the breakfast and the staff were
extremely unwelcoming. Would hate to go back (only lack of funds lead
people here).
Ishasha: The bandas are exceedingly spartan. Showers hardly worked, no
sinks, pit latrines poor. Staff only wanted to rip us off to pay for
guides. We were told if we wanted to find the lions we could go that
evening, then again in the morning. As we learned from other travellers
that one of the males has a radio collar, the staff could easily find
them. We couldn’t face paying twice. Roads in appalling conditions.

Lake Mburo: Tents ok, but again problems with water supply. Our
morning walk was very disappointing. Our guide was not helpful at all
and did stupid things like throw stones at a couple of perfectly placid
buffalo and chased a francolin we were trying to photograph. He used our
binoculars poorly, mistaking a warthog which we could identify easily
for a leopard. Meals at Arcadia Cottage were overpriced. Rooms there
expensive – we only looked. Staff friendly.

Entebbe: Wildlife Conservation Centre a nice place to stay with
comfortable bandas, but the prices for foreigners are getting out of
hand. We were at first told it would be $50 for 2 people per night.
After looking at the bandas, we were told the price would be $100 a
night. We had a long talk with the financial manager and agreed on $60 a
night. Staff in the park are friendly. It’s too much like a zoo, but
they do educate people and it’s the only opportunity for many people to
see Shoebills.

Partly due to fuel shortages and partly other reasons, we never made it
to the southwest of Uganda which is sad. Somehow we need another
trip…it’s just so much more expensive coming from outside Africa.

Best wishes,
Kristen & Helaine Cadman

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