Fiona Smith’s trip report

UGANDA TRIP (19 Jan -13 Feb 09)

I travelled alone through Uganda for 4 weeks and experienced amazing warmth and friendliness from all the Ugandans I met on the way. Scenically it is a truly stunning country and I highly recommend it !

KAMPALA – Red Chilli safari was great value and well organised. There are a maximum number of 8 people per trip. At the Red Chilli Hideaway in Kampala. beware the cockerel who starts crowing at 4.30 am who lives right next door to the single room. The old shower/toilet block at Kampala Backpackers is definitely in need of a major overhaul. Make sure you use the new one !

KABALE  – The staff at Edirisa have to be the friendliest bunch of people ever [and I wasn’t even staying there but only because they were always full !] The rooms at Amagara are very pleasant , light and airy and the bathroom clean with hot water. Beware the false friend at the Highland Hotel who will invite you to come and sit in reception and assure you he will let you know when your bus arrives, only to let you know when it has gone and tell you that you need to get in his friend’s taxi ?!

LAKE BUNYONYI – The geodomes at Byoona Amagara are wonderful with the most incredible view when you wake in the morning It is just a pity that the manager is more interested in his lap top than customer service. The trip round the lake in a dug out canoe is well worth doing [although it lasts closer to 2hours rather than 4] I saw a host of bird life as well as 2 otters.

KISORO – Don’t rely on the staff at the UWA office to recommend a taxi driver.  The one they recommended to me looked a very shady character and I was not at all happy to get in a car alone with him. If you are going to Nkuringo Campsite you are probably best to contact Asgario the helpful manager who will help to arrange a reliable and safe taxi. [Tel +256[0]774 805580] The going rate for a special hire taxi from Kisoro to Nkuringo seems to be 60,000 shillings.

NKURINGO – The campsite although basic [no electricity or running water] is a lovely place to stay with friendly staff and the most stunning views. The Hammerkop bunkhouse is now part of the campsite. Twin rooms are available in the bunkhouse for 22,000 shillings and Benson cooks up some tasty food! You can also pre order a packed lunch if you are going gorilla tracking. The UWA staff at Nkuringo are very enthusiastic and welcoming. .If you are going tracking to see the gorillas I would definitely recommend having a porter. The path down is steep and very slippery and they will help you down so that you don’t spend most of the time on your backside.! It also creates employment for local people.. I thought the awarding of a certificate once you’ve seen the gorillas was a nice touch. Clouds is a nice place for a post tracking cold beer ! The community walk was well worth doing too with very knowledgeable guides.

MBARARA – The Horizon bus now departs from the old bus park as well.. There don’t seem to be many buses [from any company] heading towards Fort Portal after approx 11am.

FORT PORTAL – Kabarole tours only seemed able to provide information on accommodation at the [upmarket] Kibale Primate Lodge.

KIBALE FOREST – The Safari hotel is a convenient place to stay if you don’t have transport as it is half an hour walk to both Bigodi and Kanyanchu. Patience will cook up tasty local food. However it does not have electricity or running water. I found the UWA staff at Kanyanchu not very helpful at all. So much so that I decided against the chimp trekking as it is now $90 plus $30 park entrance fee. Their attitude suggested that they wouldn’t try too hard to find the chimps. The tree house at the Kibale Primate Lodge is 0.8 km into the forest and doesn’t look in very good condition ! The walk at Bigodi is worth doing with knowledgeable guides who don’t rush. I saw 5 different species of primate and lots of birds including 3 great blue turacos in 1 tree! Chimp Valley Resort is still not open.

CRATER LAKES – I think it is a bit unfair to say that CVK is tired. [It is no more so than either Kampala Backpackers or Red Chilli in Kampala which both got a glowing report] The location of CVK is wonderful, the self contained rooms all have verandahs looking right on to the lake which are great for bird and primate watching. The warmth of the welcome from Pelusi more than makes up for the odd bit of peeling paint ! It now seems to be the only budget place to stay along the Fort Portal/Kamwenge Road area of the lakes.Plus[a bonus for single travellers] you will only be charged half the double room rate for single occupancy.

BUGAGALI FALLS – If using public transport from Kampala you are better to take a Coaster-30 seater vehicle[rather than a matatu ] to Jinja. They leave from the same place in the old taxi park but feel much safer. Regular matatus run from the Jinja taxi park and pass the turn off to Exploreres Campsite /Nile Porch. It is about a 15 min walk from the turn off. The Nile Porch is wonderful [but why the punishing 50%plus single supplement ???] Thanks to the manager there who swiftly made alternative arrangements when I was accidentally missed off the Kampala shuttle. The Haven is now definitely in the upmarket category.

Fiona Smith –February 2009

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