Western Uganda trip report

We had a wonderful two weeks safari trip  in Uganda and Rwanda in the second half of November 2010 and we would like to share with Bradt Uganda guidebook authors and readers our experiences and  comments on accomodations and other issues. Among others, we visited Murchison NP where we had beautiful game drives and boat cruise on Nile, Kibale Forest and Gyambura Gorge where we tracked chimpanzees, Queen Elisabeth NP where we had again game drives and boat cruise on Kazinga Channel and Volcanoes NP in Rwanda where we tracked gorillas and golden monkeys. We also admired a tropical beauty of Gisenyi holiday resort on lake Kivu. Most of accommodations booked by the tour company we selected after comparing several offers – Primate Watch Safaris Ltd from Kampala -were high quality and excellently located allowing for superb views – just to mention Paraa Lodge in Murchison NP,  Katara Lodge in QENP or Stipp Hotel in Gisenyi. Unforgettable experience was our stay in Chimp Guest House in Kibale which – though not of the highest quality of Katara Lodge – was also situated on the slope of the hill with superb views, had very friendly staff and was surrounded by a magnificent garden which – in our opinion – was much better than Botanical Garden in Entebbe, holding a great number of colorful birds. Just sitting on the veranda of our cottage for one hour we could recognize over 30 bird species! We greatly appreciate the skills of Petrus – our driver and guide and hospitality of Mr. Erasmus (he is Director of the company) and Ms. Florence (she arranged all our accommodations). We are pleased to recommend Primate Watch Safaris to other tourists attention.

Our more detailed evaluation of accommodations we stayed in Uganda:

(1)  Hotel Africana in Kampala – recommended place to stay in Kampala, nice rooms, gentle staff, good food – good value for money as compared to other hotels in the city of similar standard

(2)  Paraa Safari Lodge in Murchison NP – beautifully situated with a view on Nile, luxury accommodation, superb buffet food – highly recommended.

(3) Chimpanzee Forest Guest House in Kibale Forest NP – as indicated in our Note – beautifully situated on the slope of the hill with superb views, had very friendly staff and was surrounded by a magnificent garden which – in our opinion – was much better than Botanical Garden in Entebbe, holding a great number of colorful birds. Just sitting on the veranda of our cottage for one hour we could recognize over 30 bird species! Self-contained nicely shaped cottages, with private bathrooms, mosquito nests, clean. Very good value for money – highly recommended.

(4)  Katara Lodge in Queen Elisabeth NP – again – beautifully situated on the slope of the hill with superb views on tea fields and part of savanna. Luxurious cottages, good food, friendly staff. On the dirt road leading from the main paved road to the Lodge you may see authentic African villages – highly recommended, but rather expensive

(5) Ishasha-Ntungwe River Camp in South part of Queen Elisabeth NP – badly situated on the flat grounds surrounded by swamps and local villages, tents described in guidebooks as “luxurious” are not such at all. There are no mosquito nets, tents are rather small, no place to put luggage. A lot of flying insects around the tents because of swamps proximity. Problems with electricity and water supply è we were assured by the staff that water will be available at night and in the morning, but apparently it was not available, and the staff did not even supplied water in containers. Poor food. Accommodation definitely overpriced and badly managed – cannot be recommended

(6)  Heritage Lodge on Ha’Buharo Island on Lake Bunyonyi – very well maintained nice resort situated on the hill in the garden holding many birds. The self-contained cottage where we stayed was really excellent, with mosquito nets, clean bathroom with all facilities and nicely African-style furnished saloon. Cottage è highly recommended. Tents which were also shown to us were not as luxurious, so we cannot recommend them.

Our experiences in tracking chimpanzees and gorillas :

Chimps:

We tracked chimps in Kibale Forest and in Kyambura Gorge. Tracking in Kibale forest took us 5+ hours and we were walking there and back and up and down in the thick, wet and muddy jungle to observe just two chimps on the top of the tree at the end. In Kyambura Gorge we hardly managed to walk down on extremely slippery “path”, but since the place is not as huge as Kibale Forest, we were able to meet chimps just in less than two hours (actually they were found in the bushes on top of the gorge and very close to the dirt road running close to the brink of the gorge). We could see chimps just few meters away and that was n unforgettable experience, especially when one of them jumped from the bushes and almost stepped on us when walking back to the jungle. We therefore recommend tracking chimps in Kyambura Gorge much more than in Kibale Forest.

Gorillas;

We tracked gorillas in Kinigi (Volcanoes NP in Rwanda) and wish to recommend that over Bwindi (Uganda) because the forest in Volcanoes NP is much less thick and less wet and thus much better for walking, though it is still muddy. Tracking gorillas in Kinigi is superbly organized – trekkers are sent early in the morning to spot gorilla groups, so finding them is much facilitated. We (aged 64 and 61) asked the guides to be put in a group of elderly persons (and were fortunately put there after promising certain bonus to the guide), and therefore were guided in a very short time (less than 2 hours) to a nearest group of 8 gorillas, including a magnificent silverback and a mother with small baby that was playing joyfully all the time we observed them. Unforgettable experience!

Bozenna and Janusz from Warsaw, Poland

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2 thoughts on “Western Uganda trip report

  1. Lisa Marsden says:

    Dear Bozenna & Janusz

    Thank you for your excellent up-date on your trip to Uganda.
    A question from your last paragraph: Gorillas
    In order to comment that its better to trek gorillas in Rwanda than Uganda.
    I take it you have trekked gorillas in both places then?

  2. philipbriggs says:

    Hi Lisa,

    If I might chip in here, based on my own and others experiences, I think that gorilla tracking in Rwanda is more predictable than in Uganda – several groups live in fairly small territories and can reliably be reached in an hour or two of relatively flat walking.

    In Uganda, by contrast, I’ve known people to see the gorillas within 10 minutes of setting off, but it can also take several hours trailing through steep terrain. So I think it fair to say that Rwanda is a safer bet than Uganda for anybody worried about the prospect of a tough hike.

    With chimp tracking, an element of luck & unpredictably makes it difficult to say than Kyambura is absolutely better than Kibale, or vice versa – so much depends on what happens on the day – but the contained nature of Kyambura does mean it is less likely to be a major hike!

    Best, Philip

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