For any one going to Uganda I would recommended just hiring a driver and telling them where you want to go – don’t get roped into going with a dodgy travel company like this one.
We were in Africa as medical students volunteering in a small community health centre near Iganga for 4 weeks, and decided to spend our last week (and the last of our money) on an organised tour around Uganda. All in all it was a huge mistake and it soured our experience of the country.
We were recommended Activenture Safaris by a friend and thought that organising a tour would be the best way to go – they booked accommodation, activities and took you to restaurants, all inclusive in the price. The first few days started off great – nice enough van, the driver was friendly and spoke English. He seemed pretty flexible. Then we paid the remainder of our money on day 4 and everything changed – suddenly the driver became inflexible, rude and aggressive. We also realised that the original itinerary that we agreed upon and paid our deposits for (which was emailed to us) had changed to the itinerary that they handed us on day 1 of the trip – it was pretty sneaky, as reading through it was hard to notice any differences, only when you studied it with a fine tooth comb there was a slight change of wording and details. For example, in place of doing the Kyambura chimp trek (meant to be the best one and it’s in QENP) which was originally promised, we were taken to Kalinzu forest, the disappointing (and cheaper) alternative where we only saw two chimps and from about 50metres away. On the original itinerary we were also promised to go on the Ishasha game drive in the QENP however this was deleted from the printed itinerary – instead we were dropped off at a hotel to spend about 6 hours of the rest of the day.
The accommodation we had agreed upon was a private room for myself and my partner (being a couple and all), but after we paid the remaining fees on Day 4 we were taken to a 22 bed dorm which was below average. We then decided to upgrade to the double room out of our own pocket.
Another activity written on the original itinerary was canoeing at Lake Bunyoni and staying at the Overlander Resort. We were taken to another resort without being informed, and while it was nice it was only half built and we were the only guests there. The Overlanders is meant to be a busy fun place so we were a bit put out by this. We didn’t get canoes, instead a motorboat with a ‘guide’ was waiting for us – the tour was really substandard, with a tour guide who could hardly speak English and who proceeded to take us on a tour of hotels that were on islands in the lake (asking us if we wanted to buy anything at each place) and not really experiencing the lake at all.
To top all of this off, we drove for four hours at night from Kisoro to Kibale in a vehicle that lacked any brakes. Our driver Abdul, instead of being apologetic and catering to our requests, proved himself to be rude and argumentative. For example, refusing to even stop off in Fort Portal on the route home as it’s “not on the itinerary”, yet he proceeded to take us wherever he liked without our permission.
When we arrived back to Kampala we went to the company office to complain – wish we had visited it earlier as it was a dodgy little ‘suitcase’ office under some stairs and perhaps we would never signed up in the first place having seen it. Not surprisingly, they did not return any of our money (in fact they accused us of owing them money). Overall very disappointing experience, staff were unprofessional, with the obvious intention to cut corners and make an extra dollar. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is one of the companies that Bradt talks often about – after a few years they get a bad reputation so they change the company name and office location, and repeat until infinitum.
Don’t do tours, just research the hotels and destinations yourself and hire a decent car and driver to take you exactly where you want to go. It’s a bit more effort but you’ll have a better and more satisfying experience in the end.