December 2018 trip report

Fred Hodgson writes:

We spend December in Uganda again and had a successful trip. Our route was mainly triangular from Entebbe west to Kanyanchu, then ‘down’ to QENP and on to  Buhoma, Ruhija and Nkuringo before swinging by Lake Mulehe to Kanaba Gap and back by Lake Mburo. Duration was 4 weeks.

was good to see the continuous improvement to the roads and we enjoyed the new Mway from Entebbe prior to its official opening when no doubt we will no longer be able to pull over and go birding of the massive reed beds this new road crosses.

As always we used the good services of Emmy Gongo (emmygongo [at] yahoo.com)as driver guide in his own Land Cruiser and recorded 420 species of bird including the beautiful Shining Blue Kingfisher. Indeed being really lucky we found a pair on the same branch over a small stream AND photographed them in good light. A mammalian highlight was a nocturnal visit into our cottage by a Woodland Dormouse.

We flew out with Brussels airlines who exhibited an alarming lack of competence from initial booking until getting home and settling a claim for services not rendered but paid for. Never again!

Places stayed in order with comments as appropriate follow:-

  1. Airport Guest House. Entebbe. A firm favourite.With cheerful staff and a free airport shuttle what is there not to like? Birding in the grounds is a bonus.
  2. Papyrus Guest House. Entebbe. New to us and very good value. Clean with a view to Lake Victoria from the balcony. Owned by the same people who have Nkuringo Gorilla camp in Bwindi.
  3. Botanical Gardens. Entebbe. Lovely as always and worth the small fee for keen birders. Lots of species not seen elsewhere. Orange Weavers to Grey Parrots.
  4. Chimpanzee Forest Guest House. Nr Kibale Forest. Lovely setting with views over the local area. Good food and nice cottages. Great birding in the grounds. A short drive away is Kibale forestand despite the tarred road through the forest, which makes for dodgy walking, a great place for a couple of days.
  5. Sad to see Bigodi wetlands marred by the new road and the walkways very tricky due to poor maintenance.
  6. Semliki Forest NP. We timed our visit to avoid Thursdays, woodcutting days, to avoid disturbance and had booked into the Bandas having given up on Hotel Vanilla in Sadly the Bandas did not live up to their promise despite good efforts by the manageress who cooked and served the food we had had to bring in. Clean enough but a bit too ‘rustic and in need of maintenance to be enjoyed. The fridge had been broken for some time so no cold beers and one wondered about the storage of food.
  7. Kasese. We did a lunch stop at the new Sandton Hotel which was clean with a good restaurant and friendly staff
  8. Mweya Lodge As good as it gets. The lunch trip on the UWA boat is always a highlight with excellent commentary by competent and knowledgeable staff. We again stayed in the pair of new Standard Tents overlooking the Kazinga channel.
  9. Jacana Lodge. We did not stay here but paid a visit to find it in new ownership. A bit quiet at the time of our visit but still a good location for birding.

The road through Ishasha to Buhoma.Was in very bad condition with stranded lorries making the going even worse. Whilst in Buhoma the riverside walk was still closed due to Gorilla activity but we were allowed to walk it one evening for old times sake. This trip we  stayed at Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp as a special treat.  Up to its usual standard and a firm favourite. Our ‘Tent’ overlooked some open space with fruiting figs and fairly bounced with wildlife including an alleged Porcupine each evening to our tent patio. Or so the tent man said..  However my Camera trap failed to catch it and I suspect it was a fruit bat using the eaves and leaving a mess each night for the cleaners.  Mention of wildlife must also include a large Forest Cobra that took a rodent in front of my eyes as I walked to the tent. Great photos but increased heart rate. Buhoma was good as always. The local troop of L’Hoest’s monkeys is now very much habituated and happily pose for photographs along the main road.

  1. We had to take a circuitous route from Buhoma up to Ruhija as the road up to ‘the neck’was in very bad condition. With birding along the way it took us some time to make our next stop which was, of course, Emmy’s lovely Broadbill Forest Camp. He really has done a sterling job here and whilst there is still some ‘work in progress’ that needs finishing it has to be one of the best places in Ruhija and at a reasonable price. Needless to say the birding is superb with 6 AREs in the garden and regular visits by mammals too. The staff are quite skilled and proud to show us the Rwenzori Rhinoceros Chameleons that live in the gardens and the lodge is very convenient for birding the forest as well as Gorilla tracking.
  2. This trip we shunned the opportunity to walk to Nkuringo via the Ivy trail and opted for the car instead. We stopped at Muko on Lake Bunyonyi and turned onto the lakeside track to bird some swamps which held lots of Papyrus specials which proved very rewarding indeed. Then after more successful birding in Echuya Forest we crossed the Kanaba Gap for Kisoro and then The road up was very poor with recent grading having been washed out and making the going very sticky indeed in parts. Our base was again the lovely Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge (formerly Nkuringo Gorilla Camp) which has undertaken a facelift. There are still, currently, the friendly terraced bungalows but the capable management have embarked on a definite shift upmarket. Having enjoyed the camp previously, the visit was in fact to fulfil a promise made in 2014 to return and enjoy the first of the proposed double units then under construction. Not one but four of these double units have been now built on the slope overlooking Bwindi Forest. Very clean and luxurious indeed complete with own fire to be lit in the evening. A credit to the hardworking owner. Needless to say the birdlife in the grounds was abundant
  3. Dropping back down the hill we took the opportunity to try the new Lake Mulehe Gorilla This is a project by Uganda Cultural Lodgesas an addition to their existing venture in Hoima. It occupies a sloping site overlooking Lake Muleheand the design and fit out of the eight brick built bungalows is to a very high standard. The one we used had one of the best bathrooms we have seen in Uganda. Views from our verandah were over the lake to the Virungas in the distance. This was the backcloth to our Christmas evening meal with the mist having rolled back from a sunlit Muhabura. Being new there is still the usual work in progress but the means for an excellent and comfortable stay are already on place.
  4. Our last stop was Lake Mburo National Park where as usual we stayed at Arcadia Cottages. Some may find their concrete ‘log cabins’ strange but they are very roomy inside and don’t really look too out of place in the setting of woodland Set inside the National Park a stay here avoids the 20km drive in each day and with the grounds being within ‘walking distance’ of the boat dock the place has lots of advantages not least of which is the semi habituated wildlife such as Waterbuck, Bushbuck, Impala and Warthogs going about their busy lives just outside your cabin.

All lodges have been reviewed on Trip Adviser.

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