Archive for the ‘Queen Elizabeth NP’ Category

Jim Upperman writes:

Your new edition was a great resource for our group of six in our January 2014 trip.

A few comments:

1) the boat launch in QENP—Kazinga channel was superb and much more interesting than that in MFNP. More wildlife, close-up looks at Ugandan villagers on the shoreline, and a great naturalist/narrator on board—UWA guide Daniel. One of our highlights while in Uganda.
2) the lack of infrastructure ( roads, rest stops) in western Uganda on the major tourist circuit should not be understated. We loved our trip—but were amazed that the closer we came to the World Heritage site—Bwindi—the worse the roads became!

3) At Bwindi, we had six relatively fit individuals who engaged in the gorilla trek with the Mubare group/family. It took us 3.5 hours from Buhoma to reach the gorillas —mostly climbing. Two of our group needed a basket (with villagers) to complete the trip. As you and others write, a magical once in a lifetime experience to spend time with these magnificent creatures. Making eye contact will never be forgotten. Thank God for the many men and women who have worked tirelessly to protect the remaining few from extinction.

Bashir writes:

The Bradt guide was brilliant, very informative and useful (for me and plenty of others I met on my travels!). I genuinely don’t know what I would have done without it.

I have a few comments – pretty minor:

Transit visas are $50 (not $15) and apparently have been so for a while (I had a long discussion with immigration as I came back from a little trip to Rwanda and had to pay full price – I did show them the book!).
I met a driver called Henry in Katunguru (QENP) who was very helpful. I believe he has been in contact with you before and I think he is worth adding to your list of drivers there. His email address is henrykiseta@yahoo.com. (I also recommend Mustapha who is in your book.)
Fly Mami Africa is moving to Jinja – they should be starting bookings soon if they haven’t already.
Gorilla tracking permits are being discounted in November and May. It’s worth stating in the fees section when exactly the low seasons are – had I known I could have waited two days and saved myself $150!

Geoff Wellard writes:

Money
With few exceptions, prices far higher than current edition, late 2009 accommodation +50%, food > double, transport, whether public or private too.
MasterCard still very limited throughout country. Best still to change as much as possible at Forex bureaus in Kampala – can often up rate with a bit of encouragement, if more than one in the same area (e.g. Imperial hotel forecourt – Kampala Rd/Luwum etc.). Rate equally good for Pounds and Euro, so dollars perhaps only needed for favourable rate to pay park fees. Banks are cumbersome and often rates lower than Forex, although many have ATMs.

Transport
If off to QE and Bwindi, well worth considering private hire – and with driver, (went with Alpha, decent vehicle, sound driver, good rates) as many locations inaccessible, and expensive to get to, and in the case of drives like to Rushaga gate, by no means technically easy. As for Murchison – little on road much after Masindi, so do not rely on public transport to get up to places like Paraa. Would not Boda-boda this one.
For SW (Kisoro/Kabale) – At 30,000UgX, the post bus, leaving at 6 am outside the post office in Kisoro is a safe bet – can buy ticket same morning and bus unlikely to fill when it leaves, (usually punctually). Locals recommended it too. Although much of the road towards Mbarara is being improved and many stops were made up to Kabale, it gets in to Kampala at about 4 30pm – though hop off when it stops by the bus parks rather than going on to the Post Office wading through the jams.
5. From Kisoro to Mgahinga either for Muhavura and gorillas or Ntebeko Gate for Golden Monkey tracking, Batwa trail, Gahinga and Sabinyo, think about arranging transport via the Mgahinga Park office in town to avoid getting lost, as the road forks off and many riders just don’t know way there. More doable on a boda-boda is the nearer sector. Cost 15,000UgX – takes nearly an hour to get there, about 35 minutes to return, if not too laden it’s doable. As for walking from Kisoro…it will not be a quiet trip…and three hours at least most probably with the word “mzungu” ringing in your ears for the next month.
Kampala – if you can, avoid picking up the taxi (minibus) in the old park. It will take you ages just to get out of the place at most times of day. Most of them have the odd place spare, depending on the destination when past the massive jams along the main roads they are headed to, e.g. if going towards Port Bell, points East etc. minibuses are easily picked up by the PO on Kampala and Jinja roads e.g. down from Garden City.
Entebbe minibuses leave from Nakasero near the junction of Entebbe and Nasser roads. Takes about an hour and costs just a few thousand UGX, and will drop you on Airport road. Caught a boda-boda to the airport entry gate for 1000UGX and then walked, so if strapped for cash at end of trip, Kampala to airport can be done for $1.
Security
No doubt there are issues, but compared to other African states, Uganda feels very safe, indeed rarely felt safer anywhere on the continent. There were rumours circulating about gangs armed with iron bars going around at nights, knocking out victims and robbing them, but had an urban legend feel to it. General impression of Kampala by day and well into evening was not of a lawless city by any means, at least not around any of the central districts.

Accommodation
Value for money not easy, especially compared to other parts of the world, though beds generally comfortable everywhere, even in the tents. Worth trying to knock down prices in locations where more beds than guests, (except the grotesque looking Entebbe flight motel, which suddenly became full when I suggested a discount from the asking price of around 40US. Perhaps best were the private twins at Red Chilli – not SC, but at 53,000 UGX per twin, OK. Speke in Kampala was charming, and they reduced our rate, coffee and pizzeria are great, but it’s not great value at 120US for a twin b&b.
Nshongi camp is in lovely location, cosy, but until new WC, shower block completed, it’s still rudimentary. No doubt there will be a price hike there soon from the 120US for two FB two nights. But if you’re going from Rushaga and don’t mind nipping out at night, it’s the option.
In a similar vein is the Amajambere Community camp (Mgahinga) – similar prices – never saw the dorm and was not offered the option despite booking it. There’s a lovely main building – with the hydrangeas in bloom, looked like a Sussex cottage. Shame the bare light bulb undoes the charm of the interior. They also run the Golden Monkey in Kisoro, which at over 80,000UGX felt overpriced, especially considering the noise made – particularly by the “Co-op” crowd into the night. Only an option if you can sleep on the bus next day!
Red Chilli is moving down the road towards Ggaba and understandably, are not going to worry too much about maintaining facilities there. Nevertheless, at their Paraa camp, there was practically not a single toilet or shower facility which was in good working condition, added to ripped groundsheets and split seams in the tents. The emplacement is lovely, true, but investment is seriously needed here, as it’s not good enough.
After the eyesore and reception at the Flight Motel, the Camp Entebbe seemed almost a relief and knocked down to 78,000UGX no more overpriced than most, quiet and conveniently by the airport road. Perhaps should switch, putting former in moderate and latter in budget section.

Food and drink
In Kampala, well worth checking out St Anthony’s on Lumumba Ave, in centre, not far from UWA – traditional food, cooked on charcoal at about 20,000 – 25,000 a head.
As for FP – Gardens still handy, as quick and good food, but now buffet at 14,000UGX!
Igara tea shop – Well worth a stop. Kasese – Ishaka road 12km north of the latter by Bushenyi. Betty makes a good cuppa and can even pick up a souvenir mug.
Can vouch for the 4 points on Airport road, near the plush 7 seasons hotel – mains for about 18,000 UGX and a nice little bakery set up at the entrance.

Activities
Don’t skimp on Kampala – the Kasubi tombs are being rebuilt, but the guides are great and give a useful background. Likewise, the Buganda parliament and palace are easily visited, including the walk to Amin’s torture cells, not to mention markets and more, thoroughly run through in the guide.
Rafting – went with Nalubale – seemed a sound outfit – safety very much to the fore – people to lose your rafting virginity to – but not an activity for everyone.
Game – Definitely more to be seen in terms of volume at Murchison – with the bonus of the falls, though only spotted cats and “dogs” at QE, though lions were around at Murchison. The Kazinga Channel trip rivals any safari boat trip – not to be skipped – much of a muchness who to do with, but better afternoon when animals are down drinking and wallowing.
Trekking –Sabinyo – vertigo less of a factor if the clouds cover the third “tooth” or ascent of the three to make it to the top. Route takes you through all kinds of vegetation types and since last year, sturdy steps up have replaced some of the most rickety step ladder sections, making the 60US appear slightly less steep than some of the climbs up the second and third teeth. Even taking it slowly, setting off at 8am, unlikely to be back much after 4 and as all seem to comment – a few litres of water and some energy foods come in more than useful, whereas, the staff is absolutely essential and gloves extremely recommendable.
For local music lovers, seems that the Imperial has live music Tuesday evenings on the covered terrace with Ugandan and Congolese bands – saw a couple of very good acts.
Lastly – worth learning some Luganda – appreciated and universally understood in the country, now Swahili out of favour. If you have private transport, worth bringing over material to donate to schools – never hard to find – took over about 75 sports shirts for teams and a dozen or so balls that went down well, as budget often doesn’t stretch to sports kits.

Anton Summerer writes:

Please forgive my poor english
Recommendation: Touroperator Road Trip Uganda
Couple from the netherlands rents cars with/without driver
Very good, they picked me up from the ariport; I only had to send my flight-dates; no money a priori; it’s a matter of trust!
They are also driving to Ruanda and Kenia
Prices: 7 days 4 x 4 + driver – ca 500 € for 7 days 4 x 4 + Driver; für gasoline you have to pay seperately
But: without a car you will need a lot of time to travel round Uganda
the advantage of a car with driver is evident: the driver knows the whole country, all the hotels, he has the telefone numbers and can call the lodges to get reservation
I was veeery pleased: after the trip the driver is of course waiting for a tip: give him 10 US per day and he will be really satisfied
Shuttle-service by Roadtrip uganda
Address: Grace Musoke Road, Bukoto, Kampala I PO Box 1881 Kampala I
http://www.roadtripuganda.com
I Tel RTU: +256 773363012 I Okke: +256788925800 I Laura: +256788925799
info@roadtripuganda.com

Some prices
Rwenzori-Water 1,5 l – 2000,–; other pet-bottles-water 1.500,–
Beer: ca. 4000-5000 (in restaurants)
1 € = 3.200,– USh
Important: Rainy season – according to local people – until january 10th ; after this it’s dry

KASESE: Sundton-Hotel, best hotel in town; by far, 3 categories, between 22 US and 99 US, middle priced room: 125.000 Uganda Shillings
Meals are very good! -Try Chicken-Curry and e.g. Spaghetti Bolognese! (12000 bis 15000)
Cold Nile-Special (5000)
Barclays Bank, on the same street, ca 100 meters in direction to the north
You can draw from ATM up to 1.000.000 Shillings
By the way: every larger town has a bank with an ATM; and they are working!
But  You can only use VISA! – In Kampala you can also use Maestro-card

RMS Kasese Office
http://www.rwenzorms.com/rwenzorimountaineeringservices.com
E-Mail: rwenzorims@yahoo.co.uk
E-Mail: trek@rwenzorimountaineeringservices.com

RRGNA New Ruwenzori-Organisation, they are more motivated as RMS, but also more expensive; but it’s a matter of bargaining
If you want to come in the afternonn for booking and want to go next day, this is possible
If you want to climb one of the summits, you must ask for a climbing guide
If you book the tour in the late afternoon, you can go NEXT day; no problem! – The tour is all inclusive:permit, entrance fee, guide, cook and porters
Tipping: according to Hauser Expeditons you should give 50 US tot he cook, 50 US to he guide and 25 each to the porters
The guide will ask you about tipping at Guy Yeamon hut! They want US dollars!

RRGNA has an new office in Nyakalengiya, where you get a briefing
The entrance-facts are a bit of strange; nobody want to tell me, what’s really going on; they didn’t ask my questions!
There are 2-companys now doing the circuit
the entrance fee is now included with the package you book
You write your name in a book (at the park entrance)
That’s all; after a ½ an hour walking you write your name agian in a book; that’s all you have to do
After retourning your guide brings you to this office, where you must point on your name in this book

RRGN created a new path, the so called Mahoma-Trail; it’s wonderful,1 year old and has the advantage that you do not have to return same way
You spend the 1. night in a tent ( brought by the porters); next day you walk (with boots!) to mahoma-lake and after a break you will reach Niyyabita hut in the afternoon, where the original trail starts!
they will pick you up by car at 08:30 from your hotel in Kasese and bring you to Nyankalagija

On the last day oft he trekk, they driver will wait for you at the RRGN-office in time, as the guide will call them!! – So you do not have to wait here!
By the way: at first/last camp you have mobile-net!
The whole Trekking is now rather easy, as there are a lot of wooden/iron stairs; really muddy it’s only round Bujuku-Lake
In all the huts there are many FLEAS!!

Under all circumstances you need RUBBER Boots! Best to by them from your country. You should use the boots from the first day on, so you need not to bring your mountain boots (if you do not intend to go to Elana-Hut!)
Adress of RRG:
Rwenzori Ranges Guides And Escorts Association (RRGEA)
Plot 120 AK Complex Kilembe Road Opposite Total Petrol Station
After Main Kasese Roundabout Next to Don Petrol Station
Easy to find: direct on Kilembe road, near a huge telefon-Post

P.O.Box 221 Kasese Uganda
Tel: +256 788 523 886, 753 487 866 Operations

0758 483 431 Marketing

0774 365 296 Coordinator

0777 744 300 C/Person
E.Mail:rwenzori2002@yahoo.com + rwenzorimountainguides@gmail.comt
http://www.rwenzorimountainguides.com/
If you send and E-Mail, they will give you the following reply:

My guide told me, the main-season for trekking is in December; from the middle of January there’s almost NO rain; i had three huts for myself!!

If you want to make a launch ride to Kazinga-Channel, it’s best, to overnite in Kasese, as the drive is only 1,5 hours
start at 12:00 midday
the UWA- Launch starts at 1500 and costs 25 $; you can also pay in T Sh: – 67.500,–

A lot of animals, especially birds (kingfisher); many hippos, a few elephants and so on
You can buy picture post cards at Mweka-lodge; 2000 TSH per piece (!)
There are NO appropriate cards in Kasese
Next to UWA-Office there is a good restaurant with some menus: fish is very good, not cheap!
Entrance fee to QE NP: 35 US, additional 20.000 USh for the car and 10.000 for the driver!
Post to Europe is very fast
Fort Portal: Garden-Restaurant; very good value; all drivers bring their clients to this restaurant, because their meals are „covered“
You can taste here some meals from Uganda (buffet) for 12000 USh
food is good

Kibale-Forest (Tschibale pronounced)
Chimps Tracking is 150 US, 100 percent chance to see them !!
come at 0730 in the morning; the tour starts at 0800; you can come buy the same day; you will need NO reservation!
the tour lasts appr. 4 hours, you shouldn’t be out of shape, because sometimes you have to walk long, to see the chimps: all guides have walkie talkies, so they can communicate; there are unfortunatley a lot of tourists; but the chimps are used tot he people, they keep cool
you will see the animals sometimes at a distance of 3 meters!

Hotelsuggestion: Chimpanzee Forest Gutest House & Camp
120.000,– incl. breakfast

ca 20 Minutes drive from UWA- Headquarter; wonderful bandas with nice views ofer the hills around, the stuff is very friendly, good food
http://www.chimpanzeeforestguesthouse.com
E-Mail: chimpgueste@yahoo.com
Tel.: 0772-486415, 0772-482673

Crater-lakes: From the socalled Worlds-End-viewpoint (entrance 5000 USh) you can see 3 lakes; wonderful landscape
don’t forget to visit Ndali lodge; you can have a drink here (beer is 5000 USh), they will show you round, it’s a fantastic place, but veeery expensive; at least 200 US $
you can sit on a terrace, with a wonderful view to the lake
On your way to UWA-Office (Chimps tracking) you can see morning/evening a lot of baboons
They are used to people: I think, some oft he tourists feed them

Semliki NP:
Entrance fee 40 US, 10000 USh for Uganda people; by far too expensive for what you will see; two or three Colobus-Monkeys and hot springs, where you can broil an egg (!)
Very disappointig! And it’s very hot there (40 degrees)
From here the drive to Murchison Falls is 10 hours or longer; very bad street (dust-shower & African massage, so my driver)
Wonderful view to Lake Albert – Go to the lake: there are a lot of palm-trees, but you can’t swim, because of bilharziosis

In the evening you will reach Murchison NP
„Nile Safari Lodge“ ist closed for repair (Business language: we are fully booked)
Nearby is „Red Chilli Rest Camp“ where they serve during lunchtime wonderful menus for approx. 12.000 USh; beautiful riverview, very nice people, full of tourists
Nearby ist he wonderful „Murchison River –Lodge“; 140 $ (if you bargain they will give the banda for 100 US Dollars; fullboard, very good food
From the restaurant the view is incredibile
there are also some tents, where you could sleep
luanch drive to the falls : the Highlight of the park : hundreds for Hippos, many animals, crocs elephants (very shy) and so on
25 US! – and it‘s worth every penny
the boat stops at a point not too far from the falls; from here you can walk up to the majestic falls; if you have a driver, this guy will pick you up from the top; the path is ca 45 miuntes with a lot of viewpoints on the route, you are directly looking into the gorge with all the white waters; after the path, they charge 10 US from you!
Ferry is now 10.000,– USh; for this amount you can cross the river same day as often as you need
first ferry is at 0700, last ferry at 1900!
if you go on the game drive, you should cross the Nile with the first ferry
Fort he Launch ride to the Falls, you have to cross the river again: starting at 1400, US $ 25
If you want to do the game drive mor than one time, maybe it’s better to stay in the northern part oft he NP
There’s the „Bwana Tembo Safari Camp“; all Drivers know this lodge
70 US$ with fullboard; wonderful italian food, no wonder: the owners are Italien
E-Mail: davide_francescotours@yahoo.com
Wonderful Nile-view
The town Pakwach is near: there you can get fuel
Also the northern entrance oft he park is near

If you want to drive from Murchison NP to Sipi this is a very rough street
SIPI is a ncie village, where one can relax
If you are only coming because oft he falls, forget it
Sipi Falls Resort costs 140.000,– USh, but it’s not worth, the people seems uninterested in tourists
Dinner (three courses) is in the above mentioned prices included
The view to the fall of course is very nice

I spent a memorable stay at Mbara safari Lodge and Resort near Kasese Town, a stone throw away from the spectacular Queen Elizabeth national Park. i was deeply impressed by the art employed to put up the lodge, depicting africa. Mbara, I was told is a Lhukonzo langauge name of a Uganda cob. Cobs graze in the vicinity of the lodge. Thatched cottages made me enjoy the day given the hot temperatures of Kasese.
I will definately go back when I return to Uganda

M. William

Volcanoes Safaris, one of the top operators in Uganda, has recently opened the exclusive Kyambura Gorge Lodge in the Kyambura sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park, one of the country’s prime chimp tracking sites. For further information check the webpage kyambura-gorge-lodge

We’ve  just spent several fascinating weeks travelling round
Uganda (mainly by public transport) & have enjoyed the
experience & using the guide. Below are a few
thoughts/comments/recommendations:
edition.

1. Re minibus-taxis, I’d say that the law of 3 passengers
per row is strictly enforced in Kampala but did not find
that to be the case elsewhere. Special hire (again outside
Kampala) the norm is 9 people. Four in the front including
the driver on a passenger’s lap!) and five in the back.

2. The Post Bus now has a new fleet of buses so is very
comfortable. Link buses were also good.

3. Lake Mburo. We encountered many unexpected extra costs
worth pointing out. The park charged us for the special
hire we engaged at the Sanga trading station even though
they were only dropping us at there. Don’t know if this
would be the same in other parks. Highly recommend the
safari tents; as you said, good value. The issue of being
far from the canteen by the lake was a problem. A boda
boda will be suggested but they charge Ush2,500 per person
per trip to take you to the canteen. Thus, if two of you
are picked up and deposited later, they charge Ush10,000.
They will provide a walking escort for free but there’s
often not one available. One classic time a young guide
was provided as an escort minus gun; I asked why and he
told us he hadn’t yet started his shift so was not yet in
uniform and therefore couldn’t carry a firearm! We asked
him if the buffalo was aware of this ….. Arcadia
cottages ..Good food costing relatively little more than
at the canteen. They’re happy to accommodate campers if
you book (and best if you order) in advance. Lake Mburo is
now firmly on the Overlander route (three trucks in two
days) so if one’s there/due, get to order the food early
as the kitchen often runs out of options. Latrine toilets
in foul state at campsite plus crap (literally) round the
back where some have decided to avoid the latrines
altogether. Shame as the location is fabulous.

4. Mbarara – Riheka Guesthouse – Good recommendation: very
friendly staff; good value and nice food. Garden great for
bird watching.

5. Rwenzoris – Rwenzoris Trekkers – good guiding (went on
memorable 6-day trip to Weismann’s) but otherwise rather
disorganised. Advertised the possibility of hiring
equipment; when we got to Kampala they then told us we
couldn’t hire sleeping bags or fleeces – they were all
out. So we borrowed from a friend and shopped in Mbarara
(got two excellent fleeces) but when we got over to
Kilembe, there were sleeping bags available after all!
Worth emphasising more is the MUD. So energy sapping. Our
guide said a fair number of alpine climbers (Swiss &
German) in particular had complained about the mud and
some even got quite aggressive about it. It has to be said
that the high number of hikers (we were two but had two
guides and six porters!!!) passing along the trail in high
season (supposedly the dry season) was clearly causing the
mud highway. Hostel in Kilembe rather lacking in shower &
other facilities (given the number of trekkers that can
arrive at one time with sodden, muddy bodies and kit).

6. Fort Portal Rwenzori View Guesthouse: excellent as you
recommend – superb food. Good food too at the Gardens &
the pizzeria. Note gears on mountain bikes for hire at
Kabarole Tours suspect and “sketch” map pretty hopeless
but they do sell a decent area map (by Andrew Roberts I
believe!).

7. Bigodi Wetland (Kibale Forest) Excellent – saw six primates and
numerous birds – guide good. Note that there are hardly
any minibus taxis along that road now; they are nearly all
shared taxis, apparently because the drivers earn more
money.
8. Lake Bunyoni. Stayed in Byoona Amagara in the VIP
geodome – can’t recommend the place enough.  Staff
efficient & friendly. Food good and inexpensive, as were
costs for all services.

9. Bwindi – Ruhija; possibly as a result of a new
habituated gorilla group, there are now five places to
stay. Best budget option is the new Ruhija Community Rest
Camp – three very rudimentary rooms & facilities. Nearest
place to walk to park entrance if you’ve come with special
hire & are therefore on foot. USD15pp plus inexpensive
local food (plus will do lunch pack). Very friendly with a
nice garden and a log fire at night. Birdwatching – felt
rather cheated by UWA. We paid the park entry and the fee
for bird-watching. Only after they’d taken the money and
found us a guide, did they tell us that the guide was a
free-lancer because they didn’t have any birding guides
available (they’re apparently suffering from staff
shortages at the moment) so we had to pay an extra USD30.
UWA refused to refund the money they had taken for a
guide, arguing it was for the armed escort, who also
didn’t stay with us the whole time because they had to be
shared between a couple of groups. what can we say about
the gorilla tracking – truly magical.

10. Kabale – new wi-fi cafe/lounge, run (I suspect) by
Royal Supermarket. Good snacks, light bites.

11. QENP. In Mweya Hostel canteen we had the best steak
we’ve had in years two nights in a row. Generally food
inexpensive and very good. Tembo Canteen has great vista
but is somewhat dilapidated & in need of TLC. Boat trip
small Mweya Lodge boat more comfortable & slightly cheaper
than the UWA launch.

12. Masindi  can’t recommend the New Court View Hotel
highly enough – stayed twice and owner Sally was extremely
helpful in every respect helping us arrange a driver for
Murchison. Food, as you say, excellent.

13. Murchison  Stayed at the still not fully open
Murchison River Lodge. Excellent value, view, facilities,
food & friendly staff. Wild Frontiers now doing morning
birding boat trip down to the delta at 7am several times a
week.

14. Gulu – excellent new Lebanese restaurant now open.

15. Kidepo – drive in superb, as you state. Stayed at Nga
Moru (Place of Rocks), run by Fugleys, who no longer do
camping tours into the park. Nga Moru slightly overpriced
really at USD150pp full board. Unlike Murchison RL, which
has been thoughtfully designed, it’s a more organic, and
therefore ad-hoc development. View from the safari tent
porches superb but the dining area could have been better
planned (food good – especially salads from own organic
garden) and the ensuite bathrooms don’t have solar-powered
showers (though you can order a bush shower in advance),
which you’d expect for the price, especially since it can
be quite chilly when wet. Fugleys in Kitgum way overpriced
(USh180, 000 for double).

16. Public transport – generally could do with better
coverage in places. Two routes that come to mind: if
you’re trying to get from Kabale to Masindi, by far the
best way to go is to take the early morning post bus to
Kampala and then catch a Link bus out to Masindi. Going
north via Fort Portal and attempting to get across is not
on. Also between Kasese & Kabale, there were no taxis that
go the back route; you have to go via Imbarara and double
back. Worth perhaps pointing out perhaps (and apologies if
you have and we missed it!) that if you take a shared taxi
out into the country (e.g. to Bigodi or Busingiro) you can
easily get a seat on the way out because you set out from
the starting point of the journey. However, on the way
back out in the country, you could be waiting for hours
(speaking from experience) since the shared taxis only set
out from the population centres when full so unless
someone gets out you’re stuffed!

Sara & Adrian (Barbados)

Budget accommodation at QENP

Posted: September 12, 2011 in Katwe, Queen Elizabeth NP

We had to drop a couple off in Katwe and they were looking for the “Excellent Hotel” mentioned in your book. We couldn’t find it but reckoned that the “Express Hotel” must be it. They went in to check out the room but came out looking a little pale (although they were experienced budget travellers) and we wondered, since it apparently had only one room vacant, if it might be a brothel. We eventually dropped them at Kabatoro Guest House, near the main park gate (Queen Eliz) and they reported later that it was excellent and the people there really friendly and helpful. The phone number is +0256 783 604 860

Some useful updates from Andrew Roberts, who put together the 5th and 6th editions of Bradt Uganda, follow:

General

As of  August 2011, the Uganda shilling is billed as the world’s worst performing currency.  Bad news for Ugandans but great for tourists paying in shillings.  I used a rate of Ush2000 to the $ when updating the last edition of this book.  At the moment you’ll get 2800 shillings for your dollars.  After trading against the pound at around 3500 for some time, the shilling is now at 4500.

Masaka Road

The Ssese Islands ferry from Nakiwogo still departs promptly at stated times but takes 4 rather than 3.5 hours.

Jinja/Bujagali

In Feb 2011 rafting between Bujagali  Falls and Silverback rapid ended as work on the dam at Silverback entered its final phases.  Rafters now launch downstream from the dam from sites on the west bank of the Nile.

Nile River Camp www.camponthenile.com  This excellent new budget facility is located next to the Nile Porch (you can walk through the Porch site to the camp but vehicle access is off the Bujagali -  Jinja road, 1km before  the Buj turning)  Smart bathrooms, comfortable dorms, small pool, communal building, good food, great river views. It’s been specifically developed as a family-oriented set up and this provides a useful alternative to the nearby NRE Explorers Camp – another worthy set up but one which can be a bit lively when the post rafting high move on to alcohol-fuelled exuberance.

Zen Tubing  NRE runs whitewater tubing excursions from the river below Explorers Camp.  This activity initially used vehicle inner tubes but have upgraded to ‘real’ tubes which are baby sized rafts (by which I mean a raft sized for a baby).  You, a full grown adult are expected to sit in these as you bobble down minor rapids around Bujagali.  You’ll find that minor rapids can seem quite major at water level sitting in a vulcanised crib and even more so when you fall out. Oddly enough, one tends to fall out quite a lot.  This, apparently, is all part of the fun.

QENP

Andrew has just published a 48 page guide to Queen Elizabeth National Park. The booklet contains a checklist of 603 birds recorded in the park.  The full list is officially 604.  A prize to the person who identifies the missing bird!

Websites:

A  couple of new websites established with the help of a USAID-funded tourism development programme:

Birding in Uganda www.birding-uganda.com

Community tourism www.PearlsOfUganda.org

We really enjoyed Uganda. Its eemed a cheerful helpful place and my son really had a chance to play with local children here and enjoy himself. It is certainly harder going in terms of roads and facilities than the Southern part of Kenya, but frankly we didn’t find that an issue and instead relished the opportunity to really engage with local people. Provisioning outside of Kampala is a bit ad hoc, but most things can be found. Kampala has a Shoprite.

 

The Route

Pretty simple really. The North is out of bounds, so we went as far North as Sipi Falls and then Kampala, Entebbe, back to Kampala and cross country to Fort Portal. Our son is too young to go chimpanzee trekking but we still enjoyed visiting the Kibale area. I would instead recommend the Magombe Swamp for monkey spotting if you have children. It is just outside the Kibale Forest. Queen Elizabeth National Park was great fun and the absolute highlight was Lake Bunyoni – stunning.

 

Tororo

Our first stop after the border. We camped in the garden of the Rock Classic Hotel. It was 25,000USH for all of us with hot showers and toilets. Whilst it is a decent hotel, they do have a camping spot on grass right at the back and are happy to have camping guests for the odd night.

 

Sipi Falls

We camped at the Crows Nest which was fabulous. Basic but clean facilities and some delightful people. Our son had a ball here playing with all the local children and we had a great time chatting to the locals. We also hired a guide for a trip to the lowest level of the falls (our son walked all the way and back again), which was very informative especially about local life and the local flora and fauna.

 

Jinja

The Explorers Campsite was where we stayed and so did many other overlanders. Lots of adrenalin activities available if you were so inclined, but also a good place to relax and plenty of space to run around for the children. Free internet and helpful staff. Although we were about twice the age of their average guests we were made to still feel very welcome!

 

 

Entebbe

Entebbe Backpackers. Brilliant. Camping on the lawn with access to toilets and showers and brilliant owners. The cost was 800USH each and my son ended up playing all evening with their grandchildren. Very welcoming place.

We drove from Entebbe to Fort Portal via Kampala. Be warned, the first 30 miles of the Fort Portal road is horrendous. After that it is ‘suicide alley’. The cross country buses come racing along these roads with a death wish. After one near miss I just pulled over and let the buses pass any time that I saw them in my rear mirror.

 

Ambere Caves

This was the first place we stayed near Fort Portal. Not recommended. It was noisy and had lots of awful dogs. Very expensive at 15,000USH each. The caves are also underwhelming and overpriced. Don’t bother.

 

Kibale Forest

We stayed in two places, one either side of the forest. The first, coming from Fort Portal, was the Chimpanzee Guest House. Great. Lovely place with wonderful views – be prepared to camp on a slope – and great facilities. Loved it. It also had a old colonial house which was beautiful.

On the other side of the Kibale Forest we stayed at the Chimps Nest. Again, really excellent and the view was like ‘Gorilla’s in the Mist’. Bring a torch though – no lights at all at night. Cosy bar.

 

Katwe

This is the part of the Queen Elizabeth National Park where one can camp without actually being inside the park. The Hippo Hill campsite itself is fine. The facilities are no more than OK, but the staff are helpful. However, the local children are a nightmare here. They hide in the hedge to spy on you and we were warned that possibly they might be a little light fingered. Our son found them all a bit intimidating and whilst the QENP itself was great, Katwe is quite a hassly town in comparison to other places in Uganda.

 

Mbarara

We stayed at the Agip Hotel which was lovely. Just camped in the grounds, but they had facilities for campers and everything was clean and everyone helpful. We have especially fond memories of the kindness of people both in this town and at the hotel, as our son chose this place to vomit endlessly and everyone was most kind and helpful!

 

Lake Bunyoni

We loved Lake Bunyoni and stayed an extra day. It is beautiful and relaxing. We chose a small campsite called Kalebos Camping which was run by a Dutch chap and which also did fabulous home made pizzas.

Most people head to Bunyoni Overland Camp, but frankly they were very rude to us and friends of ours who camped there moved down to where we were the next night. The overland camp is also a ‘split’ site ie: it is a good walk from the camping area to the bar. I had the feeling that they were moving their market away from independants more towards big groups and if so, then there are  plenty of options for everyone around Bunyoni.

 

Kisoro

One horse border town and we couldn’t find a vegetable in the entire place. We camped in the grounds of the Virunga Hotel. Basic but clean facilities and very helpful staff.

 

Border Crossing

Both the Kenya/Uganda and the Uganda/Rwanda borders were fairly easy. The latter is down a long dirt track though (dreadful in the wet). All the usual form filling in and handing over of US dollars, but no problems and helpful people who seemed delighted we were coming to visit their country.

One last thing, ordering food in Uganda at any kind of restaurant takes time and I mean about an hour! Fort Portal is especially bad. Just order about an hour before you want to eat and all will be well. The kind of thing one especially needs to know with a hungry child in tow!