Kichwamba Escarpment Community Tourism Initiative

Deborah writes:

Between Nov 17 and Dec 3, 2014, we volunteered at Healthy Child Uganda in Mbarara, and were tourists on weekends. Although we asked for alternatives to the usual tourist spots, all our inquiries directed us to the National Parks, which are indeed wonderful. Those we asked were clear – the infrastructure doesn’t exist to ‘go off the beaten’ track. Since work was intense, we took the easy route and went to the tourist places.

One Sunday, our hike in Queen Elizabeth National Park couldn’t happen and our guides had no backup plan to offer. Everyone we asked at our lodge or in the park suggested another game drive. Ho hum. I kept asking. One of the servers in the dining tent asked if we’d been to Twin Lakes and the Kichwamba Escarpment Community Tourism Initiative. We’d never heard of it. No one at the park had. With nothing else to do, we went.

The Kichwamba Escarpment Community Tourism Initiative was the highlight of our trip. The two-hour tour evolved into three hours and we were invited to stay for their lunch, which we shared village style. The sweeping vista from the rim of the escarpment was stunning and unlike other crater lakes we’d visited.

Our guides were village elders, we met the village chairman, the 82-year old elder who convenes the village peacemaking council, the village traditional healer, the teacher, families, the children followed us or waved shyly from their mother’s skirts … and on and on of wonderful and moving introductions, explanations and welcomes.

This is sustainable tourism and agriculture and traditional culture at its best. And no one we asked knew it existed. The entrance is unsigned and hard to find. Had we not called ahead to alert them to the make of our car and approximate time of arrival, we would still be looking. As it was, the elder, Hillary, stood at the entrance and phoned our driver’s cell when he saw us miss the turn.

After the tour, the elders took us into their ‘office’ and offered tea, plus small gifts of some of their fresh produce that we’d admired during the visit.

The cost was the equivalent of $10 US per person and we also added a donation to their village since everything in cash is put in the village common pot and shared among all. We also gave a gift to the lovely woman who invited us to share her families’ lunch although she didn’t ask for anything and welcomed us from her heart. As did they all.

May 2014 trip report

Leon writes:

Masaka – Ten Tables
The Ten Tables restaurant seems to have converted into a rooftop pub, serving basic pub food rather than the mentioned three-course dinners.

Lake Mburo – Eagle’s Nest
Indeed Eagle’s nest is good value. Basic tenting with beds and shower having great views over the park.

Lake Bunyoni – Arcadia Cottages
I don’t remember the exact price we paid, even after haggling it was US100+ B&B. The panorama is still there :-)

Ishasha – Ishasha Jungle Lodge
Next to reconstructing the lodge, which is done brilliantly. Also the prices have been revised. The brochure states US155pp for full board, a disappointment after a long day driving.. Since we were the only guests they went down to US130 for B&B. Also the road from Kihihi had numerous big pools.

Jan 2014 trip report

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.

Uganda trip report

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!

August 2013 trip report

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.

January 2013 trip report

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