Uganda Travel Series Part 4
Tea Plantations, Bananas
Crater Lakes- Kyaninga Lodge
Last Post Days 6-9 Uganda-Enjoy Murchison Falls For Game Drives & Boat Tours
Dreaming and planning a vacation thousands of miles from home can be both exciting and terrifying. You cross your fingers, say a little prayer, and hope for the best. Our local travel agency had not let us down the first 8 Days in Uganda, but you just never know what can happen. On this leg of our journey we climbed into the 4 x4 and departed Murchison Falls National Park. Driving 7 hours on some of the most dusty rutted roads of entire trip (I was very happy that I had thought to bring a bandeau to use as a face cover, as breathing in the red dust was overwhelming), we headed to one of the richest towns in Uganda, Fort Portal.
We passed once again thousands of children of all ages heading to school on the dusty roads. Most were shoeless and carrying their Jerry water containers. Most children carry the smaller Jerry cans, but the older children carry the standard 5 gallon, which weights in at 40 lbs when full of water.
As we drove the scenery began to change. Fort Portal is a town in Western Uganda, and is a vast difference from the dry savannah plains. Higher in the mountains with more rain fall, Fort Portal and the surrounding area is known as the heartland of Ugandan agriculture. It is an important commercial center, and agricultural hub where tea and banana plantations are vastly abundant. Fort Portal is also very close to Kibale forest, and is home to one of the largest concentrations of chimps in Uganda. It draws may people from around the world to Kibale National Park, where it is possible to book chimpanzee treks.
It is very clear by as we look out the windows, that it is not only the landscape that is changing, so are the houses. The local housing appears more modern, and no longer resembles the round rural tribal huts. You can also see the wealth of the local people in the children going to school. They wear clean colorful uniforms, the round bellies of malnutrition seem to have mostly disappeared, and most houses or communities have water wells within very close proximity (fewer children carrying Jerry cans).
It was a vast difference over the children, and housing conditions of rural Uganda. This area of Uganda is one of the richest that we encountered on our 19 day journey.
Fort Portal, Uganda Tea, Bananas & Crater Lakes
Day 9- Traveling from Murchison Falls to Fort Portal
Any trepidation over our accommodations for this night scattered into the wind, when we came upon Kyaninga Lodge. It is simply one the most stunning and breath-taking lodges of our entire trip.
Kyaninga Lodge sits on the bluff overlooking two ancient volcanic craters that merged together to create one large crescent-shaped lake. It is up a long dirt road, but the area is very green and lush, surrounded by Tea & banana plantations. The lodge consists of 10 individual raised wooden cottages and one main lodge that houses the restaurant, pool, and bar. There are lots of stairs and platforms to get to each cottage. The location and the lodge are both beautiful, and visibly stunning. It is more than I expected to find in Uganda. It is the type of place that I might have seen in a travel magazine, and then dreamed about traveling to see. I am very happy to get the chance to stay here.
After a quick tour by the staff, we are escorted to our cottage. The cottage is very spacious with one of the biggest bed I have ever seen. It also has a sitting area, a balcony overlooking the scenic crater lake, and a most modern en-suite bathroom. It is one of the best designed bathrooms we had the pleasure of utilizing while visiting Uganda. A full size tub, double sinks, and a nice hot shower provided all the comforts of home.
If you saw the way we arrived at the lodge, caked in red dust and sweat, you would understand how much I loved this bathroom. As soon as I saw the claw foot tub, I had the overwhelming desire to fill it up, and soak off the caked on road dust!
Exploring & Hiking Kyaninga Lodge
It was getting late in the afternoon, and I wanted to get some walking in after sitting in the car for so long, so I passed on filling the tub, and headed out to explore the area. The staff pointed me in the direction of two easy hikes. One down to crater lake, and the other around the rim of the ancient craters.
The hike down into the crater lake is quite steep, and easier to get down to, than get back up and out to the main road. I had to stop a few times myself on the way back up to catch my breath. However, it is worth the trip.
Lake Kyaninga is one of the deepest at 735 ft deep, and cleanest in East Africa. It is also free of Bilharzia (a parasite found in shallow lakes in Uganda) according to the lodges reading material. The small floating jetty dock provides a place to sunbathe, or jump into the warm waters of the crater lake. I enjoyed a quick dip to wash off some of the road dust, before heading back up the steep stairs. I wanted to get on to the next hike around the top of the crater to enjoy upper views of Lake Kyaninga before the sun began set.
The hike around the ancient crater provides outstanding views of the lodge and surrounding country side. Fields of tea, bananas and other crops as far as the eyes can see. In the dry season they burn the fields, so there was a long-standing haze while we were visiting. The hike is an easy 1 1/2 hours or little more if you stop to enjoy the stunning view, and take photographs. I will be honest, I did have some safety concerns walking as a woman alone.
I met locals who chattered among themselves glancing back and forth at me….a white woman, hiking alone, and carrying a big camera. When I asked if I could take their picture…no one agreed. Shaking their heads, they seemed quite upset at me for even suggesting in my rudimentary mannerisms of pointing at my camera, and then at them with a big smile on my face. One small group of men passed by me, and I became a little more anxious, but they continued on their way without problem. The trail is not clearly marked in places, or I did not see the signs, but I had to backtrack at one point to find the trail through a stand of trees. I made it back to the lodge safely and up to our cottage to enjoy the delicious view of the lake from our private balcony. However, the smoky haze that lingered over the horizon prevented me from taking any worthwhile photographs of the event.
We enjoyed an average dinner, but engaged another couple sitting next to us that were from England and working in Kampala. It made for a pleasurable evening before we readied ourselves for an early morning departure, and fell into bed.
Unusual Take Away Lunch Boxes
Up early our driver grabbed our take away lunch which was held in one of the most unusual Lunch Box of our Ugandan trip. Our take way lunches on this were packed in Banana Leaf Lunch Boxes…. eco minded, and provided the perfect place mat on which to eat while traveling. 🙂
I really enjoyed our stay at Kyaninga Lodge, and I wish that we had planned 2 days here, and I highly recommend it if you plan a driving tour across Uganda. The lodge offers daily guided walks: around the crater rim (1.5 hrs), Cultural to the local village (2-3 hrs) , and another to the great rift valley (3-6 hrs).
It is a place where memories are made …and you will forever remember the stunning location and views.
Queen Elizabeth Park
Day 10-Fort Portal To Queen Elizabeth Park
We are up early and on the road. Three hours was our drive time on this leg of the journey we travel crossing the Ugandan Equator to Queen Elizabeth Park. We take the morning to stop in Fort Portal to see the banana market, and go to the bank. It is strange to see armed guards sitting outside the banks, but this is like the wild, wild west here, and bank robberies are a frequent occurrence. I really enjoyed this stop, as most of our trip has been very rural, and consisting of mostly national parks. It is a nice change to see how the local people live, and work. We got to see this up close when I driver stopped to clean the clogged air filter of the car, and exchange our spare for a new tire.
The drive to Queen Elizabeth Park will drop us back down into the dry plains of the Rift Valley, but the drive is scenic and blessedly short compared to our legs of the journey. We drive southwards along the Eastern length of the Rwenzori Mountains, watching antelope grazing on the plains. We arrive in Queen Elizabeth National Park which covers close to 2,000 square kilometers and spreads out along the eastern shore of Lake Edward. Queen Elizabeth is Uganda’s second largest national park, at the base of the scenic Rwenzori Mountain range. It sits next to Lake Edward and Lake George.
We arrive at our destination the Mweya Safari Lodge