Uganda Travel Series Part 1
Uganda Gorilla Trekking, Game Drives and More
My dream of gorilla trekking has led us on an adventure to Uganda.
We had spent 6 days in Tanzania, and the following 6 posts will cover our 19 day journey across Uganda to see most of Uganda’s National Parks.
So here we go……..
Day 1 Arriving in Uganda
We left Tanzania late in the evening and boarded a plane for Entebbe International Airport. I have to say that there is not much to do at the Kilimanjaro airport so plan on visiting with other passengers and stay out of the security area until the last possible moment, because once you go through the security check you have no access to anything to drink or eat.
We arrived in Entebbe around 8 pm via Uganda Air and getting an entrance visa went much smoother than it did in Tanzania at the Kilimanjaro airport. Crossing our fingers once again, we hoped that the company we booked within Uganda would be there to meet us. I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders when I saw the driver holding the sign with our name on it. Ben is to be our driver for the next 19 days stood among the sea of other waiting holding up signs. Reaching out to take our bags before we had a chance to refuse, we followed him in his crisp clean company uniform, on which gave me even more confidence in my travel arrangements and the company I had chosen. He whisks us off to Boma House Hotel where we will not get the chance to settle in…we leave tomorrow bright and early.
I am reluctantly getting more and more used to the early morning ritual of rousing before the sun has a chance to rise. Ben gets us checked in quickly, a glass of wine and a snack was sent to our room and we take a few minutes to relax and take in our room before our heads hit the pillow. It is nice and spacious room with a large king bed and separate bath with shower. As crazy as the bone jarring roads are, it still seems that I am looking forward to one of our longest drives of our trip heading to Kidepo National Park with a stopover to see the rhino at the rhino sanctuary.
Day 2 Kampala to Kitgum Uganda
We are up early, but not nearly enough as you will read on. Quick shower (nice hot water) then a little stroll from the room to the breakfast buffet with made to order eggs if you wish. Ben arrives and we load up the vehicle (I recommend you book with a company that will provide a 4X4 vehicle for your trip not a van), and off we go….starting out on our many days of adventures seeing the “real Africa”, people, towns, animal parks, gorilla trekking and more….Here we come Uganda.
Is Uganda The Pearl Of Africa?
What to say about Kampala.
It is hot, smoky, dusty, and crowded mess. The air burns mine lungs with pollution, dust and smoke, and lawless traffic tries our patience. People, cars, motorcycles and animals clog the streets. We get caught up in a traffic jam at 7:45 with no one choosing to obey the local traffic laws. It seems they have them, but they seem to be optional.
Our driver does his best to free us from the tangled mess, but even with him bending the rules, all lanes of traffic are overtaken by people heading in the same direction, so we are essentially at a standstill. Like salmon swimming up-stream, we flounder against the tide of traffic assaulting us, keeping us from moving forward. The local cops stand on the corner talking, oblivious to the snarled traffic. Motorcycle taxis carrying up to 4 people some with babies weave in and out making even more of a mess. Finally almost 3 hours later our driver breaks free and heads off on a side street. We fly through the dirt streets our first introduction to the dreaded red dust flying everywhere and obscuring the view as we eat the dust of cars ahead of us.
Giddy that we gave left the snarled mess behind, but Ben tries to keep our hopes in check as he says “we shall see”, unfortunately a half hour later we are back in another road block and sit for another hour inching our way to freedom.
Thankfully for the next few hours the road is a smooth paved highway heading out-of-town, and the two of us drift off in exhausted slumber, leaving Ben to master the unknown roadways in solitude.
After a good road nap, we awake in time to see a little of the country side before we arrive at the Ziwa Rhino sanctuary located 176km from Kampala on the Gulu Highway . We turn off the highway when we see the 2 life-size rhino statue on the side of the road. Back to dirt we follow the road to the sanctuary which consists of a few buildings a school and 7000 hectares of land. At the time we were there much of it was burned savannah and native woodlands, which is privately owned. We pay our $40 per person fee, which I believe included our hired guide to take us on a rhino trek. In only a short 10-15 minute drive and we are at our destination.
I am ready for a nice walk after the long ride, but we encounter one lone male rhino pretty quickly under the little shade surrounded by the burned and blackened land. We get a little history, and a short lesson in rhino 101 from our guide, we shoot some photos quickly, and we get ready to move on to another location. We hope and pray that this is the only shooting these poor creatures will ever have to endure, and then we head to another location a short 5-10 minute walk away from where we were located. It was a lucky day for us as 2 groups have formed one big group of Rhinos, and are now sleeping under some trees. It was quite exciting getting so close to them after spending 6 days in Tanzania, and only spotting the rhinos from a far distance in Ngorngoro Crater.
The Rhinos seem oblivious to us as we stay a safe distance way from them. They are big, unpredictable, and wild animals and this is as close to an on foot “Out of Africa” wild safari we will encounter on our entire trip. It is not overly exciting, but I am glad we made the time to stop and see these homely beasts in a natural environment outside of a zoo. They hope to reintroduce them into the wild, but after visiting Uganda, I believe it will be a death sentence for any or all of the Rhinos whom they attempt the relocation. The horrors that go on with poachers in Africa is unimaginable until you see it with your own eyes. It is sad to see man killing & taking over what little the animals have left, and I leave the park, my heart heavy.
My heart will ache the entire trip, not only for the animals, but also for the people who are too poorly educated, and overpopulated to care about the future outcome of Africa’s wild animal population. As our guide and driver would say over and over as I expressed my sadness during our 19 days in Uganda…”Man is man”…destructive until his own last breath.
Day 2 Kitgum- Northern Uganda
Our driver drove hard, and fast on the crazy, crazy, crazy pot-holed roads into Kitgum, as it is ill-advised to drive in the dark. I could tell he was a little stressed. We were already late from our traffic jam in Kampala, and then had a delay in our lunch stop. We rolled into Kitgum just as the sun began to set, everyone happy to arrive safely to the hotel. Please don’t expect much from the hotel accommodations. Picture motel 6 on crack, and you have the place your probably going to have to stay in overnight. I never felt unsafe, and they did have wifi, and a restaurant. All I can say that is positive is that “they have clean sheets”. The accommodations are limited in the town is dirt roads, lined with small businesses. It was interesting to see, and I am glad we took the time to stop. It is one of the larger towns in Uganda, so you get to do some people watching which is fun in itself. I also liked that we were the only non-African people who I saw during our stay, so it was exciting to get out away from the hoard of tourists. We bought some school supplies at a local store to drop off at a school as we traveled, then we continued along on our journey to Kidepo National Park.
When you read about Kitgum you may find warnings about the safety of the area. It is not safe to go out at night, and you should not drive at night, but inside your hotel you will be fine. During the day we had no problems walking around the town, and doing business in the shops before we drove on to Kidepo National Park. Kitgum is a little more wild, wild west then Kampala, as it is bordered by southern Sudan to the north, the Kitido district to the SE, Pader district the South, Kaabond to the East, and Gulu to the SW, and finally Amuru District in the West.
Next Click Here To Continue Day 3 – Kidepo National Park- The True Out of Africa Experience
Previous Posts-Tanzania Travel Series