Uganda

Two wonderful weeks in Uganda

In April 2022 I spent two weeks in Uganda meeting old and new friends and seeing some of the highlights the Pearl of Africa has to offer.

Now I make the decision. Justus had just returned to the driver’s seat next to me after inspecting the roads in front of us. -We are not going down there. From here on we choose the best-looking road in every junction until we’re back on the main road.

Sunset on muddy road near Crater Lakes in Uganda.
The road was not the best. The scenery on the other hand…

The narrow back-country road we had been driving on for what seemed like forever was not the typical red dirt roads we had become accustomed to. This one was black. And muddy. Very muddy. If that wasn’t enough, time started ticking towards 19:00 very fast, which meant it would soon be pitch dark outside.

At this point we should already be sitting on the deck outside a cute cottage with a Nile Special in hand, admiring the views to Lake Kerere. Instead, we had spent the last couple of hours of daylight sliding around on wet volcanic clay. The only reason we had even gotten this far was Justus’ calm head and excellent driving skills.

Silverback gorilla eating leaves in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda
Meeting the chief of the Bweza family in Bwindi was definitely one of thos once-in-a-lifetime-moments!

Two weeks of travelling around Uganda

My friend, Fatima, and I are just over one week into our two-weeks-tour around Uganda when our appreciation for our driver, guide, and keen bird watcher, Justus, reached the ceiling. During the first week he had gotten us safely to and from bucket list experiences such as a canoe trip on the Mabamba Swamps; once-in-a-lifetime-gorilla encounters far up in the impenetrable Bwindi rain forest; relaxing hours at Lake Bunyonyi; a visit to friends in Bushenyi; and watching an elephant herd of 40-50 individuals pass by the car near Queen Elisabeth National Park. Along the way he has willingly shared his knowledge of the country, their culture, wildlife, and last but not least – about all the birds we saw and heard.

Two women with hats and a man holding binoculars taking a selfie on a canoe in Mabamba Swamps
Happy group on our first adventure together! Justus was in his right element, bird watching in Mabamba Swamps.

At the time I had yet to experience the sensation of a 360-degree view of giraffes for as far as the eye could see in Murchison Falls National Park; walking with the massive but calm rhinos at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary; and dancing the night away with new and old friends in Kampala. Even so, I knew that I would cherish these two weeks in lush, kind, and welcoming Uganda forever.

Large male elephant in high grass in Queen Elizabeth National Park
Spotting our first elephant was another highlight to remember, and Queen Elizabeth National Park kept them coming.

This is what our tailor-made itinerary looked like:

Day 1: Arrival to Entebbe
Day 2: Shoebill safari by canoe in Mabamba Swamps
Day 3: Drive to Rushaga in Bwindi NP

Feet standing on each side of a wooden canoe in a swamp in Uganda. A pole and umbrella lying in the boat.
Our guide Vincent tried his best to spot the Shoebill stork

Day 4: Gorilla tracking & relaxing by Lake Bunyonyi
Day 5: Boat trip on Lake Bunyonyi & visit to an old friend in Bushenyi
Day 6: Farm visits and Kabagarame food festival in Bushenyi

Men sitting around a table eating with their hands of a shared meal at Kabagarame in Bushenyi.
The best lunch surprise one could wish for. In Bushenyi on a Saturday? Do not miss out on Kabagarame!

Day 7: Game drive in Queen Elisabeth National Park & boat cruise on the Kazinga channel
Day 8: Chimpanzee tracking in Kalinzu forest & drive to Lake Kerere
Day 9: Drive to Murchison Falls National Park

A woman with hat smiling while standing under a pop-up roof while driving in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Baboons on the road behind.
The best travel companion one could wish for!

Day 10: Game drive & boat cruise to Murchison Falls waterfall
Day 11: Walking safari in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary & drive to Kampala
Day 12: Explore Kampala & meet new and old friends
Day 13: Last day spent in Entebbe waiting for a late flight home

Nine giraffes on grassland in Murchison Falls National Park. One scratching his head on another's leg. A highlight on a two week tour in Uganda.
Giraffe heaven in Murchison Falls!

The wonders of travelling

Back to the early evening when the slippery clay interrupted our plans. My pulse settled immediately when I heard Justus make the clear call not to follow our rather detailed itinerary and. Although a change of plans meant we had to pay extra for the night’s accommodation, the thought of sliding sideways down yet another hill in the dark and risking not getting back up the next morning was far more intimidating than stretching our budget a bit.

All in all, isn’t adjusting plans, getting out of the comfort zone, and unplanned meetings with new people just some of the things we love about travelling?

Instead of the crater lake view, we ended up around a dining table at Rwenzori View Guesthouse in Fort Portal, shared with half of the Dutch couple we went gorilla tracking with the week before. Plus a Canadian father and his two adult sons whom we later bumped into again at the airport on our way home. I call it the wonders of travelling!

View of Lake Bunyonyi with palm trees, a canoe and rolling green hills perfect for relaxing when two weeks in Uganda.
Tranquile Lake Bunyonyi is the optimal place to rest after struggling through the rainforest to visit the gorillas.

Why Uganda?

Winston Churchill called it the Pearl of Africa, and everything I have heard and seen from the country throughout the years have confirmed its nick name. My dream of visiting Uganda started already in 2008, when, in relation to my social anthropology studies, I took a course on African history and politics. I even applied for a semester abroad at Makerere University in Kampala (why I ended up going to New York City for 6 months instead is another story). Most importantly, all of this coincided with Frank moving into the student flat I was living in.

He was a lovely Ugandan man doing his master’s degree in engineering in Norway. We stayed in touch and after talking about it for years, 2020 was finally the year I and my friend Fatima would come visit.

A woman with a beer in hand sitting next to a man smiling at the camera.
Close to 14 years (!) later, I finally met Frank again at his country home in Bushenyi.

How we planned our perfect two weeks in Uganda

Frank put me in contact with his friend Simon Peter, who owns and runs Whitecrest Tours & Travel.

Not only once, but twice, Simon went out of his way to make our travel dreams come true. First in 2020, which obviously did not happen, and again on short notice in winter/spring 2022. Most of the planning and communication happened via WhatsApp and not once did he fail to respond to our wishes, requests, and sometimes silly questions.

Two men and a woman sitting in the colourful 2 friends bar and restaurant by Lake Victoria smiling at the camera.
Fatima with the eminent Whitecrest crew Simon Peter and our guide and driver Justus.

It is off course possible to plan and book a tour on your own, or to book a ready-made package with one of the large international travel companies. But I will recommend going for a small-scale and locally owned company like Whitecrest Tours and tailor-make a tour that suits your preferences. Not only do you know that your money does not leave the country, but you also get a lot of local knowledge included! We also found the cost of the tour very reasonable – both in 2020 and in 2022.

Memories that will last for life

We may have missed out on a fantastic view to Lake Kerere, but in total we gained buckets of incredible memories to keep for life. Including the adrenaline filled drive towards mentioned lake. Spending an hour with a gorilla the size of a small car and the rest of his family; being surprised with the most delicious meal at Kabagarame in Bushenyi; learning about wonderful birds so different to the ones we have in Norway; relaxing boat cruises with school after school of hippos; dancing the nights away with new friends in Bushenyi and Kampala; the sight of our first elephant driving through Queen Elizabeth National Park; being surrounded by giraffes in Murchison Falls; and walking in between 2-tons large rhinos.

Two rhinos seen from behind while grassing in Siwa Rhino Sanctuary in Uganda.
A walk out of the ordinary in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

The list of highlights could go on… But what also need to be mentioned are all the laughs, the interesting conversations, and all the knowledge that were shared with us with the wonderful people we met along the way. Thank you to Fatima for being the best travel companion I could dream of; Frank for the hospitality and keeping in touch insisting on me coming to visit; Simon for putting together our tour, letting us stay at the guesthouse and good conversations; Justus for two weeks of excellent driving, spotting birds and wildlife, sharing of knowledge, and good talks; and last but not least to Frank’s wife Nelly for a great night out in Kampala.

0 comments on “Two wonderful weeks in Uganda

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: