Leo and I have been discussing plans for our honeymoon next year, and considering countries such as Mozambique or Zimbabwe. On such a gloomy winter day as this, I couldn’t help myself but reminisce on our April 2016 camping roadtrip to Uganda. At the time, we had wanted to go to Kenya, but due to a visa mishap, decide to fly to Uganda instead.
Our arrival in the country was slightly problematic. The short flight between Nairobi and Entebbe was breathtaking: we flew over a dormant volcano, Logonot, the Kenyan savannah before crossing Lake Victoria and landing in the small airport of Entebbe. However, on arrival, an officer asked us for our yellow fever vaccination, which we both forgot. We eventually managed to slip into the immigration queue unnoticed, not without fright, and happily paid the USD 100 visa fee.
Stop 1: Murchison Falls
Ahead of our arrival, we had booked a 4×4 Toyota Land Cruiser with character and all the necessary camping gear from Road Trip Uganda, a car rental company, for USD 89 a day. We had also planned a rough idea of our roadtrip to make the most of the country in the week we were there. For that, we used the suggestions on the company’s website.
After we picked up the car from the Airport, we drove for four hours towards Masindi in the North, and then went towards Murchison Falls, one of Uganda’s main national parks. We camped at Boomu Women’s Group, a community run camping and lodging. The next day, Edna, who runs the site, insisted on showing us around the village, an interesting experience, albeit a bit intrusive sometimes.
We then spent two nights within the Murchison Falls national park, camping in Red Chili Camping, a fairly touristy camping spot: expect young travellers, fire camps, and burgers and pizzas. The park is fairly easy to navigate alone if you are used to driving in the Bush – and I would recommend doing that instead of going on an organised tour, which will stick to very touristy trails. The boat trip on the Nile is also worth it, even if it’s slightly expensive.
Oh and if you are staying at Red Chili Camping, don’t forget that you will have to take the ferry to cross to the other side, which is more interesting in terms of animals.
The ferry itself will be an adventure – especially when it breaks down and you can’t make it back to the other side of the park !
Stop 2: Kibale Forest
On our third day, we drove 150 km on dirt roads to Hoima. We then have an additional 180 km on dirt roads to Fort Portal, a very pleasant city in the East, where we stocked up on food and water. On the way, we picked up two hitchhikers, one, a civil servant who has been ostracised by his community because they voted for the opposition whilst he works for Museveni’s government, and the other a teacher. From there, we drove the last 20km to Nkuruba Natural Reserve campsite. Although it’s a well maintained campsite, we still felt the remoteness of our surrounding. We pitched our tent on a grass slot overlooking one of the famous Crater Lakes.
Showers consisted of a water can which you pour into a basin and splash onto yourself, with a window overlooking the jungle. Bliss. Dinner was a copious amount of vegetables with rice or sweet potato. In addition to the impressive crater lakes, this area of Uganda is famous for the Kibale Forest, a Primate heaven.
We spent a day there, walking in the forest with a friendly ranger, and got back to our camp later that day, where we chilled with all types of monkeys.
Queen Elizabeth Park
Our next stop was Queen Elizabeth park. But before that, we had 150 km to cross, on relatively good roads that take us through green hills covered by morning mist, into desolate towns, and near the Rwenzori Mountains. We enter the park from the Queen pavilion, where we purchased our tickets and our chimpanzee tracking permits, cheaper than in Kibale. We spent the first night in the Ugandan Wildlife Authority (UWA) campsite in Mwerya, a pretty basic but awesome campsite where elephants and hippos roam around freely (No, we didn’t sleep well that night).
In addition to the safari drives, we went to Kyambura gorge for the chimp tracking. I also definitely recommend this, as it is very akin to a walking safari. We get very close to sleeping hippos and chimpanzees.
The next night, we slept in an even more basic UWA campsite in Ishasha, a stone throw away from the border with the DRC (choose the annex of Camp spot n1).
Soldiers spend the night patrolling the area, guarding us from wildlife and keeping the fire going. The next day, we went on a safari with a cool ranger, Daniel, who showed us the tree climbing lions of Ishasha. Due to the rain (although it was monsoon season, this was our first day of rain!), the lions were hiding in the bushes and avoiding the slippery tree branches.
In the evening, he invited us to come with him on a night out in the nearby town of Kihihi. We visited its markets, have the infamous ugali in a local restaurant, and went for a drink at Miama Bar and Lodges.
We spent our last night in Uganda in Mihingo Lodge, one of the most breath-taking lodges I’ve ever seen, in Lake Mburo, a small national park a few hours from Entebbe. If you want to splash the cash for one night – definitely go there.
It is built on boulders, and has an infinity pool overlooking a watering hole where zebras and all different kings of antilopes meet for a drink.
Our “room” was a luxury tree house made with thatched roofs and a fixed tent. We have a few visitors, including butterflies and spiders – but no need to panic. Without spiders, you get mosquitos. Lake Mburo is one of the few National parks in Uganda where you can do walking and horse safaris. We did the former, as well as a night safari, hoping to see a leopard, but to no avail. We then drove the next day to Entebbe on dirt roads – the wet season had just started, and driving out of the national park was an adventure in itself. We still made it back to Entebbe just in time to grab dinner and make our flight !