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Guide to Visiting Uganda

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When I think about Uganda, many things immediately come to mind.

First, the gorgeous weather all year round. Uganda lies on the equator. The weather is always warm, but never dreadfully hot as in some other countries of Africa and Asia. It rains a lot, and quite heavily, but then the sun quickly comes out, its golden rays glittering like diamonds. Thanks to all this rain, Ugandan countryside is delightfully green. It’s truly the land of endless summer.

Rain in Uganda

Second, the busy streets. The capital city Kampala is always in motion. People are constantly walking, doing things, rushing somewhere. In the streets, you can see many cars and nimble boda-bodas (bicycle and motorcycle taxies common in East Africa).

The view of a street in Kampala

Finally, the marabou storks- tall birds with cloak-like wings, long pointy bills and thin legs. Their wingspan can be 3-4m, rivaling the Andean condor. In Uganda, marabou storks are everywhere you look- on the trees, on the ground, on electric wires…It’s impossible not to notice them. They are considered quite ugly birds, I suppose, but beauty is not everything, right? These birds are quite social and very interesting to observe, especially for the tourists who see them for the first time. They live in the wild for 25 years on average, quite significant for a bird.

Marabou storks in Kampala

Importantly, marabou storks aren’t the only birds you can observe in Uganda. In fact, Uganda is a perfect country to visit for birdwatchers: it has 11% of birds which are found globally. So, get your birdwatching binoculars on, and let’s go!

Kampala Serena Hotel

If you are looking for a lovely hotel to stay in Kampala, Kampala Serena Hotel is the best choice you can make. It is one of my favorite hotels in Africa. This magnificent hotel is part of the Serena hotel chain and a rightful member of the leading hotels of the world.

The hotel website calls it an “oasis” and it truly is. When you walk around the grounds of this beautiful hotel, you fell like you are walking through the tropical forest. You can unwind by the pool, eat at the excellent cafes and restaurants, or visit the health and the beauty center. The hotel staff is very friendly and helpful. Serena Kampala is a true paradise in the middle of the capital city.

Kampala Serena views

The hotel offers a magnificent breakfast buffet. You also have an option of ordering breakfast in your room, which is a great option for busy travelers. I wish I could eat like that every day! The fruit are especially delicious. Pineapples and bananas we eat at home are poor replicas of those which you can try in Africa.

Kampala Serena breakfast in the room

If Serena Kampala is out of your budget, you can consider the Sheraton Kampala Hotel which is also located nearby. This hotel is a bit more plain, but it still has all the facilities you would be looking for in a five star hotel, and therefore can be a suitable option.

Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary

The Ngamba Island entrance

If you are a fan of animals and looking for a fun day trip outside of Kampala, you can visit the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary.

The Ngamba island is a small and lush forest island situated on the Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake by area. In order to get to the island, you’d need to take a boat from Entebbe, the same town where the international airport is located.

I visited the Ngamba island a few years ago. The driver took me to Entebbe and then I waited for a bit by the lake for the other tourists to arrive.

While waiting, I got acquainted with some monkeys. At first, they were quite polite and cordial, seemingly just interested in making a new friend. But later they demonstrated their true colors and made a ruthless effort to steal cookies out of my striped bag.

That was supposed to be my snack! Back off, monkeys…

Advice: NEVER trust the monkeys, even when they look small, cute, and totally innocent!

Monkeys in Entebbe

Once all the tourists in my group assembled, we took a boat ride to the island. Everyone was wearing life jackets, all very proper. Nice and easy trip.

Boat ride to the Ngamba island

Once at the island, we got an opportunity to visit the Chimpanzee Sanctuary, home to orphaned chimpanzees rescued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. A lot of these animals were saved from the hands of poachers. We watched the feeding of the animals and the guide told us about the history of the island, the behavioral features of the chimpanzees, as well as the stories of some of the animals.

A chimpanzee at the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary

Murchison Falls National Park

When traveling to Uganda, I normally stayed in Kampala. However, at one point, I ended up in the Murchison Falls National park because of a special report I was working on. At that time, Uganda was starting to explore its oil reserves, and some of them happened to be in a national park, rich in biodiversity. I visited the park to check out what was happening there.

I travelled from Kampala by car. This turned out a rather interesting journey which gave me an opportunity to explore the Ugandan countryside, lush and green.

The Murchison Falls National Park turned out a real gem. I stayed at a fantastic safari lodge which I highly recommend, the Chobe Safari Lodge. I had a lovely bungalow facing the Nile River. At night, I could hear the grunts and croaks of hippos wandering around. It was really cool.

The Chobe Safari Lodge

The wildlife of this national park is very diverse. They say there are 76 types of mammals and 451 types of birds living there!

I didn’t get a chance to see all of the species, but I did see quite a few. There were especially many hippos, crocodiles, warthogs, giraffes, monkeys, buffalos and elephants.

The boat ride

I saw a lot of interesting animals during the boat ride along the Nile river. Hippos were my absolute favorites. I had never had an opportunity to see them up close, so it was quite an experience.

The hippos reminded me of shiny brown rocks sticking out of the water. There were hundreds of them all over the place! It was a little bit worrisome that they would get too close to our boat and overturn it…But luckily, it didn’t happen.

Hippos at the Murchison Falls National Park

There were also a lot of crocodiles in the water or sunning themselves on land, some really large. I’d read a lot about the Nile crocodiles, the aggressive predators, capable of capturing almost any animal who comes close to them. Here they were in all their glory, right in front of me. Stay away from our boat, buddies!

Nile crocodiles at the Murchison Falls National Park

The waterfall in this national park is spectacular. It’s also known to be the most powerful in the world. The Nile river forces its way through a 7m gap between the rocks and then tumbles 43m with a brutal force. Beautiful sight. We got quite close to it on the boat and watched this amazing wonder of nature.

The Waterfall at the Murchison Falls National Park

The final word

If you have not yet been in Uganda, now is a great time to visit. The giant marabou storks and the mischievous chimpanzees are waiting for you!

Marabou stork on his favorite perch
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