Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Touring Uganda

Danny's daughter, Kathleen, and her husband, Riaan, visited us for the first two weeks in February. Aside from a couple of 'glitches' we all enjoyed the trip.

On the trip which began with an overnight stay in Kampala, we visited Lake Mburo National Park, Mbarara, Katara Lodge in Kichwamba (near QENP), Mweya Lodge in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Ishasha Ntungwe River Camp near the Ishasha gate for QENP, Kibale Forest, Fort Portal, and spent the last night in Entebbe.

Since there were only 4 of us we used our own car and Danny did most of the driving including game drives, Riaan also helped drive.

Most of our accommodation rates included 3 full meals a day--full breakfasts, 2 or 3 course lunches, and dinners which included a starter, soup, main course and dessert. Most of us are all a bit larger than we were at the beginning of the trip.

Photos are in this album:

Lake Mburo and Mbarara

Feb 2 and 3
Lake Mburo National Park, near Sanga

Rwonyo Camp bedded tents (Uganda Wildlife Authority)

We visit the park often as it is only a couple of hours from our home near Mbarara. The abundance of animals makes it easy to spot them, especially zebra, impala, hippo, water buffalo, warthogs and monkeys. On this trip we did not do a game drive but an early morning walk instead. We did not spot many animals which disappointed our guests but they enjoyed the walk anyway.

The twin-bedded tents were fine and the beds comfortable, but the toilet and shower rooms were disgustingly dirty when we arrived. Later in the day the water was pumped just enough to flush the toilets. During our two-day stay there were no hot or cold showers or running water even after complaining to the UWA office twice. Price - 40,000 shs per tent.

Meals at Arcadia Cottages were superb and the service as always is excellent. A full breakfast is 10,000 shs and dinner is 15,000 shs.

Feb 4
Lake View Hotel, Mbarara

This is a hotel we visit often due to its proximity to our home. The Sunday buffet and the pool are always well worth it. So after two days w/o a shower we were all quite happy to get a long hot shower and a swim in the pool prior to dinner. We recommend the Indian cuisine if you don’t visit on a day when they have an African buffet.
Whilst in Mbarara we visited our campus. Kathleen and Riaan were impressed with how nice our house was, relatively speaking.

Katara Lodge, Kichwamba, near QENP

Feb 5 and Feb 10
Katara Lodge, Kichwamba, near QENP

This lodge is located near Kyambura Gorge where there is chimp tracking. However, as our plans included Kibale Forest chimp tracking we did not go.

The lodge is situated overlooking the Rift Valley. It opened in June 2008 and has plans for a swimming pool. There are many cozy areas to sit and relax including an open lounge, restaurant and a well-stocked bar.

Fabulous! The rooms were massive, uniquely decorated and overlooked the Rift Valley. The bathroom was a highlight as it has a claw-footed tub in which you can soak whilst enjoying the view through the screened window overlooking the Rift Valley below. There is no electricity in the cottages but the water is heated by solar power and lanterns are hung around the cottage in the evening.

In some of the bandas there is a bed which can be rolled out onto the balcony for sleeping under the stars. A mosquito net is on the bed to ensure no critter bites!

Superb!! Service was excellent. The rate of $200 per banda (residents’ rate?) included all three meals. The bandas have a king-sized bed and a small double bed.


Mweya Lodge, Queen Elizabeth Nat'l Park

Feb 6 and 7
Mweya Lodge, Queen Elizabeth National Park

On our first day we took the 2-hour Kazinga Channel boat trip. The shores were teaming with animals! There were water buffalo, elephants, hippos, monkeys, crocodiles, many birds, kob… The next morning we were booked for a game drive, but I felt unwell so the other three went. The drive lasted over 3 hours and they saw a variety of animals including some lions--one of which almost had Riaan for a late breakfast! Before dinner that evening they went for a game walk whilst I stayed behind for a one-hour massage and a dip in the pool. Lovely!

The rooms were fine and spacious, not spectacular, but that’s okay. The king-sized beds were very comfortable, the room clean and great service. The pool which overlooks Lakes Edward and George is refreshing and relaxing.

The location makes this lodge worth every penny. There are many places to relax and the lodge is on a hill overlooking Lakes Edward and George. Service is A-1.

OMG!! A definite 5 star!

We enjoyed many superb meals on this trip but my personal favourite was the dinner that included stuffed avocado, tomato basil soup, melt-in-your-mouth fillet steak on a bed of slivered potatoes and veg, and chocolate mousse.

Ishasha Ntungwe River Camp - QENP

Feb 8 and 9
Ishasha Ntungwe River Camp

This camp opened in August 2008 and is located about 3 km from the Ishasha gate at QENP. We took a game drive through the Ishasha area of QENP and the population of wildlife is much denser than the Mweya area. Our guide tried for several hours to find the tree-climbing lions but with no luck. We did see a couple of elephants close up, and one became a bit annoyed at us for being too close. The guide said we could either turn off the car engine which would calm the elephant, or immediately drive away. Before driving away I managed to get a photo of the annoyed elephant with its ears standing out.


The rates are much less than the Ishasha Wilderness Camp which is located inside the park. In Feb 2009 we paid $210 for a twin-bedded tent for non-residents and $170 for residents and the rate includes all meals. Alcohol from the well-stocked bar is extra. Although there is no electricity, there are solar-powered refrigerators and an oven. So you don’t have to worry about getting warm beer!

The not-quite luxury tents have comfortable twin beds and enough space for your luggage, however, there are no shelves or tables for clothes and small items. An addition built onto the back of the tent houses a toilet, sink, and solar-powered hot shower. The back zipper of the tent opens into the facilities so the tents are fully self-contained. Netting on all tent openings ensures the tent to be mosquito and insect free so an additional mosquito net is not required.


A superb young chef named Benson prepared the meals. A sample dinner was stuffed tomato, onion soup, homemade rolls, barbecued chicken with rice and gravy, fresh green beans and carrots, and sponge cake for dessert. We also enjoyed full breakfasts and wonderful lunches.

On one afternoon we were delighted by a local family who entertained us with traditional dancing, drumming and singing. We were all well taken care of by the excellent manager, Michael, and the staff.

Wildlife venture into the area where the camp is located and the Ntungwe River is nearby. Elephants, lions, and during the rainy season, hippos, can be heard at night. On our last night we heard several lions roaring in the distance beginning around 5 am.

The downside to this location is that when it rains the road leading to the camp is extremely slippery and difficult to negotiate, even with 4WD. However, the manager, Michael, assured me that the dirt road would be covered with murram which will alleviate the problem.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Kibale Forest Chimp Tracking

Feb 11 and 12
Primate Lodge, Kibale Forest

This lodge is always busy as it is a 5 minute walk to the UWA station for chimp tracking in the Kibale Forest.

On our final morning we did the chimp tracking. Our guide was Ronald and he tried diligently to ensure we found the chimps. We found the chimps but only high in the trees, not on the ground where closer contact and viewing would be much easier. Unfortunately none of us got good photos - just dark spots in the trees which were the chimps. Off trail the walk is difficult as the forest is thick with vines, branches, bushes, tree roots, but hearing the call of the chimps makes one try hard to keep up.

The chimps were near the lodge on the days we were there and we could easily hear them calling each other. Near the lodge are very good forest walks, but we got lost for a brief time as we didn’t use a guide.

The lodge has comfortable areas to sit, a large circle for evening fires, a bar and restaurant at which meals have set times. The bandas are large but very dark and our biggest complaint is that the bathrooms are badly designed and the drain for the shower is on the opposite side of the room which means the floor is always damp. The sheets always feel slightly damp but that is to be expected since the lodge is in the midst of a rainforest.

Meals were very good except for the soups. It is impossible to get an icy cold beer since all electricity is solar or gas powered. However, if you nag the staff enough they will try to get the beer chilly. During this visit we had a problem with service but after our very vocal complaints to management, the service improved greatly.


$130 per 2 bedded banda which includes all meals. Luxury tents are much more expensive.

Pic is baboons on the side of the road.

Mountains of the Moon -- Airport Guest House Entebbe

Feb 13
Mountains of the Moon, Fort Portal
To break up the trip to Entebbe we spent the night in the town of Fort Portal which is about 20km from the Primate Lodge at Kibale.

Cozy lodge with lovely landscaping, gardens, and verandas. We were looking forward to cooling off in the pool but found that it hadn’t been cleaned recently.

Meals were excellent and rooms were comfortable.

As for the price – I couldn’t tell you the actual price as we were quoted a much lower price than we were asked to pay on departure.

Feb 14
Airport Guest House Entebbe

Located about a 10 minute drive from the airport.

We were very pleased with this accommodation as it had comfortable, clean, basic rooms which all face the garden. The long covered veranda in front of the rooms had comfortable chairs and lanterns which were lit in the evening. Our dinner table was set in front of our rooms. Dinner was very good with a choice of BBQ’d chicken, beef fillet, or fish and numerous side dishes.

The host wanders around frequently checking on whether guests are happy.

Price $55 per double room which includes a cooked breakfast. $15 for dinner.