Uganda Safari, East Africa

Deforested hills of Uganda, Africa

The deforested hills of east Uganda.

Why Uganda?

Uganda was on our route from Kenya to DR Congo and our visit was limited and disappointing, both culturally and wildlife sightings, though we had to keep to a schedule so did not have time to do much in the way of wildlife viewing. We saw masses of hippos and elephants but little else, our fault I suppose, but our over-long and tedious visit to a pygmy village did spoil our view of the country. Mea Culpa! Uganda is almost certainly better than it looks from our photos.

Entering Uganda from Kenya by jeep, East Africa

Entering Uganda from Kenya.

A Ugandan office with staff exercising before starting work

A Ugandan office with staff exercising before starting work.

Queen Elizabeth National Park

Hippos in a lake in Queen Elizabeth Park, Uganda

Hippos in Queen Elizabeth National Park’s Kazinga Channel.

The main tourist wildlife reserve in Uganda is Queen Elizabeth National Park and claims to have one of the highest bio-diversity ratings in the world. It’s home to large numbers of hippopotami, elephants, leopards, lions and chimpanzees. A total of 95 species of mammal and over 500 species of birds. The area around Ishasha is famous for its tree-climbing lions, whose males sport black manes, a feature unique to the lions in this area.

The reserve, sometimes called ‘the Pearl of Africa’ is very picturesque, with volcanic craters, grassy plains, tropical forest and the Kazinga Channel.

The Kazinga Channelis a 20 mile (32 km) long natural channel connecting two large QENP lakes, Edward and George. The channel and its shores are teeming with wildlife such as cape buffalo, hippos, elephants and many and varied birds. Boat trips along the channel are one of the most popular activities in Queen Elizabeth Park.
Boats leave the jetty below the Mweya Lodge Hotel several times a day for a two hour cruise.

Confrontation between elephants and Land Rover in Uganda's Queen Elizabeth National Park, East Africa Safari

Pumped male elephants face down our Land Rover in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Male elephants in musth can be erratic and dangerous. Musth means horny, by the way.

Queen Elizabeth NP activities

• Game drives on Kasenyi Plains.

• Chimpanzee tracking in Kyambura Gorge

• Hike the Maramagambo forest to see monkeys, antelope and lots of bird life.

• Meet local people at the Kikorongo Cultural Center.

• visit Katwe Salt Lake and village to learn about traditional salt mining here since the 16th century.

• Cruise the Kazinga Channel to see hippos, crocodiles, cape buffalo and birds.

• Take a sunset drive up to Crater Lake for a drink.

• Walk around Lake Kikorongo with a bird-specialist guide.

• Take a trip around Edward Flats in search of the famous tree climbing lions.

• Do a wildlife safari of the Ishasha plains.

Visiting Ugandan pygmies

A dumb and drunk pygmy in Uganda

A pygmy prepares for the next show.

Hours of terrible roads brought us to a ranger station where we were encouraged to pass over thick wads of shillings, not only to support the pygmy villagers, but also in return for the ranger guide’s revelations regarding pygmy habits. . .
‘So, what do pygmies do most of the time? ‘
‘They hunt. ‘
‘What animals do they hunt? ‘
‘Many things’
‘For example? ‘
‘Hmmmm. ‘
‘Elephants? ‘
‘Yes. ‘
‘OK. . . And gorillas? ‘
‘Yes. ‘
‘Velociraptors? ‘
‘Yes, many. ‘
‘Ah so? And Tyrannosaurus Rex? ‘
‘Yes. ‘

After a short walk we arrived at the thatched pygmy camp to find the little chaps smashed out of their heads on cane wine and weed, ready to stuff some greenery down their tatty shorts, pound on a plastic water can, wobble around in a feeble circle and pose for pictures – provided the price was right.

Health

Malaria is a common problem in Uganda so make sure to take anti-malarials if you’re going there in season. Travelers who become ill with a flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to one year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention.
Uganda frequently experiences outbreaks of unpleasantness ranging from Ebola, and pneumonic plague, to meningitis, yellow fever, and other types of infectious diseases.

A cool bath and hair wash in the River Nile, Uganda.

Ah, a cool bath and hair washing in the River Nile.

This branch is also known as the Victoria Nile as waters flow from Lake Victoria through a couple of smaller lakes to become the White Nile.
Generally we would avoid bathing in any stagnant or even slow-moving water as African waters are notorious for hosting Bilharzia, microscopic snails that burrow into the body and cause long-term debilitation, though once diagnosed it can be treated quite easily.

An enterprising Ugandan arrives at the Nile with a mobile bar, Uganda

An enterprising Ugandan arrives at the Nile with a mobile bar for the benefit of thirsty travelers.

Do NOT bathe/swim/paddle in Lake Malawi!

Bilharzia, or schistosomiasis, is a parasitic infection caused by a worm that bores through moist skin deep into human flesh. The worm, endemic in Africa, lives part of its life cycle in freshwater snails, which excrete it in their faeces into water where unsuspecting humans wash or bathe.
One of the most common illnesses worldwide, it infects more than 200 million people and kills 200, 000 annually. But a mini-epidemic among young visitors to Africa – particularly Lake Malawi, one of the continent’s most famous beauty spots – is alarming British doctors. One leading infectious disease expert, jokingly introducing a lecture on schistosomiasis in London recently, began with: “This is the disease caught by backpackers visiting Lake Malawi. ”

Symptoms of bilharzia are similar to a bad case of influenza: a persistent dry cough, shortness of breath, night sweats and very painful joints.

Dr Nick Beeching, senior lecturer in infectious diseases at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, says about half of the cases he has seen are traceable to Lake Malawi. In one group of 18 students on a scuba-diving holiday, 15 were infected.
Infectious disease experts say the Malawi government is to blame. For years it has insisted that the lake is free of schistosomiasis, so anxious is it to preserve its reputation – and the flow of tourists’ dollars. It is only now that officials are admitting that there may be a problem in “some areas”. . .

Uganda Visas

Information on visas is confusing.
On their UK website the Uganda High Commission say that 90 day tourist visas can be obtained on arrival at airports or border crossings for $50, but also contradict that by saying “UK Travel Document holders are advised not to purchase a ticket before obtaining a visa”.
The US State Department comment “Ugandan immigration policies are not always consistently applied and may change without notice. U. S. citizens should pay close attention to the validity of their visa or special pass to avoid fines or travel interruptions. A passport valid for six months beyond the date of entry, visa, evidence of yellow fever vaccination, as well as a polio vaccination for children younger than five, are required.
Visas are available at Entebbe Airport upon arrival or may be obtained from the Embassy of the Republic of Uganda. It is recommended that travelers obtain visas to Uganda in advance of travel, in particular those travelers who will arrive via land. If you plan to obtain your visa upon landing at Entebbe Airport, you should confirm in advance that your airline will allow you to board without a visa. ”

Safety

Crimes such as pick pocketing, bag snatching and thefts from hotels and vehicles are common, even when the stolen items are secured out of sight and the vehicle is parked in an area patrolled by uniformed security personnel.

Tourists in bars, nightclubs and other entertainment areas should never leave their drink or food unattended, especially solo travelers. Victims have included female patrons who reported they were drugged, and taken to another location and sexually assaulted. Robberies have occurred on public transport under similar circumstances.
In 2006, a U. S. citizen traveling by bus from Kenya to Uganda was incapacitated and robbed on the bus when the passenger accepted a sealed drink from a fellow traveler. Expatriates traveling by bus to the popular tourist destination of Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest in southwest Uganda were also incapacitated and robbed when they accepted snacks from fellow bus passengers.