An impressive destination, a broken passport in a country without a Spanish embassy, endless track roads, wild animals on the verge of extinction, loss of almost all money, sunstroke, hotels of bad death and incredible people. No, it is not the typical trailer of the latest Hollywood blockbuster, but the summary of our trip to Uganda.
Day 1: Kampala
Day 2: Safari in Queen Elisabeth NP
Day 3: Safari in Queen Elisabeth NP
Day 4: Safari in Queen Elisabeth NP
Day 5: From Queen Elisabeth NP to Butogota
Day 6: Arrival at the Bwindi NP Impenetrable Forest
Day 7: Meet the Batwa Pygmies in the Bwindi NP
Day 8: Track the mountain gorillas in the Bwindi NP
Day 9: From Bwindi NP to Kampala
Day 10: Safari in the Murchison Falls NP
Day 11: Safari in the Murchison Falls NP
Day 12: Safari in the Murchison Falls NP and return to Kampala
Day 13: The birth of the Nile in Jinja
Day 14: Jinja
Day 15: Return home
There is a separation between the 12th and the 13th, and we finally decided to return home earlier and Jinja's part did not get to do it.
Uganda is known as the pearl of Africa, a destination that is beginning to stand out, but that It is not a country for the faint hearted or for travelers with a limited budget. This was our first foray into the so-called "black Africa" and I recognize that I had insisted on visit Africa during 2012. I thought I had a pending account with this continent that I had to solve as soon as possible. In fact, the choice of destiny was a bit tortuous. First we think of Uganda, then Kenya, then we almost decided on Botswana, we changed again and we almost ended up going to Tanzania, until finally we closed the circle traveling to Uganda. What threw us back from all these countries it was the price and the difficulties, and, although many people may be surprised, traveling to East Africa is expensive, very expensive, even traveling on your own and backpacking.
Sorry yes it is possible relatively cheap travel to Uganda or Africa in general, but as long as you do not visit natural parks (that is, nothing on safaris), you travel by public transport (very poor) and sleep in hotels or motels run by native people. If you skip any of these conditions, the price will inevitably skyrocket. At first, We managed to organize a two week trip for about € 2000, which included the tracking of the gorillas in Bwindi, and I say "in principle" because in the end the price ended up shooting with all the setbacks we had. In fact, we even decided to return home two days before. Many people have asked us if we really had such a bad time in Africa to come back earlier, so then I will give you my explanation.
Either way, yes The great illusion of your life is to make a safari, Uganda is NOT your destination. For this it is better go to Kenya. Unfortunately, for many years in Uganda, poachers were not controlled and that, coupled with the conflicts between populations near national parks, have greatly reduced the number of wild animal specimens. Little by little, work is being done to repopulate the parks, but nature takes time. For example, in Uganda there are almost no rhinos, only about ten specimens can be seen in the Ziwa Shrine. As for lions, at Queen Elisabeth National Park there are only about two hundred specimens in an area of almost 2000 square kilometers, making it easier for you to play the lottery than to see a cat. What is true is that unlike other countries in Uganda you will do the safaris almost alone, without more cars in the park, which makes it unique.
However, if the great illusion of your life is to be in front of one of the few copies of mountain gorilla left in the world, Uganda is your destiny.
Uganda entry visa
To enter the country it is necessary to process a visa that can be obtained at the airport upon arrival, provided that the passport has at least 6 months of validity. It costs $ 50.
When to go to Uganda
Uganda is located on the equator, so temperatures tend to be more or less the same throughout the year. Only has two seasons: the dry and the rainy. The rainy season usually goes from March to May and from October to December. In the south of the country temperatures are lower and it usually rains more often than in the north. Our advice is that you travel during the dry season, since much of the roads are on the track and cars can get stuck in the mud.
What currency to use in Uganda
When budgets and prices are requested, they are usually given in dollars, but obviously once in the country almost everything is paid in the official currency, which is the Ugandan shilling. In the same hotels where you get the price of the rooms in US dollars, food must be paid in shillings. This has its logic, especially in the most remote locations, where there are no banks and businesses do not have it easy to change foreign currency. To all this we must add that the currency exchange commissions are quite abusive and reach 7% commission.
My advice is that to pay for safaris and hotels that you have reserved in US dollars, you change the currency in Spain. If possible, prepare the exact amounts to pay on each site so you don't have to ask for change. If they give you change, stay tuned why Only US dollars issued in 2006 are accepted in Uganda. If the tickets are earlier, they will not accept them and, moreover, When they give you change, look closely because they always try to strain tickets before 2006 and you can find that when paying somewhere else they do not accept them. It happened to us. We didn't look at the changes and came back with $ 80 that we couldn't use there.
To get money, we use the cashiers in the capital. The commission varies according to the bank and can be 4% of the extracted or € 4, at least in my bank. The maximum amount that can usually be extracted at ATMs in Uganda is 680,000 (€ 204) or 750,000 shillings (€ 225). Yes, Before going to the natural parks, collect money because there are no ATMs, banks, nor can you pay by card.
In 2012 there were no mandatory vaccinations to travel to Uganda, but in our case we were recommended to have the one of the yellow fever, typhus and cholera. Although perhaps malaria is the disease with which you have to watch more. It is advisable to take prophylactic measures for malaria, we take Malarone, which was prescribed in External Health.
As it was our first trip to a country with a lot of malaria, we were a little paranoid about it. In principle the female mosquito that can infect you with the disease itches during sunrise and sunset. It is at these times of the day when you have to take more precautions, use repellent type Extra strong relay or Goibi. Also, a few days before leaving, we permeate all our clothes in a solution of permethrin, which prevents mosquitoes from biting you through clothes. We did it following the instructions in the following video:
Traveling to Africa is not a children's thing as far as diseases are concerned and you can even take the desire to go just by reading the long list of diseases that you can catch in the country, but they can be avoided with a little common sense. For more information, it is best to visit the nearest vaccination center at least one month and a half before the trip. There they will advise you on the current sanitary conditions of the country.
How to get from Entebbe airport to Kampala
As we were going to arrive at four in the morning, we asked the hostel staff if they could send us a taxi driver. The taxi cost us 90,000 shillings (€ 25). From the airport to Kampala it takes about 45 minutes if there is no traffic; If there is traffic it can take an indefinite time because Kampala is one of the cities with the most chaotic traffic in the world.
In Kampala we stayed at the Red Chilli Hideaway, a hostel almost on the outskirts of Kampala that has a common bedroom, double rooms and small houses or cottages. The accommodation is very basic, but East hostel organize the most competitive safaris in almost all of East Africa. That's why we decided to stay here. I do not advise you to stay in the common bedroom if you are a light sleeper. It is the most shabby I've seen and the bathroom is within walking distance. Also, since flights to Uganda usually arrive at odd hours, people are entering and leaving the room for most of the night. That was my first night without hitting an eye.
In addition to having very competitive safaris, the Red Chilly Hideaway is a Uganda meeting point. They offer all kinds of facilities to organize your trip. The restaurant bar is quite good, has a very large terrace, a good atmosphere and serves international meals and snacks during the day.
It is the capital of Uganda and a large city. I can't tell you about the city because we barely explored it. The first day we meet Charlotte, an Englishwoman based in Kampala, who is the author of the Diary of a muzungu blog. The first day he came to look for us at the hostel and took us to the lake victoria to watch the Ggaba market and at slum from Namuwongo, the second largest in the city, by the hand of Ronald, a Ugandan who works to improve living conditions there.
The safaris, together with the tracking of the gorillas, is what triggers the price of the trip to Uganda the most. We did two safaris that we organized with the hostel Red Chilli Hideaway: the Queen Elisabeth NP and Murchison Falls NP safari.
This was the first safari we did. It cost us $ 350 and the price included transportation, park tickets, accommodation in a shared dormitory for three nights and the following activities: game drive 4 hours along the plains of Kaseny, cruise on the Kazinga canal, guided tour of a community located on the slope of the Rwenzori mountains, handicraft workshop with women from the community of Kikorongo and walk through the Maramagambo forest. This last activity can be replaced by a chimpanzee tracking by Kyabura Gorge paying $ 50. We did not do it and the truth is that we regret it. In the safaris we especially saw bamboo of all kinds and buffaloes. We also saw hippos and elephants, but no felines. Our group was small and, apart from us, only included a couple from Finland and a Dutch boy.
During the safari on the Queen Elisabeth NP we stayed in the bedroom of Simba Safari Camp. The price of the safari included the shared room and we saw that it was clean, but the mosquito nets were set so that they were not useful. The shared bathroom was very good, it was new and it was very clean. Meals were not included, but the prices were not very disproportionate and the food was pretty good.
The hotel has shared bedrooms, double rooms, tented camp and camping area. The problem is that if you wanted to sleep in a private room you had to pay the entire price, which was an extra $ 50 per night, and they didn't discount what you had already paid for the shared bedroom. That also happened in the Red Chilli, since the night before the safari is included in the price sleeping in the common bedroom, but if you want to sleep in a private room you have to pay the entire price. I found it a little scam.
Public transport in Uganda is very poor, which, coupled with bad roads, can make the trip a bit hellish and many times no one can guarantee you if matatus (shared vans) reach the point you want to go to. From Queen Elisabeth National Park to Bwindi there are about four hours by carWhat made no sense was to return to Kampala (8 hours by car) for the next day by bus to Bwindi (16 hours). So to save time and suffering we decided to hire a private driver up to Bwindi for 300,000 shillings (€ 90).
Here we had a planning problem that was the beginning of the decline of our trip to Uganda and instead of telling him to take us to Buhoma, at the foot of the Bwindi NP, we told the driver to leave us in Butogota, a town Half an hour from where the bus leaves. The idea was to control the schedule and the stop to plan the return to Kampala after seeing the gorillas.
Butogota is a somewhat chaotic village formed by a series of houses next to an unpaved road. The Green Tree is the only open accommodation we found in Butogota. It is a motel where normally the people of the surroundings that take the bus to Kampala stay, since it leaves at 4 in the morning.
The motel has rooms with a small bathroom and shower without hot water. The blankets, as in most of the hotels we were, have not gone through the washing machine in years. The hotel itself is not that bad, in fact, in India we were in worse rooms, but the atmosphere at night was not good. A lot of spree and people entering and leaving rooms with suspicious attitudes. And of course, we were the only ones muzungus there (and I would say that miles around) we sang more than a clam.
What made that motel become the "hotel of death" was that someone tried to close our door outside while we were inside (and leave us locked there). We still don't know why or for what purpose, but it made all kinds of paranoid reasons come to mind, which accompanied me during the rest of the trip and made the experience bitter. As it was night, we were in the middle of nowhere and we had nowhere to go, we ended up spending the night there. I didn't keep an eye on the whole night and when the first rays of the sun came out we picked things up and left feet so that I love you towards Buhoma.
As I said, the bus that connects Kampala with Bwindi only reaches the town of Butogota. There you can go to Buhoma by private taxi, which costs 50,000 shillings, or by wedding-wedding. He wedding-wedding He is just a man with a motorcycle that takes you as a package. It is the cheapest way to get around, but also the most dangerous, since many drive like crazy and go without a helmet or insurance. Charlie from Diary of a MuzunguHe told me that the government is planning to apply stricter laws because there are many accidents. We went by taxi. When we left the hotel we looked for one and a man from there was in charge of calling a driver by mobile phone. In a few minutes we had him at the door of the hotel and he left us in Buhoma in about 30 minutes.
Buhoma is the town from where the expeditions go to track the gorillas and, as seeing the gorillas is expensive, staying there is also. In the area there are several lodges run by foreigners who are very expensive. One night can cost you perfectly $ 500. Obviously, we cannot afford to pay those prices and, even if we could, that money would go to foreign hands, so that the townspeople end up seeing little money.