Sunday, 12 February 2017

Our Group Tour To Eastern Uganda. Sipi Falls

Uganda - The pearl Of Africa is un-doubtable the most beautiful, virgin and so lush green that every authuasiatic traveler never defies the fact that they fell  in love with the famous Pearl Of Africa. And so was Jan from Belgium. Jan has guided and travelled the world, he has led big groups to almost every corner of the world and yes he has travelled to Uganda. There was nothing that would stop his return and show his friends the beauty of Uganda. In part one of our Adventure, I will take you through the trip to the incredible sipi falls where our inspirational journey and into the wild began. Uganda is a very safe country and so are the drives on the countryside. Whether you’re doing a self drive safari or guided tour, you will definitely have an inspirational journey in Uganda. 

As agreed and picked up from the airport, Myself as the head Guide and David patiently waited at the airport with two Extended safari land cruisers and one small service car, after tjier arrival and immigration clearance, we headed to Victoria view guest house for a night in preparation for the next day when we would start our journey.

Our first day led us through the Eastern countryside of Uganda on the slopes of Mountain Elgon, The sipi Falls. Our first encounter was visiting the source of the Nile, the spot where the 6700kms length longest river in the world begins. At the same spot opposite the river stands a monument where John Hannington Speke stood as he observed the River Nile bubbling out of Lake Victoria. This was about 1pm as we decided to drive and head for our destination in Sipi. Through the exciting rural villages and towns, we arrived in the evening for our dinner and overnight. Sipi River lodge is a cozy and well built safari lodge nested in the middle of the main attraction in sipi, to be exact in the vicinity of the second waterfall.

The morning Adventure.

The morning after was the day for the adventure, a fun packed day and yes an active day of adventure. After a good hefty breakfast, we started our trek for the three spectacular waterfalls. We did start with the second fall in the vicinity of the lodge whose basement also has traditional caves for the sammya ancestors. Local guides should always be available to give you deep insights into this stunning area. The trek takes more courage and strength to hike through the three falls and yes all the three falls give a different experience. Through the local fields and plantations, the group was able to treck and look at the spectacular water falls from all angles and yes to the Top of the falls. It took about 5 hours of fun filled adventure and trekking the two waterfalls until we decided to descend down for the 3rd and longest waterfall. The water falls measure 70m, 80m and 100m respectively. The last fall is the most stunning and beautiful as viewed from different angles. It was time for lunch and yes I did organize them a picnic lunch at the most incredibly beautiful arena with spectacular karamoja plains and in view of the three waterfalls. It is always magical during the evenings with the best sunset observed from the hills.

The afternoon Encounter.

It was time up for getting deep insights about one of Uganda’s unique cultures with unique customs practiced in the sammya and Busoga regions eastern Uganda., THE PUBLICMALE CIRCUMCISION. Each even year, The bagisu and sammya tribes in Eastern Uganda subject males of 15years to a public male circumcision in a move of welcoming young boys into adulthood. Since the opening ceremony for the circumcision begins in October and this was September, we were privileged to have a demonstration of all the cultural encounters including the cultural encounter of the public male circumcision. There was an interaction with the locals and a study of the local way of life. After this were later embarked for our next destination, Mbale town for our dinner and overnight. Mount Elgon hotel is one of the best Hotels in line with a 4 star hotel, has a swimming pool and great views over the wanale hills of mountain Elgon. This marked the start of our journey in Uganda and yes, this was just the beginning of the adventure. This journey was designed on basis of “Building Expectations” and yes the incredible encounter the last two days was just the beginning. 

Join me next time as I take you through our group tour with Jan  through the wilderness of Murchison falls national park and beyond. Its commitment, Its adventure and yes its an escape into the wilderness for an inspirational journey of a lifetime.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Top Things to Do in a 10 Days trip to Uganda

Uganda – The pearl of Africa is undoubtly the most upcoming tourist destination. A country still virgin but amazingly beautiful. The wonders of Uganda in each corner of the country will always beat the expectations in you and always leave you wanting for more. From getting upclose and personal with the mountain Gorilla, spectating at the lazily sleeping and hitched lions in the huge Fig trees, the endless game in over 10 bio-diverse game reserves, the birdlife, Rafting on the longest river in the wild, absyling, hiking the challenging mountains, incredible landscapes and yes we never forget mentioning the friendliest people on the African continent. You forever feel at Home.

Below we take you through the Top Things you can do on a 10days trip in Uganda. The destinations  and what you can do on these planned days in Uganda day by day. Whether you are on a self drive car rental in uganda trip or probably on a guided Tour. This is absolutely possible in Uganda and either way will provide an inspirational journey.

The Kampala city tour on day One
Crazy is the right word, but have you thought that you can turn the crazy part of it as an adventure experience. Driving in Kampala is something for the experienced and the most patient. Kindly never attempt to drive in Kampala if you don’t have the above. Other road users are crazy drivers and its survival for the fittest, however driving and touring Kampala is something you must do on day one but as well can opt for the last day. The kasubi tombs, the Uganda museum, the Bahai temple and the Namugongo Shrine are some of the highlights you never want to miss out. If you are a night goer, The kampala night life is something you would like to try. Gatomato in bugolobi, Bubbles and cassablanca are some of the hangouts you would love to try out.

The Journey to Murchison falls National Park on Day 2
5 hours of Non-stop drive should be good to get you closer to the banks of the River nile where you would opt to cross with the ferry. However there is much more on the way than just driving. How about taking it slow to enjoy the drive and countryside. The ziwa Rhino sanctuary is something you would need to add to your adventure. This 70 acres of Land situated in nakasongola just close to River kafu is an ideal place for a stop and do something extra. After an interesting drive through the lush green vegetation and the exciting villages, opt to take a Rhino trekking activity in the sanctuary. It involves walking through the short bushy and thorny Acacia trees wondered in bird calling sounds that takes you close to the white Rhinos with a Ranger guide. It has always been an awesome experience for many travelers enroute Murchison. Through masindi the road should bring you to the southern gate of murchison. If you have some time, consider visiting the Top of the falls for a great sightseeing tour before you head to the lodge for your accommodation.

Discover the Wilderness experience of Murchison Falls on Day 3
Its always a bright day, A day full packed with adventure activities. An Early game drive is something you could always expect to be the best. Murchison falls is the biggest game reserve in Uganda and bisected by the longest river in the world. The Afternoon boat cruise is something you can always do after the morning game drive. Spice up the experience by hiking to the Top of the falls and be picked up at the Top for your accommodation. Nothing beats the experience of a sight at the strongest waterfall in the world. A 50m wide river banging and falling 45m in a 6m wide gorge, It is definitely incredible.

Transfer to The Primate capital of the world on day 4.
It is definitely the primate capital of the world and yes its absolutely interesting. The drive from Murchison is something you will need to know and get ready for. Its quiet a bumpy road and should take you about 7 to 9 hours depending on your nature and speed of driving. The local rural life is something you can expect on this day.  Arriving in the afternoon to your lodge for a relax or you could opt for a crater lake walk or a fortportal town walk as a colonial town and yes the most cleanest town in Uganda.

The Chimpanzee trekking or habituation on day 5
A must do if you’re in the vicinity of kibale forest national park. We do share 98.8% DNA with the chimpanzees and yes being up-close and personal is something you would definitely love to do. This can be done in the morning and afternoon for the trekking with maximum one hour with the chimpanzees. You could opt to do a habituation experience that involves spending a whole day with the chimpanzees  from as early as 6am. Whichever your budget and option, consider having a memorable experience.

Crater lake walk, Bigodi swamp walk and transfer to Queen Elizabeth N.P
The bigodi swamp walk a commuonity based eco-tourism site is something you don’t want to miss out in Bigodi. Over 13types of primates and a considerable number of birds is something you should do in bigodi. The crater lake walk from the bottom of the hills that takes you the highest point of the area with great views of the mountain Rwenzori ranges and the forest viewed from above coupled with the scenic views as you descend to the hills. You could later transfer to Queen Elizabeth and yes on a self drive safari, its absolutely eye catching. Depending on your time of arrival, you could also find time for an evening game drive through the kasenyi plains.

The Wonders of Queen Elizabeth National Park on Day 7
The cat family. The lions and the leopards are the eye catching attractions in this part of the park. Where you find the predators there are preys and so yes, a wide variety of wildlife in this park is something you could lookout in this bio-diversity park. The afternoon launch cruise on the Kazinga channel is something you would never want to miss out. This is done at the Mweya peninsula.

Through Ishasha for the Tree climbing lions on day 8
Through the ishasha sector you would opt to search for the tree climbing lions hitching in the Fig trees under the huge canopy leaves. Photographers will definitely find a treasure in photographing these lazily sleeping predators of ishasha. The route should also lead you through the rural life till the home for the mountain Gorillas of Bwindi.

The ultimate Gorilla tracking experience.
Getting up-close and personal with the great apes of Uganda is a lifetime experience. Only 800 are left in the world and yes half of these can be found in Bwindi impenetrable National Park of Uganda. Through the jungles of the rainforest with a ranger guide, you will be able to get to the gorillas on time, and after an hour of an encounter should be an awesome experience and off the bucket list. An activity that ranks Number one MUST DO in Uganda’s adventure. 

A scenic transfer back to Kampala on day 10.
Through the rolling and terraced hills of kabale and kigezi highlands the journey today should lead you back to Kampala. Its is quite a long drive from Bwindi to kampala estimated at 500kms and yes a lunch stop break can be had in mbarara town. The Equator line along along the way is something interesting to see. Spectate at the water outflows 5m-south and 5m-north of the main equator line. 

Whether your on a self drive car rental in Uganda or preferably on a guided tour in Uganda, either way the 10 days trip is one of a kind to highlight the best that Uganda has to offer.

Monday, 23 May 2016

The Sounds of Northern Uganda.

We continue on our amazing adventure after the amazing and incredible adventure on the slopes of mountain Elgon, The sipi falls. 

Having spent a night at the famous and luxury designed Mount Elgon Hotel, we embarked on a journey full of fun and adventure. Through the war torn villages of northern Uganda, enroute the famous Murchison falls National Park, We made a stop at the Nyero rock paintings 7kms away from kumi town. The Nyero Rock paintings are historical architects painted by the karimojong itesots and the batwa ethnic groups dated about 6000, 4000 and 5000 years back. We visited a number of caves beneath the rocks as we made the tour with a site guide. A small story about the tribe here,

The itesots and the karimojong in the early centuries were the same people living in northern
karamoja region. When the area was hit by famine, a section of these nilotics decided to graze their cows south of the karamoja in search of pasture and water for thier animals, However their comrades warned them that they are headed for death disaster. In karamoja language iteso means death, so the area that these members migrated and settled is an area refered to as the death area and that’s how they were finally called the itesots occupying these areas of Kumi and soroti regions.

 As we headed out of the rocks we saw this irresistible scenic view on a rock and being adventurous, we decided to go hike this rock. The great views of the karamoja plains were spectacular and were worth the hike.

We later Boarded our safari land cruiser and headed north through soroti town and later found this seasonal market we couldn’t just pass without a visit. Well this wasn’t part of our program but these are things you don’t want to miss when you travel to Uganda. These markets give you a clear definition of what travel to Uganda is all about and we did spend an hour going through the different sections of the market from foodstuffs, clothes, hardware shops, local restaurants and yes we had a one-one with the local people. Their wish to locally chew the sugar cane was fulfilled as we had the chance to buy, cut, chop and chew the cane. 

After the successful market visit, we then proceeded to lira for some foreign exchange just before we headed to Murchison Falls. Usually this is a recommended stop for refilling gas en-route Murchison even when on a self drive car rental in Uganda or still guided trip. It’s also a recommended place for shopping fresh foods if you are headed for camping to the Murchison falls National Park. There’s a central market you can round up all the shopping you need from fresh to packed. I would personally also recommend doing foreign exchange of the monies here if you will need loose them in the park because neither of the above will you find after you get into the park boundaries.

There are 3 entrances from the northern side into the park and yes the purongo gate is the most common used and the most interesting. The 43km stretch to paraa safari lodge is more less a day’s games drive. You probably will have to encounter almost half of the Murchison falls wild animals on a game drive. The seemingly short 43kms took us about 2 and half hours to cover because of the photographic opportunities we encountered that were irresistible. Very much a good idea to maintain the 40km/hr speed not for the safety of the animals and yourself but also for great chances of sightseeing. The great evening was climaxed with a good treat at the paraa safari lodge with a great dinner and overnight.

Day 4. Game drive and river Nile boat cruise.
We were ready at the vehicle by 6:30am for our morning game drive. It’s quite a good idea to

always start the day earlier and proceed for a day game drive by 6am. Even when you decide on a self drive car rental with Auto Rental Uganda, it’s not just an idea but also a trick if you do not want to use a ranger guide and you probably don’t know the ways or the location for the animals. Animals are usually very active in the morning hours just before sunrise lazy and reluctant during daytime.  So you stand chances of seeing a lot during morning hours and also there are always other safari vehicles on a the same game drive that you can either ask for any sighting or simply follow and what they see, is what you can see.

After an hour’s drive at our pace, almost the last behind taking our own routes, we were lucky to meet a pride of lions which others didn’t see walking on the same track we were driving. We drove watching the lions, following the kings of the jungle for about an hour and left them relaxing just besides a thicket. A lot of other animals were in plenty including the huge elephants and the elusive Rothschild Giraffes.

Our drive led us to the hippo pool on the Albert Nile where the Mighty River Nile joins the Lake Albert as it proceeds up north. This has always been my perfect spot for a spectacular bush breakfast. Overlooking a peninsular and a school of hippos is a great spot for a breakfast. With no time i set up the camp table and the chairs for our bush breakfast. This was a 45mins relaxed breakfast as we watched the elephants across on the lake peninsular and the playful hippos in the pool. When we were done with our nice, relaxed breakfast we proceeded for our second part of the game drive. This took us through the lake Albert view track with a lot of antelopes, bucks, warthogs, buffalos, Giraffes and so many bird species just besides the lakeside. We were blocked by elephants on several occasions as we drove through the woodland area of the southern part of Murchison. This was the same track that led us out and back to the lodge. Time check was 11:30am when we checked-in back to the lodge for a relax and for lunch just so they could get ready for the afternoon boat cruise.

In the afternoon we were down to the jetty to get ready for the afternoon boat cruise.  Number of companies offer boat cruises to the bottom of the falls. The Uganda wildlife Authority, Wild frontiers and paraa safari lodge have different times for boat departures. All have their bookings before the departure. Very much recommended you reserve your boat ticket just immediately you return from the game drive. The ticket for the boat cruise costs $30 for foreign residents and 20,000ugx for east citizens with the UWA boat. Other companies charge $30 irrespective of nationality.

I let Joy and selinah proceed with the cruise as I waited back for them to return. They did love the boat cruise as they had lots to explain about the boat trip. They did see lots of hippos, bucks, elephants, crocodiles, birds and the most spectacular waterfall seen from the bottom falling 45m. They were able to see the second waterfall created in 1962 when the Nile river over flooded and same year when Uganda got its independence. 

Our day ended with a treat of a birthday for joy during dinner time. It’s very much possible to celebrate a loved one’s birthday with the help of the hotels staff if alerted in advance. The whole staff crew will come out of the kitchen and sing, dance and jump singing the birthday melodies. You can order a cake and as you sit having your desert, they are capable of putting a surprise for you or the loved one. 

Join me next time as i continue with this amazing adventure as we proceeded south of the country to the ziwa Rhino sanctuary and the spectacular waterfalls on the top with Auto Rental Uganda, car rental and self drive safaris.

Friday, 20 May 2016

The Sounds of Eastern and Northern Uganda Trip

8 days of un-interupted adventure, 8 days of fun, 8 days of great northern Uganda described by the calmness and breathtaking Scenery. Even if we didn’t go to the far north of the country to visit the hidden treasures in the wilderness, the un-beaten surroundings of the mountain Elgon slopes enveloped in cloudy mist meandered by the incredible waterfall views coupled with the great plains down the mountain escarpment sipping a cup of coffee was just what we needed for a great start.

Having picked Joy and Selina from the Entebbe international airport, after clearing with customs, they were out at 3 o’clock as we headed out to Jinja. As usual before we set off, briefing about the country and the trip is always important and that is exactly what i did before we set off. We drove to Jinja town through the ever crowded Kampala city but I managed to take a bypass through the industrial area towards the eastern loop of Kampala. Through the suburbs of Kampala and mukono towns we managed to cross the mabira forest another forest reserve in Uganda. Usually the the 80km distance from Kampala to Jinja takes about 2hours because of traffic but this took us about  3 and half hours due to the rush hour traffic we encountered on the jinja road. To other travelers on the same journey on a self drive car rental in Uganda trip, the mabira forest is stop by for many travelers en-route Jinja usually for an overnight at the famous Rain forest lodge that blends luxury into nature. The sounds of the forest are just breathtaking and rewarding. However our trip was designed to spend a night in the tourism capital of East-Africa at the Source of the smiles guest house, you probably mistake it for the name Source of the Nile. Well this is one of the many nice hidden retreat lodges designed in magical nature and feels romantic being here. It is also among the many guest houses that offer a magical stay on bed and breakfast arrangement and you definitely have to go out and find a restaurant to have dinner or lunch. I would say $88 for the double was fair enough price for joy and selina at the guest house. As i wondered to a nearby guesthouse to find my accommodation and return back, joy and selina also took a guided walk to a nearby 2-friends Guesthouse for their dinner which i later joined to pick them up and drove them back to the smiles guesthouse. Well i ended the day with a brief about tomorrow and we agreed we could visit the source of the Nile and also needed a walk in the old town of Jinja. 

Day two in Jinja
We started our day at 8am in the morning with a visit to the source of the Nile. The entrance fees to this park are 10000 and the vehicle is 5000 Uganda shillings. This is one of the sources the Jinja municipality collects its taxes. Through the Craft shops which were not open that morning we arrived,  we were at the bank overlooking the point where the longest river in the world starts its 6700km journey. Across the river at this point is a monument standing marking where John Hannington Speke stood as he saw the water bubbling out of the Lake Victoria. However this water bubbling out of the lake isn’t evident anymore because of the dam constructions going on along this river. Apparently this can be seen after a boat cruise north of this original point. You may need to pay an extra $30 to go see this point however Joy and Selina did not want this; they think this was enough of the tour here. It was time for us to head and visit the mahatma Ghandi’s statue an international Hindu peace advocate whose ashes were immersed in the river Nile. After this tour we headed to town where we needed to do a walking through the Jinja town. Here we packed the vehicle in a safe place and started our walk. Through the main streets of Jinja, we ended up in the local central market and mainly the food section is always interesting. Well we did a roundup of the market and headed back to the vehicle as we still had a way to go. Through the sugar plantations of Jinja and the eastern towns of Uganda, we managed to reach the Mbale town in time for lunch at 2pm latest. Well i will call it snack lunch. After lunch we accessed the banks for foreign exchange and loose monies as we proceeded north of Mbale to the mountain Elgon slopes in sipi. We got here about 4 am and we decided we could do a coffee tour that evening so we could have time to relax the following day. 

We were led by one Rasta a site guide working with the sipi river lodge for the coffee tour. We
were led to see how this Arabic coffee is grown in the mountains and all the process they go through to have the coffee trees up. All the local farming is explained that later leads us to Rastas nearby village home for the second processing of the coffee. We locally pounded, roasted, grinded and prepared a cup of the famous mountain Elgon Arabic coffee. The remaining of the coffee beans were parked for joy and selina to take home. This is always one of the most rewarding activities worth a try in these foothills of mountain Elgon. It was approaching 6pm when we checked back to the sipi river lodge , the only high end or mid-range accommodations in this area for tourists. Yes, there are other lodges like the Lacam and Eagles nest but these are very budget lodges. There is an option for camping in this area of sipi however Joy and Selina slept in the locally crafted but luxury cottages of sipi river lodge. They did find their meals nice and delicious as I did not stay in the lodge premises but rather in the next doors Noah’s ark lodge.

Day 3 of the great sipi falls walk.

As agreed the previous day, we embarked on one of the most sought beautiful and fun filling
sipi river walk or possibly call it a hike. The sipi river walk is a combination of authentic local experience all enveloped to form spectacular sceneries. Through the homesteads and village homesteads, we arrived at the first Waterfall always referred to as the first sipi fall estimated 85m making a thunderous bang  into a river stream. The splashes you feel underneath creating a rainbow that surrounds you leaves you with nothing but everlasting memories. From here you witness the fall dropping and into a river stream beneath flows through the gardens underground before they fall to form another thunderous waterfall located just in the premises of the sipi river lodge. We did follow the river and through the locals in the farms is a chance to understand the African way of living. This walk portrays and brings into reality a real African life picture to life. What would I say? It’s all deemed for adventure. We finally get to the second waterfall which has a natural swimming pool and a baby fall on its top. Standing on top of this second is another breathtaking spectacular view and over the endless plains beneath the mountain escarpment.

Descending down this fall into the premises of the lodge to view the fall from below is not an easy and you got to be careful as many will crawl down here. Below the fall is a traditional clean cave maintained by the lodge staff in which was a site for the traditional public male circumcision ceremonies. 

After the spectacular view of this 75m waterfall, banging into a gorge before it descends into a river stream that is visibly seen flowing to its last bang of a waterfall that appears in most pictures representing sipi. As they descended  down the third waterfall to its bottom and enjoy the thunderous bang, I decided to let the site Guide take them down here as I collected the lunch boxes for a surprise picnic at the best viewing point of the 3 sipi falls with a 360 degrees combination view of the karamoja plains.

When they returned with Rasta the site guide, was a well set picnic lunch we had at the top of highest hill with incredible views, the rest is for them to tell.  After our well spent time here we later packed up, cleaned up and drove to the trading center where Joy and Selina needed some more of the coffee beans to take home as souvenirs.  We later left sipi and headed to Mbale with the last views and photo moments of the plains we couldn’t get as we ascended up the previous day.

Our destination hotel in Mbale was the Mount Elgon Hotel overlooking the famous Wanale hill- asteep slope of mount Elgon and a basis for our next day’s journey to the Murchison falls. This is with a say that this trip is very much possible on a self drive car rental in Uganda with the help of travel tips from Auto Rental Uganda.

Join me on my next article as i narrate to you our next journey on this amazing adventure through the sounds of the north.