We spent a week in Uganda and I loved every second of it! Our time was spilt into three sections, we spent three nights in Jinja, one night in Kampala and two nights in Kabale. Uganda is a landlocked country in Eastern Africa with a diverse landscape due to it lying on both sides of the equator. As soon as we crossed the border from Kenya to Uganda at Busia I could notice a change between the two counties. The children were all super friendly and trying to wave their hardest at us when they saw our big yellow truck. The side of the roads were lined with banana trees and the houses were generally made from mud with corrugated iron roofs. My time in Uganda was jam packed with different activities, endangered animals and beautiful views. What more could I ask for?
Our campsite in Jinja was absolutely amazing! We stayed at a place called the Nile River Explorers Camp which was situated right on the bank of the Nile, this allowed us to have a magnificent view of the river. The campsite had a lovely restaurant/bar and had multiple activities to chose from. This allowed for a fantastic few days.
Kayaking on the Nile
On our first day in Jinja, five of us decide to go kayaking on the Nile River. This was a lot of fun trying to spot new birds and appreciate the scenery around us. Our guide was great and was offering us G n T’s at 11 am. Who could refuse?
The sunset cruise (aka the booze cruise) was great. It was our trip leader, Lisa’s, birthday so we all made an effort to go. The boat had two levels and our group took up the whole top level. We all sat getting to know each other better while eating yummy snacks and drinking whatever we wanted. When we got back to our campsite we all seemed to continue drinking. This led to a lot of entertaining stories being made and told. Eight of us decided to go out and explore what the night life of Jinja had to offer. We jumped into a van and headed off to town. We found a local bar which was filled with people drinking. It was interesting to see where the locals enjoyed to hangout and to watch Jill pole dance.
White River Rafting on the Nile
Eight of us decided to take on the Nile rapids. The Nile River is famous for its white river rafting as it is one of the few that has so many grade 5 rapids. Grade 5 rapids are the highest level of rapids that can be used commercially for rafting. I was very conflicted wether I could handle the grade 5 rapids or if I should be safe and go for the grade 3 rapids. In the end I decided to challenge myself and go for the grade 5 rapids. Sarah decided to do the grade 3 rapids, Mimi went on the safety boat and the rest of us went in one raft on the grade 5 route. Our guides name was Peter, and he was fantastic! He kept us entertained the whole time and really allowed for us to have the best experience. During our three hours on the river, we were faced with eight rapids (five were grade 5 and three were grade 4). The first rapid was one of the scariest for me! It started with a 2 m drop, followed by having to paddle though a big wave, which quickly led into the second rapid which had another drop. We got stuck on the second drop but thanks to Peters instructions we were able to get out of the rapid without flipping the boat. This was a great way to start the day. I was petrified but at the same time having so much fun! All the rapids went pretty smoothly except for rapid 6. We got caught by a huge wave and our boat tipped. My experience consisted of falling/jumping out of the boat. I wasn’t able to hold on to the rope that was attached to the boat and I kept being pounded by subsequent waves. Luckily I was able to grab onto Peters paddle and be pulled back to the boat. Peter tipped our boat back onto the right side and pulled Kyle and I back in. We were then able to go find other members of our group. After this rapid we had fun sharing our encounters with each other. This made me quite nervous for the last two rapids- but we were able to get through them rather ‘smoothly’. At the end of the day we all had huge smiles on our faces and I was thrilled that I had managed to conquer my fear and be rewarded with the experience for doing so.
Kampala is the capital city of Uganda and served as our half way stop between Jinja and Kabale. We were given the opportunity to go and explore the city but due to rain most of us opted to head straight for the campsite. When we arrived half of us set up our tents and the other half decided to upgrade and stay in a room. We spent the afternoon relaxing on the couches and when the weather cleared up some people went to swim in the pool.
After a long day on the truck we arrived at our campsite in Kabale. We pitched our tents and had fun designing some t-shirts. We went to bed relatively early to be well rested for our day with the chimpanzees.
Trekking to see the Chimpanzees
Ten of us decided to go and trek in the Kibale National Park to go and see the chimpanzees. We were collected from our campsite early and drove for two and half hours until we reached the entrance of the park. We were given a brief introduction and told how we should act around the primates. We hiked for about an hour though the forest until we heard the chimpanzees talking to each other. This was really special to hear and I thoroughly enjoyed spotting the different individuals. We were only able to spend an hour with the chimpanzees before we had to hike back to our van. We took a different route back and ended up walking through some tea fields. The fields were beautiful and unexpected. It was a great way to end the outing!
Trekking to see the mountain Gorillas
The day had come! One of the main reasons why I decided to join this trip was so that I could have the opportunity to see the gorillas. We were collected from our campsite and drove for two hours until we arrived at Bwindi Impenatrable Forest National Park. Along the way we were able to stop and take photos of the sunrise. This was a beautiful site as we could see the sunrising over the potato fields. When we arrived at the national park, there were approximately 45 people. We were all given a briefing on what we should expect on our trek. The mountain gorillas are a critically endangered species that are found in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The guide told us that there are approximately 880 gorillas left in the world, out of these 400 are found in Uganda. In Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park there are estimated to be 300 individuals, out of which 100 are habituated for research and ecotourism. We were then separated into small groups. Each group was ment to consist of eight people and the different groups would be going to visit different gorilla groups of gorillas. The group of gorillas we were going to visit were called Nshongi and consisted of eight individuals. Our guides name was Steven and we had a member of the UWA (Ugandan wildlife authority), John, with us. We also had a Ugandan student who was studying wildlife conservation with us who was also named John. We started our trek, which lasted for about two hours until we reached the spectacular giants. The first hour of the trek was pleasant and relatively flat with a few ups and downs but the second hour was difficult. We crossed a relatively deep river and then had to start our climb up the mountain. There was no path so Steven was using his panga to cut the way for us. This was difficult to walk on as you had to consistently concentrate on where you were stepping. This section was also steep and slippery. I was extremely grateful for the walking stick I had been given. When we arrived at our family of gorillas, we first saw a medium sized female who was approximately 2 m away from us. The next gorilla we saw was my favorite. We saw a seven month old baby male who was having a lot of fun climbing and swinging on the branches. In the family we were visiting there were eight individuals. One baby male, one silverback (a male over fifteen years old), and six females. When I saw two of the females sitting in clear site I took advantage of the situation and sat down for a photo. The next thing I knew one of the females hand was coming towards me, I turned my back and she grabbed my backpack. I was terrified. Steven told me to slowly stand up, and when I did she let go. Close call! Our hour with the gorillas flew by and before I knew it we had to leave. This was such a highlight for me as it had been on the top of my bucketlist for ages. I felt incredibly fortunate to join the few people who have been able to see the gorillas!
Our time in Uganda has unfortunately come to an end. I can understand why people describe this country as an adventure capital. A lot of adrenaline and appreciation of nature occurred during this week. What a privilege! Next stop… Rwanda!