22nd May 2019
Several of the lodges around Kibale National Park in Western Uganda have stunning views perched above crater lakes, but the most unexpected was at Mihingo Lodge. Usually used as a stopover to break the long journey from Bwindi Impenetrable Forest back to where the trip ends at Entebbe, I hadn’t banked on such a gem of a lodge, but it was beautifully situated overlooking Lake Mburo National Park.
Food, in general, was good in Uganda, hearty home cooked fare and often consisting of four courses. Apoka Safari Lodge in remote Kidepo National Park in the far North served up a cracking roast belly of pork.
At Mihingo lodge I enjoyed a cheese and pumpkin salad, followed by a delicious African Goat Curry. Perhaps not haute cuisine but laid on as a complete surprise and very welcome, was a bush breakfast on the banks of the Nile in Murchison Falls National Park.
Once again, the unexpected gems are often the most memorable. Ndali lodge was new to me, yet one of the most characterful in the country. Owner/Manager Aubrey’s father reclaimed the land that the family owned prior to Idi Amin and created this homestead in the hills. Stunning views, candle-lit hosted dinners, outstanding personal service and cosy colonial cottages made this a personal favourite
On this trip, undoubtedly the most jaw-dropping experience was chimp trekking in Kibale National Park. A relatively short, easy trek in the forest found us moving alongside a large group of our closest relatives, calling to each other, grooming, playing and loafing about. A real privilege.
The Chimps were totally unphased by us, generally having more interest in the forest around them than their clumsy cousins, who clearly could never manage to climb a tree or pick nits in such a satisfactory manner.
My stint as the pied piper of the Kidepo Valley! I was followed back to the car by a procession of singing and dancing Karamajong Tribeswomen, who escorted us back following a village visit.
I developed a bit of an addiction to buying stuffed African animals of varying sizes covered in crazy coloured fabrics.
Each time I came across one in a curio shop, there seemed to get only better than the last, so I seem to have a parade of elephants to find homes for.
The standards recce trip necessity of packing in as much a possible into a relatively short period of time. There are often a few long road journeys ranging between 8 and 12 hours with only a night in between to get a feel for an area or lodge. But I always say even though it's still work, it is the best part of our job, and of course, it's still a whirlwind adventure full of memorable experiences. Thankfully it does enable us to design slightly less hectic but personally experienced itineraries for our clients.
Whilst there's a whole variety of experiences to enjoy in Uganda, most trips will include a gorilla trek and/or chimp trek. Having long sleeves and trousers that are light and breathable is a must when getting deep into the jungle. Long socks which you can tuck trouser bottoms into may not be a cool look, but it save a procession of safari ants mistaking your legs for tree trunks should you encounter them.
A pair of gardening gloves can be handy for grabbing at prickly foliage and holding it aside for the next person. Most lodges will have a good walking stick you can borrow which really do make a difference getting up steep bits of the path.
Hiring a porter to carry your pack not only helps the local community (and thereby allow you to save face when opting to lighten your load), but they will double as your personal assistant, literally pushing and pulling you whenever a particularly difficult bit of terrain is encountered.
The reward for your endeavours is an hour in the company of a family of habituated Gorillas in their natural habitat. Totally worth it!