“Where should we go? How about somewhere in Africa?” This I asked Jim a few months ago. After road tripping in both Northern Africa, especially in Tunisia and Morocco, and going through much of Southern Africa hitting South Africa and Botswana. I was bitten. Not by the tse tse fly, but by traveling throughout this fascinating continent, and I couldn’t wait to do more.
Still, I was not ready for Jim’s response. His response floored me, “Uganda.”
“Huh?” I’ll admit, it’s not the most intelligent reply, but I never even considered Uganda as a destination. Don’t ask me why, but it’s just not someplace that was on my radar…at all. Luckily, places that aren’t on my radar once mentioned will always peak my interest, so yeah…guess where we went? You got it, Uganda! And what a trip it was!
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Where is Uganda?
I had to get the map out right away and see where Uganda was. Uganda is bordered by five countries, all of which I have something on my list I’d love to see. Republic of the Congo where you can visit Nyiragongo Crater, Rwanda which is one of the safest countries in Africa and has fantastic wildlife, Tanzania and Kenya where I’d love to see the wildebeest migration, Ethiopia which is home to the sunken churches, and South Sudan which has some of the most spectacular pyramids. Right smack dab in the middle is Uganda. I couldn’t wait to go.
As you know, we love to drive and Jim had recently read this article where the travelers had rented a four wheel drive vehicle and driven themselves around this lesser-known East African country. The seed sprouted and we started researching all the wonderful things we could do and see.
In the end we decided to go with Roadtrip Uganda and rent a small 4X4 and drive ourselves. Other friends from Sidewalk Safari just booked it through a tour company who then drive you all around the country and you don’t have to do the work. Either way we were sold and the next thing we knew, we had air tickets to Entebbe.
Taking to the road in Uganda, for the most part, was not too bad. Of course it’s very different when you are dealing with animals and people on roads that completely vary in maintenance. However, we thoroughly enjoyed it, but it certainly helps to pay attention to some Uganda driving tips.
The Uganda Self Drive Itinerary
Here is the route that we took on our Uganda self drive: Entebbe – Mburo National Park – Bwindi Impenetrable Forest- Queen Elizabeth National Park (2 different areas, first Ishasha then the main part of the park)- Kibale National Park- Semliki Wildlife Reserve – Kampala – Back to Entebbe.
A dusty little city on the shores of Lake Victoria, we didn’t spend much time in Entebbe. We did go down to the lake and watch the fisherman’s wives cutting up and selling the catch of the day amidst some huge, otherworldly storks.
Mburo National Park
Mburo National Park blew us away. It was green and lush; it had plenty of the gorgeous and thorny acacia trees which for me, makes for an iconic African landscape. We saw an abundance of wildlife from zebras to hippos to giraffes. It was a great place to really start our trip.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest was our second stop. Whenever I hear the name, I picture a jungle so dense that you have to cut your way through it, and guess what? We did. We really did have to hack our way through the forest, machetes and all. The main attraction here is gorilla tracking, and looking into the eyes of that baby gorilla will stick with me forever.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park was our next stop, and the first part of it had us looking for the famous tree-climbing lions. Apparently these are the only lions in the world that climb trees, an interesting phenomenon. And yep, we found them. The next part of that trip took us to the main, more visited part of the park and here we saw elephants, and warthogs, and baboons…oh my! We spent the most time in this park, and by the end of our time there, we still weren’t ready to go.
Kibale National Park
Kibale National Park was next on our itinerary, and we were excited to see the chimpanzees. After having so much luck with the gorillas, and with wildlife viewing in all the parks, we knew that we were really going to have a great experience. We were not disappointed. In fact, we were in the park less than an hour and we came upon a troop of chimps whom we followed around for awhile.
Semliki National Park
Semliki was the last park that we visited. As far as parks go, it was a little less amazing to me, but that’s probably because by this time we’d seen and experienced so much already. I have to say, though, that I wouldn’t have missed this park for the world. I learned a few things here and had one of the funniest wildlife experiences of the entire trip.
We loved every minute in the parks, but we wanted to see at least a little of the capital city, Kampala. I have to say, it surprised me. Along the way, we’d met a few people who lived there as expats. They couldn’t say enough about the city and how wonderful living there was, but when we drove in we were surprised. Most of it, except the real central part of downtown, looked exactly like all the other villages we’d driven through, just much, much larger.
And then we were through. Our Uganda self drive was over…way too soon. It was one of those trips that both Jim and I could have spent so much more time. We boarded the plane talking the whole time about what we are going to do next time.
It turns out that even though we hit a number of the major sights and parks, most tour companies do it in reverse order from us. I think they want their visitors to go home with the gorilla tracking as one of their last activities. Bwindi was closer to the beginning of our trip. However, it’s an unforgettable experience, so I don’t really think it matters where it falls in your itinerary.
One of the lesser-known countries in Africa, Uganda is one of the best places to do some amazing safaris. We saw everything from lions to gorillas. We came home with stunning photo and a love for the Ugandan people.