by Lara Dalrymple
When I first arrived in Uganda I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was a little nervous as I had never been to this part of Africa before. As soon as I arrived I felt instantly at ease. I was met by my lovely transfer as soon as I stepped foot into the airport, before I even cleared customs! She showed me where I have to present my E-visa and pay my $50USD, and assured me she would be waiting on the other side. Having got my E-visa before my arrival meant that this process at customs was very quick and my transfer was indeed waiting for me on the other side with a trolley waiting to pick up my luggage. I was then transferred to the ‘Boma Guesthouse’ which is a small guesthouse located in a beautiful garden about 10-15 minutes away from the airport.
Since I only had one night here I spent it relaxing by the pool and sampling the menu. The fresh fruit and veg in Uganda is amazing! Early the next morning I was ready to be transferred to my 10-seater flight to Bwindi National Park which is home to almost half the world’s remaining gorilla population. Lucky I am a light packer as the luggage limit was a total of 15KG per person! When I arrived, I was met by another smiling transfer who took me to Mahogany Springs Lodge. After checking in, I went straight to the dining room for lunch and was left awe-inspired by what is one of the most incredible views of jungle covered mountains. I was informed that sometimes you can even see the gorillas from there! I had a delicious 3 course lunch from a set menu. The food is all made from fresh local produce so it all tastes incredible. After lunch I took a walk by the river and around the local villages. I found out there are many community projects in the area to visit such as schools, a hospital and a non-profit organisation called ride for a woman which helps woman learn new skills such as bike repair for tourists, sewing, baking and making crafts so they can help support their families. These organisations love donations so if you have any old clothes, books toys, anything really, I would highly recommend bringing them along as the happiness you can bring with these things you don’t need is priceless!
Following my walk, I got a fantastic massage form the lovely Emily. I would highly recommend one of Emily’s massages after your gorilla trek! After my massage, I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to capture some photos of the beautiful tropical colourful birds in the area. I was surprised to find out that Uganda has over 1000 different species of birds!
I had breakfast early the next morning before collecting my packed lunch and catching my transfer to the gorilla trekking headquarters for a 7 am start. After registering we were divided into groups of 8 depending on our fitness level and we set off to start our hike to look for our assigned family of gorillas. It turns out you can’t always rely on animals to stay in one place as was the case with the family our group was looking for, but after a few hours of climbing up and down mountains in the scenic national park we finally found them, and suddenly we were all re energised to track and watch them as they moved through the jungle. No one was at all disappointed, I can definitely say that these are some of the most amazing creatures I have ever been lucky enough to encounter and could not believe how close we were able to get to them, or rather how close they come to you.
After an hour of watching and trekking and taking some nice photos of the group it was time to go back to the lodge, at this point I was wishing that I had saved my massage for after my trek! Our group all decided to swap social media addresses so we could share our pictures and videos.
The next day my muscles were a little sore, lucky I just had a nice easy game drive through Ishasha in seek of the famous tree climbing lions on the way to our next destination. While we saw many animals on our journey, sadly this time we did not sport any tree climbing lions – can’t be lucky all the time I guess! If I had not been so short on time I would certainly have spent a night or two at one of the nice tented lodges located inside the park.
That afternoon I arrived at Parkview Lodge located just outside of Queen Elizabeth National Park, where I spent the night eating more fresh Ugandan produce and drinking a Tusker Beer. The restaurant and bar was open to the warm evening air and the most spectacular view of the plains below. I could just make out a group of tiny elephants meandering in the distance!
The next morning was another early start for my safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park. The morning and evening offer the best opportunities for viewing game. On the way to the park we saw a huge elephant crossing the road, and after entering the park we spotted 3 lions almost immediately. In Queen Elizabeth National Park, we also saw many different herbivores such as wildebeest, buffalo, and African Cob. After a very successful safari and about 1000 photos later we stopped for a late lunch and made our way back to town where we paid a visit to a community project where some women were making paper and crafts out of recycled paper and elephant dung. It may not sound nice but the new paper turns out really nice! Who would have thought that you could make nice paper and jewellery out of old paper and elephant dung! It was a fabulous experience to watch and even participate in the process. It also offered some more great photo opportunities with the locals. After another relaxing night in my permanent tent at Parkview Lodge, it was time to head back to the capital Entebbe for my flight home. It was about an 8-hour drive back and some of the roads were a slightly bumpy experience! I did enjoy travelling by road however, as there are so many interesting little towns and people to see on your way. Basically, Uganda is a photographer’s paradise! I particularly found that I liked to take pictures of daily life, towns and people in a place like Uganda with its bustling and colourful towns and markets where people carry things on their heads and herd goats through the middle of town!
On arrival to Entebbe I decided to finish my trip of a lifetime with an evening on the lake sipping wine and eating cheese as the sun set. It was the perfect ending to an incredible trip!
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