I went on a 3 day "mini safari" that left from and returned to the Red Chili Hostel in Kampala. It was run by Red Chili, which, conveniently enough, has locations in both Kampala and in the middle of Murchison Falls, where you stay for the trip. (I've reviewed the location in the accomodation section)
The tour was well run, and they managed to pack a lot in to a short time without leaving you feeling rushed. We were able to hike to, in and around the falls themselves, go on a half day safari and see loads of animals, take a cruise down the Nile (yes, it's the Nile here) and go for a half day chimp-tracking hike through the rain forest.
If you're like me and far from in the best of shape these activities were tiring but completely doable.
Like I said, Red Chili did a fine job of hosting the tour. They can accomodate anyone from individuals to large groups and in fact the group I was with was a mixture of all types. All of the people were of a western background and the tour was very isolated, so if you're looking forward to cultural interaction you'll have to look to another part of your trip.
Journal Excerpt John on 09/16/05: This morning we got up at an early 5:50 AM for a 6AM departure. We grabbed our two chapattis for breakfast and hopped in the van for the 1 ½ hour ride to the Budongo Central Forest Reserve. The forest is the largest mahogany forest in East Africa and is home to 350 species of birds and seven species of primates including the threatened chimpanzee. The forest reserve is run and protected by the local community. We made the 2 hour walk to the chimps through the dense forest that was filled with sounds of birds and cicadas. Some of the mahogany trees are absolutely enormous and are up to 200 years old. Ant highways crisscrossed our path and it wasn’t long before they were crawling up our legs and planting their pinchers into our skin. Signs of the chimps were everywhere. They make a nest to sleep in each night in the trees which are easily seen. Their dung can be found along the path and is a mushy coffee brown (for those who really wanted to know). We found the group high in a fig tree eating fruit. We strained our necks for 30 minutes trying to view the ten chimps as they spat out fig seeds at us. One even tried to pee on us. Our guide said that chimpanzees can live up to 60 years of age, which is about 20 years more than the average Ugandan. The leader of the family has a lame hand form a man made trap. These endangered animals are poached for bush meat so many may not see their golden years. Satisfied with our encounter we headed back to camp.
It only makes sense, if you are visiting Murchison Falls, to actually visit the falls themselves. There is a trail to the top, overlooking the falls, as well as a lower area to get very close to the side of the falls.
The Afritours package was to include all things: lodge, guides, boat trip, etc. The problem is that we found that sometimes the guides will ask for additional tip money when the representative of the tour company is not around.
The official park rangers do not seem to be a problem at all, nor are most of the other employees. Sometimes, however, the minority of them that are not part of the "most" will ask for tip money.
Fun Alternatives: Delay giving the guide a tip until you are certain that the tip for the guide is not included in part of a package.
To get some picture from the boat, I used fairly high speed film and a telephoto lens.
I don't know what to say to digital people, other than the digital cameras I have used would not have done very well with this due to the exposure speed. Remember that this is taken from a moving boat in heavy current, and so a tripod was not an option.Animal safari trips in the morning are also in partial light, and may require short exposure times in low light. Again, this suggests high speed film under some circumstances.
Most of my photos were with ASA400, and that seemed to work well in most cases, even in somewhat low light cases.
Electricity goes off after a certain time in the cabins due to the cost of running the generator. Recharable batteries won't. I was happy to be using a 100% mechanical camera. Those with digital on this trip were worried a great deal of the time.
Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: In the cabins in the area where we stayed, they shut off the electricity. Therefore, a flashlight will be useful for most of you that stay there.
Miscellaneous: Suggest strong insect repellant. There are Tse-Tse flies in places, though supposedly the sleeping sickness has been eradicated in this area.