Bradt: the best travel guide for Uganda
Favorite thing: As a general rule of thumb, we find the Bradt guides about the best for sub Saharan destinations that are somewhat off the tourist track. To date we've used them for Madagascar, Rwanda and Uganda trips, and my husband has also found them reliable for business forays into Ghana, Gabon and Cameroon.
When we visited Uganda in March 2013, we used the 5th edition - this was first published in January 2007, so it must be well overdue an update, although (apart from an inevitable upward creep in prices), we didn't find it particularly out of date.
We find the Bradt guides well researched and fairly reliable - even if they are aimed at an older demographic that's (perhaps reluctantly) graduated a step above backpacking, and the tone is a little more 'serious' and less flippant than in other travel series such as Lonely Planet and the Rough Guide. One aspect I especially like is that their maps are well thought out and clearly presented (an area in which Lonely Planet in particular really needs to up its game).
Some amateur tips on amateur photography
Favorite thing: Mea culpa: I fall firmly into the 'point and fire' school of photography (no fiddling with F stops and exposure times for me) and didn't even start taking photos until my daughter was born ten years ago. However, the more I travel, the more I find myself inspired to experiment with photographic composition than I would previously have imagined.
Of course the beauty of digital photography is that you can 'play' as much as you want, and unlike the punitive development costs of photochemical photography, the only real cost is a couple of extra camera chips and the time that it takes to sort through and erase your unsuccessful experiments!
My strong advice is that you shouldn't be shy to play around with different compositions and light conditions: much though we might like to be able to take 'postcard quality' photos, ultimately our holiday snaps should reflect our own personal experience of a place.
In response to queries from fellow members on what sort of camera they should bring for this type of trip, we travel with a Nikon D310C and its predecessor, the D70S. The standard lens is 18-55mm - which is ideal for landscapes - which we swap with a 55-200mm lens for wildlife. Last year, my husband (who's much more serious about all this as I am) treated himself to a 500mm 'rocket launcher' of a lens for extreme closeups - he bought a generic Sigma lens which is compatible with Nikon camera bodies, rather than the Nikon lens, for which we would have to have remortgaged the house!
My husband is passionate about wildlife photography, whilst I prefer photographing landscapes and 'people related stuff". We have therefore developed a happy division of labour along these lines, which means that when we decide upon the selection of photos to be printed into a photo album and inflicted on friends and family, it has a balance that is a true reflection of our experience.
Brighton from Churchill Tours: our ideal guide!
Favorite thing: As a rule, we prefer to self drive and explore under our own steam: however, because we weren't too sure of how practical this was in the Great Lakes region and were travelling with our children, we decided to opt for a package tour. In hindsight, a wise choice.
We chose Churchill Tours, who are a Ugandan company that also covers Rwanda. After a false start with a taciturn young guide, we hit jackpot with Brighton Munyampame, their senior guide and a man perfectly suited to our requirements.
Although Brighton is Ugandan, like so many people from south west Uganda, he has strong family links to Rwanda and was ideally placed to help us understand both cultures. I was particularly moved by his tales of accommodating Rwandan relatives for years whilst the genocide raged, which brought a whole new - and very personal - dimension to our understanding of this tragic period in the history of this region. The sheer enormity of the tragedy that unfolded over that period can all too easily depersonalise the events to a litany of enormous statistics that leave you feeling punch drunk, and it was important for me to regain the perspective that each and every number quoted related to real people.
Brighton is an excellent safari guide and a skilled game spotter. Even better from our perspective, he has a particular passion for birds, and quite a lot of his time is spent running specialist birding safaris. Although he is an absolute expert, we really enjoyed the fact that - unlike many passionate twitchers - he was willing and able to pitch his expertise at our enthusiastic amateur level.
Because Brighton is a father himself, he was good at anticipating our children's needs, and soon worked out what our specific interests were. It was on his advice that we pruned back our initially overambitious schedule, and his recommendation of amazing Lake Bunyonyi as our last stop was inspired. We found him flexible and good at thinking quickly on his feet: a particularly valuable character trait, as even with the best planning in the world, trips in this region always throw up challenges.
As a personality, Brighton is gregarious, outspoken and keen to share his knowledge and understanding, which suited us well. We were absolutely delighted with him, and wouldn't hesitate to recommend his services.
Two sides of the capital town
Favorite thing: Kampala is dispersed on a six or seven hills and it doesn't have usual city structure with the main square in the central part of the town. It is very unlike to other African capitals which I have visited so far. The Old Taxi Park could be easilly be considered as the heart of Kampala. It is where most of the people could be seen during a day and in the nearby market place.
Fondest memory: The city area is very huge but it seems to me as there wasn't any urbanistic plan of building the town......
Favorite thing: There are many currency exchange office all over Kampala and the exchange rates are same as Central Bank of Uganda, Prefered Currency is US Dollar (50's and 100's)
The rates fluctuate daily (3 times a day)
- Budget Travel
Visa on Arrival at the Land Border
Favorite thing: It is simple and swift procedure
I arrived via Malaba Border (GPS 0‹ 38Œ 20" 34‹ 15Œ 57") from Kenya about 480 km from Nairobi, reached the Uganda Immigration at 3.30 am there were 2 Immigration Officers on duty and they handled 2 buses full of passangers within 30 minutes.
You will need to fill one landing card (will be provided by the Bus/Coach Company) on boarding from Nairobi and Fee in US Dollar (in my case it was $50) for 1 month Single Entry, no photo graphs required,
The Passport must be valid 6 months from the date of entry and also must have atleast 1 full blank page for the Visa StickerRelated to:
- Budget Travel
Favorite thing: Ugandans still have their ancient traditions at heart. Many different tribes live in Uganda and all of them have their own traditions; Baganda, Batooro, Acholi, Toro, Teso, Bauyoro, Bagisu, Alur...and many others. Most of the tribes were organized into kingdoms, based on tradition and each with ots own king. Disintegration of the traditional societies started soon after the coming of the missionaries, followed shortly by the colonialists.
In 1962 the colonialists and missionaries left Uganda but the left behind their own system of governing and their religion. The new leader of independent Uganda and its first President Milton Obote didn't change much in the system of governing established by the colonialists, in fact, he found it very practicable for own rule. Only in 1992 the current Presidend Museveni announced that traditional tribal leaders would be reinstated, but with very limited power.
The Ugandan population is divided into two religious gruops, Christians who believe in God and the traditionalists who have their own gods. Traditionalists make the minority but still have significant role in the society since even Christians make use of traditional healers sometimes.
It is almost unknown fact that Uganda is in the civil war which last over 20 years now. Obote's second rule after Idi Amin's 1979 overthrow was marred by repression and the deaths of many civilians, as a result of a civil war known as the Ugandan Bush War, or Luwero War. Most northern parts of Uganda, where is the teritorry of Acholi, Lango and Teso tribes is inder the control of so-called Lord's Resistance Army. The leader of LRA is notorious Joseph Kony, who proclaimed himself the spokerperson of God, a spirit medium and who is nurturing a cult of personality. Kony has been accused of ordering the abduction of children to become child sex-slaves and child soldiers. Kony was indicted for war crimes and crimes against the humanity, by the I.C. Court in the Hague/Netherlands, but has evaded capture.
Very busy streets
Favorite thing: Kampala as a capital city and gives the impression of a very busy place but fact is, most of this people just wandering aimlessly around. During day light everybody is out in the streets moving up and down around Nakasero where no traffic rules excisting. Streets are virtually occupied by the crowd of people and thousands of cars and just in a certain moment nobody moves coz any moving is impossible at all.
Poor country hard to survive
Favorite thing: Uganda is incredibly poor country, from the Pearl of Africa, as it was used to call before, it turned into one of the poorest country in the eastern Africa. During era of Idi Amin Dada the whole economy of the country was totally ruined and demolished. Just to mentioning, before Idid Amin Uganda was the major producer of cocoa in the world and the whole production was sold out ten years in advance. After Idi Amin called Dada, the production of cocoa was reduced to zero!
Many Ugandans are jobless, many of those who work have very poor sallary which is insufficient to provide for a family. Corruption is extremelly high and people do not see any perspectives for changes and better life in near future.
Two sides of the capital town
Favorite thing: Kampala is full of contrasts, on one side stands fancy buildings (mostly banks) and next to it the city slums. Next step, same in the city centre, one could see marabou while digging wild junkyard. The city streets are in terribly bad conditions, big open holes all over the city centre which making driving during rain very risky and dangerous. I have never seen such a powerty in any other big city in Eastern Africa.
Safari - Murchison Falls
Favorite thing: Murchison Falls National Park
Fondest memory: A 3-day safari through Murchison Falls National Park, complete with a cruise along the Nile River, was a great way to end our 5 1/2 weeks in Africa. We went with Speke Uganda Holidays and Tony was an excellent guide (very knowledgeable on his birds & mammals while still being very personable). Access from Kampala is fairly good (a few hours drive) and the park provides an opportunity for some excellent game viewing.Related to:
Esimu, phones, phone cards
Favorite thing: Phone calls are really cheap in Uganda using a local sim card, which are available literally everywhere in Uganda from specialist shops run by the phone companies to independent mobile phone sellers to young lads on the street with a handful of brand new sims from all the phone companies.
If your own phone in your home country is locked it is cheap enough to buy a phone in Uganda. MTN always seem to have offers on that include some air time as well. When I was there in May they were advertising what they called a "kaportable" phone for the equivalent of £18 similar to the one in the photo.
If you have time shop around for phones and sims I found Celtel cheapest company to call with but MTN had better coverage.
I was almost tempted to buy a dual sim cell phone while I was there so you can have both cards active at the same time. One guy I know has two dual sim card phones so he had a sim card for all four phone companies.
Humble School in Mukono
Favorite thing: The children of Uganda are beautiful and it was a pleasure to visit with them at Humble School while on a mission trip with my church.
Fondest memory: Watching the children sing and dance, having dinner with them out in the field as dusk fellRelated to:
- Business Travel
- Arts and Culture
- Work Abroad
Gorilla Treking in Uganda
Favorite thing: Yeah it's very timely to book your permit around this time of the year(February) as it will be cheaper and the price increases with time and if i am not wrong, the treks are usually more in June,July and August, but i don't know the reason behind but i guess it's because thats when most tourist are out there(winter season abroad). Please visit www.naturelinksafaris.co.ug and request for more info!
Bon Voyage!Related to:
The real Pearl of Africa
Favorite thing: Uganda is truely the Pearl of Africa as its refered to and the best expression of this is in its natural beauty! From an evergreen vegetation to a variety of wild animals , natural and fresh foods, rivers, lakes ,birds....... i can't say it all. However, it becomes hard to witness this if you are to tour the country by tour companies whose interest is profit making. My best advice is to get an individual Friend and plan ahead and tour like a visitor 'coz this way, you are not charged the same fees to visit a national park as you would if you were a tourist and you enjoy everything as though you lived there all your life! You get very cheap accomodation from some good hotels around not the big ones that are commonly refered to. I will be back with more....................
Fondest memory: Hospitality and its beaty!
Note: Like all other Mankind in the World, not everyone is Kind!, but to a great extent, most Ugandans are kind!
If you want to stay in a luxurious hotel in Kampala, here it is. The Sheraton is located in some...more
Ternan Avenue, Entebbe, KM, UG
Good for: Solo
Looking over the Taxi Park in Arua is the Rippons Motel. This building or two buildings of several...more
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