Written by Cynthia Njeri.
New years eve has to be the most stylish and celebrated day by everyone. It is perhaps the only day where the young and the old reverse the order of nature and turn the night into day. Ushering in 2020 would have a special touch to it; the New decade. I reckoned I had to be intentional about making it adventure-filled far and beyond. Uganda was a timely bet, courtesy of Starboard Safaris, who gagnered 30 avid travellers. On that note, I hope our vision boards are well engraved and like me, you are working towards spreading those wings.
The much I had known about Uganda and its culture is their staple food being ”matoke”. Given that your view point is as was mine, let us travel together to the Pearl of Africa. Our journey began at about 2000hrs and we planned on visiting Jinja, Kampala and Entebbe.
We arrived at the Busia border circa 0800hrs, making it a 12-hour journey from Nairobi. We were lucky to be the only group at the border. However, the service was quite slow and we ended up taking more than an hour for us to be cleared for our journey. We also traded our Kenyan currency at the rate of 1ksh for 35ugx. Upon receiving the Ugandan notes, you literally feel like a millionaire because of the bundles of notes you receive. I would always convert my money to Ksh just to see how much I was spending. Perhaps this is a habit by all travelers in a foreign country, no?
Uganda is termed as the Pearl of Africa because of the magnificence of its nature and people. Driving round the country you notice the grandness of nature it has to offer. The equatorial climate in Uganda favors tourism, as most activities can be done all year round, and the economic activities of the local people. Hectares and hectares of banana plantations is a view you won’t miss out on as you drive through Uganda. The sunrise and sunset views in Africa are always magical. Uganda proved it some more! The views were definitely out of this world.
Ugandans are cultured and cordial, with mutual respect for all people. This we experienced from our interactions with the locals and host. We felt less of foreigners; a home away from home kind of feeling.
Accommodation at Victoria Royal Beach Hotel
Every traveller eventually will need a place to lay their head and hang their bags at night. For us, Victoria Royal Beach Hotel, located in Entebbe would be our nest during the stay in Uganda. It offers comfort and luxury to the guests and overlooks Lake Victoria guaranteeing you phenomenal views of the lake and the surrounding residence.
With a total of 17 rooms, the hotel can accommodate up to 34 pax on single and sharing basis. It came to my realization that most of the hotels in Uganda are not fitted with swimming pools because they are adjacent to Lake Victoria. (Dear Ugandans, correct me if I am wrong!) Swimming is highly encouraged in the Lake. Personally, I was not quite comfortable because what if a crocodile on a hunt popped out from the blues? What if? But see, I am here to tell this tale.
In my three-year experience of travel, I have never encountered the kind of comfortable luxury that the Victoria Beach hotel provided on a budget. Thank you Anto! Pictures are worth a thousand words, right? Be the judge!
As in Kenya, Ugandan cuisine consists of traditional and modern cooking styles. Every tribe has its own specialty dish but many dishes consist of vegetables, potatoes, yams, beans, peas, fish, chicken and tropical fruits among others. In order to experience what Ugandan cuisine had to offer to our palates we set out for buffet meals, which were served in generous portions. Admittedly, there is no much difference in comparison to Kenyan dishes. The one thing we got to try out and enjoyed out of our usuals were fried grasshoppers! Trust me, they taste just like Nyama Choma.
Cruising at Source of the Nile
The Source of the Nile is a world landmark in Jinja that attracts travelers from around the world to explore Uganda, given that River Nile is the longest River in the world. The place marks where the Nile starts its long journey to the Mediterranean Sea through Central and Northern Uganda, South Sudan and Egypt.
Arriving at the Source of the Nile, the first attraction is the display of African crafts by local businesses men. Most of the items traded here are made of materials that had been sourced from the Nile. They pass for great souvenirs to go with back home. You also notice monuments that have been erected at the shores of the Nile to mark historical happenings at the Nile. For instance, the Mahatma Gandhi Monument is in commemoration of Mahatma Gandhi who had requested that some of his ashes be sprinkled in the Nile River after his cremation along with many other Rivers in the world.
Cruising the Nile offers one phenomenal panoramic views of the water body, which is not only the longest in the world but also the largest white water lake in Africa! I am yet to put into context how surreal it was having views of the crystal blue waters, surrounded by stunning vegetation!
The local businessmen own a variety of boats that are used to take guests round, depending on the number of people and needs of each person.Our group was ushered into a traditional metallic-made boat partitioned into two. The top deck to give us a better experience of the astounding views and the bottom provided ample space to house the pilot, our Disc jokey and his equipment and ourselves who danced the cruise away. A well thought of design of the boat, I must say.
One of the stunning views that I have not gotten over to date is the Nile Bridge! While on the cruise the tip stands out from a far. You”ll need binoculars to have a better view but its preferable to drive to it for better views. What a piece of architecture! Other views offered are of fishermen in their canoes, traditional bandas, and species of birds.
Apart from cruising, other activities that you may participate in include swimming, bunjee jumping, white water rafting and kayaking. White water rafting is done all year round because Uganda’s equatorial climate favors the activity. Bunjee jumping involves jumping from a very high platform to the bottom of the Nile. Jinja offers one of the highest jumping sites in Africa, and also the only place where there is no age restrictions to participating in the activity. However, you have to be at least 35kgs. Quad biking and horse riding are done at the shores of the Nile to the countryside areas of Jinja.
I did not get to try out any of these activities but I have at least one in my travel vision board. We shall do this again. Uganda has a lot to offer in terms of adventure. So here is a bonus: look out for more in my next week’s post on exploring Uganda. Get to understand more on why it is indeed the Pearl of Africa!
Trip Credits: Starboard Safaris.
Photography: Safari with Martin.