Uganda — A classic movie location

Described as the world’s most powerful waterfall, Murchison Falls is where the Nile crashes through a 6 meter rocky gorge as it falls 45 meters. You may have seen this waterfall before as Rose and Charlie struggle to keep The African Queen from capsizing in raging whitewater. This is the most spectacular thing to happen to the Nile along its 6700km length, I had to see this waterfall in person. En route, I enjoyed a couple of Niles at the historic Masindi Hotel where Bogart, Hepburn and the film crew rested and recovered after their arduous days of filming.

Uganda and its national parks are also known for the animals. During the Ugandan Bush War (1981-86), poachers and soldiers decimated Uganda’s wildlife, especially the rhino populations. Since peace has returned, you can once again see elephants, giraffes, lions, antelopes, waterbucks, buffaloes, hippos, crocodiles, chimpanzees and baboons everywhere.

Game drives are the common way that most tourists view African wildlife. I took a game cruise on the Kazinga Channel. This was more pleasant than the usual dusty, bumpy ride in a Land Cruiser. On a hot day, it was the perfect way to watch hippos, water buffaloes and elephants play in the water.

Look carefully in the photo above. You’ll see an adorable baby hippo standing on the shore. At about 3 months old, she’s already more than 100 kgs and quite frisky as she played with the other females resting the water.

Not exactly wildlife, but interesting nevertheless, are Uganda’s indigenous Ankole Cattle. They have gigantic horns, sometimes as wide as two meters from tip to tip. They’re the main source of beef in western Uganda.

This isn’t my first visit to Uganda. I came here in 2017. As a tourist, I toured Idi Amin’s execution chambers, visited the big markets in Kampala, and tracked the gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. This time around, I traveled as a local by joining up with friends I made three years ago: Ivan, Stella, Patrick and Rasta in the photo above.

When you travel with locals, you eat the healthy food that tourists don’t see at their high-end resorts. For about $1, I had filling and tasty meals. The roadside barbecue was fabulous, too. Click here to learn more about Ugandan food.

In all, we took a six-day road trip of about 1000 kms. We visited cultural sites that were off the beaten path, like the palace of the King of Tooro — one of Uganda’s ceremonial kingdoms. We were also treated to evenings of dancing, at the Koi Koi Cultural Center in Fort Portal. Click on the videos below to see the high energy dancing and the drums beating.

Although Uganda has luxurious all-inclusive resorts, like The Mweya Safari Lodge, I prefer the small, family run B&B’s that are along the highways between the national parks. Here’s where you can enjoy genuine hospitality and an occasional innovation.

One evening at the Tuzza Hotel in Busheny, my friends and I were drinking and eating at an outdoor gazebo at the edge of the jungle. We noticed that there were no mosquitoes. No one was wearing mosquito repellent. There were no screens. We didn’t smell any candles or toxic chemicals. Why would there be no mosquitoes? We soon learned that the owner of the establishment — an experienced gardener with a degree in horticulture — had planted citronella around his gazebos. (Shown above, the scraggly-looking grass planted around the gazebo is citronella.) What a brilliant way to create a mosquito-free outdoor area! For anyone with an outdoor patio where mosquitoes are a problem, please take note of this wonderful solution.

Uganda is real Africa, with its animals, rough roads, mountains and jungles. It’s also a friendly, fun and hospitable place. Visas are easy to get now that they’ve instituted the on-line e-visa. And now that I’ve been in Uganda for two weeks, it’s time to move on.