Written by: Glen Stephen
On a recent trip to Uganda with Liquid Giraffe, I had the chance to discover exactly what makes this underrated African country so special.
Here are 5 experiences that stood out on my trip:
1. The birds
After a long drive through the chaotic traffic of Kampala we arrived at our lodge near Jinja. A pair of birds demanded our immediate attention and Robert, our guide, identified them as eastern grey plantain-eaters. Robert told us an intriguing fact about this bird – it has a fourth toe, which usually points outwards and which can be rotated backwards to within 70º of its first toe! Yikes!
It was great to watch the pair eating in the trees in the cool evening before flying off in a rather ungainly fashion.
2. The Nile ferry
During our trip my group and I caught a ferry on the Nile into the main part of Murchison’s Falls National Park for some early morning game viewing.
It was hot and sultry and two hippos languidly wallowed in the shallows. The water oozing by was flecked with foam like over-soaped water from a washing machine. I found out later that the foam came from the roaring Murchison Falls upstream. Above all it felt exotic, tropical and far, far from the madding crowd.
3. Banana madness
The local banana market close to Fort Portal showed off bananas of all shapes, sizes and types. I never knew that green bananas were so different!
Our guide pointed out the local names for the different types of the fruit. It was staggering to see how many handfuls of bananas one farmer can load onto a bicycle.
4. Hot air ballooning
It was dawn and the first rays of light from the sun were inching their way into the sky. Our balloon team prepared the 16 person balloon for its launch. I was apprehensive as I had never been aloft in a balloon before, let alone over the Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda.
Within minutes of our launch, excitement took over as we saw a group of six lionesses below us. The female was larger than the rest and stood on an anthill with her tail twitching as the roar of the flames into the balloon irritated her.
5. A meeting with mountain gorillas
The highlight of my trip was encountering the renowned mountain gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
The climb was hard – especially during the first hour after leaving base. Our footing became slippery in the damp forest while the paths got steeper and the muggy heat more debilitating. After two hours, we were lucky.
All 13 of the Rushegura troupe were out to play that morning. We stood in dappled sunlight, watching these enormous apes forage, eat, groom and rest. I was in total awe and could hardly breathe.
Our lead ranger had spent 15 years with this group, developing their trust. Without him, we would not have been welcome. I felt honoured to be there.