Wednesday January 22 2014

Know your hood : Garuga, suburb growing into a tourist destination

The road that leads to Garuga on the Kampala-

The road that leads to Garuga on the Kampala- Entebbe highway. The area is still mostly bushy land, with a murram road and poor power connection. Photo by Ismail Kezaala  


It is drizzling on the afternoon I start off my journey to Garuga. Honestly, the only thing I knew about this suburb was the circuit (race track). So it was an exploration of sorts.
Forty minutes after a quiet taxi ride most of which I spent wondering when we would reach, I noticed a big sign post that read, “Garuga Resort Beach” where I got off from. It was the stage after Kisubi.
A dusty murrum led me to the suburb that welcomed me. I was stunned by the fact that Garuga is a unique destination situated at the edge of the peninsula near Lake Vctoria and is a perfect holiday destination.

How it got its name
Garuga, according to Zedekiah Mbonye a resident who claims to have spent more than 12 years around the place, was a very bushy area with distinct tree species.
“There was a rich man called Garuga Musinguzi who bought this land and gave this place his name. By then it was very bushy and no one had occupied it. I am overwhelmed by the development now,” Mbonye narrates. More than four residents backup up Mbonye’s story about Garuga.

Garuga has a clustered population of sorts, making most of the suburb bushy.
The most interesting bit is that there are very few households with fences. These people really seem to live in a communal manner. It has a blend of tribes.

Garuga is far from development in terms of housing and infrastructure. First the murrum needs tarmac and many of the houses look like they were built in the 1990s. It, however, has some noticeable facilities like a race track for motosport, good resorts like Katomi Kingdom Resort, Garuga Beach Resort Hotel and Country Lake Resort Hotel.
Garuga also boasts of both Sky and Garuga beaches that attract revellers from different spheres of life.
Its tranquility is coupled with secluded bushes that border the lake, green blossoming eucalyptus trees, banana and cassava plantations and the numerous species of birds that make it a perfect getaway on a weekend.
Garuga is also home to The Uganda Buddhist Centre, the first Buddhist centre in Uganda approximately six kilometres off the Kampala-Entebbe highway.

Transport fares
Transport from the Old Taxi Park to Garuga costs Shs3,500 and Shs3,000 from there back to Kampala city.
A boda boda will charge you from Shs3,000 to Shs4,500 from the main road to the beach or the race track.
Getting a taxi back to town proved to be a problem since I had to wait for more than 30 minutes for one to turn from Gerege (the last place in Garuga).

Standard of living
Cost of living in Garuga is high when it comes to commodities like fuel, sugar, soap and the like. Sarah Nampijja, a retail shopkeeper says sugar costs Shs3,500 compared to Shs2,400 in Kampala.
“Fresh food is very cheap since most people have small farms, where they grow their own food crops. Hawkers also sell their clothes expensively probably because of the distance from town,” she says.

I spoke to more than five residents about the security in Garuga, which they were happy with, adding that the police patrols the area day and night.
There is a police post in Gerenge, which has helped curb and solve issues of crime that revolve around theft, assaults and trespassing.

Garuga does not have so many schools. The few that one may talk of are Jovens High School, St Lawrence Secondary School, Nalugala and Hebron Junior School (the biggest nursery and primary school around the area).
Even as Garuga becomes a popular place for recreation developers, there is no denying that it is a real estate hot spot.