Bucket list destinations to visit this festive season

Saturday December 21 2019

 An  aerial view of Sse

An aerial view of Ssese Islands PHOTO BY ERCI NTALUMBWA.  

By Eric Ntalumbwa

Shores of Lake Victoria
With more than 3,400km of Lake Victoria shoreline, it is not surprising that Uganda’s gateway Entebbe, is home to more than 13 beaches with pristine white sand. They occasionally play host to urban dwellers who are interested in music shows.

Much as the beaches guarantee security, it is advisable to keep watch over your personal belongings such as hand bags, phones and wallet. Looking for more than your usual sandy white beaches?

The Uganda Wildlife Education Centre popularly known as the The Entebbe Zoo offers couples, families a wild experience filled with fun and celebrations.

The zoo has decent and affordable accommodation facilities ranging from Bandas, hostels, camping tents and apartments.
The apartments and bandas package goes for Shs85,000 and Shs100,000 respectively, for bed and breakfast, plus a tour.

Nearby is the botanical gardens, ideal for festive picnics. Entry fee is Shs2,000 per head. The canopy shades, and sounds of birds create an experience with nature as one reflects on the highs and lows of 2019.

Beyond Entebbe, are the Ssese Islands, an archipelago of eighty-four islands in the northwest of Lake Victoria.
It offers a unique opportunity to explore the island of the gods. Bugala Island is most frequented because it harbours Kalangala District headquarters.

The beaches at Bugala have a wealth of activity in bilharzia-free waters. The sun-kissed stretch of heavenly beaches are ideal for swimming, jet boating and beach sports.

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Brovad Sands Lodge and Victoria Forest Resort are the ultimate places to stay while at the island, but for budget and mid-range options, book a place at Panorama cottages, Mirembe Resort, Pearl Gardens, and Ssese Habitat Resort.

Lake Mburo National Park
Every single part of this park is alive with variety, interest and colour. It contains an extensive area of wetland and harbours several species of mammals including the 25 rothschild giraffes, zebras, impalas, elands, topi and buffaloes.

The bird population comprises of the rare shoebill, harrier hawk and green pigeon. The sculptured landscape with rolling grassy hills and tranquil lake shores has a varied mosaic of habitats.

Dubbed the whispers of the wild, Uganda Wildlife Authority manages six tents which accommodate 12 persons and four bandas at Rwonyo Rest Camp with eight beds.

The Bandas cost Shs35,000 and Shs40,000 for single and double rooms, whereas the tents cost Shs30,000 and Shs40,000 for single and double respectively.

UWA also launched a new accommodation facility and a 45 seater-boat in the park.
Lake Bunyonyi
Live a marvel lifestyle this festive season. The Marvel Cinematic Universe release ‘Black Panther’ celebrated Bunyonyi as the Kingdom of Wakanda.

Bunyonyi loosely translated as ‘many little birds’ is undoubtedly a splendour to look out for this festive season. Its contorted shore encircles 29 islands, surrounded by steep terraced hillsides. A magical place, especially with a morning mist rising off the placid waters, and has a selection of stunningly remote places to stay on distant islands, where you only have birds for company.

Best of all – unlike many lakes in East Africa – Bunyonyi is bilharzia, crocodile and hippo free, making its waters crystal-clear for you to swim in. Bugombe Gateway Camp has affordable offers.

From Shs130,000 on full board per person, their family package costs as low as Shs260,000.

Murchson Falla National Park
Following the talk about the proposed construction of the dam at the magnificent Murchison Falls, there is no excuse why one should not visit this place this Christmas. Murchison Falls National Park is one of Uganda’s largest and oldest protected area, lying at the northern end of the Albertine Rift Valley.

The dramatic waterfalls which is the main stay of the national park is where the Nile, the world’s longest river contracts from a grand stream to explode violently through a narrow six metre gorge into the cauldron of turbulent water 40 metres below, popularly known as the Devil’s cauldron.

According to Samuel Baker, the water falls is the most important object throughout the course of the river. The river banks are throngs with hippos, crocodiles, water bucks and buffaloes.

The vegetation characterised by savannah, riverine forest and woodland. Wildlife includes lions, leopards, elephants, giraffes, buffaloes, Uganda kobs, chimpanzees and many bird species.

Source of the Nile
The source of the longest river in the world is situated in Jinja. The river flows from the surrounding areas close to the equator, to the outrageous Sahara desert and up to the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

The river is about 6696km long and pours its waters in the Mediterranean Sea in Egypt. At the source, is a bust of Mahatma Gandhi installed by the Indian government and inaugurated by then Prime Minister IK Gujral in 1997.

The history aside, there is much more for you to experience such as white water rafting with Raft Uganda for full day (four to five hours) at Shs250,000 per person and discounted rates for a group.

The package includes marine listed safety equipment, experienced staff, transport, breakfast, lunch, free photos and videos, refreshments after the trip, barbeque and free accommodation.

Queen Elizabeth National Park
It is Uganda’s most popular tourist destination. With diverse ecosystems, which include sprawling Savannah, sparkling lakes, tourists find it an ideal habitat for the classic big game, 10 primate species, and more than 600 species of birds.
The melting glacier waters of the Rwenzori Mountains create a vast wetland system comprising of two main lakes, George and Edward, as well as the connecting Kazinga channel.

Thousands of hippos populate these lake shorelines. Besides the popular Mweya Safari Lodge, UWA has more than 255 beds in both self-contained and non-self-contained rooms.

There are cottages, guest houses and hostel blocks. The southern sector of the park is made up of mainly open wooded grasslands and is famous for the tree climbing lions.

Kibale National Park
Kibale National Park, home to a host of forest wildlife, is the most magnificent of Uganda’s tropical rain forests and one of the most rewarding areas to explore. Kibale boasts of 13 species of primates including the localised Red Colobus and L’Hoest’s monkeys. Kibale’s major attractions though, is the chimpanzees, the delightful apes, which are genetically the closest to humans than to any other living creature. These can be seen swinging in tree branches as one navigates through the tranquil forest trails.

Situated in western Uganda, near the colonial Fort Portal Municipality, the park lies close to the tranquil Ndali-Kasenda crater area and is within a half day’s drive of Queen Elizabeth, Rwenzori Mountains and Semliki National Parks. The area has variety of facilities ranging from budget to luxury. Chimpanzee Forest Guest House offers affordable accommodation rates at Shs250,000 per person on full board basis.

Mgahinga National Park
Mgahinga is part of a larger ecosystem, the Virunga Conservation Area (434km so) which includes two adjacent parks in Rwanda and Congo. It rises from 2227 m to 4, 127m above sea level.

The park, which is a cultural heritage, featuring in the history, folklore and traditional healing practices for local people, covers the north slopes of the three northern Virunga volcanoes: Muhavura, Gahinga and Sabinyo. The park derives its name from ‘Gahinga,’ a Kinyarwanda word for a pile of volcanic lava stone heaps around which cultivation is carried out.

On the other hand, Muhavura means guide and Sabinyo means the Old man’s teeth. It is bordered to the south by Rwanda and to the west by DR Congo. Mgahinga National Park can be accessed by road or air transport. It is highly recommended that visitors stay in Kisoro so as to enjoy the beauty of the far southwest. Travellors Rest Hotel is offering a bed and breakfast experience at Shs300,000.

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