Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Sights and Sounds of Uganda

The Murchison falls is a breathtaking wonder that you and your family can visit this Easter season
The Easter season is upon us and this means family time. The four-day holiday will see families celebrate either at home or outside the home. If you subscribe to the latter and want to treat your family to entertainment and a bit of adventure, right here in your backyard, there is a lot to offer.
Easter traditions vary. But in Uganda, the season revolves around religious rites, crowned by a family meal or outing. For the family that considers a day out as the proper way to celebrate, Uganda has a variety of interesting destinations that you can explore during the four-day holiday.
Children hold a snake during their visit at the Uganda Wildlife Centre. A visit to places as these can be educative
During Easter, Entebbe residents, visitors and travelers, can enjoy a variety of entertainment and adventure at the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC).
“Visitors can learn how to feed chimpanzees, giraffes and a baby elephant. They can also enjoy a snake show and performances by various artistes,” says UWEC public relations officer Belinda Atim. The entry fee is sh10, 000 for adults, sh5, 000 for children and sh30, 000 for foreigners.
There will be an animal show involving a behind-the-scenes action, which includes feeding and caring for the animals under guidance of their keepers. Also in store for the eyes to feast on are vervet monkeys and a troop of DeBraza monkeys in the UWEC hillside mini-jungle. As if that is not enough entertainment, there are more than 120 bird species singing in the woods. Expect to see the elegant African Fish eagle, the great blue Turaco, hammer kops, giant kingfisher and numerous little sunbirds.
“This is a window into the plants, birds and reptiles in the country,” says Jakes Goldberg, a widely travelled tourist in transit to South Africa. “This is destined to become the most important showcase for wildlife on the African continent,” he adds.
To make your trip memorable, the centre has curio shops stocked with African shirts, wooden spoons, batik pieces, earrings, leather sandals and toys to take away as souvenirs.
Dating as far back as the 1950s, UWEC still accommodates confiscated and injured wildlife. This is in addition to orphaned animals, reptiles or birds rescued from poachers and extinction endangered rhinos.
“UWEC is not a zoo in the conventional sense and neither is it a safari park,” says Rita Najemba, a businesswoman. “It is a centre where wildlife education is combined with leisure,” she says.
If you are interested in Botany, you will also find live collections of traditional medicinal plants, herbal love potions and beauty boosters.
Elsewhere in Entebbe, one can have fun at The Botanical Gardens, Aero Beach, Banga Beach or Protea Hotel.
For club-hoppers, the action is at Trap, Nicky’s and Four Turkeys, where the expatriate community likes to converge and make merry. There is a lot of food too.
Protea manager Cymon Charley says: “We boast of a panoramic garden and Lake Victoria shore views. The food here is a mixture of continental and local cuisines at affordable rates.”
While there, expect birds to land and clean the table of the crumbs.
This Easter, guests who want to visit Kigungu, the landing site where the first missionaries to Uganda landed, will be transported there for between sh2, 000 and sh5, 000 by bicycle boda boda.
You can take your family to watch African traditional dances such as the Kiganda dance pictured
In Kampala this Easter, Ndere Centre is going to be a melting pot for cultures across the world, kicking off with fireside performances on Easter Friday. The executive director, Stephen Rwangyezi, says the Easter theme this time is “Equality for Humanity.”
Ugandans will pay an entry fee of sh25, 000, foreigner’s sh50, 000 and children sh10, 000. Besides being treated to music, dance and drama, there will be a buffet with a price tag of sh30, 000. The entertainment package comprises traditional performances from the great lakes region.
“In Africa, people love to be entertained as they drink and eat. Those interested will take to the dance floor or play an instrument of their choice,” says Rwangyezi.
The beach is one great place you can take your family this Easter
I f you are moving East, a must visit place is the Rainforest Lodge in the heart of Mabira Forest, a few minutes off the Jinja/Kampala highway.
Besides the creative eco-friendly architecture, there are lots of other attractions there.
“This time round, Rain Forest Lodge is offering children’s activities. They include: the Easter egg hunt, children’s movies (in the evening), egg painting, play time board games like Twister and Giant Jenga),” says the marketing manager, Rachel Landman.

Adults will be treated to special Good Friday and Easter Sunday menus and movies after the kids have gone to bed. A forest walk is also on the cards for nature lovers.
Jinja has quickly become the adventure destination of Uganda. The to-do list comprises bungee jumping, white-water rafting, quad bike rides, water sports, bird watching and walking trails.
One of the popular getaways is Nile Resort, where the food is sumptuous. A plate is about sh40, 000 per person. Accommodation ranges between sh250, 000 and sh350, 000, depending on the room.
This Easter, children under five years of age and sharing the bedroom with their parents will not pay a fee. Those between five and 12 years will be charged sh25, 000 per night.
Southwards, we have the ever-surprising islands of Lake Victoria with white sand beaches, water sports and modern amenities set up for couples, groups and family parties. The islands in Kalangala are the most active and they are accessed by ferry from specific landing sites like Nakiwogo in Entebbe and Luzira Port in Kampala.
Going west across the famous equator line crossing at Kayabwe and into the vast savannah, many tourists and families can head to the Queen Elizabeth National Park. Expect magnificent views of the Rift Valley floor, the big five (lions, elephants, leopards, buffalo and hippopotamuses), birds, reptiles and rare tree climbing lions.
According to Uganda Wildlife Authority spokesperson, Lillian Nsubuga, the most acceptable reason as to why lions climb trees is to enjoy the cool breeze and maybe run away from tsetse flies.
In the whole of Africa, they are only found in Uganda’s Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth and in Tanzania. Bird watching safaris are another fun adventure. Uganda has over 1,050 bird species. Queen Elizabeth National Park has about 612 species of birds, according to Hassan Mutebi, a bird guide. He cites examples like the pink-backed pelicans, papyrus canary, shoebill stork, martial eagle, black-rumped buttonquail and flamingos.
For accommodation while at the national park, one can take their pick from Mweya Safari Lodge, Jacana Safari Lodge, and Simba Safari Lodge or opt for Ishasha Wilderness Camp or Kitandara Hippo Hill Camp. There is a lot to photograph and write home about.
Going northwest, the Nile again offers its bounty, with beauty to be found at Murchison Falls National Park. “Right on the peak of the Murchison Falls, the Nile water gushes through a small slit within the rocks,” says Dr. Andrew Seguya, Uganda Wildlife Authority Executive Director.
“It is seven metres wide and splashes 43 metres down with such a thunderous roar. There is a beautiful permanent rainbow. This view is breathtaking as the river meanders to Lake Albert. “By the way, your visit to Murchison Park will be added to other guests of international repute like former UK Premier Winston Churchill who also had the chance to enjoy a boat cruise, hike, cycle and dine there. On his heels came the Queen Mother in 1959 and wordsmith Ernest Hemingway in 1954,” says Seguya.
Recently, the park’s latest attraction, Sir Samuel Baker’s Trail was launched to retrace the footsteps of the 18th Century explorer. Do not leave your camera, hat, climbing boots, torch and appetite behind.