Friday, February 19, 2010

Uganda Trip Report

I’ve had a hard time doing this trip report. I usually have them up like less than a week after a long trip, with pictures. For some reason, I have been avoiding writing this report. I think it’s because every time I think of this trip now, I think of the end of the trip and the terrorist attack, and I don’t want to keep reliving that. It’s hard to separate our awesome African adventure from what happened to us afterwards. But, here goes…..


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.


Flying back from our trip to Uganda, we talked about how this was our favorite vacation thus far.

And then, in an instant, I completely forgot all the details of the trip, and the trip is now a reminder of what happened in those last ten minutes.

But, enough with the dramatics! Let’s get on to the trip details.

This is going to be long, so you may want to read part, and come back later for more. This was also the longest trip of our lives, and I journaled the whole thing on actual PAPER and not my computer (since I did not take my computer), so I have lots and lots of details on everything.

We used the tour company Abacus Uganda Safaris, and this is the tour we took (with Ngamba Island added to the start and a city tour added to the end). Paying this place was weird, they had you wire them a deposit, then pay the rest upon arrival. You could pay with a card, but there was a 10% surcharge.

December 11, 2009

Left at 5:55 p.m. to fly from Detroit to Amsterdam, direct flight, via KLM/Delta.

December 12, 2009

Short layover in Amsterdam. Flight to Nairobi, Kenya. Another short layover, then flight to Entebbe, Uganda, via Kenya Air. In total, 23 hours from Detroit to Entebbe. Crazy. We were picked up at the airport by a driver holding a sign with our name on it. Checked into our hotel, The Boma, and had a midnight dinner of veggie pizza and fish lasagna. Drunk guys sitting next to us gave us a bunch of advice we did not plan to take. Went to bed to try to get some sleep, and get on an African time schedule.

December 13, 2009

Slept in. A lot. Headed into Entebbe to explore. Walked through a Christmas craft show. Bought a plug adaptor, which is the one thing I forgot to buy before we left and is really needed here. Also, used internet for a few minutes, had lunch at a place called Four Points, which was an amazing Chinese/Indian place. I had ginger fish and Kurt had veggie rice and hot and sour soup. Kurt said it was the best food he has ever eaten, and has deemed it his favorite restaurant in the world. We played croquet in the yard of the hotel, which was super fun. The little things make us happy…….;). Oh, and I kicked Kurt’s butt in three games! Watched the huge variety of birds at the hotel fly around and relaxed in general. Ate dinner again at Four Points and the music at night was awesome! Our tour company met us at the hotel to collect final payment and give us details on our tour starting the next day. The woman ran like 2 hours late, but it was OK, we were just chilling in the garden of the hotel.

December 14, 2010

Thankfully we woke up in time since the hotel forgot our wake-up call. Got ready and headed into the lobby for a quick breakfast, and met our tour guide, Farouk, for the first time. Got a quick briefing from Farouk of the day's events and off we were to Ngamba Island, where the orphaned chimps live. Took a boat for about a 45 minute ride, to the island. It started POURING about half way through, but luckily, the boat had ponchos on board which kept us somewhat dry. Stopped raining just before we got there. Got a chimp briefing when we got to the island. Headed to the platform where we watched the chimps eat, play and yell. They were absolutely amazing to watch. I was seriously in love. They are so smart. Also saw lizards and various bird species while there and learned about the people who live on and run the island. Took a boat ride back and had lunch at the Imperial Botanical Beach Resort restaurant, where I had some of the most amazing tilapia I have ever eaten. It was caught fresh in Lake Victoria that day. Headed to our hotel next, the Cassia Lodge. Awesome view of Kampala and right next to the President of Uganda’s house! Headed by taxi into Kampala and got massages at a local spa in the Garden City Mall. SO cheap, and awesome massage. Then had dinner at the hotel, which was good. Bed.

December 15, 2010

Left at 730 AM for Lake Mburo National Park. Had some trouble with our SUV, so we had to stop on the way and get a new alternator put in. Stopped at the Equator line to take a pic. Had lunch at a place that Kurt totally hated. Got to park and on the way to our lodge, Mantana Tented Camp, we saw vervet monkeys, zebras, impalas, topi, warthogs, several bird and duck species, and cows. Seeing zebras was so surreal. They looked almost fake to me, seeing something so gorgeous, with black and white stripes, just hanging out by the side of the road. The Lodge was in the middle of nowhere. Our room was a raised platform tent with a toilet that was a hole in the ground, LOL, and showers were “available by request”, meaning, you tell them that you want to shower, and they pour hot water in the tank for you, then stand there until you are done in case you need more water. So odd. Headed to the Lake for the boat ride, where we saw warthogs, fish eagles, hippos (SO many), vervet monkeys, water buck, cape buffalo, topi, impala, warthogs, and antelope. The fish eagles would look for fish, then swoop into the water and the splash would be so large, it was almost like a person was doing a cannonball into the water! And the hippos were so incredible to see in person. Gorgeous creatures, but the most deadly in Uganda to people.

December 16, 2010

Got up early and had our “shower by request” which was actually really nice! Had breakfast, then went on a game drive and saw cape buffalo (with babies), impala, zebra, yellow billed storks (I love storks!), spotted bushback, topi, kob, and warthog. We then began the long drive to Bwindi National Park. Had to take an alternate route because a bridge was out and the roads were HORRIBLE. We did get to see a lot of the really rural areas of the country though, which was pretty kewl. Got to our lodge, Lake Kitandara. Our room was up a LOT of stairs, but we had an amazing view. Another raised platform tent. Went and saw a cultural children’s performance that was incredible. All the kids are either orphaned, have one parent only, or have parents who cannot care for them any longer. They raise money for the school and for them to go to school by doing these performances. So, or courses, I had to donate. After that, checked email, and chilled playing cards, enjoying the view from our porch. Had dinner.

December 17, 2010

Woke up early, had breakfast, headed to Bwindi with our rain ponchos, garden gloves, lunches, excessive water (which turned out to be not so excessive), and safari clothing. Had a briefing at the park, picked up a porter (someone to carry our bags, and thank God we did that) and drove 15 minutes to the hiking site. There were 8 people in our group, the max allowed to visit a gorilla troop in one day. The hike was pure hell, the most strenuous hike I have ever done in my life. 3 hours, literally straight up a mountain. We had to deal with the elevation/altitude changes as well as walking straight up, and wow. I think we almost died, LOL. At least there were gorgeous views on the way.. J Saw a baboon on the way. The gorillas were absolutely amazing. Totally worth the trip. Kurt now says “a 23 hour plane ride, 13 hour car ride, and 3 hour hike straight up hill” to finally see the endangered highland mountain gorillas. We got to watch them for an hour, in which they mostly ate leaves, and were lazy. Got to be really close to them, and they were not scared of us at all. We saw 5 members of the troop, including the baby and the silverback (the leader of the group who was HUGE). Hike back was a lot easier, loved the downhill, haha. Came back to lodge to shower and headed out for a community walk. We walked through where they grow tea, coffee and bananas to get to the little town area. So much work goes into making their crops and they get so little money from it. We first saw the “traditional healer”, which was one of our fav parts of Bwindi. He is also known as the medicine man. He makes remedies for illnesses for locals. He put on a uniform which was an animal skin hat/vest and explained to us what he does with all his herbs and administering them. Next, we went to the banana home where we learned how they make banana juice, wine and gin. Kurt tried all three, but I just tried the juice because our guide told us there is extremely high alcohol content that might make us sick. Kurt was fine though. Phew! We headed next to the primary school, which is K-7 (and the only required education in Uganda). The head teacher explained the school system to us. Next, we headed to the Batwa Village (pygmy people). They did a show for us with tribal song, dance and music which was really kewl. Kurt loved this part, he had been looking forward to it. He bought a little handmade doll in the village, which is now in his office.

December 18, 2010

Slept horribly last night. I don’t know where hotel security was, but someone was having a HUGE party, yelling, drunk, and nobody told them to be quiet. Ugh. I would not recommend this hotel to anyone, as management is horrible. Had breakfast and left for Queen Elizabeth Park. Stopped at Ishasha to look for tree climbing lions. Found none, but we did see kob, elephants, baboons, giant bush pig, water buck, buffalo, warthog, Columbus monkkeys, vervet monkeys and the African eagle. Got to Mweya Safari Lodge. Got massages. Lodge is gorgeous, with amazing views. Saw warthogs at the lodge and tons of buffalo on the shores of the Lake. Had dinner overlooking Lake George.

December 19, 2010

Went on an early morning drive of Queen Elizabeth. Saw elephants (including a super cute rambunctious baby), kob, buffalo, warthog, bush pig (with babies), and water buck.. Took nap and had lunch. Then took the Kazinga Channel boat tour, where we saw hippos, buffalo, elephants, warthogs, Nile crocodiles, storks, eagle and many other birds. I started to feel sick during this tour, and when we got off the boat, I threw up in the Channel! Ugh. Not like me at all. Decided to try a night game drive anyway, but then when we got back, I got sick again. I read someplace that more than 50% of people who go to Uganda get sick from something in the food/water, even when they only drink bottled water, so I am sure that was it. Kurt went and ate dinner himself and I slept the rest of the night.

December 20, 2010

Got up and did an early morning game drive. Drove to Kibale National Park. Checked into Primates Lodge. Took a Chimpanzee trekking tour and saw chimps in a tree and on the ground as well. Seeing the chimps in the wild (as opposed to the island) was pretty incredible. Also saw grey cheeked mangabeys. At our room, we saw white Columbus and red tailed monkeys. Had dinner, then went to bed.

December 21, 2010

Drove all day to Murchison Falls. Took a ferry to the Lodge, only way to access it, called Paraa Lodge. Relaxed for the night, playing cards, had dinner, went to bed.

December 22, 2010

Got up and did early morning game drive. Saw giraffes, elephants, oribi, Jackson hartebeest, kob, buffalo, water buck, birds and hippos. Had lunch. Did the Nile River Cruise that afternoon where we saw hippos, elephants, Nile crocodiles, warthogs, Jackson hartebeest, fish eagle, and other birds, as well as the Falls. Which were gorgeous. Came back, played cards, had dinner, bed.

December 23, 2010

Got up, drove to the top of Murchison Falls to see them from a different view. We were much more close and it was kewl how powerful the Falls are. Drove to Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. Saw three rhinos after a short hike on dry desert like ground. The rhinos were insanely kewl, they looked like dinosaurs. They have 24 hour guards that watch the creatures as they were poached to extinction previously. Drove to Kampala, had a couples massage, dinner, bed. Stayed at Cassia Lodge again.

December 24, 2010

Got up, had city tour of Kampala. Saw Kasai Tombs, the Uganda museum, the law school and university, parliament. Had lunch at Masala Indian restaurant, then visited two craft markets and a coffee store. I bought a wood bowl with different Ugandan animals carved on the top, and Kurt bought two really kewl carved African figurines from the Congo. Also bought a handmade African tote bag, a carved hippo and a carved gorilla. Bought Kory coffee. Relaxed at the beach, then to the airport and home.

This realy was the trip of a lifetime. I feel really lucky and blessed that I got to see all these animals, and experience this adventure. I am also thankful that I survived a terrorist attack and am here to tell my safari story!

I posted pic links before, but will do so again below, so you can see them if you have not yet.

Click here to see Lake Mburo

Click here to see Ngamba Island

Click here to see Bwindi

Click here to see Kibale/Ziwa

Click here to see Entebbe/Kampala

Murchison Falls here

Queen Elizabeth here

Have a great weekend!


Rachael said...

I think it is such a great idea that you log your daily activities in a trip journal.

A friend who was getting married received one of the neatest (and simplest) gifts at her Bridal Shower for her Honeymoon- a journal with Paris on the cover (since they were going to Europe) with a note that explained the one thing she missed on her honeymoon, was a journal to write it all down in.

KurtHaskell said...

This trip report is very difficult for me to read and gives me a great deal of sadness.

Lori H said...

Rach, we normally take our computers, but did not this trip. however, I actually enjoyed journaling in the book more than I have on the computer, so i am going to keep doing the tradition. :).

Kurty, same with me. It was hard for me to type it. I still get pissed that we had such an amazing trip that was ruined. AARGH.

Rachael said...

Dont let that sour it for you though-- you still have many great memories and photos from Uganda.

Himanshu said...

Great journal and amazing pics! I was born in Uganda and this brings back some great memories! Would love to visit Uganda again sometime in the future. Thanks.

Peter (Associate Editor) said...

Just a blogger's observation .. your trip dates should reflect a year of 2009 ... unless you guys magically transported yourselves into the future for your vacation, in which case my point is moot.

Sounds like a great vacation though, the fish eagles really resemble the Bald Eagle, do they not?

Uganda gorilla safaris said...

You had a great time in Uganda and AA made sure that you had the best of Chimpanzees and Gorilla Treks. Wish we had more people teling about Uganda and Africa this way than always seeing the negatives in the international press