Monday, November 28, 2011

An Inventive Fishing Boat

Fisherman on the Nile River are commonplace and their fishing boats vary widely.  Some boats are simply hollowed out sections of a tree and and others are hand crafted canoes.  They vary in size and color and always make for and interesting sight on the water.  One young man that we met recently while exploring the river looking for birds had taken ingenuity to the extreme!  Clad only in his underwear, he was floating on a banana tree stem and used his feet as a motor of sorts.

Carefully hanging at the front of his vessel was a makeshift storage compartment made from small sticks and a plastic bag which carried his clothes, presumably for when he returned to shore.  His fishing line and hooks were meticulously attached to the banana stem along with his catch of the day.


Although this is probably not the image that comes to mind when you think of a fishing boat, it's working and for this young man it's extremely cost effective.  One can only hope that as the months and years pass, his savings will translate into something more traditional as his business grows from mere subsistence fishing to commercial fishing.  What a crafty water craft!

Monday, November 21, 2011

An Explosion of Culture

Overcome with a desire to do something different on a Friday night and an imminent power cut looming, we decided that we needed a little culture in our lives.  It was decided that Ndere Centre was the place to be!

The Ndere Centre is home to the Ndere Troupe who performs several times per week in an outdoor amphitheatre housed on 9 acres of well manicured gardens right in the heart of Kampala.  We arrive just as the day's last light is fading and enter the seating area and find a set to the sound of many large drums are beating, the vibrations penetrate our inner beings and we instantly feel welcome.

Ndere means flute and was chosen as the name for the troupe because of it's beautiful sound and for it's universal unity in every culture in the world.  The troupe was formed in 1986 and had very humble beginnings.  In the early part of the new millennium we often took guests to Ndere's weekly show at the Nile Gardens (which is now the Serena Hotel) for a nominal entrance fee of which I was told by Rwangyezi Stephen the troupe's founder was a hotel charge, the troupe was performing at no cost to expose their existence.  Their hard work paid off as they now they have their own cultural centre.

Throughout the performance we are taken to many regions of Uganda.  Every song tells a story of culture, wisdom and history in their traditional form of storytelling, singing, dancing and dress and are accompanied by traditional stringed, percussive and wind instruments.  The show is interactive with the audience which makes for a real explosion of cultures. 

The warmth and enthusiasm of the performers, the beautiful music and expressive traditional dancing which makes up the performance is not to be missed.  We leave with smiles and our faces.  The night has been a strong reminder to us why we enjoy life in Africa not to mention a great way to escape the darkness of a load shedding night.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Nile High

On a daily basis we experience Uganda from the ground and are familiar with it's sights, sounds and smells.  We have visited the source of the Nile River, camped along it's banks and fished in it's water many times.  To gain new perspective on a country that we love, we took a 90 minute scenic flight.

Cessna 172

I had never been in a small aircraft before and was full of nervous excitement.  Kevin had flown to Lake Albert previously so was excited to see Uganda once again from the air and to get me in a small aircraft to see what I thought.  We boarded a Cessna 172 at the Kajjansi airfield, the pilot logged our flight plan, started the engine, taxied out to the long murram runway and before long we were floating above the earth.  The moment we were off the ground my nervousness subsided and I was in awe of what I saw.


We took off from Kajjansi in a south east direction over wetlands before reaching the waters of Lake Victoria.  I had seen these types of images in books before, but now I was seeing it for myself and it was incredible.  We turned in an eastern direction and followed the edge of the lake shores passing over fields, villages and people carrying out their daily activities, some of them pausing to look up and see what was passing overhead.

Then it was time for the highlight, the whole reason we had decided to take this flight, The Nile River.  We flew over the source of the Nile and Jinja town before taking a sharp left turn to head North and follow the river.

Source of the Nile River

Having driven over the Owen Falls Dam numerous times, it was fascinating to see it from the air.  It gave me a whole new perspective on the dam and it's operation.  As we followed the river we saw many of the places that we have visited and stayed at over the years.  The new Bujagali Dam which is in it's final stages of construction was a busy place.  Lot's of people and heavy machinery hard at work to complete the project and start producing much needed power for the country.

Bujagali Dam

We circled around some rapids in the river and instead of hearing the thundering of water that usually goes with seeing them, we heard only the light hum of the engines.  It was a very peaceful and serene way of watching all that water come crashing down rapids we know well and have fished below many times.

Rapids on the Nile River

A gentle left put us in a south western direction heading straight for Mabira Forest.  A beautiful, lush green dense mass of life.  I was so fascinated with the forest.  As we were flying over the forest a light rain began to gently hit the windscreen, it was mystical!  I couldn't stop thinking of all the life that was down below in the rainforest.

The last part of the flight carried us over Jinja road on the outskirts of Mukono, over Murchison Bay with Kampala city on our right and Munyonyo before we swung round to face south east and prepare for our landing which was as smooth as butter.  With that, we were back on terre ferme.  What a unbelievable experience!  I'll never forget it and can't wait to fly small craft again.

For more information on scenic or charter flights contact:
Kampala Aeroclub And Flight Training Centre

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Playing Peek A Boo with a Hippo

One of our most memorable safari experiences and one that we talk about often happened several years ago while we were on safari in the Queen Elizabeth National Park.  After a satisfying lunch at Mweya Lodge, we decided to go out for an afternoon game drive.  Many people say that there is not a lot to see during the hot afternoon hours, but this encounter would prove those people wrong.

Just several kilometres away from the lodge along the channel track, we rounded a corner and next to the road was a pool of muddy water with a massive muddy body lumbering away from it.  It was a hippo.  They are amazing creatures to see out of the water so on this particular instance we decided to give the pool of water and the vehicle a bit of space, turn off the engine and see if the hippo would eventually return to his wallow.  We fully expected that it would run off and find another retreat from the blazing sun and the heat.

After about 15 minutes of keeping our voices to a whisper, we saw the hippo peek out of the bushes quite a distance from the car.  It paused for a moment to assess the situation and then retreated back into the bushes.  Again, we waited for another 15 minutes before seeing it again.  This time it was much closer than the first time and again, peeking out of the bushes, another assessment and another retreat.  We continued our waiting game and then saw it peeking out of the bushes at us, right next to the giant puddle.  After staring at our vehicle for quite some time, we were obviously seen as no threat and the hippo fully emerged from the bushes and as gently as a hippo could, got back into its puddle.

We were so amazed at the process of checking if the coast was clear and how with each inquiry, it was getting closer and closer to us.  This experience was definitely worth waiting around for, when else would we get the opportunity of playing peek-a-boo with a hippo!

Monday, November 7, 2011

King of the Mountain

On safari it takes a sharp eye to spot animals due to their ability to camouflage so well with their environment. This is an impressive rocky outcrop in the Kidepo Valley National Park isn't it?

That's what I thought until Kevin pointed out that rocks don't have tails that they can flick. Great spotting!!  The amazing thing about animals is that they always know you are there and I often think they see us when we don't see them.  After all, it is their turf so they're going to know if someone's in it.

This male lion gave us a Disney like experience.  He was lying on the highest point in the vicinity and made several efforts to show us that he was the king of the mountain.  We admired this mighty beast for quite awhile during which he, took a couple cat naps, got up and stretched a few times and glanced over to remind us that he knew we were watching it all.

A simply magnificent experience and one which makes you look at things a little closer when on safari!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Uganda is #1

Many people in Uganda have been buzzing this week following the exciting news that Lonely Planet has announced that Uganda tops their "Best in Travel" list for 2012.  The excitement stems from the fact that those of us who live in Uganda have known all along that it is a special place and we are excited and proud to see it recognized especially by the well respected Lonely Planet.  These are the reasons why Uganda is so special to us and why we fully agree that it’s #1.


Ugandan people are incredibly friendly people.  It is so easy to get a wave or a smile from complete strangers.  As you drive down the road children are jumping up and down, waving and calling out mzungu (white person).  If approached, Ugandans are happy to share some time with you and have a chat.  They are incredibly proud people and have the right to be as they have an amazing home.


It really is as all the travel brochures brag “gifted by nature”.  Uganda has a lot to offer including the source of the Nile River, beaches on the largest lake in Africa - Lake Victoria, the famed Rwenzori Mountains (Mountains of the Moon), mountain gorillas and between it all lush green rainforests, savannah grasslands, tea plantations and a lot of really great people.


Uganda is home to 1061 bird species making it a bird watchers paradise.  You don't even need to leave Kampala to enjoy the bird-life, you can find over 300 species in the city and the surrounding suburbs.  Every morning you are guaranteed to wake to a chorus of song from the avifauna of Uganda.


With average daily temperatures of 21.5°C (71° F), need I say more?  Uganda straddles the equator but due to it's elevation it experiences moderate comfortable temperatures year round.  It has two seasons, a dry season and a wet season, each occurring twice a year.  Don't let the name wet season fool you though as the sun is generally out between the rains.  The tropical storms are amazing to experience with winds blowing, lightening flashing, thunder clapping, palm trees waving frantically and more rain falling from the sky than you thought possible.


Just when you think you've seen it all, you'll round the corner and see something that will make your jaw drop, make you laugh or just amaze you.  Uganda offers so much to see and enjoy every minute of every day whether you are on safari or making your way through the taxi's and boda boda's on your way to work.
We have had the opportunity to see a lot of Uganda and yet there is still so much we haven't seen.  Uganda has a lot to offer anyone who is looking for an exciting holiday.  

Congratulations Uganda on being number one, we're proud of you!

Why Uganda should be on your must-see list

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel: top 10 countries for 2012

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Laundry Day on The Nile

Water is a very precious resource and essential to many of our daily activities.  For those living along the banks of The Nile, the river becomes central to those activities, one of them being laundry. 

The banks of the river turn into brightly colored palettes of plastic washing basins and clothes laying out to dry in large contrast to the lush green landscape and dark colored rocks.  

It makes me think of how much we take for granted that when we turn on a tap, water flows out.  For many people around the world, so much of their day is consumed by doing basic chores vital to life.