Hot air balloon safaris in Murchison

You won’t regret casting your fate to the wind in this sightseeing tour of Uganda’s biggest National Park.  From the comfort of a spacious basket which can accommodate six likeminded people, you will behold a birds’ view of contrasting wild landscape and watch thousands of wildlife roaming in the plains.

From start to fish, you will be in the safe hands of a friendly captain/pilot. He is well experienced having flown hundreds of times here before. He will take the adventure to the next level with his wealth of information about how the different geological features were formed; canyons, rift valleys, lakes and different rock formations. You will float silently above lush savannahs and thunderous waterfalls.

Even those who fear heights will love every minute of this one hour adventure. This is partly because it is not a bumpy flight as it takes place early morning, a time of the day when the wind isn’t turbulent. Thanks to this early timing, you will behold beautiful colors, and watch the sun rise in all glory over the horizons. Through the magnifying lens of binoculars, you will see lions teaming up to besiege target prey such as Uganda kobs.

The clear blue skies provide enough light for viewing of the most of the thunderous rapids of river Nile. Even if it is cold, you won’t freeze up there as the balloon drifts. Why? The captain will fire up the balloon with the burner thus keeping it warm. One of the things you will love is how quiet it is up there. You might even hear elephants trumpeting from more than 100 meters below you. It is amazing how they look so tiny despite the fact that they are the world’s biggest land mammals. On the other hand, the Rothschild giraffes thrice as shorter than they are in real life.

It is such extraordinary views that make this adventure much more exciting than a helicopter tour of the park.

The adventure will be crowned with a smooth landing at a random part of the park where you will be picked by our driver—ahead of your next adventure.

Cycling in tea plantations

Uganda is renowned to produce some of Africa’s most tasty tea, and nowhere else does tea growing excel better than Toro. It is a peaceful kingdom in the shadows of Mountain Rwenzori, Uganda’s highest landmark-standing at 5,109meters above sea level.

Siting at an altitude of 1,200m above sea level, Fort Portal has some of the oldest tea plantations established during British occupation. Here, you will have an informative experience on what happens behind the scenes of tea growing during this half day tour. It partly entails riding through a beautiful sight to see loads of hills around Kibale National Park covered in tea trees.

The greenery of the estate is relaxing and tranquil, and the air has a countryside freshness. The plantations are divided into patterns to allow the workers to collect the tea leaves after harvest. Looking this scenic setting from a distance, you are bound to think it is a green carpet spread over rolling hills.

You will have stopovers to take pictures or better still, join farmers harvesting as you learn more about their cultures.

It is fun seeing how quickly the locals use both their hands to pluck the leaves from the tea plants—before stuffing them in their harvest baskets. They are very welcoming and will dress you like them for memorial photos. They will lend you their big hats and harvesting basket as you get a first-hand experience of traditional harvest.

The tour is a farm to cup experience that ends with sampling the different classes of tea as you enjoy cool weather at homes of local farmers. Whether you are a big fan of black tea or not, you will love this experience as the tea has a unique taste from any you have ever tasted. Best of all, the area produces enough tea for the international market. As such, you can take some home to enjoy for a while.

The tour also features free factory tour where you will see freshly picked tea being processed to its final drinkable stage. Not so far from it are warehouses that still have their old beauty.

One of the things that amaze people from this tour is the realization that Black Tea, Oolong Tea and Green Tea all come from the same plant. What differentiates them is the way they are processed. 

The ride up some steep hills is a tiny bit stressful, but luckily, there are lots of alternative routes you can journey through if you have weak knees.

Gorilla habituation in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

If you love to get your heart pumping, this experience is for you. You will get to witness preparations that happen behind the scenes before mountain gorillas are opened for tourism.

The half day adventure has been well researched and organized to wow you with lots of encounters that—people miss out on during gorilla tracking. For instance, you will walk on paths that no tourist has used before. This doubles your chances of bumping into wildlife that don’t hand along trails, like forest elephants and forest buffalos. 

Even though your group will comprise of up to eight tourists, you will feel like the ranger guide is just there for you. He will answer all your questions and fire up your tour will timely jokes about the lifestyle of gorillas in comparison with that of humans.

Night forest walk in Kibale National Park

You can’t go wrong with this experience if you want to see the various nocturnal animals of Kibale National Park. Situated in Kabarole and Kamwenge Districts of Western Uganda, Kibale is the only park in Africa known to have up to 13 primate species; chimpanzees, L’hoest monkeys, bushbabies, olive baboons, bushbabies, vervet monkeys, black and white monkeys, blue monkeys, red colubus, grey cheeked mangabey. Though most of these can be seen during the morning chimp trekking excursions, others like the bush babies are mostly seen at night as they are nocturnal mammals.

The best part of the story is that its trails you will use have lots of boardwalks. By the same token, the log bridges over the rivers are routinely maintained. As such, you don’t have to wallow your shoes in mud to get through. This eases accessibility to different parts of the park during the night forest walk.

It will starts as early as 6pm so as to enable you witness chimps as they build their nests in the canopy. They do this by tightly interlocking flexible branches for a firm support. This acts as the frame and rails of the beds for the night. In an effort to make them more comfortable, they stuff leaves into them for a spongy feel like a mattress.

As you hike through the forest with the aid of your touch for light, you will be advised to observe silence. This will double your chances of encountering shy wildlife like bush babies and civet cats.  

The forest has a mix of both gentle and steep trails, so wear good hiking shoes and a pair of gardening gloves. 

Travel tip

Tag along with warm clothing. Being a tropical forest, Kibale is quite cold at night.

Canoe ride on Lake Mulehe and Lake Mutanda

This sightseeing experience is definitely one for the ‘must experience’ box. It is a very relaxing ride in two scenic lakes that are not crowded with boats and humans. These are Lake Mulehe and Lake Mutanda, both of which are found in Kisoro District, not so far with Uganda’s border with Rwanda. The adventure is safe as the lake doesn’t have beastly wildlife like crocodiles and hippos.

For two hours, you will enjoy the comfort of a traditional dug-out canoe as a local tour guide rows it forward using wooden paddles. He will navigate to different Islands—that double as vantage points from which you can get unmatched views of the surrounding. This includes views of the seven volcanic mountains of Virunga region. They are beautifully laid out along the borders of Uganda, Congo and Rwanda. If it’s a clear evening, you will watch bright sparks of lava from active volcanoes light up the sky with the bright orange glow. As the day drifts by, the Lake will wow you with a spectacular reflection of white clouds hovering over cone-shaped mountains with crater lakes at their top. An example is Mountain Muhavura of the neighbouring Mgahinga National Park.   

Although this is not a party boat, there are drinks are available on board, a perfect cherry for you as make friends with fellow travelers.

Having been born in this area, the local captain is full of information about the history of the social, political and historical events that have shaped the area’s present outlook. He loves their motherland land wants to make it better place by conserving the ecosystem of its swamp. 

He will tell you stories about the river, and villages within vicinity. If bird watching makes you happy, brace yourself for sightings of Uganda’s national emblem, the grey crowned crane. Over 120 bird species have been recorded here, several of which come from the neighbouring Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Lion tracking experience in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Carnival experience and lion tracking experience. If you want 100% chances of encountering lions in the wilderness but time isn’t on your side, this experience is for you. It permits you to drive off track in the company of veterinary doctors at the forefront of conserving lions in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Situated in Western Uganda, along the same road that leads to Bwindi National Park, Queen Elizabeth is a wonderland that has it all; gorges, huge valleys, mountain ranges, forests and blue lakes. The cherry on the cake is 95mammal and 600 bird species.

The park is so big, and so is its variety of ecosystems—most of which can be seen during boat cruises, game drives and nature walks.

The most unforgettable memory of this lion tracking adventure is watching charming cubs following their mother in the tall grass. If patient, you will witness them making their way into the branches of acacia trees to rest in the shade. All this while, they will be stalking prey roaming in the plains. At a perfect time when their target prey is distracted, they will descend down the tree and take them by surprise.

Having a local driver guide will take a lot of strain out of the trip. This will allowing you to sit back and admire the park’s grasslands, dense forests and speedy rivers. Proceeds from the adventure as used to fund operations of the Uganda Carnivore Program (UCP). It is a multi-disciplinary organization, devoted to the research and conservation of Uganda’s large carnivores, including lions, leopards, and hyenas. This follows their endangered status as caused by inter human wildlife conflicts. 

Hike to the top of Murchison falls National Park

Murchison falls National Park has the only known sport where the world’s longest river creates an extremely powerful waterfall. It flows in great volume through a seven meter wide cleft and plummets over 40meter drop, landing with a bang. 

You cannot imagine how powerful it is till you have seen it in person.

This hike offers you an opportunity of getting different perspectives of this dramatic scene that attracts over 500,000 tourists every year. It starts from the foot of the river, not so far from a shoreline infested with crocodiles. In the end, it climaxes at the highest summit overlooking the falls. The astonishing hike takes an average of two hours—a long a zigzagging trail that is clean and well maintained.

In not exaggeration, there is no better view on earth than sitting atop the vantage point. From here, you will watch the sunrise up the falls with its orange glow on your right hand side. On the left hand side, you will watch mist hover over the valley in which the river flows. At the actual mouth of the falls, you will experience glistening green freshness after a rain shower. Prepare to get wet as you draw close to the mouth of the falls. Its spray will cover you and wash away your stress. Truly astonishing.

If the setting is not enough reason to plan a visit, then then the two hours boat cruise that precedes it will leave you breathless. It offers excellent sightings of wildlife relaxing at the river banks. These include giraffes, buffaloes, lions, elephants, Uganda kobs. The boat aboard which you will ride is lovely and well looked after. Both its upper and lower deck is pretty basic but comfortable and bigger than anticipated. It has extensive shade cover to protect you from burning sun rays. It was built with without windows to allow plenty of breeze into the boat. It is ensuit with a bathroom and mini bar where cold Ugandan beers and sodas are sold.

Don’t forget to carry with you sunscreen and insect repellent, especially if you have a sensitive skin. Murchison is located at a part of the country that experiences hot sun.

Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

From the moment you set foot in this hidden gem, you will feel deeply relaxed and privileged.

At this sanctuary found in Central Uganda, your probability of finding wild rhinos is 101%. This is thanks to the 24/7 protection they get. This follows an uncontrolled poaching that led to their extinction in 1980s. To this effect, Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary was established in 2005 as a private, non-profit, animal sanctuary. It strives to re-populate rhinos ahead of their re-introduction into the national parks.

At present, ziwa has a crash of over 20 rhinos, over 10 of which were born here. To observe one of the families here, you will hike over completely flat terrain in the company of a ranger. You will quietly walk up into the jungle and track them using their dung. The fresher the dung, the closer they are. 

Although the rhinos here are habituated, they are still wild in nature unlike domesticated animals in a zoo. For that, you will keep a safe 15 m distance from them during the one hour you will dwell in their presence.

Nshenyi Cultural Village

Nshenyi is a must for anyone visiting Bwindi National Park or Queen Elizabeth National. It is found in Ntungamo, a district found between these two parks of western Uganda. It gives a great introduction of the history of Ankole kingdom, as shown through music, dance, and traditional food. During its homestay experience, you will be immersed in the African cultures of this tribe of tall cattle keepers.

The performers put up an energetic and engaging show, telling of the migration of the Ankole people and their long horned species of cattle. Their passion, enthusiasm and enjoyment of the traditional dances is infectious. Their performances are fired up by loads of rhythm from local instruments like engalabi, a long drum used to grace royal festivals.

Nshenyi further demonstrates the customs of the Banyankole tribe in a cultural village replica, showing DOs and DON’Ts of traditional marriage ceremonies.

The experience is backed by delightfully entertaining and informative story telling. In the end, you will participate in the making of traditional dishes and later join in the feast. Most of the dishes are flavored with fresh cattle products such as eshabwe, a ghee source.

You will crown your day with a peaceful night in eco-friendly huts whose design date back to the 16th century. They have a cozy interior and warm lighting.                              

Swimming in beautiful natural ponds of Bwindi

Bwindi has lots of beautiful natural pools where you can cool off after a gorilla trekking adventure. They are awe-inspiring and crystal clear, like a scene taken out of a story. The jungle surrounding them is refreshing, lush, and well maintained by Mother Nature. They are in a kind of environment you would want to dwell in forever, and there is no better way of doing so than by swimming in them. This experience will offer you an impressive contact with nature—in an environment that is not crowded.

The temperature of the water is perfect for all age brackets. You don’t have to worry about succumbing to hypothermia as it is not so cold. No, you won’t drown even if you don’t know how to swim. The pools are spacious but shallow.

 The best part of the story is that they are safe to dive in as they don’t have any venomous creatures, and neither do they have Bilharzia.

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