GENERAL: My original plan was to visit Uganda without a tour operator. I wanted to go on my own in order to have more flexibility and save some money. However, after visiting Uganda, I strongly recommend to take a tour because of convenience, because with your own car and driver you probably would see more than if you were on your own figuring our on where and how to get to, and because very likely at the end it will save you some money. There is public transportations between the towns but there isn’t between the towns or the parks, so you will need to hire it locally and it may sum up at the end of your trip as much or more than if you have paid a tour from the beginning. There are a lot of agencies charging INSANE amounts for tours, so you just need to look and compare quotes until you find one that fits your budget. Although Uganda doesn’t have the infrastructure ideal for independent travelers, I have to say I was blown away by the beauty of the country and the fact in a week I hardly saw other tourists, so it felt as if I had the country for myself, so that’s an advantage and an alternative in compared to other more developed and touristy countries in the region.
TRAVEL AGENCY & LOCAL CONTACTS
After months of struggling with agencies, I found Travel Hemispheres (www.travelhemispheres.com) The reason why I picked this tour operator was because it sent me the cheaper quotations. There was no reviews in any travel sites, but I have to say that I was very pleased with its services and the value for the services provided. Very reliable and well-organized tour. I was staying in Budget accommodation and was better than what I even expected. I was also VERY lucky to have had the BEST guide of Uganda. If you travel with Travel Hemisphere, ask to have Ronald “Ronnie” Lukwago as your guide. He knows Uganda inside out, but most importantly he truly loves Uganda and will go the extra mile to show you the best of his country. He was for me not just a guide, but more like a local host, which made a tremendous difference on my trip. If Ronnie is not available, ask for Eddy or Patrick, both are great guides I met during the trip, and the people who traveled with them were also very happy with them as guides.
For TRAVEL HEMISPHERES, contact:
Address: Off Entebbe Highway Najjanakumbi, Nyanama Road , Ndiwa Medical Center. P.O. Box 12112, Kampala , UGANDA
Tel. 256 772 571698, 256 414 382357, 256 312 282 303
You can also contact Ronnie directly. His full name is Ronald “Ronnie” Lukwago Kiggundu. Email: email@example.com Cell phones +256-782-505-408/ +256-701-505-408
For really cheap in the center of the town: New City Annex Hotel (7 Dewinton Rd). Rooms are tiny and bathrooms are shared. Good location though. The restaurant downstairs is good. Can’t miss the Spiced African Tea!
For nicer but pricier: The lovely hotel Le Bougainviller (www.bougainviller.com) or Tel. 0414-220996
In Bwindi: There are all sorts of accommodation in Buhoma. I stayed in the budget option, which meant a tent and I LOVED IT! It was a big tent and it had a bathroom attached to it. It wasn’t the super comfortable but it made me truly feel the wilderness.
In Queen Elizabeth: I stayed at Mweya Farmland Resort Safari Lodge. It was brand new, clean and very comfortable. It was located out of the park. If you have plenty flexible budgets stay at the Mweya Safari Logde (www.mweyalodge.com or Tel. 0312-260260) for luxury accommodation inside the park and with stunning views of Lake Edward and the Kazinga Channel. They also has a hostel and a camping site, but it seems it is not a good value for the price, but certainly you are not paying there for the place but for locations.
MONEY: US Dollars are taken anywhere. Although credit cards (especially VISA) are widely accepted in the cities, it is recommended to take plenty of cash. There are many ATMs but many times the system is down. Also most ATMs work with VISA, if you have a Mastercard, you may find yourself looking for a ATM that works for a while.
BESIDES TRACKING GORILLAS AND GAME DRIVE, OTHERS “MUST-DO”:
Bwindi Orphans Center (BODEC): Just outside the entrance of the park, there is an orphanage. When I was returning from my trek to Bwindi’s waterfalls, I heard some music and signing and followed my ear. I went down some stairs and saw some energetic children doing the performance of their lives. We were invited to sit and enjoy the dances choreographed by the children. Their cheerfulness is contiguous and their talent limitless. Watching these kids dance, sign and laugh was one of the highlights of my trip to Uganda, do NOT miss it. For more info, reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bwindi Waterfalls: If you have time, take for 10US$ a three hours trek to visit the waterfalls in Bwindi. Beautiful walk into the forest. It can be arranged on side. You can do this after you visit the gorillas.
Craters zone in Queen Elizabeth: Tourist-free and spectacular is the craters zone of the park. Not all guides not this area well, but it is worth visiting as it is very scenic and absolutely breathtaking on sunset.
Whitewater Rafting in the Niles, Jinja: If you want to experience one of the best and most extreme white water rafting, you can’t leave Uganda without going on a full day tour with Adrift (http://www.adrift.ug) for US$125 per person. It was intense, but it was a lot of fun and absolutely breathtaking. I couldn’t imagine ending an adventure in Uganda than daring the wild rapids of the Nile. Adrift is one of the most respectable and leading operators for white water rafting. You can do it on a day tour from Kampala. Adrift provides the round trip transportation and it is included in the tour cost. Address: Plt 7, Kira Road. UWA Building, Kampala. Tel +256 312 237 438. Mobile +256 772 454 206. Email: email@example.com
Budget: Mulundi Japan One Love Project (www.oneloveproject.org). This is an amazing NGO that aids the disabled people of Rwanda and Burindi and has a simple guesthouse within the complex, which incomes goes straight to help their different projects. I stayed here and felt good to know and see the money I paid used wisely to help Rwandans with disabilities. You can check there its Orthopedic Workshop or their gallery with hand-made and original products including the radio-drum. Address: Ave des Poids Lourds. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: Tel. 250 575412 / 250 513154
High End: Hotel des Mille Collines. (www.millecollines.net) This was the inspiration for the famous movie Hotel Rwanda. Nowadays it looks like a peaceful and brand new luxury hotel, but it has a sad history. During the genocide in 1994, hundreds of Tutsis and moderate Hutus hided in this hotel. Address: Ave de la Republique.
GUIDES AND TRANSPORTATION
Innocent Ndikuliyo: He was my driver during my visit in Kigali and he was amazing. I strongly recommend him. He is reliable, very sweet and great disposition. Always available and willing to show me more of the city. Tel :+250 0788 303 364./ +250 0750200036 E-mail: email@example.com
Fidele Muhire: I didn’t have the pleasure to meet Fidele, but he was highly recommended by other travelers who have used his services to see the gorillas in the Virungas Volcanoes. He was described as someone who “loves Rwanda” and those are always the best people to take you around the country because they will show you the very best. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org or Mobile: 0788472460