Mpanga Forest Eco-tourism site

Mpanga Forest Eco-tourism site is situated 37km away from Kampala city, enroute to Masaka. Previously the Forest reserve was only reserved for scientific research. However today it is also a perfect destination for bird watching and a day or weekend escape from the city. It has over 550 tree species with some trees over 100 years old and over 220 bird species.

Our 1 day excursion to this site was so exciting especially when it was time to see the White spotted fluff tail. This shy bird is not easily seen until you imitate its calls. On our trip we were lucky to have Arshely Brian an avid birdwatcher on our Destination birding team who can imitate the calls naturally. He managed to call it up several times for us to see. You should have to see the anxious faces and smiles of the team before and after it was spotted. If you missed it, Brian was always ready to imitate its call so that you have a glimpse of this shy bird. It is always amazing to see him imitate the bird calls. It is recommended to stand still or even take cover to avoid disturbing its presence until it comes out of its hideout. It does not stay long since it will has missed ‘meeting’ its imitator (bird) but for birders in the midst, the mission is accomplished.

Arshely Brian our expert bird imitator with a friend.

 

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Our main mission of the day was bird watching so that we can polish our bird identification skills and also relax away from home. Our walk through the forest trail about 3km stretch to the swamp was worth it. It gave us a chance to enjoy the fresh air and also exercise your legs.

During our forest walk to the swamp,we went off track,thus getting lost.We were lucky to meet young firewood harvesters who volunteered to lead us to the swamp. In this porous forest, firewood harvests are only allowed for fallen tree branches (i.e Old trees that fall naturally. Cutting of trees is illegal). This young team (Justine,Brian,Joel and Joram) with their dog in pursuit did well to show us some areas we had missed. We gave them a tip as a token of appreciation.

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Birding is usually a rewarding adventure if you are patient. The birds seen on our day trip include: White spotted Flufftail ,Blue throated Roller ,Grosbeak Weaver ,Great spotted cuckoo ,Little Greenbul, Lizzad Buzzard, Marico Sunbird ,Green Hylia ,Western Nectar, Chestnut Wattle-eye ,White throated Greenbul, White throated Bee-eater ,Rufous Flycatcher Thrush ,Spotted Morning Thrush
Red headed Malimbe ,Splendid glossy Starling ,Green Backed Camaroptera, Red cheeked Cordon Bleu, Black and white Shrike Flycatcher ,African pied Wagtail , Vieillot’s black weaver ,Copper Sunbird, Scarlet Chested Sunbird ,Green Sunbird ,Pintailed Whydah, Yellow throated Longclaw ,Eastern Plantain-eater, Brown backed Scrub Robin ,Dark capped Bulbul, Green throated Sunbird ,Northern grey headed Sparrow ,Black and white casqued Hornbill, Crowned Hornbill, Great blue Turaco, Blue throated roller, African Harrier Hawk, Ayres’ Hawk eagle, African Harrier Hawk.
We also sighted a Lesser bush baby and Red tailed monkeys.

Therefore a visit to the eco-tourism site is so rewarding that you have a full plate of activities like Forest walks, Bird watching, Butterfly identification and Primate watching. You will also have a place to relax after a day’s adventure in the forest. Accommodation is available too for those who who like to spend more days away from home. It has double and twin rooms,space for camping and self catering facilities.For a day’s excursion,I recommend that you carry your own snacks.

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Birding can be done twice in a day that is early morning when birds are still in their nests, leaving or hovering around their nests in search for the day’s meal and in the evening when they return to their nests for a night’s rest.

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The Eco-tourism site can be accessed by both public and private transport. The site is approximately 1km off the Kampala to Masaka Highway after Mpigi town.

Also shopping for crafts can be done on your way back at Mpambire trading centre along the main highway. Items available for sale include Baskets, Mats, Drums, Stools and a variety of household tools.

Source of the Nile at Jinja Uganda

The Source of the Nile is the the original place where River Nile starts its maiden journey to Mediterranean sea. It travels 4000miles.It takes  3 months to complete the journey to the Mediterranean sea.

Jinja town is best known as the location of the source of the river Nile and as a famous business hub for Asians in the 1970s. However the Asians have been returning in good numbers to resume their trading. Unlike in the 1970s where they dominated the trade, today even locals have since joined business mainly in the retail shops and supermarkets. Jinja is also attractive to other investments in the hospitality industry.

Jinja is about 84km away from Kampala City. You can travel by public means or private car. Travelling time is about 1hour 30minutes to 2hours.

During my two day trip I was able to visit the Source of the Nile, which is a popular place for both locals and foreign guests. The main attraction is the genuine point of the Source of the Nile where the River Nile starts its maiden journey to Mediterranean sea through Sudan and Egypt. The source of this mighty river is Lake Victoria a lake named after Queen Victoria by Explorer John Speke after an expedition to locate the source of the Nile.A monument has been erected to mark this event on the western side of the river where he stood and identified the source of River Nile in 1862.

It is such an exciting experience to travel by boat to the exact point of the source of the Nile. Not only can someone enjoy the photographic experience but also enjoy the ride on the River Nile and Lake Victoria. You will also see birds hovering above the river trying to spot fish for a day’s meal and fishermen drawing their nets in water to catch fish for an evening meal and trade.

The excitement among the visitors feels the air. Travelling on water is fun for the revellers. A boat cruise can be for 30minutes to 2 hours.

Another place visited is the Mahatma Gandhi Monument. This Monument is associated to the ashes that were poured into the Nile to fulfill his wish. Gandhi’s ashes were scattered in selected places across the world including at the source of the Nile River near Jinja, Uganda, and today a memorial plaque is in place to mark the event.

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Gandhi, a Nationalist and renowned advocate for civil liberties led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. A Hindu nationalist, assassinated Gandhi on 30 January 1948 by firing three bullets into his chest.

Another historical place visited is the World War cemetery, where World War One and Two Ugandan casualties were buried. These veterans were part of the colonial regiment,King’s African Rifles.

For an enthusiastic reveler you will also want a variety of activities after a day’s adventure on water. At the source of the Nile, there is a recreation park similar to the Entebbe Zoo that has recently opened to provide an additional travel experience for its guests. It has snakes, a crocodile, donkeys and also a cultural village exhibiting a Basoga tribe (natives of the area) homestead (hut) and its handmade tools used for cooking and hunting.The items are labelled with the English name and its equivalent local name.

Restaurants at the river side can give you a place to relax as you enjoy the fish delicacy, fries and drinks as you view the river and lake activities.

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Accommodation

Jinja accommodation favours the backpacker, midrange and luxury travelers, like Jinja backpackers,2 friends Guest house, The Haven, Gately on the Nile,The Holland park among others.

Other activities availaible in addition to sightseeing is Kayaking,Water rafting, Horse riding and Quad biking along the Nile or through the Ugandan villages.

Women Integrated Empowerment Development Group (WIED)

A Visit to a women community group concluded my trip. These hardworking single mothers and care givers have made progress despite all odds. Its mission is to help women attain self reliance using sustainable livelihood approaches. They have specialized in recycling paper ,banana fibre, Kitenge materials and cow horns to produce handcrafts like ear rings, neckalaces, money purses, shopping bags, Table mats Aprons, Toliet bags, head scarfs, desk organisers, sugar and sauce bowls.

The group was started in 2003 with 17 women. It currently has over 200 members. Business was going on well from 2006.However in 2012 the market was saturated by competition with recycled paper products ,their main business line thus making them redundant from 2012 to 2015.

In late 2015, a lucky member of the group through a friend got the chance to go for training at Uganda Industrial Research Institute. Despite the tough training, the member benefited from the training and network. She was able to make sample products out of cow horns a new raw material to replace horns like earrings. The product was later shown to the members who were excited and later agreed to continue making products. Fortunately a Good Samaritan arrived from the USA who had earlier interacted with them.Samples we given to the Good Samaritan who supported the group find donors to fund the new project. Like the say the rest is history, the group finally secured funding for the new machines that could cut & mould the cow horns in April 2016.Beautiful Handicrafts have been made from the cow horns. The group is very happy about their new innovation, however more funding and market is needed for the products preferably overseas. Plans are underway to seek more funding for project expansion and acquisition of land to establish a new permanent home, with own workshop rooms, conference rooms, offices and also set up other income generating projects to boost their revenue and also act as a demonstration site for the group members.

For any donations, support or visit to the women group Contact: Dorothy Wakabi Email:dorothywakabi6@gmail.com Tel: +256773106728/+256706106728 or Judith Talitwala +256782488996/+256703878593.

 

Crater Lake Safari

Craters are large, bowl-shaped cavities in the ground, typically one caused by  volcanic explosion. It is a result of volcanic up warping and down warping thus leaving a caldera that is later filled with underground water as explained by my guide Brydon.

In Uganda there are several craters mostly in Kabarole District, Mid -Western Uganda .

My holiday trip to these craters was such an exhilarating experience. There are over 25 crater lakes that can be visited. However the more exciting ones are the ones with lodging side by side on the crater rim. A stop over at the King’s palace was also another exciting cultural experience.The enthusiastic site guide  welcomes you, ready to tell the cultural history of the kingdom.

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Nyamiteza crater lake was my first destination. This crater  off Fortportal- Kasese road is such an exciting place for a holiday. The crater rim is surrounded with beautiful hills  that makes it look more impressive. It is more exciting when you step further down about 80 metres to have a closer look of the crater.

The lodge Bella Vista offers the right comfort for both the midrange and backpacker holiday maker. The rooms give you a perfect view of the crater making your relaxation exhilarating. On the other side the view of Mt.Rwenzori ranges, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is such a great sight. The swimming pool at the lodge, gives you a chance to test your swimming skills as you relax.

The Italian lodge has fond memories of 1906.The crater area  was the 1st climbing of Rwenzori mountain by an Italian prince –Luigi Amedeo in 1906 who reached its peak, and named it after Queen Magherita of Italy.The peak is known as Magherita peak till today.

 

The next destination was Kyaninga crater about 10km from Fort portal town with its popular Kyaninga Lodge (Luxury) which was fully booked for the Christmas holiday. Entry was closed to all visitors but I was able to visit another lodge on the Kyaninga crater rim, Kyaninga Royal cottages (mid- range).The Kyaninga crater rim is now a popular destination for lodge investments and we are yet to see more come up which is good for the visitors.

Lake Nkuruba

Lake Nkuruba  a beautiful lake with abundance forest habitats was another exciting destination on my crater trip. The forest reserve around the crater rim is home to primates that include the Uganda endangered red colobus, black and white colobus, Vervet monkeys and the nocturnal potto. My guide asked  me to look out for the young  black and white colobus monkey (usually purely white) in the trees,  , which is a rare sighting. This can be prize winner for the primate photographers.

I was able to visit the Crater lake and also enjoy the sightings of the primates in the trees and on the ground especially the fearless Vervet monkeys. Tourists at the site could hardly miss a photo shot of these primates.

The site has budget accommodation,crafts shop and also space for the camping visitor.

Lake Nyamirima

Crater Lake Nyamirima is another famous crater due to its view above the hill. The hill view has been named “Top of the world” because it gives you great views of other crater lakes like Nyinabulitwa and Nyabikere craters and three national Parks namely  Kibale Forest N(a destination with the highest concentration of chimpanzees in East Africa), Rwenzori Mountain NP(a UNESCO world heritage site) and flat plains of Queen Elizabeth NP a recognized biosphere reserve.

Midrange accommodation for guests is available and the lush gardens are also favourite for camping.

Lake Lyantonde ,Nyinabuga and Kifuruka Craters.

These crater lakes are known to share the crater rim with lovely luxury accommodation for guests namely Papaya lake Lodge , Ndali Lodge and Kifuruka Eco Camp(budget). Nyinabuga crater is locally referred to as a twin lake because of its close proximity to Lake Kifuruka another crater seen on the opposite side, just a road between them. The close proximity of these crater lakes gives you a chance to explore their beauty easily.

A visit to the Papaya lodge at Lake Lyantonde  is so welcoming. Your private stay at the beautifully designed self-contained cottages will also give you breathtaking views of the lake. The lush green walk ways also provide you with an opportunity to enjoy the fresh air. It’s  pool side is also another relaxing point after a days adventure.

Ndali Lodge on Lake Nyinabuga crater rim was my next destination after Papaya. The founders of this luxury accommodation have fond memories of Uganda. The grandfather of the current owner owned tea estates in Tooro kingdom in 1920s .Grandpa Trevor Price a retired Major in the British Army chose Uganda as his retirement base. The memories have lived on from generation to generation giving birth to the lodge in the 1990s.

Nyinabuga crater is also known as the UGX 20,000 shilling note crater. It’s features can be traced on the currency note as shown by my guide Brydon.

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Kifuruka Eco camp overlooking  Kifuruka crater is ideal place for the budget traveler. If you are a shoestring budget traveler you can camp on the site. More budget accommodation is available on site for the non- camping guest.

Crater Lake Mwamba, Rukwanzi and Mahoma Falls.

Lake Mwamba is also other crater that can be seen by the roadside as you go to visit Mahoma falls. Lake Rukwanzi was visited too. Rukwanzi means necklace i.e shaped like a necklace.

My last destination was Mahoma falls. These falls are an ideal place for relaxation, a shower and swimming. To visit these falls you should be physically fit to go downhill and return uphill.

The Crater safari can be combined with a visit to Kibale Forest National Park for Chimp tracking, Bigodi swamp for bird watching, Tea plantation bicycle rides, Queen Elizabeth National Park for game drives and boat rides ,go for a Mini Hike on Rwenzori Mountain and Track Gorillas at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park (UNESCO World heritage Site) home to 50%  of the endangered Mountain Gorilla or explore the famous Batwa tribe village trails and other village communities.