Category Archives: Uganda

Lake Mburo & Mihingo Lodge in Uganda with Africa Wild Explorations

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Sadly, Nancy’s trip to Uganda has come to a close – but we’re not finished with her trip yet on the blog!

She’s seen gorillas, monkeys, birds of every feather–and enjoyed fantastic lodges to tuck in at night. Her activity-rich itinerary was planned by the excellent tour operator, Africa Wild Explorations. 

For her last full day in Uganda, Nancy spent a day at Lake Mburo National Park, with a night at Mihingo Lodge.

Lake Mburo National Park

Lake Mburo National Park is located in southwestern Uganda, about 150 miles from Kampala. A safari will introduce you to local zebras, hippos, impalas, warthog, buffalo, jackal, leopard and over 300 of bird species! At 370 sq km, it may be the smallest park in Uganda, but within its borders it contains a whopping five lakes, as well as dry hillsides, savannah, forest, and wetlands where you’ll find thousands of birds. One of the most curious features is the salt lick, salty soil waterholes that draw in animals that you’ll find nowhere else in Uganda, such as the eland, impala and klipspringer. It’s also to the largest population of zebra (5,000) in the country!

Mihingo Lodge

Located about a 5-hour drive from Entebbe and within the park, the Mihingo Lodge is compiled of 12 permanent, tented cottages designed to make guests feel right at home. Each room has its own character, but all offer luxury furnishings, privacy, and stunning views. The lodge is privately owned by a couple in Kampala, and has been designed to blend in with the environment seamlessly. The managers are themselves a delightful and welcoming couple–he from Scotland, she from South Africa.

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Photo of Nancy’s Cottage

As Nancy reports, she was in the #10 Impala Cottage, about 7-minute walk from the lodge. Pictured here is the Impala, which overlooks a salt lick. At one point, there was a family of warthogs grazing between the cottage and the salt lick.

Bathrooms are located down the hallway outside the entrance door, with a curtain across the entrance and a rainshower shower. In a curtained-off section sits the toilet. If you lean forward, you can look into your bedroom!

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Photo from Nancy

Among the excellent activities in Lake Mburo National Park, Mihingo Lodge offers horseback safaris, walking safaris, hippo boat trips and night game drives. You can even try your hand out at tennis or simply watch bushbabies from below the bar.

Check out more beautiful photos of the lodge and the surrounding area here on Flickr.

 

A short film on the conservation and community efforts supported by Mihingo Lodge:

The environmental and community side of Mihingo Lodge produced by the Green Living Project.

We look forward to more photos and stories from Nancy about Uganda. Check back on the blog before long for those– 😉

For more adventures and vacation packages to Uganda or other African countries, contact Willamette Intl Travel expert travel agents at 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com. 

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Mountain Gorilla Tracking in Uganda with Africa Wild Explorations

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Mountain Gorilla Tracking: An Overview

The highlight of any wilderness visit to Uganda is obviously the mountain gorillas. Visitors from all over the globe flock to Uganda and Rwanda to see these majestic creatures.

WIT Agent Nancy has been traveling in Queen Elizabeth Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. We look forward to her feedback and photos of firsthand tracking!

The images below of the mountain gorillas have been provided by Abiaz Rwamwiri, Managing Director of Africa Wild Explorations!

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Best Time to Go

Tracking gorillas can be conducted year-round, but the damp seasons of spring make the rainforest only pleasant in winter and summer. The high season to catch a glimpse of gorillas are December to February, then June to September.

All about Permits

The Uganda Wildlife Authority sells 96 gorilla permits per day for Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga National Park.

Africa Wild Explorations organizes gorilla permits to that our guests don’t miss the once in a lifetime opportunity to track them. In some cases, certain permits are purchased upwards of 1-2 years in advance!

What to Wear?

As with any jungle expedition, clothing can make or break your trip! Dress in warm layers. 

Remember to carry a rain jacket, waterproof tracking shoes / walking boots, light outdoor trousers, and long-sleeved shirts.

You’ll need a medium backpack to carry drinking water and lunchbox during gorilla tracking.

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So what are Mountain Gorillas?—the Deets

Endangered Mountain Gorillas native to East Africa are found nowhere else on the planet, not even in zoos. They can’t survive in confined areas, which makes them quite a rare sight to behold! Altogether there are upwards close to 800 mountain gorillas remaining the world. Half of them on in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, and many are located in Mgahinga Gorilla Park.

The first known European encounter was in 1902, when one German Captain von Berenge was climbing Mount Sabinyo. At around 9,300-ft altitude, his band spotted a group of Mountain Gorillas—much larger than the apes they were accustomed to seeing. They were hunted for sport for a few decades until preservation efforts were established. Gradually tourist infrastructure sprang up to support visitors who wanted to admire these huge beasts up close.

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Male gorillas can grow up to 6 ft tall, with a weight around 350-500 lbs and arm length of around 7 feet. Typically their hair is dark than their lowland counterparts, as they keep to colder climates. As they mature, a strip of hair on their backs turns silver, hence their popular moniker Silverbacks. These majestic creatures can live around 40-50 years, keeping to close-knit, nomadic groups and feeding on seasonal flowers, roots, fruits and shoots. Their tribes range from 2 to 30-40, but mostly found in groups of 10.

Unfortunately, Mountain Gorillas are severely endangered due to human encroachment. Though poachers are no longer a threat, at least in Uganda, diseases and environmental damage still threaten overall health and wellness of these groups.

Did you know…

Mountain Gorillas and humans share around 98% of the same genetic makeup?

They can communicate with a series of roars, grunts and shouts. Researchers have documented around 25 distinct sounds.

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Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mahogany Lodge

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WIT AGENT NANCY continues her escapades in Uganda this week with Africa Wild Explorations. Last week, it was all about Queen Elizabeth National Park. Read on to learn more about her adventures in Uganda!

Today, Nancy visits Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mahogany Lodge!

The park, also known as BINP, is located in SW Uganda on the edge of the Congo border. Within its 128 sq mi (331 sq km) rests 120 species of mammals, 348 types of birds and 220 kinds of butterflies. Not to mention loads of frogs, chameleons, geckos! It’s also among the most flora diverse forests in East Africa, with more than 1,000 flowering plant species.

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Visitors have a chance to spot colobus monkeys, chimpanzees, and birds such as hornbills and turacos.

Its most famous inhabitants, however, are the around 400 Bwindi gorillas, half of the world’s population of endangered mountain gorillas! With such a high concentration, you can bet the local guides are excellent trackers. So chances that Nancy will see a gorilla are high!

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MAHOGANY SPRINGS

Located in the northern section of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mahogany Springs is a luxury lodge for visitors coming to see the magnificent gorillas.

Mahogany Springs is one of the perfect lodges to reside in a night before and after your gorilla trek! Some gorilla families even like to swing by the lodge from time to time, so if you’re lucky, you might get a view of these gorillas not too far from your room. 

Other activities you can do from the lodge are forest and nature walks, Buhoma Village walk that takes you around tea and banana plantations, the home of the Batwa People who once inhabited the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest before it was designated as a national park. 

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The Rooms

Mahogany Springs is made up of different suites specially designed around the forest’s beauty. Each room has wide windows to allow for optimal views of the forest and nearby plantations. All suites/rooms have en suite bathrooms, dressing table and all beds have mosquito nets to protect you from any mosquito bite. The luxury hotel is one of the few lodges in the region that have Hydroelectric power, which means you can freely charge your cameras, phone, and laptop!

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Nancy in Queen Elizabeth National Park with Africa Wild Explorations

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WIT AGENT NANCY continues her escapades in Uganda this week with Africa Wild Explorations. Last week, it was all about chimpanzee-tracking in Kibale Forest National Park and the ecological initiatives around the Bigodi Community. Read on to learn more about her upcoming adventures in Uganda this April. 

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Next up, it’s a drive to Queen Elizabeth National Park. She’ll stop en route at the Equator, before checking in at the Elephant Plains Lodge. In the afternoon, a peaceful cruise on the Kazinga Channel.

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QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK

QENP is one of Uganda’s most popular national parks, and with good reason! You have the high Rwenzori mountains to the north and the remote area of Ishasha to the south. The long waterways of Kazinga Channel run west to east, bookmarked on either end by Lake Edward and Lake George respectively.

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This area is a haven for natural beauty: savannah plains with acacia and euphorbia trees, sunken crater lakes, swamps teeming with life. All in all the park is home to more than 90 types of mammals and the highest range of bird species in Africa! Wildlife includes elephants, leopards, hyenas, forest hogs, warthogs, waterbucks, topis, Uganda kobs (a type of antelope) and lions!

Over 600 species of birds flock to the area, drawn to the channel like a magnet: White and Abdim’s Storks, Saddle-billed Storks, Lesser Masked Weavers, Grey-headed Kingfishers, African Mourning Doves, Black-headed Gonoleks, Red-chested Sunbirds, Brown Snake Eagle, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Bateleur, African Harrier Hawk, Grey Kestrel, Great White and Pink-backed Pelican, Great Cormorant, African Open-billed Stork, Knob-billed Duck, African Jacana, African Fish Eagle, African Skimmer and Grey-headed Gull.

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  • Elevation: 900-1845 m (2953-6053 ft)
  • Size: 1978 sq km
  • Habitat: Medium altitude moist semi-deciduous forest, moist thicket, riparian forest, riverine bushland, open woodland, open grassland, seasonal and permanent swamps, lakes and rivers.
  • Best time to travel: All year round. Thanks to the location on the equator, Uganda has a tropical climate. Rainfall occurs regularly, with a peak in the months of April-May and November.

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EQUATOR

You can imagine, the Equator is a popular photo op in the park. This memorable line that divides north and south hemispheres is marked by a large circle. Don’t forget your camera to snap a shot!

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KAZINGA CHANNEL

The river runs 32 km through Queen Elizabeth National Park, linking Lake Edward and Lake George. The vibrant water attracts a varied range of animals, elephants to buffalos, baboons to waterbucks, Nile crocodiles and one of the world’s largest concentration of hippos. It’s also teeming with birds, such as pelicans, fish eagles, kingfishers, cormorants, and saddle-billed stork. It’s a fantastic afternoon seeing these creatures live, breathe and move in their natural habitat, as you’re led by a knowledgeable guide.

ELEPHANT PLAINS LODGE

The luxury lodge is a brand-new hotel perched at 941 meters high on the western escarpment of the Albertine rift in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Lodgers are rewarded with panoramic views of 80 acres of grassland, and the beautiful lake Kikorongo, a favorite waterhole for elephants.

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From the lodge, guests can enjoy loads of wilderness activities, such as game drives in the Kasenyi Plains, wildlife viewing at Mweya Peninsula and Nyamunuka Crater Lake, chimp tracking in Kyambura Wildlife Reserve, Forest Walks in Maramagambo Forest, and tracking tree climbing lions in Ishasha.

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How can Tourism Affect a Village in Uganda?

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Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about what kind of footprints tourism leave behind. Mindful travel is all about understanding your place in the greater environment. It’s about sharing the world we live in, making connections between yourself and the world halfway across the globe.

If done mindfully, and with the right local connections, travel can have a lasting, mutual effect both on you and the land you step into. 

WIT Agent in Uganda

This April, WIT Agent Nancy is embarking on an incredible trip to Uganda with Africa Wild Explorations. Uganda is THE destination for mountain gorillas–and her first major stop, Kibale Forest National Park, is one of the best safari destinations in Africa for chimpanzee tracking. 

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After the fantastic Kibale Forest National Park, WIT Agent Nancy will be heading out to Bigodi village. Resting in the shadow of the Rwenzori Mountain Range in western Uganda, Bigodi borders Kibale National Park. After lunch with one of the community leaders — a founding member of Bigodi Community Tourism  — then it’s time for a nature walk in the swamp.

In 1992, Bigodi Community Tourism established the Kibale Association for Rural and Environmental Development (KAFRED). As an official Community Based Organization of Uganda, its main mission is to facilitate projects to stimulate health, education and economic growth while protecting the local environment, the rainforest, and the wetlands. The group’s emblem is the great blue turaco, a majestic bird found in the Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary.

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KAFRED PROJECTS

Tourism in the area creates revenues that KAFRED then used to stimulate community development projects and initiatives, such as:

Community development projects have been funded with income from tourism. The best examples are the secondary school, the wetlands boardwalk, safe water and the wetlands visitor center with bylaws. This has helped to increase awareness and appreciation within the community of the importance of conservation.

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The Bigodi Women’s Group, also a member of UCOTA, is involved in the making and selling of handicrafts. Most of the materials and dyes used are natural and this was an environmental issue. KAFRED has through UCOTA organized training workshops in sustainable harvesting methods.

Music, dance and drama by local groups such as Enyange Dramactors and Study Tours are used to increase the understanding and interpretation of natural and cultural values in the community, particularly in schools. Enyange Dramactors received training from Kibale and Semliki Conservation and Development Program in the 1990s. On the other hand, interpretation signs, write-ups, guided walks, and presentations are used for conservation awareness building for both domestic and foreign visitors. Walks around and across the swamp are guided, visitors are encouraged to keep on the trail and all the garbage is carried back to the visitor’s center and properly binned. KAFRED does not provide catering services and this limits the levels of pollution.

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How has Tourism changed Bigodi?

  • Employment of teachers, guides, cooks, security guards, and cleaners

  • Teachers and guides receive special training

  • The Women’s Groups are provided with space to sell handicrafts and peanut butter at the Wetlands visitor center.

  • There is a market for local foodstuffs that can be consumed by visitors and tourists, for example, bananas, tomatoes, onions, eggs, and chicken.
  • Local people have adapted to eating the above-mentioned foodstuffs, leading to improved nutrition.
  • The number of permanent houses has grown from 2 in 1992 to 7 in 1995 to more than 30 today.

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  • In the late 1990s, KAFRED hosted an average of 1000 visitors annually for an income of about 6 million Uganda Shillings (6m UGS). By 2008 the visitor count had risen to 3,500 with annual revenues of nearly 100m UGS. During the last financial year, we received over 4,000 visitors and an income of about 150m UGS.
  • About 75% of the net profits is spent on community projects. KAFRED began construction and management of Bigodi Secondary School starting in 1993. The school now has some 350 children. Because of tourism revenue, parents pay about 50% less for fees compared to other private or community schools.
  • About 95% of wetlands visitors are non-Ugandans. This has led to other business opportunities such as hotels and lodges, which are in turn run by local people and which employ local staff.
  • KAFRED has funded a community safe water project. Community water kiosks have been set up to serve at least 300 people. This has reduced the cost of water prices from UGS 800 to UGS 200 per 20-liter can.
  • Building a house for midwives so that they can stay at the local health unit and support mothers whenever they need maternity services. In the recent past, women had to hold it until office hours or the family would have to hire a private car to Fort Portal town, 40 km away on a bumpy road!

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SWAMP WALK

Later that Afternoon, Nancy will enjoy a signature swamp walk in the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary. The local guide will introduce her to more than 100 species of birds and primates! The region is thick in biodiversity, home to chimpanzees, mongooses, bush pigs, and loads of monkeys!

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WIT Agent in Uganda with Africa Wild Explorations

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This April, WIT Nancy is embarking on an incredible trip to Uganda with Africa Wild Explorations. She’ll venture into the national park, meet up with park rangers, and glimpse the majestic gorillas of the mountains.

She’s flying from Portland to Amsterdam on the nonstop flight, then flying KLM from Amsterdam to Entebbe Airport.

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Entebbe is 30 miles south of Kampala on the shores of Lake Victoria. She’ll meet her hosts from Africa Wild Explorations, after a night in Entebbe, she’ll head to Kibale Forest National Park.

Over the next few weeks, here on the blog we’ll be taking a close look at Uganda and follow the footsteps of Nancy on her incredible journey!

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Top Things to Know about Uganda

It’s a Land of Many Waters

Uganda is a land of many waters, and most famously, it’s home to the source of the Nile. There is Lake Bunyonyi, the second deepest lake in Africa, Lake Victoria, one of the African Great Lakes, and Murchison Falls, the world’s most powerful waterfall. Ssese Islands, a paradise of white sand beaches and tropical vegetation.

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Tourists flock to see Mountain Gorillas

Uganda is the world’s premier primate destination, with baboons, chimpanzees, rare colobus, Bushbabies, and Pottos. It’s THE place to go to see some wild mountain gorillas, with almost 54% of the world’s entire population of Mountain Gorillas calling Uganda home.

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A Safari Lover’s Paradise

Thanks to ten national parks, the country also offers rewarding game drives, including rare tree-climbing lions of Ishasha, elephant herds, giraffes, as well as more than a thousand bird species.

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Some other quirky facts:

  • pan-fried grasshoppers is a local delicacy served to guests
  • the equator runs through Uganda, and the line is marked at 72 km post along the Kampala-Masaka Road and another equator mark is located in Kasese District within the Queen Elizabeth National Park
  • Uganda is the size of the State of Oregon, but with a population that’s almost 10 times larger
  • – Uganda’s Rwenzori mountains are so high that they are snow-capped year-round, with Mt. Stanley towering at 5,109m (16,762 feet).

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  • In 2012, Lonely Planet selected Uganda as the Best Tourist Location. Since then, popularity hasn’t waned, averaging a million tourists each year. It’s also among the Top 16 Holiday Destinations for 2016 by CNN.
  • – Muwenda Mutebi II of Buganda rules over the Kingdom of Buganda, a subnational kingdom within Uganda. Founded in the 14th century, it has existed on and off as one of the more powerful political states in East Africa.
  • – There are over 40 languages spoken within its borders—and while English is the official tongue, Luganda is the most common in use. There is even a Ugandan English dialect known as Uglish, using many unique expressions and idioms.
  • – A “rolex” isn’t a watch, it’s a snack—a chapati bread rolled around a two-egg omelette with onion, tomatoes and cabbage. It’s a popular street food for late nights!
  • – Uganda spiced tea is a popular drink, blended with ginger, milk, sugar, and loose black tea leaves.

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In case you missed it: 

WIT Agent Gavi Booked a Client Cosette on a Gorilla/Chimp Trek in Uganda. Here’s what she had to say: 

Hey Gavi, I’m here now in the island. Very eco-friendly — more so than any other place. It’s rustic but cool. Actually, it’s unbelievably hot, but I’m here to relax after the trek and will snorkel tomorrow and go to Stone town and the spice market on Tuesday. The gorilla safari was amazing! Saw golden monkeys and chimpanzees — good but the chimps were in the trees so didn’t get close enough. It’s the luck of the draw, I found out. But I came for the gorillas, and we had the best experience ever! Sat and played with the group. The head tracker, Mr. D was great — very familiar with the family. I’ll send you photos — unbelievable! I got knocked down twice, which meant they like me and were playing, but thought I was flattened by a Mac truck and it happened so fast. Another woman was getting her picture taken and a gorilla put his hand in her shoulder and then pulled her hair! The guide pulled her away and he ran back to another gorilla, rolled over with his feet in the air and then jumped up and pounded his chest! Crazy! Saw babies as well. It couldn’t have been better.

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What is Africa Wild Explorations?

Africa Wild Explorations is a luxury safari company offering authentic journeys into iconic African destinations to explore hidden treasures, learn about local cultures and legendary traditions. 

Check out their reviews!

WIT Agents have traveled to Uganda and would love to share their expertise with you. We can also assist with booking flights, airport transfers, hotels and other excursions.

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