By Solomon Oleny
You can never know Uganda is truly the pearl of Africa unless you have had a bird’s view of it through an aero adventure.
The aero experience offers you myriad splendors you would never see during ground expeditions because unlike the ground experience, it knows no boundaries.
More to that, it is the only way of experiencing over 13 climatic zones, so you can enjoy the sun, rain, and snow among other conditions. Here is my experience.
One of the crater lakes in Queen Elizabeth National Park
When Aerolink a domestic airline with a reputation for offering life enriching trips to National Parks around Uganda-offered me a courtesy flight to Western Uganda, I was oddly confused. I didn’t know whether to punch the air in excitement or be teary.
Yes I so badly wanted to pursue the adventure however, on learning that the plane was going to fly over Lake Victoria; fresh images of the lost Malaysian plane blew-up my mind.
A sky view of the hills in Bushenyi
Knowing I couldn’t tame the adrenalin rush that was quickly building in me, I tagged along with a bottle of strong wine for the Monday morning flight which was destined for Bwindi Impenetrable Park and later Queen Elizabeth.
According to plan, first I would take the drink, then the drink would take the drink, then the drink would take me. That way, I would be too high to know a thing in case the plane decided to dive into the lake for a swim.
A view from the cockpit
Damn it, it was such a hot slap in the face when the wine did not make past the checking point as no drinks are allowed aboard the planes.
Luckily, I bumped on Otim, a Civil Aviation Authority Engineer who confirmed to me that the airlines flights are highly recommended by their standards-because it pays top notch detail and attention to safety, my fears begun to naturally vaporize.
A sky view of the georgeous islands of Lake Victoria
Indeed, going by the confidence and positive attitude of the flight Captain-Brian Ndegwa who was aboard 5X-BXW, I knew there was nothing to fear.
Before me were 11 comfy leather passenger sits each of which was situated next to a window to enable the excursionist soak in all views of the flight.
I randomly sank in the one behind the captain as Oscar the other traveller opted for the back sit and at 7:45-we were off the run way.
A snapshot of the clouds
Flying airborne at airspeed of 161 knots (approximately 300km/h) felt like I was in a lift that was hurriedly elevating to the top most floors of a sky scraper.
The higher the altitude, the more I was able to get soothing views of Islands that dotted the vast Lake Victoria drop-dead gorgeous.
From an altitude of 10,000 ft. above sea level, each plus its clustered settlements looked like a vast chunk of floating hyacinth. It was pure magic to my eyes. The continent below was an intoxicating expanse with a scale that was grander and impressive landscapes.
Before take off at Kasese airfield
The flight was great; the two folks in the cock pit were doing the narrating in turns as, they kept switching roles.
At some point, one would control the wheel and throttle levers as the other did the paper work and recordings from the systems information display screens.
Twenty minutes later, the plane hit an altitude of 12,000 ft. and we happily got lost in thick clouds-which looked like big balls of cotton.
Save for the roaring of the plane’s engine, everything was as dumbly silent as they stretched towards me with their transparent rosy wings-that were floating like feathers of a giant flamingo. According to Brian, that’s how clouds great each other.
For a second, I thought I was in cloud nine forgetting I was literally on the clouds. How I wished I could just sit on them all day and watch them drift by.
One thing though, it was getting pretty cold inside because we were at the freezing point. However, there was nothing to fear because the weather was perfect with minimal wind and clear views.
There was no thunder screaming across the sky or slapping the clouds into a heated turmoil.
When the plane dropped to about 8,000 ft., there ahead, all I could see, as wide as the world, unbelievably green in the sun was the country side of Bushenyi that boasted of a delightful set of interlocked dilating hills at whose valley feet were calm rivers with branching tributaries that looked like the veins.
Like me, Oscar found himself staring at the most extra ordinary scenery he had seen for years.
“I don’t know if beautiful is the correct word to describe this splendor” he remarked before adding that traversing over the hills felt as rewarding as hiking each of them to their peaks, something he would not have climbed in his lifetime because there are no clear ground routes leading to them.
Not so far from these hills were sweeping forested plains and banana plantations, overlooking them were two meandering rivers that looked like lazy giant cobra taking a nap.
Adding extra beauty to this scenery was a rich profusion of wild flowers which was intermingling with the edges of the rivers. My camera worked over time here but still, not a single picture could do them justice.
Two hours later, the plane touched base at Kihihi Airstrip in Bwindi impenetrable park to pick five tourists who had just concluded their gorilla tracking expedition.
A little while later came the most exciting bit of the expedition-experiencing an aero adventure over queen Elizabeth national park in a twenty-minute flight before the plane could zip across to Kasese Airstrip.
From the unrivaled rift whose vast horizons were dotted with life and impressive landscapes to Lake Albert, everything in the park was a wonderful paradise to die as each had a distinct “awe factor”.
For almost every blink, there was something new to discover and the pleasure was all mine to investigate its unfamiliar areas. Among the a million things to smile about, the crater lakes were my favourite. They were as eye catchy as a newly erupted geyser and yes, it was worth a lifetime view.
Most exciting, I was able get an upclose with a heard of about 12 elephants and 8 buffaloes-which are my favourites among the big five.
As the sun begun shine during my return flight to Entebbe, I was aching for a rainbow with every fiber of my being as the icing on the cake but too bad, the weather suddenly became moody.
Actually, the nimbus clouds had clogged our route so much. Every time the plane tried to slither through, it shook mildly like a car traversing over a stretch of endless humps.
To be frank, it was quite scary but good enough, it all happened so fast hence did not grate my nerves.
- With or without a passport, you can still fly aboard Aerolink. All you need is a valid identity card.
- Flights to most national parks cost between $240-270(between 600,000shs-675,000sha one way payable in either currencies-the dollar or the shilling. For details, check on Aerolinks website.
- Don’t bother carrying foods or beverages to the plane, none is aloud aboard.
- Photography aboard the plane is allowed so be sure to bring your cameras and extra batteries to capture moments that will disconnect you from stress and re connect you with what is important-nature.
- No ammunition is allowed aboard.
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Uganda as beheld from the skies