By Solomon Oleny
Many Ugandans overlook the beauty of their country and travel to foreign tourism destinations like Zanzibar and Mombasa, thinking they offer more rewarding experiences. Yet there is more to see and experience in this awesome Pearl of Africa. Here are some random recommendations for the festive season.
ROMANTIC HOLIDAY BY THE WATER
Nothing compares to the sweet pleasure that comes from spending a honeymoon on an island on Lake Victoria or by spectacular places like Murchison Falls. These areas are beautiful from end to end and boast of small, but well organised lodges. Make the most of your stay there by gathering the beautiful shells in the sand.
Alternatively, couples can opt for canoe rides on the rocking waves of the lake or a river or go sport fishing. However, ask before trying to go swimming, in case the water body in question is a habitat for crocodiles.
In the evenings, be sure to watch the sun bury itself over the horizon over a lake or river. Pay attention to the songs of the kingfisher birds as they cool off the day’s steam. In the mornings, wake up to the beauty of the golden sunrise that offers pampering warmth to set off the day.
A SNOWY CHRISTMAS AT MOUNTAIN RWENZORI
According to Trip Advisor, the world’s most popular travel planner, for over two decades now, the Rwenzori Mountains have been exalted as one of East Africa’s top 10 destinations because of the adventurous climbing challenge it offers visitors. Even without taking the Rwenzori hike, one is treated to a breathtaking scenery. A carpet of beautiful flowers of all colours and sizes, plus, divine green vegetation spreads before you.
You will experience the exquisite sounds of nature. By the break of your fourth day into the exploration, you will have seen and experienced various weather conditions — from the dry Sahara winds at the base of the mountain, to the winter conditions as you go further up and snow at the top, 16,000ft above sea level.
Along the way, there will be lots of gorillas, black leopards, birds and butterflies to catch sight of.
If you are interested in spending the festive season with immediate relatives, but you are having second thoughts about it, fearing a cold reception, visit your close relatives, the primates. The primates, especially the chimpanzees and gorillas, will welcome you with lively tree swinging that will make you laugh out loud.
For a vast experience, Kibale National Park is a must-visit because it is a one-stop destination for primate experiences as it is home to over 13 species of primates.
Trekking in the park’s humid forest will offer you a lifetime opportunity of knowing the different primates better. You will also receive friendly pats on the back by the untrimmed branches of gorgeous tropical trees and take unforgettable photographs. If you ever wonder whether you are looking at an ape or a monkey, look for a tail.
While the various monkey species in the forest, such as red tailed monkeys, vervet monkeys and black and white colobus monkeys, have tails, apes do not.
Also, while monkeys and bush babies use hand gestures and verbal signs for communication, chimpanzees communicate with each other through a complex system of vocalisations and facial expressions.
When excited or desperate, they use loud calls called pant-hoots or drum aloud on the buttresses of telephone trees. However, beware that primates are extremely aggressive when provoked or when they feel that they or their families are in danger.In the event that they flick heir wrists or start grunting or scream at you, keep a distance.
BIKU RECREATION SITE FOR A HOLISTIC FESTIVE SEASON
Biku on Biku hill, 18km from Nebbi town, is surrounded by an incredible array of flora and fauna. To the east, Biku is bordered by the several rolling hills into Congo and river valleys which are home to bird species endemic in Uganda such as the shoebill stork.
The hill boasts of a tranquil and harmonious environment, whose towering trees harbour over 50 monkeys and 40 baboons. Unlike the usual baboons and chimps, Biku’s primates boastfully walk on their hind legs with their heads up high.
The hill is also home to the smallest church in the world. Standing at a height of 8ft and a width of about 2.5metres, only three people can fit inside. Do not miss the night camp fires.
VISIT THE TREE CLIMBING LIONS OF ISHASHA
Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park is blessed to be the one park in Africa where one can easily see tree-climbing lions: You can make the most of this opportunity this Christmas by visiting the Park’s Ishasha plains for this experience. The lions, estimated to be over 40 in number, spend their days up in trees, especially, acacia and sycamore fig trees. One of the notable things about these lions is that the mane of their males is black.
Besides the tree climbing lions, one can also see the tree climbing leopards, which are mostly along the way to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or to Mweya in Queen Elizabeth. Robert Ntegeka, a guide at the Park, says this festive season falls in the time of the year when lions spend much of their day on trees because it is rainy.
For better visibility, game drives are recommended. There are elephants, chimpanzees, lions, leopards, buffaloes and more to see.
FOR AN ADRENALINE RUSH
We have bungee jumping and white water rafting on the Nile for experiences that will make your heart race. But did you know you can go paragliding in Uganda? Paragliding is a recreational air sport-flying a glider craft launched off the edge of a high raised point. Fly Mami Afrika currently provides this adventure at Mt. Wanale in Mbale town.
On the drive to the top of the mountain, visitors are briefed to prepare them. With the pilot also harnessed on the craft, the one hour flight is launched off an impressive band cliff 260metres high.
Fly over breathtaking attractions around the mountain, gazing on waterfalls and sharp pointed cliffs and rivers snaking in the terrain below. Do not close your eyes or you will miss out on a great kick.
People interested in feeling the cultural pulse of Africa’s yesteryears can go for the Batwa experience and trail in Bwindi rainforest or Mount Mgahinga. They will nourish you with their never ending ancient ways of life and cultures. In the event that you are planning on spending the festive season in Kampala, there are cultural extravaganzas at Ndere Centre in the evening hours.