Sunday, May 24, 2009

Vacationing in the Pearl

Tomorrow I am heading out of town and north to Murchison Falls with a couple of friends who are visiting. Murchison Falls is the largest National Park in Uganda and home to animals such as elephants, buffalo, leopard, giraffes, hippos, lions, etc. and the location of one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world, where the massive Nile River is squeezed through a six meter gorge.

I am always writing about the day to day affairs of BULA, but in honor of this much needed vacation I'd like to talk about the splendors of Uganda. Once called the Pearl of Africa by Winston Churchill, Uganda consists of a natural environment so green and plush I can't figure out why Ireland gets all the credit for its rolling hills.

The geography in Uganda is dramatically different depending on the area, but in central Uganda, where I live, the rich soil is the perfect contrast the lush vegetation that grows abundantly. And, for those who love summer time, the sun shines almost everyday and the evenings cool to the perfect sleeping temperature.

Uganda hosts a plethora of landscapes for the nature lover in us all. The beaches in Entebbe and the Ssesse Islands are beautiful places to relax. Jinja, a breathtaking 2.5 hour drive from Kampala through fields of sugar cane and the Mbura Forest, is where the Nile River begins. Here you can enjoy some of the best kayaking and white water rafting in the world or sit by the Bugagali Falls and enjoy the beautiful and exotic birds of this region. One of Uganda's most popular attractions, and rightly so, is the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in the west of the country. This intense forest hosts the impressive and highly endangered mountain gorillas. This treck is an expensive, but amazing and worthwhile venture; if you have the chance to stand feet from a silverback gorilla, please don't pass on the opportunity.

The list of Uganda's amazing attractions could continue on for pages - Sipi Falls, Rwenzori Mountains, Kibale National Park, Lake Bunyonyi, Mburo National Park, Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, or canoeing in search of the rare shoebill near Entebbe, and Queen Elizabeth National Park are a few other noteworthy places to visit if in the country.

Uganda's central location also makes it ideal to travel to other countries namely Tanzania, Kenya, and Rwanda, but Uganda's most wonderful asset are the people. I was told before arriving two years ago that the people of Uganda were the nicest in Africa and they have lived up to that reputation. Funny, kind, welcoming and generous, the people of Uganda are what set it apart from other countries in the area.

Coincidentally, I just saw an article in the New York Times about white water rafting and traveling in Uganda. The link is too left in the News in Africa section, but here is a link to the slide show that accompanies the article If you would like more information about traveling in Uganda, I know of two excellent travel books. Bradt produces a travel guide specifically on Uganda and Lonely Planet prints one focusing on East Africa. Both books can be purchased at any book store that sells travel books or online at Lonely Planet also has this informative website

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