Uganda in brief

Uganda is not sophisticated; it is real, raw Africa

The traffic is crazy in the main cities but the country side is lush and beautifully green.

Before travelling, you need to put all your preconceptions of previous African countries aside (including and most especially, South Africa), and travel with an open mind and fresh expectations.

At some point you may get stuck in the mud or encounter a roadblock of a broken-down bus or truck. You need to trust your guides; they know what they are doing and are capable of getting you out of all sorts of situations. You also need to be patient; there is no rush in Africa.

Don’t book chain hotels; you can stay at a Protea Hotel just about anywhere. Instead choose a typical guesthouse with local touches where the warmth of the locals shine through.

There are no restrooms at the petrol stations (and those that do have them are questionable for human use). Expect to use the loo on the side of the road and master the art of the loo squat.

If you are a ‘well-endowed’ lady and are on a long trip that involves a lot of driving on bumpy roads, wear a sports bra; you will thank me for this later.

Keep your camera charged and your flash off when visiting the gorillas and chimps. Try not to rush your journey to get from A to B because the most beautiful photo opportunities include the suave and speedy boda boda motorbike taxis and the gorgeously painted doors of the mud huts.

Credit cards are not always accepted so travel with your forex in small denominations. When converting from a hard currency, your Ugandan shillings will be handed to you in huge wads of cash so keep a spare banky or envelope for the cash and use it to pay for your extras and the local delicacies on the side of the road; Rolex which is an omelette filled with cabbage, tomato and onion, stuck together with a chapatti and rolled-up (roll eggs), and the muchomo which is barbecued meat on a stick served straight to your vehicle window by hordes of numbered, uniformed hawkers vying for your money and attention.

The scenery is beautiful and varies from lush forests to miles of tea plantations to beautiful National Parks. The great lakes of Victoria, Edward and Albert are a treat for the eye and a boat cruise on the Kazinga Channel in the Queen Elizabeth National Park that links Lake Edward and Lake George is a birdwatchers paradise. On my recent trip we were thrilled to see bathing buffalo cooling-off next-to gaping-mouthed crocodiles. Kingfishers danced and hovered above the water and pelicans, shoe-bills, yellow-billed, open-billed saddle-billed storks, and jacanas were all there to greet us. But the biggest treat was the sight of an elephant on the banks of the channel and a snowy white leucistic malachite kingfisher.

I loved the chimp trekking in the Kibale National Park and was utterly overwhelmed and emotional on my gorilla trek in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

What stood-out for me the most were the endless, smiling waving children who beamed at us and who ran alongside our vehicles saying hello in a united voice that became the soundtrack to our trip. It was those children who for the most part were clad in nothing but a t-shirt that showed me that being rich does not bring you happiness, and that sometimes the sight of a passing Land Cruiser packed to the rafters with bags and paraphernalia and just one hand waving out the window was enough to send them into fits of laughter and spontaneous dancing!

Contact Sandi for expert advice and planning of your holiday to Uganda.