05/ 10/ 16
Hey, Scratch the List readers! I’m Mel, a twenty-something writer and traveller. I hope you enjoy this guest post, and that one day, you get to visit Uganda. Thanks, Kat, for so kindly having me!
Uganda, I miss you. I miss your radiant smiles and dusty red roads. I miss your reverence for Bob Marley and vibrant sense of rhythm. I miss Kampala’s traffic-weaving boda-bodas and honking midday chaos. I miss Kibale’s wild forest creatures and glittering stars. I miss Jinja’s glorious sunsets and the divine stillness of the River Nile.
If you’re headed to the African content, I highly recommend visiting Uganda. Uganda is known as the Pearl of Africa, and for good reason. Encompassed by otherwise arid landscapes, the country is home to fertile soil, abundant vegetation, teeming wildlife, and beautiful people. Tourism is developing in Uganda – you can do everything from gorilla trekking, to white-water rafting, to safari adventures.
I often wonder if I’ll ever have such a fairy-tale trip again. I yearned to stay longer, but vowed that one day, I would return. Thank you, Uganda, for your magic.
At Bujagali in Jinja, we paddled out from the edge of a dusty cliff into the heart of the River Nile. The views were astounding, with deep green water as far as the eye could see. Leafy trees ringed the horizon; luscious vegetation floated peacefully in near-perfect circles here and there across the stream. Birds whooped softly in the distance. So much tranquility. I felt my spirit connect with the water, the trees, the river. I could barely believe that I was there, by this mythical body of water so steeped in history and peace.
The stillness was broken by the rapids. Four hours of white-water rafting became a fast emotional and spiritual learning curve. Spinning blindly into underwater oblivion, unable to breathe, with violent foaming waters dragging me beneath the surface, made me realise the strength of character needed to remain calm and responsive under pressure. The rafting experience was equal parts amazing and terrifying. Never have I felt so aware of my body, my fragility, nor my mortality. If you find yourself in Uganda raring for adventure, I fully recommend the (awesome) Raft Africa crew; the day was thoroughly organised, safe, professional, and worth the money.
I had the adventure of a lifetime doing wild chimpanzee trekking through Kibale National Forest, a wildlife conservation park. Uganda is known for its gorilla trekking (or tracking), in Bwindi National Park. But gorilla trekking can be extremely expensive, as well as seasonal. Kibale National Forest offers chimpanzee trekking as a popular and cheap alternative, as well as bird-watching. Available all year round, this experience is an incredible opportunity to witness the charming, liberating, and remarkably human lives of apes in their natural habitat.
We took a road trip from Kampala up to Kibale especially to see the chimps. At the forest, our six-man, one-woman trek group gathered in a cabin filled with all kinds of fascinating biological paraphernalia including real elephant skulls, crocodile jaws, and evolutionary charts. We were given a safety talk by a guide, who was equipped with a radio, wellington boots, and – gulp – an AK-47. The minute we entered the forest, howls and shrieks of wild chimpanzees echoed around us; leaves and branches rustled in canopies as apes bolted from tree to tree. For three amazing hours, I was able to observe these magnificent creatures live freely in the wild. I left the forest humbled, questioning what the term “humanity” really means.
I spent Valentine’s Day here at Lake Nyinabulitwa, at Nyinabulitwa Country Resort & Safari Camp. Few places on this earth are as magical, romantic, or tranquil as Nyinabulitwa is. We awoke in the morning to distant mountains and glittering blue water. From the creaky wooden veranda of our lakeside cottage, we gazed at the sun rising beyond the mountains, above the lake, and listened to the sweet songs of nature. Dragonflies and tiny birds flitted between the reeds, the soft breeze fluttered through plants and trees. Our hearts were bursting with the beauty.
We spent the afternoon amongst wild chimpanzees in Kibale National Forest, and later, watched the bright day fade to a bright night laced with glittering stars. The next day, before we left for Kampala, we took an impulsive detour to one last marvel: the Top of the World, a mountainous viewpoint overlooking three stunning crater lakes, including Nyinabulitwa. It was a wonderful decision, and a memory I return to often. To think, that in the heart of Africa, so known for its desert and its dust, places so verdant and lush could be hiding.