Through working with Mahlatini Luxury Travel I was finally presented with the opportunity to visit and I jumped at the chance.
Upon arrival I was hit by the expected culture shock, it was a very different place to anywhere I had previously visited but that didn’t stop me falling completely in love with this incredible country and its friendly people.
Anywhere I travelled I was always warmly welcomed, with Ugandan children smiling and waving as I passed by. The hospitality of the people really added to the experience and made my trip something truly special.
Uganda is home to the noble but critically endangered mountain gorilla and the highlight of my trip was getting to track these mysterious creatures, trudging through the dense jungle foliage of Bwindi National Park to find them. Obviously I wasn’t travelling alone, I was part of a group of people accompanied by a guide.
Tracking gorillas is no easy task as they are constantly on the move and on some occasions it can take up to seven hours of walking to find them. Luckily for me we located the gorillas after walking for an hour and a half, the walk in itself was an experience; with sweeping views of rolling green hills carpeted in thick forest.
We had been tracking a small family of six gorillas – two females, three toddlers and one silverback and when we finally found them I could hardly believe how close we were. While the adults took the weight off their feet and sat about eating, scratching and sleeping the youngsters were having the time of their lives playing in the trees before coming back down to earth to engage in a bout of wrestling, I’m not sure who won, but it was fascinating to watch. With so few mountain gorillas remaining in the world this was an incredibly moving experience and I felt so privileged to have spent an hour in their company. I’m not ashamed to say there were a few tears shed while watching them.
The money tourists pay into companies that practice cultural tours really helps the Ugandan economy, providing jobs and money for local communities. These jobs act as a barrier against non-sustainable activities, such as poaching, helping to conserve Uganda’s wildlife, with mountain gorilla numbers recently rising, and providing a better life for its people.
I was overwhelmed by their enthusiasm at greeting me, they couldn’t stop telling me how honoured they were to have me there, all I could say in reply was that the honour was really all mine.
I moved on from Bwindi, with fond memories in tow, to Queen Elizabeth National Park. It was a shock to the system after being encapsulated in dense jungle to suddenly find myself in typical African savannah. The park has a variety of flora and fauna and I had the great fortune of witnessing a rather special talent belonging to Ugandan lions. To escape the heat of the day lions at Ishasha climb trees and lay in the branches, a very rare trait among the species.
With such beautiful scenery and incredible wildlife, Uganda is the place for anyone wishing to experience something bright and new and escape the stresses of the Western World. My only regret is that I didn’t get to stay longer in a country that has so much to offer.