The Pearl of Africa

..and so onto the second and final account of my Uganda trip. The first is here.

We set off by road from Jinja to Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda’s largest national park. Inevitable window shots to follow!

Coffee is one of Uganda’s major foreign exchange earnings. These coffee beans were laid out in the sunshine. We saw quite a few of these on the road.

The route we took bypassed the horrendous traffic of Kampala but meant a lot of the roads consisted of dirt tracks. I tried not to think of what would happen if we ever broke down along one of these. How would you describe where you are?!

Roads in Uganda are rubbish, to put it mildly. Just look at this:

There were ‘temporary’ speed humps for miles, and they were within a few metres of each other – absolutely ridiculous! No sooner have you crossed one bump, there’s another waiting. Combined with pot holes, to describe this as a bumpy ride is an understatement.

They were constructing them as we drove over them, slowing things down even more

Yes, that’s a random chicken on the road.

We also came across a large group of people by the roadside who were all kneeling and crying. On closer observation, there was a boy in the road who had been knocked over, with blood scattered around.. I have never seen a dead body on a road before..

I couldn’t have taken a picture even if I’d wanted to.

Further into the journey, we came across a monkey :8)

Conveniently, we had a banana which we threw out to it.

By the time we neared the outskirts of Murchison Falls National Park, it was 8pm (it gets dark in Uganda around 7pm), and we’d been on the road for 8 hours. At the entrance we were told we were too late to enter the vicinity of the park. We had to persuade them to let us in – I mean, we were virtually in the middle of nowhere, it was pitch black, and the nearest accommodation outside of the park was an hour away in Masindi. To reassure us, the wardens also told us we were surrounded by dangerous animals. Lovely!

After some pleading, we were allowed in after paying an entrance fee (this is normal – although I was convinced they charged us more for being late, but that could be my paranoia). From here we still had an hour or so to go before reaching the accommodation.

We passed areas that were on fire. These are started purposely and are customary during the dry season.

The driver couldn’t tell us how far we were from our destination, which made us slightly worried. His estimations had been completely off for the entire journey!

After what seemed like an endless, tiresome and very bumpy ride, to our relief we finally arrived at the Red Chilli Rest Camp. I pretty much went straight to bed.

This was the first thing I saw when I woke up.

The night before I’d barely looked at the surroundings, and now I was quite impressed by this place. We were staying in a banda like the ones below:

We stayed in one that accommodated the 4 of us and it was 85,000 Ugandan shillings, which is £24, or just under $50. That’s £6 a person! Plus the hut had a lounge, bathroom and plenty of electric sockets (useful except the power cuts out at 9pm each night). More on the Red Chilli Camp later.

We had to take this ‘ferry’ to cross to the other side for the game drive and to see Murchison Falls itself. The Falls is a 43 metre-long waterfall on the Nile which flows into Lake Albert.

The game drive was fun. We saw water buffalo – they look intimidating but really they’re sissies (I think so anyway!).

At this point I got out of the jeep. This is normally frowned upon, but the ranger who was with us (every car needs a park ranger for security) didn’t seem to worried.

Unfortunately it scared the buffalo away

They stopped and turned around to face us again when they felt they were at a safe enough distance. See, sissies!

My mum took this on her camera, which I kind of like.

There were lots of these kind of deer, as well as plenty of other types:

What I’d been waiting for.. lions! I have no idea how the ranger spotted them as they were basking under a tree..

There were cubs as well

At this point I got out of the jeep (in my excitement I took no pictures!) but this time the ranger *did* have a problem with that. We were fairly close and there were actually six cubs in total and the mother was keeping a watch over them, so moving any closer was a very bad idea. I reluctantly got back into the vehicle.

I’ve seen lions in the wild before much more close up (literally coming up to the doors of the jeep), but this was equally as awe-inspiring. It just doesn’t compare to seeing these amazing animals in a zoo.

A scary-looking baboon..

We fed it some pineapple, and then some nuts. Feeding the animals is prohibited but the ranger didn’t seem to have a problem with it. The baboon sniffed the pineapple for a while before trying it. It seemed to like it! If there’s ever a lack of pineapples in Uganda due to the baboon population stealing them, I will smile smugly, knowing it was all down to me introducing the fruit to the food chain. Here’s to evolution!

We saw a number of other animals on the game drive, which lasted around 4 hours, but unfortunately didn’t spot any leopards, of which there are very few. I’d strongly recommend leaving for the game drive around 6 or 7am. This, along with early evening is the best time to view animals as they’ll be out and about and not hiding from the intense heat of the equatorial sunshine.

We left for ours around 9am (we had intended to leave much earlier though!) which was OK, but by the time it was 10am the heat had started to kick in and animals are harder to spot.

In the afternoon we took a 3 hour boat trip out onto the Nile to see the waterfall. These waters are inhabited by lots of hippos!

This is George, the guide on the boat, which carried around 25-30 people.

He was a very animated character and he was talking about the situation in Kenya here.

Baby hippo! Aww..

This poor elephant only had half a trunk

Nile crocs..

Aaaand tadaaa – Murchison Falls.

We couldn’t go any closer due to the current, but it was possible to get off the boat near some rocks to trek all the way to the top – something I’d be too scared to do. I mean sure, I’d throw myself in front of a lion, but climbing up steep slippery rocks? I wouldn’t stand a chance.

You can see some people at the top in this picture my mum took.

We saw quite a few elephants, even though there’s still a serious problem of poaching in East Africa.

This is my mum’s uncle in the 60s, showing off a kill:

Thank goodness this is now a rarer sight.

We saw lots of birds as well, including the rare shoebill stork. I have to admit, not having much knowledge of birds, I didn’t really pay attention to them.

Back at Red Chilli, the big birds of Jinja were also here!

As were these warthogs They just roam the around the campsite eating and snorting, intimidating people. Apparently they’re harmless unless they want your food.

The second night there had been a mix-up in the booking so we had to stay in one of these tents. It wasn’t a good idea to book a day before arriving! The tents were great though – they had beds in them, and were comfortable, but there were no mosquito nets, and although the shared showers/toilets weren’t bad, it was a bit of a mission getting to them after the power was cut off! We didn’t really come prepared for that, and I had to use the light on my barely charged phone to get around! Luckily I didn’t need to pee in the middle of the night. Still, it was a fun experience, and I’d highly recommend it.

Tents cost £3.50 a person. You can also pitch your own tent for £2.80! Bargain really.

The next day we were on the road again, headed back to Jinja.

There are fruit stalls like this one that litter roadsides. We stopped at it.

Those are banana plants in the background, which are a very frequent sight in Uganda.


I’m not a fan of jackfruit – I don’t really like the taste, but they seem to be very popular here. They’re very heavy though..

Mmm pineapple.. and it was so good.

While the others ate, I ventured into an area which was home to these kids.

Back in Jinja! We urged our driver to take the main route through Kampala this time. We could cope with heavy traffic, but not with pot holes and dodgy speed humps.

Amber Court used to be a hip club in the 70s which my uncle used to go to. This is what’s left of it. It’s clearly had better days..

These kids were playing in the derelict building.

I’m not sure why I converted this to black and white. I guess I haven’t really done any b/w stuff for a while now.. Colour version here.

Buildings in Jinja are not what they used to be. Amber Court is one of many buildings which have simply been neglected. Inside, parts of the roof looked like it was going to collapse. The once prestigious Ripon Falls Hotel is in a similar condition, but I won’t bore you with those pictures.

The main Hindu temple, has however remained more or less how it once was. We were told that throughout Idi Amin’s regime, the temple was locked up and was untouched.

Some people were quite paranoid of us taking pictures of buildings and confronted us about it. We later found out that many Asians had returned to Jinja after the fall of Idi Amin, and had claimed back their properties (and even ones which didn’t belong to them but which they somehow managed to claim as their own), which has made some residents afraid. Of course, we had no intention of doing this, but people were nevertheless wary.

Onto something picturesque – Bujagali Falls.

This man makes a living by performing at the Falls

A couple of videos:

The government of Uganda, with help from the World Bank, is constructing a 200-megawatt dam near the falls to tackle the power issues in Uganda. This will affect a lot of the wildlife in this area, and these falls will basically disappear, which is a shame really.At one time, Owen Falls dam used to serve as a major power supply: (shot in 1965)..but it looks rather pathetic now, with what seems like just a trickle of water coming through:

Apparently Egypt controls a lot of the water along the Nile, and this is contributing to the issue of hydro-electricity here. To make matters worse, a second dam was constructed just after Owen Falls dam so now the water has been distributed around, and there are no longer any ‘falls’ left.

A war memorial in Jinja

Sugar cane is lovelyyy.

So there we have it. As usual, thanks for reading : )

I want to go back to Africa, but for now, London calls!

Part 1 –

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