Star Date:  May 2010
Southwestern Uganda: Queen Elizabeth National Park & South


Hello Dear Family & Friends!


 "Webale Kwija!"

(Welcome.  Ba Kiga tribe - Lake Bunyonyi)




"Meeting the gaze of a giraffe or lion in the wild is looking into the essence of primal Nature itself.  Our eyes then souls met as time stood still; glimpsing the wisdom of the ages for an instant, linking past and present.  A place where everything is as it should be, illusion melting into clarity."

(Nancy Gill, from the wilds of Central Africa 2010.) 


The majestic, snow covered peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains to the north of Bwindi, were known to the ancient Greeks as the 'Mountains of the Moon'.  In 150 AD Ptolemy, Greek philosopher and geographer claimed that they were the snowy source of the Nile River.  Over the centuries the idea of tropical snow faded into mythology until 1889 when Henry Stanley emerged from Central Africa and announced that these snow covered peaks did in fact exist.  Rising from the Rift Valley floor to elevations of 5,109 m. these, the tallest mountain range in Africa, are exceeded in height only by freestanding Mt. Kilimanjaro & Mt. Kenya.  Before Uganda's political turmoil the Rwenzoris were more often climbed than even Kilimanjaro.


In Uganda, tribal 'Kanakas' or kings ruled over their kingdoms for centuries, until banned by modern politicians for several decades.  The ban lifted and feeling that modern politics haven't served them well, Bantu speaking kingdoms of this southern region, the Butganda, Bunyoro, Ankole and Toro tribes once again turn to their figurehead 'Kanakas' for advice.  People are also remembering their connections with Mother Nature as modern business-minded churches emphasize donations as a necessary step to Salvation!  Why does God need so much money? The remote Rwenzori foothills are home also to the hardy Bakonjo tribe who have hunting shrines in the forests dedicated to their one eyed, one armed, one legged pipe smoking god, Kalisa.  What's the answer?  Old ways or new?  Allow each their own.

Queen Elizabeth National Park, formed in 1952 is one of Uganda's oldest parks.  It is home to 85 species of mammals and 612 species of birds, 6th highest of any park on the planet.  Mweya Peninsula offers stunning views from the Visitors Center of the wide Kazinga Channel, with the backdrop of the snow peaked Rwenzori 'Mountains of the Moon'.  On the other side, the view of the water's edge from Mweya Lodge reveals large herds of mammoth elephants and buffaloes, undisturbed by the throngs of bobbing hippos, lazily sunning and having a drink.  Teams of exotic waterfowl strut along the shore, often hitching a ride on the back of a large grazing animal.  Crocodiles have only recently returned to Kazinga Channel, having disappeared for 8,000 years when toxic ash from active volcanoes chased them from Lake Edward.  Seen smiling, open mouthed (how they regulate their body temperature) along the shore, they are definitely back and happy to see how many guests 'join' them for dinner.  Lake Edward and Lake George are joined by the 36km Kazinga Channel.  A 3 hour launch trip down the channel provides an up close look at the abundant wildlife lining the shore.  Nature declares a sort of truce amongst animals as they drink, coexisting peacefully for the time being.  The quiet is broken occasionally as a snarling male hippo, capable of biting a human or adult crocodile in half with one snap of his jaws, thrashes in the calm waters.  Small gangs of 'loser' buffaloes, those who lost their females during mating, grouch at those around them, passing on their bad mood.

We broke from tradition and stayed in luxurious Mweya Safari Lodge for 2 nights, thanks to the generosity of Renier, the cordial and helpful general manager.  So impressed by the view from their lanai, we decided to cover "how the other half lives" in our tales of Queen Elizabeth NP.  Staying in the park is a great option, just remember you are in a savannah with wild animals all around.  Venturing too far at night might be your final endeavor.  Not fun to find out that you have been featured on this evening's menu!

We walked down to the boat from the lodge and after our cruise cut through the brush back up to the main road; completely oblivious to our surroundings.  Sometimes being immersed in life on the African savannah is surreal and we get too relaxed.  This is serious wild country.  The point was driven home to us as we headed out in the Parks truck for a game drive towards Kasenyi, at daybreak the next morning.  First we heard the spine chilling roars, then came face to face with three enormous male lions, only 1 minute from the lodge.  They stared us down as we quietly pulled off the road to observe.  Awe struck, we could smell them as they sauntered by within 2 feet.  Roaring they gave us a parting glance before heading back into the brush, the same place we had walked through less than 12 hours earlier!  The worker hitching a ride in the open back of our truck breathed a sigh of relief.  Survival out here requires a healthy respect for Nature.

Riding through the back roads of the park we were able to see many buffaloes, grazing kob, and a lion pride in the distance.  Mom lion was going crazy trying to keep all the young ones in order.  Jumping, tumbling and leaping it was a hopeless cause.  Game drives may offer up close views of leopards, elephants, buffalo, warthogs, rarely chimpanzees plus 8 other primates, and endless types of deer whetting the appetites of the large cats.  Katwe explosion craters left behind a series of fascinating crater lakes, some fresh, some sulfur, some salty; home to local salt gathering fields and migrating flamingos.  The views from the crater lakes are lovely with the mountains as a backdrop.  Not able to go off road is good for the animals but bad for viewing.   This compounded with the slaughter of animals during Uganda's tumultuous military rule, mainly elephants for their ivory tusks (over 200 pounds per tusk) has left the wildlife here struggling to once again build numbers in their herds.  As the numbers recover we were told funny tales by Janet, our guide, of a cheeky elephant breaking through the thatching on her hut to eat 2 small fish she had fried for dinner.  One interesting phenomenon we witnessed were herds of elephants, all with small tusks.  Seems this defect spared their lives during the butchery and so they rule the savannah.  No short tusk jokes amongst the animal kingdom here.  We found the QE Park and Mweya Lodge personnel extremely friendly and welcoming.  Don't expect great numbers of animals in this reserve, but the overall experience is worth making the trip to the Queen's namesake.

On our drive from Queen Elizabeth National Park near Katunguru to Kihihi we witnessed a magic show of Nature.  As we bumped along the dirt road we saw millions of butterflies for miles.  Blue, green, black, white, yellow, orange; a kaleidoscope with every combination of these colors.  We were going so slowly that I would put my hand out the window and several of the little beauties would land on my arm.  I became really present, noticing bright wild flowers of matching colors and began picking an imaginary gypsy bouquet as we crawled along.  We passed through the grassy Ishasha region, home to the unique tree climbing lions.  Hey, we used to have a dear, small Benji type terrier, "Simba", who would climb 20 feet up into the Kukui trees surrounding our home in the forest of S. Kona, Hawaii.  Maybe the view is just better from up there!

It was all up hill from here.  Accessing  Bwindi Impenetrable Forest through these rough back roads was a challenge and a real adventure.  The scenery alone is spectacular at every turn.  Hitching the final leg up the mountains to Buhoma with a chef from one of the fancy lodges returning home from town with supplies, found us arriving at our goal just before dark.  Nkoringo, in the south of the park also has good tracking, but there are no reasonable places to stay.  Although outrageously expensive, our up close encounter with Mountain Gorillas, as described last month, was one of those 'once in a lifetime' experiences to relish the rest of our days.

Buhoma is a lush interesting mountainous destination even if you decide not to splurge on gorilla tracking Buhoma Village Walk is an interesting activity to check out. (The day Before your gorilla trek.  Gets those legs and joints lubricated for the next day).  It provides a good look at village life around tiny Buhoma with stops at schools, a handicraft shop, banana plantations where they brew the local banana 'hooch', medicinal healing with herbs, and a visit, complete with singing and dancing, in the local Batwa Pygmy Village.  This easy walking tour guarantees all money goes back to the village people.  Twenty percent of all proceeds from the UWA's Gorilla tracking is also supposed to go to the villagers living within the park boundaries, as their way of life has changed in favor of ecotourism and conservation of the endangered mountain gorillas.  With awful roads and no electricity we found this hard to believe. 

We heard drumming about 5 pm one afternoon near the park entrance and followed the beat down to a little stage full of lively orphans performing local dances.  They put their heart and soul into their work and it was one of the best performances we have seen - what they lacked in glitz they made up for in excitement.  The only ones there, the group was easily spurred on by our joining in with clapping and dancing in the sidelines.  Our smiles were returned exponentially!

Hitching a ride back down the mountain we spent hours surrounded by stunning scenery as we navigated the bumpy dirt roads towards the highway to Kibale.  Life is relative.  After 10 days of roughing it, we were thrilled by the simplest amenities: paved roads, electricity, internet, a much needed ATM, and snacks at an Indian run store.  Heck, we were even excited to see some backpackers at the funky House of Edirisa.  Luring our new Irish friend and serious traveler, Yvonne, out of the noise of Edirisa to our place next door, we found out about Wilson's dream island in Lake BunyonyiLake Bunyonyi (place of many little birds) is hands down one of the most beautiful lakes in the whole country.  Surrounded by green terraces, the 29 island gems are covered by a blanket of mist in the mornings.  The lake should first be appreciated from one of the many viewpoints above.  Stay in Nature, on your own Island!  A forester by trade and a  wonderful progressive guy, it took Wilson 10 years to buy all the parcels of clear cut land on his island and replant trees.  Fifteen years later he harvested some of the trees and fashioned 5 cabins from mostly natural materials.  Still rustic, he is busily improving and upgrading his camp and guesthouse as we speak.  Beautiful views, wind through the pines, lapping waves, and total serenity surrounded us for 4 days and 3 nights.  We cooked Easter dinner over the coals, sharing with the helpful staff, Moses & Sam (and 2 of his 3 wives and 4 of his 11 children).  Joseph walked around with Wilson giving him sought after business advice for his newly named "Island Paradise Campsites and Guesthouse".  Wilson surprised us when local villagers paddled over in boats to dance and sing for us.  We ended our relaxing stay with a quiet night around a roaring campfire, under the brilliant blanket of stars.

Kisoro isn't a place to pass through, but rather a place to seek out.  They say Swahili was born in Kenya, grew up in Tanzania and died in Uganda.  Going even further into this remote corner of Uganda we heard mainly local dialects.  The only road to this out of the way place, bumpy but breathtaking from Bunyonyi to Kisoro, is a treat to the eyes.  Nicknamed the "Swiss Alps of Africa", the surrounding scenery with verdant volcano peaks and terraced farmland is brilliant.  Just head out in any direction for a pleasant stroll through the surrounding countryside.  There are striking volcano peaks, hiding gorillas and other wildlife, looming from the Congo, Rwanda and S. Uganda.  The town, in total disarray would make the Swiss organizers have a total meltdown, but then again Switzerland would have a hard time rivaling the colorful Monday and Thursday regional farmers market.  Tongue in cheek our bus arrived 4 hours late in true Swiss efficiency, taking us through the volcano peaks into Rwanda.  We bid a fond adieu, after 3 months to Uganda, a true Pearl of Africa.  

And so it goes.........................................Next month join in the healing process of Rwanda, 15 years following the genocide that killed over 1 million Tutsi's in 100 days.  Mankind, unlike the animal kingdom, is capable of wiping out not only whole segments of humanity, but also total species of animals.  The animal kingdom is wondrous, with so many fascinating secrets to share.  Until our next page let's take time to connect to Nature, learning the wisdom, past and present, offered for the asking.  Thanks for sharing our webpage with all your family and friends.  Put aside the fear and get the word out what a truly amazing world we share.  Starting out with a following of 4, we were surprised when statistics were added to our website's control panel last year.  This month had 76,000 hits from over 150 countries.  Welcome everyone!  Glad you stopped by.  Thanks for keeping in touch! 




Love, Light & Laughter, 
xoxoox  Nancy & Joseph


Travel notes:

$1.00USD = 2,000 Uganda Schillings (us) 

Queen Elizabeth National Park:
Mweya Safari Lodge, high atop Mweya Peninsula has commanding views of Kazinga Channel far below.  On the floor of the Western Rift Valley, ringed by the Rwenzori Mountains, or 'Mountains of the Moon' and neighboring Congo, this lodge is a one of a kind place surrounded by the wilds of Queen Elizabeth Park.  This is the perfect place to relax and observe the wildlife and over 600 species of birds alone.  Elephants, buffaloes, and hippos graze across the channel as you sit on your balcony, swim in the cliff side pool or sample the tasty fare in the world class restaurant.

Lake Edward and Lake George are joined by the 36km Kazinga Channel.  A launch trip, put together by the UWA Park service or the Lodge, ($15 -$30 at 3pm) provides an up-close encounter with crocodiles, hippos and elephants lazing at the water's edge besides endless water birds.

Chimpanzees can be tracked, craters explored and sweeping views of the Rift Valley enjoyed in the area.  Game drives offer up close views of lions (some climbing trees), leopards, elephants, buffalo, warthogs, chimpanzees plus 8 other primates, and endless types of deer whetting the appetites of the large cats.

"Once back you can go for a swim, have a relaxing massage or work out in the Health Spa or catch up on unfinished business in the business center.  Worries of business or the outside world will be the last thing on your mind as the helpful, efficient and cordial staff help make your stay here one to remember".

Website:  Phone: +256 2260260/1
Rates:  Single ($130-$155)
       Doubles ($230-$280)
       Deluxe & Suites ($270-$840)

Excellent chef and service. Great breakfast buffet included in the room price.   Lunch entrees 8,000us to 12,000us.  Dinner buffet 40,000.  Just stopping by to have a tonic & lime (1500) and a plate of chips and salad for 3000us overlooking the beautiful views is worth it.

Park Entry: $30 foreigners/5000us locals
Vehicle: 30,000us

Lodge launch trip: $18-28(anytime)  Park $15(morning and 3pm - minimum 20 people)

Safari:  Most people have their own vehicle, park guide $20.   Plan to start your game drive early (6:30) then you can catch the launch trip at 3pm after treating yourself to a relaxing lunch at the Mweya Lodge (1-3pm).  You can even go for a swim for a small fee.  
Most game drives are in the NE of the park, Kasenyi.  You could even hire a saloon car from the village, as you are not allowed to go off road anyways.  Good for the animals, bad for viewing.  On the road to Katwe,  the explosion craters are often visited by flamingos.

Chimp tracking at Kyambura Gorge: $50 (You must hire your own transport there).

Mweya Peninsula is 420km from Kampala.  You can fly, drive or catch a bus for 20,000us, 6-8 hours.  Catch a bus headed to Kisese via Mbarara.  Stop at the channel town of Katanguru.   Hire a taxi for 30,000 one way to drop you at Mweya.  Without a car you must arrange for a driver & car in Katanguru for a game drive.  Our driver, Jeffrey, quoted 120,000us for 3 hours, in an older type car that couldn't go far on side roads.  Get the price firm before departure.  Park guide is $20.  In a regular car or truck you can't stand up to take pictures.  We saw 6 elephants and 3 lions just along the road, by luck, before the game drive.  There really isn't a lot of game in the park, so a launch trip is the better bet, unless you are up for both.  Jeffrey's phone # for a ride in to headquarters:  0773326270 

Ishasha, 100kms from the Katanguru Gate, is in the remote southern area of the park, 2 hours by back roads down from Bwindi Nat Park.  This is the home to the famous tree climbing lions but is difficult to reach, requiring a full day just to reach Ishasha from the main highway.  Don't plan on going there by connecting from your bus from Kampala.  Possibly you could make it all the way through from Kisese (1 hour south of Ft Portal) by bus early morning, dropped off at the Ishasha junction, then on to that end of the park before dark.  It is 120km from Mweya Peninsula.  Bandas (15,000us per unit) are available but call ahead as there are only a couple of units.  Mweya is more centrally located.

The informative QEP Visitor's Center is full of helpful people to work out the itinerary you wish to follow: Chimpanzee tracking, boat trips, guides for game drives, etc.   Lots of smiles and friendly faces greet you after your long trip.  Displays acquaint you with the surroundings even if the ghoulish stuffed animals have seen better days.  Again, you must arrange your own game driver before you arrive or they may help call someone from the village.

Mweya Hostel:
Behind the swish Mweya Lodge, next to the Visitor Center.  An old building with a fresh coat of paint, clean, good toilets, hot water maybe, and friendly staff.  A monopoly situation in the park occurs so a room without a bathroom is 84,000us.  It should be 25,000us.  The restaurant has a set menu from 7,000 for vegetarian to 12,000 for meat.   Some restaurant staff are helpful, others can't be bothered. (Phone #0414-373050)  A local eatery is down the road from the Shell pumps.  A school education center provides very basic digs to cut your costs. 

Some travelers choose to stay in the surrounding villages to save money (7,000-15,000us)  Plan to start your game drive early (6:30) then you can catch the launch trip in the afternoon, after a relaxing lunch at the Mweya Lodge (1-3pm).  You must check on whether the park's boat is going for sure or you can hire a special boat from the Lodge.

Kabale Backpackers & Amagara Cafe & Guesthouse; Muhumuza Rd, phone # 0772-959667.  Next to House of Edirisa and a much better option for staying.  Edirisa is a good place to hang out but they have dumpy dorms and only a couple of decent rooms that are always booked.  The double rooms at Amagara are a good value (20,000us) if the new disco nearby isn't roaring.  ASK!  If it is going full blast then opt for the dorm 'Blue Room' (sleeps 4) for 8,000pp.  If it isn't busy they will put additional people in the 'Orange Room' for privacy.  Clean, bright and new.

The restaurant sells tasty mixed vegetables and Irish potatoes for 3,500.  Ask them to make a bowl without cabbage and it is made up fresh.  Rogers, the Hotel Manager, who operates their Internet Cafe is extremely friendly & helpful.  The best internet in a long time. 

They also run an eco 'not for profit' resort on Lake Bunyonyi: Byoona Amagara. (13,000 - 30,000 per person)

Lake Bunyonyi:
(Place of many little birds) is hands down one of the most beautiful lakes in the whole country.  Surrounded by green terraces, the 29 islands are covered by a blanket of mist in the mornings.
Island Paradise Camping and Guesthouse:
Stay on your own island, surrounded by
beautiful views, wind through the pines, lapping waves, and total serenity.  Contact Wilson at # 0772541335 or email: for details.  He will pick you up in town and provide the 20 minute scenic boat ride out to his island.   Price is 15,000us to 25,000 pp.  A reasonable menu can be provided including an option for a traditional Ba Kiga tribe evening meal, singing and dancing, followed by a roaring campfire under the stars.  Help support his labor of love and say "Hi" to Wilson from us.  

Switzerland of Africa, with all the surrounding volcano peaks, but don't expect Swiss efficiency.

Great colorful market on Monday & Thursday afternoons when all the villagers come into town to sell their produce.  The central market becomes the quagmire  equivalent of Kampala's bus station - but more interesting.

Graceland Hotel, Main drag, Tele # 0772-499471.  Friendly, accommodating staff, small, clean, basic rooms with bathroom, 20,000us.  Some rooms the hot water even works - check before moving in.  Quiet in the back.  Good restaurant with veg curry, and traditional food.  A lot of the muzungus who work in town eat here.

Arthur will probably approach you at the Graceland to help you with a tour around the area.  After talking to him for 3 days we feel he is knowledgeable and would be a good, honest helper with local parks, into Rwanda or tracking gorillas in the Congo ($400 plus -ask about visa costs) email:,  phone # +256 782845088.

There is a direct bus through the border to Lake Kivu, in Rwanda, 15,000us, (Horizon) just down the street from Graceland.  Leaves at 6:30?? (ours left 4 hrs. late).



Our travel path in Uganda/Rwanda.




















 At daybreak we heard spine chilling roars, then came face to face with
three enormous male lions.  This was the same bush we had walked
through just hours earlier!


On the run!  This is serious wild country.  Survival out here requires
a healthy respect for Nature.


 The snow capped Rwenzori Mountains were known to the ancient
Greeks as the 'Mountains of the Moon'.


Small tusks saved these elephants, of Queen Elizabeth National Park,
from poachers.


Leftovers again!


A 'handsome' warthog.


Goofing around under Mom's careful eye!


An alert kob, the national animal of Uganda.


  Jeeps have been charged by annoyed elephants, so right of way is gladly given to these enormous vegetarians.

Large tusks (up to 200 lbs each) from days gone by.


Relaxing in the cliff side pool at Mweya Lodge.


Down below, the wildlife were enjoying a swim and a drink too.


Mom & baby hippo along the Kazinga Channel. 


A small group of 'loser' buffaloes.  They may have lost in the herd's
fight for females, but at least they still have each other & an occasional
bird to commiserate with.


Catching the breeze and watching wildlife from the roof of the launch.
This remarkable young woman found this neglected, sick baby in the
bushes in Entebbe and is waiting for the paperwork to be completed
before offering him a home with her in Denmark.

The epitome of happiness!  This young man has been to Africa 4 times
with his Mom and is thrilled with each moment.  What would it take to
 put our complaints aside and return to that space of excitement and joy?!

Fish eagles scouting for a fish dinner.


A stately heron checking the mud for a bug for desert.


Catching the fish in the nets is the first step.  The women on shore
then sort and/or clean them. 


A proud fisherman gladly poses in his hand carved wooden canoe.


Pretty yellow weaver birds choose s single tree to create an apartment
complex, with hundreds of nests swaying in the breeze.  When they
make too many nests the tree eventually dies.


Banded mongooses sneak into the restaurant
looking for a handout.


Flamingos are silhouetted as they feed in the salt ponds of
Katwe explosion craters. 


Magical Lake Bunyonyi.


Jewel of the lotus or Nile.


Paddling to town.


A group of local women paddled over to the island and shared their
lively traditional songs, drumming and dancing.


We had fun clapping and moving to the drum beat while the
ladies danced up a storm.


The guys went out and caught crayfish in the lake which they shelled
and Yvonne sautéed.  We fixed fresh beans with tomato sauce and a
big pot of Indian curry with rice & papads to share with everyone.


Bon apetit and Happy Easter!  Yvonne, from Ireland, Nancy, Joseph
behind the camera as usual and Wilson, the man with a dream,
who has built this resort literally from the ground
 up, planting the trees for the buildings that is.


Sam, a local herbalist who helps on the island.  A busy guy, Sam has
3 wives and 11 kids (we met 2 wives and 4 kids while preparing dinner
over the fire).  We hope future generations have less children. 
Mother Earth is groaning under the weight.


Impressive volcanoes surrounding Kisoro.


Stunning, fertile countryside.  We never have a problem finding
fresh vegetables for our salads and meals at the local markets


Busily working the fields, happily might I add! 


The more remote one gets the more startled the young kids are to
see a 'muzungu' walking by.  (Still lots of use left in older
sister's t-shirt).


Hanging around!  We swear that every 'kanga' or cloth wrap
sold has a free baby attached to it!  Every woman has a baby in
tow!  Uganda encourages large families and their economy and
environment are suffering.


Home from the market.  It is common to see a woman with a
baby on her back, a 40 pound jug of water balanced on her
 head and carrying large parcels from the market.  So strong! 
Toddlers run alongside
trying to keep up.  Older children just
fend for themselves and take care of younger siblings.




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