Mabamba Bay Wetland.

Uganda is a beautiful bird watcher’s paradise. According to the birduganda website, there are over 1,061 recorded bird species in the country, which is an amazing number.

Cormorants, egrets and kingfishers all relaxing on this branch.

Mabamba Bay and wetland is one of the best places to enjoy viewing over 200 species of Uganda’s birdlife. It is a vast swamp located on the edge of Lake Victoria, just north (about 40 km) of Entebbe. Because of the presence of key species such as the Shoebill Stork, papyrus warbler and the Sitatunga (which is an aquatic antelope) among many others, the swamp is a designated Ramsar Wetland Site of international importance to ensure the conservation, safeguarding and sustainable use of the wetland and the flora and fauna found there.

“Six little ducks went swimming one day…”

Mabamba Bay derives its name from the heavy presence of lungfish in the wetland. “Mabamba” is Luganda for lungfish.

It is also the best place to spot the very shy Shoebill Stork. The papyrus and long spear grass are the perfect hideaway for this bird that is so hard to spot, as well as the abundant lungfish which it loves to feed on. Known as “BBulwe” locally, this fascinating bird is not the most beautiful creature in the world but it has its attractions. It has a huge bill (see image below) hence its name. It can grow to up to five feet tall, breed once every five years and it can stand and stare for very very long, which comes in handy when aiming for their prey. How’s that for patience?

The Shoe bill Stork sure does give off ‘Jurassic park’ bird vibes right?

The Mabamba wetland is also home to other species. We spotted yellow billed ducks, purple herons, long tailed lapwings, one palm nut vulture, blue crested bee eaters, lots of egrets and cormorants, pied kingfisher and malachite kingfishers, African marsh harriers, common wood sandpiper, swamp fly catcher, weaver birds, winding cisticola, swallows and African jacana. We were also lucky to spot an otter or two and hear a monitor lizard moving around.

Did you know the African Jacana bird is also called ” The Jesus bird” because it can walk on water?

Just an egret minding its own business.

Some of the flora found there is the long spear grass, papyrus, water cabbage, ferns, and water lilies.

A perfect purple lily in its natural setting. The scent is amazing; gentle, fresh and not overpowering.

Mabamba Bay is accessible from both Kampala (by road) and Entebbe by boat. We drove from Kampala and the road was not so bad, though it had rained earlier that morning. You can access the bay without a 4X4 vehicle, the road is not tarmacked all the way but is navigable. Use your Google maps as there aren’t many signposts along the way so you might miss it if you’re driving yourself.

Our outing was a perfect coincidence as my daughter is currently learning about different habitats and life systems in her science class, so it was so much more informative for her to see and experience the wetland up close.

Egret in flight.

What do you need to get there? If on a day trip, carry sandwiches or a cold lunch, snacks, lots of water and fruit. The boat ride is about two hours long and you can carry some snacks on board. You can also decide to book a night in a nearby hotel and set off to the bay in the early morning which is the best time to sight the birds as they hunt/ feed.

A lone yellow billed duck.

Carry a large brimmed hat, as the sun can get glaring, put on sunscreen and sunglasses and please do not forget your binoculars. The guides are knowledgeable and take their time to point out the flora and fauna, let you take pictures at your pace, and also answered the kids. I always like taking note of that.

Can you spot the pied kingfisher?

They had sanitisers and wore masks, so Covid 19 safety protocols are maintained. However, the sanitation situation (the toilets) are pathetic. Really Really bad, that is something that should be worked on.

Can you spot the palm nut vulture behind the egret?

I didn’t take many photos as I was too busying enjoying spotting and watching the birds. It was amazing sitting silently watching the birds up close in all their colourful wonder. This is definitely in the top 10 of the things to do in Uganda.

Can you spot the Jacana?

I really enjoyed my day there, and the kids did too. It is always amazing to watch nature in its element; the beauty, the variety and how species adapt to their habitat.

Weekend Recap: Uganda Reptile Village, Entebbe.

It has been a while since I posted about being out and about. Now that a few places are slowly opening up, we can move around a bit more. Which is great for the kids; being cooped up in the compound is not a very pleasant experience.

The Uganda Reptiles Village is a community based organisation located in Entebbe, committed to the rescue, conservation, and releasing back to the wild, different reptile species from all around the area. It is also an information centre to learn more about different reptiles. It is not hard to get to, about 2-3 kms off the main road, and is open daily.

Their entrance fees are 8 and 5 dollars respectively for adults and kids. Some may think it is a bit pricey but given that it’s a community based initiative, it is ok as the money is being utilised by those around, and assists in conservation of these species that may have been killed by humans too.

It is definitely worth a visit when one is in the vicinity. Where else would you be able to see the Nile monitor lizard side by side a couple of young Nile crocodiles, an old leopard tortoise and a black tortoise (which my son thought was shaped like a spaceship), and various snakes from the lethal Gabon Viper, boomslang, the deadly Jameson Mamba, and forest and Egyptian cobra?

A Forest cobra. Very elusive, rarely bites but it’s venom is both neurotoxic and cytotoxic. Likes dense bushy places.
Gaboon viper. I couldn’t get a clearer picture. But look how huge it is. It is the heaviest snake in Africa. Has the longest fangs and is venomous. It is also unique as it gives birth to live young, like humans!
This Egyptian cobra had its hood up when it sensed our movement. Also venomous.
A couple of crocodiles basking in the afternoon sun.
The Nile Monitor Lizard. Large, powerful and stout and very good climbers, don’t be surprised if you see one on top of a tree. It is listed as a threatened species.

The reptile village is not a very big place so it might not take you more than an hour to get around, and you can hold a tortoise, a chameleon and a snake if you want.

This black tortoise has sharper claws and can bite when provoked. My son said it’s shaped like a spaceship. 😅
This leopard tortoise is said to be more than one hundred years old!

There is a playground for the kids, and one can take short boat rides to watch tens of different beautiful bird species in the area, but this is not possible at the moment due to the rising lake levels that have submerged some of these areas.

All in all, it was a nice informative visit. The kids and I learnt so much, our guide Lawrence was very knowledgeable and answered our questions with patience too.

It is definitely worth a visit for kids and adults alike.

What I love about Uganda.

In no particular order here we go:-

It is a beautiful country. It’s lushness and fertile soils never fail to take my breath away. Whether it is the green rolling hills, the vast banana plantations, the delicious pineapples, the dark forests filled with indigenous trees and wildlife, and the sight of Nam Lolwe (Lake Victoria), the majestic Murchison falls, All of it.

Garuga Beach

Fun Fact: Did you know Uganda has the potential to feed over 200 million people; if this was taken up seriously, it could feed the whole of sub- Saharan Africa! Yep, it is that fertile. Also, It rains here 9 out of 12 months of the year.

Beautiful Ugandan sunset
Tall trees, blue skies and lush greenery.

Ugandans are very friendly and helpful. I have gotten lost a few times and never been misled or taken advantage of. They are not perfect, I mean we have had a few distasteful experiences; but overall, you feel welcomed here. Very polite. They take time to greet you properly, a simple ‘hi’ will not suffice folks, it is a proper ‘good morning, good afternoon, good evening’.

You know the saying “There is no hurry in Africa” I believe it was coined by someone who lived in Uganda. I do not mean it in a derogatory way, but folks here and life in general is more chilled out than back home. This takes some getting used to, but i think I’ve adapted to it quite well. LOL. Also there is the usual time and ‘Ugandan time,’ it takes some getting used to to arrive on time and wait for others to arrive because you did not specify whether it was exactly 1pm or Ugandan 1 pm. Ugandans also love having fun and parties last really long. Nobody can out party a Ugandan in Eastern Africa!

When driving in the city here on a busy day; it is noisy, crazy, crowded, lots of hustle and bustle, a full sensory assault that still cannot be compared to downtown Nairobi. Back home, you could have the matatu touts banging the side of your car in traffic, shouting and urging you to move inches closer to the car around you. Here traffic is crazy, but no banging and shouting, lots of hooting yes, crazy motorcyclists, yes. But no shouting and banging! Interesting difference right?

You also have to be patient here. Do not be surprised if the person serving you suddenly pauses to engage another client while you’re still there. Oooh and that supermarket cashier taking her sweet time serving you super slowly as she chews gum and chats with her colleagues? Do not even bother asking for the manager, you will be told ‘he’s out for lunch’, even if he or she is right there. Or woe unto you if you end up staying at a hotel where the breakfast buffet food is suddenly finished and the chef cannot be bothered to make sausages or eggs as ‘he’s not in the mood’. Hahahahaha!

The language. Ugandan English,(Uglish) is very interesting. E.g when making ugali, do not be surprised to hear someone say they are ‘mingling the posho’, which is the local name for ugali. And when someone wants to tell you to move over, do not be surprised if they tell you to ‘extend’. Potatoes are called ‘Irish’ and public transport minivans are referred to as ‘taxis’. a real taxi is refereed to as ‘a for hire‘. And when you order tea, there is ‘African tea, or ‘mixed tea’, you have to specify if you want it to come with milk or not. There are even whole facebook pages dedicated to the Uglish language filled with hilarious examples.

Driving in Uganda is quite adventurous; from potholes, to motorbikes too close to you, to the drivers who do not use their turn signals. The other day, someone was in front of me indicating left to turn onto the road home, but he was not moving, I hooted twice before overtaking to find out he was on phone the whole time and was not even turning in the direction indicated! Dude couldn’t even bother to park on the side of the road. Once you are behind your steering wheel you have to be on full alert! The person in front of you may decide to stop or take a sudden turn without indicating, and a motorbike is speeding to overtake both of you and the driver behind you is hooting impatiently wondering why you just won’t drive, add to that the pedestrian walking on the road with their earphones on! Men! always be en garde.

When shopping, take your time to select what you want, nobody will rush you. And do not be surprised when helped to carry stuff out when done. This has taken a lot of getting used to on my part as back home you always feel like the shop assistant wants you to select what you want and leave; I never quite understood why I would be a bother when I am the client. *shrugs*

I like the fact that there are many supermarkets. Interestingly enough in this lockdown time, I have found the smaller supermarkets well, even better stocked, and with as much variety as the bigger chains. Also the price difference is negligible in most cases.

Ah! The food! Do you love pork? Ugandans make a mean pork bbq that is unrivalled. There is a way they prepare it that is not fatty, it is tender, smoky but not dry; I do not know how it is done but it is some of the best pork I have ever had. They make a mean cup of ginger tea too, and their coffee is among the best you will ever taste as a coffee lover. Their pineapples are the best in the world, you can take that to the bank folks! Their trademark matooke in groundnut sauce, the smoked fish luwombo, mmmh, the world famous Rolex. Not the watch, but the chapati egg roll that does not taste the same when you attempt to recreate it. You need to try it from a proper Ugandan ‘kafunda’ (that is, roadside food stall). The kabalagala, a cassava flour banana pancake, the plantains, the fresh fish from the lake, the ‘muchomo’ (bbq meat skewers), Ugandan cuisine is a complete foodies paradise.

This is not exhaustive folks. There is a lot to do and experience here, but obviously with the current pandemic we can’t move around much. Uganda is indeed the Pearl Of Africa; friendly people, fertile soils, rich in its natural beauty, cultural diversity and even the peculiarities. This is a place that has to be experienced at its pace, after all, there is no hurry in Africa right?

Weekend Recap: Visit to Entebbe Botanical Gardens.

The Entebbe Botanical Gardens are a 40 hectare big and fun way to experience the jungle without having to go to the forest.

It is a vast, beautiful ground full of tall trees, vast birdlife, plants species that are both indigenous and exotic and monkeys too!

Pros: It is beautiful, quiet, vast; so many places one can hide away. You can have a picnic, photoshoot and even wedding receptions. It is right on the shores of Lake Nam Lolwe (aka Lake Victoria), abundant plants and shrubs of medicinal value and nice springs flowing through some sections. It is safe; folks just minding their own business. There is lots of space for kids to run around and kick a ball or play hide and seek, you can also walk your dogs there. You can choose to drive around or walk around.

Cons: Not well kept. There were absolutely no dustbins-so there was littering in some sections. No signage on the paths. No usable ablution blocks.

This spring flows from underground to the lake. Peaceful and calming.

Fun fact: Some backdrop scenes from the 1955 Tarzan movie “Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle” were shot in these gardens! Yep!Look it up.

Look at the size of this African Grape tree!

It was not very busy when we visited, maybe as we are still coming out of lockdown here. Entrance charges came to 10,000UGX for two adults, two kids (less than 3 dollars)! Which is pretty affordable.

You can walk or drive slowly around the place. There are plenty of choice spots you can pick to park, stretch your picnic blanket and enjoy your lunch before or after exploring the place a bit. I do not know if they allow cyclists as there was no signage but it would be worth looking into.

There are also some small bandas with benches one can sit on but they are not clean or well maintained.

A bush candle tree, I think.
The weather was also perfect for a walk in the gardens.
There was a private photoshoot down this path so we didn’t go down there. It would make a perfect scene for a movie set in the jungle.
It would be nice to have some signage on the paths.
There were some dogs chasing a squirrel. Kids found this so exciting. The monkeys were quite shy though, I didn’t manage to get some clear photos.
So serene.

We were not able to explore the whole place well, so will definitely be back.

The gardens are a must visit in Entebbe, and I really hope they make more effort in maintaining the beauty and cleanliness of the place.

Flashback Friday.

Kampala and Uganda as a whole is not short of places to visit and have fun for both kids and adults.

Since we cannot move much at this time, here is a flashback Friday post of some of the places we have been so far. Not many but worth a visit.

For breakfast and brunch options, there are many restaurants to choose from and the best thing is food is not expensive here. The portions are also hearty at some places (Cafe Javas to be specific). I have never been able to finish a complete meal and they have great food and service.

Holy Crêpe is another great option for breakfast and brunch. Though portions are not as generous as CJ’s. It’s a nice option when you want to have a quiet chat with a friend or enjoy your coffee in a laid back environment.

Caffeserrie found at Acacia Mall is another place with great vibes and the food is also delicious and fresh. I really wish I had a photo of their blueberry cheese cake it is yummy!

Lunch options are endless, from the roadside kiosks called “Kafunda” to little hole in the wall joints that offer both traditional Uganda food as well as fast food options. Spectrum Restaurant is a must try in Kampala! From Matoke, Fish Luwombo, Chicken tikka curry, meatballs stew, beans and peas, traditional green vegetables, their roasted pork and goat; their buffet options are sight to behold and partake. Wear loose fitting clothes when you go there; your tummy will be grateful.

The Copper Chimney Restaurant is another great place to enjoy your naan bread and curry in a beautiful atmosphere – that is if you are lucky to be sitted facing the cricket pavilion, with a lovely breeze to boot. If you’re with the kids order the mixed grill meats platter and butter naan and let them enjoy! I’m getting hungry thinking about this!

Pizza and cocktails on your mind? Caffe Roma is the place. Don’t want to cook? Caffe Roma will come to your rescue. Their chicken pollo is one of their best selling pizza and worth a try with generous toppings.

Want to swim then take a walk and have a meal facing Lake Victoria? The Munyonyo Commonwealth resort is a must visit.

Take a stroll around the grounds and enjoy the sunset over the lake.
You can enjoy traditional dances from across Uganda performed at Munyonyo on some Sundays.

You can also take a drive to Entebbe and visit the Entebbe zoo. They also have a play area for kids and a small restaurant you can order meals from. The zoo also has a botanical garden and it was interesting to learn of trees and plants that can heal or help with easing epilepsy symptoms, dysentery, malaria, even STIS and fibroids and many more. They also sell seedlings of the herbs and some of the indigenous trees.

Don’t forget to say hey to the Chimps at the zoo; if you’re lucky you may find them trying to NOT share pineapples with each other which is quite a sight.

Craving some charcoal grilled fish or more pizza as you enjoy the lakeside breeze? You must try Goretti’s Beachside Pizzeria. But please note, you must book ahead and they do not accept card payments; cash is king. It is a must visit when in Entebbe. Period.

Can you finish that? Goretti’s makes the drive to Entebbe worth it.
You cannot access the beach from Goretti’s this is as close as you can get but still awesome!
This is Garuga Beach between Entebbe and Kampala. A hidden resort that is a great picnic site too.

I am now missing all this…