After two weeks in the south-east of the country; white-water rafting on the Nile and climbing Mount Elgon, and our self-drive safari in the north at Murchison Falls, we were back on the bus to Fort Portal to explore south-western Uganda.
Nearby Lake Nkuruba is the Bigodi Swamp where Diana, the first female guide on our trip, introduced us to many beautiful birds. Uganda is home to over 1,000 species of birds, many of which are brightly coloured and have amazing names (Cinnamon-chested bee-eater, Red-chested paradise flycatcher, Red-throated bee-eater to name a few) and both Catherine and I are really getting into our bird-watching on this trip.
It was very easy getting back to Fort Portal as it seems any car here doubles as a shared taxi to earn a little extra money, and we used the lovely ‘YES’ hostel as our base to further explore the area. ‘YES’ stands for Youth Empowerment Services and money from the hostel is used for a number of charitable projects.
We hopped on a boda – boda for the 8 km ride to Lake Kyaninga, a beautiful and large crater lake. We walked around the crater rim for 90 minutes and found a path down to the water where we could enjoy our picnic and have a refreshing swim.
The next morning we headed for Karagutu, 45 minutes from Fort Portal in a 14-seater taxi, and enjoyed a lovely trek in the Rwenzori Mountains. We had seen a poster in Kampala for a hostel in the area and the hostel owner, Daniel, was our brilliant guide for the day. We headed up the mountain and would have had the most amazing view across the Semliki river and into the DRC had it been clear. Nevertheless, we could see the winding river and thick forest and it was a very enjoyable day trekking and chatting with Daniel.
We continued south to Lake Bunyoni – encircled by steep terraced hills and dotted with 29 islands, it’s a beautiful spot to hang out at for a few days and great for a swim.
The lake also has some lovely community-run accommodation. We camped first at Edirisa, with their wonderful tree-house, and then at Byoona Amagra on Itambira island. It takes around an hour in a dugout canoe to get across to the island but be prepared to paddle! If you don’t fancy the sometimes wobbly free canoe, you can take a boat for $8.
Both hostels had a nice campsite and good facilities, including lovely outdoor showers. Edirisa lets you use their dugout canoes for free should you fancy a paddle while Byoona has a little jetty you can swim off. We also got very excited when we saw otters here! Byoona serves the tastier food but the African tea at both is delicious. Weather wise, it was often very cloudy in the morning before clearing into a lovely afternoon and we enjoyed a few delicious sunset beers.