It is easy to see why Uganda is known as the Pearl of Africa, a surprise gem hidden, waiting to be discovered.
Often overshadowed by the more famous East African neighbour, Kenya, Uganda sometimes misses the boat when it comes to seeking an African experience. The truth is, it offers mostly everything the other African countries do, and more. You just need to know where to look.
I visited Uganda in February 2017, and peeled back the layers to find out just what a pearl of a destination it is. Knowing nothing about the country except what I had seen in the movie ‘The Last King of Scotland’, I was somewhat hesitant on what I may find.
Having travelled a fair bit of Africa, I was excited to be exploring a new destination. I was warned about safety in Uganda more than any other African country. What I found was it was just as safe as any other African country I had visited, and the hype was, well just that, hype.
First and foremost, I noticed the acceptance and curiosity of the local people. They were open and friendly and happy to offer assistance when requested. I never felt I was harassed nor unsafe when wandering along the streets, browsing at local markets or seeking a place to eat.
I made a friend in my driver, Moses, who taught me how to speak the local lingo – allowing me to practice over and over on the long drives between destinations. His patience in my persistence to speak fluently in just days is testament of the kind nature of the Ugandan people. He shared stories of his life, ambitions for his future (a chicken farm) and shared many a laugh along the way.
Then, my good friend Muhinda, who works in the Tourist Police and ensured I was well looked after when on the ground in Kampala. I am thankful for your friendship beyond the call of duty and the dancing lessons when out exploring Kampala’s night life.
To all those people on the Uganda Tourism Pearl of Africa Tourism Exchange trip for 2017, you are what made the journey so much more. Laughs through the chaos, experiences that I will never forget.
Of course, the highlight was the Gorilla Trekking through Bwindi Impenetrable Forrest. When they say impenetrable, they mean it. Six hours of it. I have never felt more exhausted in my life, climbing through dense vegetation and trying to stay upright on my feet. To experience a silverback gorilla just doing his daily thing just a few feet from me, was worth every tumble and fall on that trek.
If that wasn’t going to kill me, the white water rafting down the Nile River nearly did. Not one to do things in halves, I experienced the grade 5 rapids outside the safety of the boat, after being thrown overboard and forced to tuck up and hope for the best as I was pulled down the middle of the worst rapids. Lived to tell the tale though.
Despite returning from Uganda with an extremely dangerous case of malaria and after time in hospital, discovering I had a second strain of malaria, I have nothing but pure experiences from Uganda. The rawness you can only get from Africa, like an animal in the wild, I returned to live another day.
If you want to read more about my adventures in Uganda, please see the below published articles. While I was hosted by Uganda Tourism Board, they have not approved nor edited any of these articles and all words are my own.