Uganda – Magical and Wild

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This blog is about food and travel.  I started it because I wanted to talk about both – travel has been the one of the greatest influences in my home cooking – next to mom.  Our last trip was to Uganda.  The food in Uganda didn’t make it into this blog.   We went to go on a safari – we went to see birds and gorillas and the wild beauty that Africa offers.  We had hoped that the food would be an adventure as well, but Uganda’s staple is green mashed unsweetened banana used as a base for some very bland stews. We tried several dishes but other than Kimmy’s Cabbage (you can find this recipe on this blog) this trip was not in any way a gastronomic experience.  But that’s enough of that – onto our adventure!

Our safari was organized by Rachel Thompson of Wild Frontiers located in Entebbe.  She took our dreams of the perfect safari and made them come true.  We love to bird watch.  That means that we plan many of our trips around hiking and finding some of the world’s most beautiful birds.  Africa has an extraordinary collection of the most amazing birds…I mean, really wonderful.

Rachel at Wild Frontier took our safari to another level when she provided us with our guide, Martin Okot.  Martin was not only a premier birder and guide, he had a love for his country and community that was inspiring.  He was a passionate teacher and we benefitted greatly from being with him for the entire trip.  We spent many an hour, every day, with Martin and I’m not sure who was more excited about what we would find – him or us!  We kept a list of the birds we saw and by the end of the trip our list contained over 300 birds.  I mean, it was mindboggling!

We spent 12 days traveling through the country.  We started our trip in Lake Mburo National Park.  We stayed in the Mihingo Lodge located right in the park. Birds, zebras, warthogs and chimpanzees were all there to start the magic!  Mihingo is set on top of a granite cliffs called rocky Kopje.  As a result of its location you are able to look out over the savannah.  This is where we found Kimmy’s Cabbage (which is posted on this site) a true delight and a gift from the owners of Mihingo.

Our next stop was the Kibale Forest and Ndali Lodge. The lodge itself sits between two crater lakes, so the drive up to the lodge is spectacular.  This is the first time that we entered into a rainforest.  Here we saw an incredible array of birds, more chimps and monkeys. The lodge is an old tea plantation dating back to the 1920’s. The rooms look out over the Rwenzori Mountains with these crater lakes in-between.

We then traveled to the Queen Elizabeth National Park located on the western arm of the Great Riff Valley.  Here is where we saw our first elephant – oh yes, the elephants.  They are large and graceful.  We were lucky enough to take a boat trip on Lake Albert and we saw an accumulation of animals like I have never seen before. Hippos and cape buffalos wallowing all together and a spit of shore that had thousands of birds.

While still in Queen Elizabeth National Park, we drove south to our next lodge, Ishasha Wilderness Camp. It felt like the wildlife was at its peak here. We went on our first lion safari and we were not disappointed. We were lucky to see not one but two leopards – leopards are rare since they are solitary.  One morning while we were at the Ishasha Camp, we left our tent to have breakfast.  While sipping our coffee, one of the camp employees came to the dining room to tell us that an elephant was walking through our camp! That’s right – a large, I mean massive, bull elephant just walking through camp.  I got my cell phone and now we are chasing an eleven-ton elephant through our camp!  Really, you can’t make it up.

Like I said in the beginning, we are explorers and we like to eat the cuisine of the places we visit – Uganda was not the place to explore food.  The food just simply wasn’t what the trip was about.   The local food consists of matooke which is like an unripe banana and lots of corn and vegetables.  We had an opportunity to try some of the local foods…

Though the options that we had for our meals where based on the lodges, there wasn’t a lack of food for the predators in Uganda. The biggest food source can be strolling the savannah and we always referred to the Kob as literally fast food for lions!

Fast food option for lions

As I mentioned, the country is full of crater lakes and as we drove through the national parks the craters feel like they stretch for miles.  It feels as though this special sight is just a small part of what makes up for the beauty. Every corner we turned, we would come across another surprise.  For instance, we walked through a swamp and we were surrounded by a field of papyrus.  There are hills covered with fields of tea and so they look like they are covered in velvet.

The last part of our trip was the hike to see the gorillas. We went to Bwinidi National Forest which is lush and fascinating. Gorillas are in only three countries of the world so the opportunity to see them could not be overlooked. This is where a picture is worth a thousand words.

All I can say about this part of the trip is that these gorillas have 98.6% shared DNA with us…you can see it. They look you in the eye and you look back. The hair on the back of your neck stands up. The experience was breath taking.

Traveling through the country was magical and we got to cruise in luxury!

Safari mode

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