Let's Celebrate Christmas In July With A Stocking Full Of Surprises – Uganda Part 6 - Kidepo National Park, Sipi Falls, Source of the Nile, Jinga

Posted in Travel / The Honey Badger Diaries

Let's Celebrate Christmas In July With A Stocking Full Of Surprises – Uganda Part 6 -  Kidepo National Park, Sipi Falls, Source of the Nile, Jinga

A monster, state of the art 18-tonne Mercedes Overlander parked next door—a charming French couple with two boys. The youngest is having a bad day. Nothing seems to be working for him. He’s grumpy and annoyed. Tears of frustration can’t be mopped up fast enough, and his Maman has sent him off to hang onto the bulbar until he feels better. When you’re six, throwing a tantrum, kicking, screaming, and hurling your weight around is okay. We all feel like that sometimes.

Today, I sympathise with him. I could throw a wobbly, too. His vexations are based on sibling rivalry, an inability to express himself, and his physical proficiencies let him down. Mine are a little more complex – I slip on my rose-tinted glasses, and immediately, the blues drift lazily to the back of my mind.

The title of this blog indicates how far behind I am with my scribblings. But fear not, for what’s to come is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be shared. Forewarned is forearmed. This is not just a blog. It’s a journey of anticipation and discovery that I can’t wait to share with you. 


 Kidepo National Park.

A brief history. Kidepo comes from the Dodoth verb ‘akidep,’ which means ‘to pick up. ‘Dodoth pastoralists and the Ik farmers inhabited the park before it was gazetted as a game reserve by the British colonial government in 1958.


Mount Morungole, the focal point, is located in the southern part of Kidepo National Park, a few kilometres from Apoka. Mount Morungole stands about 2,750 meters high, allowing tourists unsurpassed views to capture the park’s picturesque savannas, where herds of plains animals migrate, graze and thrive.

There are two entrance gates to Kidepo Valley National Park; we entered the south-western part of Kitgum through the Nataba gate, the main entry point to the southeastern side.

The receptionist swiftly booked us in and informed us that we were the sole visitors for the day. The promised campsite was everything we had hoped for. As the campsites are considered ‘wild’, a ranger would be on guard from sunset to sunrise daily. No amount of persuasion on our part could alter the rules, and an armed guard would arrive every evening. He would introduce himself, and we would have a few minutes to share our day’s experiences and sightings before he set up his campsite with clear instructions to keep us safe yet respect our privacy. It was a unique camping experience that added an extra layer of excitement to our adventure.

When the sky turned pink, he’d pack up well before sunrise and return to his base on foot.




Butch and I decided to visit some of Uganda’s parks for their unique beauty, the range of wildlife, fauna and flora, and most importantly, they were a lot more affordable. After our four-day Serengeti bucket list safari, we still shake our pockets and hear only a few coppers cling-clinging forlornly amongst a pinch of dry grasses (no tobacco) and dust stuck in the seams.

Buffalo, like children, love muddy puddles; our best sightings are when they wallow in these. Their surprised expressions are comical. They seem to say, “What are you staring at?” their mugs caked in mudpacks.

From our campsite on a hill, we had 360˚ views of immense herds of buffalo arriving from the north on their annual migration south. We would tire of counting them and return later to see the trickle had become a stream. Then, in a wink, the plains would be clear of them, and only a few Zebra would be lazily grazing in their wake.

The park is home to greater and lesser kudu and eland, which cannot be seen elsewhere in Uganda. Predators include cats, cheetahs, lions, and leopards. Of course, there are elephant, zebras, giraffe, warthogs, and various plains game.

The birdlife is prolific and while Butch recuperated I was able to snap a few perched in the branches around me.


Mirroring the wet day, Butch listlessly rolled over in bed on our second morning and revealed lethargically that he’d not slept a wink. He was feeling poorly. Not even my Woolies rusks were enticing. Something was gravely out of kilter, his feverishly liquid eyes conveyed.

My philosophy is to nip it in the bud, and before we could have second thoughts and pop a Panado, we decided to see the camp doctor.

In his rondavel, Dr Fred did a strip test. Butch was diagnosed with malaria. We would stay for three days, where he’d receive treatment every twelve hours. Dr Fred administered the drips himself, and when he agreed he’d done all he could and Butch was feeling better, he sent us on our way with a stern warning that a laboratory test be repeated in six days. That way, we’d know whether the malaria bacteria had been destroyed. If not, the malaria would reoccur and come back with a vengence.

As luck would have it, I was experiencing slightly similar symptoms, but the strip test showed a negative reading. All in my head, I reckoned and made a concerted effort to be a better nurse and to buck up pronto.


We woke to a tropically rainy day. While Butch slept, I enjoyed the solitude and caught up with a few chores I’d left on the back burner.



The mist lifted, and the sun tentatively put out some rays, which fell on Kuturum Lodge, nestled between the folds of the distant mountains. Built in 1971 by Danish master architect Hans Munk Hansen, the Lodge, now known as Katurum Lodge Kipedo, was the brainchild of former president Idi Amin as a meeting place for his international guests and served as his hunting lodge. He was a keen sports hunter (amongst other things).

In 1979, the Lodge was destroyed by fire and abandoned when Amin was overthrown. It fell into disrepair and was later occupied by wild animals and down-on-their-luck soldiers. Thirty-five years later, Cornelius Lorika Kodet was granted permission to renovate and re-establish a lodge in the park.

Sometimes, my camera and attention would turn to the “small things,” this time grasses and leaves and a pair of black-and-white Colobus monkeys grooming in a nearby tree. Without pressure to capture a leopard, lion, or hyena, I drifted on my plain of thought as the light changed. I clicked on things catching the dipping rays. 



On recommendation, we were on our way to Sipi to see the falls. Along our route were small hamlets, villages, zones, and areas with unusual and unpronounceable names.


Dodoth, Kathile – Narengepak, Kaabong East – Losogolo, Loputuk, Lobongia, Dodoth, Sidok – Kasemeri, Kotido Central, Moruita, Chekwi, Namalu – Lokatapari, Loperot, Bunambutye – Bumufuni, Amukol, Kapsinda – Kongowo and at last the Sipi Town board. The spellings are phonetic, which makes things slightly better.

Kufan Organic Farm advertised their Marula Eco Camp, and we stopped for the night after a very long day grinding our way through roads under construction or neglect.

The following day, after a very comfortable night, a hot shower and the perfect brew, we set off to Sipi, where I hoped to explore the falls.

Perched atop an escarpment sat our campsite like an eagle’s nest. Moses’ Campsite.


Sipi Falls

Sipi Falls are a series of three waterfalls on the western slopes of Mount Elgon, an eponymous extinct volcano adjacent to Mount Elgon National Park near the Kenyan border.

We were camping at the highest point, Sipi Falls, which stands 95m tall. The other two falls a little upstream are Simba Falls and Ngasire Falls.

The Sipi originates from the word Sep, which denotes an indigenous plant resembling a wild banana tree. The plant is often found along the banks of the Sipi River and is easily identified by its translucent green fronds and characteristic crimson spine. Local people use the plant medicinally to treat fevers and measles.


 Bugisa Arabica coffee is cultivated here. I must confess that I love Ugandan coffee, and whenever I see a bag, I’ll not hesitate to fill the coffee canister. It’s simply exquisite!


Arabica coffee only grows in high-altitude regions. Coffee is grown in five areas: The Central, Western, South-Western, Northern, and Eastern regions. The list comprises the Busoga regions (Robusta) and the Mountain Elgon region (Arabica).

“Like a good red wine”, Butch says, dreamily taking inhalations of his cuppa before sipping the elixir. Arabica coffees from Uganda “may exhibit notes of citrus, berries, chocolate and floral undertones.” Says the man who’s been reduced to drinking the cheapest box wines from Robertson. “Robusta coffees,” he continues “often feature robust flavours with hints of dark chocolate, nuts and spices.” I’m impressed. What will a morning coffee be without his sage impressions?

Next time you go shopping, look out for a Bugisa Arabica from Uganda.


The yellow sun may not shine very often in Uganda, where tropical cloudy skies are polka-dotted with splashes of blue. Still, the sun shines in all its technicolour brilliance on the land, the streets, and the towns, and it sparkles brightest in people’s eyes. There is colour everywhere, and colour, we know, does magic tricks on our psyche and can quell a spirit of anxiety, a sombre brown mood of melancholy, and the grey darkness of despair.

The bright jewel-coloured kaleidoscope of colours along the roads is cheerful and keeps my interest and camera clicking happily.

Calm, Tranquil blue waters of the lakes and rivers and the carpets of green foliage combined are nature’s way of creating a fresh, peaceful spirit where life is not easy.

Here, in Sipi, I thought Butch could recuperate fully, and I could go hiking to see the Sipi Falls, meander through the forests and explore the mountains with a local guide. It would be the perfect opportunity to get back into nature for me and a book, bed and Bovril for Butch. Restorative. The Honey Badger was infused with the sound of water thundering over the falls and crashing into the pools below every day of the year. 

I woke up the following day and knew my plans were ruined. A taxi was summoned, and I was whisked off to the local clinic with my guide.

Without asking any questions, the middle-aged doctor did a malaria strip test. Positive. The three-day drip treatment was immediately started.

When in Rome, I thought as I nervously awaited the nurse to commence with her regime in a “clinic”, mocking all the rules of good hygiene or sterile protocol. Snotty-nosed toddlers off the street, who eyed me suspiciously, were my constant companions, prodding my lap and pulling the grey hairs on my arms with filthy fingers. “This Mzungu had the weirdest crinkly hands”, they told each other, giggling, not sparing the insults, I’m sure, while trailing aseptic, sticky, grubby fingers lightly over my wrists. Of course, I survived the ordeal and, again, realised the privilege of the life I led.


Butch was not happy. He disapproved of my treatment, which was everything but on par with his Malaria treatment, and suggested we head off to Jinja.


Jinja is in Jinja District, Busoga sub-region, in the Eastern Region of Uganda. It is approximately 81 kilometres (50 mi) east of Kampala, Uganda’s capital city.

It sits along the northern shores of Lake Victoria, near the source of the White Nile.



The city was founded in 1901 by British settlers. In 1948, Ernst May, a German architect and urban planner, designed the formal urban planning scheme for Jinja and Kampala, creating “neighbourhood units”. Estates were built for the ruling elite outside the city’s centre. This led to the area’s slum clearance, which displaced more than 1,000 residents in the 1950s.

In 1954, the construction of the Owen Falls Dam submerged the Ripon Falls with many of the “Flat Rocks” that characterised the area.

The Baganda tribe on the western side and the Busoga tribe on the eastern side of the Nile called the area “the stones “, which means “Jinja” in both languages.

John Hanning Speke, the first European to see the source of the Nile, described the landscape in his notes.

“Though beautiful, the scene was not exactly what I expected, for the broad surface of the lake was shut out from view by a spur of the hill, and the falls, about twelve feet deep and four to five hundred feet broad, were broken by rocks; still, it was a sight that attracted one to it for hours. The roar of the waters, the thousands of passenger fish leaping at the falls with all their might, the fishermen coming out in boats and taking post on all the rocks with rod and hook, hippopotami and crocodiles lying sleepily on the water, the ferry at work above the falls, and cattle driven down to drink at the margin of the lake, made in all, with the pretty nature of the country—small grassy-topped hills, with trees in the intervening valleys and on the lower slopes—as attractive a picture as one could wish to see.”

Jinja was affected by the Uganda-Tanzania War of 1978–1979. After the Fall of Kampala to the coalition of the Tanzania People’s Defence Force (TPDF) and the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA), Ugandan President Idi Amin fled to Jinja. He attempted to rally remnants of the Uganda Army (UA) there.

According to journalist Nelson Bwire Kapo, Amin declared Jinja the new capital of Uganda but soon fled to Arua and, from there, into exile. Parts of the local UA garrison belonging to the Eagle Colonel Gaddafi Battalion remained, drunkenly harassing and murdering local civilians, but most soldiers gradually deserted and fled Jinja.

Following the end of hostilities, Tanzanian officers reportedly used Jinja as a hub to transport stolen goods from Uganda to Mwanza, including cars, tons of coffee, large amounts of gasoline, and war materiel.

Jinja has the second-largest economy in Uganda. In the past, factories chose Jinja as their base because of the nearby electric power station at the Owen Falls Dam.

A new market for fresh produce was completed during the fourth quarter of 2014. The facility can accommodate up to 4,500 vendors

Nile Breweries Limited’s headquarters is in Njeru, in Buyikwe district in central Uganda, near the Source of the Nile, from which the brewery has been drawing its water since 1956. The brewery was built in 1952 and completed four years later. In 2001, Nile Breweries Limited was fully acquired by South African Breweries.

Jinja city’s strategic location at the source of the River Nile, along with numerous power-generating plants, makes it ideal for industrialisation.

Locals say Jinja city’s tourism sector is picking up. It is rumoured to be a tourism hub for Uganda, with numerous hotels, guesthouses, resorts, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and dance clubs.


The Haven Eco River Lodge Uganda

We were told and can verify that The Haven is a peaceful, relaxed, and well-maintained eco river lodge consistently rated as one of the best family-friendly accommodations and restaurants in the Jinja region of eastern Uganda.


Our campsite was perfectly positioned to enjoy the tranquillity and spectacular views over the rafting starting point at the White Nile’s first waterfall. For a moment, we left the strains of our recent malaria malaise behind as we contemplated the gently flowing water of the longest river in the world. (The falls below The Haven are unaffected by the Itanda Falls dam, so the view and sounds are as peaceful as ever.)




The Haven Eco River Lodge prides itself on upholding its environmental criteria. “The Lodge is solar-powered and provides 24-hour electricity and hot water. The clean water we source from our 20-meter-deep borehole is UV filtered 24/7 as an additional precaution,” the friendly, ever-obliging staff proudly told us.

We would decide later whether to participate in some of the many activities provided. Cycling was our priority, and we would explore the area on our bikes as much as possible.

On one occasion, we stopped to buy the plumpest red tomatoes from a lady, and on another occasion, we stopped to enjoy our “padkos” snack on a veranda, where we met the farmer Elias who owned the land.

Elias soon had us on a tour of his smallholding, and we eagerly told him about the farms in the Boland. Butch had just heard about new farming techniques employed by his friend Geoff, a poultry farmer. Geoff enthusiastically told Butch their chickens are layered in new fandangled ways, increasing one’s capacity without building more coops. Butch eagerly explained this to a very excited Elias who knew how to compromise and engineer something to suit his needs.

We have remained friends and communicate regularly.


Cycling has brought us closer to the local communities, where we have been able to meet people and share ideas, and, as I did on one of our escapades, I had the gumption to ask a lady busy tilling her field whether I could buy four heads of corn. She didn’t hesitate for a second, and for supper, we enjoyed delicious fresh corn on the cob dripping in hot butter.

Taking the  plunge we bought a Jack Fruit. Delicious. All the tales we've heard about the fruit's unpleasant smell is untrue. How disappointed we were that we'd missed out on this fragrant, delightful fruit for so many years. We'd been offered a tasting and declined in Thailand, India and Vietnam. Such a shame. You snooze you lose.

"The Jackfruit is the fruit of Jack tree Artocarpus heterophyllus, a species of tree in the fig, mulberry, and breadfruit family. The jackfruit is the largest tree fruit, reaching as much as 55 kg in weight, 90 cm in length, and 50 cm in diameter." from the internet.

The Honey Badger is a great attraction and talking point whenever we stop at market stalls. Sometimes, ladies will ask to inspect it. Often, they’re in awe, swooning over the gas stove, the simple bathroom, and the fact that we have a bed all made up. Yet, it does happen that a few aren’t impressed at all, and with haughty sniffs, they shuffle off, giggling and gossiping behind cupped hands, leaving me quite deflated with a hangdog look. “Hey, I love this truck!” I want to shout. But don’t and pay up for my purchases feeling dispirited.

Our stay at The Haven allowed us to chill, sleep late, and recuperate, and Butch got his appetite back which is a good thing. We enjoyed meals around our table and treated ourselves to a few restaurant meals where the Nile Perch was fresh, the service was good, and the company was cosmopolitan.


To spruce up our space, we put up a Christmas tree; from the bottom of a corner cupboard I hauled out our Christmas baubles, lights, and tinsel. A few recent purchases added a sparkle, and we celebrated Christmas in style. Our main course was gammon with mustard sauce and all the trimmings. Gazpacho for colour and a nutty chocolate pudding doused in the last of our KWV brandy finished a scrumptious meal.

There was no Christmas cake or mince pies this year—a tragedy.

At sunset, families gathered around their fires. Children played volleyball while the adults poured cocktails and brought out fresh spicy chilli cashew nuts and salty roasted peanuts in small wooden bowls. We chopped up the last of our biltong and made spicy avocado salsas, which I served with my seed loaf.

At the weekend, Land Cruisers, Prados, and Discoveries pulled in with trailers and rooftop tents, all sporting red CD registrations from Kampala. We met exciting NGOs, a Missionary who reminded me of the characters in The Poisonwood Bible, and women working tirelessly for UNAID, catching their breaths before being shipped to Mogadishu or India.

We met a very undiplomatic diplomat who hated his term in Uganda. He complained, whined, and moaned incessantly about East African overpopulation, hunger, self-inflicted poverty, and his disbelief in being posted to Uganda when his usual posting was the calibre of Kenya. Our last sighting of this disgruntled soul was him turning onto the road back to Kampala, complaining of a headache and malaria.

For dinner one evening a local fisherman brought Butch his catch of the day. A fresh Nile Perch which went onto the coals that night.

Our lovely host, Rainer Holst, spoilt us and would not hear of us taxying into Jinja but insisted on accompanying us. In his comfortable sedan car, he whisked us off to see the sights, visit the market, take us to his favourite coffee shop for brunch, and then drop us off at the harbour to do a sightseeing river cruise to the natural source of the Nile.

The Blue Nile emerges from the east in Ethiopia’s Lake Tana, while the White Nile appears around Lake Victoria, exiting Jinja.

We stepped onto our boat after a heated stint of negotiations and haggling for a reasonable price. There were a few tourists, but the morning crowd drifted off, and there was little interest in the early afternoon. It suited us. Our round trip lasted ninety minutes and allowed us to put-putter leisurely, hugging the shore until the last boat departed the tourist platform.

We were welcomed by the brothers who claim the viewing platform is their brain-child, and assured us we were on the spot where the font of the Nile was. We were suitably impressed and had a gigabyte of photos to prove it.

We put-puttered back to shore, on a high for having experienced the source of the Nile. The skipper must’ve noticed our enthusiasm and took us for another leisurely spin around the lake before returning to shore. This definitely reminded me of the Mekong I remarked. 

Every tourist attraction is an opportunity for local artists to exhibit their wares. It is unavoidable, I remind Butch, who is not a shopper. Fortunately, my FOMO doesn’t allow me to skedaddle past the displays, pretending I don’t see them, nor am I deaf to the cries of the sellers. To Butch’s annoyance, I love chatting. I am a browser.  After all, “looking is for free.” I point out.

Of the many famous people who have visited this sight we weren't surprised to see the marble bust of Mahatma Gandhi. According to the plaque, his ashes were sprinkled here, which I found very evocative.

We welcomed Rainer’s suggestion to go for lunch at his favourite coffee shop. Under a canopy of leaves, we enjoyed wholesome gourmet burgers and delicious Ugandan coffee. All around us, we heard a chorus of foreign tongues. This was an ex-pat watering hole, and the excited chatter was like music to our ears. We filled our basket in the Deli with treats, meats, and sweets. On display was a selection of beautifully crafted handbags, jewellery and trinkets. I fell in love with a gorgeous daisy on a chain. It is one of my favourite necklaces.


From the back seat of the car I snapped away this time at eye level and not from my lofty perch in the truck. It gave me a different perspective I'd long forgotten.

The highlight of our day trip was a visit to the Nawanyago Health Centre in the Kamuli District.

Once a maternity clinic for local women, the hospital was upgraded, extended and improved with the help of Mr Thomas Meumann, who, with the help of family, assisted financially in building the new operating theatre and Laboratory.

Sister Mary Angela Njeri, a Catholic nun, is the dedicated matron and manager of the hospital.

Mr Meumann was inspired to get involved in this project after Dr Florian Kistler, a young volunteer and anaesthetist from the International Culture Youth Programme in Berlin, Germany, spent time at the clinic and to show his appreciation “hatched a plan” to get involved in a Programme to improve the facilities.

When this group decided to get involved with a project of this magnitude, they realised and accepted that it would be a long-term commitment and an enormous financial obligation, and a management programme would have to be implemented to ensure that their dreams were realised in the long term.

There are earth angels quietly going about doing good voluntarily. We have witnessed this time and again. The drive home was drizzly and perfectly reflected our mood.



I spent three days in a private clinic in Sipi after being diagnosed with recurring malaria. A microscopic blood test confirmed the diagnosis. I was admitted, and a regime of medications, drips, and sweet talking followed.

Never was a stethoscope brought near me, nor were any vital statistics monitored. On the second day, a nurse hurtled into my private room. She was out of breath, and I thought she’d just done a half marathon when she slumped down next to me on the bed and announced, “There’s no toilet paper in the hospital.” she exhaled thriumphantly, she'd delivered her message. Before I could stop myself, I retorted, “Well, can’t someone go out and buy a few rolls?” looking downcast, she rolled her hazel eyes and said. “No. it’s raining.” That was that, and for the rest of my stay, Butch supplied the toilet tissue.

Feeling miserable I told Butch I needed to replace my phone. Milking the situation, you might think. He agreed, and we found an outlet in Kampala that sold iPhones.

I recovered from my malaria and was looking forward to Christmas. We set off to Kampala.

Every rumour about the traffic into Kampala is true. It is hectic and even more frenetic than we imagined. In Rainer’s Toyota and his driver for the excursion, we travelled at a snail’s pace, taking 5 hours to reach our destination, a mall in the city centre.

Parking in the underground parking area was a relief until we stepped out of the car and put our feet onto raw, unlevelled bare earth. Little puffs of dust billowed up behind Butch’s ankles as he walked on the dry powdery soil. Unbelievable.

The center reminded me of the Golden Acre in Cape Town, forgotten in the 1980's in need of an upgrade, a good cleaning and a lick of paint.

After hours of frustrated haggling with the assistant in the so-called iPhone shop, we threw in the towel and decided to hell with it. I’ll have no Christmas gift this year.

We were expected to pay cash for the purchase, as credit cards are not accepted. With our banking restrictions on drawing cash from ATMs, drawing our daily allowance would take eight days, and we would need a suitcase filled with money to meet his expectations. The assistant refused to budge, make allowances, or compromise; he remained adamant. We took our ball home. The drive home to the Honey Badger lifted my spirits, the street scenes always do.

Our discreet driver could read the atmosphere in the car and without a word whisked us off to a coffee shop. His years of taxiing have made him acutely aware of passenger's body language, even if it was only the eyes he saw reflected in the rear view mirror.

I received my new phone on Christmas Eve. It was bought online, and a courier delivered it from Kampala. We paid with the help of the Lodge’s owner, who settled our bill via Uganda’s online payment system.


Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria, formed by the tectonic uplift of the eastern and western rifts, is the largest freshwater lake in Africa and the second largest in the world in terms of surface area. It supports approximately 30 million people’s livelihoods, including irrigated agriculture and fishing.

Commercial catches in Lake Victoria are dominated by Nile perch, Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), and dagaa (Rastrineobola argentea), a small native cyprinid.

The Kagera River is its largest tributary, but rainfall is the lake’s most important water source. Its only outlet is the Victoria Nile.

Butch, while researching his bird list, noticed that Shoebills could be found in the wetlands of Lake Victoria near Entebbe.

We would give it serious thought, considering Entebbe was south of Kampala. We hadn’t recovered enough after our previous ordeal to make impulsive decisions.

Throwing caution to the wind, we decided the opportunity was too good to miss, and once again, with Rainer’s help, a car and driver, we set off well before dawn the next day.

This time, we would take the ring road and make it to the harbour as the sun streaked the sky in hues of pink.

While we waited for the guide to arrive, we watched early morning fishermen throw out their nets and boats set off for the fishing waters.  

We set off in a small engine-powered boat. When we neared the swamps, we clambered into a smaller dugout canoe-like boat, and later, the boatman had to pole his boat through the papyrus forests.

I almost lost heart when I asked if we would see the birds, considering they are timid and rarely spotted in the wild.


After a good ninety minutes of drifting through narrow waterways littered with purple water lilies and tall papyrus, our guide stepped up onto the helm of the boat, his eyes trained on the area where the Shoebills had previously been spotted.


Suddenly, his arm shot out. He turned and beamed at us. With his finger to his lips, we shh’ed and silently approached a clump of grass and water reeds. Only the rhythmic plop and scoop of the boatman’s roar could be heard as we soundlessly floated ever closer. Camouflaged in the foliage stood two Shoebills.

This would be the first time we clapped eyes on the magnificent Shoebills. We were both very excited yet emotional and overwhelmed. Just thinking about it gives me gooseflesh.

“Shoebills are giant, stork-like grey birds with massively fat hooked bills. Mature birds have a slightly erect crest, pale grey eyes, a mottled horn-coloured bill, and grey legs. The sexes are alike, but females are somewhat smaller. Immature birds are fringed with brown.

Singles and pairs are confined to the interior of permanent and undisturbed swamps. While small numbers are widespread in Uganda and Rwanda, the only natural East African stronghold is in the remote Mbyowosi-Kigozi wetland complex of Western Tanzania. Only one record of a wandering bird was recorded in Kenya in September 1994.

Breeding birds make a hollow, reverberant hammering sound, donkey-like brays and pig-like squeals. Otherwise, they are silent away from the nest.

Balaeniceps rex are 124cm tall!” copied from my East African Birds book.

We spent an hour admiring the splendid Spoonbill, who stood stock still all the time—just staring at us. They smiled, I’m sure.

The early bird catches the worm. We were the sole witnesses to a magnificent experience. On our silent float back to our boat, we passed a string of dugouts filled with tourists on the lookout. Once again, we were the lucky ones.


A few mornings later, I woke up and told Butch I needed to get to a doctor. I had difficulty breathing and had to admit I felt poorly.

“That’s it!” Butch said, closing his iPad with an emphatic clap, “We’re leaving Uganda; we need to get you to a doctor in Eldoret. Kenya.” Our time in Uganda was slipping away from me.


while driving to the border post these were my thoughts. Uganda lives up to its name, “The Pearl of Africa.” It is mysterious, magnificent, diverse, peaceful, busy, and chaotic. Ugandans are kind, friendly, soft-spoken, and hard-working, with inquiring minds and warm hearts. People are funny, intelligent, creative, original, proud, loyal and eager to learn.

Banana Republic is a name used in jest only (and refers to the billions of  Banana trees flourishing everywhere.) It is a developing country with potential and a people who are forgiving and willing to work hard to restore their country and build it up to its full potential. There is no limit to the possibilities awaiting Uganda.

As a tourist destination, it is up there with the best African adventure destinations. It is more affordable than Tanzania or Rwanda and has as much to offer guests. 


Butch has just told me that our French friends will be joining us later today, which is an excellent reason to put this blog to bed.

There are passages in this blog that have been copied from

https://www.destinationbeyondexpectations.com/kidepo-valley-national-park/  or Wikipedia