Destination Unknown: Uganda, the Best Travel Destination of 2012

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Uganda, The Best Travel Destination of 2012 I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

It’s been couple of years that I traveled to Uganda, but the winter weather, as much as I love it, always puts me in the mood to dream about and look back to the warmer destinations I have been to. My mother tells me that as a kid, I swore never to travel to Africa because of the animals. It had something to do with the nature documents I had so enthusiastically watched, happy to be on this side of the screen as the lions were hunting for their pray. But lions, let me tell you, seem like docile, cuddly pussycats compared to a mother elephant giving us a run for our money on a safari in Uganda.

Uganda, the Best Travel Destination of 2012 by Lonely Planet

Uganda, The Best Travel Destination of 2012 I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Despite my childhood fears that I had totally forgotten about, I landed in Uganda for the first time in the end of 2005. It was my very first African experience and I fell immediately in love with the people, nature, heat, laid-back attitude and the warm waters of the While Nile. For a kayaker this was a dream come true and I’m shame to admit it, kayaking was pretty much all we did. For all three weeks.

Few years later when it was time to return to Uganda, I was determined to see little more. For most tourists the main attractions include the mountain gorillas for which Uganda is home to over half of the worlds population, wildlife safaris in one of the eleven national parks, relaxed visits to Lake Victoria and getting to know the city life in the capital, Kampala, one of Africa’s safest capital cities. But in Uganda you can really find an amazing range of things to do and experience from ecotourism activities to hot springs, mountain biking, fishing, horseback safaris and stunning nature, hence it was no surprise to me that Uganda was chosen as the Best Travel Destination of 2012 by Lonely Planet.

Gorilla and Game Safaris in Uganda

Meeting elephants on a game safari in Uganda I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Want to go gorilla tracking? Go on an organized trip in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in the southwest corner of Uganda. Gorilla tracking is limited to maximum 18 people per day, and permits must be booked in advance at the Uganda Wildlife Authority where you can also find the most up-to-date information on prices and regulations. At the time of writing this the full price permits go for $500 a piece, but there are some special offers right now with discounted rates.

When it comes to game safaris, Uganda doesn’t always come on the top, or even make the listings for “best safaris in Africa” and that’s no wonder really. It’s not so long ago that Uganda’s big game was hunted almost to extinction by the tyrannical dictator Idi Amin. But today the game is returning and for at least a safari newbie like me, seeing lions, elephants and giraffs at close range was an unforgettable experience.

The easiest way to join a safari is to book it through one of the many companies offering safaris, although a safari can also be organized independently (more about this next week). I visited the Murchison Falls National Park, which is Uganda’s largest and oldest conservation area hosting 76 species of mammals and 451 birds. For more information on the different national parks, see also the Uganda Wildlife Authority website.

White Water Adventures and Relaxing on the Nile in Uganda

Kayaking in Uganda I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Visit to the Source of Nile is on the top of the list for any white water lover. The recent damming of the river with the Owen Falls Dam has destroyed some of the spectacular sights including the Bujagali Falls, but a trip to the local hub and the second largest city in Uganda, Jinja, and rafting on the lower section of the river is still an adrenalin filled experience! And as said, for a kayaker this is as close as it gets to a paradise. Warm water, beautiful waves to surf on and a relaxed atmosphere.

Even if you are not into water activities a visit to Jinja and a stay at the Hairy Lemon, an island on the Nile is highly recommendable! The island caters for everyone from honeymoon couples to families and backpackers and it is a truly unique experience. On the island you can soak in the sun, go for a swim, play water volleyball, go fishing, or just read a book in a hammock and enjoy the chilled atmosphere under the African sun.

If you got intrigued about the charging mother elephant on a safari, watch this space next Tuesday when I’ll revisit Uganda on an independently organised game safari, an unforgettable experience!

destination unknown, travel blog, adventure travel

About Satu Vänskä-Westgarth

Satu Vänskä-Westgarth decided to take a year off from her nine to five marketing executive life in Finland early 2009 to travel with her kayak, bike or skis and sometimes without. "One year" turned into a new lifestyle as a travel writer, accompanied with a not-so-British entrepreneur husband from Britain, who seems to spend more time outside the borders of his homeland than within, and their baby, who has already spent more months outside Norway than at their home in Norway, where the family resides at the moment. For more stories from the road, visit Satu’s blog Destination Unknown and connect with Satu on Twitter @SatuVW.

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