Backpacking in Uganda, Must See Places.

If you are going to Backpack in central and east Africa, here is a list of must see places in Uganda.

Places not to miss in Uganda

I was in Uganda for the better part of a year and I found a few gems that I visited over and over and highly recommend. Here are three of them that should not be missed.

1- Lake Nkuruba. This is a small crater lake just south, about 12 miles, of the small town of Fort Portal. When you visit the place you will find that  there are a few small unassuming structures that are used for travelers to stay in or you can just throw up your tent. I actually lived there for a month and a half quite comfortably. I put my tent under a gazeebo like rain shelter and purchased a piece of foam from a nearby village. From the camping area there is a trail that leads down the rim of the crater to the small tranquile lake. The lake itself is very deep but not very wide. I would swim across and back every morning. The cool dark water was a welcome break from the heat of the day as the village children knew all to well. The rim and walls of the crater were old rainforest trees and there were three groups of primates that lived near the water. There was a group of Red Colobus (pictured for this articles thumbnail), a group of vervets and a troop of Black and White Colobus. As it was one of my goals to photograph monkeys in the wild this became a perfect place for me to spend some time. Idyllic in the extreme most people would come intending to stay the night only to end up staying for a week or more. As with most places for backpacking in Africa, you can usually cut some kind of deal for an extended stay at at a place. As it happened when I was there a very young very game couple from London was running the place. I stayed rent free and ate for free, in exchange i watched the place when their families came to see them and they went on safari. i did security and helped to make the place better with some light labor. it was truly a high point of the trip.

2 - Banda Island.  Banda island is a small, privately owned,1 kilometer by 2 kilometer island in the Sesse island chain in Lake Victoria. It is truley a paradise. It is a unkept secret and absolutely one of the coolest places on earth. In fact you can find it on Google Earth. I lived in a small stone cottage with a private little beach for two months. i had to seriously consider wether or not I was ever going to leave. The owner of the island is a Kenyan born South African crazy man who is by far one of the coolest and most eccentric people I have ever met. He made a small fortune running gemstones or some such thing and bought the island from the government. On the beach are five semi hard back tent structures that serve as guest quarters for the backpackers that come to the island. As for the rest of the compond they are built with stone and morter one rock at a time by the man who has decided to live there the rest of his life. I visited a couple of times and stayed for 3 or 4 days at a time. On my third visit he offered me the opportunity to stay as long as I like and manage the place for him. It was an incredible offer that i couldnt refuse. There is a small staff that take care of the cooking and laundry. They are very nice folks who are paid well and very content with their life on the island. When i returned to live on the island the owner left me in charge and went to visit his parents in kenya for 8 days. I was alone in paradise for that entire time and it nothing short of life altering. i found a level of peace and tranquility that i never dreamed was possible. There is a small squatters fishing community on the other side of the island that brought us fish (for a very small price) everyday. The boat ride to the island is about three hours and not for the faint at heart but it is well worth it. When you go to visit make sure you give yourself the option of staying longer than you planned, you won't want to leave I promise you that. Wether you while away the day in a hammock or take one of the many sailboats or kayaks out for a cruise is completely up to you. That being said, it is a place for the young and not easily offended. Like I said before the man that owns it is the king of his kingdom and he doesnt care what you think of what he says or does, just ask the French Ambassador, but that is a different story. keep your sence of humor about you and you will have the most wonderful time of your life. Also  you will contract a blood worm, belhartzia schistosoma if you stay for any lenght of time but it is easily treated with a handfull of pills from any pharmacy and only a very minor inconvienence.

3 - Lake Binyoni. Near the far south west region of Uganda near the Ruwandan border is a fairly good sized lake called lake Binyoni. The bus takes you right to the camp ground but it is a long ride from Kampala. The camp ground itself is very nice with a good resturant/bar and some facilities but its whats across the lake that makes it all worth while. You can rent a boat and guide for the day and paddle across the lake to the pygmy market. It is a lake side market place that very few travelers ever go too. Once you have made land fall, expect to get rained on, you can arrainge to meet with the Pygmy peoples from the region. As my guide was arrainging the meeting I had an afternoon repast of boiled goat entrails that was not for the weak of stomach but a favorite of the locals. When I did meet with the Pygmy leader we started haggling, through the the guide, over the price of what i did not know. It turns out I had just hired them to dance for me which was not my intent but I just rolled with it. They began playing drums and doing a traditional dance just for me. I very quickly joined in and had a great time. when it was over we went down to the only strycture in the market and they bought beers with the money I gave them and we had a raucous good time. It was odd but thats how they handles the very occasional white man who wondered to their market. As a professor of Anthropolgy it gave me a great deal to think about and lecture to my classes about but as a tourist it was a fantasic experience. I ended up spending several days with them and it was one of the best experiences of my life. for cultural tips about moving around the country see my other article at this link:

     The three places I have described above were off the beaten path and made the whole trip much better than I could have dreamed possible. There are many other sites and adventures to be had, such as tracking Gorillas ( see my other articles) but these places in particular get missed by most travelers. Uganda is an incredible place. If you go, you will never forget it.

for more on my travels, see my blog :


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Gregory Tarleton-Markov
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