Feel you need to escape the hustle and bustle of Kampala for a short while? Or your visiting aunt is getting on your nerves and you would like to send her on a short trip out of Kampala? The following destinations are within easy reach of the city and make a good weekend getaway.
Jinja, being the “adventure capital of Uganda’’, has much to offer: world-class grade-5 rafting, mountain biking, fishing, Nile River sunset cruises and much more. Hire a car for a weekend to escape the hustle and bustle of Kampala and enjoy the outdoors.
The area around Jinja has many nice places to stay. Recommended places to stay are listed on our accommodation page.
The biggest draw here is rafting, organised by three very professional companies, namely Nalubale Rafting, Nile River Explorers and Adrift. These three companies also cater for a plethora of other activities like bungee jumping, fishing, mountain biking, and sunset boat cruises on the Nile. Horseriding trips are organised by Nile Horseback Safaris. Also, Jinja Town is nice to wander around for an afternoon. The town has some nice coffee places (Flavours, Source Café), restaurants (2 Friends, Mezzanine), many souvenir shops and surprisingly good nightlife (Sombrero’s, Adrift at Nile High Camp, Nile River Explorers bar at NRE campsite).
Ssese is an archipelago of eighty-four tiny islands in the Northwestern part of Lake Victoria.
Many islands are uninhabited and covered with pristine rainforest, and all are hardly visited by tourists. Bugala Island is the largest of the Kalangala district and offers a variety of accommodation options, like the friendly serviced and well decorated Brovad Sands Lodge. You can take your car with you on the ferry. Ferries depart from Entebbe, Kasenyi (close to Entebbe), or Bukakata (close to Masaka / Lake Nabugabo). Unlike the many tiny islands, Banda Island and Bulago Island both have accommodation. Banda Island is a relaxing getaway for the easy going and relaxed budget traveller and Bulago Island's Pineapple Bay Resort for the luxurious island explorer.
Entebbe is a charming town with a tropical vibe, and well worth spending the weekend.
Swimming at Lake Victoria Hotel, rent a little Laser sailboat at the Entebbe Sailing Club, visit the Zoo and the Botanical gardens, go to Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary or Mabamba Swamp.
Recommended places to stay: Entebbe Airport Guesthouse, the Boma Hotel, and 2 Friends Entebbe. Enjoy good food at the Boma Hotel, or eat fresh fish and great pizza at Gorreti’s with your feet in the white sands viewing Lake Vic... Nice!
One of Uganda’s smaller parks, Lake Mburo is the closest national park to Kampala. It is covered with extensive acacia woodlands and a big lake. It is one of the best places in the country to see the gigantic eland antelope and zebras.
Things to do: walking safari, game drive, boat ride and horseback riding amongst the wildlife offered by Mihingo Lodge. The latter are former racehorses from Kenya, so galloping is a true thrill.
Lake Nabugabo is some 150 km west of Lake Mburo, 20 km from Masaka.
Allow some three hours to make the trip from Kampala. This lake is a hidden jewel with fine sandy beaches and the bilharzia-free water makes this a great place for relaxing. It is always windy and so a paradise for kite surfers (bring your own gear). We love to camp at Church of Uganda Resort, a very spacious camp ground with a sandy beach, good amenities and bungalows available for more than reasonable prices. They serve meals, but bring your own alcohol.
Mpanga forest reserve
En route to Masaka, less than an hour’s drive from Kampala, lies Mpanga Forest Reserve near the small town of Mpigi.
There are a number of board swamp walks and forest walks starting from the ecotourism centre, which are great for bird watching. The forest ecotourism site has basic bandas and a camp site.
Mabira forest reserve
En route to Jinja, some 1.5 hour drive from Kampala. Mabira Forest inhabits the largest stand of indigenous forest in Central Uganda.
There are cycling and hiking trails (poorly signposted) ranging between 45 minutes to 4 hours to complete, all starting from the Eco-Tourism Centre. We did mountain biking on our own, which we do not recommend as it is easy to get lost in the dense forest. Consider taking a local guide from the Eco-Tourism Centre.
On a quest for the Shoebill
The Shoebill is a large prehistoric-looking bird related to the stork family. It is a very rare, unusual looking bird and fascinating to watch.
Mabamba swamp, located about 1 hour’s drive west from Entebbe, is possibly the most reliable place in the country for shoebill sightings. You can see the shoebill with a one day car rental. The villagers offer trips into the swamp in a traditional dugout canoe for shoebill spotting. Coming from Kampala driving towards Entebbe, turn right just after Kisubi town (12 km from Entebbe) and follow a dirt road which leads to Kasanje town. The swamp is not easy to find, so contact Hannington (number below) and use your Google Maps to navigate.
Hannington is a great guide to take you on a shoebill quest: +256 782 945185