Feel you need to escape the hustle and bustle of Kampala for a short while? Although we love Kampala, the hustle, the bustle, the party, the energy, we also love some peace and quietness and a change of scenery! Therefore we get behind the wheels and explore the possibilities. The following destinations are within easy reach of the city and make a good weekend getaway near Kampala.
Jinja, the adventure capital of Uganda
Jinja, referred to as the “adventure capital of Uganda’’, has much to offer: world-class grade-5 rafting, mountain biking, fishing, horse riding trips, Nile River sunset cruises and some good parties at times. The biggest draw here is rafting, organized by three professional companies: Nalubale Rafting, Nile River Explorers and Adrift.
If you want to do a mountain bike tour, why not consider to rent it from Bikeventures Uganda, as all proceeds go to their charity projects; improve access to income generation (Bike4Work), education (Bike4School) and healthcare (Bike4Care) by providing bicycles to social entrepreneurs, students and health care workers. A great way to explore Jinja surroundings. Roadtrippers get a discount!
Jinja Town is nice to wander around for an afternoon. The town has some nice coffee and lunch places such as Flavours, Source Café and the oustanding Deli, restaurants such as 2 Friends, Mezzanine and many souvenir shops.
Jinja and surroundings has many nice places to stay. Check Roadtrip Uganda's accommodation page for an overview of the best campsites and lodges in Jinja, in all price ranges.
Ssesse Islands, unwinding for the backpack traveler
Ssese is an archipelago of eighty-four tiny islands in the Northwestern part of Lake Victoria. Many islands are uninhabited and covered with pristine rain forest. All are hardly visited by tourists and only known among the expat community in Kampala. Bugala Island is the largest of the Kalangala district and offers a variety of accommodation options, of which Brovad Sands Lodge is our favourite pick.
Reach Bugala island by ferry from Entebbe (3hr boat ride) or by road to Bukakata and the shorter ferry (45 mins boat ride). Both ferries can host your roadtrip rental car.
Banda Island (4 hour boat ride from Entebbe) is a relaxing getaway for the easy going and budget traveler.
Bulago Island's Pineapple Bay Resort or the famous 'One minute South' can cater for the luxurious island explorer.
Charming Entebbe, at the shores of Lake Victoria
Entebbe is a relaxing town with a tropical vibe, well worth spending the weekend. Recommended things to do in Entebbe: 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. Enjoy a good diner at the colonial Boma Hotel and make sure to try Goretti's fresh fish or great pizza, whilst viewing lake Vic with your bare feet in the white sand.
Check Roadtrip Uganda's accommodation page for an overview of the best campsites and lodges in Entebbe.
On a quest for the shoebill - Mbamba Swamp
The Shoebill is a large, prehistoric-looking bird related to the stork family. It is an unusual looking bird and very rare. Mabamba swamp, located about 1 hour’s drive west from Entebbe, is possibly the most reliable place in the country for shoebill sightings. 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. When we went on a quest, Hannington was our guide. Perhaps he still has the same number (+256 782 945185). Otherwise, contact Roadtrip Uganda for directions.
Nkima Forest lodge is a newly built forest hide-out with beautiful views of the surrounding countryside and wetlands. Nearest to the swamp!
Lake Nabugabo, great for camping & swimming
This pretty lake is located 150 km west of Lake Mburo, 20 km from Masaka town. From Kampala, allow around three hours to get there. The water is said to be bilharzia-free, making this a great place for relaxing. 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.
Get lost in the forest: 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 you as it is easy to get lost in the dense forest. Consider taking a local guide from the Eco-Tourism Centre.
Drop us a line, in case you have discovered a new jewel within a few hours ride from Kampala!