Lyndsey here, Nic wrote a bit about her time on the Ssese Islands… it is such an amazing place I really wanted to write more (not being a zoologist she also failed to mention the amazing abundance of wildlife!)… The Ssese Islands are an archipelago of 84 islands in the north of Lake Victoria, about a 3 hour ferry ride away from Entebbe and are nothing less than a tropical island paradise, no, more an undiscovered island paradise and a relatively few number of tourists visit. Although this is a pity for the islands economy to me it makes them even more special, they are a place of pristine natural beauty and this really needs to be preserved. We were staying on Bugala Island, the largest of the lot and home to the main town in the Islands, Kalangala (population = 3000), it is a stunning island with large areas covered by sprawling tropical forest however there is conflict over the forest as locals want to cut it down to create land for crops however this would be a disaster for the islands wildlife.
As Nicola has already described we were staying at Hornbill campsite right on the lake shore, a lovely eco-camp (long drop toilets, cold showers and solar-panel electricity) owned by a lovely pair of doped up German hippies, we were offered a spliff as soon as we arrived! The view over the lake was to die for… palm trees, white sandy beaches and a stunning sunset over the lake… could you ask for more? The birdlife for me was out of this world - I only wish I was better at identification for birds of East Africa (Sebba I needed you!!), the island was alive with the calls of a multitude of birds - Hornbills, Cormorants, Finches, Pied Kingfishers, White Egrets - and the dreaded Ibis just to name a few… it was an ornithologist's paradise! I would love to know if any biological research takes place there, if not then there needs to be a research station set up… I wonder if I could persuade Sheff APS… There were also many mammals including troops of Vervet monkeys that hung around the campsite as well as the domestic animals pigs, goats etc.
I love the way you always meet people when traveling… we met a lovely chap on the ferry - Grace - who taught us to ride Boda Boda motorbikes, an amazing experience (Pieran was a natural). The second day we took a traditional wooden canoe out on the lake, again seeing amazing wildlife, huge ants nests etc. from the boat. I'm not going in to detail as Nicola has already covered it. Any free time was spent relaxing on the sandy beach with a good book or swimming in the warm lake but also carrying a risk of bilharzia… On the final day me and Pieran went on a nature/history walk with a local guide, he took us in to the forest, a mass of tall trees and vines and dense undergrowth, to show us where John Speke first colonized the island by westerners, all that remains is a stone ruin. He then took us up and gave us a tour of Kalangala, showing us all the back roads and farms etc. a really fascinating tour. Unfortunately the following day we left on the early ferry back to the mainland - I will return…
The past couple of days we have been relaxing back in Kampala… we met four really interesting guys on the ferry, two American chaps who were volunteering/traveling in Uganda then a South African and Ugandan who were acting as their tour guides for a short while. Kenneth, the Ugandan chap was quick to get talking to us as soon as he saw us on the ferry, he is a genuinely lovely and very interesting man with a passion for talking (predominantly about himself!), and started telling us about his charity he has set up in the south west of Uganda where he works to help families work their own way out of poverty by giving them pigs to breed as well as going in to schools and educating children about personal hygiene, HIV and aids etc. He wanted us to get to know each other better so the following day us and the two American chaps went to his family home where his mother cooked us a traditional Ugandan meal of rice, matooke, potato's, sweet potato's and gnut (penut) sauce. It is lovely to go to the family homes of people we meet to see how they live at home, and they will go all out to make us feel welcome in their home - it is a honor for them to have mzungu, white people, in their home and as such they give us huge plates of food! It was a fascinating afternoon and we learnt a lot about Kenneth's story and his charity work, he really has come a long way in his life and I would love to support his charity - www.hfacm.blogspot.com.
We had an interesting experience on the way back to the backpackers… we had just got three boda's (Nicola had persuaded me to ride side saddle like other Ugandan women do!) when we ran in to huge crowds on the roads… I asked my boda driver what was going on and he said "It's the King, it's the King!". It turned out the King of Uganda was in Kampala city that day and was passing our way. Any other time I'd have loved to see the King, but due to the recent bombs in the city by Somalian rebels it made the King a prime target! At that point all I wanted was to get out of there! Our boda's were completely jammed and were not going anywhere, as the Kings landrover approached the crowds started going wild, jumping and shouting, as he passed he stood up through the sunroof and waved to the crowds - pretty exciting if were not for the fact I was quite terrified. After he passed I made sure my boda driver made a swift exit and we sped back to the backpackers!
Today we went to the family house of one of the teachers at Nicola's school for a meal - we had been promising to do this since we came! Again it was lovely to meet her family and we were made to feel very welcome. Now we're back at the backpackers and getting ready to go to the Rwenzorimountains tomorrow morning!
Write again soon, Lyndsey xxx