While I was in Uganda I heard about an island on Lake Victoria full of chimpanzees that sounded amazing. I was lucky enough to be able to go and it was the first time in my life seeing chimps, so I was very excited.
While there I learned that in reality it is chimpanzee Sanctuary that with the help of donations and the Wildlife Trust it bought a small island on Lake Victoria and now takes in rescued chimps that people used to have as pets or for entertainment from Uganda and neighboring countries and gives them a better life at a sanctuary.
It was a bittersweet experience as they aren’t completely free, as they have certain enclosures to divide the small island they live on from the researchers and caretakers. However, compared to their previous lives that they were rescued from of being pets and kept in small cages or made to perform, it was lovely to see they are now in a much healthier environment and cared for. It was amazing to see how similar they are to us and see the gestures and expressions they make just like us.
How to get there
Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, is on an island on Lake Victoria and is only reached by boat from the city of Entebbe (where the major airport for arriving in the country is). From Entebbe you can coordinate your visit and boat ride with there with the Chimp Sanctuary. If you are coming from Kampala, Entebbe can be reached with public transport for 3.000 Ugandan Schillings (less than a dollar) in a Matatu/Taxi van and the trip takes about 1.5 hours.
To both see these beautiful chimps and support the Sanctuary that helps rescue them takes care of them and gives them a better life.
Where to stay?
I stayed with the Gorilla African Guesthouse in Entebbe and it is in a peaceful area away from the city center (just 5 minutes away though) and has a friendly staff.
From Entebbe I continued to Western Uganda to visit Lake Bunyonyi that lots of other travellers had recommended and I later learned why. It is a big beautiful lake that is surrounded by lush green mountains with agricultural terraces. It is a very pretty and calm place to chill out and enjoy the serene setting.
How to get to Lake Bunyoni
It is around 10km away from the city of Kabale, and you can get there by boda boda (motorcycle taxi) in 20 minutes for 5.000-10.000 Ugandan Schillings ($1.50 -$3 USD). From Kampala the trip by land is around 8 hours by bus and costs around 30.000 Ugandan Schillings ($8 USD). If you want a nicer bus experience use Jaguar, or Modern Coast as I went with a cheaper option and my bus broke down for 5 hours 😉
What to do at Lake Bunyoni
You can canoe around the lake and visit different islands including one that has zebras!, swim, go on walks, or just relax around the lake.
Where to Stay at Lake Bunyonyi
There are lots of places to stay on the lake for different levels of comfort and prices.
I stayed at Bunyonyi Safari Resort which has both affordable dorms and nice rooms and they have impressive installations, wifi and lots of nice areas to enjoy all while on the lake. There is also a cool project called Edirissa you can stay at or check out the nice community work they do.
From Lake Bunyonyi I went to the town of Kisoro, that was one of my favorite places in all of Uganda. Even the drive getting there is stunning as you start passing big beautiful green mountains and lots of lush vegetation and then you arrive in a cozy town with friendly people and nice activities to in the area.
I went on a trek in the Mgahinga National Park that is beautiful and home to many animals including elephants and mountain gorillas. I chose to do a trek with a social impact, the Batwa Trail. It is named after the fascinating Batwa people who are an ethnic group of pygmies that sadly were seen and treated as sub-humans for a long time and have suffered a great deal throughout history, especially with their land being taken away for the now national park and they were never compensated for it.
On the Batwa Trail you are guided around by some of the tribes people who explain different things about their culture such as how they lived in the forest including sources for water, natural medicine, how they hunted, show you the cave where they once lived in with a King. They are also famous for dancing and I was lucky enough to see some of their joyful dances.
How to get to Kisoro
Kisoro is around 9 hours from Kampala by public transport, and around 2 hours from Kabale by bus.
What do do in Kisoro
There are many activities to do in this area to enjoy the beautiful nature including hikes in and around Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. I recommend using Gorilla Tours as I did my tour and stay in Kisoro through them and had a very nice experience.
Where to stay in Kisoro
Depending on what your budget is, you can either stay at the Golden Monkey Guesthouse which has more affordable options including dorms and is in a nice quiet location, or if you want something nicer you can go the Travellers Rest Inn which is lovely and has great food .
My stays in the aformentioned Guesthouses were sponsored, as was my visit to the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary but of course all views are my own.
Whitewater Rafting, Volunteering and Chasing Waterfalls in Eastern Uganda
Spending some Days with a Maasai Tribe in Kenya
Adventures on the Kenyan Coast
Maasai Mara Safari Experience
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The Batwa People
The Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary