My adventures in Uganda didn’t take any time to get started. Right from the beginning, it was an off & running adventure around the country. Like my very first weekend in the country in which fifteen of us, mostly expats & me, piled into two metatus & headed down to the lake. A metatu, actually just called a taxi in Uganda, is a bus, known for its cheap rides around the country. Some go short distances, some go long. They’re known for being a bit dangerous sometimes, as they speed, but they’re usually only a few dollars to ride. I think the two hours we spent in the car amounted to about two dollars, & that was more expensive than usual because we’d hired the taxi as a private vehicle. “Take us & only us, please.” Anyways. We piled in & rode from Kampala to a small fishing village on the edge of Lake Victoria.
I don’t know how to say this nicely, so I’m not going to try: the fishing village was disgusting. I’d been around the edges of the slums in Kampala, but it was nothing like this. Mud from the lake mixed with the smell of fish frying & fish being stored without refrigerators in hot, humid, Ugandan sun. They don’t have flush toilets & when we used the restrooms (500 shillings each, which amounts to about 19 cents USD) it was the plainest pit toilet I’d ever used (although now I have a few others under my belt).
There’s a ton of snails carrying schistosomiasis in the water at the edge of the lake. It’s a parasitic worm & is found inside snails in a lot of countries, apparently. Ever seen the question on your US Customs Form asking if you’re bringing snails into the country? I never knew why, but this little killer is the reason. It’s second only to malaria & although treatable, is hard to manage when you’re living right by it. I’m sure many of the people living in this fishing village are infected. 🙁
Because we didn’t want to get it (you can get it by wading in the water, as it crawls up through the skin in your feet & manifests a few months later elsewhere in your body) & because we’re fortunate enough to have money, we paid locals to carry us the five or ten feet across the water & dump us into the boat. 2,000 shillings (about 76 cents USD). I felt a little weird about the whole thing – it’s hard to face extreme poverty when you know you’ve got so much to be thankful for – but I was also glad to get out of the town & on the “road” again.
Lake Victoria is the second largest freshwater lake in the world, second only to Lake Superior in the United States. Before this trip, I had absolutely NO concept of how large that is. It’s 26,600 square miles, which makes it the largest lake in Africa, but even that doesn’t seem to really explain to me how large it is. Instead, it’s travel time that helps me wrap my mind around this.
You see the boats we were traveling in. They’re wooden, not high tech, powered by one of those single attachable motors. We were probably going eight or ten miles per hour. It took us THREE HOURS to get where we were going, to a small island, just off the coast of Entebbe. I’ve marked the route on my map above. Three hours! Let it sink in. 🙂
Anyways. Put put put to this little island. We passed fishing boats, from the town & also from villages on the islands in the lake. The clouds were amazing, although I don’t have a good photo. Big poofy white things, with tons of texture & shadow. Very impressive – so much so that at one point we weren’t sure if we were about to get rained on or not! Good luck though – no rain where we were.
When we finally landed on Banda Island it was like instant relaxation. Our tents were set up for us, the cooler was full of beers, & there are a few nice hammocks scattered near the beaches. It was beautiful out – warm, but with a cool breeze coming off the water that made things bearable.
There’s a small “castle” on the island as well. We just wandered around & looked at everything. It’s a super small island & we had one whole side to ourself, almost like renting out a whole island just for the weekend. The views everywhere were spectacular with that deep blue lake water & the ominous clouds hovering over everything.
We saw a monitor lizard catch & eat a crab while we were exploring, too, which was pretty awesome. I’d never seen one, so I was completely in shock to see a two foot lizard. & he swam FAST.
Goats on the island, too, belonging to the fishing village on the other side. More on that place later, as I’ve got so many photos to share from that day trip that it deserves its own whole post.
But seriously. Check that out. I definitely posted up with a book & just took it all in. There may have been a hammock nap involved as well.
There are egrets everywhere on the island. It’s funny, because in California, egrets are something truly special, but the more places I go, the more I realize that elsewhere in the world, you see them a ton. On one of our family visits to Canada that I’ll never forget, we saw dozens of them in a field. The bus driver we were with at the time pretty much considered them seagulls in how common they were. Banda Island is pretty similar: they’re everywhere. I literally saw dozens in one weekend, just hanging out. For me though, how common they are doesn’t seem to matter: these birds are still so beautiful & graceful.
We had a lovely sunset in the evening, which I watched from the other side of the island on a different hammock. Tough life, I know.
& then the moon came out & we poured wine & just hung out. Talk about lovely.
Island Getaway, Uganda style. <3
VISIT / Next time you’re in Uganda, take your own weekend getaway on the Island by booking a stay through Trip Advisor right HERE. It was cheap. I’m not sure if we got a group discount, but overall I’d say I paid about $35 for the whole thing, including the ride, the night in a tent, & the food. Good deal & the hosts are rad.
For more from my month in Uganda, see HERE.