Entebbe “the charming city”
Entebbe “the charming city” : The city derives its name from the Luganda phrase “entebbe za Mugula” literally meaning ‘Headquarters’. Entebbe was the capital city of Uganda during the colonial era and it stands on the Lake Victoria shore a few hundred metres north of the equator and only 40km south of the modern capital Kampala. It has long been the main point of entry to Uganda and also the main point of arrival for international arrivals to Uganda for about as long as the country has been receiving international visitors. In 1913, Sir Frederick Treves arrived at Entebbe fresh from the ports of Mwanza and Kisumu and described it as “the prettiest and most charming town of the lake” and even today Entebbe retains an unusually green feel.
Some of the attractions you cannot miss out while in Entebbe include;
Entebbe Botanical Gardens
The Entebbe Botanical Garden is an attractively laid-out fix of indigenous forest, horticulture and cultivation. It’s highly an attractive destination that bird watchers should encounter. The garden was established in 1902, situated on the northern shores of Lake Victoria virtually on the equator and it experiences an annual rainfall of 1623 mm and at an altitude of 1134 meters the gardens are set on 40.7 hectares. The garden offers an excellent introduction to various species of plants of the tropical, sub-tropical and temperate zones, besides several shrubs, butterflies and other plants regenerated naturally over the years. The collection as per 1998 numbered 309 species, 199 indigenous to Uganda, 122 with known medical values and 110 exotic. The gardens are a popular attraction for visitors from all centers of the world passing through the gates since rehabilitation.
What to expect when you visit the gardens
The garden is a home of both black and white colobus, vervet monkeys, tree squirrels as well as Red tailed monkeys. Entebbe Botanical Gardens is one of the best places near Kampala, where you can spot many spider webs and species of birds namely; Palm nut vulture, golden baked weaver, red-chested sun bird, slender billed weaver, grey kestrel, throated leaf love, African grey parrot, Jackson’s golden-backed and Black-headed weavers. The rocky headland along the lake, making an ideal observation point are resident, whilst bat hawk is often seen over the gardens at sunset and is best observed from the Botanical beach hotel patio bar. On the lake and around the shore look for long-tailed cormorant, Common squacco, Hamerkop, African open-billed stork, yellow-billed duck, Grey-headed gull, various terns, giant and Pied kingfishers and swamp flycatcher while Black-headed Gonolek occurs in the dense scrub covering the headland. Botanical gardens provides a perfect introduction to the Pearl of Africa with all its beauty and magical splendor. It is also a place of tranquility and peace, a feast for the eyes, and there is a notable absence of people you are immersed in nature, the sounds of birds breaking the stillness of the moment. It is also a lovely place to spend a few hours or make it an all-day adventure.
The Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (Zoo)
The Uganda Wildlife Education Center is an exciting place established as a sanctuary for wild animals and it has played a significant role in the protection of rare and threatened animals. It was originally founded in the 1950s to be a receiving Centre of animals found as causalities and to look after orphaned animals that have been confiscated by smugglers and to breed endangered wildlife species in captivity with the aim of re-introducing them to the wild. Uganda Wildlife Education Center lies on 70 acres in Entebbe, a 10 minutes’ drive from the International Airport and the Center has three ecosystems; savannah, forest and wetland. UWEC is not a zoo in a conventional sense and neither is it a safari park but it is a center where wildlife education is combined with leisure. Not only can you observe many of the most exciting indigenous species here, but comprehensive interactive interpretation and briefings on them are also given. At UWEC (ZOO) you will come across free ranging vervet monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys and a family troop of DeBraza monkeys in the jungle of our hillside forest. In addition to a standard visit, there are also a couple of alternative scenarios.
What to do while at UWEC
- The popular half-day Behind the Scene Tour which lasts for two hours is extremely educational and yet an entertaining adventure. Indeed the ZOO is filled with animals at close sight as the animal keepers feed them and carry out health checks. Animals such as white rhinos, giraffes, lions, African rock pythons, kobs, zebras, warthogs, crocodiles, elephants, buffalo, leopards, olive baboons and chimpanzees are popular in the area.
- Visitors get the chance to take part in food preparation, visit the pharmacy among others. Some visitors opt to be Keepers for a day and here they are able to serve Rhinos and lions breakfast. They wake up early from either the dormitory or Bandas and head to the kitchen to prepare the food, then jump onto the tractor from one animal station to another feeding a variety of exotic and endangered animals and birds. This experience is granted upon getting a vaccination from the health team at the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre.
- Other exciting activities include chimpanzee close up that allows you to get close with chimps. Chimpanzee close up will require you to have certain medications from the health team at UWEC.
- The Uganda Wildlife Education Centre is also a birders paradise where various bird species can be viewed such as the famous African fish eagle, shoebill, the Great blue Turaco, Hamerkop, Giant Kingfisher, Wood pickers and the smallest sun birds including the world’s biggest bird the Ostrich that can only be found in Kidepo National Park. Uganda Wildlife Education Centre normally depends on visitor fees to sustain daily running and feeding of animals at the Centre. By visiting UWEC, you will be contributing towards the running of the Centre. You can also volunteer with some programs or be a friend of UWEC by sponsoring to look after any given animals.
Reptile village lies on the north western edge of Entebbe 3km off the main road. The lush green village is a destination ideal for excursions and was established in 2002 by a reptile expert who had rescued over 50 different species of snakes including the Gabon viper the most poisonous snake in Africa. His main concern was to encourage Ugandans to respect reptiles rather than banging them on the head. Tourists on Uganda safari trios often go there to watch the different reptile species. You will find a variety of snakes, chameleons, monitor lizards and a couple of crocodiles in the village with the interest of sighting extremely dangerous animals. They are safely guarded in cages whereas the crocodiles are in huge ponds and therefore visitors on safari trips to Uganda are safe while visiting the village. Visitors are given an opportunity to lift the rock python under the supervision of the reptile guides. It’s quite a thrilling experience and a moment to put away ones fears and tears.
The founders of the village emphasize the purpose of the village as an education Centre about reptiles where people on tours in Uganda go to learn, research and also take part in the habituation of different reptile species. The guides at the village are informative and often share intriguing facts about reptiles and other species. At the extreme edges of the sites one can enjoy the sights of the swampy areas which are habitat to different reptiles, monkeys and birds inclusive. Around the swampy areas, tourists in the village can enjoy adventurous activities such as canoe cruising in the man-made river around and sport fishing as well. Today, Uganda reptile’s village is enclosed in a fence and three large concrete structures stand in the middle as the homes for the reptiles.
The Ziika Forest
Apart from the other forests, the Ziika forest is also one of the many small forests in Uganda that has got exclusive mature trees and the best bird watching from Entebbe road. A small trail network explores the forest at ground levels with a high metal tower which provides a birds’ and monkeys’ eye view across and at the top of the forest canopy. This forest has numerous forests which is one of the main attractions you need to visit while on your safari to Uganda. There are over 140 types of woody plants, 60 moth types, leopards, snakes, mosquitoes, monkeys that are found in this forest. Many of the birders have also said that bird watching here is a great experience within the forest. Apart from its nature, wildlife and history, this forest has got an educational advantage most especially students who study classification and the ability to give breakthrough leisure tourists. If you are interested in forest explanation and you are on a Ugandan safari then this is one of the incredible forests that you shouldn’t miss while on a safari.
Mabamba is a natural swamp and one of the convenient places in Uganda. It is situated on the shores of Lake Victoria the largest lake in Africa and the largest lake in the whole world. The swamp is a birders destination to spot various bird species. Mabamba swamp experiences an average rainfall of about 1200mm and 1500mm per year and it’s conducive to the environment. Wildlife that are in the area include; Antelopes, bird species including the shoebill stork that is rarely found. Butterflies, fish species and other plant species. Birding at Mabamba swamp is carried out on small canoes run by experienced tour guides with developed skills and having knowledge of special places where the rare shoebill stork can be can be viewed, the swamp hosts over 260 bird species and a blessed person can encounter over 150 bird species a day including the migrant species from Europe such as the white winged terns that came in August running away from the winter that hit Europe. Bird species in the area include; flycatcher, brown throated weaver, grey headed gulls, malachite kingfisher, lesser jacana, papyrus canary, blue chested bee-eater, goliath herons and much more.
What to see at Mabamba swamp
Fishing at Mabamba Island can also be carried out and different fish species are residents in the area including; tilapia, Nile perch, lung fish, mud fish among others. The passport to the fishing activity is having your own fishing gadgets with you so as to join the fishers. Mabamba swamp is also a home of sitatunga antelopes therefore a trip to Mabamba brings you closer to the sitatunga antelopes and a drive to the marshes is the best way to reach the antelopes. The major threat to the antelopes is poachers who enter the area with different intentions of poaching the antelopes. Over 200 butterflies can be spotted in the area for the butterfly lovers and these include; gossamer winged butterflies, skippers, brush footed butterflies, emperor swallowtail to mention a few. Mabamba swamp can be accessed from Entebbe town which is 1hour drive, and still a ferry from Nakiwogo landing site can be used which takes only 20minutes to the swamp.
Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary
Ngamba chimpanzee sanctuary is an island in Uganda located in south east near the equator on the largest Lake Victoria near Koome district, dedicated to take care of orphaned chimpanzees that have been rescued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. Ngamba Island was gazetted in October 1998 over 40 chimpanzees rescued from various parts of East Africa. The island supports a rich diversity of natural wildlife and provides a variety of natural foods for the chimpanzees. The island is one of the places to view chimpanzees alongside Kibale National Park, Kalinzu forest, Budongo forest and Kyambura Gorge in Uganda. Up-close chimpanzee encounter is a thrilling opportunity to have a close-up experience with the chimps. This involves giving vegetables and fruits to the chimps from a raised platform, participate in environmental enrichment and monitoring chimpanzee behaviors. A morning forest walk is another opportunity to the travelers and hooking the Nile Perch on the world’s largest fresh water lake is also another experience that lasts 4hours. Ngamba provides cultural performances by the bonfire in the night giving a unique cultural experience to travelers through interacting, performing, drumming and storytelling. The suitable time to visit the island is 11:00am and also 2:30am (during the feeding time), here the travelers are able to view and explore the Chimpanzee in their habituated area. Care giving and integration offers a golden opportunity to the travelers to interact with the chimpanzees and during this process, you walk in a small group alongside the young chimpanzees through the forest for 1hour with a well-trained guide for your safety and how to work out with naughty chimpanzee. On the other hand care giving offers 24hours opportunity to prepare food, health checks and many more needed to take care of the chimpanzees. Not only the chimps are in the area, the island also provides diversity of wildlife such as bats, fish eagles, otters, lizards, spiders and many various bird species.
For those of you who would like to swim in the fresh waters, you will have a chance to do so before continuing to the mainland. If interested in swimming, the equator is the right point and you will be allowed a couple of minutes to enjoy the waters before proceeding with the journey. You will have a stopover at the Uganda-Equator to observe your boat being thrust by forces from both the North Pole and the South Pole, making it almost stationary in one place. You will also be able to enjoy the unique views of fishermen casting their nets. You can help support this project by visiting on Ngamba island sanctuary. The entrance and activity fees paid goes directly towards helping cover the recurring costs of the island sanctuary and ensuring the well-being of the chimpanzees in the area. Speedboat travels from the dock in Entebbe to Ngamba Island is approximately 45-50 minutes; travel by traditional motorized canoe which takes approximately 90 minutes and by air it’s approximately 20 minutes from Entebbe Airport or Kajjansi Air strip.
Where to stay while in Entebbe
- Lake Victoria Hotel
- Imperial Resort Beach Hotel
- The Boma
- Lake Heights
- Sienna Beach
- Papyrus Guesthouse
- Gately Inn
- Airport Guesthouse
- Entebbe Backpackers
- Sunset motel