World Travel Guides

Uganda - Off the beaten track

Homesick fish on market day

Lake Albert

Lake Albert is part of the Great Rift Valley system which extends from the Middle East to Mozambique, and since 1894 has formed part of the border between Uganda and Congo. The first European to spot the lake was the British explorer Sir Samuel Baker in 1864, who named it after Albert, prince consort of Great Britain.

The best time to visit the lake is in the late morning when the fishing catch is brought ashore by local boats. One place to watch this is Butiaba, along the road that connects Kampala with the lake area. The approach to it down the Albertine Escarpment is spectacular, with sweeping views of the lake and the Blue Mountains of Congo in the distance.

Butiaba is approximately 250km (155mi) north-west of Kampala. Buses and taxis travel via Masindi, east of Butiaba, or Wanseko, north of Butiaba on the lake's shore.

Ruwenzori Mountains

The mist-covered Rwenzori Mountains offer some of the most challenging trekking in East Africa. The mountain range stretches for about 100km (62mi) and is one of Uganda's most illustrious national parks. At its centre are several permanently snow and glacier-covered mountains; the highest is Mt Stanley, in the middle of the park, at 5109m (16,760ft).

Fort Portal, a green, pleasant and quiet town at the northeast end of the Ruwenzori Mountains, is the centre of a verdant tea-growing area. It's also the base from which to explore the Kibale Forest National Park, 30km (19mi) to the southeast. The park is famous for its chimpanzees, and is said to have the highest density of primates in the world. It's also home to baboons, red and white colobus monkeys, and larger mammals such as bushbucks, sitatungas, duikers, civets, buffalo and elephants.

Fort Portal is about 270km (168mi) north-west of Kampala, accessible by bus and taxi. Frequent buses and taxis shuttle between Fort Portal and Kibale and Ruwenzori national parks.

Ssese Islands

This group of 84 islands lies off the northwestern shores of Lake Victoria. The islands escaped the ravages of Uganda's civil wars and remain largely unspoiled. Their inhabitants, known as the Basese, form a distinct tribal group, with their own language, culture and folklore. They live primarily by catching fish and farming coffee, sweet potato, cassava, yams and bananas.

The main islands of Buggala, Bufumira, Bukasa, Bubeke and Khome are hilly and, where not cultivated, forested with a wide variety of trees. Animals you're likely to come across include monkey, hippo, crocodile and many different types of bird. Other than wildlife viewing, the Ssese Islands are a good place to fish, swim or just lie back in the sun.

The islands, which lie just south of Kampala, are connected to the mainland by ferries that run from Bukakata - about 80km (50mi) southwest of Kampala via Masaka - to Buggala Island, and by fishing boats from Port Bell (immediately southeast of Kampala) to Buggala.

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