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Uganda Travel Tips

Written by  Jan 16, 2013

Climate

Uganda’s temperatures vary little throughout the country with an average of about 26°C during the day and about 16°C at night throughout the year. The rainy seasons, in general are from Mid March-May and October-November. During the rainy season, the average rainfall is 175mm per month. Humidity is generally low outside of the wet seasons.

Clothes

Pack, lightweight washable clothes, a sweater or jacket is sufficient throughout the year, Shorts are acceptable for both men and women.
Cotton slacks and flat-heeled comfortable walking shoes are recommended on  a safari. Don’t forget a hat for sun protection, sunglasses and sunscreen, and a swimsuit.
Long sleeves and trousers in light-colored fabrics help discourage insect bites. You can buy clothes in Kampala (the Capital City) if necessary.
Umbrellas and windbreakers are recommended in the wet seasons.

Electricity

230V, but power failures, surges and troughs are common. Bring a universal adaptor and a flashlight or headlamp.

Accommodations

A number of good hotels, fitting every budget, are available in Uganda. In the National Parks, hotels and inns are generally available, but the quality of service and the quantity of rooms will vary.
We will book the best accommodation available for you, unless you request otherwise. All of our prepared itineraries start from Kampala. If you require pre or post tour hotel bookings in Kampala, please feel free to let us know and we will gratefully customise it for you.

Foods and Drinks

Fresh tropical fruits and vegetables are available throughout the country. Uganda has a wide range of dishes, both traditional and international served in the hotels and restaurants.
If you have any dietary restrictions, please inform us about it and we will make life comfortable for you.
Please be aware; sniffing food is considered to be rude in Ugandan culture. Feel free to try a taste of something. You may press a fruit to see if it is ripe rather than smelling it.
Drinking tap water is highly not recommended. Most hotels and restaurants provide previously boiled drinking water and bottled mineral water is readily available throughout the country.

Airlines

Several airlines service operate in Uganda regularly, including, Air Tanzania, British Airways, Egypt Air, Ethiopian Airlines, Emirates Airlines, Gulf Air, Kenya Airways/KLM/NW, East African Airlines and SN Brussels Airlines. There are also several reputable domestic charter companies to choose from, including Airserv, Kampala Aero Club, Eagle Aviation and United Airline.

Airport

Most guests to Uganda arrive by air, landing at Entebbe International airport which is located approximately 45 minutes drive from Kampala capital city during light traffic.
We will be happy to arrange transfers to and from the airport for you or your group.

Gorilla Trekking

Mountain gorilla tracking is a strenuous activity that requires a certain level
of physical fitness if you are to take it on record as a remarkable experience.
*The minimum trekking age is fifteen years (15 Years).
*Do not look directly into the eyes of the Gorillas.
*Anyone with signs of a communicable disease will not be allowed to trek.
while possession of a gorilla permit is a guarantee of trekking and sighting
the gorillas, the quality of the gorilla trekking can not be guaranteed. 
*Maximum time allowed with the gorillas on (access) will not exceed one hour.
*We strongly recommend that clients bring certain items along with them
from Kampala and among these including:
Rain poncho, knapsack, long-sleeved shirt, trousers, sturdy hiking boots,
leather gardening-type gloves, sunscreen, sun hut, insect repellent and any                                   
necessary medications
*Still photo and video cameras are allowed (the use of  flash-light on cameras, is not advisable, this may alarm the animals).
Films and batteries should be carried from Kampala
We recommend the use of a high altitude filter and high speed film for the optimum photography.

Health

Yellow Fever Vaccination is now REQUIRED. Malaria risk is general, and a prophylaxis should be taken: use insect repellent, cover up at sundown, sleep under a mosquito net and take anti-malaria prophylactics as prescribed by physician. Bring prescription medicine, spare glasses, contact lenses and solution as well as sunscreen and cream for bites/stings. Drink only boiled and bottled water, canned drinks, avoid ice cubes and salads. HIV/AIDS is widespread, therefore we strongly recommend the use of condoms.

Luggage

On most flights, airlines allow 20-40kg of luggage, or two pieces. We prefer that clients use soft luggage since space for luggage is limited in safari vehicles.
We can arrange for the storage of items that you will not be using while on safari.

Security

Uganda is generally a safe country, but don’t invite temptation. Keep an eye on your belongings. Don’t walk alone on streets in towns or cities late in the night. Take a taxi, don’t carry cameras or large amounts of cash, and be aware of pickpockets
Use hotel safety deposit boxes to safeguard valuables and obtain a receipt. Leave valuable jewelry at home.
We can arrange the safe keeping of your passport and ticket in our offices upon request.

Shopping

The tourist areas and hotels sell a wide range of souvenirs, jewelry and trinkets. Don’t be afraid to haggle at roadside stalls

Time

3 hrs + GMT

Tipping

Not obligatory, but a tip for exceptional service would be appreciated. If you are on a camping safari, the suggested minimum tip for your cook is $6-10 per person / per day. Regarding other activities such as, a canoe safari, bike ride, cultural visits, name it, each particular guide or company has been paid by Avian Safaris but in some cases you might feel compelled to offer a tip for exceptional service In that case, it is purely a personal decision but you might think of something in the range of $5 to $20 per group depending on the amount and level of service. These are general guidelines and you should feel free to tip as you see appropriate. Ask your guide in other instances if you are not sure whether to tip.

Gifts

Do not indiscriminately hand out pens, money and sweets– it just encourages begging. As anywhere, gifts should be given as a true expression of friendship, appreciation or thanks.
Do not give money to street kids because this will just encourage their stay on the streets. We have charity homes in Uganda where these kids are collected thus it is better to donate to these homes for example.

Immigrations

Most non-African passport holders require a visa to enter Uganda. Visas are available at all entry points, including Entebbe airport. The cost is USD 30 for a three month single entry tourist visa. There is a discount on student Visa (with the proper ID) to US$20.

Language

English is widely spoken in the cities, but not much of it in the villages, a few words of greetings like “Oli otya”, “Kodeo”, “Nugambaki”, “Hari” can be useful and will be appreciated greatly by locals.

Money

The Ugandan shilling (UGX) is a relatively stable currency. It is issued in denominations of UGX1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000 20,000 and 50,000 notes.  Coins are available in smaller denominations of UGX 50, 100, 200 and 500. There are no legal restrictions of foreign exchange transactions and the shilling is fully convertible ( you can buy Ugandan shillings with US dollars or US dollars with Ugandan shillings). Smaller US bills attract a much lower exchange rate than larger bills (for example; US$50 and US$100 notes).
Dollar notes dated 2001and earlier are not accepted by some Bureau de changes thus, it is better to carry later notes.
The United Kingdom (England) pound is also accepted at Bureau de changes stops.
Don’t change money in the street.

Banks

Several international banks operate in Uganda including Barclays, Standard Chartered, Stanbic, and Citi Bank. Many local banks and Bureau de changes also operate across the country. In general, banking hours are from 8.30am to 4.00pm, Monday to Friday. A few banking institutions are open longer hours and on Saturdays.

Credit Cards

AMEX, VISA and MASTERCARD are only accepted at a few choice establishments in Kampala and some up-country lodges. Credit card cash advances are only available at Barclays Bank in Kampala.

ATM (Auto Teller Machine)

A few banks have VISA power; so make sure your card has no issues with your bank then u will be able use it.

NOTE: ATMs are not wide spread in villages, they are only in urban centres

Travellers' cheques

Travellers' cheques can be exchanged at most banks in Uganda although you may run into difficulties exchanging them in smaller towns. However, they may not necessarily be exchanged at the foreign exchange bureaus. Exchange rates on travelers’ cheques are generally slightly lower than those for cash.

On Safari

Distances in Uganda are too vast, and travel by road may be wearing. Keep your distance from animals and be quiet to avoid stressing the wildlife. Follow instructions of your guide. Do not leave your vehicle in the parks except in designated places. Keep to recognized tracks to avoid damaging vegetation (Avoid off-tracking).

Photography

Though certain brands and speeds of films are available in many of the lodges, it is advisable to bring films and batteries with you or to purchase them in Kampala. High-speed films are recommended for photographing gorillas and chimps and high altitude filters are best for climbers (check with your photo shop for more information). Protect your cameras from dust and keep equipment and film cool. It is courteous to ask permission before photographing local people. If you intend to take a lot of people pictures, it will be nice to bring an instant camera with you so that you can leave a picture with the people you photograph. Excellent binoculars are a must have, it is recommended that you bring a pair along with you.
There are no charge for the use of personal cameras and video recorders but there may be a charge for commercial cameras in some places like in the National parks. Clients are responsible for such fees.

Sports Facilities

In addition to the activities outlined on this website, for example; white water rafting, hiking, climbing, quad biking, golfing, name it.), a number of sport facilities may be accessed in Kampala, Entebbe and Jinja city centres, including a good gym, squash, tennis, and swimming.

Cultural Tips

African cultures are nearly opposite to Western cultures in many ways. When in a rural village, it is important to respect the local culture so you will always be welcome. Most of the Ugandans you will encounter in a village have had little exposure to foreigners.
Greetings are very important, and spending time socializing is also valued in Uganda. Ugandans are generally very accommodating and helpful to outsiders. Your friends, local family, and local co-workers will often accompany you and want to help you in any way possible. As a guest, some people may want to serve you.
Be aware that this may make you feel uncomfortable, but their goal is to make you as comfortable as possible. Ugandans are incredibly friendly and welcoming people and do not be surprised to get invited frequently to peoples’ homes for “chai” (tea). They will offer you drinks or food. You may be considered rude if you refuse but of course do not consume things you are uncomfortable with. Also understand that it is generally culturally unacceptable to refuse a gift. Whoever invites people for drinks or a meal generally pays for everything instead of splitting the bill. If other people pay for your drinks or meals do not be surprised.
Be prepared that people will ask you to give them things, pay for things, or buy things, some tourists often interpret this as people trying to take advantage of them! There is simply a cultural difference of sharing whatever you have coupled with an assumption that you have a lot to give. This is opposite to Western culture where we value independence and often do not like to ask for help or things especially from others. It is best to say “NO” if that is how you feel. Realize, too, that Ugandans often say “NO” to each other as well.
If u are asked; such as for help sending them to school, your camera, to buy something from them, they are not really expecting you to say “YES” they are just trying their chances, feel free to say “NO” without an explanation, simply say “I don’t have or am not interested!” if someone asks you for something you are uncomfortable giving, or “Thank you!” on receipt of something from someone.
Talk with your guide before providing assistance to someone besides, it is your choice to help

Privacy

While privacy is very important in Western cultures, it is practically non-existent in Uganda. This means that people may openly stare at you, and may ask questions that seem personal, such as “are you married, any children, what religion are you?”

Gender Relations

Men and women are generally not friends in the Ugandan society. You may of course become friends with people of different genders, but be aware that if you spend a lot of time with any individual of the opposite sex, the community will assume you are having an affair. Public displays of affection between members of the opposite sex will be very offensive to the rural community. On the other hand, do not be surprised to see men holding hands in friendship. Women in particular may experience badgering from men including frequent marriage proposals. Wearing a wedding ring and telling people you are married goes a long way.

 

Last modified on Thursday, 30 April 2015 00:04

Common Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)

common squacco heron

The Common Squacco Heron is a palearctic migrant, breeding in southern Europe and Greater Middle East, and wintering in Africa.

This small heron is stocky with a short neck, short thick bill and buff-brown back, growing to 44–47 cm long (bill tip to tail, 20–23 cm width and 80–92 cm of wingspan.

The Squacco Heron breeds in marshy wetland habitats of warm countries. The birds nest in small colonies, often with other wading birds, usually on platforms of sticks in trees or shrubs where they lay up to 3-4 eggs.

Their diet consist of fish, frogs and insects.

Shoebill Balaeniceps rex

Diet: Lungfishes, Catfish, Tilapia, Frogs, Reptiles, and small mammal

Habitat and feeding: Swamps, marshes, particular floating vegetation, generally muddy areas on fresh water bodies

The Shoebill is a massive bird, growing to heights of 3-1/2ft to 4-1/2ft tall.

The birds nest solitarily, laying one to three eggs in a large flat nest built amid swamp grasses or sedges, usually in remote areas. These eggs measure 80 to 90 mm high by 56 to 61 mm and weigh around 164 g. It takes 140 days of nest-attendance to get from new-laid egg to independent offspring and it takes three to four years to get from newly independent offspring to mature adult.

This species is considered to be one of the five most desirable birds in Africa by ornithologists.

Mountain Gorilla

(Gorilla beringei beringei)

Mountain gorillas are the largest living primates and the world's most endangered apes with a population of less than 800 individuals world over- none in zoos. They are found in Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

They share 97% DNA with human beings! They are our closest living cousins after the Chimpanzee.

They have up to 25 vocalization for communication

Mountain Gorillas are shy, social and very active during day. They live in families of 8-25 members with one leading male (The Silver Back).

Gorillas have a lifespan of 50 years in the wild. They reproduce at a very slow speed with a gestation period of approximately 8.5 months and an interval of four years to the next birth.

Diet: Mainly herbivores eating fruits, herbs, leaves, stems, roots and shoots. Sometimes ingest small insects like ants and termites.

Hamerkop (Scopus umbretta)

This sedentary medium-sized wading bird of 56 cm long, weighing 470 gm  is know to occur from Africa to coastal southwest Arabia wetlands.

Hamerkops feed during the day, the main diet consists of amphibians and fish. Sometimes, they eat shrimp, insects and rodents. They walk in shallow water looking for prey, shuffling one foot at a time on the bottom or suddenly opening their wings to flush prey out of hiding.

Hamerkops, of all birds make the biggest nest in the trees, sometimes more than 1.5 m across, comprising perhaps 10,000 sticks and strong enough to support a man's weight. A mud-plastered entrance 13 to 18 cm wide in the bottom leads through a tunnel up to 60 cm long to a nesting chamber big enough for the parents and young.

They lay 3 to 7 eggs that start white but soon become stained. Both sexes incubate for 28 to 30 days. The chicks leave the nest at 44 to 50 days.

In culture, the bird is associated to bad omen; Some cultures in Uganda believe, when the bird patches on ones house then they are likely to be struck by lightening. In some places, when it calls over the house, people know that someone close to them has died. The Kalahari Bushmen believe that the inimical god Khauna would not like anyone to kill a Hamerkop. According to an old Malagasy belief, anyone who destroys its nest will get leprosy, and a Malagasy poem calls it an "evil bird". Such beliefs have given the bird some protection.

Greater Blue-eared Starling

(Lamprotornis chalybaeus)

The Greater Blue-eared Starling is among the starlings with short tails. Grows to up to 23 cm from bill to tail.

Sexes are similar except the immature which is generally duller compared to the iridescent blue-green coloured adult.

They nest in holes in trees, either natural or excavated by woodpeckers. And sometimes in large stick nests of the Sacred Ibis or Abdim's Stork. Here they lay 3 to 5 eggs which are greenish-blue with some brown or purple spots, and hatch in 13–14 days. The chicks leave the nest in another 23 days.

Greater Blue-eared Starlings are omnivore, taking a wide range of invertebrates seeds and berries, especially figs, but insects are the main diet.

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