Tuesday, 24 October 2017

South Africa, My New Found Love!

South Africa was not on my list this year of places to explore. Zambia, Namibia and Botswana were, but my budget and work commitments did not allow it. I heard it was difficult to obtain a visa for Africa’s southern tip, but I tried and thankfully I was accepted!
Skyline of Johannesburg.

Johannesburg was unlike any other place I’ve ever experienced. South Africa’s largest city (4.5 million citizens according to Wikipedia) is colourful and diverse. A tour opened my eyes to street art that made my eyes pop. I loved their art galleries and museums. The skyline view was rich with skyscrapers that kissed the sky.

Soweto was quite an experience. I expected to see only people in tough economic circumstances as it houses the biggest slum in Africa, but every social status lives there—rich, middle-class, and in between. Posh houses were not too far from ram-shacked houses built of iron sheets. The history in this place was really interesting. Everything I had learned was from school but it was good to hear first hand about history with some evidence. Nelson Mandela's first home is here, a single-story red brick house. Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s place is not too far away.

Strolling down Maboneng- Joburg

Jumping over Clean streets.

A building with Mandela's painting in Maboneng.

In the background is one of the 2010 World Cup stadiums in Soweto.

On this trip I was able to visit my penpal whom I have been writing for four years. We visited the Mandela National Museum (or Mandela House) which is a must see. We also visited the Cradle of Humankind, a world heritage site that tells the story of “stones and bones.” It was interesting to learn about the evolution of our species. It was cool to go inside a cave and witness ancient carvings.

Pretoria was visited on a rainy day but South Africa’s capital city did not disappoint. You must visit the union buildings. They house government offices and if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll see President Jacob Zuma as his office is there. The union buildings also offer an amazing view of the city. The Voortrekker Monument, located just south of Pretoria, is a huge granite monument on a hilltop that tells the story of Dutch settlers. The history of the great trek is told with illustrations carved in stone.

My penpal Lizelle and her husband while at the Mandela Museum.

The Apartheid Museum.

Maropeng- Cradle of Human Kind.

Mandela's statue.

The union buildings.

As my time to leave Johannesburg arrived I was looking forward to Cape Town. I traveled to O.R Tambo International Airport on a posh train known as the Gautrain. It took only about 15 minutes from the downtown core, and the flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town was about an hour. If you’re on a leisurely pace, you can easily drive there. The sights on the coastline are gorgeous.

Cape Town was the highlight of my trip! The city was so nice and clean. It was  modern and majestic with beautiful ancient architecture (my favourite). I had to remind myself that I was still in Africa, it looked like a European nirvana. I took a million photos as the city left quite an impression. Table Mountain and Lion’s Head are such a beautiful backdrop to Cape Town. The sunsets are spectacular.

Some of the architecture in Cape Town.

The view of Lion's head from Table Mountain.

On Table Mountain.

Magical sunsets in Cape Town over the Ocean.

Be sure to bring your hiking shoes and climb Table Mountain and Lion’s Head. You can go alone or with some friends because using a guide is pretty expensive. We climbed up taking a longer route that was less hectic. Back down we used a cable car because it was a tiring hike. Afterwards we ended up by the beach and watched some amazing sunsets and waves.

While in the area I suggest you check out Bo-Kaap, a colourful Muslim township located on the slopes of Signal Hill. The neighbourhood houses every colour of the rainbow lined with cobble-stone streets. Walking and bus tours are available. From there I traveled along the Garden Route of the Eastern Cape which is one of the most scenic areas I’ve ever seen. It’s named as such for their natural gardens and magnificent forests. Since I’m such an adrenaline seeker, I was looking forward to jumping off the highest bridge in the world located at Tsisikama National Park. It’s 216  meters high (don’t need to be an engineer to know that’s a long way up). I had never tried bungee jumping but was anxious to try and placed my faith with the good people at “Face Adrenalin- Bloukrans Bungy.” The instructors are great and put you at ease with their professionalism as music plays while you’re getting strapped up. I took the plunge and had no time to think about how fast I was travelling in the air. When I reached my destination 700 plus feet below, the fear was gone but the euphoria remained. It was so energizing.

Bo-kaap neighborhood.

Bloukrans bungee bridge at 216 meters.

The big jump!

Do you know there’s such a thing as African penguins? Yep! They’re located at Boulders Beach in the Cape peninsular near Simon's Town towards the Cape Point. Absolutely adorable as they waddle through sparkling sand. If you like big jaws maybe you’ll see sharks or goofy seals like I did at Muizenburg Beach. We had our lunch inside the Cape of Good Hope section of Table Mountain National Park with the ocean providing a spectacular view. If you’d like to sample some grapes a wine farm is nearby.

Chapmans Peak Drive (affectionately known as “Chappies”) is about a twenty minute ride from Cape Town and is a beautiful coastal road. It’s ideal for cyclists and many American movies have been filmed here. My last evening in Cape Town was enjoyed with a friend when we went bar hopping on Long Street, a famous party neighbourhood.

Muizenburg beach.

Trying a headstand on the way to the Cape of Good Hope.

Penguins at Boulders bridge.

Chapman's drive.

Camps Bay, the Beverly Hills of Cape Town.

Cape of Good Hope

Before leaving Cape Town I had to visit Robben Island Museum and see where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated along with so many political prisoners. It was sad to hear about apartheid’s past through the stories of former inmates but these stories should never be forgotten.

I flew to Durban though I did not do much here here. I spent two nights here, I went walking around with a friend and then spent sometime at the beach where by we got chance to visit the marine park. If you are into water sports activities, Durban would be great for you.  

At Ribben Island with Table Mountain in the back.

Along a beach in Durban.

Beautiful architecture.

At the marine park with a mate.

I finalised my time in South Africa along the Drakensberg mountains. There is a gorgeous waterfall located at the top; Tugela Falls, the highest on the continent at 983 meters (3,200 feet) and second in the world. I even saw snow for the first time (who would’ve thought I’d see penguins and snow on Africa’s southern tip!). These last three days was a perfect way to end my travels. I stayed at a hostel named The Amphitheatre  Backpackers lodge, a beautiful place to stay if you’re on a budget.
If you’re in the area, don’t miss the Drakensberg Amphitheatre; it houses one of the most beautiful cliffs on earth.

Tugela Water fall.

Breathtaking views.

Ascending down after the hike.

We made it to the top!

There is crime in South Africa, but like every populated country you should be smart and aware of your surroundings. If you go around at night, take a licensed taxi. South Africa isn’t cheap, so I recommend preparing your own meals to save your dollars for the big sights.

South Africa is internationally known for its beauty. Its the most amazing in Africa according to research. Experience it. I guarantee it’ll live in your heart long after you return home.


Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Kabale- The Switzerland of Uganda.

Kabale is my favorite place in Uganda. I love to go here every year when the city gets too overwhelming. It is called the Switzerland of Uganda because of the many beautiful hills in the region. I first discovered it in 2010 and have returned ever since. Its located in South Western Uganda 400 Kilometers away, and it neighbors Rwanda and Congo.

View of Lake Bunyonyi.

Back in 2014 when I first visited the equator, you wont miss seeing it on your way to Kabale.

Going by bus takes 8 hours but sometimes you have to be careful what bus you choose, the first time I went where the bus took almost 10 hours because it stopped frequently to pick up passengers. Lately there are good buses that you can use like the Post Office Bus which is very reliable, Bismarkan coaches and a few others. The town is quite small and there is not much to do but the magic starts when you get out.
A terraced hill in Kabale

Black and white Colobus monkeys on the way to Bwindi.

The first thing that catches your eyes are the hills. Their slopes are spectacular and the views are like a painting.There is one amazing activity done 51 kilometers away from the town to Bwindi impenetrable forest and that is Gorilla tracking. When I did my tracking, the drive from the town to Ruhija in Bwindi took us two hours. We stayed at one budget camp called Ruhija Community Rest Camp. The view of the thick forest was so amazing and we saw some monkeys and multi-colored birds frolicking. 

The beautiful Bwindi impenetrable Forest
Up-close with the mountain gorilla.

The best part after tracking the mountain gorillas gorillas, is chilling by Lake Bunyonyi. "Bunyonyi" means birds, so if you love feathered friends, you will be amazed by so many species.This is the most beautiful and freshest lake for you to enjoy Don't worry about any parasites because there isn't any,so jump right in! You will be awed by the many islands on this lake and views once you do some short hikes. I recommend you rent a canoe and explore. Check out the Punishment island. The story is unfortunately heartbreaking but the story must be be told. Women pregnant before marriage were sent here and left to die.Some were rescued by single men unable to afford dowry but looking for a bride. Today Punishment island no longer serves as a punishment island but a sobering reminder of past injustices. 

Take some village walks and hikes of which you will get amazing views once on top. Don't forget to try the delicious cray fish from the lake.
The view of the many islands on Lake Bunyonyi

More Views of the lake.

Visit a Batwa community.  This is a community if pygmies who are the most voiceless and marginalized group of people in Uganda. They used to live in Echuya forest but were resettled away from there by the government. You can learn a lot about their culture and feel free to buy from their handcrafts or make some donations if you wish so.

On the canoe with clients to explore some islands.

The Batwa community.

Kabale is always a rewarding experience. Surrounded by clean air, hills and a lake you feel as one with nature. With so many birds singing songs of welcome, how could you not be transformed?

Experience this diamond in the hills. You won't regret it. 

Send an email for more info to explore this area.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

The crater district of Uganda.

Fortportal is a district in western Uganda located 261 km from Kampala. It’s easily accessible by private or public transit. I first visited in 2015 during Easter weekend with friends and fell deeply in love with it. So will you!
Stunning view of a crater.
Tea Plantations along the road

We caught a bus thinking the journey would take us 4 hours but it took about 5 hours. It was a long bus journey but the scenery makes up for it. There is so much green and cleaner air away from the capital. The forests and tea plantation s along the way look spectacular.
We got to the town quite late but had a taxi organised for to take us to our hostel.
In the morning everything was very clear with the majestic peak of Rwenzori mountain greeting us. The forests were emerald green with a crater lake right in front of our rooms. We had a wonderful walking tour where we learned of beautiful gardens and plants. We ended up at the Mahoma Falls for a shower. Everything was picture worthy.

On a walking tour with our guide Noah

Beautiful trees on our walking path.
Mountain Rwenzori view.

Shower at Mahoma falls

Our guide Noah hired motorbikes for us and rode in the far parts of the district. Driving through Kibale National Park was quite a sight as a number of monkeys said hello along the way. We ended up at an area known locally as "Top of the world," a spectacular 360° view of Mother Nature. We were tired but euphoric.

Rented bikes
Top of the world,

Half Way to Heaven.

There is a lot of monkey business here in Fort Portal (seriously). There is a good chance you’ll see a chimpanzees amongst the green during the tracking in Kibale Forest. You can also visit the Kitagata hot springs which are said to have healing powers. The short hike there is also great considering the views of the surrounding nature.

Queen Elizabeth National Park is a short distance and it’s an idea for a day safari from Fortportal and ideal for those on a budget.

I have been going to Fortportal every year since I first set foot here. I have taken friends and clients here.

My favourite place to stay is the Ayapapa Open House, an eco friendly accommodation located in Lyantonde village just before Papaya Lodge. I was introduced to this place by friends who stayed here and fell in love with it. This place is a beautifully designed open house and has cabins overlooking Crater Lake. The owner has planted trees and flowers all over the area. There is resting place overlooking the lake, not to mention a big kitchen. It is a self-catering accommodation and you can easily chill in the hammocks while you read a book. On a hot day, you can easily hop into the lake for a swim and cool off. If you love nature and prefer peace and quiet, this is your place. Jaishu the owner will help you with anything.

Breakfast overlooking the lake surrounded by roses.

One of the lounging areas.

The Kitchen.
My favorite spot.

Experience Fortportal! It would be my pleasure to help you arrange your trip.