Uganda by bike – the Pearl of Africa is never short of surprises

UGANDA BY BIKE – OLD AND NEW TRAILS AWAIT

(Posted 15th July 2015)

That Uganda is a major African adventure destination is beyond doubt. Be it rafting on the upper Nile, hiking up Mt. Elgon, climbing the Rwenzoris, aka Mountains of the Moon, tracking gorillas or chimps, there is plenty going on across the country both inside and outside the national parks and game reserves. At the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary one can approach rhinos on foot in the company of guides and rangers, from the Mihingo Lodge outside Lake Mburo National Park a safari on horseback can be arranged and across the South West of Uganda have hiking trails opened up with guided tours, some extending over several days, offered by specialized operators like Nkuringo Walking Safaris or Edirisa, details and contacts of both available via Google.

Today’s focus though will again be on cycling, where Uganda is now finally coming into its own, after neighbours Rwanda opened up the Congo Nile Trail some four years ago, which proved hugely successful for both hikes and tours with mountain bikes. While a ‘Tour de Ouganda’ may still be some time off, again unlike in Rwanda where this has become an annual event, plans are reportedly afoot to launch an annual competitive cycling calendar and a first step was taken by the Uganda Cycling Association but more about that later.

Mabira Forest, located along the Kampala to Jinja highway, offers several hiking and cycling trails and the RainForest Lodge is an ideal base to experience some active vacation.

Mabira, while not a national park or game reserve is a national forest reserve and its credentials are impressive by any standards. Nature Uganda’s description of the forest includes mention of 312 shrubs and tree species, 287 types of butterflies, 316 species of birds, many of them endemic, 23 species of reptiles, 97 species of moths and in contrast to other listed inventories some 51 mammal species. Of course will not all be seen, or heard, when cycling across one of the four mapped out trails but chances are that a fair number of bird sighting, and even mammals, can be recorded while during stops enroute it is trees, shrubs, orchids and insects which can be inspected close up and personal. Mabira Forest even offers Uganda’s first zip-lining option which, located near the Griffin Falls, can be accessed by bike on one of the trails, or via the town of Lugazi by car. And talking of Lugazi, there is a golf course which is open to the public should any of the golf addicted visitors passing through and having time to spare, wish to play a round. Equipment can be hired from the Pro-Shop at the Club House.

In Kampala has the Uganda Cycling Association thrown their weight behind the ‘Kampala Adventure Cycling 2015’ event which is due to be held on the 16th of August, just a month from now and details about it can be accessed via www.ugandaadventurecycling.com. Notably has the Uganda Tourism Board also joined the key sponsor team, alongside the Kampala Capital City Authority, to showcase how far cycling has come in Uganda and how popular a sport it is today.

(Pictures and maps courtesy of Yellow Haven)

More regular cycling trips though are available, upon prior arrangement it must be stressed to allow for the logistics, i.e. boats and guides to be ready, from the Yellow Haven which is located in Kawuku right on the lake. Cycling trails have been opened up covering distances of between 13.3 kilometres to as much as 40 kilometres. From the Yellow Haven landing site do cyclists take a boat ride across Murchisons Bay from where they will begin their day out, exploring rural Uganda like few other opportunities allow. For details on the currently available three trails and details on meals and accommodation check http://www.yellowhaven.com/yellowhaven/yellowhaven.aspx#.

Anyone visiting Kampala on business and fancying a day out on the bike rather than spending an hour on a treadmill in the gym of the hotel, this is the best option for a workout and with the trails running through a rural area little vehicle traffic is encountered, making it far safer than cycling along main roads or in the city itself while at the end of it having a serene lake side setting for a sundowner, a meal or even a refreshing dip into the swimmingpool.

Both Nkuringo Walking Safaris and Edirisa have indicated that trips by mountain bike can be organized across the trails they normally hike but visitors need to bring their own bikes with them as there are none available for hire. Guides from both companies are available to take individuals and groups across South Western Uganda for a cycling adventure, perhaps combined with a day of gorilla tracking, a visit to the Batwa people, a hike up Mt. Mgahinga or some relaxing canoeing on Lake Mutanda or Lake Bunyonyi. For added information about Destination Uganda click on www.visituganda.com or pay a visit to www.ugandawildlife.org

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