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Exploring the Hidden Gems of Uganda with Emily Prentiss

Thursday, 1st November 2018
Exploring the Hidden Gems of Uganda with Emily Prentiss

My trip to Uganda was one of great wonder and exploration. The Uganda Tourism Board in partnership with Turkish Airlines hosted this trip for advisors to learn more about Uganda as a destination and all that the country has to offer travelers from around the globe.

 I departed in mid-May,the end of the rainy season and had the luxury off lying Turkish Airlines in Business Class with a connection in Istanbul to Entebbe, Uganda.  It was all about the little touches that make the long journey stellar-Chef on board, Bentley amenity kits, fresh flowers in small nooks, spacious bathrooms and more. Turkish Airlines has an incredible two-story lounge in Istanbul with comfortable suites to rest, showers, and a variety of food stations from cuisines all around the world. They also offer massages therapy, golf simulation and a movie cinema for relaxation and entertainment in between flights.

Uganda's topography is outstanding. You can be driving through the mountains, to the Rain forest, past tea plantations, all within less than an hour plane ride from where you had just been on safari. I especially loved the water aspect. Not many people know that the Nile begins in Uganda. Water brings the count r y to life with countless rivers, lakes and waterfalls, and in return an abundance of wild life. The country is green and lush, villages are lively, and the roads are rustic - you will never get bored. There is a lot you can miss in the blink of an eye.

The country sits on the equator and has warm weather all year round.  There can easily be a 7-10, even 14-day itinerary created around the country. You can see the big five and more. The water component enables safari by boat to view hippo and crocs, turning Uganda into a destination for bird lovers and even fisherman (catch and release). Our l and safari included sundowners overlooking a lake listening to the pod of hippo and seeing a family of five tree climbing lions lounging and napping high up in the sturdy branches. The active trip component is fulfilled while hiking a long side iconic waterfalls or climbing snow capped mountains, even white-water rafting.While staying near Murchison Falls National Park, we were able to visit Jane

Goodall's first chimpanzee lodge, Bdongo.  You can hear the chimps screaming to each other, swinging from vines like in a movie. This wildlife and these experiences make Uganda the most unique country in this region. 

Ugandans are friendly and go above and beyond to please, always with a smile. From a logistics standpoint, Uganda has great hotel product of different calibers, all without the crowds. It is important to emphasize that the country is still underdeveloped keeping its local roots,making it more remote and less commercialized as some of its competing countries.  You can drive for miles in a national reserve and never see a soul... it's just you. 

From Entebbe with a longer layover, we flew to Murchison Falls National Park. Our first stop was Paraa Safari Lodge. Murchison Falls is home to the Big Five except the rhino.  As we began our adventure, my first impression of Murchison Falls was how truly stunning the surrounding nature was-the park was stunningly lush and green. We immediately saw game - lionesses in the grass, tons of birds, giraffe, hyena and more. As we gathered for sundowners that evening right on the Nile, a thunderstorm rolled over the mountains. It made us all feel witness to something incredibly special- listening to the thunder, watching the lightening, hearing the hippo talking to one another,it was one of those "pinch me" moments you never forget.

Upon our return to the Lodge, we were able to explore the accommodations more, and were happy to find that the Lodge was authentically rustic with beautiful views of the Nile River from the balconies. Paraa Safari Lodge has a unique safari decor that is characteristic of the early explorers' era but is blended with a modern touch. The enticing pool overlooks the winding Nile River below, which was the setting for the classic Hollywood movie "The African Queen" (starring Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart).  The Lodge felt safe, even with a few visits from baboons throughout the grounds.  Important to note they have a two-bedroom villa that was built for Queen Elizabeth when she visited Uganda. The staff was very friendly and helpful which made us feel at home.

The following morning, we did another game drive around the Buligi Game tracks in the northern sector of the park. We saw elephants and even more wildlife. In the afternoon, we took one of their nicest private boats for a cruise up the Nile toward Murchison Falls. We saw the longest crocodiles basking in the sun, a plethora of bird species perched in the trees lining the water and animals drinking from the river's edge. Close to the base, we were able to get off the boat and hike to the top of the falls (about 40 mins) to take in the view from a new vantage point-it was stunning.