Day 152: Entebbe to Fort Portal via Mabamba Swamp

|, Trip Report, Uganda|Day 152: Entebbe to Fort Portal via Mabamba Swamp

13 July 2017

Day 152: Entebbe to Fort Portal via Mabamba Swamp

Distance: 337km (Cumulative: 16 464km)
Moving time: 7:06
Average speed: 47km/h
Road surface: 82% Tar, 18% Gravel

Accommodation: Camping
Gardens of Eden - R90 p.p

Ripoff price for poor facilities

The receptionist at ViaVia told us the free ferry on the road from Entebbe to Kasanje leaves at 08:30 in the morning. We thus set an alarm for 06:30 in order to leave by 07:30. We actually managed to get up in time and pack up quickly, but only left the campsite at 07:50. We still made it to the ferry by 08:12, but it already left only a few minutes earlier. We thus had to wait for it to cross to the other side and come back again.

We waited a full hour for the ferry during which time a Ugandan pastor came to preach to us through the car window, complete with reading a scripture from his bible and everything.

Since we were first in line Hugo had to drive to the front of the ferry close to the water. Only three vehicles and 4 small-ish trucks fitted on the ferry, together with lot’s of people, motorcycles and goats. We only reached the other side at 09:54, another 40 minutes later.


The road to the boat launch site of the Mabamba Swamp is only 14km from the ferry and quite easy to find using Google Maps or Open Street Maps. On Google Maps you can just search for Mabamba Swamp Shoebill Bird Watching. The route from the Ferry to the turn-off is not yet on T4A, but coming from Kasanje T4A can be followed as well. From the ferry it was 5km until the turn-off which had a sign post indicating the swamp and then 9km straight to the swamp.

We paid 60 000 UGX each which included the boat and the guide and any entrance fees if there is such a thing at the swamp. The swamp has a main channel going to a kind of island cut off by the swamp. There is even a ferry that can take a vehicle, but someone pushes it for 2km across the swamp using a stick.

We got a small motorised boat and went into the first narrow channel branching out of the main channel. Within 10 minutes we saw the first Shoebill. It was about 50m from the boat, but we could see all of its weirdness. We later saw another one standing in the water and then on the way back we saw the first one again, but even closer to the channel.

We also saw plenty of other birds like the Hamerkop, African Jacana (also called African Jesus, because it looks like it is walking on water), Bee-eaters, Egrets, Cormorants, Pied Kingfisher, Malachite Kingfisher, Yellow-billed kite, ducks and plenty of other common birds.

After the tour we made peanut butter and honey sandwiches for lunch and then finally hit the road again at 13:27. We drove to the Kampala-Masaka road and the took a left to Kampala. Instead of going almost all the way to Kampala to get onto the A109, we took a shortcut from Nsangi, saving us about 20km.

We initially planned on overnighting somewhere before Fort Portal, but the place we saw on iOverlander didn’t look so great so we continued to Fort Portal. We got an average speed of 60kmp/h on the A109, but then 47km before Fort Portal road works started or rather the lack of road works started. For more than 20km the road surface changed between various stages of resurfacing the road. Some parts already had stones, but no tar. Other sections were just gravel or even broken up tar.

We got to the Gardens of Eden campsite at 19:30, but the gate was closed and no-one was around. We saw the camp site on iOverlander and chose it, because it is within walking distance of the Stitch and Sew Garage where we want to service the Hilux tomorrow. We hooted and finally someone came to ask us what we want. To camp of course! She then had to go find a key, but returned with a hammer and started to pry open the chain. Daniel later went to help her finish the job.

Ten minutes later we could finally enter the campsite. This was just the beginning of a very strange experience. We were shown a place on the grass close to the staff quarters even though the toilets were 300m to the other side, where there is also level space available. While setting up camp a very drunk person came to us, but no-one understood what he was saying. He kept appearing and disappearing again. We quickly made spaghetti with mince for dinner and then went to bed early. We left the dirty dishes, table and chairs outside.

About an hour or two after going to bed we heard a noise and footsteps outside the tent, by the time Hugo looked outside the table, chairs and dishes were gone. Sekar was also looking outside and there was someone who just said “Ants”, so she just said “Oh, ok” and we all, went back to sleep. For Daniel and Sekar the experience was, however, much scarier. They also heard footsteps and then actually said “Hello? Hello?”, but no one replied. Then they heard liquid splashing and smelled fuel. Some liquid even splashed against the side of the tent. They thought someone is dousing them in fuel and is going to set them alight. Turns out the staff saw some ants and decided to take our table and chairs away and to throw paraffin or something on the ants around the tent – without telling us anything or answering D&S when they asked what is going on.


2019-07-29T10:51:24+02:00 February 11th, 2017|Categories: Africa, South Africa, Trip Report|

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