That Uganda is a major African adventure destination is beyond a 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, and from the Mihingo Lodge outside Lake Mburo National Park a safari on horseback can be arranged. Across the southwest of Uganda hiking trails have opened up with guided tours, some extending over several days.
Today’s focus though will be on two-wheeled transportation – cycling. This is where Uganda is now finally coming into its own, after neighbors 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 all will not be seen or heard when cycling across one of the four mapped-out trails, but chances are that a fair number of bird sightings, and even mammals, can be recorded. During stops enroute, trees, shrubs, orchids, and insects 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 speaking 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.
In Kampala, the Uganda Cycling Association has thrown their weight behind the “Kampala Adventure Cycling 2015” event which is due to be held on August 16, just a month from now. 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.
More regular cycling trips are also available upon prior arrangement. Cycling trails have been opened up covering distances of between 13.3 kilometers to as much as 40 kilometers. Anyone visiting Kampala on business and fancying a day out on a 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 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 swimming pool.