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East Africa on a scooter | Part 2 | Bugala Island – Lake Mburo (170 km)

Who dares to drive more than 3.000 kilometers on a scooter through East Africa? Visiting mountain gorillas? Scooter safaris (does this word exist?) in five National parks† To admire lions, buffaloes, hippos and elephants up close, among other things. My name is Eric and I like to travel around on a scooter. Read here part 2 of the unique report of an amazing scooter adventure Uganda, Rwanda en Kenya† In the second part of this trip I drive from Bugala Island to Lake Mburo, about 180 kilometers.

Also read:

East Africa on a scooter | Part 1 | From Kampala to Kigali (180 km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 2 | Bugala Island – Lake Mburo (170 km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 3 | Lake Mburo National Park – Kabale (230 km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 4 | Kabale – Ruhija – Gorilla trekking (50 km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 5 | Bwindi – Kabale – Kigali (160 km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 6 | Kigali Genocide Memorial – Kabale
East Africa on a scooter | Part 7 | Kabale – Queen Elizabeth National Park (175 km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 8 | Queen Elizabeth NP – Fort Portal (120km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 9 | Fort Portal – Muhorro (100 km)

On the way to the highway

Today is a big ride planned. On the map I have mapped out the route to Mburo National Park. The total distance is 170 km and almost half of it consists of dirt roads. So no time to lose, because if it starts to rain I have to take a break. These dirt roads immediately turn into real slides.

It is half past six in the morning when the alarm goes off. A look outside tells me that it is still dark. The sun does not rise until a quarter to seven. Nevertheless, in view of the long journey, I decide to catch the eight-hour ferry. At five o'clock I drive my scooter onto the ferry.

The scooter on the ferry from Bugala Island to Bukakata
The scooter on the ferry from Bugala Island to Bukakata

At a leisurely pace I drive on the dirt road, which is over 30 km long. I pay attention to the dozens of herds of Ankole cows grazing on the vast pastures. Two donkeys ragged somewhat clumsily on the road and stare at me in amazement.

Two donkeys on the dirt road towards Masaka
Two donkeys on the dirt road towards Masaka

Halfway through I hesitate at the sign 'Sand Beach Nabugabo 5km'. I'd like to take a dip in Lake Nabugabo, but time doesn't allow it.

The exit towards Sand Beach Nabugabo
The exit towards Sand Beach Nabugabo

Masaki

Slowly but surely I approach Masaka. The number of settlements increases along the way. There is a lot of activity. For example, my eye falls on an open-air workshop where a toilet cubicle is advertised. 'A good toilet for health and dignity. Order now. Installed within two days.' It is not clear where the feces end up. I expect that a big hole will be dug under it. In any case, it offers more privacy than a corridor to the bushes.

Demo toilet near Masaka
Demo toilet near Masaka

Well and then it is high time to discuss an important means of transport in East Africa: the boda boda. Boda boda is a word that comes from Swahili and means motorcycle or bicycle taxi. Although Swahili is not spoken in Uganda, the term has also been introduced here. Just like in Kenya and Tanzania, the term motorcycle taxi is very extensive. Almost everything is transported on it.

boda bodas

Whether there are official rules regarding the maximum number of people? There are regularly four passengers. I have already spotted whole families (six or more) on it. And then of course there is also freight transport. Boda bodas packed with mattresses (piled high), cots, bunches of bananas and pigs. You can't think of it that crazy or the boda boda can transport it.

Boda bodas with anything and everything along the road in Uganda
Boda bodas with anything and everything along the road in Uganda

Mburo National Park – Lunch and a first safari

I am right on schedule when I reach Masaka around half past eleven. Masaka is a medium-sized city in Uganda with over 100.000 inhabitants. By the way, the country only has one real big city and that is Kampala. More than one and a half million people live there.

It takes some getting used to when I reach the main road. What an apparent chaos. Hundreds of bunches of bananas are waiting for a buyer along the road. A 'Feyenoord supporter' watches it all from the road. Of course I should know the best about this. 'Are you from Feyenoord?' I ask him. 'Huh? What do you mean? This T-shirt?' 'Yes. That belongs to a football club from my country, Holland.' 'Oh, is that so. I did not know that. I liked the colors. Therefore.'

Banana market in Masaka with a 'Feyenoord fan'
Banana market in Masaka with a 'Feyenoord fan'

Then it's time to take a break and score a rolex. Rolex stands for 'rolled eggs'. You can buy them along the road almost all day long. It is a pancake (chapati) with one or more eggs fried in it. Depending on the seller, tomato and onion are added. The price varies from 1.000 to 2.000 Ugandan shillings (25 – 50 euro cents).

The preparation of a Rolex in Uganda
The preparation of a Rolex in Uganda

On a scooter into a national park

Two hours later, just after the village of Akegata, I reach the dirt road towards Lake Mburo National Park. So now it's going to happen. On the scooter a National Park in. Not only that thought is spinning in my head. There will be no lions (there seems to be an ancient male lion still alive). Buffalo, hippos, leopards and many other wild animals do live there.

And what if they don't allow me on the scooter? We'll see… The first safari is already over before I have reached the entrance gate. A herd of zebras ran away when they spotted that crazy scooter with me on it.

Lake Mburo NP Welcome
Lake Mburo NP Welcome

Arrival at Lake Mburo National Park

The Uganda Wildlife Authority employee greets me warmly when I walk into her office. I can fill out a form with my personal details and the vehicle with which I want to visit the park. She doesn't understand when I bring up a piki piki. 'A scooter,' I explain. 'Let me see. With that one there? For real?'

She is clearly lost and picks up the phone. There is feverish consultation in one of Uganda's many languages. She hangs up, “This is new to us. They have never experienced this at our head office. Foreign tourists always come in a safari vehicle. But never on a scooter.'

She takes a receipt and writes 148.000 (about $25) on it. 'That is the entrance fee for foreigners per 24 hours. The time is now 1.15 pm. So you have to be out of the park before that time tomorrow, otherwise you'll have to pay an extra day.' I only charge 10.000 shillings ($2,5) for the scooter. That's a steal, because foreign bikes pay $30. According to her logic I am allowed to pay the local price, because the scooter has a Ugandan license plate.

The phone rings. "Wait a minute," she gestures. You have to sign a liability form. Dangerous wild animals live in the park. You are responsible for your own safety on your scooter. We do not accept any liability.' "But there are no lions or elephants," I say. 'What? Do you really think that buffalo and hippo can be dangerous. As a rule, these cause the most accidents with tourists.'

Two buffalo at the entrance of Lake Mburo NP
Two buffalo at the entrance of Lake Mburo NP

The very first scooter safari in my life

So this is the baptism of fire. For the first time in my life I enter a national park on a scooter. Hallelujah! The fear hits me right away. I am not even 50 meters away when a large bull buffalo looks me straight in the eye. I don't panic and stop at a respectful distance.

Then I decide to drive back to the entrance to recover from the shock. There I am in good company, because the banana man has just arrived. His bicycle is parked outside the office, packed with bananas. When I tell them that I have just seen two buffalo very close, he smiles. 'I'm not afraid of that. You just have to stay calm, don't move and give the buffalo time to get used to you. Usually he will come closer, as his vision is limited. If he's got his sights on you and you're calm, he's reassured, too. Never go to him or run away. That just makes him nervous. Realize that you always lose out to the buffalo. He seems slow, but he sprints you out.'

The banana man of Lake Mburo
The banana man of Lake Mburo

The banana man climbs on his bicycle and leaves for the park. I ask the employee if he can just go in. 'I really can't refuse that poor man. He cycles every day from the village to sell his bananas in the camp. Make no mistake, from here it is another 15 km to the camp. He cycles that every day!'

The fear slowly ebbs away. The buffaloes have settled down a little further. The banana man has long since passed them. He waves: 'I'll see you later.'

The feeling is hard to describe. On the way to the Rwonyo encampment I have to make a stop every once in a while. All the animals that see me seem to be amazed. Zebras, giraffes, wild boars and many deer. I even have to brake for a few zebras crossing the road. In the absence of a zebra crossing, they just cross the road somewhere…

Zebras crossing in Lake Mburo NP
Zebras crossing in Lake Mburo NP

I immediately experience the great advantage of a scooter safari. If you drive slowly, you can stop and get off. Tourists don't have that luxury. They pay a hefty fine if they leave their safari vehicle.

Surprised residents of Lake Mburo MP
Surprised residents of Lake Mburo MP

An afternoon, evening and night in Lake Mburo National Park

An unforgettable safari of almost two hours is over. I have arrived at the gate to the Rwonyo camp. Uganda Wildlife Authority manages this camp itself. There is also a camping possibility elsewhere, but there are no further facilities. You can spend the night there in a tent.

Rondavel in Lake Mburo NP
Rondavel in Lake Mburo NP

The rondavel is not much. There is a bed and there is a mosquito net. Further on the complex is a toilet and a laundry room. Hot water for showering is put in front of the rondavel in the morning. On the complex is the park rangers office and a souvenir shop.

Souvenir shop Rwonyo rest camp Lake Mburo
Souvenir shop Rwonyo rest camp Lake Mburo

After an afternoon safari I park my scooter on the open field near the lake. In the restaurant I enjoy the view of the lake, where many hippos raise their heads. My favorite is on the menu: tilapia. After dinner I drive back to my rondavel. Time to close your eyes after an eventful day.

A herd of Impalas

It is three o'clock in the morning and I wake up because I have to go to the toilet. good heavens. What kind of yapping is that? The noise comes at me from all sides when I open the door. With my flashlight I shine into the eyes of a whole herd of impalas. They were sleeping near my rondavel, but now they are all in flight position.

At half past five I am wide awake. It is still dark outside. The impalas are already gone. A camp worker approaches with a yellow jerry can. "Hot water for the shower."

Continued scooter safari

After breakfast in the restaurant by the lake I go on a scooter safari again. Along the way I meet many surprised zebras and a group of tourists who are taking a walk led by a safari guide. Their surprise to see a scooter with a tourist on it is great. I'm even asked to pose for a photo.

Surprised faces everywhere in Mburo NP, Uganda
Surprised faces everywhere in Mburo NP, Uganda

Time flies when you're having fun. And I have. Scooter safaris are another dimension after all. There is one problem. My gas tank is almost empty. Fortunately, a park employee is willing to sell me a few liters of gas.

A camp worker from Lake Mburo NP has arranged some petrol
A camp worker from Lake Mburo NP has arranged some petrol

It is already twelve o'clock when I leave the park. Kabale is my destination and that city in the south is 230 km from here.

Click here soon for all information about Lake Mburo National Park

Also read:

East Africa on a scooter | Part 1 | From Kampala to Kigali (180 km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 2 | Bugala Island – Lake Mburo (170 km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 3 | Lake Mburo National Park – Kabale (230 km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 4 | Kabale – Ruhija – Gorilla trekking (50 km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 5 | Bwindi – Kabale – Kigali (160 km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 6 | Kigali Genocide Memorial – Kabale
East Africa on a scooter | Part 7 | Kabale – Queen Elizabeth National Park (175 km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 8 | Queen Elizabeth NP – Fort Portal (120km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 9 | Fort Portal – Muhorro (100 km)

Eric on a scooter in Uganda

Eric

What is it like to drive more than 10.000 kilometers in Madagascar on a locally bought scooter? Or on a pikipiki (scooter in Swahili) through East Africa? In more than 20 years I have visited more than 100 countries. This has resulted in a lot of priceless travel experiences, which I would like to share with you.

ERIC – OVER 100 COUNTRIES
– Currently in Kenya.
– Share unique travel experiences.
– Favorite destinations: Madagascar, Uganda, Japan, India and Colombia.

Seen a mistake? Ask? Remark? Let us know in the comments!

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Eric on a scooter in Uganda

Eric

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