Getting to Uganda’s game parks from Entebbe or Kampala can sometimes be a long and arduous road journey. On the plus side, it is a great way to view the always-green countryside and to see something of everyday local life.
Most tour operators will prearrange overland transport and, for guests intending to visit more than one park, this option makes a lot of sense. Tourists can stick with one vehicle and one driver for the duration of their visit. Some hotels in places such as Mbarara even specialise in providing stopover accommodation for visitors on their way to the national parks.
For those flying in to Entebbe and wishing to make just one short trip – for example, to Bwindi – a tour vehicle may not be the most suitable option. And that is where Uganda’s air charter sector comes into its own.
As Uganda has become an ever more sophisticated destination in terms of tourism services, flying has become a better – if more expensive – choice. Unfortunately, some improvements are still needed if Uganda is to match the level of domestic air services offered by its neighbours. For example, there are almost no connecting domestic flights from Entebbe International Airport.
From Kajjansi Airfield, between Kampala and Entebbe, and from the International Airport, it is possible to fly to Murchison Falls National Park (Pakuba airstrip) and to Queen Elizabeth National National Park (Mweya airstrip) as well as to more difficult-to-reach spots such as Bwindi (Ishasha), Mgahinga (Kisoro), Rwenzori (Kasese), Semliki and Kidepo Valley (Apoka). But flights to these destinations are generally on a charter-only basis and are not available as scheduled services.
In fact, and for such a large country, scheduled domestic air services are relatively few and far between. Eagle Air, for example, operates a regular flight from Entebbe to Arua on most days, but all its other destinations are ‘daily on request’, with Pakuba airstrip being offered only as a diversion stop on the Arua service.
For the more adventurous, there are buses, 14-seat matatus (for longer journeys) and boda bodas (for short trips in and around town). Good bus services operate from Kampala to many of Uganda’s main towns and also to international destinations such as Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. All three modes are not without their dangers as their safety record leaves something to be desired.
Sadly, and despite the splendid railway station in Kampala and a reported 1,266 km of track, there are no passenger train services in Uganda.