Uganda, Africa

African elephant

Elephant eyes

In July of 2022 I visited Africa for the first time.  How could I be considered a world traveler never having visited Africa?  My flights to Africa were the most arduous travel I’ve ever experienced. Delayed flights, lost luggage and an unscheduled 18 hour layover in Dubai.  Traveling alone added to the angst.  I arrived at 3:00am a day late for the safari…

The Uganda Countryside

My three weeks in Africa would be divided between Uganda and Kenya.  The two big draws were gorillas in Uganda and the Great Migrations in Kenya (which never happened).  More on that later.  Arriving at 3:00AM without my luggage and a day late, the alarm was set for 5:00AM to drive hundreds of miles over bumpy roads to catch up with the rest of the photography tour group.  Three others had also missed the first day of the planned safari as well, so we all had a long drive to unite with them.  As you can imagine, everything was major culture shock.  Driving on the roads in the jammed traffic in the morning darkness was like an ‘E ticket’ ride at Disneyland.  Of course by the time I got out my iPhone to capture the chaos, the interesting scene would pass.  For the most part, everyone on the safari had been to Africa before so this was not new to them.  They were not about to stop or slow down for photos as they were only interested in the all important nature photography.

Before getting to the photogenic safari animals in the parks and reserves, we had to drive for hours through rural towns.  Here is a typical driving.   We were traveling in green, customized Toyota Land Cruisers marked in large letters ‘Tourist Van.’  This was important as it allowed us to breeze through the many check points supervised by machine gun toting policemen.   The tourist trade is important to Uganda and they do all they can to help the visiting tourists.  To verify we really were tourists, there were a few special check points tourist vehicles had to go through.  Here is a mild, typical driving scene.


Cows on the side of the road, no traffic lines painted on the road, on-coming trucks, no signaling and surprisingly, no horn honking.  Every town was required to have at least 34 sets of speed bumps.  Sometimes these speed bumps were a series of four closely spaced small bumps closely followed by a single large traffic bump.

For me, it is important to understand the surrounding countryside of Uganda and Kenya and not immediately post the photos of the gorillas and lions.  I do recognize that breezing through the rural towns in Toyota Land Cruisers is no way to understand the people or provide much of an opinion of Ugandans or their country, but I’ll try to convey some of what I saw…  Most of the photos are taken our of a fast moving vehicle on bumpy roads.  Not the way great photos are captured.

Charcoal for Cooking

Because none of these rural homes have electricity or gas for cooking, charcoal is their prime cooking fuel.  Should you wish to experiment with cooking in this manner, here are the steps for making your own charcoal, best I could determine.

Step 1, grab your axe and chop down a bunch of straight tree limbs.  The tree limbs should be about 1-3 inches in diameter.

Ugandan woman carrying wood for the cooking and to make charcoal.

When possible, get your children involved and make this a fun family affair.

family carrying wood

A mm and her son carrying sticks to make some charcoal

Step 2, build a fire with the gathered wood and place grasses on top so the wood slowly smolders without a flame.

Smoldering wood burning slowly to make charcoal for cooking.

Step 3, when the smoldering stops and the fire cools, gather charcoal sticks and stuff in a white bag for easy transport.  This man could either be taking some charcoal to the market or possibly he purchased it and is bringing it home.


Step 4:  Sell the excess at the local charcoal store.  There were many such charcoal stores along the roadsides.


Pineapples, Bananas and Goats

Due to elevation changes, amounts of rain and presumably soil conditions,  certain products dominated various regions we sped through.

Some areas were well suited for growing pineapples.

… and of course, sell any extras you may have.  The video clip below shows a typical town with the residents selling their pineapples.  These stores are not for the benefit of the few tourists who may pass through, this is simply the local produce market.  Slow motion seemed the only way to really capture the towns for viewing.  At the end of this video, you can see the series of the required speed bumps.


Bananas were by far the most common crop in Uganda.  The bicycle is often used as a two wheeled wheelbarrow.  Hopefully after they push their produce to the market they can peddle it back home.  Life does not appear easy for anyone in Uganda.  They appear very hardworking.  It seems they must be to survive.


Bananas on their way to market

Bananas being pushed to market.  One morning we saw many bicycles loaded with bananas not waiting as a group on the side of the road.  We were told elephants were in the area and it was not safe for them as the elephants would likely hijack their bananas.

banana market

One of many banana markets

For the non-vegetarians, goat was always available.

Goat on motorcycle

Billy goat’s last ride


goat market

Fresh goat meat at the local butchery


Notice the two well used tree stumps used as butcher blocks.


Water, Tea and Fish

The homes have no running water nor town well.  All the water we saw was gathered from the nearby rivers or streams.  Gathering water in large yellow jugs was a daily chore.  We would see people bathing and washing their cars or motorcycles in the same stream for collecting their water for domestic use.

motorcycle carrying water

Fetching water

Notice the lady in the middle, with the red sash.  In addition to her having to walk back with about 40 pounds of water on her head, she has the added burden of a child strapped to her back.

carrying water

40 pounds of water on their heads


Mom carrying a child and tending to chores

Any work the women had to do, they often had the added weight and difficulties of having a baby tied to their back.

In the more mountainous areas of the country there were vast hillsides of tea, which of course needed to be carried of to some processing center.


Young girl carrying tea leaves to a processing area.


One of many fish stands on the roadside near Lake Victoria


Rainy Sunday Drive Around Ugandan Village

On a rainy Sunday afternoon, after one of the gorilla treks, I asked one of our drivers to take me to one end of the small village and back to our hotel.  The goal was to capture some of the interesting scenes we had been witnessing for days but failed to capture them on camera.  The problem now was it was Sunday… and it was raining.  Therefore, none of the interesting activities I sought were happening.  However, we still got a few photos showing typical village scenes.


Hotels and Saloons

We had the same Uganda guides the entire time we were in Uganda.  They were skilled at what they did and were knowledgeable regarding what photographers wanted to see in the nature and safari environments.  However, it is understandable since they had not traveled to the the USA or Europe they could not understand what was so unique to us in their villages.   They did not really know why we thought it interesting to see a lady carrying a child on their back or water jugs on their heads.  Scenes they had seen every day of their life, we had never seen.  Regardless, they were as accommodating as they could be to us trying to help us get photographs.  Our guides never stayed with us in our hotels.  They spent their nights elsewhere in the town.

Not Our Hotel.


Also NOT our hotel.  Notice the drinking fountain on the front porch.


Saloon? or Salon?

Maybe the reason these ladies appear unhappy is they went in for a beer and came out with a bad haircut.

Shopping for Clothes

We were told Uganda is trying to build up their manufacturing business and especially clothing.  However, this local industry was viewed by our guides as inferior to the second hand clothing shipped from the USA.  Factory over runs and excess donated clothing get shipped to Africa.  Some may get distributed for free while other pallets of used clothing get bid on by vendors and sold in markets like the one below.  Some stores had large piles of second hand shoes, others may have kids clothing and women’s clothing.   Our guides said the second hand clothing was preferred to that which was locally produced.  I left my worn-out hiking boots with a driver and he seemed quite happy to get them.

Shopping for clothes on Sunday afternoon.

Sunday Bath Time

With no indoor plumbing, children can take their baths on the front porch.  These boys were having a good time much to the chagrin of their mom.  She was chasing these boys around, scolding them and popping them with a towel to get control of the bath time.     Presumably, they were getting ready for school Monday morning.  The schools are recognizable as they appear to be a very heavily guarded fortress with rolls barbed wire.

On homes the very sturdy iron doors with locking latches were a common sight.  We saw them sold in the town markets and it seemed most every house had these strong, overbuilt doors.  There were no windows in the doors which seem to be built totally for strength.


Finally we Search for Chimpanzees

Because we arrived a day late, we missed out on the prime chimpanzee tour the rest of the group got to experience the day prior.  For my chimpanzee tour, it was raining just about as hard as it could.  Certainly glad we planned this safari during the dry season.  It had not rained all morning, but the ran began just as we climbed down into the canyon where we were to find the chimps.  It was an extra crowded tour as they were kind enough to squeeze us in with another group.

Hopefully, you can imagine the difficulty pointing your camera and long lens up into the sky with it raining cats and dogs.  I was soaked, my camera and lenses were soaked.  My feeble attempt at photogrtaphy was to quickly point the camera skyward, snap a photo, clean the lens with a now wet cloth and repeat the futile effort.  Nothing turned out, photo wise.  However, the rain got the chimpanzees quite excited and stirred up.  At times a large chimp would run at what appeared full speed on the ground and nearly brush up against you as they ran by.  It became apparent that no good photos would be had, so the best thing to do was to simply watch the families swinging from trees above us and enjoy the chimpanzees excitement and screaming.

Here is a 90 second recording of their jungle excitement.


Apple Air Tags

For my entire stay in Uganda, my luggage was elsewhere.  Fortunately, I knew enough to plan ahead and have adequate clothing and necessities in my carry-on.  Using Apple Air Tags will obviously not keep the airlines from losing you luggage.  But it was somehow reassuring to actually know where my luggage was.  It is calming to at least see your lost luggage on your phone screen instead of constantly wondering its’ location.

Well, some of the times the phone updates were not all that reassuring.  A screen print below assured me my luggage was 1,562 miles away.  I got to watch my luggage go from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia a thousand miles in the wrong direction back to Dubai.  But I did get to see it eventually work its way back to Entebbe, Uganda.  I had never heard of Addis Ababa and it was certainly not on my original travel plans.



River Cruise

Thanks to those of you who have stuck with me this far into my blog.  Since the goal of the trip was to photograph some wild animals, here is a photo from our fist river cruise..


A couple of hippos chatting it up along the river.

I took 19,996 photos with my big boy camera and more with my iPhone.  Many were of the hippos, as you never knew when some snarling activity would occur vs the silent stares.  I managed to capture some giant yawns of hippos… looking the wrong direction.  In this actual photo the whiskers on their snouts are visible.

Many more animals to come…. such as the yellow billed stork.  How DO they think up these names?


Yellow Billed Stork


good bye wave

Bye for now…






17 thoughts on “Uganda, Africa

  1. What a hard life trying to sell the same wares that everybody else already had……your humor is so appreciated and since I am unwilling to do the long flight will never see these things in person so I thank you for sharing!

    • Thank you for looking Dorothy. I agree that the selling all in a row would be difficult. I doubt one would mark their pineapples lower. Maybe they build relationships with their customers. Just more for us to be thankful for.

  2. Air Travel to Africa and back pretty much cured me of ever traveling anywhere further away than Alaska again. I had no legal method of just staying in South Africa for good so I had to travel back 🙂
    Humorous and educational as usual. And a bird photograph near the end.

  3. Your trip had plenty of travel challenges, glad you were still able to get some great photos. Loved your last picture of the boy waiving. Thanks for al your dedication and work posting your blogs, always entertaining!

  4. Awesome–but much different from my visits to Kenya and Africa in the 80’s!!! You are truly a great photographer. And, I have missed hearing from you and Gayle! (She didn’t go with you?)

    • Thanks for reading Mimi. This was strictly a photographers tour. Getting up at 4:00am morning after morning and driving for hours in the dark is hard for non-photographers to do. However, our accommodations were very nice.

  5. I didn’t know what to expect to see from your Africa experience. Your blog was interesting and informative. We appreciate your capturing village life. Liked your unusual elephant photo. Looking forward to seeing and hearing more.

  6. That was certainly some adventure, and again, paired with stunning professional photos and documentary.
    Good to see the HH Photo gallery is alive and well.

  7. Oh Harold, how we have missed your dry wit and fabulous photos. Glad you took this trip because I’ve wanted to see the gorillas for forever and now I can, though you! Looking forward to your next post. Drag this story out as long as you can. You certainly have the photos library to do it visually!

    • My long travel days are over, short targeted trips now. Working up the nerve fore India. Checked into openings for the salt fields of Bolivia. Can you believe it, they do not allow people my age on their trips. That was an unfortunate first.

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