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Steve and Emma's Travel Tales

A Short walk in Mabira Forest to Griffin Falls

UGANDA | Sunday, 21 September 2014 | Views [1197]

It was time once again to get out of Kampala for the weekend.  So after the disappointing trip to Fort Portal a few weeks ago we decided to not venture too far and stick with what we know. So from kampala that means another trip to Jinja! However, we always try to do something different on each trip and this time we thought we would visit Griffin Falls on the way.

The falls are located in a different section of the Mabira Forest Reserve from which we had previously visited and are accessed from the town of Lugazi on the Kampala – Jinja road. We had made a fairly early start from kampala and the traffic wasn’t too bad even through the permanently congested town of Mukono, and we arrived at Lugazi about 9 ish. There used to be an ancient sign in Lugazi directing you to Griffin Falls Camp but this seems to have disappeared. Luckily we knew the turn off but this was where the ‘Bradt Guide’ reckoned the fun begins. To get to the campsite you have to follow a maze of dirt tracks through the sugar cane plantations and the book even suggested hiring a boda boda (motorbike taxi) to show you the way even though you have transport!

We decided to brave it out on our own and the campsite was actually well signposted with blue directional rocks at most major junctions and we were soon rocking up at the campsite on the edge of the forest.  Now finding the place was one achievement, the next would be finding a guide to show us the way to the falls. After the debacle at Seboteli Forest, we had low expectations. We were pleasantly surprised by the whole experience and it shows just how rubbish and overpriced UWA is! We met a guy called Gregory who said he ‘was here’ and could take us into the forest and how long did we want to go for? 1 hour to the falls and back, a 2 hour loop to the falls or a 6 hour trek! We went for the 2 hour falls option.

We were soon heading into the forest and Gregory not only knew the way but he was very informative, telling us about all the trees and plants and their medicinal qualities. We spotted a couple of horn bills and a troop of red-tailed monkeys quite quickly but he thought we would be lucky to see the mangabyes. We had a lovely walk through the dense foliage until we came to a clearing and the sound of fast flowing water.

In the clearing we could look back at the canopy and we were treated to a show by the red-tails leaping around and even a couple of the more elusive mangabyes were spotted in the tree tops! They were not the only primates in the tree tops. The latest thing here is a ‘zip line’ through the canopy and at UGX 100,000/80,000(resident) it must represent one of the cheapest adventure activities in Uganda. I kept my feet on the ground! I guess this is why they have the new signs to the campsite as the zip line activity is very popular. The guide said they also have mountain bikes for rent and some trails. So a bit more organised than UWA hey?

We followed the noise of rushing water to the falls. Now they aren’t the most impressive falls as apparently they are an underground falls and actually go 30m underground. Even so, it was a lovely spot to take in the forest and unlike the other area of Mabira which we visited last time, you are far from the road and therefore much more tranquil.

After enjoying the beauty of the place we made our way back to the camp via a different track. On the way we met a couple of guys with a huge saw, obviously up to no good in the forest. To Gregory’s immense credit he didn’t turn a blind eye but confiscated the saw from the loggers.

Back at the campsite we ate our sarnies before heading on to Jinja. You can stay at the forest but the facilities are very basic so we opted for the comfort of Jinja.

 

In Jinja we did our usual thing. A few beers by the river Nile at ‘Mezzanine’ which is now called ‘Burbon’! It is exactly the same and a great place to look out for wildlife. As usual we saw lots of bird life but the highlight this time was 3 otters! The experience was only hampered by a loud group of Yanks banging on about how beautiful the place was (irony is something they would not know if it hit them in the face)!

We made our way to ‘2 Friends’ for beer, food and football. This place has also changed and now called ‘All Friends’. Last time we were there, the owner told us he was selling the restaurant and keeping the guesthouse. The new owners are obviously useless as the food was terrible, the service surly and the bar didn’t have the same atmosphere as before. We slunk back to Nile Anchor Palace (the best place to stay in Jinja for the money at $40) and watched the football back there. Don’t think we will go back to 2 Friends in a hurry.

The next morning the sun was shining and we took the long walk into town via the golf course and Lake Victoria and saw an amazing amount of bird species including close up views of 2 Africa grey parrots. After a very ropey cup of coffee at ‘The Pearl’, (I got a thimble of coffee and a mug of hot milk!) we headed back to kampala after another great trip to Jinja.

 

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