Having never been to Uganda before, I was thrilled to be able to tag a weekend in Entebbe onto the back of a work trip. Working in Entebbe was enchanting. Each morning I walked the 10 minutes to work down a dusty red road in the blazing sunshine, passing grazing goats, saying hello to people who were actually smiling at 8.30am, and revelling in the joy of my commute not involving intimate body contact with a tube carriage full of damp grumpy passengers.
We ate lunch outside every day – platefuls of fried chicken, beans and matooke (mashed green banana), whilst watching odd looking birds and monkeys eyeing up the bananas on the dessert table. My colleagues told me that Entebbe has the perfect climate – 25C and sunshine with only enough rain to keep that lush foliage lush.
Unfortunately, come the weekend the rain decided every last bloody drop of it would fall in the space of the 48 hours I had marked out for sightseeing. I sat on the terrace of my guesthouse on the Saturday morning, eating a stack of pancakes and gazing mournfully at the sunloungers that I’d planned to spend an hour or so resting on after a day spent wandering around the Botanical Gardens, before going on the one thing I had REALLY wanted to do whilst in Entebbe – a birdwatching trip on Lake Victoria at sunset.
But, by luck or miracle, just before 5pm the rains stopped, the sun peeped out and the owner of my guesthouse (the fantastic Karibu – worth visiting for dinner even if you’re not staying there) pulled out all the stops, and within 10 minutes I was being driven to the lakeshore to meet Rodgers, my guide.
For the next hour, Rodgers skillfully skirted the boat around the shores of the lake, paddling quietly so as not to frighten the birds, and pointing out birds lurking in the reeds I might have missed along the way, or urging me to look upwards, to see eagles, kites and vultures.
The highlight was an island full of bright yellow weaver birds, the trees dense with their nests. The male builds these nests, which are suspended from the tree rather precariously, by a single thread. The male shows his new super-luxe pad to the female bird of his dreams. If she’s impressed, she moves in. If she’s not, she snips the thread with her beak, sending the nest (and the male bird’s dreams) crashing to the ground.
After 40 minutes or so the sun had sunk low over the lake, so we set out for a quiet patch of lake and watched the sun dip under the horizon in peace (lots of people take this opportunity to dig into a coolbox full of drinks). It was hauntingly serene, and although it rained solidly again the next day, I feel blessed to have been granted the 2 hours respite from the rain to do the one thing I’d really wanted to do.