Mbarara is situated in the South-West of Uganda, at a height of approx. 1000-1200m. It is a modern town with good facilities and around 100.000 inhabitants. There is a main hospital where various expatriate specialists work and several other clinics. Town city has a local market, supermarkets, internet café’s, banks, bars, restaurants, a good dentist and many other facilities.
The whole year through the climate is moderate, with temperatures of around 22-25° Celsius. There are two rainy and two dry seasons. The long rainy season is from September-December and the short one in April/May, although lately the climate does not always follow this cycle so precisely anymore.
Mbarara is known as the food basket for Uganda. It has the famous long horned Ankole Cow which provides excellent milk and is the land of the matooke (steam banana). People in Mbarara are generally very friendly towards foreigners, whom they call “mzungu” or “bazungu” – white one(s).
PLACES TO VISIT – There is a lot of untouched nature and there are beautiful game parks nearby. One- or two-day trips can be made to the following places:
- 50 km to the North of Mbarara you find the unique Lake Mburo National Park, with many herds of zebras, buffaloes, topis and elands grazing in savannas between 5 lakes.
- 180 km to the West there is the famous Queen Elizabeth National Park, with a population of more than 120 lions, hundreds of elephants, and a lot of other game. There are also thousands of hippos, which can be seen from very close by during a boat trip.
- In the South you find Lake Bunyonyi (meaning: ‘lake of birds’). The area is referred to as the ‘Switzerland of Africa’. The lake is situated high in the mountains, offering breathtaking views on meandering coastlines and many islands. The lake is very deep, and provides Cray Fish to small restaurants on the shore. There are hundreds of types of birds to be admired. You can make boat trips, go for a walk, or camp on one of the islands in a luxurious tent with real beds.
- In the utmost South-West, at the border with Congo and Rwanda, you find Mgahinga National Park and Bwindi National Park. These parks are known because of their rich nature (many types of birds, butterflies, monkeys, etc.) and also because, together with another park just over the border in Rwanda (the Virungas), it is the only remaining place on earth where you can see mountain gorillas in the wild (you might remember it from “Gorillas in the Mist” – Diana Fossey). If you want to meet them face-to-face, you have to book a guide a very long time in advance (costs are about 500 US dollars p.p. for the yearly licence). The mere journey to that place alone is worthwhile. You pass along beautiful tropical forests, high mountains with deep valleys, bamboo forests and mountain lakes.
- 130 km to the North-West you find Kibale National Park, where you can see chimps and other primates in the wild.