Visitors to Uganda looking for a base as the start or end of their gorilla safari have a choice between two very different destinations: the bustling sprawl of the country’s capital Kampala, or the simple serenity of Entebbe, its international airport hub.
Entebbe is a peaceful, sleepy town, situated at the tip of a peninsula extending south of Kampala into Lake Victoria. Just a couple of miles from the country’s only international airport, overnighting here is definitely convenient for anyone with early or late flight arrival/departure times. Entebbe’s proximity to the airport, and Kajjansi Airfield a few miles up the road, also makes it handy for the domestic air services to the national parks. Charming, boutique guesthouses or mediocre business hotels typify the accommodation here. If these are not your style they become significantly more appealing when you realize that the 40-km (25-mile) journey between Kampala and Entebbe can take more than 90 minutes to complete.
If the bright lights of Kampala do beckon—and if time is not a precious commodity—then Uganda’s dynamic capital offers an impressive roll call of positive qualities: a far wider range of fashionable eateries dot the city, it delivers a better quality of high-end hotel, the nightlife is buzzing, the city is host to a growing arts scene, and shopping mavens will love the craft markets and souvenir shops. Aside from the Kasubi Tombs—a burial ground for members of the Buganda royal family, at this writing still under reconstruction after a fire gutted the main structures in 2010—there is a distinct lack of any substantial tourist attractions, but for many, Kampala’s own brand of vibrant urban chaos is a sight in itself. This really is a tale of two cities.
Whatever you choose, a Chinese company has started construction of a tolled superhighway between Kampala and Entebbe. Estimates suggest it should be finished in 2016, and once completed, the new toll road should significantly reduce the time it takes to get between the two destinations. Until then, your overnight stop of choice will probably be based on a complex trade-off between personal preferences, traffic jams, and flight times.