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Uganda, Lake Nkuruba Nature Reserve and Community Campsite. Saturday 15 August. Week 16, Day 125.

After our wonderful, relaxing and relatively luxurious stay at Kluges we are heading into the more rural areas not far away. There are a large number of things to see in the greater Fort Portal area. This is an exceptionally green and fertile region in Uganda and I would advise any potential visitors to pencil in a good few days to explore it properly. Our destination was another community camp that came highly recommended for its location and scenic beauty. This was the Lake Nkuruba Nature Reserve and Community Camp. South of Fort Portal are a series of small crater lakes of which the Explosion Craters visited in QENP are part. This part of western Uganda, east of the Rwenzoris has a very dense concentration of crater lakes, many of them small like Nkuruba. Those around the small village of Kasenda are named, not surprisingly, the Kasenda Cluster, the whole group, the Ndali-Kasenda Cluster. There are a wide choice of community camps and lodges covering this area. It is also on the way to the Kibale NP for those wanting to visit the chimps.

This community campsite is only about 30km from Fort Portal and we were there by midmorning. It is well signposted down a reasonable dirt road and is situated on the top of a small hill surrounded by a smallish area of relic indigenous rain forest. It overlooks the small crater lake which is only about 30X80m in size but apparently very deep. It has steeply sloping sides covered in forest right down to the water. There are numerous short walking trails including one down to the lake and a trail through the forest. Guided bird walks can be arranged as well as other hikes in the area. There is a reasonably sized grassed campsite with some shade. The ablutions are rather basic with basins for washing but reasonable flush toilets. The beauty of the surroundings more than made up for this and in the trees we saw monkeys in the form of black and white colobus, red colobus and saw some red-tailed monkeys in the distance across the lake. Many forest bird species are present and although I did not do any serious birding we had a good sighting of a pair of great blue turacos in the trees surrounding the camp. The staff were very friendly and helpful as always. Once again our camping setup aroused much interest. There are a variety of cottages available and apparently one can either self-cater or order meals in advance.

Being medical, the discovery that the on duty policeman for the nature reserve had drowned swimming in the lake 3 days previously, did not disturb me as much as some others. However when the police diving unit arrived with a boat to search for the body, things became a little macabre. Fortunately all the weekend campers had not as yet arrived. Nothing was recovered and the consensus was that with the lake being very deep it would take up to a week for the body to decompose at those freezing depths and float up to the surface, charming! We did not swim, I must mention that one keeps getting reports of people picking up bilharzia from these crater lakes.

The police “marine” unit left with an arrangement that the camp staff call them should the body surface before they returned the next day. When the weekend “crowds” arrived there was a conspiracy of silence about this tragedy. To my concern I found that a group of young expats had been swimming in the lake. Imagine the horror if the fetid body had surfaced between them. I suppose all meant well by keeping mum and not wanting to spoil the weekend for the guests. I held my tongue but then found that these young people were preparing to set up camp down the path on the edge of the lake, very close to the swimming area. I now faced a dilemma. What would you have done? Anyway I decided that the time had come to intercede and told them about the tragic event and that I would not suggest camping there. Initially there was disbelief but my intervention was borne out as dusk began to fall. One of the camp staff was on the phone and the police rushed in from nearby Fort Portal. This unit is the only one of its type in Uganda and had originally been summoned from their base in Kampala. How they can wear logos calling themselves “marine” police in a landlocked country beats me. Why not water or lake police?

The disbelieving guests saw them unload ropes and grapnels, a stretcher and torches and set off for the lake. One of the vehicles even had a coffin in its rear load bay, all very weird. After an hour or so they came panting up the hill with a heavily laden stretcher covered in a stained sheet. With them was a loudly moaning and wailing relative who they were vainly trying to shut up to avoid too much of a fuss for the guests. Their vehicles were parked right next to where we were camping but thank goodness that both Anne and I were inured to such things from our hospital backgrounds. Things became a little Monty Pythonesque when the body could not be forced into the coffin due to the awkward angles of the limbs from rigor mortis. I relate this unforgettable episode in some detail as for once I think the cliché- “this is Africa” is appropriate. I don’t think the young tourists will ever forget that swim. Even more macabre was seeing the camp attendants carting up many large containers of water from the lake the next morning as the camp’s sole water supply. The young people thanked me for my timely intervention.

Tonight we are roasting a whole chicken in our Cob, a small kettle-drum type cooker which works off charcoal as is the case with the Weber type devices. We anticipate finding it difficult to find chicken pieces to purchase and think it will also come in handy for things like slow roast goat. This chicken was great despite the earlier events of the evening which would have been enough to make most lose their appetites.

It is only a short distance to the Kibale NP where we will proceed tomorrow. The provisional plan is to have a good look at the forest and the various lodging options and then the following morning do the 3 hour leisurely hike around the Bigodi Swamp with a bird guide which also comes highly recommended, not only for birding but also for primate viewing.


Main pic. Lake Nkuruba Crater Lake, quite small and fringed with thick forest.

1 and 2. More views of the crater lake.
3. Path down to the crater lake.
4. Campsite at Nkuruba Lake Community Camp.
5,6,7 and 8. Red colobus monkeys at Nkuruba campsite.
9,10,11 and 12. Black and white colobus monkeys at the campsite.