Why visit Entebbe? Entebbe International Airport is Uganda's main entry point for flights so most visitors can expect to spend a day or two in the area before heading out to see Uganda's natural wonders: gorilla trekking, tracking chimpanzees, Bwindi impenetrable forest, and a wildlife tour through Uganda's amazing national parks. We discovered that there are some great things to do in Entebbe. Here are our recommendations for popular places to see around Entebbe Airport.
Tour Entebbe Botanical Gardens
Entebbe Botanic Gardens is a great introduction to Uganda's flora and fauna.
The botanical garden is accessible on foot (about a 30 minute walk) from Entebbe's quaint guesthouses. Guides wait at the entrance and will take you around and show you the wonders of the park for a fee. We were short on time so opted to explore Entebbe Botanical Garden independently.
Sip Beer and Hear Gospel Music on the Shores of Lake Victoria
We emerged from Entebbe Botanical Gardens and stood on the shores of Lake Victoria. A short distance away, we saw inviting tables and chairs and heard some upbeat music. We sidled up to the bar for a local Ugandan beer which we enjoyed while listening to pop gospel music and admiring the birds along the lake.
Paddle into Lake Victoria for the Sunset
Many of the things to do in and around Entebbe revolve around Lake Victoria. We worked with our hosts at Karibu Guest House to book a 'cruise' on the lake. The term 'cruise' implies a certain level of comfort and luxury so we were surprised when the taxi arranged by the guest house pulled up to a seemingly deserted pier with a number of canoes standing by. We were more surprised when we realized that we were being asked to board one of the canoes without life jackets.
We confirmed with our hosts at Karibu Guest House by phone that we were indeed in the right place. Kevin explained how they like to use local fishermen for tours to contribute to the local community which makes perfect sense.
We were reassured that our Lake Victoria cruise would take place very close to shore. Still, we insisted on having life jackets before boarding the boat since we aren't the strongest swimmers. Our guide motored off in his boat to see what he could do. He came back about 10 minutes later with two bright orange vests. If you have concerns about safety, don't be afraid to speak up. People in Uganda are generally very accommodating.
We set out from the shore in Entebbe in our boat which was equipped with an outboard motor about an hour before sunset. After cruising for a bit, our guide killed the engine and paddled in among the papyrus reeds so we could get a look at many species of Ugandan birds busily going about their business.
The boat 'cruise' on Lake Victoria definitely took us out of our comfort zone but the reward of an amazing sunset framed by tons of birds made it worth the risk. We were also grateful when we arrived back at the dock and Kevin (the owner of Karibu Guest House) was waiting for us to personally take us back to the lodge. Karibu Guest House definitely went above and beyond to address our concerns. In the end, our Lake Victoria cruise turned out to be one of our favorite things to do near Entebbe.
Drink A Sundowner and Do Some Birdwatching at a Local Guest House in Entebbe
Local guest houses provide a great oasis within the bustling town of Entebbe. Most offer accommodation along with food and drinks. We stayed at Carpe Diem Guest House upon arrival in Entebbe. (Pro-tip: definitely try their African coffee flavored with strong spices to go with a sunrise breakfast). We stayed at Karibu Guest House at the end of our Uganda wildlife safari. In both cases, we enjoyed a local beer as a sundowner while watching a number of Uganda's 1000+ bird species visit the garden.
It's generally a good idea to plan for some rest and downtime on a hectic trip and our stays in Entebbe's guest houses definitely made that possible.
Sip Coffee in Entebbe at Anna's Corner
We like coffee and decided to seek out a local coffee place while visiting Entebbe (much as we might do at home in Dublin. In this case, we walked nearly 30 minutes from our guest house to Anna's Corner. We were served a rich brew in an outdoor garden setting. Anna's also features a crafts shop with works from local Ugandan artisans.
GETTING TO UGANDA: What's the best way to get to Uganda from Europe? We flew from Dublin to Entebbe Airport on Ethiopian Airlines via Addis Adaba. Looking for a more luxurious experience? Consider flying Emirates Business Class or, better yet, try for an upgrade to the incomparable Emirates First Class cabin.
Go People Watching at Entebbe Market
On the return to our guest house, we walked past bustling Entebbe Market. We stopped at a cafe and enjoyed a beer while watching locals go about their day.
Take a Day Trip to Find Shoebills in Mabamba Swamp
Our favorite thing to do in the vicinity of Entebbe Airport was definitely our morning tour of Mabamba Swamp. Just an hour and a half by car from Entebbe, Uganda's Mabamba Swamp is home to the shy and elusive shoebilled stork. Shoebills were definitely on my birding bucket list. We spent two hours in a small canoe exploring the swamp with eagle-eyed guide Ismail and saw three shoebills. It's amazing that a once-in-a-lifetime birding adventure is so easily accessible from Entebbe.
I hope I've convinced you why you should visit Entebbe. As you can see, there are plenty of things to do in and around Uganda's Entebbe Airport. While a safari including mountain gorilla tracking, chimpanzee trekking, hippos on the Kazinga Channel, and the Big Five are the main attractions in Uganda, padding your trip with couple days in Entebbe at the start and end of your trip will not disappoint.