Before embarking on a tour of Uganda, we spent three nights in the capital, and on a free day walked the 20-minutes from our hotel to the Entebbe Botanical Gardens. The entrance fee for international travellers was 20,000 Ugandan Shillings compared to 5,000 for locals, but we were presented with a large paper handwritten receipt which was ceremoniously stamped.
A guy from the ticket office began walking with us, chatting about the nearby colourful flower bed asking whether we had similar plants at home. As well as marigold, shrimp plant, aloe, and canna lily, he pointed out a cannabis plant which he said could be boiled into tea to ease muscles. He offered to guide us for an hour, but we said we were happy to simply wander.
Whilst there was no map, we followed well-trodden paths, some of them being suitable for vehicles.
The gardens cover 40 hectares and consist mainly of trees with the more interesting species being identified by both their Latin and common names. Although our guide book suggested a prevalence of birds, our sightings were few and far between and at this early stage of our trip, we’d not yet been introduced to some of the countries more impressive or colourful varieties. However, we came across a long trail of safari ants and a huge spider making an extensive web between the branches of a tree.
We carefully made our way down relatively steep slopes to Lake Victoria, as earlier rain had made the grass very slippery. At the shore we found a narrow shingle beach, and a sign proclaiming ‘no swimming’. At the picnic area’s aptly named ‘At the Front Beach Bar and Restaurant’ we stopped for a drink and tasted our first Ugandan Nile Special beer. Perhaps because it was a weekday, food stalls advertising the Ugandan Rolex (an omelette rolled in a chapatti) were closed.
Refreshed we continued and found a herb and spice nursery with plants for sale, but once again, it was closed.
Apart from workers sweeping leaves and a few vehicles with locals on the lake front, we seemed to be the only tourists.
The gardens are devoted to trees and trails, with few plants and flowers which I would normally associate with a botanical garden. However, they make a pleasant half day outing if you have the time.