Written by Hafha Maani Ebrahimi for the Ugandan Sunday Monitor.
So the friend I was talking to and who seemed to be looking forward to traveling to East Africa, kept postponing her dream trip. The reasons were as varied as the colors of the rainbow. Once she cited political turmoil and instability, another time it was fear of malaria or Ebola and the excuses went on. It was time to have a serious chat with my friend.
I just had to tell her that since I lived in Uganda and traveled in the East African region, it has become increasingly difficult to find destinations that would offer more verity, more excitement and a true marriage with nature.
Africa is unique
So many rivers seem small after standing on the banks of the majestic River Nile, they look calm after rafting in the white water rapids of the Nile.
What zoo in the world can offer the privilege to watch wildlife in its own home, eating, drinking, and hunting? You sit in your own cage, that safari van while they run freely, exactly how it should be. And where else in the world would they find our mountain gorillas, several families of this now rare species of amazing creatures, so close to us, they could be our cousins. No feeling surpasses the joy of hiking for hours in the thick forests and coming up, close and personal with, the mighty silver back and his small tribe, a one-hour encounter that seems like a few minutes, one unforgettable hour that you wish would not end.
And what lake can compare with our Victoria? So many turns and bends, tens of small and big islands, kind and helpful Islanders and a boat ride that takes you through virgin spots, unspoiled by mass tourism and great fishing trips.
The verity of birds here makes a top spot for bird watchers who have a list of tens of rare bird species to tick. And what can beat sitting around the bonfire in the eco-friendly lodge built on the edges of the river just before you sleep. Then, wake up to a healthy breakfast of fresh local fruits, peacefully and in total harmony with nature. Take me to the beaches of Mombasa, the white sandy ones, indulge me in the delicious culinary experiences that would tease my tastes buds awaiting more. Leave me in those craft havens of Maasai markets in Nairobi where I spend hours, feasting my eyes on colors and shapes of hundreds of handmade products, lost but not confused and a bag laden with goodies on the way out.
Looking for highlands, take me to Rwenzori mountain, the Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya, looking from up here to down there, gazing at valleys where humanity started.
What about the cities?
Yes, every part of the world has its uniqueness, but here, they are many, that one is spoilt for choice. It is not safety that we should be concerned about when planning to visit Africa, it is the stereotypes that we should abolish.
Show me a so-called safe spot in the world today. Guide me to a big city where one can walk in the dark of night without the fear of being robbed or harassed, come on, I told my friend, plan your African trip, pack your bags and invite others to come with you . Do not postpone Africa. Safari njema!
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Reprinted from Life Magazine, Sunday Monitor: Uganda (Sunday, April 3rd, 2016)