The name Kampala derives from a Kiganda expression ‘kasozi k’empala’, ‘the hill of antelopes and is thought to have originated in 1981, when Kabaka of Buganda built his courts on the Rubaga and Mengo Hills. Kampala is now a picturesque city built across the hills, expanding through the years, covering more and more slopes. Streets are vibrant and animated, the local people compelling and being the greenest city in Uganda, the views can be surprisingly attractive. As the centre of commercial life and government, there is plenty of history, best explored on a city tour.
The city is built around Kampala Hill, often referred to as Old Kampala, and nearby Kasubi Hill is where you will find the intriguingly beautiful Kasubi Tombs. The tombs are the burial grounds of the kings of the Buganda Kingdom, now a World Heritage Site and active religious place. There is also a Baha’i House of Worship on Kikaaya Hill, one of just eight built around the world. Having been reduced to ruins in the 1980s, it has reformed with new modern buildings standing, and old dilapidated ones being slowly transformed. Be sure to visit the local markets and perhaps venture out of the wealthier parts to the dusty urban sprawl that clearly shows the extremes of fortune.
Often used as a retreat from busy Kampala, colonial Entebbe lies on the peaceful shores of Lake Victoria. Home of the only international airport in Uganda, it provides an attractive welcome to new visitors and a good way to ‘acclimatise’ to Africa. The word ‘Entebbe’ means ‘seat’ in the local Luganda language, thought to be as this is where the Baganda Chief sat to adjudicate legal cases.
Entebbe has a more relaxed atmosphere than Kampala, made up of Entebbe Town and the suburb of Kitoro, where you will find some bars, markets and shops. It makes for a nice place to stroll around and you’ll probably have your first introduction to wildlife here, with plenty of birds, cheeky monkeys and tree squirrels. It is a good idea to explore by a city tour, if you want to completely get away from any city hustle and bustle, you can get a ferry across Lake Victoria to the Sesse Islands and perhaps enjoy a spot of swimming. You can also take a tour of the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, located on an island in Lake Victoria or the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre to see some game.