Me, myself and the open road

Me, myself and the open road

Tamin-Lee Connolly discovers the perks of being a single female traveller in a country like Uganda, that see her go whitewater rafting, rescuing injured sea turtles and… kissing giraffes too



By Tamin-lee Connolly

Published: Fri 4 Nov 2011, 7:59 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 3:08 AM

Uganda is a country that should be on everyone’s must-see list. It’s possibly my favourite country so far. I met loads of people who have similar life paths as mine — to help local communities in the best way they can. I get so frustrated when I see NGOs wasting money on projects that are not really helping communities. That’s why communities need help to learn how to sustain themselves on their own.

After surviving the carnival of streets in Kampala, I headed for a town called Jinja. This is apparently the adventure capital so I definitely couldn’t give it a miss — plus you get two free nights of camping, if you go whitewater rafting. I booked myself in and had a ball of a time. Unfortunately, the rest of my crew weren’t as enthusiastic and were nervous about flipping at every rapid. But I was forgiven in the end as they all had an adrenaline rush that they thoroughly enjoyed.

I moved on to the sixth bungee jump of my life and I’ve got to say: jumping off the edge never gets any easier and I always wonder then what on earth inspires me to come back for more. It was calmer activities (quad bikes and horse trails) for me after that!

Kenya so far has proved to be better than anticipated. I am loving travelling alone. The border crossing from Uganda was interesting considering I drove straight through it. I eventually asked someone where the border was and had to turn around! The immigration officer was very sweet; as it was pouring with rain, he insisted I stay overnight because the roads are very dangerous, which I completely agree with now that I have driven them. He organised an escort to take me to a little spotless guesthouse and provided dinner — all free of charge. Another perk of being a single female traveller!

I had been warned about Nairobi and its madness so I was not particularly looking forward to that part of my journey. I was, however, pleasantly surprised to find it less busy and much less intimidating than Kampala or Dar es Salaam.

I followed my GPS straight to Jungle Junction. Generally regarded as a halfway point and a convenient place to stop for a few days, it’s one of those rare places no self-respecting overlander would miss. Chris, the owner, refuses to advertise but word-of-mouth has made his business incredibly successful. He is known for his fair prices, reliable Wi-Fi services, and for being the best motorcycle mechanic in East Africa.

After this, it was off to a beautiful suburb called Karen (after Karen Blixen who wrote Out of Africa) to visit the Elephant and Giraffe Wildlife Orphanage. Accompanied by two other overlanders (including a paraplegic also travelling Africa), we walked to the top of a wooden platform, armed with a handful of snacks. It’s an unforgettable experience to have these giant creatures feeding from your hand — not to mention, the giraffe kisses as well!

Bidding my new friends farewell, I headed for the coast to visit Watamu, where another amazing project had invited me to stay. Watamu Turtle Watch is a rehabilitation centre for sea turtles. I enjoyed every moment of rescuing turtles that had been caught by fishermen, as well as taking ones that had been injured to have a sea bath — which meant putting the turtles on a leash and taking them for a swim in the ocean as part of their rehabilitation.

Do get in touch if you would like to help this rehabilitation centre as they are very low on funds to feed and house the turtles, and many rescues are done each day which involves transportation costs and paying the fishermen for their efforts. It looks like I’m going to have to start exploring ways to help conservation education as well.

(This is a monthly column. For more information on Tamin, to donate to the cause, or to get in touch with the lady herself, visit www.everythingexceptthehorn.com)


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