Entebbe is always a great escape for those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of Kampala whether for an afternoon or an entire weekend. But, where can you go and not spend a fortune at a lakeside resort? Where can you take the kids or just your partner for a picnic? The NARO (National Agriculture Research Association) Entebbe Botanical Gardens is your answer.
Located just off Kampala road (if headed toward the airport) you’ll make a left just after the Total and Shell stations on your right where you see the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre sign. The botanical gardens are not signposted on Kampala road and neither is Berkley Road onto which you make the left turn. Approximately two minutes drive and you will see signs for the gardens on your left. Payment is made at the gate upon entry, 2,000 UGX for children, 3,000 for adults (residents) and 10,000 for foreigners. Fees for cars are 2,000, camera’s 2,000, and video cameras 10,000.
The near 100 acre gardens are not overly manicured yet well cared for and tidy. The property is easily accessed by vehicles and most people will want to drive in and park down by the lake. However, a walk around the gardens provides the best views and can be easily done in an hour or two. A guide can be paid for at the gate and this is a must for those wanting to delve into the history and horticulture of the place.
There are a number of areas that are favourites for picnickers and communal space for playing football or other sport. There are a few public toilets, a tiny shop with limited drink offerings, and benches pepper the park offering a quiet place to sit, chat or simply reflect. Consider allowing the kids to bring their bikes as they will enjoy a ride around the long, flat trails or just having plenty of room to run around.
Don’t expect a large number of manicured flower beds, although there is a beautiful brick pavilion overgrown with beautiful purple flowering vines and a few other beds featuring local flowers and medicinal herbs.
Giant termite mounds pop up all over the grassy hills and the trails meander in and out of densely overgrown forest. Wildlife is present but not always evident with aquatic birds, butterflies, and dragonflies being the most sited.
Give it a try if you’re interested in a quiet and relaxing afternoon by the lake. Bring chairs, blankets, a picnic, bikes or kites to make the most of it.