With a population of around 40.000, Kabale is one of the largest towns in Western Uganda, as well as being an important transport hub and a useful base from which to visit mountain gorillas. It was founded in 1913 when the British government station at Ikumba was relocated to Makanga Hill – then known as Kabaare after a trough-like depression at its summit – above present-day Kabale town center. The original hilltop site is dominated today by an expansive green golf course, a few old government buildings, and the venerable White Horse Hotel. Both the hill and the town center below are studded with mature eucalyptus trees, originally planted in the 1920s as part of a swamp-clearance and malaria-control program.
Pretty though Kabale may be, the town itself doesn’t offer much in the way of tourist attractions and, given the choice, most travelers opt to spend the night at nearby lake Bunyonyi. However, Kabale town is enjoying a new lease of life as an affordable overnight staging point for gorilla tracking tourists. Improved road access to the Rushaga and Ruhija sites means that trackers can avoid the expense of a trailhead lodge and still (with a 06.00 start) reach either site by 08.30.
GETTING TO KABALE TOWN AND AWAY
The 430 km surfaced road that connects Kampala to Kabale via Mbarara should take six hours to cover in a private vehicle. Buses between Kampala and Kabala leave throughout the morning. cost UGX sh50,000 and generally take six to seven hours, stopping at Mbarara en route. Regular travelers recommend the Bismarkan bus from the Namayiba bus park and Mash bus services, Modern Coast and Volcanoes Express Bus. Another popular option to take the Rwanda-bound Jaguar bus from their Namirembe Road premises. You’ll need to buy a ticket to Kabale much as the bus continues to Kigali in Rwanda.
Regular transport also runs between Kabale and Kasese, Kisoro and the Rwandan border. People driving between Kabale and Kasese might think about using a short cut avoiding Mbarara. Another back route – that’s longer and slower but more rewarding – takes the Bwindi National Park and the Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park, these are the Kabale-Bwindi leg and the Bwindi-Katunguru road.
Provided that you stick to the roads recommended in these sections, you could get between Kabale and Kampala in seven or eight hours, though you’d almost certainly want to stop at Bwindi and Ishasha along the way
The privately run Kabale Tourist Information Centre 1246 1121 (m 0782 314190), close to the Highland Hotel, provides current information about tourist attractions, activities and accommodation. Most usefully perhaps, staff can advise on and arrange transport to the gorilla tracking trailheads. The information centre is partnered with and runs a daily shuttle to, Bwindi Backpackers, 4km from Nkuringo trailhead (US$30pp return, min 2 people).
Kabale’s most popular nightclub is Cheers Discoteque on Nyerere Road. In its previous incarnation as Club Earthquake,
There are a couple of good supermarkets in Kabale Town, notably the Royal supermarket near the post office and the newer Cash and Carry, just across the street. Don’t miss the affordable blocks of excellent, locally made Belgian cheese. Handicrafts can be bought from the Edirisa Cultural Centre;
WHERE TO STAY IN KABALE TOWN
For locations of places to stay in Kabale town and nearby areas including hotels in Kabale, Guesthouses, B&B, Backpacker Hostels and Campsites in Kabale, Checkout our section on where to stay.
Stanbic Bank and ABSA Bank will all change cash. Outside banking hours. try the Highland Business Centre (next to the Highland Inn), but expect poorer rates.
Internet is available at the Amager Café (Ush1,000 for 30 minutes) and at Gatatu Internet opposite hot Loaf.
WHAT TO SEE
The most popular tourist attractions around Kabale are the nearby Lake Bunyonyi and more remote Bwindi and Mgahinga Gorilla national parks (Covered under Regional National Parks). all covered under separate headings later in this chapter. The following more obscure sites might be of interest to those wanting to get away from the beaten track;
There are some hot springs south of Kabale towards Katuna on the Rwandan border. Set in a eucalyptus stand. immediately to the left of the road from Kabale. To get there, either board a Katuna•bound pick-up truck and ask to be dropped at the springs or else walk or cycle the 8km from Kabale. You can swim in the pool ff you like – it is believed by the locals to have therapeutic qualities, and you’re bound to find a few Ugandan bathers with some company and amusement.