Uganda, better known as the “Pearl of Africa”, is a country filled with national parks and game reserves with enticing promises of wildlife sightings. On an Uganda safari, you carve through the wilderness and witness an overwhelming intimacy with splendid flora and fauna the country has to offer.
Kampala is the hub of the nation’s road network and lies on the railway from Kasese to Mombasa, Kenya. It is also served by Port Bell on Lake Victoria and by Uganda’s international airport at Entebbe. Kampala is the capital and largest city of Uganda. It occupies a series of hills at an elevation of about 3,900 feet (1,190 meters). It was selected in 1890 by Capt. Frederick Lugard was the headquarters of the Imperial British East Africa Company. Situated in the country’s most prosperous agricultural section, Kampala exports coffee, cotton, tea, tobacco, and sugar. Although second industrially to Jinja (40 miles [64 km] east-northeast), the city has numerous food, metal products, and furniture enterprises and a tractor-assembly plant. It is the headquarters for most of Uganda’s large firms and the chief market for the Lake Victoria region. Kampala has a technical institute and is the seat of Makerere University, which was founded in 1922 and became a university college in 1949 and a university in 1970; for many years it was the only such educational institution in East Africa. Kampala also has the Uganda Museum. The city is home to several mosques (including the white Kibuli Mosque), Hindu temples, and Christian churches (notably Namirembe Anglican Cathedral and Rubaga and St. Peter’s Roman Catholic cathedrals).
Murchison Falls National Park covers a surface area of 3893km2 and comprises of Murchison Falls National Park, Bugunga and Karuma Falls wildlife reserves. The park is located in the northern region of the Albertine Rift Valley in Masindi district of western Uganda situated 300km by road northwest of Kampala. The Murchison Falls also known as Kabarega Falls is where the Nile bursts through the narrow gorge and spreads down to a placid stream flowing into Lake Albert. Hippos, crocodiles and water bucks throng the banks of the stream.
Murchison Falls National Park has got a spectacular view with the huge waterfalls roaring and finding their way within the small slit of 7 meters or 23 feet wide between the rocks and this is the connect point of Bunyoro escarpment and Acholi plains. Also in the park adjacent to the Masindi-Gulu high way are the magnificent Karuma Falls.
Wildlife mainly include; elephants, buffalos, lions, giraffes, chimpanzees and many others. Vegetation is commonly savannah, woodland and riverine forest. Boat rides are usually arranged and operate from Paraa to the foot of Murchison Falls, they always take 3 hours which gives you a clear view of the hippos, crocodiles and the wildlife that is always close to the falls.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park was gazzetted in 1991 and lies in south western Uganda, covering 321km2. The mist covered forest is home to over 400 mountain gorillas which is more than half of the world’s population of the remaining mountain gorillas and these compose the main attraction of the park. There are 11 habituated Gorilla groups/families in Bwindi. Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi is one of the most popular tourist activities and this makes Bwindi one of the top 5 tourist destinations in Uganda.
Besides the mountain gorillas, the park is also home to about 120 species of mammals, 360 species of birds, 200 species of butterflies, 324 tree species and 10 of these cannot be found elsewhere in Uganda.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is not to be missed on your travel itinerary, besides the main highlight [gorilla tracking] there are quite number of activities that you may be engaged in. There are different community initiatives that arrange these tours; Buninga forest walk, nkuringo cultural center, Rubuguri village walk, nyundo community eco-trails, NCCDF among others.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is located in western Uganda and stretches along the districts of Kasese, Bundibugyo, Rukungiri, Kamwenge and Bushenyi. The park which covers a surface area of 1978km2 existed as Lake Edward and Lake George Game Reserves in 1920’s and was later gazetted in 1952 as Kazinga National Park by the British Colonial Government. In 1954 the park was baptized Queen Elizabeth National Park in commemoration of the visiting British monarch.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Africa as well as the most visited national parks in Uganda. The park which is commonly known as “medley of wonders” is an ideal habitat for big game, 10 primate species and over 600 birds’ species.
The park gives you spectacular views of Rwenzori Mountains, Kazinga Channel, the large area of the swamp, the beauty of open savannah around Lake George, the beautiful crater lakes and a lot more.
Queen Elizabeth National Park spans the equator with the monuments on either side of the road which marks the exact point where it crosses latitude 00.
Besides the remarkable wildlife attraction, Queen Elizabeth National Park is also proud of attractive heritage and cultural history. Tourists usually get an opportunity to visit local communities with the help of local tour guides and entertainment in terms of music and storytelling is offered to them. This will definitely leave the visitors yearning for more.
Famous as the historic source of the Nile River, Jinja is now the adrenaline capital of East Africa. Get your fix of white-water rafting, kayaking, quad biking, mountain biking and horse riding in a gorgeous natural setting. The Nile River’s world-famous rapids are under threat, however. In 2011 the Bujagali Hydroelectric Project buried around half of the rapids under a giant reservoir. Although the government has pledged to not further dam the river, Uganda still needs energy and so a new hydroelectric plant is planned for Kalagala Falls. Though worker strikes and faulty construction have it behind schedule for now, it’s expected that the Isimba Dam will flood some key rapids and even an island lodging as early as October 2018. It’s not the end of rafting though. Meanwhile locals keep pushing to keep Jinja’s tourism industry alive with offerings that have wisely begun to diversify.
The Rwenzori Mountains stretch along the border between western Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo. The landscape has been sculptured by repeated growth of glaciers, resulting in numerous lakes and six separate mountains rising over 4,500 m asl. Apart from being considered the (highest) source of the White Nile, the range is also renowned for its high level of endemicity, especially with regard to the terrestrial biota.
Kibale National Park was gazzetted in 1932 and is located in western Uganda covering about 795km2. This park is one of Africa’s foremost research sites for chimpanzees and other primates, ecosystems, wild pigs, and other topics. Kibale’s southern part adjoins Queen Elizabeth National Park and creates a 180km wildlife corridor that stretches from Ishasha sector to the distant southern part of Queen Elizabeth National Park along with Sebitoli Forest located in the northern part of Kibale with an array of landscapes.
Kibale is one of the best safari destinations in Africa for chimpanzee tracking and other primates coupled with the most beautiful tropical rainforest. It has a pleasant climate almost throughout the year, the wettest area being the north of the park receiving an average annual rainfall of about 1700mm, especially in March-May and September-November.
Kibale National Park accommodates L’Hoest’s monkey, red colobus monkeys, black and white colobus, red-tailed monkeys, blue monkeys, olive baboons, golden cats, red & blue duikers, Bushbaby alongside a variety of birds. Buffalos, leopards, and elephants are also present, and a large number of reptiles and butterflies are also there though hardly seen.
In most regions of Uganda, you can expect an average of 1,000 to 2,000 millimeters of rainfall, but the rainy season and its duration may vary within the different regions. In general, it can be said that long rains occur from April to June and shorter rainfall can be expected between October and December. During this time it seldom rains all day and brief, strong showers are followed by mostly sunny weather. In the Lake Victoria basin, higher humidity with showers almost all year round can be expected due to the high water evaporation of up to 75-80%. Humidity is significantly lower in the remaining part of the country. The dry season lasts from June to October and from December to March.
Note the seasons for when planning your Uganda trip:
Long wet season: April – June
Short rainy season: October – December
Drying time: June – October, December – March.
Safari wear should be comfortable and casual. Evenings and early mornings can be chilly so warm sweaters are recommended. Flat, comfortable sports or trekking shoes are most suitable for walking should you intend to join any walking safaris. We recommend you bring warm clothes, including a fleece or a light woolen sweater and socks, apart from typical safari gear. During the day it can get quite hot, so don’t forget your sunglasses and a high SPF sunscreen, as well as a sun hat with a small brim. Some specialist trips, i.e. mountain climbing, require extra items of clothing and footwear. Many hotels, lodges and camps have swimming pools so you are advised to bring swimsuits. Due to limited space in the vehicle and in light aircraft, we advise you to keep your luggage to the minimum. We suggest you pack your luggage into a small bag of no more than 15 kgs – the luggage limit for local flights issued by the airlines. Almost all safari lodges and camps provide same-day laundry service.
There are around 49 languages spoken in Uganda, but English and Swahili are the official languages and Luganda is also commonly used. Uganda is a predominantly Christian country and has a significant Muslim minority (about 14%). Iganga District in the east of the country has the highest percentage of Muslims. About 1% of the population follows indigenous beliefs and a lot of Ugandans practice their traditional belief together with Islam or Christianity.
Uganda uses the Ugandan Shilling (UGX) as national currency. US dollars are accepted in most tourist destinations but only notes that were printed in 2013 or later. While exchanging money, it is best to use higher denomination notes such as 50 or 100. ATMs are abundantly available in Uganda however, to ensure that you are not a victim of fraud, it is best to withdraw money only from ATMs that are attached to a bank. Visa and Mastercards are accepted in larger establishments however an Amex card may be refused.
Tipping is not mandatory but is appreciated.
If you are traveling to Uganda, you will need a yellow fever vaccination certificate. Do make sure that you have all the routine vaccinations in place, e.g. chickenpox, polio, MMR, typhoid, Hepatitis A and yearly flu shot. Since most parts of Uganda are prone to malaria, it’s best to carry any-malaria medication and mosquito repellent. Pregnant women need to be especially careful while traveling in rural areas owing to the prevalence of the Zika virus. It is important to avoid drinking tap water in Uganda – make sure you only drink bottled or filtered water.
Nowhere else in the world is there such a great chance to see the primates in the wild as on a chimpanzee trek in Kibale National Park, one of the top things to do in Uganda. Over 1,500 of these playful animals live here.
Head out with an experienced ranger in the morning or in the afternoon as you try to spot these swiftly moving creatures.
More than half of all free-living mountain gorillas are at home in Bwindi. In the volcanic mountains that border with Rwanda, the chances are very good to encounter the awe-inspiring gorillas during a trek. Encountering a 160kg silverback in the rainforest is the highlight of every trip to Uganda.
Be guided by a group of trackers and a ranger down the slopes of the national park as you spend anywhere between three and nine hours trying to spot the animal.
Uganda’s most popular wildlife reserve is Queen Elizabeth National Park. Explore the park on a boat safari and go chimpanzee tracking. On classic game drives, you will encounter elephants, hippos, antelopes and baboons.
Savor views of its beautiful crater lakes as well as the multitude of birdlife.
For a special highlight, watch the lions in Ishasha climb to the branches of fig trees during the heat of the day. They lie lazily around until they can go hunting in the cooler evening.
The open savannah plains of Ishasha are also home to the lithe leopards – try and spot them!
If you are looking for an active Uganda vacation, then head to Jinja, on Lake Victoria. The white River Nile emerges from Lake Victoria, and adventurers can raft into the roaring waters, go quad biking, horse riding as well as bungee jumping.
Experience life on the riverbanks first-hand as you embark on a boat ride to the source of the River Nile. If you want to experience an adrenalin rush, white-water rafting in Bujagali is a must!