Our guide to
This is diversity in one country.
Uganda is a country of impressive beauty and huge diversity in environments, wildlife, activities and accommodation options. The scenery ranges from river rapids, island studded lakes to snow peaked mountains, grasslands, rolling savannah and dense tropical rainforests rich with wildlife. Activities range from adventure rafting, hiking, climbing and canoeing to primate trekking, 4×4 wildlife safaris, birding, fishing and photographic safaris.
Where does a Uganda safari begin?
The only densely populated corner of Uganda is home to Entebbe and Kampala and the starting point for a Uganda safari. Whilst most guests treat it as an inconvenience stop over, we like to share its charm. Kampala is a city of around 1.5 million that is growing rapidly and offers an exciting vibe. Here you will find Uganda’s National Mosque and a place of worship for 15,000 people. It took more than 30 years to construct and it is impressive on the skyline.
Kampala has the largest markets in this region of Africa. Owino market boasts endless booths lining chaotic alleys with a mind boggling array of everything from clothes, African foods and souvenirs. For a smaller and local feel try Nakasero market which is great for fruit and vegetables. The craft market on Buganda Road is popular with tourists and it attracts a high portion of unoriginal products these days. We recommend Banana Boat where you can pick up ethical and authentic crafts from three outposts. Just ask what’s made in Uganda as they also sell products from Kenya.
The usual Uganda Safaris take in multiple landscapes, national parks and wildlife offerings.
The highlight has to be the mountain gorilla trekking and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park really is a mecca for safari holiday makers seeking the ultimate wildlife interaction. Uganda boasts nearly half the world’s remaining population of mountain gorillas so it is well worth considering if gorilla trekking is on your bucketlist.
Chimpanzee trekking is equally rewarding and you’re crazy not to extend your stay and experience the brilliant Queen Elizabeth National Park. We say that because it boasts diverse ecosystems, great accommodation, outstanding wildlife sightings and away from crowds you’ll come across elsewhere in East Africa.
Uganda Photographic safaris are increasingly popular along with Uganda Birding sfaris. It is also an ideal country for family safari holidays because there are no major language barriers, guides are so professional and family orientated they provide exceptional service and accommodation options decent.
Believe it or not fishing safaris are gaining popularity as Uganda is home to Nile Perch and the best place is on the banks of the Nile below Murchison Falls. The challenge is strong currents and that’s why the perch call it home – oxygenated water and strong currents for ideal conditions.
Uganda got you intrigued?Let’s Chat
Chimpanzee Tracking Uganda
Chimpanzees can be found in a handful of forests over the country with habituated groups in Kibale, Semliki, Kyambura Gorge, Budongo and Kalinzu Forest.
Kibale Forest National Park is one of the best safari destinations in Africa for chimpanzee tracking and a stunning forest area. Kibale is divided into Northern, Southern and the Bigodi swamp area. In total it’s just 795 square kilometres of lush green tropical rainforest and home to 351 tree species, 70 mammals and 325 bird species, 13 different primate species and leopard, rarely spotted yet known to reside. It is the most researched area in the country with chimpanzee research stations, ecosystem, wild pig and fish species under the microscope.
Uganda is home to the Chimpanzee Sanctuary and rescue program at Ngamba Island. Behind the scenes activities with rescued chimpanzees get you close to the chimps.
Did you know chimpanzees share over 98 percent of their DNA with humans? These wild animals are not easily observed because they move so fast and quite considerable distances. Kibale Forest is the most likely place to see them with 95% chance.
Top Tips for Chimp Trekking
- There are restrictions for your safety when chimp tracking.
- Eight metre distance between you and the chimps
- Do not trek if you are sick as chimps are highly susceptible to human disease
- Avoid eating near the chimps
- Children under 15 are not allowed
- A professional guide takes you into the forest and is in charge of your safety and that of the chimps
- Flash photography is not allowed
- Time is restricted to an hour with the chimps as you observe them swinging in the trees, feeding, playing and moving at break neck speed along pathways in front of you
- Permits are restricted each day so book well in advance
Gorilla Trekking Uganda
UNESCO World Heritage site Bwindi National Park is 321 square kilometres in size with the massive job of protecting one of the world’s most precious and critically endangered species, the mountain gorilla.
In the south west of Uganda, Bwindi is an impressive rainforest with some 400 plant species and of course it offers an exceptional, exhausting and memorable wildlife experience, mountain gorilla trekking. They can also be found in Mgahinga National Park. There are over 14 gorilla families that tourists can get close to.
Bwindi also boasts 120 mammals and 350 bird species to be seen here too including 23 Albertine Rift endemics. Bwindi really is the pinnacle Uganda wildlife safari experience.
Top Tips for Uganda Gorilla Trekking
- Permits are limited to 80 a day so book well in advance
- Use a porter, support a family. Hiring a porter makes it easy for you and empowers a Ugandan with an income that is more than what a public servant would earn at a desk.
- Use a walking stick to steady yourself
- Dress to protect against mosquitoes, flies, ants, nettles, thorns, branches that can scratch you
- Be in reasonable shape because you just don’t know the distance required to hike before you come across the gorillas. It could be literally hours
- You spend an hour with the gorillas so make the most of that time watching them, taking photos and simply soaking up your close proximity
- Gorilla permits are cheaper in Uganda than Rwanda right now
- Children under 15 cannot track mountain gorillas. We organise other activities for the kids whilst you hike like cultural visits to local village and school
Queen Elizabeth National Park Safari
Queen Elizabeth National Park is the most visited in Uganda and offers a traditional safari holiday with 4×4 game drives on offer.
The park covers 1,978 square kilometres and features an abundance of wildlife beyond its impressive 612 bird species. There are 95 species of mammals with lion, leopard, elephant, hippo and chimpanzees on the list.
Queen Elizabeth National Park safaris often set out to find the famous black maned and tree climbing lions.
Volcanic craters, cones and lakes form an enchanting wonder of nature, ideal for honeymoon safaris, family safaris or simply luxury safari holidays and escapes.
Source of the Nile
As a country, Uganda claims the source of the mighty Nile, the life blood for numerous communities and wildlife along its banks. Murchison Falls is the most powerful natural flow of water in the world, where the Nile explodes through an eight metre wide gap in a rocky gorge before plummeting 45 metres into the Devil’s Cauldron, creating a trademark rainbow.
It resides in a national park of its namesake in the northern end of the Albertine Rift Valley and covers over 5,300 square kilometres of protected land rich in wildlife. There are 76 species of mammals including crocodiles, hippo, giraffes and many other plains game favourites plus elephant, lion, leopard and buffalo and an impressive 451 birds, one being the sought after shoebill stork. The savanna-dwelling monkey is only found here in Murchison Falls and the Kidepo Valley National Park.
Hiking in Uganda
Glacial peaks of Africa’s largest mountain range, the Rwenzori Mountains offer world class hiking and climbing holidays in the western section of Uganda.
The Rwenzori Mountains National Park is 996 square kilometres and protects the higest parts of the 120 kilometre long and 65 kilometre wide range.
The tallest peak is Margherita standing 5,110 metres tall. With five distinctly different vegetation areas one will find 217 bird species, 70 mammals including chimpanzees and monkeys plus waterfalls, lakes and glaciers.
Originally Uganda was occupied by hunter gathers until the 14th century when the Kitara Empire began to emerge. It became the first tribe of formal organisation within the region. Next came the Kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara and later Buganda and Ankole rulers succeeded them.
The British entered Uganda in the early 1800’s and soon after the first explorers came the missionaries. In the latter half of the century, Uganda was placed under the charter of British East Africa Company and stayed in this way until independence was granted from Britain in 1962.
English is the official language in and there are over 30 indigenous languages belonging to five distinct linguistic groups and the country is a cultural melting pot with ancient inhabitants of the Batwa and Bambuti Pygmies still residents today. They are relics of the hunter-gatherer cultures that once roamed much of East Africa. The Karamojong are fierce, semi nomadic cattle herding tribe what migrated down from Ethiopia centuries ago.
At the cultural core of Uganda today is the Bantu speaking kingdoms of Toro, Ankole, Bunyoro and Buganda and their monarchs serve as important figureheads today. With such language and cultural diversity comes exciting colour and displays with music, dance and of course cuisine.
Insider Scoop on Uganda
Uganda is a top African exporter of coffee. Local company Endiro Coffee works with plantation owners to improve harvest techniques to raise the bar in the coffee quality. Farmers are seeing increased income and coffee is becoming more popular locally.
If you seek time out don’t miss One Minute South. It is an island villa only accessible by boat and it gets its name from the close proximity to the equator. Here you can laze in hammocks, wander fruit orchards or play croquet on the lawns. There’s an infinity pool overlooking Lake Victoria or why not head out sailing or fishing.
For the oldest fair trade craft shop in the country, head to Uganda Crafts 2000 on Bombo Road where you can buy baskets, musical instruments, jewellery, batik fabrics, carvings and more. This certified fair trade store sells handmade items by artists from Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and the Congo.