Uganda Safari

The ultimate guide to your next Uganda safari

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  • striated heron
  • rwenzori
  • sanctuary gorilla forest camp
  • butterfly
  • mountain gorilla
  • lions
  • lake bunyonyi

    Everything you need to know about your Uganda holiday

    Welcome to Discover Africa’s ultimate Uganda holiday guide. A Uganda safari holiday offers the intrepid traveller the best that Africa has to offer. From the lush Bwindi Impenetrable Forest with its last remaining Mountain gorillas, to the stunning Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda offers something for everyone. Curate your holiday experience and let us do the rest for you. It couldn’t be more easy.


    Birding through Uganda

    Uganda is Africa’s premier bird watching destination, with over 1000 species of birds and a combination of Albertine Rift endemics, ‘old forest’ birds and papyrus species. This safari is for the avid birder who wants to tick off at least 100 new species. From the not-so-hard-to-find shoebill to the Nkulengu rail, you will be astounded how many new birds species you’ll see. Combine this with chimpanzee and gorilla trekking.

    • entebbe

      Day 1

      You’ll be picked up when you arrive at Entebbe International Airport (ETT) and driven to The Boma Guesthouse in Entebbe, where you’ll spend the night. Dinner and breakfast are included
    • semliki

      Day 2

      The four to five hours’ drive to Fort Portal takes you via the rural towns of Mityana, Mubende and Kwenjojo before entering the town of Fort Portal through an attractive landscape of rolling hillsides with tea plantations and the Rwenzori Mountains in the background … After lunch in Fort Portal, you’ll cross the eastern wall of the Rift Valley towards the settlement of Karagutu, where you’ll turn off to the Semliki Valley Wildlife Reserve – one of the best birding areas in Uganda (350+ bird species). You’ll arrive at the Semliki Safari Lodge by mid-afternoon. On your first evening, you’re welcome to join in a night game drive with spotlight (in a shared open-sided lodge vehicle) in search of nocturnal wildlife and bird species, such as standard-winged and pennant-winged nightjars. Overnight at Semliki Safari Lodge, with your meals and drinks included.
    • shoebill

      Day 3

      Following an early breakfast, you’ll be transferred to the fishing village of Ntoroko from where you’ll go on a birding boat cruise on Lake Albert. The swamp at the southern end of Lake Albert is one of the best spots in Uganda to observe the much sought-after and rare shoebill stork … You’ll have a chance to observe rare species such as grey-headed gull, lesser Swamp-warbler, Spot-breasted ibis, Senegal coucal and African green ibis. Some other remarkable birds that can be seen are blue-cheeked bee-eater, blue-headed coucal, goliath heron, yellow-billed stork and grey-crowned crane. After your boat trip, you’ll return to Semliki Safari Lodge for lunch. Mid-afternoon, you’ll go on a wildlife/birding ride in the Semliki Valley Wildlife Reserve in a private 4x4 with an experienced naturalist driver-guide. You’ll have a chance to observe species such as sulfur-breasted bushshrike, red-shouldered cuckoo shrike, White-browed Scrub-robin, blue-naped mousebird, striped kingfisher, white-breasted robin, bateleur and snake eagles, and helmeted guineafowl. In the evening you’ll go on another night drive with spotlight (in a shared open-sided lodge vehicle) in search of nocturnal wildlife and bird species. Overnight at Semliki Safari Lodge, with your meals and drinks included.
    • sempaya hotsprings

      Day 4

      Following an early breakfast, you’ll drive about 1,5 to two hours to the Semliki National Park with a packed lunch. The park, which has 430+ bird species, is the eastern extension of the vast Ituri Forest of the Congo Basin in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) … Forest walks in the Semliki National Park will provide you with some of Africa’s best forest birding, including white-crested hornbill, red-billed dwarf hornbill, piping hornbill, Congo serpent eagle, yellow-throated nicator, red-rumped tinker bird, black winged oriole, black collared lovebird, Zenkers honey-guide, great blue and Ross’s turacos. In the afternoon you’ll visit the Sempaya Hot Springs, spurting bubbling water and steam up to two meters high. Before returning to the Semliki Valley Wildlife Reserve, you’ll pass via the Sempaya-Ntandi Road, a six-kilometre section of public road that runs through one of the loveliest tracts of forest in Uganda and provides views of birds and monkeys high up in the forest canopy. Overnight at Semliki Safari Lodge, with your meals and drinks included.
    • chimpanzee kibale

      Day 5

      After breakfast, you have a two- to three-hour drive to Kibale Primate Lodge where you’ll have lunch. You’ll go chimpanzee trekking in the afternoon when you have a better chance of seeing the chimps on the forest floor … Kibale has wonderful forest and papyrus birds but you’ll have to rely on calls and the odd glimpse through the forest canopy. Rare species include the papyrus gonolek, white-winged warbler, white-collared olive back and papyrus canary, white-spotted flufftail, yellow-spotted barbet, hairy-breasted barbet, yellow-billed barbet, western nicator, grey-winged robin-chat, white-tailed ant-thrush, brown-backed scrub-robin, Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher, brown-throated wattle-eye, superb sunbird, Brown-crowned tchagra, Bocage’s Bush-shrike, black bishop, white-breasted negrofinch and black-crowned waxbill. Overnight at Kibale Primate Lodge, with your meals included.
    • striated heron

      Day 6

      After breakfast at the Kibale Primate Lodge, you’ll set out for the Kibale Forest at a leisurely pace via the Crater Lakes area to Kasese town, the second most populous center in Western Uganda … The road passes through fertile agricultural land and follows the lower slopes of one of Africa’s largest mountain ranges – the famous Rwenzori Mountains. You’ll cross the equator and pass through the Queen Elizabeth National Park (600+ bird species) where the Uganda kob is abundant and you may see elephant or buffalo in the distance. After lunch at the Mweya Safari Lodge, you’ll go on a boat cruise on the Kazinga channel, leaving at 3pm. The 32-kilometre Kazinga channel is a dominant feature of the Queen Elizabeth National Park and links Lake George with Lake Edward. The channel attracts a varied range of animals and birds and one of the world’s largest concentrations of hippos year round. During the cruise, you may spot skimmers, striated heron, African spoonbill, African crake, three-banded plover, marsh sandpiper, green sandpiper, wood sandpiper, grey-headed gull, lesser swamp-warbler and many others. Overnight at the Kyambura Gorge Lodge, with your meals and drinks included.
    • ishasha lions

      Day 7

      After breakfast at the Kyambura Gorge Lodge, you’ll leave the Northern section of the Queen Elizabeth National Park via an 80-kilometre dirt road (1,5 to two hours, depending on road conditions) towards the Congolese border town of Ishasha … Although the road passes through the Queen Elizabeth National Park, this is a public road. Enjoy your packed lunch at a quiet spot at the Ishasha River before checking in to the Ishasha Wilderness Camp. In the afternoon you’ll go on a wildlife and birding drive on the Ishasha Plains in a private 4x4 vehicle with your driver-guide. As the sun sets, return to the Ishasha Wilderness Camp for the night, meals included.
    • bwindi forest

      Day 8

      Spend the morning after breakfast on a last game drive in Queen Elizabeth National Park before driving to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park (two to three hours away) in time for dinner … Bwindi is a bird watcher’s heaven, with 350 species of birds and 90% of all Albertine rift endemics. An experienced bird watcher can identify up to 100 species in a day. Birding takes place along the Buhoma Waterfall Trail and along the bamboo zone and Mubwindi Swamp trail in Ruhija. Overnight at Gorilla Forest Camp, with your meals and drinks included.
    • mountain gorilla

      Day 9

      This is the morning for your mountain gorilla trek. Spend your allotted hour with these giant primates and return to … Gorilla Forest Camp for a late lunch, with time to relax in the afternoon. Overnight at Gorilla Forest Camp, with your meals and drinks included.
    • mountain gorilla

      Day 10

      The last day of your birding safari through Uganda will be spent looking for the species you haven’t seen yet … Look out for some of the 23 Albertine Rift endemics, such as the short-tailed warbler, rusty-faced woodland warbler, bar-tailed trogon, Gruer’s rush warbler, Wilcock’s honey-guide, yellow-eyed black fly-catcher, Kivu ground thrush, dusky crimson wing and white-tailed blue monarch, as well as seven IUCN red data listed species that are difficult or impossible to see in any other part of East Africa. Overnight at Gorilla Forest Camp, with your meals and drinks included.
    • blue turaco

      View the complete tour

      Your flight back to Entebbe leaves at 10:55am and arrives at Entebbe an hour later. You’ll be in time for lunch back at The Boma, where you’ll spend the afternoon before being transferred to Entebbe International for your connecting flight.

      Highlights of Uganda

      Highlights of Kenya

        • sanctuary gorilla forest camp

          Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest

          In Uganda’s southwestern corner, the lush, mountainous forest of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park conserves the country’s most alluring natural asset: around 400 mountain gorillas, or half of the world’s remaining wild population … Most people come to Bwindi – Uganda’s most popular tourist destination – to track these magnificent apes (more than a hundred of which have been habituated), which involves an adventurous hike on hilly tracks through the misty tropical rainforest. Along the way there are 120 other mammals to spot, including forest duikers, rare l’Hoest monkeys, olive baboons, bushbuck and black-and-white colobus monkeys, as well as seldom seen forest elephants – an extremely lucky sighting – and an incredible number of avian creatures: 220 species of butterfly and 350 bird species.
        • mountain gorilla bwindi

          Highlights

          Getting to see a group of mountain gorillas in their natural habitat is the main reason that people come to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, and it’s one of the top experiences that Uganda has to offer … There are two options for coming-face-to-face with our great ape cousins: most travellers do the standard gorilla trekking experience, which costs US$600 per person and involves hiking to your assigned habituated group. You can then spend an hour observing the gorillas as they play, groom and eat, before you hike back out of the park. The second option, which costs US$1500 per person, is the gorilla habituation experience, where you get to spend a total of four hours with a gorilla group that is in the process of being trained to become used to spending time with people. There’s more to Bwindi than just gorillas though – the beautiful rainforest is home to incredible biodiversity, with 120 mammal and 350 bird species. To explore the forest and its creatures, you can do guided walks which take anything from half an hour to most of the day. Birdwatchers can book park guide with birding knowledge to lead them on walks through the forest to spot species such as Elliot’s woodpecker, blue turaco, red-tailed bulbul and the black bee-eater.
        • black bee eater

          Practical information

          To go gorilla tracking in Bwindi, you need to book a permit, which we will secure for you upon booking …
          • The permit should be arranged five or six months in advance of your visit as there are only a few permits issued each day and they all get booked up during the busiest months of the year (June to August, as well as December to February). Discounted permits are offered during the rainy season months of March to May and September to November for US$450 a person.
          • You can go gorilla tracking year-round in Bwindi, but most travellers choose to do it in the driest months of the year – June to August and December to February. During the rainier months, the trekking is harder because of the slippery muddy trails.
          • Gorilla tracking can be physically demanding – the hike to reach your allocated group can take anything from just an hour to an entire day (the average hiking time is between three and seven hours). The paths in the park are steep and hilly and can be very muddy, and it’s likely that you’ll need to veer off track and walk through the dense undergrowth of the forest. It’s essential that you have a good level of fitness, and that you wear the right gear: a comfortable pair of hiking boots with ankle support, a thick pair of socks (for biting ants), long trousers to protect from stinging nettles and a durable waterproof jacket. Some people also wear garden gloves to protect them from the nettles. If you don’t have your own hiking poles, you can rent a stick from the porters – it will really help with keeping you upright on steep, slippery sections.
          • You need to be over the age of 15 to go gorilla tracking if you’re travelling as a family. If you’re feeling sick on the day of your trekking experience, you should volunteer to stay behind. Human illnesses can be transmitted to gorillas and have the potential to kill an entire group. There are lots of rules that you need to follow when you come into contact with the gorillas – it’s important to stick to all of these to respect these wild animals. Your guide will explain all the rules before you go trekking, but remember that it’s important to keep at least seven metres away from the gorillas, and that you should never touch them. Don’t use flash photography, don’t eat or drink in front of them, keep your voice down, and cover your mouth and nose and turn away from the gorillas if you need to sneeze.
          • Queen Elizabeth National Park

            Queen Elizabeth National Park, the second largest and most biodiverse park in Uganda, is the country’s most popular safari destination … Located in western Uganda close to the Rwenzori Mountains, the park encompasses a huge array of different landscapes, including wetlands, swamps and crater lakes, tropical forests, woodland and open savannah, which support a diverse range of wildlife, from 95 mammal species (including 20 carnivores and 10 primates) to more than 600 species of birds. The list of highlights includes easily spotted elephant and buffalo, Ugandan kob, sitatunga, giant forest hog and topi – while at the top of the list are the tree-climbing lions found in the south of the park. In addition to game drives on the open savannah, you can also do boat cruises to see hippos and crocodiles and hike through rainforest to find chimpanzees.
          • tree climbing lions

            Highlights

            Lions are only found climbing trees in two places in Africa, so it’s a rare and remarkable sight to see them lying in the branches of giant fig and acacia trees in the remote Ishasha Sector at the southern end of the park. … Lions are only found climbing trees in two places in Africa, so it’s a rare and remarkable sight to see them lying in the branches of giant fig and acacia trees in the remote Ishasha Sector at the southern end of the park. Boat safaris on the 34-kilometre-long Kazinga Channel, which links Lake Edward and Lake George, are a highlight of any visit to Queen Elizabeth National Park. As you cruise past beautiful scenery, your sightings of hundreds of hippos and crocodiles are guaranteed, while there are plenty of chances to spot elephant, buffalo, lion and leopard as well as birds such as kingfishers and fish eagles. In the far east of the reserve, the Kyambura Gorge, which is also known as the Valley of the Apes, has steep slopes covered in rainforest which is home to black and white Colobus monkeys, olive baboons, red tailed monkeys, giant forest hogs and a host of forest bird species, but the star attraction here are the habituated chimpanzees, which you can track down on a guided hike. With more than 600 species of birds, Queen Elizabeth is recognised as one of East Africa’s best birding destinations, and for sheer numbers it wins out much larger safari parks in other countries. Standouts include more than 50 different raptors, a huge variety of water birds and diverse forest species, while the elusive, sought-after shoebill stork can be searched for in the swamps of the Ishasha Sector.
          • amboseli credit helen in wanderlust

            Practical information

            Queen Elizabeth National Park is split into two regions: the north, which has a wide range of lodges and camps, and the southern section (which includes the Ishasha Sector), where there is only a handful of lodging options …
            • If seeing the famous tree-climbing lions is high up on your wish list, then it’s important to note that they’re confined to one area of the park: the remote Ishasha Sector, in the south of the park. Visitors who come to the park expecting to see lions climbing trees wherever they are will be disappointed. While game drives are usually done in the early morning or late afternoon for the best chances of seeing animals, the lions are usually up in the trees during the heat of the day.
            • The best time to visit Queen Elizabeth National Park is during the dry months of June to September and January to February, when wildlife spotting is easiest. November to April is the best time to see migratory birds, although these are some of the wettest months, and the rains can mean that some roads become impassable.
            • Be sure to book in advance for chimp trekking with Uganda Wildlife Authority. If you’re travelling during the peak months of June to September, then book ahead for the boat cruise with UWA. Other activities can be booked through the UWA or at the Katunguru Park Headquarters.
            • Take note that it’s not a guarantee that you will see chimps in the Kyambura Gorge, as there’s only one group to track down. For a more reliable chimp trekking option, you can head to the nearby Kalinzu Forest, where you have a better chance of encountering our closest ape cousins.
            • murchison falls

              Murchison Falls National Park

              Uganda’s largest park, the wild and beautiful Murchison Falls National Park offers breath taking scenery of palm-dotted hills, swamps, riverine woodland and forest, East Africa’s most dramatic waterfall, and a remarkable diversity of wildlife on land and in the Victoria Nile, which teems with hippos and crocodiles … The park is home to large herds of buffalo and elephant and a good concentration of lion as well as leopard and several antelope species from grey duiker and Ugandan kob to oribi and Jackson’s hartebeest. It’s one of the few places in Uganda where you can find giraffe, and on the plains you may be able to spot the rare ground-dwelling patas monkey. Birding is excellent, and the top highlight is a sighting of the endangered shoebill stork, a rare creature that sits at the top of many birders’ wish list. You’re most likely to see them between January and March on the Delta cruise boat ride. Murchison Falls National Park is part of the greater Murchison Falls Conservation Area, which incorporates the Bugungu and Karuma reserves, as well as Kaniyo Pabidi forest, where you can go chimp trekking.
            • boat cruise

              Highlights

              The park’s main feature is the Victoria Nile, which cuts through the wilderness and cascades 45 metres down through a narrow gorge at Murchison Falls, the world’s most powerful waterfall … Boat cruises along the river take you to see the thunderous waterfall, but they’re also a chance to spot pods of grunting hippos, crocodiles, buffaloes and bathing elephants. Not to be missed is the short hike up to the top of the falls where you’ll have several viewpoints to see the take in the majestic waterfalls (and spot some monkeys and baboons along the way). In addition to the boat cruise to the falls, another highlight is the boat ride down the river to the delta where the Victoria Nile merges into Lake Albert for beautiful scenery and wildlife and excellent bird watching. The park’s 450 species of birds will have twitchers excited: there are water birds to be seen from the river, as well as savanna birds and endemic species from the Albertine Rift Valley.
            • njemp huts bogoria

              Practical advice

              You can visit Murchison Falls National Park throughout the year, but the best months for spotting wildlife are the dry ones – from December to February and June to September, when you can find animals congregating around water sources. …
              • Birdwatching is also good year-round, but it’s best between January and March. Migratory species are in the park from November to April. March to May and October to November are the rainiest months when some roads become impassable, but during these months there are few visitors to the park which means discounts on lodging. The falls are also at their most dramatic during the rainy months, when the river is at its fullest.
              • While you can do self-driving safaris in Murchison Falls National Park, it’s a good idea to hire a UWA guide to help you navigate the roads and find animals that would be hard to spot on your own.

            Holiday and safari styles

            Safari styles in Uganda

            • Big Five safari in Uganda

              Leopard_big_five_safari

              Rhino went extinct in Uganda in the 1980s, and while southern white rhino have been reintroduced in the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, there are no reserves in Uganda where you can do Big Five safaris. For Big Four (leopard, lion, buffalo and elephant) safaris, Uganda has two options in its western region: Queen Elizabeth National Park, which is the best reserve in the country for wildlife diversity and its famous tree-climbing lions, and Murchison Falls National Park for large herds of elephant, giraffe and buffalo. The other Big Four reserve lies in a remote area of northern Uganda. Kidepo Valley National Park is the country’s most rugged wilderness, and in addition to the Big Four, it conserves species found nowhere else in Uganda, such as caracal, cheetah and aardwolf – and there are plans to reintroduce white rhino.

            • Uganda birding tour

              green broadbill
              Green broadbill

              Uganda is one of Africa’s top birding destinations, with more than 1000 species found at this meeting point of the East African savanna and West African rainforest. There are only four safari destinations in the world that have more than 600 species of birds, and Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of them: it should be at the top of any birder’s itinerary. Other parks and reserves also boast an impressive number of species, such as Murchison Falls National Park with 450 species, and more than 300 in Budongo Forest Reserve, Kibale National Park, Lake Mburo National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The shoebill stork is one of Africa’s top five birds, and is incredibly hard to find in other countries but Uganda offers the best chance of spotting this rare avian creature in the Mabamba Swamp wetlands near Kampala, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, the swamps of Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary and in the remote Semuliki National Park.

            • Honeymoon in Uganda

              romantic uganda

              For wildlife and nature lovers, a romantic holiday in Uganda means thrilling animal encounters, wilderness adventures and exploring beautiful landscapes without the crowds. Scattered across the most beautiful wilderness areas of the country – in national parks and rainforests, nestled on private islands and on the shores of picturesque lakes – Uganda’s luxury lodges offer intimate tented cottages and spacious suites serviced by butlers with extras such as private plunge pools and special touches such as romantic meals and picnics in the bush for just for two of you. While you can do a self-drive holiday in Uganda, the roads can be challenging and short distances can take a long time. Other more relaxing alternatives for a romantic holiday include hiring a driver to transport you between destinations, joining a guided tour or travelling between national parks by plane and then getting transfers organised by the lodges you’re staying at.

            • Walking safaris in Uganda

              walking_safari_

              Guided walks and treks are offered in many of Uganda’s parks and reserves, the most popular being gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and chimpanzee tracking in Kibale Forest and Budongo Forest Reserve. In Bwindi and the forest reserves you can also do guided walks to spot other primates, as well as butterflies, birds and small mammals. On the Big Four reserves of Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchison Falls National Park there are demarcated trails only in specific areas, while the best place for a walking safari on open savanna is Kidepo Valley National Park, where you’ll need to be accompanied by a Ugandan Wildlife Authority Ranger.

            • Photographic holiday in Uganda

              lake bunyonyi
              Lake Bunyonyi

              Uganda’s spectacular wildlife, birds and dramatic landscapes are a treat for any photographer. The best region visit for a photographic holiday is Western Uganda, where the biggest highlight will be photographing mountain gorillas from just a few metres away in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. A camera that performs well in low light is ideal, as the forest environment can be quite dark and dense. A zoom lens (70 – 200 mm is best) is great for getting close-up shots of the gorillas. Ideally, it’s best to have two camera bodies with different lenses on each one, as there often isn’t any time to change lenses when the gorillas are on the move. Remember to turn your flash off – flash photography is not permitted on a gorilla trekking expedition.

              In the same region, Queen Elizabeth National Park should be on all photographers’ itineraries, for the highlight of capturing photos of the famed tree-climbing lions – a rare sight in Africa – as well as a plethora of other big game against beautiful scenery of quintessential East African savanna. Murchison Falls National Park is regarded as one of the best places in Uganda for photographic safaris, because of the park’s astonishing landscapes of palm-dotted savanna, the animal and bird life seen from the Victoria Nile which bisects the park and the dramatic Murchison Falls.

              In terms of landscapes, Western Uganda’s crater lakes near Fort Portal and the jagged, dramatic Rwenzori Mountains will provide endless inspiration for photographers.

              Make sure that you have all of the photographic gear that you need for your trip to Uganda, as outside of Kampala and Entebbe, it will be hard to buy something you may have forgotten. Spare memory cards are essential, and packing a spare battery is a good idea, especially if you are going on a multi-day trek. A lightweight tripod is an essential gear item for wildlife and landscape photography, while another great item is a small beanbag that you can use for steadying your camera lens when you’re shooting wildlife out of the car window on game drives.

              As with anywhere that you travel to, always ask people for permission before you take their photo.

            • Adventure holiday in Uganda

              horse riding jinja
              Credit: Lauren in Uganda

              Uganda is big on adventures, from gorilla and chimpanzee tracking in misty rainforests and white-water rafting on the continent’s longest river to trekking in the highest mountain range in Africa.

              Western Uganda is the prime region for wildlife adventures as home to the bulk of the country’s national parks and reserves where you can do gorilla and chimpanzee tracking as well as the Rwenzori Mountains – the tallest range on the continent – where the draws are adventurous hiking and climbing to the top of Mount Stanley, Africa’s third highest mountain.

              The town of Jinja, in Eastern Uganda, is on every adventure traveller’s itinerary. This is the adrenaline capital of East Africa, offering a smorgasbord of thrilling activities on the Nile River and in the surrounding area. White-water rafting on Grade V rapids tops the activity list, but there’s more adventurous fun to be had, whether it’s bungee-jumping from a riverside cliff or horse riding on the banks of the river. In the same region, mountaineers can tackle the ascent of Mount Elgon, Africa’s eighth tallest peak.

              Adventurous travellers looking for a more off-the-beaten-track safari destination should head to Uganda’s far northern Karamoja region for Kidepo Valley National Park, the most remote reserve in the country. This rugged wilderness offers magnificent scenery and excellent wildlife viewing on open savannah.

            • A relaxed holiday in Uganda

              relax in uganda

              Travelling by road in Uganda can feel like a hassle – distances are deceiving, as the rough road conditions mean that it takes a long time to travel between destinations. For the most relaxing holiday in Uganda, you could consider doing a flying safari, where you travel between national parks by plane, landing on small airstrips in the bush and getting transfers to your lodges. Another option is to hire a 4x4 and a driver to get around Uganda.

              If you’re planning on self-driving then it’s a good idea to spend longer in each destination – at least three or four days – and visit fewer places than trying to fit all of the highlights into one holiday. It also makes sense to base yourself in one place and visit the area’s attractions from there, rather than driving from one attraction to another.

              Factor in some downtime too: while Uganda’s big adventures such as mountain gorilla tracking and white-water rafting are thrilling, it’s also a good idea to take time out to relax on a lakeside beach at Lake Bunyonyi or on one of the Ssese Islands with nothing to do but lie in the sun with a good book.

            • An active adventure holiday in Uganda

              rwenzori mountains

              If you’re looking for an active holiday, then Uganda is an excellent destination. The country is all about active adventures and outdoor experiences, so you really have a huge wealth of options.

              In terms of safari and wildlife activities, gorilla trekking is at the top of the list. Going on search of a habituated gorilla group in the misty rainforest of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park involves quite strenuous hiking up and down hills, and the trek can take several hours. Chimpanzee trekking is another strenuous – but rewarding – wildlife activity: chimps can move very fast through the treetop canopy, so following a group can mean high-paced hiking, which will definitely get your heartrate up. One other active wildlife experience that doesn’t get as much press as gorillas and chimps – but thrilling nonetheless – is rhino tracking done on foot at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary in Central Uganda.

              There are plenty of opportunities to explore Uganda’s magnificent parks and landscapes on foot: guided hikes are on offer in many reserves, the crater lakes area has endless hiking trails surrounded by dramatic scenery, and then there are the wonderful day hikes from Sipi Falls in Eastern Uganda. For more challenging trekking, you can climb Africa’s third highest peak, Mount Stanley, in the beautiful and dramatic Rwenzori Mountains, or do the fairly easy four-day return route to the top of Mount Elgon, a giant extinct volcano.

              Basing yourself in Jinja for a few days is a must if you’re planning an active holiday. The adrenaline capital of East Africa is a mecca for adventurous fun, whether it’s white-water rafting on the rapids of the Nile, bungee-jumping, kayaking, horse riding or stand-up paddle boarding.

            Where to go

            Travelling to Uganda

            • Central Uganda

                kampala
                Kampala

                Uganda’s central region is where most travellers will begin and end their journeys, flying in and out of the country’s only international airport in the town of Entebbe. The region has less to offer in the way of national parks and blockbuster wildlife than Western Uganda, but it is home to the buzzing capital of Kampala, a large expanse of beautiful Lake Victoria and its forested islands and the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, the only place in Uganda where you can see rhinos in the wild.

                • Highlights of Central Uganda
                  entebbe
                  Entebbe

                  Lying on the shores of shimmering Lake Victoria, the wonderfully green, laid-back Entebbe is a good place to spend a day or two at the start or end of your journey. There’s a wide range of lodging options and excellent restaurants, as well as a few sights to fill your days: the lush and beautiful Entebbe Botanical Garden is a highlight for its indigenous trees and superb birdlife, while the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre is a sanctuary for rescued animals – rhinos, chimps, lions and shoebill storks are the main attractions – and if you want a more memorable encounter with the wildlife, pay extra to be “keeper for a day”, or for the behind the scenes tour or chimp close up.

                  Eighty-four thickly forested islands make up the Ssese Archipelago in the northwest of Lake Victoria, 50 kilometres from Entebbe. Buggala Island is the most popular and most developed – and is easily reached by ferry from Entebbe – and has the widest range of lodging options, while Banda and Bukasa Island also have places to stay, and other uninhabited islands can be visited by boat. Activities on the islands include hiking, bird watching (highlights include water species such as pygmy kingfisher, African fish eagles and great cormorants), quad biking, canoeing and sport fishing.

                  bugala island
                  Bugala Island

                  There are only two African island chimpanzee sanctuaries, and Ngamba Island is one of them. Just over 2 0 kilometres away from Entebbe in Lake Victoria, Ngamba Island protects more than 40 rescued and orphaned chimps, which you can see from a platform during the twice-daily feeding times. You can either do a half-day trip to the island or stay overnight at the eco lodge in a cottage or safari tent. Other activities on the island include sunset cruises, fishing and birdwatching.

                  • Practical information

                    A taxi is the best way of getting from Entebbe International Airport to Kampala, and while the distance is short, the traffic is always thick – it can take a few hours to do the journey. If you’re staying in Kampala and are catching a flight home from Entebbe, then leave plenty of time to travel to the airport in the traffic. Best yet is to stay over in Entebbe ahead of your flight. The town also makes a great base from which to explore the lake’s islands.

                  Back to regions
            • Eastern Uganda

                While Western Uganda has the wildlife, Eastern Uganda has the adrenaline adventures. The source of the Nile River lies in the region, and this mighty body of water is where you can experience some of the best white-water rafting on the planet. Lying on the shores of Lake Victoria, charming Jinja is known as East Africa’s adrenaline capital, and rafting is not the only activity that gets hearts pumping: bungee jumping and paragliding are also in the mix. There are more sedate activities on offer in Jinja too, from stand-up paddle boarding on gentler stretches of the river to boat cruises. Straddling Uganda’s eastern border with Kenya, Mount Elgon National Park is a fantastic trekking destination and offers the chance to climb Africa’s eighth tallest mountain.

                bungee jumping jinja
                • Highlights of Eastern Uganda

                  Jinja is the top destination in Eastern Uganda, and the regional capital makes a perfect place to base yourself for a few days. There’s lots to do here at the source of the Nile River, whether you’re looking for high-paced adrenaline thrills or more laidback fun. White-water rafting on the Nile’s powerful rapids over a day or on two-day trips is the biggest draw, while other water-based activities will keep you entertained: choose from kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, fishing trips and relaxing boat cruises to islands. On land you can go bungee-jumping off a riverside cliff, quad biking, mountain biking or go on horseback safaris along the banks of the Nile.

                  Running along the Kenyan border, Mount Elgon National Park is centred around Mount Elgon, a huge extinct volcano which is Uganda’s second highest peak and the eighth tallest in Africa. The appeal of climbing Mount Elgon lies in the ease (you don’t have to have any special experience or equipment to climb the mountain – just a good level of fitness), low numbers of other climbers and budget-friendly cost compared with other peaks in East Africa. The climb is a four- to six-day round trip, and you’ll pass through beautiful scenery of tropical montane forest and bamboo glades and spot blue monkey and black-and-white colobus while trekking.

                  maasai

                  Lying on the edge of Mount Elgon National Park, Sipi Falls is made up of a series of three beautiful waterfalls and is the starting point for hiking routes that take you up Mount Elgon. It’s a great place to base yourself for a few days if you want to do some gentle day hikes in the scenic foothills of the volcano.

                  • Practical information
                    • If you’re going to climb Mount Elgon, pack appropriate warm clothing with you as it can get very cold at night. While you can hike year-round, the best months to go trekking are the dry ones – from June to August and December to February.

                    • The Isimba Dam, a controversial hydroelectric power project on the White Nile, is under construction some 60 kilometres downstream from Jinja. It’s unclear when it will be completed, but once finished, the dam will flood some of the rapids on the one-day rafting trips offered by the activity companies in Jinja. If you’re planning to go rafting on the Nile, it’s a good idea to check the status of the dam and what rafting trips are being offered with the adventure companies in Jinja before you travel.

                  Back to regions
            • Western Uganda

                Encompassing the vast majority of the country’s parks and reserves, Western Uganda dazzles with its blockbuster wildlife, excellent birding and astonishing landscapes and natural attractions, making it the most popular region with travellers.

                western uganda
                Bwindi Lodge

                In the southwest corner of the region, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is home to the majority of Uganda’s mountain gorillas, so it’s usually at the top of any safari itinerary. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, at Uganda’s most south westerly corner on the border with Rwanda and the DRC, is home to just one habituated gorilla group, which sometimes moves outside of Uganda’s borders, which means that finding the group here isn’t 100% reliable.

                western uganda
                Bwindi Lodge

                Further to the north of the region, Queen Elizabeth National Park, with its open savanna and huge variety of animal and bird species, is the most popular safari destination, and while Murchison Falls National Park is less visited, it offers East Africa’s most impressive waterfall and spectacular wildlife in beautiful landscapes. Chimpanzee trekking is another top activity in Western Uganda: Kibale Forest National Park and Budongo Forest Reserve are two of the best places to go in search of our closest living relatives. Close the capital of Kampala, Lake Mburo National Park is the easiest wilderness area to access in Western Uganda, and while it can’t compete with other parks for scenery and wildlife diversity, it’s worth a visit for its special species not seen elsewhere.

                Western Uganda isn’t just about wildlife: it’s also home to some of the country’s most astonishing landscapes, from the dramatic snow-dusted Rwenzori Mountains to the shimmering blue crater lakes.

                • Highlights of Western Uganda
                  mountain gorilla juvenile

                  Going gorilla trekking in the mountainous tropical rain forest of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is, without a doubt, one of Africa’s best wildlife experiences. It’s a thrilling adventure to hike through the lush, hilly forest to find your assigned gorilla group, but coming face-to-face with these majestic apes is a moment you’ll never forget. There are two options for gorilla trekking: you can either spend an hour with a habituated group, or pay more to spend four hours with a group that is in the process of being habituated. Aside from gorillas, Bwindi’s other animal life (l’Hoest monkeys, forest duikers, olive baboons, bushbuck and black-and-white colobus monkeys) and 350 bird species can be spotted on guided walks through the forest.

                  lake bunyonyi
                  Lake Bunyonyi

                  Close by to Bwindi, Lake Bunyonyi is a popular spot for people to base themselves in for a few days to go gorilla trekking in the park and then relax at the beautiful lake, which is surrounded by green terraced hills and small villages. There’s plenty to fill a few days here, from birdwatching and hiking to canoeing, swimming and mountain biking.

                  For primates, Kibale Forest National Park is hard to beat, boasting the largest number of primate species of any reserve in East Africa, from the rare red colobus monkeys and olive baboons to l’Hoest and blue monkeys, which you may be able to spot while going on the search for one of five habituated groups of chimpanzees.

                  hippos murchison falls

                  Queen Elizabeth National Park is Uganda’s most biodiverse wilderness area, playing host to a magnificent array of wildlife – 95 mammals and 20 predators – as well as habituated chimpanzees. The park’s standout highlight is the tree-climbing lions (there’s only one other place in Africa where they do this) so catching this sighting is particularly special, while the birdwatching is spectacular, with more than 600 species. Wildlife viewing on boat cruises along the Kazinga Channel for magnificent scenery and fantastic wildlife spotting (including Africa’s greatest concentration of hippos) are not to be missed. While you can go chimpanzee trekking in the park’s Kyambura Gorge, you have a better chance of seeing chimps at the nearby Kalinzu Forest.

                  The largest park in Uganda, the remarkably beautiful Murchison Falls National Park, has a lot to offer: East Africa’s most dramatic waterfall, wildlife and birdwatching from boat cruises along the Victoria Nile, large herds of elephant, giraffe and buffalo, as well as sightings of lion and leopard, and the chance to see one of Africa’s most sought-after birds, the elusive shoebill stork.

                  The snow-dusted, jagged Rwenzori Mountains – the “Mountains of the Moon” – Africa’s highest mountain range, soar up to 5109 metres high along Uganda’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. The mountains are protected by Rwenzori National Park, and provide thrilling landscapes for adventurous hikes and mountaineering trips.

                  rwenzori mountains
                  Rwenzori Mountains | Credit: Uganda Tourism Board

                  Treks can be anything from one day to a multi-day mountaineering expedition to the top of Mount Stanley, Africa’s third highest peak, and along the way you’ll be treated to scenery of cloud forests, tropical rainforest, bamboo glades, dramatic valleys and glacier lakes.

                  In a remote part of the region on the western side of the Rwenzori Mountains and lying alongside the border with the DRC, Semliki National Park sees few tourists due to its isolated location and undeveloped infrastructure, but those who do make it out to the park are rewarded with one of the best forest birding hotspots in Africa. The park protects one of Africa’s oldest forests, and with it, a remarkable number of bird species – more than 400 – as well as 300 butterfly species. Highlights include Central African birds such as black-wattled hornbill and Congo serpent eagle that aren’t found in any other place in East Africa.

                  eagle
                  Serpent eagle | Credit: David Hoddinott

                  Dozens of crater lakes formed by volcanic activity some 10 000 years ago stud the landscape between Fort Portal and Kibale National Park like blue jewels. These photogenic lakes, which are fringed with tropical forests home to monkeys and an incredible diversity of bird species, offer plenty of hiking and birdwatching opportunities, with trails leading you through small villages and tea plantations, as well as other activities such as canoeing and fishing.

                  • Practical information
                    • Western Uganda is best visited during the drier months of June to August and December to February, when it’s easiest to go gorilla trekking in hilly Bwindi and the wildlife viewing in the parks is at its prime. Travelling during the rainy low season months of March to May and September to November does have its budget-friendly benefits though – you’ll get cheaper room rates at hotels and lodges and it is possible to get discounted gorilla trekking permits, but be prepared for muddy roads, torrential downpours, challenging hiking and low visibility for wildlife.

                    • If you want to go gorilla trekking, you need to book your permit several months in advance through the Uganda Wildlife Authority or through a tour operator, as there’s a limited number of permits that sold every day and during the most popular months for trekking (June to August) the permits can sell out five months in advance. For chimpanzee habituation experiences it’s best to book around three months in advance.

                  Back to regions

            When to go

            When to visit Uganda?

            • January
              kidepo national park
              • January is the dry season in both the north and south of Uganda. It’s a hot month, with daytime temperatures peaking in the high 20s in the south and in the 30s in the north. It’s a good time to go gorilla trekking and visit national parks in the south of the country, but it’s too hot and dusty to be an ideal time to visit Kidepo Valley National Park in the north.
            • February
              credit sanctuary gorilla forest camp
              • February is a relatively dry month in Uganda, so it’s a good time to visit national parks in the south and go gorilla trekking. In the north of the country it’s particularly hot and dusty and not an ideal time for wildlife viewing.
            • March
              credit andbeyond
              • March marks the start of the first rainy season of the year in southern Uganda, while it’s still dry in northern Uganda. It’s not an ideal time to travel for gorilla trekking and wildlife viewing.
            • April
              lion sunset

              -April is the wettest month in Uganda. Some park lodging is closed and roads in some parks may be impassable due to rain. It’s low season for tourism, which means you can find discounted rates at lodges and hotels and you may be able to get discounted gorilla trekking permits.

            • May
              rainy season
              • May is another rainy month across Uganda, although it’s not as wet as April. It’s still the low season, so you can find discounts on lodging and gorilla trekking permits.
            • June
              rwenzori mountains
              • June is one of the driest months of the year in the south of Uganda, while it’s the rainy season in the north of the country. It’s one of the best months for wildlife viewing in the parks in the south, and it’s also a great month for gorilla trekking. It’s the start of the peak season in Uganda, and you’ll need to book far in advance for gorilla trekking permits and lodging in popular spots.
            • July
              queen elizabeth park
              • Because of its low rainfall, July is one of the best months for safaris and gorilla trekking in southern Uganda. In parks such as Queen Elizabeth National Park, animals are congregating around water sources, making them easier to spot. This is also a great month for gorilla trekking, as the mostly dry weather means that the paths are easier to hike on. It’s one of the most popular months for travel, however, so you’ll need to book ahead for gorilla trekking permits and lodging.
            • August
              elephants

              -August is another excellent month to visit southern Uganda. Falling at the end of dry season, August is a great time for gorilla tracking, and there’s superb wildlife viewing in national parks with dry vegetation and animals congregating around water sources.

            • September
              thunderstorm
              • In September, the second rainy season of the year begins in southern Uganda, while the rainy season continues in northern Uganda. It’s not an ideal month to visit national parks or go gorilla trekking, but if you’re willing to put up with heavy thundershowers, challenging roads and difficult hiking to find gorillas, then you’ll be able to save on lodging costs with low season rates, and you may be able to get discounted gorilla trekking permits.
            • October
              migration in october
              • October is another rainy month in Uganda, and it’s not an ideal time to visit if you’d like to see wildlife and go gorilla trekking.
            • November
              mombasa carnival
              • After April, November is the second wettest month in Uganda. Few tourists visit this month because it’s difficult to spot wildlife in the national parks (and some roads and lodging may be closed) and the muddy paths and thundershowers make gorilla trekking in Bwindi more challenging.
            • December
              cheetah kipedo
              • Nairobi and the central highlands are hot by day, cool by night and receive a moderate to high amount of rain. Mombasa and the coast is very hot by day, rather hot at night, and might receive occasional rainfall. The Rift Valley and western interior are hot by day, cool at night and receive occasional rain.
              • From December onwards the Tsavo sees an increase in humidity and although it can get rather intense, it’s still a good time to visit the coastal regions. The ocean breeze also helps to alleviate the heat and the warm water is a pleasure.
              • December isn’t the best time for beach holidays on the Kenyan coast, since it is quite wet and daytime temperatures can get very high. Game viewing in most safari destinations is good in December. Birdlife is boosted by a variety of intra-African and Palaearctic migrants.
                • For divers and snorkelers, December is a good month to see larger marine creatures such as whale shark, manta ray, and various sharks, dolphins and turtles.

            Why Uganda?

            lake victoria

            “For magnificence, for variety of form and colour, for profusion of brilliant life — bird, insect, reptile, beast — for vast scale — Uganda is truly ‘the Pearl of Africa’.” Winston Churchill penned these words about Uganda in 1907, and more than a century later, they still ring true.

            mountain gorilla

            Uganda is one of the world’s most biodiverse countries: home to 13 types of primates and 330 mammals, of which six are found nowhere else, as well as more than 1000 bird species, it also encompasses a startling range of landscapes, from Africa’s highest mountain range and the source of the Nile – the world’s longest river – to the continent’s largest lake.

            While most people think of Kenya and Tanzania when it comes to East African safaris, landlocked Uganda has one thing that its neighbours don’t: Mountain gorillas. The country conserves half of the world’s remaining wild mountain gorilla population, and tracking these magnificent primates in their wild habitat is one of the most memorable wildlife experiences on the planet – and a big reason why travellers visit Uganda. This is also of the few countries in Africa where you can track chimpanzees in forest reserves: another primate encounter that you’ll never forget.

            murchinson falls elephants

            In addition to safari experiences in rainforests, Uganda also offers the traditional East African safari experience of game drives on open savannah to spot lions, elephant, leopards, buffalo and some rare wildlife highlights such as tree-climbing lions, sitatunga antelope, oribi, and rare shoebill storks, one of Africa’s top birds.

            Other outdoor adventures abound in Uganda, from white-water rafting and kayaking on the Nile River to bungee jumping, horseback safaris and hiking among the glacier lakes and cloud forests of the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains – as well as climbing Africa’s third highest peak, Mount Stanley.

            young ugandan children

            Uganda has a turbulent past but today the country is relatively safe and stable. There’s been a huge investment in tourist infrastructure over the past several years, and visitor numbers are on the rise. Ugandans are incredibly warm and friendly people: wherever you go, you’ll be met with big smiles from locals who are proud to welcome you to the Pearl of Africa.

            Kenya is undoubtedly one of Africa’s finest Big Five destinations. But it has a great deal more to offer than just safaris. Culturally, it is a fascinating mass of contradictions. One of Africa’s most developed countries, it has an unusually high level of education, a substantial middle class, world-class tourist facilities, and a growing industrial belt sprawling out from its bustling capital. Yet away from the cities, on dusty plains populated by pastoralists such as the Maasai, Samburu and Turkana, it ranks among the most visibly traditional of African nations.

            What makes Uganda unique?

            mountain gorilla

            Uganda has one special attraction that only two other countries in the world also share: Mountain gorillas. The country is home to half of the world’s remaining population of these great apes, and seeing them in the wild is one of the planet’s most thrilling and memorable wildlife encounters. While you can also go gorilla trekking in Rwanda and the DRC, Uganda is the only country that offers the gorilla habituation experience, where you get to spend half a day with a gorilla group that is in the process of being exposed to humans.

            But there’s more to Uganda than just gorillas: the country is also a fantastic place to do chimpanzee trekking, another wildlife activity that you can only do in a few places in Africa. Another special animal highlight are Uganda’s tree-climbing lions, which are found in Queen Elizabeth National Park. There’s only one other place in the world where lions climb trees – Lake Manyara National Park in Tanzania – so seeing these big cats draped across branches is a rare sight.

            tree climbing lions

            There aren’t many other countries in Africa where you have the chance to experience safaris on the open savannah as well as in tropical forests, and Uganda offers both. In parks such as Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth, you can have the quintessential East African safari of spotting big game on the wide-open plains, while you also have the opportunity to go chimpanzee trekking and searching for other primates in pockets of rainforest in Western Uganda.

            For birdwatching, Uganda is one of the best countries in Africa, due to its astounding diversity of species – a result of its position in between the East African savanna and West African rainforest, and its variety of different habitats. Along with the many beautiful species to search for, birdwatchers come to Uganda for the chance of seeing the elusive shoebill stork, which is hardly seen anywhere else and is rated as one of the top five birds to spot in the continent.

            forest

            Uganda is home to two unique natural highlights: the source of Africa’s longest river – the Nile – and the continent’s highest mountain range, the Rwenzori, or “Mountains of the Moon”. Both of these places offer adventures galore, including white-water rafting, kayaking, boating, hiking and mountaineering.

            Why would people keep coming back to Uganda

            While seeing Mountain gorillas is the main reason that many travellers come to Uganda, there’s much more to the country in terms of wildlife, landscapes and outdoor adventures, that it would be hard to fit it all into one trip – unless you have a few months to travel.

            rollers

            While many people might see mountain gorillas, chimpanzees and other wildlife in the national parks on their first trip, other attractions would bring them back, such as hiking in the Rwenzori Mountains and in Mount Elgon National Park, gorilla tracking in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, birdwatching in Bundongo Forest Reserve and exploring the beautiful crater lakes region.

            Uganda is home to some wonderful off-the-beaten-track gems, such as Kidepo Valley National Park in the remote north of the country, which may be difficult to reach than the more popular parks and reserves, but would definitely draw adventurous travellers back on repeat visits.

            Type of traveller

            What type of traveller are you?

            • Couple safaris in Uganda

              kyaninga lodge uganda honeymoon
              Kyaninga Lodge

              Uganda has lots to offer for adventurous, wildlife-loving couples who are looking for memorable experiences, whether it’s tracking primates in the rainforest, seeing rare wildlife and birds on safari in game parks, climbing Africa’s third highest peak or white-water rafting on the continent’s longest river.

              If you want to get off the beaten track and away from the crowds, there are plenty of wilderness areas in Uganda that offer a true escape. The country also has excellent high-end lodges and camps tucked away in its most beautiful places – on mountain foothills, in forests and on islands and lakeside beaches – where you can experience romantic luxury in intimate rooms and suites with extras such as private decks and plunge pools.

              With the biggest concentration of national parks and wildlife as well as some incredible landscapes, Western Uganda is the top region for couples travelling in the country. Mountain gorilla trekking comes up at the top of most travellers’ lists for Uganda, closely followed by chimpanzee trekking, and both of these activities are on offer in Western Uganda. In the same region, Murchison Falls National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park are the two most popular parks for big game safaris by car and boat, while the crater lakes area offers idyllic walking trails. Hiking in the Rwenzori Mountains is a highlight for active couples, and the truly fit can take on the challenge of climbing to the top of Mount Stanley, Uganda’s highest peak.

              For adventure-seeking couples, Eastern Uganda is unmissable. Here you’ll find Uganda’s adrenaline centre: the laidback town of Jinja, on the shores of Lake Victoria. Just about every outdoors activity under the sun is on offer here, but the biggest draw is the thrilling white-water rafting on the huge rapids of the Nile River.

              • Highlights
                mountain gorilla

                Coming face-to-face with wild mountain gorillas in their natural habitat, tracking our closest ape cousins – chimpanzees – in dense rainforest, going in search of tree-climbing lions in Queen Elizabeth National Park, exploring the landscapes and wildlife of Murchison Falls National Park on a self-drive safari, trekking in the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains, getting the adrenaline going on a white-water rafting adventure on the Nile River, staying in romantic rooms and tented suites in luxury lodges placed in Uganda’s most beautiful corners and indulging in special treats such as bush picnics for two organised by your lodge.

              • Practical information

                Travelling by car in Uganda does feel like an adventure but it’s a slow way of getting around, as roads are rough and distances can take much longer than you’d expect. If you’re short on time and want to maximise your days in Uganda, consider flying on small planes between the national parks. In general, it’s best to spend a few days in each place rather than rushing from one destination to the next. Part of the magic of spending time in the wilderness is having time to soak up the serenity of the natural world.

                Public displays of affection are not the norm in Uganda. To be respectful, try to be more reserved when in public

                In Uganda, same-sex relationships are illegal. LGBTQ couples should be discreet about their sexuality and not show any signs of affection in public.

            • Family safari in Uganda

              family safari credit steve dieveney
              Credit: Steven Dieveneey

              Uganda is a wonderful choice for a family safari holiday, offering some of the most memorable wildlife experiences on the continent, game drives in national parks without the crowds, island and lakeside beaches to while away relaxing days and more outdoors activities than you can shake a GoPro stick at.

              For a family holiday in Uganda, Western Uganda is the top region to visit: home to most of the country’s national parks, reserves and natural attractions, it offers spectacular wildlife, astonishing landscapes to explore and lots of outdoors activities. For families with older children, mountain gorilla and chimpanzee trekking are two top highlights, while children of all ages can enjoy wildlife spotting in the most popular national parks of the region – Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls – and guided nature walks to spot birds and monkeys in the region’s beautiful rainforests, such as in Budongo Forest Reserve.

              Central Uganda also has some wonderful attractions for families: children above the age of six can track rhinos on foot and go in search of shoebill storks in canoes at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, and for children who are under the age of 15 and can’t go chimp trekking, a visit to Ngamba Island chimpanzee sanctuary is a great alternative. Scattered in Lake Victoria, the Ssese Islands also make for a relaxing beach destination with some fun activities, such as wind surfing and fishing.

              For active families, Eastern Uganda is home to the adrenaline capital of East Africa, Jinja, which lies at the source of the Nile River. For children above the age of eight, white-water rafting is a heart-pumping adventure and there’s plenty more fun to be had on the river, including boat cruises, stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking. Then on land there’s bungee-jumping, horse-back riding, quad biking and mountain biking – more than enough to keep even the most energetic of children entertained for a few days.

              • Highlights
                sabuk lodge

                Highlights for families travelling in Uganda include wonderful wildlife encounters – tracking mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, rhinos and shoebill storks and seeing rescued chimps on Ngamba Island, exploring the savanna and rivers of Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchison Falls National Park to see lions, elephant, giraffe, leopards and hippos, experiencing and learning about the amazing primates, birds and butterflies of Western Uganda’s biodiverse rainforest on guided walks and exciting activities, from windsurfing in the Ssese Island archipelago to white-water rafting on the Nile River.

                • Practical advice
                  • Tracking mountain gorillas is a big reason why people travel to Uganda and it’s a wonderful activity to do as a family, but note that there is a minimum age limit of 15 for gorilla safaris (the same age limit applies for chimp trekking). Many other safari and wildlife activities also have an age limit – for example, rhino trekking at Ziwa is only for children above six.
                  • Uganda’s roads are mostly unpaved and rough, which means that travelling by car between destinations can take a lot longer than you would expect, given the distance. If you’re self-driving or hiring a driver to travel around Uganda with your family, it makes sense to limit your itinerary to fewer places, spending more time in each destination, rather than trying to see all of the highlights on one trip.
                  • There’s a risk of contracting several mosquito-borne diseases in Uganda. Malaria is the biggest risk, and children are particularly susceptible to catching severe and fatal malaria. It’s essential that you consult your doctor before travelling about taking antimalarial medication for your children, and that while you’re travelling you try to prevent them getting bitten by wearing suitable clothing, insect repellent and sleeping under mosquito nets.
                  • Before you book any lodging, check up on the minimum age policies of lodges, as many of them won’t accept children under a certain age (and some don’t allow any children). Some lodges have a policy of only allowing children on game drives if you book a private vehicle and guide. Some lodges, however, are particularly child-friendly, offering family rooms and things like children’s menus and guided nature walks for kids, so it’s worth doing research on the best lodges for families before your trip.
            • Solo travel in Uganda

              solo travel uganda

              The best region for solo travellers in Uganda is Western Uganda, where you’ll find most of the national parks and reserves as well as magnificent landscapes and a huge array of different activities. In Western Uganda, you can go mountain gorilla and chimpanzee trekking in Bwindi and Kibale Forest, wildlife spotting and birdwatching on the rivers and savanna of Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchison Falls National Park and hiking in the crater lakes area. Adventurous travellers can join a guided group trek in the dramatic Rwenzori Mountains.

              A great place to base yourself in Western Uganda is Lake Bunyonyi, from where you can easily go gorilla trekking in Bwindi, but also do a number of outdoors activities in the lake and in the surrounding area. In Eastern Uganda, Jinja is an ideal place for solo travellers. There are endless activities to fill your days, and you’ll be able to meet lots of other travellers in the town’s bars and restaurants.

              • Highlights

                Hiking through misty rainforest to find a group of gorillas playing, feeding and grooming one another, chasing a troop of chimpanzees as they swing through the treetops above you, spotting tree-climbing lions on a guided game drive in Queen Elizabeth National Park, going on a boat cruise to see the magnificent Murchison Falls, discovering villages and plantations on hikes around the crater lakes, chilling out at a lakeside resort in Lake Bunyonyi, getting your adrenaline pumping tackling the rapids of the Nile River.

              • Practical information
                • Solo female travellers should take the same kinds of precautions that they would anywhere else: ask locals for advice on what areas to avoid when you’re in a city, don’t walk by yourself on quiet streets after dark and don’t flaunt your valuables. Ugandan women tend to dress conservatively (always covering their knees) so if you want to minimise drawing attention to yourself, wear shorts or skirts that cover your knees, and t-shirts that aren’t too tight. The safest form of transport in a city is a private taxi.
                • It’s best not to hike alone in case anything goes wrong, so if you can, meet up with another traveller or take a guide when going on hikes. If you do go hiking or driving by yourself in remote areas, make sure you tell someone what your route is before you leave.

            Budgeting for Uganda

            • Budget travel in Uganda

              camping murchison falls
              RoadTrip Uganda

              As with many safari destinations, if you want to save money on lodging on your holiday in Uganda, choose to stay at hostels and campsites outside of the national parks.

              Transport-wise, the most affordable way to travel is via public transport on buses and minibus taxis, although it’s difficult to reach the more remote national parks on public transport.

              If you’re travelling to Uganda on a tight budget then you may not want to spend US$600 on a gorilla tracking permit. Chimpanzee trekking is much cheaper – but note that permits vary hugely in price depending on which reserve you do it in. In Kalinzu Forest it’s US$40, while it’s US$150 at Kibale Forest. There are plenty of other wallet-friendly activities to do in the country’s parks and reserves, from guided birding walks for US$30 to fishing in Lake Mburo National Park for US$15.

              Local restaurants are your best bet for good-value meals – a plate of meat stew with sides will cost around US$2. You can also cook for yourself if you’re staying at a campsite or self-catering lodging by buying food at markets and supermarkets.

              If you travel during the low season months of April, May, October and November, you’ll be able to pick up discounted rates on lodging and you may be able to get discounted gorilla tracking permits.

              Try our African Safari Cost Calculator
            • An affordable safari in Uganda

              queen elizabeth national park
              Credit: Gopackup

              Travel during the low season rainy months of April, May, October and November for discounts on travel packages, lodges and gorilla tracking permits. If you’re planning on going chimpanzee trekking, do some research on the cost of permits in different reserves, as the prices vary as widely as US$40 in Kalinzu Forest up to Kibale Forest’s US$150. To save on transport costs, it’s a good idea to choose a few places to base yourself in and explore the surrounding area from there, rather than travelling to a new destination every day or two. Joining a tour is one way to have a value-for-money holiday, as hiring your own 4x4 to self-drive Uganda is expensive. A group tour offers the best value for money, as your transport and lodging are included and then activities are optional extras.

              Try our African Safari Cost Calculator
            • Luxury safari in Uganda

              apoka safari lodge
              Apoka Safari Lodge

              Uganda offers excellent luxury lodges and tented camps situated in and around the best national parks and reserves, from Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kidepo National Park and Murchison Falls National Park to a private island in the Nile River, a high-altitude forest outside of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains. For city stays, Kampala and Entebbe also have a handful of luxury five-star hotels. Many of Uganda’s luxury lodges are small and intimate and a few are decidedly quirky in design – making for memorable stays.

              Planning a luxury holiday in Uganda is as easy as picking your safari destinations and then choosing from the best lodges in the parks or nearby. Most luxury travellers on a short holiday visit Entebbe for a day or two, Kibale Forest National Park for chimpanzees and other primates, Queen Elizabeth National Park for big game safaris (and tree-climbing lions) and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park for gorilla tracking. Travellers on longer trips also visit Jinja for exciting Nile River activities such as white-water rafting, Murchison Falls National Park for incredible landscapes and wildlife and, for adventurous travellers who like to really get off the beaten track, there’s a flight to the magnificent rugged Kidepo Valley National Park in Uganda’s remote north.

              Many roads in Uganda are rough and travelling by car can take a long time for the distance covered. Self-driving is possible but many travellers prefer to hire a driver for their journey around Uganda. You can also fly between the most popular safari destinations by plane. If you want to travel in the most relaxing and hassle-free way, then do a custom flying safari, where you travel by private charter planes between destinations, and then get transfers from the airstrips to each luxury lodge.

              Try our African Safari Cost Calculator

            Travel advice

              • Visa requirements and fees
                • Most visitors (apart from people from a few visa-exempt countries in Africa) will need to get a visa for travel to Uganda. You used to be able to get a visa on arrival in Uganda, but this no longer the case. You now need to apply for an electronic visa online prior to your trip. Go to https://visas.immigration.go.ug/ to apply. A single-entry visa costs US$50 and a six-month multiple entry visa costs US$100.7
                • If you’re travelling to Rwanda and Kenya on the same trip, then apply for the 90-day multiple-entry East African Tourist Visa, which covers all three countries and costs US$100.
              • Health and emergencies
                • To stay healthy in Uganda, you should only drink bottled, boiled or treated water and avoid eating any unpeeled fruits or vegetables. If you eat street food make sure that you buy it from a vendor that is busy and has a high turnover of food to ensure that it’s fresh, and watch that the food is cooked in front of you.
                • Uganda has a high risk of malaria and you should take antimalarial medication and prevent mosquito bites by using repellent on your skin and clothes, wear long trousers and shirts in the early morning and evenings and sleep under a mosquito net.
                • There’s a risk of contracting dengue fever, chikungunya and the Zika virus in Uganda. All three illnesses are transmitted by mosquitos but there are no preventative medications for them. Again, try to prevent mosquito bites as best you can.
                • There’s also a risk of contracting bilharzia – a parasitic disease transmitted by freshwater snails. Avoid swimming or wading in any fresh water (a hotel swimming pool is safe).
              • Health care system

                Uganda has both public and private healthcare facilities. Public healthcare facilities are understaffed and lack medical equipment and drugs. If you have a health problem or medical emergency you should visit a private clinic or hospital, where you’ll need to pay for your treatment and then get reimbursed by your travel insurance.

              • Medical emergencies

                If your medical emergency is not serious, then get to the closest town and try to find a private clinic or hospital. For more serious emergencies, unless you’re in Kampala and can reach a private clinic, then you need to contact a medical evacuation service (such as MAF on +256 772 777 208) which will transport you by plane to the closest private hospital for treatment.

              • At your lodge in Uganda
                mihingo lodge
                Mihingo Lodge
                • It’s standard to tip your guide and the lodge staff at the end of your stay. Lodges usually provide a communal tip box for leaving money for the cleaning, restaurant and maintenance staff (and they will usually give some guidance on the appropriate amount to tip). People generally tip their safari guide directly at the end of their stay.
                • Be sure to check the child policy of lodges before you plan your stay, as many don’t accept children at all or will only allow children over a certain age. Some activities (such as gorilla tracking) also have an age limit.
              • Food and tipping in Uganda
                rolex
                • Tipping in Uganda is not obligatory but many travellers do leave tips – and this extra money really helps boost the income of people working in the tourism industry. For restaurants, you can tip 10% for good service, and if you want to tip a taxi driver, then you can round up your fare.
                • It’s usual to tip drivers, safari and gorilla tracking guides and porters at the end of a safari or hike. For guides, you can tip between USD$10 to $20 per day per guest, and for a porter US$5 to US$10, and for a private driver you can tip US$20 to US$30 per day for the group. Most travellers also leave tips for the lodge staff (US$5 to US$10 per guest), and many lodges have their own tip box where you leave money to be shared out amongst the staff.
                • In terms of food, you’ll find the usual international fare at tourist restaurants and hotels. For local food served at eateries and restaurants, the most common main dish is a stew of meat, beans or groundnuts served with posho (maize meal) and matooke (mashed green bananas). Cassava, sweet potato, white potato, yam and rice are also common starches. Street side snacks include things like chapati (flat bread) filled with eggs and onions (known as a rolex), mugati naamaggi (a pancake filled with minced meat and egg), and samosas.
                • Popular drinks are tea (try the chai-spiced tea) and coffee – two of Uganda’s crops – as well as lager beer, banana and millet beer and fermented banana wine.
                • If you have any dietary requirements (such as vegan or vegetarian food), be sure to notify our travel experts in advance of your stay.
            • credit curly and beard
              Hiking the Virunga Mountains, Rwanda | Credit: Curly and Beard

              Uganda vs Rwanda

              There are only three countries in the world where you can see wild Mountain gorillas: Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Due to the latter country’s instability, almost all travellers choose either Rwanda or Uganda for their gorilla experience. The gorilla tracking experience in both countries is pretty similar, although in 2017 Rwanda increased the price of the gorilla trekking permits from US$750 to US$1500, while Uganda’s permit price has remained at US$600, making Uganda a far more affordable option if you’re choosing a destination primarily for gorilla trekking.

              In terms of accessibility for gorilla trekking, Rwanda is easier than Uganda. Rwanda is a far smaller country than Uganda, which means it’s a short journey by road from the capital of Kigali to Volcanoes National Park, where you do the gorilla trekking. In Uganda, it’s a 500-kilometre trip from the capital of Kampala to get to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park where you go gorilla trekking, but the roads are in bad condition so the journey takes about 10 hours.

              If you want to do more than just gorilla trekking on your holiday, Uganda is a better option than Rwanda. Unlike Rwanda, Uganda offers big game safaris on open savanna as well as a much wider array of experiences and a bigger variety of landscapes to explore than its more compact neighbour. Overall, Uganda is also more affordable than Rwanda.

              See all Rwanda safaris
            • hot air ballooning
              Uganda is a great destination for a gorilla trekking safari

              Uganda vs Tanzania

              Tanzania is a far larger country than landlocked Uganda, and offers superb game parks teeming with game as well as the incredible spectacle of the annual Great Migration in addition to a beautiful coastline and idyllic islands. If you’d like to combine a wildlife safari with beach time, then Tanzania is a great choice.

              While you can do chimpanzee trekking in both East African countries, Tanzania doesn’t have any Mountain gorillas, so if seeing these majestic primates in their wild habitat is on your travel bucket list, then pick Uganda over Tanzania.

              Tanzania is home to the iconic Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak, but Uganda has Africa’s highest mountain range, the Rwenzori. While Mount Stanley in the Rwenzori is only Africa’s third highest mountain, hiking here is much more of a wilderness adventure than scaling Mount Kilimanjaro, and it’s far more affordable.

              Overall, Uganda is also a lot more budget-friendly than Tanzania, a country that caters largely for high end tourism.

              See all Tanzania safaris

            The Basics

            • Travelling to Uganda

              From Europe and North America you can fly to Entebbe in Uganda either via the African cities of Addis Ababa, Kigali or Nairobi or via the Middle East, going through Dubai or Doha.

            • Getting Uganda

              One way to travel Uganda independently is by hiring your own car. Hiring a 4x4 is highly recommended, because most roads are unpaved and are often extremely bumpy and potholed, and most of the roads in the national parks are only suitable for 4x4s. However, driving on rough Ugandan roads is not for the feint hearted, and if you don’t have much experience driving in Africa it might be best to think about hiring a driver for your trip.

              If you don’t hire a car, your options for getting around cities are shared taxi vans (known as matatus) and boda boda motorcycles (but note that both matatus and boda bodas have high accident rates). The safest option is to take private taxis (the taxi-ride app Uber operates in Kampala).

              For long distance travel between major towns the most affordable option is coaches, which are slow and can be crowded – and they do have accidents. The most hassle-free way to travel around Uganda is to fly: Aerolink (www.aerolinkuganda.com) flies to Uganda’s top five national parks, Eagle Air (www.eagleair-ug.com) has scheduled flights to six towns across Uganda and also operates private charter flights, while Fly Uganda (www.flyuganda.com) offers private charter flights to all of Uganda’s airstrips as well as custom flying safaris.

            • Wildlife of Uganda
              forest elephants
              Credit: Blasio Bwekwaso

              Western Uganda is home to most of the country’s national parks and reserves, and is the best region to visit for wildlife. The standout highlight of this region is the gorilla tracking experience in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, in Uganda’s southwest corner. While seeing mountain gorillas is the main reason people travel to Bwindi, there’s more wildlife to spot in the misty forests of the park, from nine other primate species, such as black-and-white colobus and l’Hoest monkeys, as well as forest duikers, elusive forest elephants and more than 200 butterfly species.

              Kibale Forest Reserve is also a primate haven – with 13 resident species, it boasts the largest concentration of primates in the country and the biggest diversity of primates of any East African reserve. Tracking chimpanzees is the main draw to Kibale, although spotting olive baboons, black-and-white colobus, l’Hoest and blue monkeys are also highlights in themselves.

              lions queen elizabeth park

              Still in western Uganda, Queen Elizabeth National Park is the country’s best park for wildlife diversity, home to 95 species of mammals and 20 predators, including the Big Four (buffalo, lion, leopard and elephant) as well as chimpanzees and a whopping 611 species of birds. The park’s standout highlight are the tree-climbing lions – there’s only one other place in Africa where they do this – so catching this sighting is particularly special.

              murchison falls

              Murchison Falls National Park is another Big Four reserve (only rhino si missing) in western Uganda, which is known for its large herds of elephant, giraffe and buffalo, as well as for lucky sightings of the rare ground-dwelling patas monkey. For birders it’s the best place to try and track down the rare shoebill stork.

              shoebill
              The prehistoric Shoebill

              Just south of Murchison Falls, Budongo Forest Reserve conserves Uganda’s largest population of chimpanzees, as well as other primate species including black-and-white colobus, blue monkey and red-tailed monkey. With around 360 species of birds including many species found in only a few other locations in East Africa, it’s considered the country’s best birding destination.

              lake mburo
              Lake Mburo

              Close to Kampala and still in Western Uganda, Lake Mburo National Park is where to go to spot animals not easily found elsewhere in the country, from Uganda’s only population of impala to Burchell’s zebra. While elephant are absent in the park, there are plenty of other mammals to see, including sitatunga antelope, topi, oribi, Bohor reedbuck and herds of eland.

              In Central Uganda, the main wildlife highlight is tracking southern white rhinos on foot at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. The reserve is also an excellent place to see shoebill storks.

              ziwa rhino sanctuary

              In the Karamoja region of northern Uganda near the Kenyan border, Kidepo Valley National Park is a remote park that that offers rugged wilderness and excellent wildlife, everything from elephant, lion, leopard and buffalo to Burchell’s zebra, Rothschild’s giraffe and black-backed jackal and cheetah – two of the many species that you don’t find anywhere else in the country.

            • Uganda culture
              ugandan boy
              The Kenyan people are regarded as welcomong and friendly to tourists, credit: AFAR Media

              As in many African countries, it’s customary for Ugandans to exchange friendly greetings before launching into the topic of conversation. To be polite, you should stick to this cultural practice, even if you’re simply asking a stranger on the street for directions.

              Public displays of affection are considered impolite in Uganda: so restrict your affection towards your partner. Ugandan women tend to dress conservatively, wearing long dresses and skirts that cover their knees.

            • Languages in Uganda

              Uganda has 43 languages, of which Luganda is the most widely spoke, and Swahili and English are the official languages. Most educated Ugandans speak English, and in tourist destinations most people will speak English.

            • Is Uganda safe?

              Uganda is generally a safe and stable country but there are a few things to be aware of.

              • When in cities and towns use the same precautions that you would anywhere; don’t flaunt your valuables, be aware of your bag when you’re in crowded places and don’t leave valuables in your car. Be careful when you’re walking or driving at night.

              • Avoid political demonstrations in cities as they can turn confrontational.

              • Travel cautiously if you’re going near the border with South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo, as there have been violent clashes in the area. There also has been violence in the Karamoja region of north-eastern Uganda.

              • Uganda has a high rate of road accidents, so take caution if you’re on a self-driving trip. Most roads are unpaved and many are extremely pot-holed and bumpy. Never drive at night outside of the main towns – roads are not lit; some drivers drive without their lights on and there’s often livestock walking across the roads. In towns and villages, the speed limit is 50 kilometres per hour, while outside of towns it’s 80 km. Breaking the speed limit can get you a fine or imprisonment. Make sure that you’re travelling with a spare tyre and all the necessary tools.

              • Changing money in Uganda

                Uganda’s currency is the Ugandan shilling (US$1 is around USh3800). US dollars are widely accepted for lodging, activities, park entrance fees and safari activities. The dollar bills need to be newer than 2003 and have no tears on them.

                Uganda is a cash society: many lodges and restaurants in Uganda don’t accept credit cards, and payment for park fees and permits are in cash, so always have enough cash with you. There are ATMs located in towns across the country, but if you’re travelling to remote areas, it’s a good idea to travel with enough cash to pay for everything you will need.

              • Shopping in Uganda

                Kampala, Entebbe and Jinja have the best selection of arts, crafts, curio shops and markets. In Kampala, Exposure Africa is the largest craft “village” in the city where you’ll find everything from drums and wooden carvings (go for carvings made from renewable woods rather than indigenous hardwoods) to sandals, baskets and jewellery, while the Friday craft market on Ggaba Road is a great place to browse handmade arts and crafts sold by the artisans themselves. A shopping highlight in Kampala is Banana Boat, with three different branches, where you’ll find upcycled paper products and jewellery and other beautiful arts, crafts and décor items.

                In Entebbe there’s the Entebbe Crafts Village with 20 stalls selling jewellery, clothes, sculptures and souvenirs, as well as several other curio shops.

                In Jinja, visit Kilombera Workshop for cotton fabrics or browse sidewalk stalls for sandals, bags, drums and paintings.

                kilombera market
                Kilombera Workshop

                Most upmarket safari lodges have a shop that sells curios and souvenirs, but these are usually priced much higher than the same products that you’d find in markets.

                If you need to buy travel gear, shopping malls in Kampala and Entebbe will be your best options. In terms of food shopping, there are supermarkets in towns and open-air food markets where you can buy cheap, local fresh produce.


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