The New York Times Travel Magazine recently placed Uganda among its 52 best places to visit in 2020, mentioning that “Uganda is one of the world’s primate capitals, with 15 species (four of which are endangered”). The Times singled out gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and recommended it to travelers, mentioning that the park is a renowned mountain gorilla sanctuary protecting more than half of the world’s mountain gorillas.
The combination of her rich diversity of wildlife species, good weather, beautiful scenery, a generally gentle landscape and the friendly people is what prompted former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill to refer to Uganda as the Pearl of Africa. Indeed Uganda is a land full of eye-catching physical wonders always waiting to quench the thirst of anxious and adventure-loving travelers. What do you want to see in the wild, could it be the giant but gentle primates like mountain gorillas or the famous Africa’s “big five” in large savannah safari parks, or you want to test yourself by rafting in the longest river in the world, the Nile? With this and more, Uganda has got you covered.
What are some of the exciting activities to enjoy on a Uganda safari?
Gorilla safaris to see mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park both in the Southwest always top Uganda’s itineraries. Uganda’s tourism figures show that gorilla trekking is the most attractive tourist activity in the country attracting over 70% of the country’s visitors each year. Trekking the endangered mountain gorillas who share about 98% of the human DNA in their natural habitat has been described by travelers as the best wildlife experience in the world. Indeed the one hour spent in the presence of these gentle giants while watching them play, feed and interact is commonly known as “the magical hour”. Although gorilla trekking is available in Rwanda and DR Congo, Uganda still remains the most ideal destination for the activity because of its affordable gorilla permit, 100% chance of seeing the gorillas and security around the park. Rwanda is also stable in terms of security unlike DR Congo but the high price of the gorilla permit which is sold at $1,500 per person leaves trekking in Uganda far cheaper and affordable at $600 per person. Given that mountain gorillas are endangered animals, strict rules for their conservation limit the number of their visitors to 8 per group per day. This means that each group of mountain gorillas is visited once per day by a group of 8 trekkers in order to protect them and allow them to continue thriving in the wild. Uganda also offers gorilla habituation experience which allows travelers alongside rangers to take part in the process of making gorillas get used to the presence of humans. The gorilla habituation process lasts four hours a day unlike gorilla trekking which lasts an hour and a habituation permit is sold at $1,500 per person.
Game viewing/game drives
Uganda is one of the few countries in Africa that have the famous Africa’s “big five” which include lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros. A Uganda game viewing allows you to see all of them in the country’s large and beautiful savannah parks like Murchison Falls National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park. In the latter you can see the famous tree-climbing lions alongside many other species including several species of antelopes, zebra, giraffe, warthogs, baboons, among others. Game viewing in Uganda also takes place in Lake Mburo National Park which also offers a unique experience of horse-back riding in addition to other safari activities in the park including boat cruise. Kidepo Valley National Park in the northeast is another destination for amazing game drive experience. The park has an unrivaled game viewing experience given a small number of visitors due to its remoteness hence allowing the lucky few who make it there to enjoy everything the park has to offer without any form of competition.
Like gorilla trekking, chimpanzee tracking is another primate safari in Uganda but this time with a visit to see our closet relatives the chimpanzee who also share about 98% of our DNA. Chimpanzee tracking in Uganda is more popular in Kibale Forest National Park , a place famously known as the Primates Capital of the world. The Park boasts with 13 types of primates within its boundaries with a huge number of chimpanzees, several monkey species, baboons, among others. In Kibale Forest National Park, chimps and other primates are seen in the Kanyanchu primate walk organized by the park’s management. However, Kibale is not the only place in Uganda where visitors can see chimps because these cousins are fairly scattered across the country and can be seen in many other areas in large numbers. Other popular spots for chimpanzees in Uganda include the Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls National Park and at Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary on Lake Victoria near Entebbe International Airport where they are protected in captivity.
Uganda is arguably the best bird-watching destination Africa majorly because of its easy access to the birding area and the presence of over 1000 bird species within its borders. Uganda is a home to over 150 bird species that cannot be found anywhere else in east Africa including 7 species of horn-bill, 5 species of honey-guides, warblers, sunbirds, flycatchers, among others. The best spots for bird-watching in Uganda include Kibale Forest with a variety of forest birds, Semuliki National Park with some Rift Valley endemic bird species like the Rwenzori turaco, Budongo forest, Bwindi forest, and Queen Elizabeth National Park a home to over 600 bird species.
Mountain and Volcano climbing
Lovers of mountaineering safaris should also not look anywhere else apart from Uganda. The Pearl of Africa has got 3 main mountaineering safari destinations including Mount Elgon, Mount Rwenzori and Mgahinga National Park. Hiking to the top Mount Rwenzori leads to its glacial peaks including Margherita, the third-highest peak in Africa (5,109 ft above sea level). The route to Margherita peak goes through some beautiful sceneries of different vegetation zones with some fauna species and birds and snow-caped slopes. Hikes to the top of Mount Elgon leads to its highest peak of Wagagai at over 4,000 feet above sea level and its considered an exciting alternative to many other mountaineering destinations in east Africa. This is because of Mount Elgon’s variety of attractions including wildlife and waterfalls, milder climate and a lower elevation that doesn’t require any special experience ant technique to climb. There are 3 Volcano summits in Mgahinga National Park available for mountain climbing and all of them give you beautiful views from their peaks. Clear views of surrounding areas of Rwanda, DR Congo, the Virunga ranges and Bwindi Impenetrable can be seen from the top of the Mgahinga Volcano summits.