Uganda is a beautiful country, revered by travelers and explorers for centuries and now experiencing a rebirth. From the air much of the country seems to shimmer. Endless lakes, rivers, waterfalls and wetlands make Uganda a lush tropical haven. Lake Victoria dominates the South, her blue waters funneling into the Nile river which journeys the length of Uganda. Mountains form the Western borders, the Virunga volcanoes and the legendary “Mountains of the Moon”. The far North stretches towards the Sahara and the East transforms into arid plains. Visitors should not miss the great attractions of Lake Victoria, Queen Elizabeth National Park, the Kazinga channel and Murchison Falls. Uganda boasts the highest population of the endangered mountain gorilla, the rare shoebill stork, and shy sitatunga. Visitors to this area can also trek to see chimpanzee in the wild. Uganda offers a wealth of wildlife, spectacular scenery, and a warm and welcoming population. Winston Churchill fell in love with the country and christened it the “Pearl of Africa”. No small wonder. “Oyina okwelabirako na masogo” – You must go and see with your own eyes…
- Location: Uganda is a landlocked country located in East Africa with the DRC to its east, Tanzania to its south, and Kenya to its west.
- Size: Uganda covers 91,135 square miles, slightly smaller than Oregon, or about the same size as the UK.
- Capital City: Kampala
- Population: Around 37 million people live in Uganda.
- Languages: English is the official language in Uganda, with both KiSwahili and Luganda widely spoken as well. There are over forty indigenous languages spoken throughout the country.
- The Flag: The current flag was adopted when Uganda gained independence from Britain in 1962. The three colors are representative of its people (black), the sun (yellow), and red (blood). The grey crowned crane is the national bird of Uganda, fabled for its gentle nature. The raised leg of the crane symbolizes the forward movement of the country.
- Currency: The Ugandan Shilling (UGX) is the local currency, but many luxury lodges and hotels will accept US Dollars.
- Getting to Uganda: The main point of entry into Uganda is Entebbe International Airport (located near Kampala). There are no direct flight from the US to Uganda, so most vistors will connect with a flight via Amsterdam (KLM), Addis Ababa (Ethiopian), Istanbul (Turkish Airlines), Dubai (Emirates) or Johannesburg (SAA). The border crossing with Rwanda is also easy to navigate if you wish to enjoy gorilla tracking in both countries.
- Combine Uganda with: Rwanda, Kenya or Tanzania
- Download these before you go…
Books: The White Nile – Alan Moorehead; Fong and the Indians – Paul Theroux; In a Free State – V.S. Naipaul; The Last King of Scotland – Giles Foden; Tropical Fish: Tales from Entebbe – Doreen Baingana
Movies: The African Queen (1951 ) Last King of Scotland (2006); Mississippi Masala (1991); Raid on Entebbe (1977)
Most visitors to Uganda arrive at Entebbe Airport, probably the most easy-going airport in Africa, some 20 miles south of Kampala and on Lake Victoria’s shore. Entebbe became a colonial administrative center at the end of the 19th century and remained the capital until 1962. With its botanical gardens and its old fashioned colonial buildings, it is a charming introduction to Uganda. Golf, tennis, sailing and swimming are available. The Entebbe Wildlife Centre features an open zoo. From Entebbe there are regular trips to Chimp Island. This sanctuary, on a beautiful forested island, is home to chimpanzees illegally removed from the wild and confiscated by the authorities; a raised platform enables close viewing. The tour lasts about half a day, traveling either by a modified traditional Ssese canoe or a faster motor boat. Another delightful excursion is a cruise on the tiny African Queen on Lake Victoria, the boat used in the famous film.
Kampala, the capital of Uganda, is spread over a number of hills and takes its name from Kasozi k’impala, “the hill of antelopes”. The city grew around the court of the Kabaka of Buganda. British officials as well as Indian merchants settled on the adjoining hills and so the city’s expansion on its distinct green hills has continued. Kampala remains the heart of Uganda, the center of commercial life and the seat of Government. It is a charming, green city spread out on several hills, with its many gardens and attractive views of the surrounding countryside and Lake Victoria. Hotel facilities range from good international standard hotels, with conference facilities, to accommodation for the more budget-minded. There is also a good choice of restaurants. A tour of Kampala might include the following sights: The Kasubi Tombs – the traditional royal tombs of the Kabakas of Buganda – are a fine example of Ganda architecture; The National Theatre, opened in 1959, offers a variety of plays in English and local languages; The Parliament Building is a symbol of the country’s independence; Makerere University is the oldest and most prestigious university in East Africa; The Uganda Museum has a display of Uganda’s cultural heritage and a fascinating collection of musical instruments. And do not miss the colorful markets, especially the Nakasero fruit and vegetable market, the Owino general goods market and the crafts market.
LAKE MBURO NATIONAL PARK
Lake Mburo is one of the newest of Uganda’s National Parks, with a landscape of open plains, acacia grasslands and marshes. Around the lake itself is thicker riverine woodland while much of the rest of the park is acacia woodland. It is a small but interesting savanna reserve within a four hour drive from Kampala. Herds of zebra, impala, klipspringer, oribi, topi, reedbucks, leopard, and buffalo are among the animals that may be encountered, alongside a rich diversity of birds more typical of Tanzanian acacia-savanna, such as the crested crane (Uganda’s national emblem), saddlebill storks and Abyssinian ground hornbills. One of the great advantages of Lake Mburo Natonal Park is that you can walk in the park accompanied by a park ranger.
BWINDI IMPENETRABLE FOREST
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park covers an area of 190 square miles and is located in southwestern Uganda on the edge of the Western Rift Valley. Designated as a World Heritage Site, Bwindi is a world of towering trees, giant ferns, tangled undergrowth and hanging vines, creating the quintessential equatorial jungle. The altitudinal range of montane and lowland forests at Bwindi support more species of trees, ferns, birds and butterflies than any other forest in East Africa. It is also the only one which contains both gorillas and chimpanzees. Bwindi is home to about 300 endangered mountain gorillas (50% of the world population) and is therefore of critical importance to their continued survival. From this mountain gorilla population, two families are habituated for visitors to trek. Bwindi is rich in other primates, including chimpanzee and blue monkey. Butterflies are the most conspicuous of the rich insect fauna of the park, with more than 200 species. There is also a large variety of trees, a dense undergrowth, an extensive stand of bamboo and a number of swamps. In addition to gorilla trekking, there are a number of nature trails in the park to explore this primeval African forest: taking the course of the waterfall, along the Rushura trail for some sweeping views towards Lake Edward and the Rwenzoris; and to the Mubwindi swamp near Ruhija for some unusual bird species.
KIBALE FOREST NATIONAL PARK
The extensive Kibale Forest, near Fort Portal in the West, is thought to have the greatest variety and concentration of primates in Africa. Thirteen species have been recorded including the red colobus, the black and white colobus, the vervet and of course the chimpanzee. As a moist forest Kibale is unique, with an extraordinary high diversity of wildlife and flora. Taking a forest walk from Kanyanchu provides a high chance of encountering chimpanzees, several families of which have been habituated. Over 300 bird species have been recorded and experienced guides help to locate specials such as green-breasted pitta, black bee eater, white headed wood hoopoe and the tiny chestnut wattle-eye. Under the ecosystem of a tropical rain forest, as well as its flora and fauna. Dawn walks to watch the chimps waking are quite exciting and noisy. Night walks are good for seeing nocturnals, such as bushbaby and potto. The adjacent Bigodi Wetland, also called Magombe Swamp, offers an unusual habitat for seeing wildlife and birds that live in and around swamps. It is considered to be one of the best guided bird trails in East Africa.
QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK
The magnificent Queen Elizabeth National Park, located in the western corridor of the Great African Rift Valley, is blessed with a variety of habitats – tropical forest, green meadows, savannah, crater lakes and swamps. Within the park is Lake George, the Kasinga Channel, a waterway rich in wildlife and birds, and half of Lake Edward, home to the largest concentration of hippo in the world, in excess of 35,000 animals. The Ruwenzori Mountains (Mountains of the Moon) act as a backdrop to this park, being the highest mountain range in Africa with the third highest peak at 5,109 meters above sea level. This is one of Africa’s most beautiful and biologically diverse reserves. Lion, leopard, elephant, hippo, Uganda kob, and the giant forest hog are among the big game and birdlife is exceptionally rich. Q.E.N.P. boasts a one day record for birding to be 296 species, with a total recorded population of 565 species….one of the highest in the world. Bird sightings include the shoebill stork, the black bee-eater, kingfishers, raptors and spectacular flocks of flamingos. The launch trip along the Kazinga Channel is particularly rewarding for viewing a variety of game, especially hippo, buffalo, elephant and a vast array of birds. You may also see the famous tuskless elephants that have evolved in response to poaching in the past. Around Ishasha go on the hunt for the famous tree-climbing lions, which lounge nonchalantly in the upper branches of old fig trees. In the Maramagambo forest, a vast virtually untouched woodland area, search for forest game and primates.
MURCHISON FALLS NATIONAL PARK
The meandering Victoria Nile and the dramatic Murchison Falls make this National Park, the biggest in the country, a stunning habitat for wildlife. Murchison Falls was discovered by Samuel Baker in 1864. The 50 meter wide Nile is forced through a narrow cleft in the rocks, dropping down with a thundering roar and a beautiful rainbow. The launch trip to the bottom of the Falls is unforgettable, both to experience this mighty river and to see the huge crocodiles, hippos and birds that bask on its banks. The terrain is dominated by rolling savannah and tall grassland. Buffalo, Rothschild’s giraffe, Uganda kob, hartebeest and waterbuck are commonly seen. You may also spot oribi, bushbuck, Bohor reedbuck, sitatunga, bush duiker, warthog and bushpig. Among the large carnivores, lion, leopard and spotted hyena are seen. The park boasts over 450 bird species including the Goliath heron, Egyptian goose, pelican, bee-eater, kingfisher, hornbill, cormorant, and the rare shoebill stork.
While safaris have traditionally been ‘all about the animals’, travelers can now truly “rough it” in style ~ having all their creature comforts and the best in wildlife viewing as well. Accommodation in Africa can range from lavish and luxurious to clean and comfortable. Take a minute to browse through the pictures and descriptions of these accommodations to get a sense for what style appeals to you.
Our approach is not to take a packaged tour ‘off the shelf’ and expect it to work for everyone. Instead we believe that each of our clients plays an important part in the planning of their own adventure. To begin with, you can review our suggestions either by the country that interests you or by the type of safari you are looking for, and we can then tailor it to your liking.
Uganda Suggested Safaris
Gorillas in the Mist (Mahogany Springs)5 Days 4 Nights$4555 - $4850
This 5 day Uganda Gorilla Safari starts with an overnight in Entebbe. The following day you will fly to Kihihi the closest airstrip to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. This is a region of volcanoes, jagged valleys, waterfalls, lakes and dramatic mountain ranges. Mahogany Springs is situated in one of the most intimate, secluded, beautiful and most importantly natural settings in the world and it's just a few minutes away from the gorilla tracking starting point. This will be your base for 3 nights and where you can experience a unique encounter with the mountain gorillas. Sit in the forest among the gorillas, listening to them ‘talk’ to one another, and marvel at the sheer size of the dominant male, the Silverback. It is an extraordinary feeling sitting in the dense rainforest knowing you are with a few of the last remaining mountain gorillas. It's amazing to think there are only about 650 of these beautiful creatures left.
Gorillas in the Mist (Gorilla Forest Camp)5 Days 4 Nights$5610 - $7075
This 5 day Uganda Gorilla Safari starts with an overnight in Entebbe. The following day you will fly to Kihihi the closest airstrip to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. This is a region of volcanoes, jagged valleys, waterfalls, lakes and dramatic mountain ranges. And it is here, on a flat ridge high in the forest, that Sanctuary's Gorilla Forest Camp is tucked away. This will be your base for 3 nights and where you can experience a unique encounters with the mountain gorillas. You will also have the opportunity for a Forest Walk and you can visit the philanthropy project at Bwindi Community Hospital as well. Your soul will be well nourished with all these incredibly rich experiences!
Primates, Wildlife & Culture12 Days 11 Nights$10280 - $10875
This 12 day, 11 night Primates, Wildlife and Culture safari, traveling through Uganda to Rwanda, combines a variety of primate encounters-from gorillas to chimpanzees to golden monkeys-with game viewing and a Batwa Cultural experience. The first 2 nights are spent in Entebbe where you will explore Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary. Here you will see Chimpanzees up close in their natural environment. Your journey continues as you travel to Kibale in southern Uganda where you will visit Kibale Forest National Park home to chimpanzees as well as 12 other primate species. Activities include Chimpanzee trekking and a guided walk through the Bidgodi swamp. Next up is game viewing as you travel to Queen Elizabeth National park where you will have a chance to see the rare Ugandan cob along with elephants and buffalo.Then it’s on to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. This is a region of volcanoes, jagged valleys, waterfalls, lakes and dramatic mountain ranges. Here you’ll stay at Mahogany Springs which is situated in one of the most intimate, secluded, and beautiful natural settings in the world and it's just a few minutes away from the gorilla tracking starting point. This will be your base for two nights where you begin your stay spending a day in the forest with Batwa elder guides as part of the Batwa Cultural experience. The second day you can participate in a unique encounter with the mountain gorillas as you trek through the dense forest. Your primate adventure continues with a drive through the forest to Mount Mgahinga National Park where you’ll stay at the Volcanoes Mount Gahinga lodge. Nestled at the base of the Virunga Volcanoes you will have a chance to enter the forest in search of the endangered Golden Monkey. Your final day starts with a drive across the border into Rwanda, where you’ll spend your last night at the top rated Retreat by Heaven to relax and enjoy Rwanda’s bustling capital city of Kigali.