11 Things You Have to Do When You Visit Uganda

Uganda is one of the best travel destinations in Africa. Always refered to as the “Pearl of Africa”, Uganda is an amazing destination that should be on the bucket list of prospective travelers to Africa.

Gorilla trekking in Bwindi and Mgahinga

Regarded as one of the amazing wildlife experiences, gorilla trekking allows visitors to see the rare mountain gorillas not found anywhere else in the world save for Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic republic of Congo. With around 1004 mountain gorillas thought to be living in the wild, Uganda has half of their population living in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park as well as in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.

With the help of tourism, 17 mountain gorilla families have been tamed or habituated making it easy for tourists to have unforgettable up close gorilla encounter in Bwindi as well as Mgahinga gorilla national park. Bwindi is the most preferred area because it has 16 gorilla families and there are 4 tourist centers in the park which include Buhoma, Ruhija, Nkuringo and Rushaga where you can visit and see the gorillas.

Mgahinga gets few tourists because it has 1 habituated gorilla family. The experience of gorilla trekking remains the same either. If you would to plan a trip to see mountain gorillas in Uganda, you are in luck. Buy a gorilla permit which is at a cost of $600 for gorilla trekking and $1500 for gorilla habituation experience. A trusted tour operator who have done gorilla trekking trips will give you more ideas for which area and accommodations to choose for your gorilla experience. The $600 gorilla permit allows tourists to spend 1 hour with mountain gorillas while habituation experience gives 4 hours.

Whichever experience you choose, it all requires hiking steep terrain on foot through dense forests with guides who will search to find the gorillas. Physical strength may apply for the time it may take to walk and find the gorillas depending on their movement differs and it can range from 30 minutes by luck to 8 hours. Given the steep terrain, the seasons for gorilla trekking are also important for some tourists to consider. The dry season [December to February] is preferred by many for reasons such as dry forest trails, less rainfall. However gorilla trekking can be done any time of the year.

Bird watching

The national symbol of Uganda, the grey crested crane, is a not to miss sighting for any bird watcher on a birding trip to Uganda.

A major destination for bird watching trips, Uganda is home to over 1,060 species of birds which is about 11% of Africa’s and 5% of the word’s bird species. Uganda with the diverse habitats such as Albertine rift valley and Virunga massifs, there are birds found nowhere else in the world such as the 23 Albertine rift endemics. The most desirable bird species in Uganda are the shoebill stork, grey crested crane, the national park, African green broadbill, saddle bellied stork, fox’s weaver Uganda’s endemic bird, red bellied Malimbe, Nkulenge rail, Maxwell’s black weaver among others. For those on birding trips around Uganda, some of the best places for birding trips in Uganda are Bwindi in southwest where 340 birds including 23 species endemic to Albertine rift valley are recorded and Queen Elizabeth national park has over 600 species of birds. Semuliki valley national park, the extension of Ituri Congo basin rainforests is home to 441 species of birds including central African 45 guinea Congo biome species found nowhere else in east Africa.

Bird watchers with a day or just two while in Kampala or Entebbe, you can take an excursion to Mabamba wetland home to 200 species including the elusive shoebill stork. Entebbe botanical gardens and the national zoo offer opportunities to see lots of birds.

Game drives and boat cruises for big game viewing safari

While gorillas may be the most famed animals that wish any visitor could see in Uganda, there are also the large mammals which you can see by game drive safari including the lion, leopards, elephant, buffalo and rhino. There are over 10 national parks but the premier big game viewing parks in Uganda are Murchison Falls National Park Kidepo valley national park and Queen Elizabeth national park famous for tree climbing lions. These parks are great for watching wildlife with early and evening game drives with skilled guides to spot elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, giraffe, and zebra. Other small antelopes you might spot include Uganda kob, topi, eland, and Jackson’s hartebeest as well as small cats such as jackals, civets, and hyena. There are very many lodges for budget, mid range and luxury where visitors can stay and enjoy game viewing experiences. Boat cruise safaris is another option to view aquatic wildlife such as hippos and Nile crocodiles and a variety of water birds along Kazinga channel in Queen Elizabeth national park and River Nile boat cruises in Murchison falls, world’s longest river.

Chimpanzee trekking at Kibale forest national park

Chimpanzee trekking is one of the affordable safari activities giving you a chance to see chimpanzees, the apes that very closely related to man. Kibale forest national park home to 13 species of primates and chimpanzees is a popular place for chimpanzee trekking safaris. In addition, there are other places to do chimpanzee trekking such as Kyambura gorge and kalinzu forest in Queen Elizabeth national park and Budongo forest reserve near Murchison falls. Chimp treks begin early morning; visitors are accompanied by guides through the forest where you get to encounter the chimpanzees.

Golden monkey tracking

Golden monkey tracking offers an opportunity to view golden monkeys, a critically endangered species of primates found only in Virunga massif that stretches over the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. When on a safari to Uganda, visit Mgahinga gorilla national park in south west near Bwindi where several troops of golden monkeys are habituated for visitors to see at only $80 per person. Golden monkeys are beautiful monkeys to behold and photograph with a mix of golden, orange and black hair. They feed on bamboo forest between 3000 to 4000 m above sea level. At this altitude, hiking to see these monkeys is similar to gorilla trekking and require fitness and have a day pack and hiking shoes.

White water rafting and kayaking the Nile

River Nile, the world’s longest river has its source (source of the Nile) at Jinja city on the Victoria Nile. Water rafting on the Nile in Uganda is one of the best adrenaline adventures activities. The mighty waters of the Nile from its source on Victoria Nile have super fast flow creating grade 1, 3 and 5 rapids make Jinja city one of the best white water rafting places in the world. Adventure enthusiasts can enjoy rafting on the Nile for a full or half day excursion and for as long as you can.

The world’s longest river the Nile has powerful grade 3 and 5 rapids along its source in Jinja town located 1 hour drive east of Kampala.

Kampala city tour

Kampala popularly known as the city that “never sleeps” is one of the most beautiful cities in east Africa, with vibrant nightlife atmosphere, gardens, parks and trees especially in kololo, Makerere Namirembe hills. Though the city experiences traffic jam during morning and evening hours on Mondays and Fridays, there’s a conducive atmosphere for sightseeing. The Kampala city tour takes you to Gaddafi mosque where you climb the steps to the top of the 50 meter high tower for aerial view of the entire city, thereafter; you visit Mengo Palace and Bulange where you can learn much about Buganda, the largest traditional kingdom whose history dates back to the 13th century long before the colonialism, the kasubi UNESCO heritage site, the Namiemirembe and Rubaga cathedrals, the Bahai temple and the Uganda martyrs shrine namugongo are places of worship not to miss. Back to the city center and go to the vibrant arts and crafts market at national theatre and Buganda road where you can buy souvenirs and interact with art workers. Other places not to miss are Uganda museum which keeps the history and culture of Uganda, the parliament building, the independence monument. At the end you will find your way for shopping at acacia mall famous for coffee and various goods shops among other things like jewelry shops.

Rhino trekking

Although rhinos have not been re-introduced into Uganda’s protected areas, about 24 southern white rhinos can be found at Ziwa Rhino sanctuary, a 70 sq km natural habitat area privately managed by Rhino fund Uganda, a Nonprofit NGO. Ziwa is located in Masindi along the route to Murchison falls national park about 3 hours drive from Kampala. You can stop at Ziwa rhino sanctuary for rhino trekking on foot with rangers before proceeding to Murchison. Ziwa has a of accommodation and camping facilities. It welcomes visitors if you want to spend a night or two, you can do other activities like nature walks, hiking, canoe riding to see birds, antelopes and monkeys. When you visit Ziwa, you are helping the success of conserving rhinos in Uganda. It is hoped that Rhino fund Uganda a Non- Governmental Organization in partnership with Uganda wildlife authority will provide a breeding population for rhinos to be re-introduced to Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park.

Sesse islands vacation

Uganda is a landlocked country but the fact that it has got Sesse islands, it qualifies for perfect island and beach vacation in the middle of Lake Victoria, the 2nd largest fresh water lake in the world. Sesse islands are about 2 hours by boat/ ferry ride from Entebbe town near the Entebbe international airport. The islands are about 84; Bulago and kalangara are the top tourist spots to relax on beautiful sunny beaches and enjoy sunsets.  There are palm trees and forests where to do nature walks to see birds and monkeys. Other activities on the islands include swimming which can be done on the shores or in the pools at brovad sands lodge, kayaking, fishing, and biking.

Hiking and mount climbing

Uganda is famous for adventure and trekking, with Rwenzori the 3rd tallest mountain in Africa, the Virunga volcanoes and Mount Elgon, the largest caldera in the world. These offer various stunning hiking and climbing routes and to find the best hike/ trek for you is to determine the number of days required to scale a mountain of your choice.

Virunga volcanoes offer some of the easiest hiking routes in Mgahinga gorilla national park south western Uganda. There are 3 dormant volcanoes in the park which are Mt. Muhabura, 4127 m, Mt. Gahinga 3474 m, and Mt. Sabinyo 3639 m which lie on the border of Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. Each of these can be hiked in a day and treks offer amazing views of Virunga massif, and wildlife such as golden monkey and gorillas trekking.

The snow capped Rwenzori Mountains are the 3rd highest in Africa. The tallest peak Mgherita rising at 5109 m along with other 3 peaks can be accessed from Rwenzori mountains national park. Reaching the summit of Rwenzori Mountain peaks with permanent snow offers an exclusive mountaineering experience. There are 3 trekking routes to the summit which can take 8-12 days but the short hiking trails at the base of Rwenzori are no less adventure. the shorter hikes offers you a chance to spot rare wildlife such as three horned chameleon.

Hiking Rwenzori, you will experience glorious walks on footprints of legendary explorers and mountaineers including Ptolemy of 150 AD, John Speke, and the Malaysian Ravi Everest. En route to the summit, you pass through beautiful 5 zones of vegetation, roaring mubuku river and numerous streams, along with the stunning valley of 9 glacier lakes.

Mount Elgon rising at 4321 m above sea level is found in Mount Elgon national park eastern Uganda along the border with western Kenya. The trails on Mt. Elgon, allows gentle acclimatization as you traverse rugged landscape with waterfalls. along the trails, you pass through hospitable Bamasaba tribe villages and see the world’s largest caldera on the summit.

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