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Uganda Safaris

Uganda is a very unique and welcoming country with various discovered and undiscovered attractions and if am to simply re-echo the words of Winston Churchill it is still the Pearl of Africa. Uganda is situated in East Africa and is a land locked country bordered by Rwanda to the south west, by Kenya to the east, by Tanzania to the south, by DR Congo to the west and by South Sudan to the north. It is geographically diverse made up of spectacular mountains, volcanic hills, crater lakes, fresh water lakes, rift valleys, forests, savannah grasslands and other eye catching features.The biggest part of Uganda’s southern part is covered by Lake Victoria; also known as the world’s second largest fresh water body. Mountain Rwenzori is the highest mountain with Magherita/Mount Stanely as the highest peak standing at 5,110m. The country has fertile soils endowed with many rivers and lakes.

Top Tourist Destinations in Uganda

Of course, there are very many places to visit while on a safari to Uganda, but we have listed some of the popular destinations with the different activities that can be done there. The destinations are mainly national parks which are found in almost every region of the country, and each national park stands out with its unique features and experiences.

For those interested in Gorilla trekking, Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga National Parks are the destinations to visit, they are located in the southwestern region of the country. In order to trek the mountain gorillas, trekkers need a trekking permit which costs $700 for foreign non-resident tourists. With the permit, there is an opportunity to spend at least an hour with the gorillas and also receive a certificate which shows that you trekked. You can check out our packages for Gorilla trekking experiences. Around these parks are communities with the indigenous Batwa people who have an amazing culture, their culture is thrilling. 

For more primates, especially the Chimpanzees, tourists visit Kibale Forest National Park. This park is found in the western region providing the best chimpanzee tracking experiences plus other primates like the baboons, black and white colobus monkeys among others. A permit to enable you track chimpanzees costs $200 per person. Also note that there are other places where you can track chimpanzees and they include; the Semuliki Valley, Budongo forest, Ngamba Island, Kalinzu forest and Kyambura gorge. 

From Kibale Forest, tourists can easily access other neighboring destinations like the Crater lakes, Rwenzori Mountains, the Bigodi wetland, Semuliki National park (the birder’s haven) and Queen Elizabeth National Park. Queen Elizabeth is famous for its big numbers of wildlife including the tree climbing lions found in Ishasha sector. A boat cruise through this park on the Kazinga channel is also an added experience. From this park, one can easily connect to Bwindi and then to Lake Bunyonyi. 

Is it your desire to simply relax after many days of travel around Uganda? Or you want to take your team for team building experiences? Lake Bunyonyi is the destination to visit. Lake Bunyonyi is Uganda’s deepest lake, with various islands. It is a very spectacular destination known for its tranquility and nice lodges. The activities that can be done on and near the lake are canoeing, cultural tours, birding, and community biking among others.

Tourists with an interest for Game viewing and sightseeing can choose Murchison Falls National Park. It being the biggest park in the country also means it has a lot to offer. That statement is true because the park has big numbers of wildlife species such as the Nile crocodiles, buffaloes, warthogs, elephants, hartebeests, antelopes, lions, giraffes and leopards as well as several bird species. The park also hosts a very strong water fall which makes its way through the 7m wide hole and plunges at 43m before it continues with its course with the Victoria Nile. 

Murchison water falls are very spectacular and thrilling, tourists take a boat cruise along the Nile to the bottom of these falls, they watch them fall beautifully and also opt to hike for about 45 minutes and get to the top of the waterfalls, to have both experiences of the top and the bottom. Other tourists who can’t hike, opt for a drive with their tour guide directly to the top to see the eye catching falls. Other activities to do in Murchison falls are Sport fishing, hot air balloon safaris, nature walks, private cruises and game drives.

A visit to Murchison is usually not counted complete without a stop for Rhino tracking at the Rhino sanctuary called Ziwa especially for the tourists coming from Kampala. The sanctuary is not located far from the park, it is approximately 3hours and a half journey time between these two destinations. 

For more wildlife viewing and cultural experiences; Kidepo Valley National Park is the destination for you. The park lies a bit far from Kampala which is about 10 hours while driving on the road but what it has to offer is very remarkable. Many say that it offers the true savannah experience, since it is situated in the North eastern part of the country which is mainly dry throughout the year, hence making it easy for wildlife viewing, since the grass is short and the land is flat for easy game viewing. 

Wildlife species that can be seen in Kidepo include the spotted hyenas, jackals, lions, zebras, cheetahs, buffaloes, elephants, bush pigs, oribis and leopards. Activities done in Kidepo include; nature walks, game drives, bird watching and cultural tours. Kidepo also has over 470 species of birds hence is also a good place for birding, the birds that can easily be spotted include, the ostriches, red and yellow barbets, dark chanting goshawks, little bee-eaters and kori bustards.

Other destinations include; Mount Elgon, Mount Rwenzori, Sipi water falls, Semuliki National Park, Sese Islands, Ngamba Island, Lake Mburo National Park, other amazing cultural and historical sites found in districts like Entebbe, Jinja, Fort Portal, Mbale and other areas. 

Uganda Lakes and Rivers 

To the south lies one of the world’s largest lakes known as Lake Victoria. It is made up of very many amazing features including a number of islands, beaches, fish species, and wildlife and bird species.  It is a source of relaxation and adventure. The lake is shared by three countries, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya and the main economic activity carried out on the lake is fishing. A number of districts and cities are situated near the lake including Entebbe, where the country’s main Airport is found, Kampala, Jinja and others. Lake Victoria is said to be the source on the long River Nile.

Even though Uganda is landlocked it still has other lakes which include; Lake Kyoga, Lake Albert, Lake Bunyonyi, Lake Edward, Lake George and many smaller lakes. 

Uganda is home to the source of the Nile River, the world’s longest River. Its source can be seen while cruising on the boat along the Nile River. The Nile flows to the Northern part of the country, forming the Victoria Nile which drains from Lake Victoria pouring into Lake Kyoga then into Lake Albert and continuing with its course out of Uganda through various countries and pouring into the Mediterranean Sea. 

Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

Gorilla trekking in Uganda is carried out in two gazetted National Parks; Mgahinga and Bwindi. Bwindi is the main destination with 4 sectors open for this activity and Mgahinga has only one, but all in all they both offer the best experience. However to be able to trek the gorillas one needs a permits which is offered but the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) at $700 for each foreign non-resident desiring to trek gorillas. Gorilla trekking experience takes between 2 to 6 hours form the time it is started to the end, but only an hour is granted the trekkers when they meet the gentle giants. 

Apart from gorilla trekking, there is also another experience offered in the Rushaga sector of Bwindi known as Gorilla Habituation. With this, tourists are granted 4 hours with the gorillas, however these hours granted come with more payment because the permits for this experience cost $1500. So for gorilla experience packages some tourists go for normal trekking, others opt of double trekking in different locations and others choose to do the trekking and the habituation on different days. Whatever option you want we are here to help you plan the best gorilla trekking experience.

Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda

This is done in Kibale forest, Kyambura gorge, Ngamba Island, Semuliki valley, Budongo forest and Kalinzu forest, most people recommend Kibale to be the best for this experience, it hosts over 1500 chimpanzee and many other primate species. Tracking chimpanzees in Kibale can be done either in the morning or in the afternoon. Just like trekking gorillas, an hour is also given to trackers to spend with the chimpanzees. A permit costs $200, and those that need more hours with the chimpanzees can do chimpanzee Habituation which costs $250.

Kalinzu Forest and Kyambura gorge are both located near Queen Elizabeth hence, for the tourists that won’t travel to Kibale but would love to track chimpanzees while on a safari in Queen, they can do the activity in any of the these places. Budongo forest is located near Murchison falls and it also offers two tracking sessions for chimpanzees every day, it hosts over 800 chimpanzees. Semuliki valley also offers great chimpanzee experience and mainly researchers and students who visit the valley to watch chimpanzees and study more about them. You can also find chimpanzees in the Zoo (UWEC) and Ngamba Island found near and on Lake Victoria respectively.

Wildlife viewing in Uganda 

Wildlife viewing takes place in the savannah parks across the country. Viewing of wildlife is usually done while on game drives using 4by4 vehicles with popup roofs, or during nature walks or on boat cruises along the water bodies in the different national parks. The top places for viewing wildlife are Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth, Kidepo Valley, Lake Mburo, Mount Elgon, Pian Upe reserve, Semuliki Wildlife reserve and many more areas. 

Wildlife viewing/game drives can be done at any time of the year, however most tourists opt for drier seasons (from December to February), then from (July July) and they say it is the best time for game viewing but other tourists choose the wet seasons to go for game viewing, so the best time to see wildlife is determined by the desire of the tourist. Game drives can last for 3 or 4 hours and in these hours you have had the best of the park and what it has to offer.

Birding in Uganda 

There are over 1060 bird species in Uganda hence making it among the top African bird watching destinations. Bird watching takes place in both private and protected areas, and for the people visiting Uganda for birding safaris, they should be prepared to stay longer for hours in birding destinations since birds are not like animals that can be viewed even at a distance, for birding to be remarkable, one needs enough time.

The top birds found in Uganda include the shoebill stork, the Rwenzori Turaco, Black bee-eaters, brown chested lapwings, green breasted pittas, the African green broadbills, the Karamoja Apalis, Jameson’s Ant pecker, Nahan’s Francolin and many more.

The birding spots include; Lutembe bay, Mpanga forest, Bigodi wetland, Mabamba bay, Makanaga wetland, Budongo forest, Mabira Firest, Semuliki, Queen Elizabeth, Murchison Falls, Bwindi Forest, Kidepo, Rwenzori Mountain, and Kibale Forest National Parks.

Boating safaris in Uganda 

Viewing wild animals on water on a boat cruise can be thrilling and remarkable and Uganda offers this experience where you can spot wildlife from a boat or canoe. Yes, there are game drives and nature walks through which wildlife is seen, but it gets more beautiful seeing the animals relaxing or bathing along the shores or banks of the water bodies in the park you are having your safari in.

Boat cruises usually take 2 to 3 hours with Tranquil safaris, as you sip your drink, or capture moments on camera viewing wildlife and the surrounding scenic landscape. The boat captain allows tourists to get closer to animals as he brings the boat near the banks where animals are relaxing like the Nile crocodiles, hippos and buffaloes, it is very exciting. There is chance to also see numerous water birds. Boating safaris happen in Murchison (on the Victoria Nile), Queen Elizabeth (on the Kazinga Channel), Lake Mburo and Semuliki National Parks. 

Mountain climbing and Hiking in Uganda 

Uganda is made up of stunning mountains, valleys, hills, and planes. With this, it offers the most memorable climbing and hiking experiences. There are a number of volcanoes in the country that give hikers an adventurous and scenic walk. The highest point that the hikers can reach is on the Mountain Rwenzori ranges known as the Magherita peak standing at 5,110m. 

The main places where hiking is done include, Rwenzori Ranges, Mount Elgon, Mount Murongole, Mount Moroto, and the volcanoes in Mgahinga National Park (Sabinyo, Gahinga and Muhabura).

Hikers on safari should ensure to carry things like Drinking water, energy giving foods, insect repellents, sleeping bags (in case it’s a long hike going for more than one day), hiking sticks, gloves, cameras, sunglasses, jackets or rain gears since it can rain unexpectedly, also wear hiking shoes and comfortable trousers for the best hiking experience.

When to visit Uganda

Uganda can be visited at any time of the year, however there are particular seasons in which some activities can be done or some tourist destinations visited. There are two dry seasons in Uganda one starting from December to February and another from June to August, and these seasons are good for chimpanzee tracking, mountain gorilla trekking and golden monkey tracking since these activities are done in forests and when it’s dry, it makes it easy for trekkers to penetrate through the jungle without much difficulty.

Wildlife viewing can also be good at any time of the year, but also at its best from September to October since many animals gather around water sources. 

Drier months are also favorable for those interested in photographic safaris. Birding safaris can be done at any time of the year.

Culture in Uganda

Travelling to a foreign country creates eagerness and expectation in the traveller to know what exactly the cultural aspect of the country they are going to. The case with Uganda is amazing because Ugandans (the people living and staying in Uganda) are very hospitable, tolerant and friendly people. However, like it is with other countries, Uganda also has cultural customs and rules which should be respected by the tourists.

Uganda consists of various ethnic groups and each group has different traditions, culture, beliefs, norms and many more. Each stands distinctive from the foods they eat, way of dressing, marriage ceremonies, farming, naming ceremonies, traditional dances and music The ethnic groups include, the Bantu who live mainly in the central, southern, western and eastern parts of the country, then the Nilotics who live in the north speaking languages such as Acholi, Langi, Lugbara and others. The Nilo-hamites living in the Eastern and north eastern parts, they include Karamojongs, Sebeis, Itesots, Tapeth, Pokot and many others. 

There are also a number of Indigenous groups of people such as the Karamojongs and the Batwa who have very amazing cultures and great historical backgrounds. Actually, most tourists who are on a Uganda safari ensure to visit one of these cultural communities to experience what these cultures have to offer. All these 

Dress code/Clothing 

Over the years the dress code for most Ugandans has changed because currently they were suits, jeans, skirts and others just like other countries across the world. However, there are particular dress code unique to only Uganda and its various cultures. For example; the Baganda’s traditional dress code is Gomesi for the women and Kanzus for the men. The Banyankore and Bakiga dress up in Bushuti. These traditional wears are worn usually on traditional marriages known as kwanjula and kuhingira for Baganda and Banyankore respectively. This also applies to other cultural groups in Uganda. 

Cuisine/Foods in Uganda

Green bananas, locally termed as Matooke are the commonly consumed food in Uganda. Actually, Uganda ranks among the top Matooke exporters in the world. It is very hard for households and restaurants that cook local food in the country not to cook Matooke on a daily basis. Usually the Matooke is accompanied by other foods such as sweet potatoes, rice, Irish potatoes, cassava, Posho, yams and pumpkins. 

The sauces mainly served include beans, ground nuts, fish, beef, cow peas and many more. Also to some Ugandans a meal is not complete without vegetables, there is a variety of the green vegetables such as the ddodo, nakati, cabbages, spinach, sukuma wiki, buga, boo and among others.

There are also locally brewed drinks unique to different cultures. The Bakiga and Banyankore have a local drink known as ‘Obushera’, the Baganda make Kwete and omubisi, and other cultures also have different kinds of drinks.

Religion in Uganda 

Ugandans have been given liberty to worship, hence whatever religious group you belong to is accommodated in Uganda. The biggest number of the Ugandan population are Christians (85.4%), and about 12% are Muslims and the rest are other denominations. 

There are different religious sites which have existed for very many years with amazing historical backgrounds, they are still in use up to today, and they include the Namirembe cathedral for the Anglicans, the Rubaga Cathedral for the Roman Catholic faith. There is also a Baha’i temple for the Baha’i faith and was the first of its kind in Africa built between 1958 and 1961.

Transport Means

Many people have private cars that they use for transport, however there are also other means used by people around the country such as the public taxis, private taxis, buses and boda-bodas (motorcycle taxis). Public taxis have different stations where they park waiting for passengers, you can find them in taxi parks or just on the road side.

Where to stay while in Uganda

The list is endless for where to stay while on safari, this is because every location or destination has specific accommodation options ranging from budget, midrange, and luxury to exclusively luxurious. There are lodges, hotels, guesthouses, tented camps, even campsites which tourists can stay in while in Uganda. Which place to stay in is based on the tourist’s choice and their budget, you mention what you want and as Tranquil safaris we book the accommodation for you.