Uganda is an Eden of rainforest and lush vegetation, balanced with vast stretches of grassland, lakes and rivers. Uganda is brimming with animal life, from big cats to primates, plains game, and birds.
This diverse country is home to more than half of the world’s mountain gorillas and is one of the few countries where you can encounter them in their natural environment. When the thick rainforest reveals a family of habituated gorillas, it is truly incredible and humbling. These amazing creatures are completely at ease with their transient visitors.
In addition to mountain gorillas, Uganda is home to a dozen other primate species including chimpanzees which you can see in the Kibale Forest among other places. The stunning forests where these primates live are a large part of why travelers love this country.
Once you have had your fill of forests, move on to the savannah grasslands of Lake Mburo, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls or even the remote Kidepo Valley. These national parks boast both open savannah and lakes and rivers, making game-viewing by boat a central component of a Uganda safari. In this way Uganda is more similar to Botswana and Zambia than its other East African neighbors.
We love Uganda for its diversity. One day you find yourself kneeling in awe before a gorilla family with your camera at the ready, and the next you could be floating in a boat and watching the Nile River cascade over Murchison Falls. Uganda’s varied landscape offers a complete safari experience and its people and culture will touch your heart.
Uganda offers chimpanzee and gorilla trekking in the rainforests, as well as Big Five game viewing by water and land.
Uganda’s diverse landscapes and numerous national parks provide a host of interesting experiences. Bwindi, home to the mountain gorillas, is typically the highlight of any Uganda trip. But don’t forget to add chimps in Kibale and the open savannahs of Queen Elizabeth National Park or Murchison Falls. We love Lake Mburo because it offers horseback riding and because it perfectly breaks up the drive between Bwindi and Entebbe. If you are looking for a seriously remote and off-the-beaten track destination, consider Kidepo Valley National Park in the north.
Uganda is perfect for primate enthusiasts as it’s home to gorillas, chimps, and 11 other primate species. In addition to the once in-a-life time experience of mountain gorilla or chimpanzee trekking, travelers can also spend a day at the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary.
Uganda is also perfect for travelers who want to combine gorilla trekking with a more traditional safari. Uganda is home to multiple national parks that have an abundance of big cats, elephants, hippos and all the bird life you could hope for. With over 1000 species of birds, Uganda is one of the best African destinations for bird-watching. Bird lovers will be in their element. Many of Uganda’s national parks are centered around water; either a river, a lake, or enormous waterfalls. This makes Uganda ideal for those who want the best of both worlds – boating, sunset cruises, and barging in addition to open vehicle game drives, hikes, and bush walks.
Uganda is best suited to active travelers as trekking to view the gorillas or exploring the slopes of a volcano can be strenuous. Chimpanzee trekking, swamp walks, and forest hikes allow guests to enjoy the landscape and forest at a more relaxed pace, but still makes Uganda most enjoyable to travelers who enjoy the physical components of being out in nature.
Uganda has fewer travelers than other safari destinations and offers a more intimate safari experience. In addition, although you can fly in and see the gorillas in just a few nights, Uganda is best matched with clients who like the idea of exploring and immersing themselves in a country by road in 8 to 10 days.
Finally, the people of Uganda are welcoming and friendly and the country is densely populated. Especially when traveling by road you will have plenty of opportunity to interact with local people, making Uganda a great choice if cultural interaction is an important component of the trip.
Uganda is not ideal for travelers looking for a 5-star, polished luxury experience. The hotels and lodges are mainly mid-range and many are on the larger side and can be slightly outdated. While there are a handful of stylish and charming properties, luxurious accommodation is not the centerpiece of a Uganda safari.
A Uganda safari can be full of long driving distances and won’t suit those who are uninterested in road travel and spending hours on end in a car.
Finally, as mentioned above, gorilla trekking and many of the other activities that make Uganda so fun and appealing require a certain level of physical fitness and capabilities.
Uganda’s peak season is between July and October. The weather is slightly cooler at this time of year and there is less likely to be rain (keep in mind Bwindi is a rainforest so it could rain during your trek at any time of year, so you’ll want to bring a neutral colored rain jacket!). July to October is also the most crowded time of year so you might also consider December through early March and then June for fewer crowds.
For those looking to save a bit, gorilla permit prices sometimes drop during the rainy season of April and May. This might make this time of year more appealing, but it is hard to know in advance exactly if and when the Uganda Wildlife Authority will decide to reduce prices.
Birders should consider traveling in November which is the best time for birding.
The temperature is relatively steady throughout the year as the country sits on the equator, but the mountains and jungles do get humid.
Uganda’s peak season is between July and October so while it is a great time to be in the country you may struggle to get gorilla permits over this period unless you book well in advance.
During the rainy months of April, May and November, the ground can be muddy which can affect road travel and make for some difficult trekking. That said, permits are much easier to come-by and the prices are often lower in April and May.
Gorilla trekking is fairly costly and as you only have one precious hour with the gorillas per visit, we recommend that you trek twice. On one trek you can get your pictures and on the next you can enjoy just being in the presence of these amazing creatures. Each permit costs US $600 so that sets a certain base price for your trip.
The cost of the permits aside, Uganda can be a relatively affordable safari destination. As mentioned above there are not 5-star properties on Uganda’s safari circuit and there are many properties at or under $400 per person per night (this does not include the driver and vehicle that will be with you throughout the trip). Although the drives can be long, a Uganda driving itinerary is more cost effective than flying.
During the rainy season (April – May) you may be able to get some discounted accommodation, and even lower priced gorilla trekking permits - which is good news if you are working with a tight budget.
Uganda is a destination with plenty of activities as well as terrific game viewing. We love the fact that it is so much more than game drives and treks and that it offers a mix of landscapes and a variety of ways to experience the natural wonders of the country.
One of Uganda’s main attractions is gorilla trekking, which involves hiking through mountains and jungles in search of the primates. Chimpanzee trekking and nature walks are less strenuous and offer the ability to enjoy your surroundings in more of a relaxed manner.
With over 1000 bird species, Uganda is a top destination for birders and the shoebill in Murchison Falls is a particularly special find. Kibale’s Bigodi Wetlands Walk affords bird-lovers a chance to view countless birds and butterflies in addition to the other natural swamp inhabitants.
Ugandan game-viewing can be done on traditional game-drives, but the presence of water means you are not restricted to land. Game-viewing by boat is available in Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth National Park and Lake Mburo. Travelers can also explore Lake Mburo on horseback.
There are excellent opportunities for cultural interactions that include community walks in the towns around Bwindi, including several that provide insight into the challenges of communities living in close proximity to the gorillas. There are also several Batwa cultural experiences that provide travelers the chance to learn about this unique community.
If you choose to spend time in Kampala, you can explore the capital on the back of a motorcycle-taxi, visit markets, historic sites, palaces, and places of significance to Ugandan history.
Uganda’s incredibly diverse landscape is home to a wide variety of animals, in addition to countless bird species.
The grasslands are teeming with the plains animals in addition to big cats – leopard, lion and cheetah. The jungles of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest are inhabited by mountain gorillas, and the forests of Kibale National Park are home to more than a dozen primate species in including chimpanzees, black & white colobus, red-tailed monkey and the grey-cheeked mangabey.
Zebra are found in Lake Mburo National Park, as well as crocodiles, hippo, buffalo, warthogs and other buck species. Giraffe can be found in Murchison Falls and Kidepo Valley National Park. Kidepo is also renowned for its large buffalo herds.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is inhabited by big cats including tree climbing lions in the Ishasha area, as well as elephants, buffalo and numerous antelope species.
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