Your Uganda safari will be notable for the frequent necessity to get out of a vehicle and hike or paddle. Whether walking through the forest, scrambling up a steep hill on all fours, or frantically paddling a raft, you will probably leave fitter then when you arrived.
Uganda is an ecological crossroads, with great forests to the west, savanna to the east, desert to the north and vast scrubland to the south. Throw in 5 huge lakes, a Rift Valley, a snow-capped mountain range, a few volcanoes and a good chunk of the Nile and it’s little wonder that this place leaves visitors agog.
Uganda’s stand-out attraction are her primates. Kibale Forest is fantastic for chimpanzees, and 12 other primate species. The ominously-named Bwindi Impenetrable National Park protects the northern half of the world’s population of 880-odd mountain gorillas. Superb hiking opportunities are afforded by the Kigezi highlands, a quilt of dormant volcanoes, subsistence farms, lakes and forest. The Nile at Jinja provides some of the best white water rafting in Africa, and for anyone the least bit interested, Uganda’s 1,015 bird species (nearly half of Africa’s total and the 4th highest density in the world) provide ample distraction.
Reliable air links get you around, with a collection of small, characterful owner-run camps and lodges. The frequent opportunities to interact with local Ugandans thoroughly adds to the charm of any Uganda safari.
Planning Your Safari…
The Best Time To Visit Uganda
Uganda is a year-round destination. The rains come mostly in April, May, November and December, but are interspersed with sunny periods which often yield clear skies perfect for photography. There are useful low-season discounts to be had in these months as well.
The Rwenzori Mountains are best reserved for the driest months of January, February, June and July.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
There are few things more inspiring than to stand on a hill top in Bwindi and take in its mist-swathed valleys, echoing with the haunting calls of exotic birds and monkeys. When you have made the effort to negotiate enough of the terrain to find yourself in the presence of a 500-pound adult male mountain gorilla and his family, the experience takes on a whole other level of intensity. As befits one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth, Bwindi has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Alongside the 400 or so mountain gorillas that live here, Bwindi protects numerous mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and plants, many of them endemic to this part of Africa.
Kibale National Park
Walking through the understory in the Kibale Forest, you hear chimpanzees long before you ever see them. Their screams and “pant hoots” carry to you, quickening the pulse, for you realize there is no comforting safety provided by a vehicle. This is real – you are on foot in the midst of a family of powerful wild animals that, in flashes, are disconcertingly human-like. You are the outsider here, in the chimps’ home at their pleasure. This moment is one very few get to experience, and Kibale is one of a handful of places where you can do so. Kibale harbours incredibly biodiversity, and besides chimps, contains 12 other primate species, a total 60 mammal species, and 325 bird species.
The Nile At Jinja
This is one of the most iconic places in Africa – the point at which the Nile leaves Lake Victoria and begins its long journey north to the Mediterranean. It is also a place where you can indulge your more adventurous tendencies – a days white water rafting, jet boating or bungee jumping will leave you feeling more alive than ever. For those less eager, a sunset cruise, quad bike safari or simply lounging on an island in the middle of the river are all options to be enjoyed.
Few places in Africa give you the chance to really match your pace to that of the local residents. Fortunately, Uganda has the densely-populated Kigezi highlands, where, if you bring an open mind, you will do just that on a multi-day trip. The stunning geography of the area provides a constant and lovely backdrop to your adventure, which will include home stays, hikes, canoe trips and priceless interaction with the friendly and welcoming people of the region.
Truly the stuff of legend, Ptolemy’s fabled “Mountains Of The Moon”, the Rwenzori Mountains, meaning “rain-maker” in the local Rukiga language, present a forbidding, but fascinating reason to visit Uganda. Not to be taken lightly, this mountain range with its permanently-snow-capped peaks (including the third-highest in Africa at 16,761 ft) gifts the experienced hiker with sublime high altitude trails complete with stunning views and fascinating equatorial alpine vegetation. Options include multi-day hikes on the lower slopes, and for the very able, ascents of the peaks themselves, a feat accomplished by a few dozen people every year.