The Seven Wonders of UgandaAugust 29, 2012
Uganda has recently launched an online campaign to help identify its seven wonders. Everybody is being called upon to nominate their suggestions for the seven natural wonders of Uganda, from locals and ex-patriate residents to travellers and tourists.
The campaign got us thinking – as one of the leading tour operators in Uganda we are always advising clients on the best places to visit in Uganda, from trekking gorillas in Bwindi or hiking in the Rwenzori mountains. But what would our seven natural wonders be? Which of our favourite places would make the cut?
Uganda is such a diverse country that it’s quite hard to narrow it down. The scenery ranges from island-studded lakes and whitewater river rapids to snow-peaked mountains; rolling savannah grasslands to dense tropical rainforests. With habitat that diverse, the variety of wildlife and bird species is quite unique, making it an excellent destination for dedicated safari enthusiasts.
How about its claim to the source of the world’s longest river – the mighty Nile? Victorian explorers battled disease and certain death in their attempts to locate this legendary place. And the river Nile itself is a mercurial beast – at times a churning mass of energy, at times a calm, placid presence, ultimately it is the life-source for many communities and wildlife along its banks in Uganda, and further north, as it makes its 4,000 mile journey to the Mediterranean.
Uganda is also home to what has been dubbed the most exciting thing to happen on the entire length of the Nile – Murchison Falls. All of the Victoria Nile explodes through a narrow gap in a rocky gorge, creating the most powerful natural flow of water in the world. Lazy Crocs lie brooding at its base, and birds of prey circle in the updrafts as great arcs of rainbow colours refract the African sun in the spray. Murchison Falls is by far the most dynamic spectacle in the national park of the same name and well worth making time for on any Uganda safari itinerary.
Another scenic wonder to consider would definitely be the glacial peaks of Africa’s largest mountain range, the Rwenzoris. These icy peaks present a world-class hiking and climbing challenge for enthusiastic mountaineers – and provide the intrepid climbers a glimpse into their otherwordly landscapes. One day’s hiking above the peat line will demonstrate just why they were dubbed the Mountains of the Moon by early African explorers.
And you don’t have to be a birder to appreciate the country’s phenomenal birding (but it helps). Uganda has over 1,060 bird species with new records being made all the time. It is also home to many of the sought after Albertine Rift endemics and other exciting ‘lifers’ such as the prehistoric-looking Shoebill. Keen birders make pilgrimages to Uganda for its avifauna, and no analysis of the country’s wonders would be complete without Uganda’s birds somewhere on the list?
Other wildlife wonders would certainly include Ishasha’s tree-climbing lions. The lions that inhabit this remote southern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park in western Uganda exhibit unusual behaviour by reclining along the branches of the giant Fig trees that stud the grassy plains. Many a game drive in Ishasha sector is spent in search of these famous felines, though the area also boasts some large herds of elephant, topi and Uganda kob.
Of course, no list of Uganda’s wonders would be complete without mention of its primate population.
Man’s closest cousin, the chimpanzee, can be found in forests all over Uganda. There are habituated groups that visitors to the country and observe in chimp trekking encounters, in Kibale, Semliki, Budongo, Kyambura Gorge and Kalinzu Forest. Additionally, there are also some excellent behind-the-scenes activities with the rescued Chimpanzees at Ngamba Island Chimp Sanctuary or Uganda Wildlife Education Centre in Entebbe – where visitors, subject to careful health screening, can interact directly with the chimps – a great way to spend a day at the beginning or end of your Uganda safari.
No doubt you were wondering when we would get around to discussing the Gorillas. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a mecca for bucket list travellers, safari addicts and wildlife enthusiasts alike, boasting nearly half the world’s remaining population of Mountain Gorillas. Trekking gorillas in Uganda is a truly unforgettable experience – and with only 800 of these maginificent creatures left in the wild, a great, great privilege. No safari to Uganda would be complete without experiencing this particular wonder at least once.
So far that makes seven wonders already, and we haven’t even mentioned Sipi Falls, with its dramatic 100m freefall drop of water; the giant intact caldera of Mount Elgon; the untrammelled wilderness of the Kidepo and Narus Valleys; the stunning views across island-studded lakes such as Bunyonyi or Mutanda; or the vastness of Lake Victoria itself. It’s clear that Uganda boasts more than seven natural wonders and it will be a challenge to narrow them down to a final selection.
Finally, it’s worth remembering that while Uganda’s natural scenic and wildlife wonders may be what draws visitors to this beautiful country in the first place, it’s the warmth and hospitality of the people of Uganda that brings them back for a second or even third visit. Can a country’s people be counted as a natural wonder? At Journeys Discovering Africa we certainly think so!
If you have visited Uganda before and want to vote for your own seven natural wonders of Uganda, email your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure you type UGANDA in the email subject field, and record up to 7 votes ranking your nominations from #1 to #7 (where #1 is high).
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