Our top 8 things to see and do in Uganda include a safari in 6 national parks. These are Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Murchison falls, Kibale Forest, Lake Mburo National Parks and Pian Upe-Wildlife Reserve. in addition, other attractions to see include Lake Bunyonyi and the source of the Nile River. Visiting all these places requires careful planning of Uganda safari tailored to your personal needs as a traveller. Usually, it is a road-based safari conducted in 4*4 vehicles. This covers a lot of driving distances but certainly makes sense due to diverse experiences on the way. Besides, there’s an option for Uganda fly-in-safari. But it still alternates with short drives for game viewing and transfers between the lodges and the airstrips. With that in mind, let’s explore the top 8 things to see and do in Uganda.
Mountain gorillas are endangered and rare animals with a population of 1063 individuals. Surprisingly, in the whole world, they are found only in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. In particular, Uganda boasts of harbouring half of the mountain gorilla numbers with 459 individuals in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. In that regard, gorillas are the main wildlife attractions therefore among the top 8 things to do and see in Uganda.
Gorilla trekking safaris in Uganda are available both in Bwindi and also Mgahinga Gorilla National Park which is part of the Virunga Mountain Ranges. Bwindi Forest has four gorilla centres giving the traveller more options to see the see gorillas. You can do gorilla trekking and spend 1-hour with a fully habituated gorilla group or gorilla habituation experience to track semi-habituated gorilla families. Bwindi has a total of 22 gorilla families thus preferred by many travellers for gorilla trekking in Uganda. Expect to find other visitors on your gorilla trek, especially during high season (June to September and December to February) which is the best time for gorilla trekking in Uganda.
On the other hand, gorilla trekking can be done in Mgahinga which has only 1 habituated gorilla group called Nyakagezi with 9 individuals including silverback. This park suits solo travellers who need to get off the beaten track. As many travellers go to Bwindi, you’re likely to have a gorilla trek with few people on it.
A boat cruise safari is an experience of watching wildlife from the boat on the water. It’s one of the best 8 things to do and see in Uganda for good reasons. Contrary to regular 4game drive safari, the boat cruise provides access to aquatic wildlife such as crocodiles, hippos and birds. Moreover, boat cruise activity is good for specialist bird watching as well as keen photographers.
The best places to do a boat cruise safari in Uganda are Murchison Falls, Kazinga channel and Lake Mburo National Park. Both of these are savanna-protected areas home to elephants, buffaloes, lions, leopards and several antelope species. By incorporating a boat cruise into your trip, you get a higher chance to see a lot of wildlife.
Chimp trekking is one of the affordable safari activities in Uganda that anyone can do. Those intending to see chimpanzees in the wild not a zoo. Kibale forest national park known as the “primate capital of the world” is home to 13 primate species. Therefore, provides higher chances to see not only chimpanzees but also other primates such as red colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, L’hoest monkeys, and grey-cheeked mangabeys among others. This is especially when you do a nature walk in the Bigodi swamp. Bigodi provides a sanctuary to over 200 bird species and 8 primates. Its managed by the local community thus providing a cultural tour for those interested in experiences such as local banana beer brewing, basket weaving and visiting a traditional healer for his stunning metaphysics.
Elsewhere, chimpanzees in Uganda are found in Budongo forest reserve, Kalinzu forest and Kyambura gorge (the Valley of Apes”). Both Kyambura gorge, an underground tropical forest and Kalinzu are found in Queen Elizabeth National Park while Budongo forest reserve is in the southern part of Murchison falls national park.
The source of the Nile River was discovered in Jinja Uganda and put on the world map in 1895 by John Speke. Although, there are claims disputing Speke’s discovery, Jinja is proven as the true source of the Nile. As the world’s longest river, it’s such an amazing site and one of the top 8 things to do and see in Uganda.
Jinja city is in the eastern part of Uganda along the northern shores of Africa’s largest Lake Victoria. Easy to reach by 2-hur drive from Kampala capital city, the source of the Nile boat cruise can be done on a day trip. And you still get time to return and have dinner at home. Besides, the boat cruise, Jinja also offers adventure activities such as white-water rafting, Bungee jumping, river tubing and island beach retreats.
Lake Mburo is found in the western Uganda safari circuit. This region has 8 of 10 national parks in Uganda. But, Lake Mburo is the only place where you can see zebras and impalas in the whole region. Lake Mburo walking safari experience offers you a chance to watch giraffes and zebras walk. This activity is safe because you will be escorted by armed rangers. Again, there are no predators or elephants in Lake Mburo. The game walk is conducted from 7 – 9 am in the early morning. In addition, other activities to do in Lake include cycling, bird watching, boat cruising and game drive.
Lake Bunyonyi is 520 sq. km (9-hour drive) southwest of Kampala and 68 sq.km (1-hour drive) south of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. The lake Bunyonyi 19 islands are a spectacular scene to behold. While its beauty is unbeatable by any other lake in Uganda, lake Bunyonyi offers a lot of outdoor activities to do and relax. For example, canoeing, ziplining, boat riding and village walks. In particular, canoeing and boat riding give access to wildlife especially birds and islands which are historical sites such as punishment islands. As its mere name sounds, this island became an abomination and almost getting submerged in the water due to the unlawful traditional practices that took place there in the early 20th century. Among the Bakiga for example, it was prohibited for young unmarried girls to get pregnant. Those who were caught in the act would be tied, taken and left on the island to starve or drawn into the water while attempting to escape. In fact, to this very day, there are human remains on several islands for you to prove this is Africa.
Lake Bunyonyi has a depth of 40 to 90 meters therefore among the deepest in Africa. In its waters, there are no crocodiles and hippos. If you are a good swimmer and not scared of its depth, it’s okay to swim in Lake Bunyonyi. If swimming isn’t your thing, there’s a variety of accommodations with swimming pools and modern amenities. This makes for a good place to relax and unwind after a gorilla trekking safari.
A nature walk is one of the best ways to get closer to nature. This is especially true for Bwindi Impenetrable Forest one of the oldest tropical rainforests on earth. Bwindi is known to have survived the last ice age about 2.6 million years ago when glaciers covered huge parts of the globe causing most forests to shrink and disappear. As such, Bwindi has remained intact ever since and flora and fauna is rich and diverse. For example, Bwindi is home to over 1000 plant species, 345 species of birds, over 300 butterfly species and very many small creatures such as insects. Besides, there are also waterfalls and rivers and Bwindi acts as a water catchment area for the communities around.
Those interested in exploring the biodiversity of Bwindi Forest can go for nature walks in Buhoma and Nkuringo sectors where there are three waterfalls. The two are connected by a trail which passes through the middle of the forest. The Nkuringo walking safari stretches for over 10 km taking 5 hours to complete.
For bird watching in Bwindi, Mubwindi Swamp in Ruhija sector is highly recommended. The high-altitude swamp is a habitat for the African Green broad bill one of the 23 Albertine Rift Endemics rare to find in other parts of East Africa.
Pian Upe wildlife reserve is in the Nakapiripiti district northeastern part of Uganda called Karamoja. In general, this region is least visited compared to the west therefore still off-the-beaten-path. Moreover, it’s a semi-arid savanna climate area with spectacular flat terrain punctuated by rock kopjes such as Mount Moroto and Kadam. The wildlife that inhabits the Karamoja region is unique such as cheetahs, ostriches, roan antelope and white-eared kobs which are not found in the parks of western Uganda. The people too called Karimojong are Nilotic speaking closely related to the Masai warriors of Kenya and Tanzania. Visiting Pian Upe wildlife reserve provides the opportunity to see the wildlife through game drives. In addition, you can undertake a Pian Upe walking safari and visit the Karamojong traditional villages.
Apart from Pian Upe, the eastern region is home to Kidepo Valley National Park which is 380 sq.km (7-hour drive) north-wards. The road goes through rural Karamojong villages for further cultural encounters. Travelling south-wards from Pian Upe, there are Sipi falls in Kapchorwa and Mount Elgon National Park providing mountain climbing and biking adventures.
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