Uganda has an extraordinary natural beauty and significant unexplored tourist attractions ready to wow the world. From the snow capped mountain ranges (sometimes called the ‘Mountains of the Moon’ to the beginnings of the flow of the mighty Nile river, Uganda is filled with natural beauty.
So, it’s only natural that the tourist attractions, wildlife and flora are found within the country’s boundaries. More than half of the world’s remaining endangered mountain gorillas, over 1,000 bird species, along with seven out of the 18 plant kingdoms, and more than 340 mammal species make Uganda their home. We like visiting others homes, will you come visit Uganda?
Before we get carried away with another introductory paragraph, let’s take a look at our top 16 Uganda tourist attractions you may want to visit or see while on an African Safari.
Truth be told, mountain gorillas are the main reason tourists flock this tiny East African country. These mighty creatures are not found anywhere else in the world except this small virunga massif area shared between three country borders, Uganda, Rwanda and DRC. The neighboring Kenya and Tanzania are so well known for their dramatic classic African Safaris but meeting the mountain gorilla, you can’t even begin to compare.
The trek through the misty jungle alone gives you goosebumps in anticipation of finding this 6 ft 300 lbs (220kg) massive creature anytime. Forest so thick and misty that sunlight barely reaches the forest ground and the ground you walk on is sometimes steep, dump and wet. That’s an experience only true explorers will want to tick off their bucket list.
To see the mountain gorillas—first you purchase a gorilla permit from Uganda Wildlife Authority at US$600 (usually your tour operator will do this for you inclusive of your itinerary). Then you drive 290 miles (460 kilometers) from the capital Kampala (or take local flight) to Kisoro District through incredible landscapes that will not let your eyes rest for a minute. This place has been dubbed the ‘Switzerland of Africa’ because as you drive into the Kisoro area, the place reveals incredible lake scenery and green that makes your camera shy.
In Kisoro, you find great accommodation for both Luxury and budget stay. Most lodges in Bwindi are built to serve the foregn traveller, you’ll not be disappointed. Hot water, wifi, great breakfast and on occasion, you may see a gorilla humbly pass by your window.
The next day, you’re briefed with a group of others and assigned a habituated gorilla family of sometimes upto 30 members with a male massive silverback as the head of the family. Then lead into the jungle by armed rangers and trackers to find the gorillas.
There are currently more than 400 gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, half of the world’s 1000 remaining individuals with 11 habituated gorilla families that can assure you of definitely seeing these cousins. So make sure you book your permit waaaaay before your trip date, otherwise getting these papers can be a miss at short notice. Talk to your travel company like now now, and go see our cousins.
Bird watching enthusiasts get a double dose of adventure when they visit Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. This rich tropical rainforest should be on every birder’s itinerary. The park offers some of the best montane-forest bird watching in Africa.
There are an estimated 350 bird species, with 14 not recorded anywhere else in Uganda according to Safari Bookings. There are 23 birds unique to the Albertine Rift (which is 90% of all Albertine Rift endemics) including Neumann’s warbler and blue-headed sunbird.
The main birding spots are along the Buhoma waterfall trail, the Mubwindi swamp trail and in the bamboo zone. Migratory birds are present from November to April. The best trail is between Kisoro and Lake Mutanda and take an explorer’s canoe across the lake to Mutada Lake resort. Spend a night and track gorillas the next day.
The birdlife in Bwindi is good year-round, but at its best in March and September. June and July have the least rain while March to mid-May has the most. Heavy rains might result in delays due to impassable roads and slippery hiking trails, which can limit your bird-watching time. The main nesting season is in May and June, with food being abundant from late May through September. Migratory birds, though not a significant part of Bwindi’s attraction to birders, are present from November to April.
Most safari travellers trek into Uganda to view the apes, especially mountain gorillas but actually that’s not the only exciting ape in the country. Our closest relative (98% DNA), the chimpanzee, is found in a number of areas of Uganda. The Uganda Wildlife Authority has habituated some of these groups for human contact in the same way as the gorillas, and although their more energetic lifestyle and unpredictable nature makes them slightly less approachable, there’s no doubt that hanging out with chimps is one of the top Africa safari highlights.
If you’re planning on taking a Uganda Safari, spare some dates on your itinerary to visit the chimpanzees in Uganda’s Kibale Forest National Park, it’s a great alternative to gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or Mgahinga.
The extraordinary opportunity to observe a whole spectrum of their natural behaviours: babies as young as eight months old clumsily swinging from the tree tops, the old males relaxing on the forest bed with arms folded behind their head, and an intimate grooming session (a form of primate social bonding) between two males.
“Every now and then chimpanzees can become a raucous bunch, the stillness of the forest is abruptly broken by mayhem, an alarming, deafening cacophony of hoots and shrieks between one community and another in the distance showing signs of conflict or discipline”. Says Helen Suk in her narrative blog about the chimp experience.
Queen Elizabeth National Park’s wide savannah plains are scattered with candelabra trees and watered by rivers and channels that flow between volcanic lakes. Cradled in a giant rift valley, with the Rwenzori Mountains looming in the distance, the park is a haven for wildlife and a magnet to most Uganda safari travellers.
This beautiful landscape lies on the Albertine Rift floor and the vegetation varies from forests and swamplands, to the open savannah where antelopes roam. To the south, the park is bordered by the Ishasha River, that makes the border with DRC, while the western side of the park is bordered by the fresh waters of Lake Edward. To the north is the town of Kasese and the famous ‘Mountains of The Moon’, Rwenzori Mountain ranges. The eastern side of the park is Lake George and the Kyambura Game Reserve, where Kyambura Gorge and Maramagambo rainforest create a sanctuary for chimpanzees. Habituated chimpanzee bands are available for tracking in these parts of the park.
Taking a trip to the Kyambura Gorge, in the far east of the park, to track chimpanzees on foot, is one of the highlights in this park. You can usually hear the howls of chimpanzees echoing through the trees before you see them. Once you come across them, you can spend an hour watching them swing from branches, munching on leaves and grooming each other.
The best places to see wildlife in the park are around the lakes, streams and rivers. While you can explore the banks on game drives, morning and afternoon boat safaris give you a closer viewpoint.
Now, don’t you explore the park without taking a boat safari along the Kazinga Channel. This is the most rewarding part about visiting QENP. The Kizanga Channel that dissects the park is famous for its display of hundreds of wildlife species along the shores. As you drift along the Kazinga Channel with a local guide, you might see the eyes and snouts of hippo poking out of the water. Elephant, Uganda kob, buffalo and zebra often line the banks, quenching their thirst. Crocodiles and water monitor lizards bask on the banks. And, everywhere you look are birds of all shades and sizes (there are more than 600 species in the park), from yellow-billed storks, pelicans and water thick-knees, to fish eagles, African skimmers and plovers.
This is probably the most reliable park in Uganda for lion, which is particularly common on the grassy Kasenyi Plains but is more famous for its tree-climbing antics in the Ishasha sector. While on game drives in these parts of the park, your guide will encourage you to scan the fig trees in case you pass any lion up in the branches. It’s not known for sure why they climb trees here: some say it’s a way of cooling down, others that it’s to gain a better vantage point for spotting prey. Or, it might be a way to escape the tsetse flies that often buzz around at ground level. One thing is for sure, they look so damn good up in those branches.
Queen Elizabeth National Park can easily be accessed from all major towns in Uganda. It takes six hours to drive there from Kampala (Uganda capital) through Fort Portal. From Mbarara it will take you about three hours to the Mweya Peninsula located within the park. It’s easy to visit Queen Elizabeth National Park before or after tracking mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, which is a five-hour drive south. Meanwhile, to the north, the park adjoins Kibale Forest National Park, creating a corridor for wildlife. Talk to our consultants to help you out here.
Wildlife viewing is at its best during the park’s two dry seasons: from January to February and from June to July. Though much picturesque just after the rains for the green will be much elegant to see at that time. For birdwatching, visit between late May and September. Peak gorilla tracking time is between June and September, with the knock-on of much higher visitor numbers. Avoid April, May, August and September as heavy rainfall can interfere with your safari.
“After a couple of hours of relentless marching up and down slippery, muddy jungle slopes during our golden monkey tracking experience, we finally got our first glimpse of the creature we’d been zig-zagging through the forest in search of. At first it was just a red-gold blur of movement through the trees, but as the monkeys grew used to our presence they relaxed and turned their attention back to finding lunch. I was tracking golden monkeys in Uganda. Although most people come to Uganda to track gorillas and chimpanzees, I was quickly coming to the conclusion that golden monkey tracking was every bit as exciting and rewarding as doing the same with their bigger cousins” Stuart Butlar, Travel Blogger.
“It must be tough being an attention seeking golden monkey. No matter how hard they try, they just don’t seem to gather much of a fan base. In order to grab our attention, the monkeys have tainted themselves up in an amazing multi-coloured coat of rusty red, fiery oranges, shadowy blacks, tints of blue and, yes, even some gold. In certain places they have been habituated to humans and will happily jump and prance around Homo Sapien visitors without a care in the world. And yet, despite all the golden monkeys’ best efforts, we largely ignore them. Indeed, so overlooked is this gorgeous primate that until very recently the golden monkey was considered just a novelty sub-species of the more wide-spread blue monkey.” Writes Stuart in his golden monkey blog.
So why should an animal, so attractive and entertaining to watch, be so blanked by us, celebrity-obsessed humans? Well, unfortunately for the golden monkey, it chose to make its home in the high, cloudy volcanic forests in and around the Virunga mountains of Rwanda, Uganda and the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo or DRC). And these forests are also home to that most enigmatic of all primates: the mountain gorilla. So, while all the monkey business focuses on mountain gorilla tourism and conservation, the golden monkeys play in the shadows with only few human visitors making the effort to go and see them.
Well, head over to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, located in Southwestern Uganda, near Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. Many travellers would agree with me that Uganda’s smallest national park actually offers better golden monkey viewing than it does gorilla viewing.
You’ll like: Golden Monkey Tracking & Habituation Experience
There are two types of Golden monkey viewing on offer here. The standard visit gives you just an hour in the company of the little fellows and is similar to the golden monkey visits on offer in Rwanda. Much more interesting, and unique to Mgahinga, is the far more in-depth ‘Golden Monkey Habituation Experience’.
The monkeys here have been at the center of a long running study into their behavior. By signing up to the habituation experience, you get to spend four hours in the presence of the monkeys and follow the scientists around as they study them. Not only does this give you the chance to learn a huge amount about golden monkey behavior, but it also offers a rare ‘behind the scenes’ insight into primate science.
Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is the only place in Uganda where rhinos live in their natural habitat. Under 24/7 surveillance of armed guards, a total of 22 southern white rhinos are munching their way through 70 square meters’ private land, separated from the surrounding bush with a 2-meter electric fence. The southern white rhinoceros is the most widespread rhino species, yet it was nearly extinct already in the early 20th century, with only 20 individuals living in one South African Reserve. By 1982 savage poaching had wiped out both black and white rhinos from Uganda.
I doubt whether I have enough literature to describe the experience of walking in the African bush alongside wild rhinos. I doubt if anyone does. On a regular safari, tourists are, to a certain extent, insulated from the wilderness by their pop-up roof safari vehicles, the sounds and smells of engines. Tracking Rhinos in Ziwa Sanctuary on foot is quite different and soul enriching.
Being so close to such enormous, armour-plated wild animals, protected only by the trust that your guide provides, his understanding of rhino behaviour, and a few small trees and shrubs, is an exhilarating experience to say the least. It’s a full-on sensory experience. Given their bulk (adult white rhinos can weigh three tonnes), rhinos are surprisingly quiet; yet at close quarters you can hear them breathe and grunt, coupled with the rhythmic sound of their grazing, and even the smell of the earth disturbed beneath their feet. Visually, you can appreciate the rugged texture of their skin, their huge toe-nails, wiry eyelashes and all to the beat of my overactive heart. Well, help me out here and go there yourself. Our people can organise this trip or add it to your Itinerary especially Murchison Falls National Park route fits in so well.
Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary lies in Nakasongola district, about 180 kilometers north from Kampala. If you’d like to track the rhinos, the best timing is either early morning or late afternoon. When it’s hot, rhinos prefer to hide in the bushes. Reserve at least 2 hours for the tracking activity and some extra time for hanging around in the sanctuary. To get there you should have your own wheels, (your safari organiser can help out with this) which are also well needed to get near the rhinos in the 7000 ha sanctuary. A car with a driver can also be rented from Rhino Uganda Fund. The Rhino tracking costs 40$ per person and vehicle rental 25$ per group.
“Murchison Falls National Park is Uganda’s best-known and biggest nature reserve, and its impressive animal populations and superb activities are further augmented by its location, which straddles the Victoria Nile as it makes its way through multiple rapids and waterfalls (including the enormously impressive Murchison Falls) to Lake Albert. This is an exceptional place to see wildlife and a trip along the Nile should not be missed, not least in order to see the powerful Murchison Falls up close, a simply unforgettable experience.” An Impressive Lonely Planet introduction of Murchison Falls.
Located in western Uganda, this park is named after the Murchison Falls. The name Murchison was given by Sir Samuel Baker during his explorations of Uganda in the 19th Century.Once you see the powerful waterfall of Murchison, you’ll understand why the entire 1,500 square miles of the park is named after the cascading falls. The water comes from the Victoria Nile River, but it is not like the waterfalls you’re probably used to. The water surges through a narrow gorge in the ground that stretches about 6 meters, pushing onwards before it makes its way down a massive drop.
The Falls is not only one of the most visited spots in Uganda but on the entire African continent. Some people compare the Murchison Falls to the waterfalls found in Canada’s Nahanni National Park, only Murchison is more magnificent. The local people of Uganda sometimes even say that “these falls are defined by external war between the rock and the water.” You’ll completely agree with this description once you see the sheer force involved in pushing the water through the Earth.
There are two options for viewing the falls. The first is to make your way to the top where you can actually see where the water makes its way through the gorge – this gorge is often called the “devil’s cauldron”. The hike takes about 45 minutes from bottom to top and can be completed by anyone with two functioning legs. In other words, it is not strenuous.
Another option is to view Murchison Falls from a boat safari, which will take you as close to the falls as possible from below. It is recommended that you view the falls from both perspectives since each one offers an entirely unique experience. However, if you must choose one then it is recommended to make the short hike to the top.
Enjoy reading: The Rumbling Murchison Falls
As the largest park in Uganda, Murchison Falls has almost all of Africa’s major mammals. It is a Lion conservation unit and has one of the largest populations of Roskilde Giraffes in Africa. The parks consist of vast savannah grasslands and also great forests like Budongo.
There’s plenty to keep you busy during your safari to Murchison National Park, but the most popular activity by far is a guided safari. Murchison wildlife includes everything from elephants and hippos to chimpanzees and crocodiles. You can also see White Rhinos at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary which was built close to the park.
During your safari, you’ll get the chance to see over 70 African mammal species and 4 out of the iconic “Big Five”, including lions, leopards, elephants, and buffaloes. Murchison is also a great place to partake in bird watching; there are nearly 450 recorded bird species found throughout the park. Chimpanzee trekking is another extremely popular activity.
Many travelers plan 3 days in Murchison National Park to explore the park. The best way to do this is by signing up for a land safari. You can also choose anywhere between 2 and 10 day safaris to see all that Uganda has to offer including gorilla trekking and visiting many of Uganda’s top national parks.
Wildlife spotting in Murchison Falls is easiest in the Dry season (December to February), when animals congregate at waterholes and there’s little undergrowth for them to hide in. But bring a broad-brim hat and plenty of sunscreen to ward off the fierce sunshine. Most visitors tend to go in search of lions, elephants and other animals from June to September, when it’s cooler and the rain isn’t that bothersome.
Bustling Kampala makes a good introduction to Uganda. All roads to all corners of the country (and all safari destinations) pass through Kampala, you can’t miss it. It’s a dynamic and engaging city, with few of the hassles of other East African capitals and several worthy attractions to keep you occupied for a couple of days. As the heartland of the Buganda kingdom, Kampala has a rich and colourful history, visible in several fascinating palaces and compounds from where the nation was run until the arrival of colonialism.
Kampala has several faces. There’s the impossibly chaotic jam of central Kampala, its streets thronging with shoppers, hawkers, and the most mind-bogglingly packed bus and taxi parks you’re ever likely to see. In the center is a small, bustling, high-rise modern business district surrounded by a spread of dusty but vibrant suburban sprawl switching between the extremes of wealth and poverty. As you head up Nakasero Hill, you quickly hit Kampala’s most expensive hotels and the urban core fades into something of a garden city. The contrast is thoroughly Ugandan, and just another reason many travellers love Kampala. On the outskirts of the city, the green and hilly suburbs merge into the surrounding rural countryside where you take a walk and a group of kids follow on excited and chanting “Mzungu” (white man).
Borrowing from the culturetrip’s list, don’t miss out these top things to do while in Kampala
Uganda National Cultural Centre: Uganda National Cultural Centre commonly known as National Theatre has a lineup of great live music, film, dance and drama in the auditorium. There are bars and restaurants, and nightly outdoor events including jam sessions, drumming and comedy nights.
Parliament of Uganda: The parliament of Uganda is open to the public. One can either tour this impressive building or watch the parliamentarians in action from Tuesday to Thursday, 2 – 4 p.m.
Buganda Royal tombs: Kasubi Tombs is the burial site for the kings and the royal family of the Buganda Kingdom. UNESCO listed Kasubi Tombs for their significance to the kingdom.
African traditional markets: Kampala is dotted with colorful crafts markets also called crafts villages – selling vibrant crafts ranging from prints, baskets, paintings, pottery, jewelry and more. While some are in permanent locations such as the Crafts Village behind the National Theatre and Crafts Centre on Buganda Road, some are weekly and monthly including one in Makindye and one in front of the Railway Station.
Uganda Museum: The Uganda Museum, established in 1908, is the oldest museum in East Africa. The museum displays Uganda’s cultural heritage where one can see ethnological and natural-historical exhibitions, a vivid reminder of the country’s colorful past.
Food—Luwombo – steamed beef: 2K Restaurant is a premium eatery offering a completely unique and fine dining experience centered on Ugandan food. Using fresh, natural flavors, top quality produce and expert technique, it creates intense food that is unpretentious but delicious and beautiful to behold. If a step away from the norm is something you’re looking for, dine at 2K Restaurant for that authentic Ugandan food experience.
Art Galleries: The art gallery scene in Kampala is blooming, so many talented artists are showcasing impressive and eccentric pieces of art, paintings, crafts, prints and more. Support an artist as you buy something for your home or loved one.
Ride a Boda Boda Bike: There is no more authentic way to tour this capital than on a boda boda. A boda boda is a motorbike taxi – as a passenger, the rider will take you through every nook and cranny of the city, saving you the task of climbing the numerous hills as you get there fast and hassle-free to see the city from various vantage points.
Wandegeya Market: Wandegeya Market is located in the school district in Kampala. Filled with a youthful vibe, this market has boutiques, salons, fresh produce and offices. It’s also home to the legendary rolex and TV Chicken – Kampala’s popular street foods featuring an omelette, raw tomatoes and grilled chicken mixed together with fries and an assortment of vegetables like cabbages, tomatoes, carrots and green pepper respectively. If you’re ever in Wandegeya for anything, it should be for either the rolex or the TV Chicken or both.
Bulange Mengo Kabaka’s Palace: Bulange houses Buganda Kingdom’s administration and parliament. In the past, sessions used to be held under trees before they moved to the grass-thatched building. It’s a great place to learn about the history and culture about Buganda. Ladies shouldn’t wear trousers when visiting.
If you’re interested in African traditional dance and music, try to catch a dinner-theatre performance of the Ndere Troupe at Ndere Centre. It showcases dances from many African tribal groups with high-energy, shows taking place in a 700-seat amphitheatre on Sundays at 6pm and Wednesday at 7pm. On Fridays it’s afro-jazz from 7pm.
“Ndere Centre, the Home of Culture” is inscribed on a wooden carving, welcoming all to Ndere Cultural Centre in Kisaasi, a Kampala suburb. All of the dances are performed with a blend of African comedy by Stephen Rwangyezi, the founder and director of the center.
Opened in 2003, the center also provides training for traditional dances and drumming for a price of 30,000 shillings ($8.35) per session, Rwangyezi says. Imagine being able to make that African drum tune on your office desk during a moment of celebration, you may want to take that short class you know.
Anyone can learn different drumming styles. A variety of people take lessons, or join the Ndere troupe. Some are from rural areas and they stay with the troupe for a long time. Others come to the center from urban areas to learn drumming and traditional dances. The center also pays school fees for any school age members who need financial assistance, Rwangyezi says. Here’s your chance to pull out your philanthropy card and help some of the members.
“Dissatisfaction with the way indoctrination [is carried out], that what is black is backward and what is European is holy and high culture,” Stephen the founder narrates to a blogger. “I felt that no matter how much we taught, Africa’s challenge is not resources but suffering from a crisis of confidence coming from being proud of who you are.” Where more can you catch up with traditional Africa than in Ndere Center.
Know before you go.
Ndere Cultural Centre is located at Plot 4505, Kira Road, Ntinda-Kisaasi Stretch, in Kampala, Uganda.
Ugandan tribal dances are performed in the Ndere Cultural Centre amphitheater on Sundays at 6 p.m., Wednesday at 7 p.m. and Fridays afro-jazz from 7 p.m. Entrance is 30,000 shillings ($8.35) for Ugandan Adults ($8.35). Non-Ugandan adults pay 50,000 shillings ($14) and children below 10 pay 15,000 shillings ($4.20).
They also have a restaurant and accommodation for guests. Accommodation at the center varies from single, double, twin or triple bedrooms to private three-bedroom cottages or traditional houses. For more information, take a look at their website at ndere.com
Thirty five kilometers south of the capital Kampala, lies a 56.2 square kilometres (21.7 sq mi), out of which 20 km2 (7.7 sq mi) is water, Lake Victoria peninsula called Entebbe. This small peninsula served as the administrative capital of Uganda in the 1960s but now is most famous for being the site of Uganda’s only international airport that most probably will be your entry point into Uganda.
Entebbe provides a dramatic introduction to Uganda and has a much more laid back feel than the capital Kampala. Usually visitors won’t stay long in Entebbe with an overnight stop before an early or after a late flight being the main reasons to stop.
However if you do have a little more time, a visit to the botanical gardens is highly recommended. This offers a great introduction to Uganda’s bird life as well as glimpses of a couple of monkey species and plenty of tree squirrels and is a very picturesque and tranquil place to enjoy a stroll and while away a few hours. The botanical gardens were established in 1898 and are home to over 320 varieties of exotic plant species and an abundance of birdlife and mammals. This beautiful rainforest zone was used in the original 1940 film ‘Tarzan’.
There’s more green and wildlife in Entebbe than you may have expected. A visit to the Uganda Wildlife Education Center (Zoo) can give you a taste of what you would find in the country’s National Parks or even show you animals you may not have a chance to meet in the wild. The most rewarding tour of the center is the “Behind the scenes” tour done early mornings where you get a guided chance to enter the cages, feed and touch the animals. Some of the major animals to see include the lion, cheetah, elephant, rhino, giraffe, buffalo, chimpanzee, zebra and famous birds like the Shoebill and gray crowned crane.
UWEC is also a centre for breeding, recuperation and rehabilitation of Ugandan animals that have been rescued from poachers and illegal traders or from injury in their habitats. These animals are released back into the wild when possible by UWEC who also work to educate the people of Uganda about the importance of our local animals and conservation.
On a Lake Victoria (second largest freshwater lake in the world) island is Ngamba Chimpanzee Sanctuary founded by Jane Goodall in 1998. The ‘Chimp Island’, is home to over 45 orphaned or rescued chimpanzees who are unable to return to the wild. Humans are confined to one of the 40 hectares while the chimps wander freely through the rest, emerging from the forest twice a day for feeding at 11am and 2.30pm. This coincides with visitor arrival times to the island, with viewings of the chimps via a raised platform.
While it can’t compare to the experience of seeing chimps in the wild, especially due to the large electrified fence that separates chimps from humans, it still makes for a worthwhile excursion to observe the animals’ remarkable behaviour. Guides here are informative, and there are individual profiles for each chimp, detailing both their distinct personalities and history. There are also big monitor lizards in residence and abundant birdlife.
The island is a project of the Chimpanzee Sanctuary & Wildlife Conservation Trust, which arranges bookings for day trips and accommodation.
Rates are based on a minimum group of two, though one individual can go at a higher rate. It’s cheaper with larger group sizes. The half-day trip includes entry, guide and boat transport. Two trips depart from Entebbe per day: in the morning at 9am, returning at 12.45pm, or departing at 12.45pm and returning by 4.45pm.
The CSWCT also offers an overnight experience (first night/additional nights US$539/185) in a self-contained, solar-powered safari tent. Rates include lodging, full board, transport, activities and entry, based on two guests.
Arrive via speed boat (50 minutes) or motorised canoe (90 minutes) from the Entebbe dock. Those who arrive via their own transport must pay an entry fee (adult/child US$35/15).
On the shores of Lake Victoria in Entebbe is a famous birders heaven, Mabamba Swamp. Mabamba Swamp is one of the best places in Uganda to spot the highly sought-after shoebill in its natural habitat. Regularly featured on tourism brochures are these appealingly rare birds with their pre-historic features and oversized yellow bill. Bird watching here is achieved mostly by a canoe, where you’ll navigate waterways comprising lily pads and papyrus swamp. Amongst the 260 species in the region, other notable birds include the papyrus yellow warbler, pallid harrier and blue swallow. If you’re a bird enthusiast, don’t skip a canoe excursion in these swamps.
Unless you have reason to rush into Kampala, Entebbe makes a nice, chilled-out introduction to Uganda, and many visitors prefer to base themselves here for a few days rather than in Kampala’s traffic-choked streets. It’s also the ideal place to end your trip if you’re stuck with one of the many early-morning flights out of Uganda’s only international airport.
If you’re looking for a place to slow right down, Ssese’s lush archipelago of 84 islands along Lake Victoria’s northwestern shore boasts some stunning white-sand beaches. There’s not much to do other than grab a good book and relax.
There are canoes for hire, but swimming is not advised due to the risks of bilharzia, and some outlying islands have the occasional hippo and crocodile. Most guesthouses on the beach have nightly bonfires, which is a great way to relax with a few drinks after enjoying one of Ssese’s famous sunsets.
It’s a destination bewilderingly absent on every travel guide magazine’s “Places to See Before You Die” bucketlist. And that omission makes no sense at all.
Lake Bunyonyi ought to be considered one of the natural wonders of the world because everyone that visits this stunning piece of real estate ranks it as the most beloved travel destination in Africa. “This place deserves to be on your African travel radar because, with beauty like this, shouldn’t it be?” Asks a notwithmypassport.com blogger, Helen.
Believed to be the second deepest lake in Africa, Lake Bunyonyi is a body of water in southwestern Uganda near the gorilla sanctuary Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, and one of the country’s top natural treasures.
At 1,962m above sea level, the lake enjoys moderate temperatures year round, cool in both the mornings and evenings. Most visitors make it an R&R stop after gorilla trekking in nearby Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga.
Lake Bunyonyi is framed by lush, green-terraced hills that reach a height of 2,200-2,478m, but it’s the 29 islands scattered across the water that make it most magical — especially the sunset evenings and early sunrises. It’s a sight that reinvents itself every hour or two with the ever-changing climate and direction of the sun. In the early morning, the islands weave through cotton candy-like streams of mist and, in the afternoon, they’re bathed in the warm glow of the sun. Later, they’re silhouetted against a dim sky as evening approaches. Some days the islands vanish from sight completely, hidden under a blanket of clouds, but it only takes an hour to see them emerge once more.
“There’s nothing like that powerful moment when the mystical scene opened up to us for the first time after arriving at Arcadia Lodge, a cottage high up on a hill that claims to have the most breathtaking panorama of Lake Bunyonyi.” says Helen. “If you don’t stay as a guest, be sure to at least visit for a drink or meal on the terrace to enjoy the view (I recommend any dish with crayfish, the local specialty). So overwhelmed Jill was by the lake’s sheer beauty that I found her in tearful meditation, silently absorbing what was before her eyes. What fantasy did we step into to find such natural splendour?” Helen writes.
To reach Lake Bunyonyi independently, you first have to make your way to the town of Kabale, about an eight-hour bus ride from Kampala. From Kabale, the lake is 20-25 minutes by taxi. Most Uganda safaris especially gorilla safaris commonly add Lake Bunyonyi to your itinerary to do after the odious trek in the jungle.
Given its proximity to Rwanda, you may want to consider accessing the lake from Kigali (or vice versa), which is about two hours by car. If you need to purchase your visa at the border, however, add another 30 minutes to one hour to your journey (weekdays are busier).
With exciting African wildlife watching within arm’s reach of the capital, the 370 square kilometer Lake Mburo National Park is an increasingly common stop on the safari circuit. It’s the only place in southern Uganda to see zebras and the only park in the country with impalas, slender mongoose and giant bush rats.
At 370 square kilometers, this beautiful piece of wildlife reserve is the smallest savanna national parks in Uganda. The park is nestled among local Banyankole Bahima tribal land and has the easiest access compared to all western Uganda parks. Lake Mburo National Park’s wildlife numbers are attractive enough to make you visit: bragging with over 350 bird species and large animals like zebra, warthog, giraffe, hippopotamus, impala, buffalo and the elusive eland.
On a good morning game drive safari, look out for hyenas, leopards, topis, elands and recently reintroduced Rothschild’s giraffes. Lions are rarely sighted – they’ve just been reintroduced in the park. Few big predators means there are horse-riding and mountain-biking opportunities. Some of the 325 bird species include martial eagles and red-faced barbets in the acacia-wooded savannah, and papyrus yellow warblers and African finfoots in the wetlands.
Adjacent to the park are the ranches of the Bahima people, who heard the famed long-horned Ankole cattle, a common sight here, unfortunately both inside and outside the park.
There are many different activities to enjoy both on and around Lake Mburo, such as boat cruises on the lake itself to see hippo, crocodiles, and a number of rare bird species. Sign up for a guided nature walk around the lake to see the beautiful scenery and chance wildlife sightings or you can chose to explore the park by horse. You can enjoy horse riding from the highly regarded Mihingo Lodge. A horse ride avoids the noise game drives come with and the animals find you less intimidating, fooled that you are one of them.
Lake Mburo National Park will most likely not be your only or final Uganda safari destination. It is much more probable that it will be one stop on a multiple savanna tours. Located in western Uganda, 228km/142mi from Kampala and 60km/40mi from Mbarara, a drive to Lake Mburo from Kampala takes about three to four hours and the drive from Mbarara (nearest town district) takes about one hour.
Entebbe International Airport (EBB) is about 46km/29mi from the country’s capital, Kampala. This will be your entry point into Uganda. Like with all our trips, we usually arrange for your pick-up from the airport or hotel and all further transportation as part of your safari package.
“I’m pretty sure that Lake Mutanda, when viewed from the right vantage point on a clear day, is the most stunning landscape I’ve ever seen. The majestic Virunga mountains in the distance are reflected in the deep-blue waters of the lake, and little lush green islands pepper the aquatic expanse. This heaven on earth looks almost completely untouched by human hand.” Travel Africa Magazine writes in their well written article about Lake Mutanda.
This scenic lake lies just north of Kisoro and stretches not far south of Bwindi, making it a relaxing base for your gorilla trip. It’s a pretty spot, with a misty Virunga backdrop comprising a string of volcanoes and a lake ringed by papyrus swamp, and is a good alternative for those who find Lake Bunyonyi overdeveloped.
Lake Mutanda’s vast sea of blue reveals as you reach it, specked with a succession of tiny emerald-green islands, surrounded by terraced fields and with a backdrop of jagged mountains. There cannot be many hiking routes in the world as spectacular as this. Make sure you book into Mutanda Lake Resort, perched on a Mutanda peninsula.
The resort is blissful to reflect upon the day’s ride while sipping a drink on the terrace and watching the fishermen in their canoes at dusk. A candlelit dinner in a cosy restaurant decorated with vibrant African artworks is the icing on the evening.
You can enjoy a visit to Kyangushu Island and village trips to see how the locals live their lives. Visit the Mutanda Island, which is the largest of the inhabited islands where you can enjoy views of the Congo border, Bwindi National Park, and Lake Mulehe
Around Lake Mutunda are a number of trails leading through the forest, including some set up by the Batwa and cultural institutions to teach you about the people who call this forest home.
Order a coffee from a barista standing in another hemisphere at this photogenic geographical oddity and have a subjective experience that words cannot deliver.
A yellow line is painted across a busy village road chock full of motorcycle taxis, thundering buses, and trucks. The line passes through a pair of bright white circular structures, bearing the words “Uganda Equator.” This simple stripe marks the globally significant parallel at zero degrees latitude. The equator passes through the center of these large, selfie-hotspot hoops on either side of the busy thoroughfare and goes straight through the main entrance of the Equator Line Restaurant.
Inside one of the eateries, the line of the equator crosses the cool tiled floor, passes a bar area, and continues as a yellow painted strip up the wall. Here, in this popular restaurant 6,025 miles from the North and South Poles, the division of Earth’s hemispheres is clearly marked for all to see.
The equatorial establishment offers visitors the chance to undertake a series of “water experiments,” one in each hemisphere, and a third directly on the equator itself, after which they are awarded an “equatorial certificate.”
In addition to all the geographical fun to be had, visitors shouldn’t forget that the Equator Line Restaurant is also a place to dine. The eatery serves wonderfully aromatic, freshly ground Ugandan-grown coffee, and the rolex, a favorite Ugandan snack that’s a kind of mixed vegetable omelette wrapped in chapati bread. This local dish is complemented on the menu by a range of food and drink from all over the globe, upon whose principal dividing line the small eatery proudly sits.
The equator stop is in the village of Kayabwe, a little over halfway between the Ugandan capital, Kampala, and the busy city of Masaka, enroute to most of Uganda’s national parks in the west. Many tours operating from Kampala or the lakeside resort of Entebbe, bound for the national parks of Bwindi, Queen Elizabeth, and Lake Mburo pass through Kayabwe, and most will stop at the equator line for an unmissable photo opportunity. Public transport is also available from Kampala in the form of regular buses bound for the west of the country and Rwanda.
When visiting Uganda, the focus is usually to head west from Kampala to see the mountain gorillas in the tangled forests, and to go on game drives in national parks such as Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls. But just a couple of hours’ drive to the east of the capital, Jinja and Bujagali are the centre of Uganda’s biggest attraction for adrenaline seekers — the River Nile, where there are countless outdoor activities to try. This area is rightly dubbed East Africa’s adventure capital.
Jinja is a pleasant town on the northern end of Lake Victoria and was founded in 1901 by the British as a port for a steamer service from Port Florence (today’s Kisumu in Kenya), the terminus of the Uganda Railway from Mombasa. Tourism initiatives were first established here because of Bujagali Falls — the point where the Nile used to drop 3m down a series of raging, tiered rapids separated by rocky outcrops. It was perfect for some exciting whitewater rafting, so the travel companies set up shop in the mid-1990s.
However, the Bujagali Falls were submerged and the river flattened out when the Nile was diverted through the new dam and turbines of the Bujagali Hydroelectric Power Station 3km downstream. The plant became operational in 2012, and the Nile now flows through a new lake at Bujagali. Yet, while the waterscape may have changed, it remains beautiful, albeit much quieter without the roar of the rapids.The river is fringed with riparian woodland full of birds and monkeys; the climate is lovely all year round and vibrant sunrises and sunsets reflect orange and purple off the slow-moving waters.
Rafting and kayaking now take place on the whitewater rapids beyond the dam wall, while additional activities such as stand-up paddleboarding, fishing and sunset cruises have become viable on the new lake. Birdwatching has become a rewarding activity, too — always good anywhere in Uganda due to the astonishing list of species surpassing 1100 — as many birds not previously favouring the rushing water of Bujagali Falls are now attracted to the peaceful shores, making them easy to spot.
Bujagali Falls may have been inundated, but in its place is the serene and forest-clad lake where you may spot otters and Nile monitor lizards. Relaxing cruises to the source of the Nile River (where warm water oozes out of Lake Victoria’s base) can easily be arranged; some include sunset drinks and nibbles or an on-board barbecue, while others specialise in guided birdwatching or fishing for tilapia.
If there’s one place to have fun in Uganda, it’s here. And even if adrenaline-charged activities are not your thing, a visit is a great addition to a wildlife safari to admire Africa’s greatest river on a walk or a boat excursion. There are also several cafes and shops to enjoy along Jinja’s laid-back main street — look out for the famous ‘Bujagali Rolex’, an omelette and vegetables wrapped in a hot chapatti. The name has nothing to do with the Swiss watch company, but is a combination of ‘roll’ and ‘eggs’.
Getting there—Jinja lies on the A109 road about 80km east of the capital Kampala, but the drive usually takes two hours. Bujagali village is 8km north of Jinja and reached by transfer or taxi and local matatu (minibus) or boda boda (motorbike taxi). You tour operator can arrange transfers from Kampala.
This post should give you enough literature to chose Uganda as your next bucket-list African safari destination. Thank you for reading. Don’t be shy, go ahead and leave a comment or share this blog on your website or social media, we want the world to know, right?!