Uganda, a land of pristine natural beauty is a tourist heaven, a perfect getaway for any kind of traveler. Described as “the Pearl of Africa” by Winston Churchill, Uganda offers some of Africa’s finest geographical and natural beauty. Home to the greatest concentration of primates on the planet (including half the world’s mountain gorilla population), source of the mighty River Nile, magnificent all year snow-capped Rwenzori Mountain, bird-watchers and big 5, adventure enthusiasts’ paradise, this country is a true African gem waiting to be discovered.
Tourists can witness the abundant wildlife that roam the country’s national parks and reserves. Rafting the Nile offers a world-class adrenaline adventure, but the country’s most unforgettable experience is tracking mountain gorillas in their misty habitat of Bwindi and nearby Mgahinga Forest. Indeed, Uganda is a tourist paradise! World-class accommodation facilities, (needless to mention) good food, hospitable people, good weather & climate, lush green countryside and abundance of wildlife make Uganda one of the most attractive tourist destinations in Africa. Contrary to what many think, Uganda is one of the safest tourist destinations in the continent. “In Uganda, we never once had the feeling of being ripped off” said a traveler giving her account of the trip into Uganda.
In a matter of days, you can see some of the world’s rarest creatures and unique to Uganda; visit Ishasha and look out for the tree-climbing lions, go tracking in the forest to see gorillas and chimps, search the marshlands for the elusive shoebill stork, wander the forest floor following the trail of forest elephants and visit a Karamojong tribe, a Batwa (pygmy) village among others to appreciate the cultural diversity. Just know, “This is a country worth knowing and it is definitely worth seeing”.
The people of Uganda are among the most hospitable in Africa but it’s the cultural diversity that will surely mesmerize you! With over 56 tribal communities, each with a distinct: Cultural heritage, History, Language, Food, Dance, Dressing, Beliefs, Customs, Folklore etc., you will just be blown away. A visit to the Elgon area will unveil to you the Imbalu circumcision ceremony among the Bagisu who live at the foot of the Elgon Mountain. To the west, the Banyankole perform their Kitagururo dance, the Banyoro have their Runyege and to the North, Acholi have the Larakaraka traditional dance.
You don’t want to miss the local and unique cuisines here! For example, there is (luwombo) – a traditional dish by the Baganda, the (eshabwe) – a Banyankole sauce prepared without fire, (atapa) – millet bread popular with the Iteso, and (malakwang) – a sour vegetable prepared by the Acholi and Langi. The other fascinating aspect of the people and culture in Uganda are the traditional dress and ceremonies. “Witnessing a traditional marriage ceremony, with great music and colorful dresses, makes a cultural safari tours in Uganda an incredibly unique experience”, recounted a traveler to Uganda.
The Country still features monarchical kingdoms such as the Buganda Kingdom, which is one of the most organized kingdoms out of all those still in existence in Africa. Buganda’s heritage includes the Kasubi royal tombs which have been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site – and a popular spot to explore while on a Kampala City excursion. Other notable kingdoms in the country include Tooro, Bunyoro and Busoga.
In Uganda, there are indigenous tribal groups like the Batwa Pygmies. For generations, the Mgahinga dense forest was home to the Batwa (hunter – gatherers and fierce warriors) who depended on the forest for shelter, food and medicine. Now, they lead visitors through the forests and introduce them to their old home and the techniques they used to survive in it. Meeting these indigenous people will offer you a glimpse into the history and memories of ancient Africa.
From the gigantic, striking long-horned Ankole cattle in western Uganda and the extensive coffee plantations at the foothills of the Elgon Mountain, to the Bachwezi earth works in Ntusi and the Karamojong nomadic lifestyle in the far North-east of the country, Uganda’s diverse heritage and culture is undoubtedly vast and incomparable!
The months of; December to February and from June to September are considered the best time to visit Uganda, but some intermittent rain is possible due to unpredictable seasonal changes. All the same, one can still visit Uganda even in the months considered “low season” and the encounter, experience is still outstanding. In fact, the “low season” months do have fewer travelers which means the parks are not crowded.
Uganda has the best weather and climate in the world if you like. Located right on the Equator but with a snow-capped (throughout the year) Rwenzori Mountain, you may refer to it as being warm/hot and cold but not humid. The country is sunny for a larger part of the year with daytime temperatures generally hovering between 24 and 28°C. However, temperatures can drop considerably at night (to about 16 to 18°C), enough for one to bring a sweatshirt, fleece.
The areas at high altitude such as the Bwindi, nearby Mgahinga get much colder as temperatures tend to drop to about 6°C. The parks further north, such as Murchison Falls, and Kidepo Valley are usually warmer with daytime temperatures (sometimes) at about 32°C. Rain (wet season) is generally expected twice a year, in October/November (short rains) and late March to end of May. Dry season sets in from December to February or mid-March and June to September.
Uganda is well-endowed and the list of major attractions/destinations can remarkably be long. Think of being greeted by the sight of the largest fresh water lake (Victoria) in Africa as your plane approaches the runway at the Entebbe International Airport. How about being at the source of the Nile where it begins its longest journey through Egypt into the Mediterranean sea? Proceed East to the foothill of the Elgon Mountain (that natives call Mount Masaba due to some legend attached to its formation). There is the Sipi falls to marvel at. Continue into the pristine Pian Upe Game Reserve, the second largest gazetted area in Uganda before finally heading into Kidepo Valley NP where you will get the true meaning of being in the African wilderness. Notwithstanding the abundance of wildlife, the encounter with the Karamojong or IK tribe in this place will leave you wanting to stay even longer.
From Kidepo, you don’t want to miss the Mighty Murchison Falls NP. Murchison Falls is a place like nowhere else. Hike or drive to the top of the falls and you will surely struggle to find the right adjective to describe the feeling. The experience is (……). Hopefully, you will fill the gap after being in the Murchison Falls personally. What about an encounter with the human closest relation with the wild, the chimpanzees? Proceed to Kibale Forest NP and your wishes shall be delivered. The experience is so fascinating and unforgettable. On the other hand, the scenery here is beyond description. We are talking about the rain forest on one side and on another side you are gazing at some spectacular crater lakes that you can ever imagine. Walk/hike to the “top of the world” and you will surely be left speechless.
From Kibale, what better place than heading to the Queen Elizabeth NP, right at the foot of the fabled “Mountain of the Moons”, the Rwenzori Mountain. If you wish, you can have a few days trekking the Rwenzori Mountain. The experience is unforgettable! Encounter the Bakonjo who live at the foot of this magnificent mountain. Down in Queen you can be sure of encountering some members of the big 5 e.g. lions, the elusive leopard. There is also the boat safari along the Kazinga Channel that connects Lake Edward and Lake George. Drive to the Ishasha sector of Queen and there is the possibility (70%) of encountering the tree-climbing lions. The sight of these lions up in the tree is breathtaking.
Yes, you may be wondering about the whereabouts of the gorillas. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest NP and the nearby Mgahinga Gorilla NP is the answer to your wish. The gorilla encounter sometimes evokes sweet emotions that can best be expressed with “tears of joy”. You got to be here. You don’t want to miss out on the Batwa pygmy people who live close to this “Impenetrable Forest” that they once called home. From Bwindi, proceed to Lake Bunyonyi. The lake is framed by lush, green-terraced hills that reach a height of (2,200 – 2,478m) but it’s the 29 islands of various shapes and sizes scattered across the water that make it most magical and you could admire them all day.
Drive to Lake Mburo NP and you can enjoy so much more including walking safari, horseback safari among others. Mburo is regarded as the safest for park (bush) walk compared to the rest. From Mburo to Entebbe, do not forget to make a stop at the Equator Crossing where you will have the opportunity to be at both the South and North hemisphere at same time. As earlier mentioned, the list can go on and on but the above are attractions that you should only miss if you must.
From experience, a visit to Murchison Falls NP, Kibale Forest NP, Bwindi National Park, Lake Bunyonyi and also Kidepo Valley NP in the far North-east is so rewarding that one should only miss if he/she must.
While on a safari into Uganda, you may (depending on interest) undertake any of the following activities: Game drives, community and cultural encounter, gorilla and chimp trekking, boat or launch cruises, birdwatching, white water rafting on the Nile, coffee tour, mountain trekking, beach relaxation, abseiling for non-faint-hearted, hot-air balloon safari.
At least 6-Days. Even so, one can still take a 3-day trip but from experience it leaves one wishing he/she had more days to explore more.
From experience, most people incur no health problems while visiting Uganda but rather enjoy themselves during the time on Safari. Nevertheless, you may consider the following in your packing:
Anti-malaria medicines, pain reliever, insect repellent. Simple first aid kit won’t be bad at all.
Pack your necessary sunscreen, hand sanitizers, sun-hat plus glasses, body creams/lotions of your choice among others.
Not all accommodations may provide shampoo. Feel free to carry some if necessary.
IMPORTANT: Ask your medical insurance provider if your policy applies overseas for any emergencies. Needless to mention, ensure you have some good level of physical fitness.
Vaccinations: Yellow fever vaccination is required. When applying for the visa via (https://visas.immigration.go.ug/), you will be required to upload proof in addition to other requirements such as copy of passport bio-data page, most recent passport photograph, travel itinerary (in place of invitation letter).
The Uganda Shilling (UGX) is the local currency and it is available in denominations of 50, 100, 200, 500, 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000. The exchange rate fluctuates between: USD 1 = UGX 3,650 – 3,850. IMPORTANT: USD Dollar bills smaller in denominations than USD 50, 100 may attract less favorable exchange rate and also USD series older than 2009 are not accepted.
It is possible to withdraw some money from the ATM at the airport or in major towns along your safari route. If you plan to use an ATM card or credit card, it would be good to notify your Bank that you will be using your Credit Card or Debit Card for cash withdrawals from an ATM in your safari destination e.g. Uganda. In case you wish to have some local currency, the assigned tour driver-guide can always lead you to the nearby forex point.
The main entry point into Uganda is through the Entebbe International Airport. You have to present your identification documents like passport and depending on the country of origin, a stamped visa. The visa must be obtained prior to the arrival. IMPORTANT: It is your responsibility to ensure that your passport is valid for a minimum of 6 months and has several clear pages for visas prior to the departure to Uganda – the Pearl of Africa.