East Africa. It is bordered to the east by Kenya, to the north by South Sudan, to the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the southwest by Rwanda, and to the south by Tanzania. Uganda is the world’s second most populous landlocked country after Ethiopia. The southern part of the country includes a substantial portion of Lake Victoria, shared with Kenya and Tanzania. Uganda is in the African Great Lakes region. Uganda also lies within the Nile basin, and has a varied but generally a modified equatorial climate.
Uganda takes its name from the Buganda kingdom, which encompasses a large portion of the south of the country, including the capital Kampala. The people of Uganda were hunter-gatherers until 1,700 to 2,300 years ago, when Bantu-speaking populations migrated to the southern parts of the country.
Its abundant wildlife includes lions, buffaloes, Uganda Kob, Hippos, Leopards, Impala, Giraffes, Jackson’s Hartebeest, Topi, Elephants, chimpanzees as well as rare birds and many more. Remote Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a renowned mountain gorilla sanctuary. Murchison Falls National Park in the northwest is known for its 43m-tall waterfall and wildlife such as hippos. Queen Elizabeth national park is Uganda’s most visited park in the country and its most known for its Tree climbing lions.
Murchison Falls National Park
Covering an area of over 3,840 km², Murchison Falls National Park is the largest conservation area in Uganda.
The park’s name derives from its famous waterfall, the mighty Murchison Falls, which are formed where the Victoria Nile powerfully forces its way through a narrow cleft before plunging 43m down with a thunderous roar.
The mighty Nile River divides the park into its north and south sections.
At the spectacular Murchison Falls the world’s longest river explodes violently through a narrow cleft in the Rift Valley escarpment to plunge into a frothing pool 43m below.
As the river attracts large numbers of game, a boat safari up the Nile provides the perfect opportunity to see and photograph the animals. Carefully watched by crocodiles, hundreds of hippos, buffaloes, water birds, apes and all the other thirsty wildlife that the Nile attracts, you go to the bottom of the Murchison Falls, which approaches you with a thunderous sound. By car or after a short hike you can reach the “Top of the falls” from where you have a perfect view of the impressive falls and the river snaking below. Most of the park’s wildlife is found north of the Nile, so all game drives take place on the tracks in the northern section. A game drive in the park allows you to be eye-to-eye with the African animal kingdom featuring elephants, giraffes, buffaloes, lions, leopards, different species of antelope and many bird species. The Nile Delta is the area where the Victoria Nile flows into Lake Albert. A boat safari down the river towards Lake Albert is a “must do” for every birdwatcher as the banks of the delta are home to hundreds of bird species including the rare and prehistoric-looking shoe-bill stork.
Chimpanzee Trek Budongo Forest-Chimpanzee Trek:
Budongo Forest is located in the south of Murchison Falls National Park and it is known for its impressive biodiversity. More than 20 mammal species, 350 bird species, 250 butterfly species and over 450 plant species have been recorded! During a hike in the forest, you will most probably see red-tailed, blue, and black-and-white colobus monkeys as well as hundreds of tropical birds and butterflies.
Birdwatchers should follow the “Royal Mile”, a beautiful track through the forest and one of the best locations for birding in East Africa. As Budongo has a population of chimpanzees, it is also possible to do chimp tracking here.
Kibale Forest National Park:
Chimpanzees share 98% of human genes making them our closest living relatives. They are found in 21 countries throughout Africa, but are most easily sighted in Uganda due to their dense populations. Kibale Forest is especially good for tracking trips, but chimps can also be seen in the Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth NP and in Budongo Forest in Murchison Falls NP. Chimpanzee tracking experiences are excellent thanks to several well maintained walking trails and a large number of resident chimp families in the forest.
There is also a wonderfully diverse concentration of other primates (more than any other forest in East Africa, in fact), including: red colobus, red-tailed guenon, white-nosed monkey, gray-cheeked mangabey, blue monkey, L’Hoest monkey, and the black and white colobus monkey. In addition, you may see olive baboons, bush babies and nocturnal pottos. Kyambura gorge: The Kyambura Gorge – also called the ‘Valley of Apes’ – is located in the far eastern corner of Queen Elizabeth National Park.
The gorge is drained by the Kyambura River and includes some of the most impressive landscapes you will find in Uganda. The area is an important water source for many animals and is surrounded by savanna, but is generally noted for its high concentration of primate life. Spanning a distance of 16 km and linking to the Kazinga Channel, the gorge is another world on his own. The rich tropical rain forest is home to a variety of wildlife. Here you will find chimpanzees, baboons, colobus, velvet, and red-tailed monkeys as well as many other mammals and birds.
Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary
This swamp 6km south of the Forest is home to around 200 species of birds, as well as butterflies and eight different species of primates, including grey-cheeked mangabey. Two- to three-hour swamp walks will take you through grassland, small communities and some beautiful scenery, where the locals are likely to greet you with enthusiastic waves. Many visitors spot three or four different primate species during this walk, though the highlight is catching a glimpse of the great blue turaco!
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park is Uganda’s most visited game reserve and certainly the most scenic. The park has a big variety of habitats including savanna grassland mixed with various kinds of trees and grassy plains, but also tropical rain forest, different swamps and volcanic features, comprising volcanic cones and deep craters. Queen Elizabeth National Park is an excellent place to sight large game, track the chimpanzees in the Kyambura Gorge, go bird watching on the Kazinga Channel, and see the famous tree climbing lions in Ishasha. The wide variety of habitats in Queen Elizabeth NP leads to many different of species finding their home there.
The park includes almost a hundred types of mammals, dozens of different reptiles, and more than 600 different types of birds. The park is home to large groups of hippos, buffaloes, elephants, lions, leopards, but also to smaller mammals like antelope, warthogs, giant forest hogs, topis, bush bucks and hyena’s. A host of primate species like baboons, red tailed monkeys and the famous chimpanzee also roams the territory of this park. In the Ishasha sector of the park you can see the famous tree-climbing lions. Some tracks in the park pass through large mating grounds of great herds of Uganda Kob. The big number of different bird species makes this park a must for birders visiting Uganda.
Boat Safari on the Kazinga Channel
Connecting Lake Edward with Lake George, the wide, 32-km-long Kazinga Channel is an excellent place to experience nature in Queen Elizabeth Park. The channel attracts a rich array of animals and birds, with one of the world’s largest concentrations of hippos and numerous Nile crocodiles.
Along the banks, you will see other typical Ugandan wildlife like elephants, antelopes and buffaloes from the surrounding Savannah while they are drinking and searching for some fresh grass.
Birders can easily spot 60 species of birds during a boat trip including the great white and pink-backed Pelicans, African shoe-bill, yellow-billed stork and long-tailed cormorants.
Tree-Climbing Lions in Ishasha
The Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park lies in the southern part of the park and is home to the famous tree-climbing lions. While lion cubs around the world frequently climb trees for fun, adults rarely do.
In Ishasha it is thought that they sit in the branches to get away from the tsetse flies and to enjoy a cool breeze.
But Ishasha offers more than arboreal felines. Buffalo and Uganda kob can be seen when driving over the plains and even elephants are frequently seen in the area. But they tend to be quite aggressive since they have probably just migrated from the Virunga National Park just across the border in Congo where poaching the a serious threat.
Kidepo Valley National Park:
With great savanna landscapes and mountains rising up in the background, the remote Kidepo Valley NP is a true gem of Uganda’s nature. The park spans 1,442 km2 and ranges from 900 to 2.750 m in altitude. Because of its remote location on the border with South Sudan, Kidepo Valley is possibly the only national park left on the whole continent where you can almost have the park to yourself Game viewing is possible: by vehicle on dirt roads that crisscross the southern and western parts of the park. A few trunk roads are improved with murram and are passable in all weather. Kidepo is also home to almost all of the animal species present in the Uganda National Parks system, including lion, giraffe, elephant, buffalo, leopard, ostrich and cheetah.
Lake Mburo National Park
Lake Mburo is the smallest of Uganda’s wildlife parks and very centrally located a few hours’ drive from Kampala and less than one day’s drive from the southwest of Uganda (home of the mountain gorillas). Lake Mburo has rich animal life with more than 315 different bird species and 68 different mammals (including impala, buffalo, leopards, hyenas, jackals, etc). Lake Mburo is also the only park in Uganda where you can find zebras.Lake Mburo N.P. is one of two parks in Uganda where it is permitted to go for a bush walk with an experienced ranger. And this opportunity should not be missing. From footprints and animal droppings the ranger will tell you which animal has left it and how long ago. It is exciting to approach the wildlife at such close range.
Bwindi Impenetrable National park:
Bwindi is a large primeval forest located in southwestern Uganda on the edge of the Albertine Rift. Designated as a national park in 1991, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park now covers an area of 331km2 and ranges in altitude from 1100 to 2600m. The climate in the park is tropical with annual mean temperature ranges from 7 to 27°C and rainfall ranges from 1,400 to 1,900 millimeters. There are an estimated 120 mammal species in the park, ten of which are primates. It also contains more than 350 bird species and more than 200 butterfly species.
Gorilla tracking in Bwindi is the absolute highlight of any trip to Uganda. Entrances to the park and access to the various gorilla groups are as follows. Buhoma – nestled in the northwest corner of the park, and currently hosting three groups of gorillas, this was the first section to open for gorilla tracking. Ruhija – located in the remote east of the park, this entrance is home to two groups which can be visited by non-researchers.
Nkuringo – set in a spectacular portion of the southwest of the park; though there is only one group in this section of the park, it is considered one of the most entertaining and relaxed. Rushaga – the newly opened portion of the southeast of the park; includes three groups available for tracking.
Gorilla tracking ranks among one of the absolute highlights of a trip to Africa for most travelers, and the spine-tingling feeling that you get being so near to one of our closest relatives is hard to describe. Mountain Gorillas are one of the world’s most endangered apes. It is estimated that there are only about 880 left throughout the world. Almost half of them can be found in Uganda, and populations can also be found in neighboring Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. The official price for a gorilla permit in Uganda is $600 per person and Rwanda the
official price for a gorilla permit is $750.
The gorilla permit allows you to go on gorilla tracking. It doesn’t include anything else, like accommodation, transport, meals, drinks or porters. Gorilla permits are very popular and not many permits are available (a total of 80 permits per day in Uganda). The permits get sold out far in advance, especially in high season (June – October + December – February). We advise you to book your tour and your permits far in advance. In all our safaris that are going to Bwindi (gorilla land) the gorilla permit is included in the costing. We do however have to check availability before confirming your booking.
Visit a Batwa (‘pygmy”)
Nearly a century ago there was a conflict among the people in the area. The Bantu tribes lived in villages and practiced farming, while the Batwa remained in the forest as hunter-gatherers. Sometimes, the Batwa warriors would raid the villages and disappear once again into the forest. The Bantu had no idea there was a hidden cave in the forest and therefore could not find the crafty Batwa. The cave is 343m long and 14m deep, and is now inhabited only by bats, but your guide will explain how the Batwa lived and fought from this cave. The walk to and from the cave passes through montane woodland with plenty of opportunities for bird watching and simply enjoying the scenery.
Undeniably the loveliest lake in Uganda, Bunyonyi (‘place of many little birds’) contains 29 islands, many of which are inhabited and terraced for agriculture. Wake to school children paddling dug-out canoes through the morning mist as crested cranes fly overhead. Activities include swimming, walking, and bird watching as well as canoe and motorboat rides. Cultural and historical tours of nearby villages can also be arranged. The lake stretches out for you and is navigable by canoe skippers per canoe, shuttling back and forth between the 39 islands in this lake. Children go to school by canoe, and market products are transported in this way. Lake Bunyonyi is the perfect place for relaxation! Only the countless birds provide still warm melodic sounds on this island.
Chimpanzee Sanctuary on Ngamba Island:
Situated on a small rain-forested island a short boat ride from Entebbe, this sanctuary provides the perfect habitat for the rehabilitation of chimpanzees. Some of the rescued chimps are orphans and others were born into captivity without the required skills to make it on their own. The sanctuary staff care for the lovable apes and, in time, attempt to reintroduce them into wild populations. Day and overnight trips to this amazing experience can be organised.
Crater Lake Hikes:
The Bunyaruguru crater lake region is located in Western Uganda, only 26km south of Fort Portal. Many of the
verdant hillsides containing rich black volcanic soils are still farmed using traditional methods producing diverse plants and herbs and a bewildering variety of crops from tea and coffee through pineapples, passion fruits, bananas, mangoes, avocado; to millet, sweet potato, cassava, sorghum, peanuts, yams and hot chilies.
Hikes of varying lengths among the crater lakes can be organised. Depending on your interest and fitness level, the experience can include waterfalls, crater rims, coffee terraces and even banana gin brewing in oil drums.
There are also plenty to see for those fascinated by birds, butterflies, and primates.
This lush archipelago of 84 islands along Lake Victoria’s northwestern shore boat some stunning white-sand beaches and a very slow rhythm. Ssese remains a great place to kick back and read a good book.
There are canoes for hire, but swimming is un-advisable due to risks of bilharzia and the occasional hippo or crocodile. Early in the last century, sleeping sickness hit the islands, which forced the original inhabitants to flee.
People slowly drifted back and most settlement dates from the 1980s. There are few Bassese people anymore and their Lussese language has almost disappeared. Because of the lack of settlement, the islands were largely unspoiled, but things have changed drastically in recent years. Over fishing and massive deforestation to make way for palm oil plantations have taken their toll on the biodiversity of the area.
Sitting in the foothills of Mt Elgon and overlooking a vast plain, Sipi Falls is arguably the most beautiful chain of
waterfalls in all of Uganda. There are three levels, and though the smaller two are beautiful, it is the 95m main drop that attracts visitors to this area, and most of Sipi’s lodging looks out over it.It is well worth spending a night or two in this spectacular yet peaceful place whether it is a part of your Uganda tour or in connection with a climb of the nearby volcano.
A network of well-maintained (though often muddy) local trails give you beautiful views of the area and on your way to the bottom of each of the three levels of waterfalls. It is possible to walk off on your own, but we recommend taking a local guide who can explain the flora and fauna and also negotiate the passage through private property.
Village and forest walks are also possible at Mt Elgon National Park’s Forest Exploration Center nearby, though you will incur the national park fees to hike there.
Thomas Coffee Tours:
Aside from the falls themselves, a highlight to visiting Sipi is a tour that takes you through the entire coffee process at a nearby family farm. You will pick the coffee berries, to de-shell and grind them with a traditional mortar and pestle, and roast them on an open fire, before – the best part – finishing with a fine cup of strong Arabica coffee.