Winston Churchill called it “The Pearl of Africa”. Relatively small in stature compared to its neighbours, it is a microcosm of all that is best in Africa.
Home to the continent’s largest lake - Lake Victoria - it can also boast half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas, the highest mountain range in Africa and a rich list of wildlife that includes lion, leopard, elephant and the endangered common chimpanzee.
A more ‘authentic’ experience of the continent than some of the more developed African destinations, Uganda still offers up a sense of adventure for those willing to experience the delights and frustrations of African travel. The rewards are tremendous, with opportunities to track rare mountain gorillas in Bwindi National Park and Golden Monkeys amongst the spectacular landscapes of the Virunga Mountains. At the dramatic setting of the Murchison Falls you can watch the mighty Nile force itself through a seven metre wide cleft in the rocks, whilst the lush jungles of the Kibale Forest, famed for their chimpanzee trekking, can boast the highest concentration of primates in Africa. From the bustling markets of Kampala, to the mist-shrouded “Mountains of the Moon” in the Rwenzori National Park, Uganda promises some of the most complete African adventures imaginable. Many come for the gorillas, but Uganda is so much more...
KIBALE NATIONAL PARK
Tucked away towards Uganda's Western border with the DRC, the Kibale National Park is widely regarded as one of the best parks in Africa for trekking to see chimpanzees. Indeed, the park is home to a habituated community of over 120 chimps, which can be visited on morning and afternoon hikes, as well as on a full-day habituation programme. Beyond the chimps there are enough activities to attract visitors to stay for two or three nights, including the birding and primate walks from Bigodi's community owned project, night time walks in the forest and visits to the stunning crater lakes around Fort Portal. Kibale offers a wide variety of accommodation and this beautiful park is well worth including in any visit to Uganda.
The seemingly endless waters of Lake Victoria extend southwards from Entebbe all the way to Mwanza in Tanzania and East to Kisumu in Kenya. At the very north of the lake there are a number of islands which are worth a visit. Ngamba Island is home to a chimpanzee sanctuary where 49 orphaned chimps live and both day trips and overnight stays to the island can be organised. Beyond Ngamba, there are a number of beach resorts on the islands where visitors can relax and enjoy a peaceful few days at the end of a busy adventure through Uganda. With golden sandy beaches, lush green interiors and the warm waters of Lake Victoria gently lapping at the shoreline, these islands offer a genuine Robinson Crusoe style retreat.
RWENZORI MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
More commonly known as the Mountains of the Moon, the Rwenzori Mountains rise to over 5100 metres and their stunning snow-capped peaks help to make them one of Africa’s most striking hiking destinations. Whilst the altitude and constant presence of snow can make the hiking somewhat difficult, we are able to organise shorter day hikes or longer treks that keep beneath the snowline to alleviate any issues with altitude. This is a truly beautiful area and well worth considering if you are looking at doing some serious mountain hiking in Africa, but are looking to avoid the better known and much busier areas such as Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is one of two spots in Uganda where you can trek to see mountain gorillas in the wild. The majority of the estimated 450 mountain gorillas in Uganda are found in Bwindi and there are 15 habituated families visitors can trek to see. In addition to the gorillas, the dense rainforest supports an astonishing array of birdlife and more than 200 species of butterfly and Batwa forest pygmies. a. Whilst gorillas are the highlight of any visit to Bwindi, a few days can be spent here exploring the rainforest and enjoying the incredible biodiversity for which the region is renowned.
BWINDI IMPENETRABLE FOREST
KIDEPO VALLEY NATIONAL PARK
Isolated with few visitors, incredible wildlife viewing and awe-inspiring landscapes, much of the park is traditional African savannah with a mountainous backdrop. The park is home to three of the big five, with lion, elephant and buffalo all found in strong numbers. It is also home to a number of rarer species including Rothchild giraffe and greater and lesser kudu. Over 470 species of bird are found in the park, with no fewer than 60 of these found nowhere in Uganda other than Kidepo. This is doubtless Uganda's most remote National Park but those who make the journey are rewarded with beautiful landscapes and excellent game viewing.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is split into three distinct areas, the Mweya area, the Southern Ishasha sector and the Kyambura Game Reserve. The widest variety of activities can be enjoyed in Mweya including game drives, boat trips, birding safaris to see shoebills and hot air ballooning. Tracking lion and leopard with the Queen Elizabeth Predator Project is also possible here. Ishasha is another fantastic game viewing area, with the region especially well-known for its tree-climbing lions which are a big draw. Kyambura offers the chance to visit a habituated chimpanzee colony and is probably the easiest area for chimp trekking in Uganda as they are all found within a small forested area in the Kyambura Gorge.
QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK
Murchison Falls National Park is widely regarded as Uganda's premier big game viewing destination. A variety of game can be spotted here including lion, elephant, giraffe and Ugandan kob. Activities on offer include game drives, boat cruises along the Victoria Nile and even hot air balloon safaris. The birding here is particularly good, with visitors drawn from all over the world to see the extraordinary shoebills which are found in the swampy areas around the river. Naturally, the 45 metre waterfalls from which the park takes its name are part of any visit to Murchison Falls with hikes to the top of the falls a particularly popular excursion.
MURCHISON FALLS NATIONAL PARK
Tiny Semliki National Park is a true African gem, unspoilt, quiet and ideal for a few days exploration off the beaten tourist trail. The park is covered mostly in tropical rainforest and supports a variety of wildlife not seen anywhere else in Africa including Water Chevrotain deer, six species of bat and two types of flying squirrel. It is also regarded as the best area in which to see shoebills and there are a number of excellent walking trails and boat trips to enjoy. Chimpanzees can be seen here, although there are undoubtedly more reliable spots to see them across Uganda. Another highlight of the area are the Sempaya Hot Springs where the water can spray up to 2 metres in the air and at temperatures over 100 degrees