Uganda is a vibrant safari destination with a difference at the crossroads of Eastern and Central Africa. The biodiversity is a mixture of savanna species and animals and birds more commonly associated with the forest and jungles of Central Africa.
Uganda is very friendly and safe and with bountiful natural resources stunning scenery and some fascinating culture just waiting to be explored.
Unusually Uganda has not followed the trend of pursuing only high-end tourists, there is accommodation for all budgets and even the gorilla trekking is surprisingly affordable. Most of the roads connecting the various tourist destinations are in good condition and there is also an expanding air network.
The two biggest attractions in Uganda are the Mountain Gorillas undoubtedly the highlight of any visit and Chimp trekking, where you can come into close contact with wild but habituated chimpanzees, a hugely underrated experience.
Uganda has many other primates, most of which are not found in other mainstream safari destinations and is rated as one of Africa’s top birding destinations.
Uganda’s many national parks see only a fraction of the visitors that visit neighboring Tanzania and Kenya.The major parks do lack the diversity of East and Southern Africa’s big five reserves, so, to see the widest range of general wildlife possible it would be necessary to visit several different parks.
My short overland trip included the Mabamba swamp in Lake Victoria to see the prehistoric looking shoebill storks, Kibale Forest Reserve for chimpanzees and other primates, Queen Elizabeth National Park for general game viewing, Bwindi Forest for mountain gorillas and Lake Mburo National Park for birding and general game.
The area on the lakeshore is surprisingly pleasant with plenty of reasonable accommodation options. Most visitors may only spend the night here but there are a few places of interest nearby. We had a day to spare and took the opportunity of a guided punt in the Mabamba Swamps with the objective of seeing the prehistoric looking and quite rare shoebill stork. The swamps are about 90 minutes’ drive from Entebbe and in addition to the storks there are also many other waterbirds seen in the papyrus beds.
Other activities on offer around Entebbe include boat trips and fishing and visits to the Chimpanzee Sanctuary on Ngamba Island.
A long drive takes you to Kibale, home to many groups of chimpanzees and other primates.
The forest walk with the park rangers is excellent and once the chimpanzees are located you can spend an hour with them. The habituated chimpanzees generally ignore the human interlopers and carry on with their routine of eating, sleeping, playing, mutual grooming, chattering and so on, an unforgettable experience.
The tracking is through fairly dense jungle but the ground is usually quite flat, so it is less challenging than the gorilla trekking.
Seeing the chimps up close as they go about their business is a genuinely special experience and runs a close second to the gorilla trekking.
We also saw some other primates and heard, rather than saw, a whole range of bird species.
I would advise clients to consider booking the “habituation experience” as this allows much more time with the chimps at only slightly more cost.
Our accommodation here was at the Primate Lodge, the rooms here are right inside the forest with plenty of wildlife and birds around. The rooms were large and quite comfortable but certainly not luxury. There are other more top end lodges in the vicinity most of which are located on the Crater lakes close to the park, unfortunately we did not have time to see them.
I would suggest flying to Kibale and meeting your guide here as the road transfer is long.
If you are fit, I would suggest the habituation experience which gives the best of all worlds
This large scenically beautiful park includes Lakes George and Edward and stretches along the Congo border. There is plentiful plains game here although the Diversity is limited, the principal predators are lion, leopard and hyena with plentiful crocodiles in the lakes and rivers.
A boat trip along the Kazinga channel which connect the two lakes is a highlight for many. There are excellent photo opportunities for hippo, crocodile, elephant and other animals on the banks and a staggering selection of African birdlife on view.
On the drive through the reserve on route to the Ishasha area we were fortunate to see a leopard and also a large male lion sitting in a tree.
Our accommodation here was at the brand-new Elephant Plains Camp which has a stunning location overlooking the rift valley and Lakes Albert and Edward. The camp had not received its first guests at the time of our visit and was still experiencing a few minor teething troubles.
If time permits stay in both the Western and Eastern areas of the park to maximise the experience.
Be sure to book the Kazinga Channel boat trip
Bwindi is the home of the charismatic mountain gorilla and a great conservation success story, from just over 600 hundred left in the wild ten years ago over 1000 now live in the mountainous jungles of Uganda, Rwanda and the Congo. Seeing these gentle but incredibly powerful animals in the wild can be a life changing experience and one that clearly demonstrates the reality of what will be lost if we don’t protect the wildlife with which we share our planet.
The forest itself is beautiful and home to many other species. A walk here would be enjoyable, but it is the gorillas that bring in the visitors. The degree of difficulty in the trekking can vary considerably and where the trekked group of gorillas are located can also have a significant effect on the quality of the experience. We were lucky and the group we followed were only about a half hours’ easy trek into the forest. They were located in an open area which was perfect for photography and the little ones were a particular joy as they played around a few feet from us.
Whilst in the area we did also take an interesting village walk and spent a fascinating half hour with the Batwa people who are the original human inhabitants of the forest.
We stayed at Buhoma Forest Lodge which was quite a nice property and also visited the equally likeable Mahogany Springs and more upmarket Gorilla Forest Camp, whatever class of lodge you choose the gorilla trekking will be the same.
This smallish National Park is usually visited as a stopover on the long road journey between Bwindi and Entebbe. Actually, the park is quite interesting, although lions and elephant are absent there is plenty of other game here including species not seen in other parks such as zebra and eland. The park also has a very high density of leopard and is probably the best place to see them in Uganda, we saw one on our way out of the park.
The park is a birding hotspot and activities here include boat trips on Lake Mburo where a wide variety of water birds can be spotted along with the hippos and crocodiles. Birders will note that this is a good place to see the rare and secretive African finfoot.
Additional activities include mountain bike rides and guided walks.
Our stay here was at Rwakobo Rock which I felt seemed tired and needed a bit of TLC. New managers had just arrived when I visited so hopefully things will soon improve. On the plus side it is very affordable and the location on a hill overlooking the park was superb. The activities on offer were fun.
If travelling between Bwindi and Entebbe by road allow two days to make the visit worthwhile.
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