Uganda is a fabulous destination to experience African wildlife in both forest and savannah settings. Not to be missed, of course, is the gorilla tracking in Bwindi. So too the incredible chimp trekking in Kibale National Park. Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls National Parks offer wonderful savannah safaris with world-class wildlife viewing. What makes Uganda a very special destination is that it is one of the very few places to see endangered mountain gorillas while one can combine this primate viewing with a classic savannah safari elsewhere in the country. Uganda also offers a good balance between vehicle, boat, adrenalin and walking activities. The scenic beauty paired with excellent birding and the deep cultural heritage of this country are just further draws.
Uganda is home to many West African mammal species as well as the more usual East African safari animals. Primates are especially well represented. Patas monkey, red-tailed monkey, De Brazza’s monkey, l’Hoest’s monkey and grey-cheeked mangabey are some of the specials additional to mountain gorilla and chimpanzee. The black-and-white colobus is widespread throughout Uganda. Uganda is home to a wide variety of antelope species too. The Uganda kob is the national antelope, and a near endemic. The very rare and fascinating sitatunga antelope is found in six national parks in the country but rarely seen. Uncommon oribi pairs are often seen in Murchison Falls National Park.
Uganda has remarkable birdlife diversity (over 1,000 species within an area similar in size to that of Great Britain). This can be attributed to its location between the East African savannah, West African rainforests and semi-desert of the north. Easy access to bird-rich habitats that are usually difficult to reach elsewhere in the world is a major attraction.
Murchison Falls is the best national park for seeing a wide array of common and special birds. The sought-after shoebill can be seen here too, hiding in and amongst the waterways of the swamps. Bwindi Impenetrable Park hosts Albertine Rift endemics, and Semuliki is the only place in East Africa to see many Guinea-Congo regional species.
The best time for wildlife viewing is in the dry season (December-February and June-September). Some of the roads may become impassable during the rainy season (September-November and March- May). Although gorilla can be tracked year-round, the experience can be spoiled – to some extent – by heavy rain in the wet season.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a 330 square kilometre island of forest surrounded by intense small-scale agriculture and rural communities. This tiny area hosts almost half of the world’s wild mountain gorillas, with around 400 individuals in 20 troops! Of these 20 troops, eleven troops are habituated to the presence of humans.
Gorilla tracking usually starts early morning, joining a group at the park headquarters. Depending on the location of the troops, the actual trekking may take from two hours to six hours. Guests who are less able to hike are usually allocated onto more accessible troops. In general, gorilla families are relaxed and approachable. However, the silverbacks are a lot more aggressive and interactions can be quite action packed. The high park fees are there to incentivise the expansion and protection of forests like these. These park fees also provide income to local people to encourage their support for conservation in the long run. It is thus very important that as many people as possible visit the gorillas to ensure that they survive and prosper.
The Bwindi rainforest also contains over 120 mammals, several further primates and over 350 bird species. Various local villages in the vicinity, notably the Batwa pygmy groups, create opportunities for insightful and meaningful cultural interactions.
The iconic Lake Victoria flanks the southern side of this country. Jinja town, is believed by many to be the source of the Nile. Here, one can enjoy exciting white river rafting excursions. Lake Victoria also hosts tropical islands with incredible white sandy beaches. The Sesse Islands are case in point.
It’s a good idea to add an overland segment to your journey to Uganda which takes you through the dramatic Rift Valley scenery in the remote west of the country. Uganda combines very well with its neighbours, Rwanda, Tanzania & Kenya for an extensive, authentic African self-drive safari.