What To Do
Uganda is most famous for its primates and to see them, especially the gorillas, you need to be fairly fit. Treks into Bwindi Impenetrable Forest can last five hours on steep and uneven terrain. Rushaga in the south offers the most challenging trekking at an altitude of around 2,900m and the easiest tends to be from Buhoma in the north. Trekking is well worth the effort as you get to enjoy an hour in the company of endangered mountain gorillas making the way home much easier! See below for more info!
Uganda offers far more than primates however and there are many options for exploring this beautiful country.
With a gorilla population of about 335 gorillas, Bwindi in Uganda is home to nearly half of all known mountain gorillas. The National Park is a thick jungle, covering a steep upland terrain of ridges and valleys. It makes gorilla trekking a challenging experience and one you should prepare for. You meet early in the morning and hand in a copy of your passport so that the Uganda Wildlife Authority guides can sort everyone into groups taking their age into account. Each group is allocated a guide and gorilla family to track. You listen to a briefing before departing. Sometime the trek starts at the briefing point and sometimes you will need a lift to the start point - it depends on where your family is located. Often you need to walk for 4-5 hours to see a family group (depending where the gorillas have moved to within the park). When you find the gorillas you are allowed one hour with them. When we last visited in August we trekked for around 2 hours each way covering a distance of around 12 km. We recommend you hire a porter as this helps the local community. Porters cost $15 US. They will carry your back pack and help you on the steep sections. Your guides greatly appreciate (but do not expect a tip) - we recommend giving around $20 US per trekker to the head guide for dividing up. The guides do a great job and work hard to ensure you have the best experience possible. You can do this when you arrive back at the finish point.** If you would like to meet the Gorilla Doctors (vets) please ask for details.
What could be better after all your efforts in the forest than some time to relax with a beautiful lake view? The lakes in Uganda's south-west enjoy stunning vistas. There are plenty of activities should you fancy but for us it's lovely to take time out, sit on the balcony and watch the world go by. We love Lake Mutanda and Lake Bunyonyi.
Visiting the chimps is usually much less tiring. At Kibale you normally find them quite quickly and again are allowed to stay with them for up to an hour before leaving them alone. Especially with the chimps its sometimes hard to work out exactly who is observing who! When visiting the chimps you can stay at the nearby Crater lakes, an extraordinary series of long extinct volcanic now filled with water and forming a network of lakes.
While the primates are the undoubted stars of a Ugandan safari holiday, there is still plenty more to see and enjoy. A more traditional safari experience can be enjoyed at the Queen Elizabeth National Park. This large reserve, situated between Lake George and Lake Edwards , is home to nearly one hundred mammals including lions, leopards, elephant and buffalo. It also has excellent flora (with five distinct climatic zones within its borders) and over 500 species of bird. Game-viewing can be done by vehicle or by boat, usually along the Kazinga Channel which connects the two lakes and is home to lots of hippos. There is a reasonable choice of lodges and camps within the park. We recommend having a night or two in QENP and an additional night in the Ishasha southern sector for giving you the best possible choice of seeing tree climbing lions.
The other unique sight to consider when going on a safari holiday in Uganda is a visit to Murchison Falls. This is one of our favourite places to vsit.
Situated in Murchison Falls National Park, which is part of the largest conservation area in Uganda, the Nile (part of the Victoria Branch which joins the Blue Nile from Ethiopia in the Sudan) falls over 40 metres through a gorge only 7 metres wide. The roar as over 300 square metres per second of water forces its way through is quite something and you can view the Falls from both the bottom and top. We like to combine a river cruise with a short hike - on our visit in August we crusied to the bottom of the Falls (about 90 minutes) game viewing along the way and then did the 45 minute Top of the Falls hike, being met at the top by our driver/guide. You can do this in reverse if you prefer walking down rather than up!
There is also Game viewing in Murchison Falls, with wildlife recovering after the widespread poaching of the Amin years. You may see the Ida Amin hotel in ruins if you visit the Pakuba section of the park - this is where the BBC filmed a wildlife documentary.
A Rhino breeding project is currently underway at Ziwa in an effort to restore the Big five to the area. Ziwa is a perfect stopover between Entebbe/Murchison.
If you want to get off the beaten track then do not miss Kidepo in the north of Uganda. We have a really exciting new itinerary which combines Kidepo and Murchison. This is a fantastic trip!