Introduction

What can I see on a Ugandan Safari? This is a crucial question asked by most of the travelers however Uganda also known as the Pearl of Africa is blessed with truly undisputable natural beauty that ranges from her people who are renowned for their warmth and charm, wildlife and its habitats, Uganda’s great Lakes, mountain ranges that offer panoramic views across East and Central Africa’s savannahs, forests and lakes to National Parks that are homes to some of the world’s exotic animals and bird life. Exploring the Pearl of Africa, one is expected to indulge in adventure tourism activities, ecotourism activities and cultural tour activities that create amazing, gratifying and life changing experiences. Consequently, on a Uganda safari one can see or indulge in the following activities;

Gorilla trekking

This is one of the top tour activities one can do in Uganda. With this activity, one finds his or her way to the mountain gorilla habitat to closely witness our closest cousins go by their day today activities which is so thrilling and once in a life time experience. In Uganda, mountain gorillas can only be encountered in two National Parks that is Bwindi Impenetrable National Park which harbors half of the world’s remaining gorilla population and Mgahinga National Park. There are 22 habituated gorilla families in Uganda with 21 of them thriving in four sectors of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park namely Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo while the other one gorilla family in Ntebeko sector of Mgahinga.

Chimpanzee trekking

There are various chimpanzee trekking destinations in Uganda where one will spend an hour amidst them in their natural habitat having located a habituated family. This is the time to have a fantastic moment as one takes pictures as well as learning more about their behaviors. This magical activity starts very early in the morning at every chimpanzee trekking destination with a briefing about the chimpanzee trekking dos and don’ts before hitting the rainforests to embark on their search. There are three major chimpanzee trekking destinations in Uganda with Kibale National Park emerging as the best destination since there are higher chances of encountering these apes here than in other places. Kibale National Park is regarded as the world’s primate’s capital due to its high chimpanzee population and other 12 primate specie. Other chimpanzee trekking destinations include Kyambura gorge in Queen Elizabeth National Park and Budongo forest reserve which is an en-route to Murchison falls National Park.

Chimpanzee trekking in Kyambura gorge is a little bit strenuous since locating this only habituated chimpanzee family is difficult and it will involve moving for long distances while you try to locate them by the sound of their pant-hoot calls and once you meet them, you approach them closely.

Chimpanzee trekking in Budongo forest usually takes place in Kaniyo Pabidi which is one of the four sections that make up the forest reserve. Kaniyo Pabidi is located south of Murchison Falls National Park where you can connect after wildlife viewing in the Park. The success rate of seeing these chimpanzees is higher than that of Kyambura gorge only bettered by Kibale forest National Park. This is due to its well established forest trails that allow visitors trek easily to the chimpanzee localities.

Game viewing/ wildlife safaris

Wildlife safaris are more so done in the various Parks’ savannah plains that come into life with the enormous herds of wildlife. These game viewing safaris take you to the country’s savannah and woodland occupied National Parks namely; Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison falls National Park, Kidepo valley National Park, Pian Upe game reserve, Lake Mburo National Park among other game viewing prime sites. Uganda is a home to Africa’s big five namely lions, elephants, African buffaloes, rhinos and leopards as well as the entire big nine. Game viewing safaris offer better opportunities to see more wildlife up-close such as giraffe, elands, zebras, warthogs, antelopes, mongoose, spotted hyenas, otters, jackals, bat eared fox, waterbucks, hartebeest, greater kudu, reedbucks, impala, hippopotamuses, crocodiles to mention but a few. Game viewing is an eye candy activity that is done when one takes on a game drive in an open roof 4 wheel vehicle through the National Park’s trails.  These National Parks have diverse vegetation that ranges from shrubs, marshes to vast savannah grasslands that allow visitors to observe Uganda’s wildlife. For birders, this is also an ideal activity to spot a variety of bird types for example herons, kingfishers, grey-crowned crane, African skimmer, weavers, bee eaters, warblers to mention but a few.

Golden monkey trekking

Golden monkey trekking is an activity that involves hiking up to the mount slopes in search of the endangered uncommon monkey species. These monkey specie is one of its kind because of magnificent nature and way of life. Golden monkeys can only be found in the Virunga region that is shared among three countries namely Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. This charming monkey specie can only be found in Mgahinga National Park located in the southwestern region of the country neighboring Rwanda and Congo. This activity as usual it starts with a briefing at the park headquarters where you are assigned a trekking guide who leads you to the monkeys’ localities while you navigate the bamboo forests. You are allowed to enjoy an hour in their presence while before you think of transcending back to have your next day’s activity.

Bird watching

Uganda is a birding paradise bird lovers shouldn’t miss out. The pearl of Africa boasts with over 1090 bird species that makes up 50% of Africa’s bird types and 11% of the entire world’s bird species. Uganda harbors a huge diversity of bird types due to its incredible diversity of habitats that range from papyrus swamps, woodlands, savannah grasslands and shrubs, afro-pine moorlands, cultivated fields to rainforests. There are various bird species that can be spotted in Uganda for example the elusive shoebill stork, papyrus gonolek, Abyssinian ground hornbill, Kingfisher, black bee-eater, Nathan’s Francolin, Rwenzori Turaco, African green broadbill, Brown-chested Lapwing, Jameson’s Antpecker, Karamoja Apalis, grey-checked crane to mention but a few. Uganda has more than 34 important birding areas that have entirely been developed for bird watching with well-established birding trails for example protected areas like Bwindi impenetrable National Park, Kibale National Park, Murchison falls National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, Mabamba wetland, Lutembe wetland, Budongo forest reserve, Semliki National Park, Rwenzori National Park to mention but a few.

Mountain hiking

Mountain hiking is one of the best activities to indulge in when on a Uganda safari since it offers beautiful scenery as one gets to capture unbroken views of the entire surroundings. On your hike, one has to follow established pathways along the slopes which may be a physical test to one’s hiking capabilities. Mountain climbing is done in protected areas for example Mountain Rwenzori National Park, Mountain Elgon National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park, Mgahinga National Park to mention but a few. In Uganda, both multi-day hikes and single-day hikes are carried out in various hiking destinations for example Rwenzori and Elgon National parks for multi-day mountain climbing whereas single-day hikes can be carried out in Mgahinga National Park on the Virunga mountains, Kidepo National Park on Mount Morungole, hikes to the Sipi falls that usually last for a few hours and many more.

Hiking Mountain Rwenzori lasts for about 6 to 8 days round trip since it offers a hike to the highest peak in Uganda and the 3rd in the entire continent of Africa. Its highest peak is known as Margherita peak on mount Stanley and it stands at an elevation of 5109 meters above sea level. This mountain offers better vistas and landscape scenery than other Africa’s tallest summits and thus attracting more mountain climbers.

The other mountains that offer relatively longer hikes are mountain Elgon that lasts to about 5 days round trip and mount Muhabura in Mgahinga National Park. The highest peak of mountain Elgon is Wagagai that stands an elevation of 4321 meters above sea level featuring the largest caldera in the entire world.

Mountain Muhabura is the highest in Mgahinga national park standing at an elevation of 4127 meters above sea level. This beautiful mountain has a pristine lake on its summit that offers panoramic views of Rwanda and its surroundings on Uganda. The other mountains that can be hiked in Mgahinga National Park are mount Sabyinyo standing at 3660 meters above sea level and mount Gahinga that stands at 3474 meters above sea level.

Adventure activities on the Nile River

Uganda boasts with the source of the Nile where River Nile starts its long journey northwards into the Mediterranean Sea in northern Egypt. The River Nile and its source in Jinja district offer various water sport activities and enjoyable outdoor activities for example white water rafting, kayaking, bungee jumping, cruise to the source of the Nile, jet boating, river boarding, tubing to mention but a few. All the above water activities allow one to enjoy their thrill for adventure and leisure which are normally combined with other strenuous activities like gorilla trekking, chimpanzee trekking, golden monkey trekking, birding excursions, wildlife safaris and many more.

Cultural tours

Uganda is also a perfect destination for those interested in learning about her diverse tribes. Cultural tours in the pearl of Africa expose you to different cultural groups where you get to learn about their different cultural norms, beliefs and values as well as interacting with the country’s loving and welcoming people. Tourists are also free to engage themselves in food preparation, music and dance performances and folktales. Amazing cultural groups or tribes that can be visited as a complement after a major activity like gorilla trekking, wildlife safaris, chimpanzee trekking include;

The Batwa pygmies

Years back, these Batwa pygmies lived as hunters and fruit gatherers in the rain forests of the current Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and around the foots of the Virunga mountains in the current Mgahinga National Park. These Batwa people relied their lives entirely on the forests for food, medicines and shelter where they constructed tree houses between tree brunches made up of grass, leaves and sticks. These forest people had extensive knowledge of hunting down wild animals for meat and hides in which they made their clothing. On your Batwa cultural experience or trail, this information is traditionally passed on orally through storytelling, music and dancing.

 

The IK group of people

The IK people are a tribal group that are native to northeastern Uganda currently living along mount Morungole slopes near the border of Kenya. They are believed to be the first settlers of the current Kidepo National park not until they were displaced by the Park authorities and decided to settle along the mountain. The IK people were initially nomadic pastoralists and fruit gatherers and later transitioned to farming in the mid-20th  century due to continuous raids of their cattle from the neighboring Karamojongs and other tribes. Making a hike to the IK community on Mount Morungole is rewarding since it will expose you to their unique cultural values, norms and beliefs.

Other cultural groups include the Sabiny tribe, Karamajongs that live around Murchison falls National Park and Kidepo National Park whose tribal values are still intact and their culture centered on cattle and their products.

Uganda Equator line experience

The Equator line is referred to as the imaginary line that divides the earth into two equal parts namely the northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere. At this point, the latitude is at zero degrees and the time for the sun to raise and set is faster since it takes a short time to shift from day to night time implying that the sunrise and sunset are faster compared to other localities that are not crossed by the equator. The Equator landmark can be seen at various spots for example Kayabwe in Mpigi district and at Kikorongoro in Kasese district. These equator monuments are stop-over points for tourists heading to either western Uganda or to Queen Elizabeth National Park for them to engage in different activities at the Equator for example taking photos, to experience the equinox when the sun is overhead the equator that usually occurs in the months of March and September. Tourists also make visits to craft shops at the equator line in Kayabwe to buy some souvenirs to take home for example African printed clothing, African jewelry, sculptures and many more.

Boat cruise and canoe rides

Uganda offers fascinating boat cruises and canoe rides to tourists as they sail on various water bodies as they spot various animal and bird types. Some of the amazing boat cruises in Uganda include the following;

Boat cruise on Kazinga channel

The Kazinga channel is a 32-kilometer long stretch of a water channel that links Lake Edward and Lake George. This channel is a dominant feature of Queen Elizabeth National Park that attracts a variety of wildlife such as animals and bird species. The Kizanga channel boasts with large concentrations of hippopotamuses and crocodiles that can easily be spotted on ones’ cruise. Boat cruises on the channel are conducted twice a day that is in the morning and in the evening which last for about 2 to 3 hours. This water channel attracts large concentrations of animals for example elephants, African buffaloes, waterbucks, antelopes as well as bird types that are all easily captured during the boat cruise.

Murchison falls boat cruise

The Murchison falls boat cruise offers two boat trips namely a cruise upstream to the bottom of the falls and a cruise downstream to the Nile delta which usually stretches to Lake Albert. The boat cruise upstream to the bottom of the falls is the most exciting since t offers one the opportunity to experience the strongest water falls in the whole world. With this boat cruise, one has the opportunity to closely spot the falls as well as spot various birds and animal types quench their thirst on the water banks of the river. Both cruises upstream to the bottom of the falls and downstream to the Nile Delta operate twice a day that is in the morning and in the evening.

In Uganda, other boat cruises include boat cruise on Lake Mburo, a cruise on Lake Victoria, boat cruise on Lake Bunyonyi, Lake Mutanda cruise and many more that all offer better opportunities to enjoy beautiful scenery of the surroundings as well as spot bird species for example the elusive shoebill stork, fish eagle, king fishers, francolins, wattled plavor, pelicans, herons, long-tailed cormorants, knob-billed ducks, African jacana, papyrus gonolek, fish eagles to mention but a few.

Kampala city exploration

Kampala the capital of the pearl of Africa is an engaging and a dynamic city with enchanting and colorful history that will all be exposed to you by an exposed guide as he takes to sites such as the Kasubi royal tombs, Kabaka’s palace, independence monument, Bahai temple, Uganda museum, Uganda martyrs shrines Namugongo, Kampala central mosque, Namirembe cathedral, Ndere cultural center, Nakasero market and many more.

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