Uganda is one of Africa’s most diverse countries. With so much to offer, travellers often miss out on some of its best bits as they rush off to neighbours Kenya and Tanzania. Obviously, it is the primates that steal the headlines in Uganda, however with Covid restrictions making multi-destination travel tricky, you can be sure that there is an abundance of fauna and flora to keep the most avid wildlife enthusiast enthralled. Here we explore some of the must-do activities whilst in this fabulous country.
Gorillas of Bwindi
As with Rwanda, Uganda’s gorilla trekking experience is an astonishing and breath-taking experience. Uganda’s main trekking area is Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, aptly named after the extremely dense vegetation that covers the mountainous slopes. It is home to over twenty habituated gorilla families. The other area is Mgahinga National Park that sits on the border of both Rwanda and the DRC. Mgahinga however is only home to one gorilla family so it is a less popular choice, that said, with three silverbacks in the group and slightly less dense vegetation, photographic opportunities here are exceptional.
No matter what country or area you trek, your day will begin in a similar fashion. Arriving at the Park headquarters you will receive your briefing before being split into groups dependent on fitness levels. Once you have made your way to your designated gorilla family, which can take anything between two-to-four hours, you will be able to spend one hour with these magnificent apes. Trying to describe how it feels to be amongst these great apes is an impossible task, however you can be assured that it will be the fastest hour of your life. Don’t forget to bring spare batteries and plenty of memory cards!
Whilst in Uganda, the two best gorilla lodges in Bwindi are Clouds Lodge and Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge. Both lodges are within walking distance from their sector’s headquarters which is a great warm up before the serious trekking gets underway. Clouds is opulent and lavish, whilst Nkuringo is a fantastic option for those on a tighter budget, yet still after a luxurious stay.
Chimps of Kibale
Whilst the gorillas are the largest primates in Uganda, the chimps are just as fascinating to spend time with. Although there are a handful of areas that the chimps call home, the best area to see them is Kibale Forest. Primate Lodge is located deep into Kibale and perfect for accessing the park’s headquarters. Mirroring the gorilla trekking experience, you will have a debriefing at the park’s headquarters, followed by a trek that could last anywhere between one and four hours to find the chimps.
You will be able to spend one hour with the chimps before trekking back to the headquarters. Unlike the gorillas, the chimps move a lot. They are far more active making photography slightly harder, however whether they are in the canopy of the forest or moving around on the forest floor you can be sure that spending time with them is a fascinating and engaging activity.
Boating the Kazinga Channel
Splitting Queen Elizabeth National Park in two, the Kazinga Channel connects Lake George and Lake Edward. It is thirty-two kilometres in length and has some of the highest densities of hippo in Africa. The channel is beautiful and perfect for avid birders of those wishing to come eye to eye with basking crocodiles and pods of hippo. Elephants and buffalo dot the shoreline making it a photographer’s dream.
Although Queen Elizabeth National Park is renowned for its tree-climbing lions of Ishasha and its abundance of elephants, taking an afternoon to explore the waterways of the Kazinga is a perfect accompaniment to any safari in Queen Elizabeth. Whether you are a keen birder admiring the plethora of kingfishers, bee-eaters and waders or wanting a beautiful sunset cruise, anything is possible.
Shoebills in Mabamba Swamp
A mere fifteen minutes from central Entebbe is Lake Victoria. This beautiful area is a hive of activity. From the bustling local markets to the relaxing water-side restaurants, this area has it all and an activity that a wildlife enthusiast cannot miss is going in search of the shoebills.
On the shores of Lake Victoria is one of the shoebill’s last strongholds: Mamaba Swamp. Accompanied by your local guide, you can head across Lake Victoria in your wooden boat before entering the maze of waterways. You will glide effortlessly through the lily pads and dense reed beds in search of these prehistoric creatures.
Once found, you can sit and observe one of the rarest birds on the planet as they wade through the marshes in search of prey. Do not forget to keep an eye out for other beautiful birds like the African jacana and a multitude of waders and swallows.
Hiking Murchison Falls
Often the last on visitor’s tick lists, but by no means any less impressive, Murchison Falls is a breath-taking landmark that not only allows some beautiful scenic hikes but gives ample opportunity to explore its National Park and the River Nile. Although it can be tricky to access, heading up to this remote part of Uganda pay dividends for those who spend the time doing so.
Baker’s Lodge is the ideal accommodation option here. Situated on the water’s edge, boating up and down the river could not be easier. A particular highlight is boating to the bottom of the Falls and witnessing and listening to the roar of the River Nile descending one-hundred and forty-one feet is something not easily forgotten. Once you have taken this in, you can disembark and hike an hour or so to the top. The landscape and views are incredible throughout and make for the perfect photo opportunities.
Often going under the radar is Murchison Falls National Park. Home to a variety of plains game, as well as some of Africa’s most iconic species, the National Park is blessed with some fantastic wildlife viewing. The vast open plains resemble that of the Serengeti in neighbouring Tanzania and although the game viewing may not be as prevalent, the lack of visitors here make every sighting intimate and special.