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Uganda

A small country with huge biodiversity
Overview

Straddling the transitional zone between East and Central Africa, Uganda packs an amazing variety of habitats into its compact borders. The country’s unique mix of wildlife ranges from the mountain gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to the chimpanzees and tree-climbing lions of Queen Elizabeth National Park, and the Nile’s hippos and crocodiles.

Half of the world’s mountain gorillas—some 400 animals—inhabit the steep, green forested slopes of Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. One of Africa’s richest areas for flora and fauna, the park is also home to colobus monkeys, chimpanzees, and seven other primate species, plus elephants and rare giant forest hogs. Waterfalls, hot springs, and local village life are among Bwindi’s many other attractions.

To the north, Queen Elizabeth National Park offers an entirely different wildlife experience, in landscapes that range from open savanna to crater lakes and wetlands teeming with over 600 bird species. Traditional big-game safaris here—featuring elephants, buffalo, Uganda kob antelope, and the famous tree-climbing lions of the Ishasha plains—can easily be coupled with fantastic chimpanzee tracking in Kyambura Gorge.

Flowing north from Lake Victoria, the Nile is another not-to-be-missed Ugandan highlight. Floating along the river is a completely captivating experience, with crocodiles and hippos peering up from the water, a broad assortment of mammals lining the riverbanks, and birdsong filling the skies. For more dramatic perspectives on the river, visit Murchison Falls National Park, where the Nile squeezes through a narrow cleft and plunges into a raging chaos of whitewater.

Other remarkable Ugandan landscapes include the snowcapped Mountains of the Moon in Rwenzori Mountains National Park—topping out at nearly 17,000 feet—and the green volcanoes of Mgahinga National Park, another stronghold of the mountain gorilla.

Uganda’s successes with reintroducing wildlife lost during the Idi Amin years have been inspirational, and the friendliness of its people is legendary, as seen in the waves and smiles with which passersby will greet you on the road.

Read more about Uganda

Country Highlights & Attractions

  • Meet mountain gorillas face-to-face in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
  • Track big game and chimpanzees in Queen Elizabeth National Park
  • Navigate the Nile from Lake Victoria to Murchison Falls
  • Explore the Rwenzori Mountains’ glaciers, waterfalls, and snowy peaks
Wildlife

Wildlife in Uganda

Multiple ecosystems converge in Uganda, creating remarkable biodiversity within a relatively small land area. With its volcanic slopes, lush forests, dry savannas, Lake Victoria, and the Nile River, this is a place where you can see gorillas, chimpanzees, amazing birdlife, and Africa’s “Big Five” all in a single journey.

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Mountain Gorillas

Home to roughly half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas, Uganda’s Bwindi and Mgahinga National Parks are prime territory for viewing these gentle giants in their native habitat.

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Ugandan Kob

Uganda’s national antelope roams free in the country’s grasslands, floodplains, and savanna woodlands.

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Nile Crocodile

Float along the Nile for close-up views of these toothy beasts, the second largest living reptiles in the world.

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Abundant Birdlife

In this birder’s paradise, no bird is more emblematic than the grey crowned crane, which appears on Uganda’s national crest.

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Chimpanzees

Track chimpanzees in Kibale Forest National Park, Kyambura Gorge, and Ngamba Island, a sanctuary in the middle of Lake Victoria.

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Tree-climbing Lions

Discover the king of beasts lounging on a limb, just one of the classic African mammals that inhabit the savannas of Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Country Facts

Famously called “the Pearl of Africa” by Winston Churchill after a visit in 1907, Uganda has achieved stability and growing prosperity for its exceptionally friendly and hospitable people, who are sure to greet you with a “Hello mzungu!” Attracting increasing numbers of visitors is the country’s breathtaking scenery: from semidesert in the northeast to the lush and fertile shores of Lake Victoria, to the mountainous south and west with the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, home to the majestic mountain gorilla.

Known in colonial days as the Uganda Protectorate, Uganda gained its independence from Great Britain in 1962. The decades following independence were marked by military coups and periods of dictatorship (most infamously under Idi Amin), but 21st-century Uganda has stabilized into a multiparty democracy (presidential republic), with general elections held every five years. The capital city is Kampala.

 

Language & People

Uganda’s two official languages are English and Swahili. More than 30 indigenous languages are also in common use, with Luganda most prominent among them. The national population of 36 million includes a complex mix of ethnic groups: the Baganda are largest, comprising 17 percent of the population. Christians (84 percent) and Muslims (12 percent) are the nation’s two main religious groups.

Food & Drink

Uganda’s cuisine varies greatly by region, but is universally tasty and based on local vegetables and other fresh ingredients. Meals typically include a staple carbohydrate (rice, sweet potato, plantain, millet, or potatoes depending on the region), accompanied by a savory meat or groundnut stew. African lager-style beers are popular.

Weather & Elements

Uganda is situated on the equator and has a tropical climate; however, its relatively high altitude tempers the heat, and humidity is generally low. Year-round daytime temperatures range from 77° to 95° F, with the highest temperatures in January. There are two main rainy seasons: March through May and October to November. It’s best to avoid the heavy rains during April and May.

Entry Requirements & Visas

U.S. citizens: Passports and visas are required, and passports must be valid for at least six months beyond the date the visa is obtained. Visas (current fee $50 for a three-month single-entry tourist visa) may be obtained before arrival or at the port of entry, but it is recommended to obtain one prior to travel. For most up-to-date visa information and for non-U.S. citizens, see the Embassy of the Republic of Uganda website at www.ugandaembassy.com.

For visa and passport assistance services, we recommend Travel Document Systems: www.traveldocs.com.

Currency

Uganda uses the Ugandan shilling (UGX). As of November 2014, $1 US = 1 UGX. For up-to-date exchange rates, see www.oanda.com.

Foreign currency can be changed at banks and exchange offices in larger towns. ATMs are also available in larger towns. Credit cards are accepted only at travel agencies, major lodges, and hotels. Departure taxes ($50 US) are generally included in your flight ticket but, if not, can be paid in local or foreign currency. Post-2006 U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere.

Immunizations & Health

Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required for all travelers at all ports of entry. Children younger than five must have proof of a polio vaccination.

Malaria medication, hepatitis, tetanus, typhoid, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella vaccinations are also generally recommended for all travelers. Requirements and recommendations change frequently, so always check directly with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC: www.cdc.gov/travel; 800-232-4636), a travel clinic, and/or your personal physician for the most current information. Plan ahead for immunizations, as some require administration several months prior to departure.

Electricity

Alternating current of 240V and 50Hz is used in Uganda. Plugs typically have three prongs and are type G.

Phone & Internet

Uganda country code: +256
International access code calling out of Uganda: 000

  • Cell-phone coverage throughout Uganda is extensive, but cannot be guaranteed at all times, especially in remote areas.
  • Internet access is generally very good in towns and villages, but less reliable elsewhere, especially in parks and reserves.

For more information about Uganda, see the national tourism board website: www.visituganda.com.

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Guides

Paul Ruganitwali

Paul is Rwandan and has been a safari guide for nine years. He speaks French and English, among other languages. His most memorable encounter on safari was seeing a silverback and a female “flirting” before the male pretended not to be interested. The female wandered out of his sight and started playing with another male. When the silverback heard her grunts of delight, he ran down to find out what the noise was about and, boy, was he jealous!

Charles Kawooya

Charles is from Uganda and has been a safari guide for 16 years. He speaks four languages (English, Luganda, Runyankole, and Swahili). He loves spending time in the rainforest in the company of rare gorillas, whose remarkably human behavior he finds fascinating. His favorite location is Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, not only for the gorillas but also because it’s one of the best bird-watching sites in the whole of Uganda.

Francis Kiwanuka

Francis grew up in Masaka, Uganda and has been a guide for over 20 years. He speaks a number of languages including English, Swahili, Kinyarwanda, and Luganda. Francis’ favorite place to take guests is Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, where he enjoys seeing the gorillas hanging around Bwindi Lodge and eating the lush vegetation that surrounds the bandas.

Vincent Katwire

Vincent is from the Bushenyi District in western Uganda, but he is most at home in the rich, green rainforest of the towering Virunga Mountains, the natural habitat of the mighty mountain gorilla. He has been a guide for 10 years and loves how mountain gorillas seem to care for each other like humans do. Although he can’t speak gorilla (at least, not yet), Vincent does speak five languages (English, Runyankole, Luganda, Kinyarwanda, and Swahili) that he regularly uses on safari. His most precious memory is escorting a visually impaired guest on an incredible journey to visit the mountain gorillas.

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Dry Season

Grass is short, so it’s easy to spot wildlife that is concentrated near waterholes.

Temperate Season

Ideal Safari season – wildlife is easy to track, and the weather is temperate.

Rainy Season

Tropical downpours mean an ideal season for birding and photography.

Light Rains

Cooler weather & nighttime rains mean animals are more active during the day.

Dec, Jan, Feb & Jun, Jul & Aug: The dry season is the most popular time to track gorillas as it is less likely to rain, making the trails easier to manage. The skies are clear and the sun is shining. It is important to secure your gorilla tracking permits as early as possible. Average high: 77-81F. Average low: 61-64F.

Mar, Apr & May: The wettest time of year with most days clearing to see sunshine, as well. Gorilla tracking (and road travel) during this season can be treacherous and best suited to visitors looking for a challenge. Average high: 77-81F. Average low: 64F.

Sept, Oct & Nov: The light rains begin by October, making these months ideal for birding and the dramatic skies and scenery provide excellent opportunity for photography. The trails will likely be wet but generally manageable. Average high: 81F. Average low: 63F.

Read more about The Best Time To Visit

2 Uganda Safaris

Uganda

Bwindi Mountain Gorillas 4 Days / 3 Nights

Activities: Active Safaris, Cultural Visits, Gorilla TrackingClimb through the dense rainforests of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park to observe endangered mountain gorillas at close range in one of their last natural refuges.

Read more Highlights & Departures
Safari From $3,298 USD per persontrip details

Highlights

  • Climb thickly forested hills to discover rare mountain gorillas in their native habitat
  • Scan the forest canopy for monkeys and birds as you sip sundowners on your panoramic deck
  • Stride through the rainforest on a guided walk, surrounded by birds, butterflies, and exuberant tropical vegetation
  • Learn about local health care, sustainable development, or Batwa Pygmy traditions during a visit to a nearby village

Departure Dates


Make it your own! Private trips are just for you and your travel companions. Choose your preferred departure date and we handle all the details.

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We Speak Safari
Call 888-483-7696 | Request a Reservation  

Rwanda/Uganda

Gorillas in the Virungas & Bwindi 8 Days / 7 Nights

Activities: Active Safaris, Cultural Visits, Gorilla Tracking, Urban ExplorationsMeet mountain gorillas in the national parks of Rwanda and Uganda, traversing mist-shrouded forests and green volcanic slopes to come face-to-face with these gentle giants.

Read more Highlights & Departures
Safari From $6,498 USD per persontrip details

Highlights

  • Thrill to close encounters with mountain gorillas in three distinct national park
  • Listen for birdcalls and rustling golden monkeys on nature walks through the bamboo forest
  • Discover local culture during village visits and a guided hike with Batwa elders
  • Enjoy some of Africa’s lushest landscapes: mist-shrouded green volcanoes, sparkling lakes, and dense forests
  • Trade stories over sundowners on the scenic terraces of three lovely eco-lodges

Departure Dates


Jun 9-Jun 16Jul 7-Jul 14Aug 4-Aug 11Sep 1-Sep 8Oct 6-Oct 13Dec 1-Dec 8

Also available as a Private departure - choose your own dates!

NEED HELP DECIDING?

We Speak Safari
Call 888-483-7696 | Request a Reservation  

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