Uganda Safari Guide, Top Tips & Expert Advice
We are all in love with Uganda, the pearl of Africa and our love for this country will mostly encourage you to come and visit Uganda with the rest of us. This is a famous country known for the very fantastic landscapes and also Africa’s beautiful Uganda safari wildlife experiences from Chimpanzee trekking, gorilla safaris, game drives, walking tours, bird watching as well as boat expeditions. You will also get chance to view the montane forests, marshes, grasslands, lakes, the Savannah , mountains, the arid hills as well as the famous Equator. You will also be spoilt by our many tailor made vacations in case you are so keen with wildlife as well as bird watching.
Uganda is a unique place where you can enjoy gorillas, the birds, adventure tourism, the chimps as well as the mountain gorillas. This country is the world’s number one destination for the snow capped mountains, misty forests, the green hills, as well as the lakes that are so clear. It’s no doubt called “the gem of Africa”
You can find gorilla trekking in the famous Bwindi impenetrable National park, the chimpanzee expeditions in Kibale National park, Budongo forest and also in Kyambura Gorge of Queen Elizabeth NP, there are also the bush babies, pangolins, in the giant forests as well as the wealth of birds. More so, you don’t need to be a safari lover in order to enjoy this beautiful country, even though you are an adventure lover or a sports lover, you will enjoy the fantastic climbs of Mount Rwenzori commonly known for mountain climbing and get to enjoy a hike on Mount Stanley or experience some fresh air of the shores of Lake Victoria.
The pearl of Africa is so diverse for those interested in birds, walking and trekking tours, as well as primates. All these provide value for money once on safari in Uganda. This country is also much affordable as compared to Kenya and Tanzania and also the cost of gorilla tours in Uganda permits here are much cheaper than those of Rwanda. You can also enjoy the unique blend of wildlife as well as vegetation since the east African Savannah as well as the woodland meets with the West African rain forest.
Both the Rift valley and the many volcanic activities have created the plains on the rift valley floor as well as the forests and the mountains plus the lakes of Albert, Victoria, Edward, George as well as Edward. Uganda has also got the highest concentration of primate species with in East Africa including; five bush baby species, the colous monkey species, galago species and the eastern pottos. The country has also got the largest number of bird species with in East Africa and mostly half of Africa’s bird species are found in East Africa including the famous shoebill stock which was recently classified as one of the pelican specie.
A typical Safari in Uganda
The more knowledge you have about a particular destination, the more enjoyable your gorilla safari or Uganda safari will be at the end! Therefore you are encouraged to contact travel specialists in order to ensure that the many questions are answered and you have no worries at all. Below is the information that will help you get ready for an adventurous experience and will also help you get value on your safari holiday in Uganda.
First and foremost, Uganda the pearl of Africa is a land locked country situated on the northern side of the famous Lake Victoria in East Africa. It’s also centrally and geographically located in Africa. Uganda’s society is mostly still rural with over 70% of the population living in the rural areas. There are also some conventional traditions as well as practices that still exist in most of the areas that make the tourist experience more enjoyable. This country is so unique in that it has got many different groups of people each of which has got different traditions, artifacts, customs, as well as many colorful ceremonies. For example, the bagishu people in Mbale commonly known for the circumcision practices referred to as “Imbalu”, here many of the tribe possess their own traditional dances like the common Runyege among the Banyoro, the Dingi dingi in the Acholi and the Ntogoro among the Batooro and many more. You will also enjoy the traditional marriages as well as the traditional ways of dressing in each and every tribe. This country has also been a cultural adventure due to the presence of over 30 different languages that are native and these belong to the five (5) different linguistic groups as well as the varied cultural variety of the music art and hand crafts.
Many of the inhabitants in Uganda are mainly found in the southwestern hilly areas and these are the Bambuti as well as the Batwa pygmies that live in the far most western part of Uganda just near the famous Bwindi impenetrable NP, which is a home to the mighty mountain gorillas. Within the northeastern corner of this country, you will find the Karamajongs, who are a conservative pastoralist tribe with their life style similar to that of the Masai of Kenya and their initiation ceremonies are worth viewing. The visitors are always allowed to view these traditional ceremonies and are not supposed to take photographs without permission.
This place is where the savannah joins with the West Africa jungle. Here you can view some lions as they move in the open plains early in the morning. You can also track the chimpanzees with in the undergrowth of these rain forest. The next day night be for exploring the tropical channels that have hippos as well as crocodiles before going to the misty green mountains in order to track and look into the big brown eyes of these unique endangered mountain gorillas that are led by the big silverback. By this one can declare Uganda as a unique and an attractive range of the natural endless plains.
The different flights to Uganda
Most of the flights through Uganda do connect through the capital of Kenya, Nairobi and with Kenya Airways and the British Airlines and these are known to be the main carriers. The main other flights to Uganda include; KLM, Egypt Air, Ethiopian Airways, Emirates, Kenya airways, Rwanda air, Etihad Air, and the Turkish Airline and many more.
About the Health
As soon as you confirm your Uganda safari, you will be able to receive the necessary information as regards to health safety measures as well as immunization for travelling to a particular destination. We also recommend that you consult the doctor or a public health officer to help with assisting in deciding the medications as well as vaccinations that you need for life safety during your safari. Even though our company staff are not licensed medical experts, these are so knowledgeable about the real areas , environment as well as the conditions under which you will traveling and those that have a high chance of exposure to the different health conditions and also will help you make some resolutions that regard immunizations and well as prescribing different medicines. Also the defensive measures against these infectious diseases might need immediate and advance planning for the various immunizations. More so the parents as well as pregnant women vaccinating with the young ones should seek advice from their pediatrician.
Though protection is needed, traveling to Uganda for a safari is as safe as those developing countries. The travelers are however encouraged to be so curious about what they eat and drink, always avoid eating food from the stands especially that sold at the roadside and end ever to drink boiled water. Always safeguard against the hot direct sun and get a lot of fluids. Remember to wear a mosquito repellent during the evening periods. The famous Malaria prophylaxis is always suggested and the other suggestions include; Larium, Doxycycline or atovaquone and roguanil mostly known as Malarone. It’s also good to consider vaccination against yellow fever, hepatitis, typhoid as well as tetanus, measles as well as polio.
The passport and Visa requirement
You will also need a traveler’s passport to enter into Uganda and it must also be valid for only 6 months after the date of your return. A visa is also needed and it’s advised that you get a visa before coming through the Ugandan embassy or at the visa service closer to you. The non US citizens must consult the Ugandan Embassy for the existing entry requirements. In case you have no close embassy to you, you can apply for a Visa online. Also end ever to have a yellow fever vaccination since its mandatory and you need to have it at the time of the application. More so, the visas can be obtained on arrival at the airport and it costs USD 50.
Items to pack for any Ugandan safari
Here we provide you with a packing list and also recommend travel items for your particular safari upon confirmation of your reserved tour. More so, we recommend that you carry light clothes with warm cardigans, walking shoes, rain coat as well as a back pack to carry the packed meals and the cameras. There is a more specific list that will be forwarded to you once you confirm your tour with us.
The people of Uganda
The famous Lake Kyoga also defines the northern boundary of all the Bantu speaking people in Uganda and these dominate the east, south and the central in Uganda. These include; the Baganda, Basoga, Banyankole and the Bagishu. In the northern side, there are the Lango and the Acholi near the Sudan boarder, these also speak the Nilotic languages. These pygmies stay in the forest with in the west.
Official Language: English.
The Currency of Uganda
Regarding what is mostly said and written in the books, credit cards are not widely used while in larger hotels and tour companies, there are high surcharges are standard. More so Barclays as well as Standard chartered Bank also offer cash advances via visa cards as well as ATMs. It’s also known that the Uganda shilling is stable against the major currencies including the US Dollar. The mostly used foreign currency is the USD and the other currencies include; Euros, and sterling that are not commonly used. However, the smaller notes below $50 always gets a lower exchange rate. We also recommend that you exchange your money in the capital in order to get a better exchange rate. Also avoid exchanging money at the border since you will find many con men as well as thieves.
WILDLIFE SPOTS & UGANDA NATIONAL PARKS
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
This national park is situated in the south western Uganda and covers parts of Kisoro, Rukungiri, as well as Kabale districts. It’s found in a hilly country side together with the low land forest just outside the boundary that consists an important water catchment area for the rivers that supply the agricultural land that surround the region. This park is a true equatorial forest that harbors 4 gorilla groups. Within the dense vegetation, the Columbus monkeys are seen jumping from branch to branch. There are also chimps that are in the families of 20 or 30 and these make rounds as they search for plants and fruits to eat.
The best time to visit Uganda is late December towards late February and also from June to September, since the weather at this time of the year is so dry and warm. The temperatures at around this time are at 25 degrees Celsius.
Kibale National Park
This tropical rain forest provides large forest elephants and also the park contains the largest population of this sub species in Uganda, even though these are rarely seen and are so dangerous, their signs of presence are abundant. The park is mostly famous for the variety of primates and its families of the habituated chimpanzees, this is home to over 12 species of primates and provide one of the highest primate densities in the world. You can enjoy guided walks and get chance to find different families of chimpanzees as well as monkey species. There are also the sightings of the birds with in the forest are so impressive and there are over 325 species and many of which cannot be found anywhere else. There are over 144 species of butterflies.
Lake Mburo National park
This national park lies within the rainy shadow which is between the Rwenzori Mountains and Lake Victoria. The park receives an average of 800mm of rain per year. The park got its name from the two brothers Mburo and Kigarama who lived in a large valley. One night, Kigarama came to dream that they were in danger and he woke up the next morning, and told his brother Mburo of this dream and said they should move. However, Mburo ingored his advice and Kigarama oved up into the hills. This valley flooded and the lake was formed and drowned Mburo. Today, this lake is named after him and the hills are also called Kigarama after his brother. This word Mburo is also similar to the Mboro which is the Runyankole name of the cassine tree with the powerful aphrodisiac affect. This tree also shows signs of bark and branch removal and maybe seen close to the Kigambira loop cross roads.
Murchison Falls National Park
This national park is one of the spectacular national park in Uganda and also in Africa. This is also the largest game reserve in the country and covers an area of about 3,840 sq.km and has the most concentration of animals along the river. You will find the inspiring Murchison falls, where the Nile River hurls itself with in the appalling convulsions through the narrow crevice and also plunges over 4o meters which is one of the breathtaking leap. Before you reach these falls, you can find Karuma falls where the Nile cascades over 23 kilometres of these rapids with in the breathing sight. This is also known to be the most exciting white water in Africa.
You can also enjoy a launch trip up stream towards the falls and is one of the great experience in Africa. You can view the elephants, hartebeests, buffalos, giraffes, crocodiles, antelopes as well as the birds including the shoebill stork. You can view variety of vegetation that range from the riparian forests and the swamp lands to the savannahs that provides the opportunity of seeing many animals that are found in Uganda.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
This national park also gives a unique experience as well as an unforgettable adventure. The park also covers an area of 1,978 km and is located across to the equator with in the western Rift valley of south western Uganda and it’s close to famous mountains of the moon. This Rwenzori mountains is so adventurous with the Virunga National park in DRC. The park also has Lake Edward which is also connected to Lake George by the Kazinga channel.
Kidepo National Park
This national park covers an area of about 1436km and it’s situated in the Karamoja region in the northwest Uganda. This is a rugged savannah park that is dominated by the 2750m mount Morungole and is divided by the rivers of Kidepo and Narus. The perennial waters also make River Kidepo an oasis with in the semi desert area that harborsover 86 mammal species that include; the leopards, lions, cheetah, giraffes, the bat eared fox as well as over 500 bird species. The park was also established in 1960 under the rule of Milton Obote. The eviction of the IK people out of the fertile valley of kidepo also contributed to a famine among the IK. This case is also used as an example of the unacceptable consequences of not taking the community needs into account and trying to design the game reserves.
Semliki Valley National Park
The national park contains a forest area at the base of the mountains of the moon just at the border of DRC. Its location makes it so ideal to be able to spend a few days as you relax away from the rest of the world. This is the only national park that is composed of the tropical lowland forest and its land is so flat that creates a startling contrast towards the rugged Ruwenzori Mountains nearby. Its forests contains of mosaic of different micro habitants that provide variety of wildlife. You also find the hot spring area that attracts lots of birds and supply salt for many other animals. Some of these animals found here include; leopard, elephants, buffalos, civet, bush baby, and the scaly tailed flying squirrel and many more
Mt Elgon National park
The park is situated on the Uganda-Kenya boarder. This is an extinct volcano mountain and its highest peak is Wagagai at 4321m, and it’s mostly located on the Uganda side. Its highest peak on the Kenya side is the Koitoboss. Its main attraction is the beautiful caves along its slopes. There are also the fantastic caverns and you can easily get a chance to see the elephants inside them. These caves open to the tourists and are called Mackingeny, Chepnyali and Kitum. It has got incredibly beautiful flora and there are always a few ways of experiencing the beauty of this mount on foot. Mnay of the trekkers start from a town known as Kimilili, which is 36km south of the Kitale along the road to Kisumu. From this point, get to the matatu and to the Kapsakwanyand also hike to Kaberua forest station. You will enjoy another 20km to the famous Chepkitale forest Station that was abandoned. You will find a hut passed this station and about 4 hour walk to the lower Elgon Tarn that is a small lake. And lastly is the crater rim that lies in Koaitoboss peak as well as the Suam hot spring.
Article Written By
Brenda Nabukenya is an author, a traveler and an African safari ethusiast. She features in the Forbes Magazine, Africa Tour Operators and the Safari Traveler Magazine.