Uganda, often referred to as the “Pearl of Africa” is a land-locked country on the northern shores of Lake Victoria. The equator runs across the southern part of the country. Uganda is most famous for being the source of the River Nile, and the home of the greatly endangered mountain gorilla. There are some fine national parks and wildlife; attractive countryside with lakes, rivers and waterfalls; and a rich cultural background among the people.
All safaris begin in Uganda’s capital city, Kampala. The name Kampala came from a Bantu word “mpala” meaning a type of antelope which the Buganda chiefs used to keep on the slope of a hill near Mengo Palace.
The colonial administrators established their post at this hill in 1890 marking the birth of what became known as The Fort at Kampala Hill. As time went on, traders moved to Kampala and the settlement grew over surrounding hills.
Kampala was declared a township in 1906, a municipality in 1949, and a city in 1962 when it was subsequently declared the capital.
Modern Kampala is spread over seven hills. It has retained its traditional charm and is one of the greenest capital cities in Africa. At the same time, it is a bustling city, with modern and efficient services. People from all corners of the world working and living in Kampala ensure that the city is a melting pot for a broad range of cultures.
Entebbe Airport is located on the shores of Lake Victoria, 40 km from the city centre, and offers regular services to regional hubs as well as major cities worldwide.
The town of Jinja is best known for being the source of the River Nile, and lies on the shores of Lake Victoria. Jinja is the second largest town in Uganda, and is located 80 km east of Kampala, on the road to Kenya.
The driving time from Kampala to Jinja is around 1 ½ hours. The drive will take you through plantations of sugar cane and tea, in the fertile Ugandan countryside. Once in Jinja, you can see the Owen Falls Dam, the Source of the Nile and the Bujagali Falls which are actually white water rapids. Activities here include white water rafting at the Bujagali Falls, bungee jumping over the River Nile and quad biking.
At 3840 sq. km, Murchison Falls is the largest National Park in Uganda. Here is the awe inspiring Murchison Falls where the River Nile hurls itself in convulsions through a narrow crevice and then plunges 40 metres in one breathtaking leap.
The park has a variety of vegetation ranging from riparian forests and swamp lands to broad savannah, and provides visitors the opportunity of seeing large concentrations of wildlife including lion, leopard, civet, hyena, elephant, giraffe, buffalo, hippo, crocodile, a host of smaller game, small primates and many bird species, including the rare shoebill stork.
The park is especially famous for crocodiles and hippos. Activities include game drives, a drive to the top of the falls, a boat cruise on the River Nile to the base of the falls, a boat cruise to the River Nile Delta, as well as guided nature and bird walks. Forest walks and a chimpanzee trek can be done in the nearby Budongo Forest. En-route to Murchison Falls, you can visit Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary and track white rhinos.
The main part of Murchison Falls National Park – the Paraa area – is located 320 km (5 1/2 hours) from Kampala, via the town of Masindi. As the park is bisected by the River Nile, there are scheduled ferry services to carry vehicles and passengers from one side to the other. It is a smooth drive to Murchison Falls, and it is generally recommended to drive. However, if you are short of time and prefer to fly, there are daily flights from Entebbe Airport to Pakuba Airsrip. Landings at Chobe Airstrip are also possible.
This park is located in the western area of the Great Rift Valley, near the famous Rwenzori Mountains, or “Mountains of the Moon” which Livingstone had to cross in his quest to find the source of the White Nile. The park covers almost 2000 sq. km, and includes a remarkable variety of ecosystems from semi-deciduous tropical forest to green meadows, savannah, crater lakes and swamps. There is a wide range of wildlife in the park, including lion, leopard, elephant, hippo, buffalo, hyena, a host of smaller game, small primates and over 500 bird species. Activities include game drives, a boat cruise on the majestic Kazinga Channel, chimpanzee trekking at the nearby Kyambura Gorge, as well as guided nature and bird walks. The remote Ishasha area of the park in the far south is famous for tree climbing lions.
The main part of Queen Elizabeth National Park – the Mweya area – is accessed by road at 435 km (6 1/2 hours) from Kampala. The drive is very scenic with beautiful views of the western rim of the Great Rift Valley. A stop at the equator offers the opportunity to take photographs and buy souvenirs. There are are also twice daily flights from Entebbe Airport on Aerolink Uganda which will land at Mweya airstrip in the heart of the park, or Kihihi Airstrip which is 1 1/2 hours from the remote Ishasha area of the park.
The park covers an area of 321 square kilometeres and is located on the edge of the Western Rift Valley. This mysterious and awesome forest is true African jungle, and is so called because the dense undergrowth, vines and other vegetation make it almost “impenetrable”. Huge trees are festooned with creepers and plants such as mistletoe and orchids. Giant thickets of bamboo thrive in the humid atmosphere and, where sunlight breaks through, the elegant heliconia or lobster claw, spreads its colourful petals. The forest is a sanctuary for almost half the world’s population of mountain gorillas, which is the rarest race of gorilla. Activities include a gorilla tracking expedition in the forest. The time taken and the terrain vary with the movements of the gorillas. Once you sight the gorillas, you are permitted to view them for an hour. Observing these great primates is a moving and exciting experience never to be forgotten.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a long drive from Kampala, at 495 km (approx. 9 hours), driving past the breathtaking scenery of the western part of the Great Rift Valley. If you have time, it is generally recommended to take a circuit safari, combining Bwindi with Queen Elizabeth National Park and/or Lake Mburo National Park which all lie west of Kampala. There are also daily flights from Entebbe Airport on Aerolink Uganda which cut out the long drive to Bwindi. Southern Bwindi is served by a morning service to the town of Kisoro, which is around 1 1/2 hours away from Southern Bwindi. Bwindi’s Buhoma sector is served by twice daily flights to Kihihi Airstrip, which is around 1 1/2 hours away from Bwindi Buhoma.
This park is located between the towns of Masaka and Mbarara and is the only one to contain an entire lake. The attractive acacia-dotted savannah covers an area of 256 square kilometres, and is home to huge herds of impala, as well as the uncommon topi, eland, klipspringer and other antelope. Zebra and buffalo also graze these peaceful acres. At the lake, there are hippo and crocodile, and a wonderful diversity of birds. Catch a glimpse of water birds diving for fish, the Marabou stork, bee-eaters and the cheeky Bronze tailed starling, as well as the majestic Crested crane. Activities include game drives, a boat trip on the lake, as well as guided nature and bird walks.
Lake Mburo National Park is easily accessed by road at 230 km (4 hours) from Kampala. The drive offers the opportunity to pass several interesting market villages as well as the equator.
Isolated from the Ugandan mainstream by the harsh plains north of Mt. Elgon, Kidepo is one of Africa’s last great wilderness areas. Tucked into the northeast corner of Uganda, this park covers an area of 1436 sq. km. Kidepo Valley National Park is dominated by the 2750 m. Mount Morungole and is transected by the Kidepo and Narus Rivers. The park boasts spectactular scenery and his home to a large variety of mammals including lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant, giraffe, buffalo, kudu, Beisa oryx, as well as almost 500 bird species. Activities here include game drives and game walks.
It is generally recommended to fly to Kidepo, and the journey time is 1 1/2 hours from Entebbe Airport.
This park lies to the north east of Queen Elizabeth National park and covers an area of 560 sq. km. There is a great emphasis on conservation, sustainable utilisation and non-consumptive uses of this forest. There are eleven species of primates living in Kibale Forest, the main attraction being the many families of chimpanzees. The grassland in the south of the park is home to various interesting species of birds and insects, while buffalo, warthog and Uganda Kob can also be sighted. Activities here include primate walks and nature walks.
This reserve is located in the heart of the Albertine Rift Valley. The reserve is bordered by the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains and Lake Albert. Previously known as the Toro-Semliki Game Reserve, Semliki Wildlife Reserve is the oldest protected area in Uganda. It is unique; gifted with geographic barriers that have formed a natural haven for wildlife. Activities include game drives, nature walks, primate walks and boat cruises on Lake Albert.
Semliki Wildlife Reserve is a bird watcher’s paradise.
Semliki Wildlife Reserve is located 380 km (a 6 hour drive) from Kampala, via the town of Fort Portal. There are also twice daily flights from Entebbe Airport to Semliki on Aerolink Uganda.