Uganda is home to half of the world’s population of gorillas and the unique experiences one can have with these incredible animals is once in a lifetime.
Staying in very comfortable lodges and camps at night, trek into the bush anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours in search of one of the rare habituated gorilla families. Operators of the gorilla treks know where the families are at any given time and therefore spotting them and spending time watching them is almost guaranteed. If time permits, opt for a longer safari – Uganda actually has all the Big Five and over 1,000 bird species!Read More...
Bwindi National Park
Located on the edge of Rift Valley and listed as a World Heritage Site due to its unique ecology and biological diversity, it is home to an estimated 400 mountain gorilla’s – approximately half of the world’s population along with baboons, chimpanzees and many of the planet’s rarest birdlife.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Home to nearly 100 animal species, along with over 600 varieties of birdlife. The park is also home to lion, leopard, jackal, hyena and hippo. Visitors can also enjoy tracking chimpanzee which can be spotted year round.
Uganda’s largest protected wildlife sanctuary where the Nile River bursts through a narrow gorge and flows into a calm river. There is an abundance of wildlife including hippo, crocodile, herds of buffalo, lion, leopard, elephant, giraffe and a large variety of bird species.
Kibale National Park
Located in western Uganda where visitors can enjoy encounters with chimpazee along with red colobus monkey, grey-cheeked mangabet, oliva baboon and red tailed monkey. The park also offers incredible bird viewing, butterflies and other wildlife such as leopard, buffalo and elephant.
The mountainous region (Virungas) includes Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda), Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (Uganda) and Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of Congo) where over 8 families (480 gorillas) live.
If you are visiting for gorilla trekking you may be more comfortable during the drier seasons (December – February and June – September) but Uganda is a great place to visit anytime of the year.
Uganda had long been at the top of my bucket list of countries to visit. As the plane descended into Entebbe across the waters of Lake Victoria, I could feel my sense of anticipation growing – as it always does whenever I return to Africa.
After a tranquil overnight stay at Hotel No. 5 in the city’s leafy suburbs, I took a light aircraft flight to Kasese Airstrip in the west of the country, and continued by road to Kyambura Gorge Lodge. The picturesque drive through small towns and villages also traverses Queen Elizabeth National Park, which allowed for some roadside bird watching. Uganda is a birder’s paradise with over 1,000 species and for a dedicated ‘twitcher’ such as myself the opportunity to observe vibrant red bishops and iridescent black bee-eaters up close was not to be missed!
Kyambura Gorge Lodge is an ideal location for tracking the resident chimps in the lush sunken rainforest of Kyambura Gorge. The gorge itself is a mystical and secret Eden scored 100 metres deep into the surrounding plain of the Kichwamba escarpment and is home to 27 so-called ‘lost chimpanzees’ due to their isolation from the nearby jungles of Queen Elizabeth National Park.
My ranger guide and I descended into the gorge and were immediately assailed by a cacophony of hoots, grunts and barks as we made contact with the first of the Kyambura chimps – it’s amazing how loud and vocal just two chimps can be! We continued along a forest path and were incredibly lucky to come across a dozen members of the troop relaxing near the edge of the river because, when they choose to, they can move quickly and silently and almost seem to disappear into the undergrowth. I was amazed at how calm they were in our presence – the dominant males set the tone by lounging about in a sun-dappled clearing and the others followed their cue with youngsters playing in the low branches of the trees above our heads and a mother nursing a baby nearby in a more secluded part of the greenery.
It was a pleasure and a privilege to spend time with Kyambura’s ‘lost chimpanzees’ and I would strongly recommend the experience to anyone travelling to Uganda. Combine your chimp encounter with mountain gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, game viewing in Queen Elizabeth National Park and a Nile River adventure in Murchison Falls National Park for a full understanding of why Uganda is known as “the pearl of Africa”.
Tony O’Callaghan, Travel Designer
Currency Ugandan Shilling. US dollars are the easiest currency to take with you.
Language English is Uganda’s official language but also widely spoken are Kiswahili, Luganda, Runyankole, Rukiga and Rutoro.
Why we love it The “Pearl of Africa” has had its ups and downs over the last decade, yet it is one of only three countries in the world to visit the endangered mountain gorillas and is home to over 50% of them. Uganda is also a country with fantastic natural scenery and a rich mosaic of tribes and cultures. Travelling through Uganda, you will be captivated by its beauty, safety, accessibility and friendliness. The natural beauty of its people and its landscape are outstanding. As well as the silverback and blackback mountain gorillas, Uganda is famed for its chimpanzees and Golden Monkeys of Mgahinga among others. Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth National Parks also have good abundance of elephant, lion, buffalo and other African wildlife and are less busy than the other traditional safari destinations. Uganda is also endowed with over 1,000 different bird species, making this a twitcher’s paradise. Random fact: the name Gorilla is derived from the Greek word Gorillai, meaning “hairy woman”.
Weather The weather is based around rainy season and dry season in Uganda. For gorilla trekking which is undoubtedly the main reason most people are wanting to visit, it is best to keep clear of the rainy season, and therefore the best time will be January, February or June to September.
Social customs & quirks Situated at the geographical heart of the African continent, Uganda has long been a cultural melting pot, as evidenced by the existence of 30 plus different indigenous languages belonging to five distinct linguistic groups, and an equally diverse cultural mosaic of music, art and handicrafts. The country’s most ancient inhabitants, confined to the hilly southwest, are the Batwa and Bambuti Pygmies, relics of the hunter-gatherer cultures that once occupied much of East Africa to leave behind a rich legacy of rock paintings, such as at the Nyero Rock Shelter near Kumi. At the cultural core of modern-day Uganda lie the Bantu-speaking kingdoms of Buganda, Bunyoro, Ankole and Toro, whose traditional monarchs – reinstated in the 1990s after having been abolished by President Milton Obote in 1967 – still serve as important cultural figureheads.
Festivals & events Uganda’s Independence Day is 09 October, Heroes Day 09 June and Martyr’s Day 03 June. Christmas and New Year are celebrated the same as the world over.
Health* Please contact your General Practitioner for advice regarding the recommended vaccination programme for travellers to this region. The only compulsory health requirement is a Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate if coming from, or travelling through, an infected area. Malaria precautions are essential any time of year and there may be specific vaccinations you need if visiting chimpanzees.
Notes *Please be aware that Health information is subject to change at any time and you should always double check these requirements at the time of booking and before travel.
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