Guide to planning a safari in Uganda 2020
We share our specially prepared itineraries and look at the most popular Uganda wildlife national parks for safaris to help you plan your adventure to Uganda.
When visiting Uganda, the pearl of Africa many will emphasize that your itinerary wouldn’t be complete without a trip to see mountain gorillas. that’s because, gorilla tracking is Uganda’s main tourism activity and the best things to do on any African safari. However, when it comes to deciding what safari in Uganda, a lot of things for your choice.
So, you are considering traveling to Uganda, there are various factors that you need to understand. For instance, what kind of tour you are going to be on, for how long to spend in each place and what it shall include.
This guide is for those who would like to their first African wildlife safari to Uganda.
So, what a wildlife safari is like in Uganda?
A Uganda wildlife safari is all about covering a lot of ground as you drive from one place to another doing activities like early morning game drive with afternoon boat safari, treks through the jungles in search of gorillas or chimpanzees, hiking, nature walk, bird watching, sightseeing, community tours…. You can do all this by opting for a safari in vehicle which is the most popular, walking safari, hot air balloon safari or safari of other kind.
Of course, there are many adventurous activities such as white-water rafting and kayaking on the Nile river, canoeing, horseback rides, spot fishing. Its better to have a trip that allow you to try as many activities and view wildlife as possible.
There are many options for different types of travelers regardless of budget. What differentiates one itinerary from the other is the choice of accommodation and whether you fly in.
Yes, you will be glad to follow advise regarding the lodges and things to. There are many posts by bloggers, tour operators and travelers on various forums discussing their experiences in Uganda.
For instance, a solo traveler who spent 8 days on safari Uganda reviewed like this “It was a memorable trip. It would have been a very good journey even without the gorillas, but of course gorillas were the icing on cake”.
Some overall thoughts:
Wildlife viewing in Uganda may not be as good as a traditional Kenya or Tanzania safari. Though, the ability to combine that primate trekking safaris and other activities like boat safaris in Murchison falls, Queen Elizabeth and lake Mburo national parks is great. If you have been to Africa before, you can attest to that. But if you have never been to Africa before, you will be happy with what you see in Uganda.
As for the best time to visit, Uganda can be visited all year round. Though, this depends on the activities you wish to do. The high / dry season (December to February and June to September) are considered the best time for primate trekking like gorilla tracking and chimpanzee trekking as well game viewing. However, visiting off season (March to May and October to November) shouldn’t be overlooked. Because the number of visitors is low, you are able to get discounts for value and the landscape is green.
Getting around, Uganda has improved its road network which is good even for the self-drive enthusiast. However, expect to cover a lot ground with some drives involving long distances such as over 400 km sq about 8-9 hour-drive. This is dependent on how your itinerary is scheduled and variable road conditions.
Going on safari in Uganda, the most popular national parks
There are 10 Uganda wildlife national parks wherein you can go for a safari. Take some time to research which itinerary best suits your budget and other needs and go for it. Make sure that you find a registered tour operator. Here we look at 6 most popular for safari.
Safari in Murchison falls National Park
Most famous for the Murchison falls, arguably the world’s strongest waterfall. Murchison falls is formed as the waters of the Nile river squeezes through a narrow gorge and plunges over a 45-meter cliff with a thunderous roar. The mist around creates a trade mark rainbow. The view from the hike to the top of the falls is beautiful.
Murchison falls is the largest conservation area in uganda and covers a diverse habitat with tracts of woodlands, open grasslands dotted with borrosous palm trees, Nile-delta swamps.
Wildlife to see in Murchison falls
There are 79 mammals including leopard, lion, elephant, buffalo, hartebeest, hippos, giraffe, oribi, waterbuck, bushbuck, Uganda kob, bush pig and many more. 415 bird species including the pre-historic looking shoebill stork. Reptiles include Nile crocodiles
The park offers a wonderful Uganda safari experience, activities you can do include game drive, boat cruise on the Nile, night game drive, top of the falls hike, day nature walk, hot air balloon safaris, spot fishing, rafting and community tours.
When visited on its own the minimum number of days is 3 with an option to visit Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary or add an extra night in Budongo forest reserve for chimpanzee trekking.
Several accommodation options are available in the south and north side of the Nile. The good with staying on the northside of the river is that you will not queue for the early ferry on the early morning of your game drive. Murchison falls is located 5-6 hours drive from Kampala.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Uganda’s most visited park, Queen Elizabeth lies in the shadow of Rwenzori mountains on the rift valley floor. Its diverse habitats include tropical forests, kazinga channel, grasslands, wetlands, crater lakes provide home to 95 mammals and over 612 bird species. Big 4 mammals including tree climbing lions which are found in Ishasha the area where you pass driving from QENP to Bwindi southwestern Uganda.
What makes this park popular is its ability to offer travelers a variety of activities one can do in a single day. For instance, in the morning you can do chimpanzee tracking in Kalinzu forest or kyambura gorge. In the afternoon take a boat cruise along Kazinga channel and end with evening or night game drive.
There are experiential tourism activities such as lion tracking, hippo census, bird counts and mongoose tracking.
Kibale forest National Park
This park is known as the primate capital of the world because its home to 12 primates including chimpanzees. Therefore, Kibale forest national park has the highest concentration of primates in Africa. The primary activity is chimpanzee tracking which can be done in the morning and afternoon. Chimpanzee habituation experience gives a full day encounter with chimps. There’s also Kibale forest walk which can be done during day and at night. Its enjoyable but you may not see as much as you expect, just go for it if you love nature. Outside the park, you can as well visit Bigodi wetland for a community walk usually done in the afternoon.
Bwindi impenetrable forest national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park
Lake Mburo National Park
Kidepo valley National Park
Off the tourist radar
Semuliki national park
Rwenzori mountains national park
Days 1 – 4 visit Bwindi impenetrable forest national park with game drive in Lake Mburo national park. Activities you can undertake include gorilla tracking, walking safari or game drive in Lake Mburo.
Days 5 – 7 visit Kibale forest national park, queen Elizabeth national park, Bwindi impenetrable forest national park and lake Bunyonyi. Activities include gorilla tracking, chimpanzee tracking in Kibale forest, game drive and boat cruise on Kazinga channel which teem with birds, hippos, crocodiles, elephants and buffalos. From Queen Elizabeth NP to Bwindi via Ishasha wilderness offer potential sighting of tree climbing lions.
8 days Uganda visit Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, Murchison falls, Kibale forest national park, Queen Elizabeth NP, Bwindi forest/ Lake Bunyonyi. Activities you can undertake include rhino tracking, top of the falls hike which boasts breathtaking view of river Nile, game drive and river Nile boat cruise, exclusive boat ride, hot air balloon safari, chimpanzee tracking, Bigodi swamp walk, second boat cruise Kazinga channel, gorilla tracking, canoe or boat ride on Lake Bunyonyi.
One thing to note for trips starting at Entebbe going to Murchison falls and ending in southwestern Uganda. You should choose one leg of your flights to/from Kigali instead of driving long distance from south west to go through Entebbe both times. It might save you some time.
Days 9 – 15 You can include Kidepo valley national park far in the north, Murchison falls, Kibale forest, Queen Elizabeth, Bwindi, Mgahinga. Possible sightings in Kidepo include cheetah and ostrich which are not found in other parks. Also unique is golden monkey tracking in Mgahinga gorilla national park.
Other activities not included here can be added into any of the above itineraries. For instance, white water rafting and kayaking can be done for 1-day visit t Jinja which is 2 hour-drive east of Kampala city.