<Home/Articles/Wildlife and beyond: the best reasons to visit Uganda

Wildlife and beyond: the best reasons to visit Uganda

|

When you picture Uganda, you’ll probably conjure up images of close encounters with mountain gorillas, treks through lush forest-clad hills and jeep safaris across swathes of rolling savannah grasslands. But look beyond the wildlife (extraordinary as it is) and you’ll discover a country that buzzes with a vibrant energy. One where richly spiced dishes linger on the tongue and in the memory, a shy smile from a local tribesman gives way to the experience of a lifetime, and mesmerizing landscapes go hand-in-hand with exhilarating adventures. Let our local experts show you the true Uganda, from wildlife to tribal villages, whitewater rafting to coffee tasting. 

Boats, bikes, jeeps, and feet – experience Uganda’s wildlife your way

Winston Churchill famously wrote that “for magnificence, for variety of form and color, for profusion of brilliant life — bird, insect, reptile, beast — for vast scale — Uganda is truly ‘the Pearl of Africa.” And no trip to Uganda would be complete without fully exploring this extraordinary biodiversity. But it’s not simply the diversity of wildlife that makes Uganda stand out. How you view that wildlife is equally diverse – treks to see mountain gorillas and chimps, boat trips in search of elephants, biking safaris to track zebras, and thrilling game drives. 

Ask our local experts and they’ll tell you the best way to experience Uganda’s famed mountain gorillas is on foot. Trekking through the mists and lush rainforest of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park offers one of the best opportunities to observe these incredible animals in the wild. With around 460 mountain gorillas in the park – roughly half the world’s population – you can spend anywhere between 30 minutes and seven hours tracking a group of gorillas, and learning more about the ecosystem and other animals and birds of the rainforest as you walk.  

Gorillas may be Uganda’s more famous residents, but they’re not the only primates to be tracked. Kibale National Park is home to the largest population of primates in East Africa, including chimpanzees, red colobus and the red-tailed monkey. Look up as you walk through the tropical rainforest where the canopy sings with the distinctive calls of its inhabitants, including 300 species of bird. 

While trekking through the rainforest foliage is the best way to track and spend time with our distant ancestors, taking to the water in Murchison Falls National Park brings you closer to some of Uganda’s riverine residents. Follow the route of the Nile in search of hippos, crocodiles, waterbucks, warthogs and Ugandan kobs, and marvel at the power of nature with a cruise to the thundering waters of Murchison Falls.  

Further south, the Kazinga Channel is one of the main water bodies in Queen Elizabeth National Park and attracts a wealth of wildlife to its shores. Drifting leisurely along on a water safari brings you closer to some of Uganda’s Big Five as you keep a watchful eye out for buffalo and elephants, along with crocodiles and hippos wallowing in the shallows. If dry land and two wheels are more your style, hop on a bike and explore the tracks of Lake Mburo National Park. Take your time to pedal through the park, ably assisted by your experienced guide, and get an immersive view of the park’s wildlife, including impalas, warthogs and Burchell’s zebra.  

Finally, we couldn’t miss the classic game drive. You’re spoilt for choice in Uganda; traverse the Kasenyi Plains in Queen Elizabeth National Park in search of Ugandan kobs, whose grazing habits keep the grass low and improve your chances of spotting elephants, bushbuck, antelope and lions. Drive through the savannahs of the Ishasha Plains to spy on the anomaly of the tree-climbing lions who laze in the web of branches of the giant fig trees. Explore the trails that bisect the rolling savannah of Kidepo Valley National Park, where zebras, leopards and Rothschild’s giraffes can be spotted, backdropped by the montane forest-clad peaks of Mount Morungole and the Natera Hills. 

Discover the ancient practices of Uganda’s tribal groups

While Uganda’s gorillas may be top of every visitor’s list, it’s worth carving out some time in your trip to spend with the tribal groups who have lived amongst the wildlife for centuries. Experiencing life with the Batwa tribe in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a privileged opportunity to understand the age-old forest practices of their hunter-gatherer culture and the learnings of their ancestors. Watch a performance of a traditional dance, explore the forest with a traditional healer to discover ancient medicinal uses of the plants you find, and spend time with a local brewer as he transforms bananas into gin.  

If your journey brings you to Kidepo Valley National Park, you’ll be welcomed by the Karamojong tribe, whose woven wraps add a vibrant flash of color to the landscape. If time and stamina allow, climb to the top of Mount Morungole to be rewarded by an encounter with the Ik tribe, one of Africa’s most remote tribal groups. This first-hand experience of their everyday life is a rare insight into a fascinating culture that’s remained almost unchanged over the centuries. 

Experience Uganda’s landscapes on an adrenaline adventure

As you travel across the country, you’ll witness the diverse landscapes Uganda has to offer. From the mist-swathed rainforests to the rugged peaks that rise from the plains, volcanic craters to crashing waterfalls, the dramatic beauty unfolds in all directions. The great outdoors beckons at every turn – combine flora, fauna, adventure and landscapes by pulling on your hiking boots to scale Mount Elgon, the oldest solitary volcano in East Africa and home to a vast collection of rare plants, rich wildlife and panoramic views over the surrounding landscapes.  

While gazing up at the birds and primates of the rainforest canopy is undeniably a bucket-list experience, why not get a little closer and soar through the air between the tallest trees? Ziplining in Mabira Forest brings you face-to-face, perhaps quite literally, with red-tailed monkeys, African fish eagles, palm-nut vultures and great blue turacos as you ride the network of ziplines. Get a bird’s eye view of the Musamya River and Griffin Falls as you pass overhead, through the dense foliage and tapestry of greens.  

If ziplining ignites your appetite for adventure, head to Jinja, a relatively short distance from Mabira. There’s plenty here to get the adrenaline pumping; dive headfirst towards the Nile on a bungee cord, tackle its crashing rapids in a kayak, or experience the beauty of the Nile Valley on horseback.  

Further south, the landscapes around Lake Bunyonyi beg to be explored by boat and on foot. Take a traditional form of transport and paddle across the lake in a dugout canoe to spot water birds like the pied kingfisher, framed by the emerald green hills beyond. Hike to the top of the Kyabahinga Peninsula to soak in the far-reaching views over the lush, forested islands that dot the vast lake, with Muhavura Volcano safely in the distance.  

Sip coffee at Sipi Falls

Those same lush landscapes lend themselves to the growing of tea and coffee. Travel through rolling hills blanketed with a neat patchwork of tea bushes and discover the art of plucking the ‘two leaves and a bud’ and the complex process of crushing, tearing and curling. Finally, sample the product of that skilled craft with a cup of the freshest tea, surrounded by the picture-postcard landscape of perfectly manicured plants.  

While the legacy of the British has left a taste for tea, coffee is growing in popularity and Uganda’s reputation for a premium brew is on the rise. If you’ve added a hike up Mount Elgon or a visit to Sipi Falls to your itinerary, a coffee plantation tour may provide a spot of rocket fuel to keep you going. Some of the world’s finest Arabica coffee beans are grown by small producers and local families in the foothills, and a tour of a farm is a chance to see where your morning caffeine hit begins its life. Test your tastebuds with a tasting of the varieties to discover the complexities and rich flavors of Ugandan coffee just moments from their origins.  

Make it happen

From wildlife to whitewater rafting, bungee jumping to biking safaris, our experts have the local knowledge to create an itinerary that’s about much more than mountain gorillas. They’ll help you to get under the skin of the country and discover the true wealth of experiences Uganda has to offer.  

Get inspired

Here's some articles to inspire you...

Wildlife of Zambia

12 June 2021

How to Photograph Wildlife

20 June 2017

Book with confidence
99% of reviewers recommend us