Uganda is an amazing place for the adventurous traveler! I recently spent 8 days traveling throughout this beautiful country and only scratched the surface of the exciting activities the country has to offer. My expert guide, Eric, and my traveling companions filled our time with wildlife viewings, primate treks to see gorillas and chimpanzees, a waterfall hike, boat rides, a walking safari to see rhinos, and cultural interactions. There is so much to see and do here! Our first stop after arriving in Entebbe was at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is the only place to find wild rhinos in Uganda. It is working to grow the population of white rhinos in Uganda so they can eventually be reintroduced to the national parks. Upon arrival, our group was briefed by our guide and then we set out to find the rhinos. After driving a short distance into the park, we got out and walked through the bush to find a group of four white rhinos. Staying at a safe distance, we were able to observe a mother and adolescent, along with two other male rhinos. In addition to rhino trekking, the Sanctuary provides opportunities for nature walks, birding, a Shoebill stork canoe ride, and night walks.
Following the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, our group headed north to Murchison Falls National Park. In addition to game drives and water safaris, visitors can hike to the top of Murchison Falls, where the Nile River crashes down nearly 150 feet through a gap only 23 feet wide at the top. Our group took a water safari to the base of the falls where we were met with a local hiking guide. He led us up the trail, which took our group about an hour. The hike was physically challenging, as the path has uneven surfaces, stairs, some scrambling over rocks, and was slick in parts. However, the views along the way and from the top made it worth it! Murchison Falls is a beautiful site to see, both from the bottom and top of the falls. The falls are wonderful for photography, as a complete rainbow is often visible from the top.
After leaving Murchison Falls, we headed south for a night at the stunning Kyaninga Lodge. Kyaninga is set above a twinned-volcanic crater lake, which is safe for swimming. Guests can also enjoy hikes in the area and the lodge’s tennis court, as well as badminton and croquet equipment.
Next, we continued on in search for primates. Up first was a trek to find chimpanzees. Kibale National Park is home to 13 species of primates, including the chimp, and is a lush evergreen rain forest. As we set out with our guide in the morning, the forest views were beautiful. The rolling trail was cleared and easy to navigate, but once we heard the chimpanzees start calling to each other, we left the marked trail and cut through the dense forest. We were in a race to catch up with the group before they stopped making noise or moved to another location. After a short distance, we started seeing chimpanzees swinging from the branches above us. Our group was lucky, as the chimps also came down to ground level. Seemingly oblivious to our group, the chimps spent time playing and grooming each other mere feet from us. Humans share about 99% of our DNA with chimpanzees, which was obvious as we observed their behavior. Their movements and mannerisms were so similar to ours! All too soon, our time with the chimps had come to an end. As our guide began leading our group back out of the park, some of the chimps started running around us and playing. It was a thrilling way to end our chimp experience!
After a stop in Queen Elizabeth National Park, complete with a night sleeping under the stars at Katara Lodge (the only place with star beds in Uganda!), a water safari, a close-up leopard sighting, and time with the famous Ishasha tree climbing lions, our group headed to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to gorilla trek. This was the perfect way to cap off an adventurous week in Uganda! Before I left for Uganda, people kept telling me that gorilla trekking would be one of the most amazing travel experiences I’ve ever had. To be honest, I was a bit skeptical. I was excited, but one of the most amazing things I’ll ever do? I’m incredibly fortunate to have been to some remarkable places in the world and I was worried people were over-hyping it.
To put it simply, it was not over-hyped. It’s hard to put into words just how wonderful the day was. My trekking group was lucky to see the entire Rushegura family. From the alpha male silverback all the way down to the three little ones, each of the 16 gorillas gave our group something to admire, giggle at, and enjoy. The three juveniles in particular were so fun to watch. The two slightly older gorillas would lead the way, climbing trees, swinging, and wrestling with each other. The youngest would tag along, trying to follow in their footsteps and playfully picking on the older siblings when she could. The adult gorillas spent time eating, grooming, resting, and feeding their young. Our hike to and from the gorilla family was also exhilarating and provided breathtaking views.