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Below are our recommended places to visit. Contact us today or call 303-778-1089 to learn more about how we are able to customize the perfect luxury Uganda safari just for you!
Known as the adventure capital of East Africa, Jinja is near the source of the Nile River and visitors can take advantage of whitewater excitement with rafting or kayaking – there are options available for beginners to experts. Heart-thumping overwater bungee jumping and ziplining are options, or for a more placid experience, travelers can stand up paddleboard (SUP) on a special section of the Nile. Riverside horseback riding and ATV safaris are other great options in the area.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
One of Uganda’s star attractions is the endangered mountain gorilla (one of two Eastern Gorilla subspecies), the largest living primate and among the most peaceable. On luxury Uganda safaris, travelers have the unique opportunity to stare into the pensive brown eyes of these gentle giants who share 95% of their genes with humans. The experience is as humbling as it is thrilling; especially when one realizes that only roughly 1,000 individuals roam the rainforests of central Africa.
Trekking can be as easy as a short walk or as challenging as an all-day hike as travelers are assigned to a gorilla family and then must trek to their location, found by an advance team of trackers, in the forest. There are multiple habituated gorilla families for travelers to visit in the park and upon reaching the gorillas, lucky trekkers have an hour to spend with the incredible primates. You might see them playing, grooming, feeding or resting. The chance to observe them in their natural habitat, undisturbed by human presence, is one of the most incredible and exclusive wildlife experiences in the world.
Gorilla trekking permits are limited in number for each day and are booked months and sometimes more than a year in advance. It is extremely important to plan your gorilla trekking safari as far in advance as possible to secure permits on the day(s) you prefer.
Other activities in and around Bwindi include forest hikes, visiting the local Batwa community, birding and visiting community programs. These activities are dependent on where you are based, so be sure to ask a Journey Specialist if you are interested in incorporating any into your Uganda safari.
Mgahinga National Park
Mgahinga National Park is the Ugandan portion of the Virunga volcanic mountain chain that stretches across part of Uganda and neighboring Rwanda. Much smaller than Bwindi National Park, it is part of a large cross-border protected area. Incredibly scenic with lush surroundings and a stunning mountain backdrop, there is currently one habituated gorilla group to trek in the park. Other activities include hiking, forest walks, climbing nearby volcanic peaks, golden monkey tracking (a species endemic to the Albertine Rift) and visiting the local Batwa community.
Kibale National Park
Uganda is also home to human’s closest relative, the chimpanzee, a delightful ape whose evocative pant-hoot call is a definitive sound of the African rainforest. Kibale National Park is our top choice as Uganda’s best chimpanzee trekking destination and a primatologist’s dream. It hosts a population of more than 1,000 chimpanzees, of which one 80-strong community has been habituated to tourist visits, as well as twelve other types of primates including the acrobatic red colobus, black and white colobus and the handsome L’Hoest’s monkey.
Trekkers are likely to hear the highly social, omnivorous chimpanzees before seeing them. They might be found playing, grooming or resting on the forest floor, or moving quickly through the tree canopy. It is exhilarating to find them in the forest and observe them in their habitat. Trekkers are likely to spot other forest-dwelling primates, birds and mammals.
We encourage travelers who have the time to trek both chimpanzees and mountain gorillas on their safari. It is fascinating to see the differences in behavior and cultures between the two species. Other activities in the park and surrounding area include forest walks (which can be customized for birders), guided walks in the Bigodi Swamp for birding and monkey viewing and in the Kihingami Wetlands, as well as beautiful scenic hikes in the surrounding area.
Murchison Falls National Park
The country’s largest protected area is Murchison Falls National Park where palm-studded grassland supports dense populations of lion, buffalo, elephant and endemic Uganda kob, together with the rare Rothschild’s giraffe. Immense concentrations of hippos and birds can be observed from morning and afternoon launch trips along the Nile below the spectacular waterfall for which the park is named.
Park activities are varied. Game drives are rewarding with sightings of huge buffalo herds, many diverse antelope species, baboons, elephant, big cats (excluding the cheetah), a variety of birds and more on offer, and Murchison is the best place in Uganda to see giraffe. Visitors should plan to visit both the top and bottom of the park’s namesake falls. From the top, travelers will hear the thundering water and feel the spray as the river is forced through a narrow gap in the rocky terrain. Views are breathtaking and photo opportunities abound. Visitors can get to the top in two different ways – either being driven there for a short walk around, or by taking the boat to the base of the Falls and hiking up where you will then be collected after enjoying the views and taking photos.
A boat trip on the Nile to the base of the falls provides a great opportunity to observe wildlife gathering to drink on the water’s edge as well as water birds throughout the journey. The Nile is also home to the largest concentration of hippos and crocodiles in Africa. Views of the falls from the boat are spectacular!
Cruising to the Lake Albert Delta is another waterborne option in the park and a must for birders. This cruise offers travelers the best opportunity to see the shoebill stork. Sightings of the shoebill are best during the wet season. Other activities in the park include chimpanzee trekking, birding walks and fishing.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Set majestically in the shadow of the Rwenzori mountains, Queen Elizabeth National Park is flanked by Rift Valley lakes Edward and George and cut through by the beautiful Kazinga Channel. The park’s lush savannah offers prime grazing for buffalo, elephant and various antelope species, while its water features showcase species such as hippo and crocodile. A checklist of 600-plus bird species testifies to the extraordinary ecological diversity of this park, making this an ideal destination for luxury Uganda safaris. Chimpanzees can also be seen in the park in Kyambura (pronounced ‘chaum-bura’) Gorge, though for an easier hiking experience, we recommend Kibale National Park for chimp trekking.
Game drives, channel cruises and forest walks are the top safari activities in the park. Visitors have the chance to see many species including the elephant, buffalo, Ugandan kob (a species of antelope), giant forest hog, leopard and tree-climbing lions. On channel cruises, guests can enjoy being on the water while viewing huge numbers of birds; elephant, buffalo and antelope species on the shore; and breeding pods of hippos among other species. Birders should include a guided walk in the Maramagambo Forest for forest species not seen on the plains.
Lake Mburo National Park
The closest savannah reserve to Kampala, Lake Mburo National Park is centered on a series of swamp-fringed lakes known for their rich birdlife, notably the secretive African finfoot. The green acacia woodland surrounding the lake harbors dense populations of zebra, warthog, buffalo, impala and various other grazers.
Activities in the park include game drives (including night drives), guided walks, motorboat trips and horseback safaris. Travelers on boat trips can generally count on seeing hippo, crocodile and otter, along with myriad species along the shoreline and water birds galore. Horseback safaris allow riders to get close to plains animals such as antelope, zebra and buffalo, as the wildlife do not see the horses as a threat.
Kidepo Valley National Park
In Uganda’s far northeast, Kidepo Valley National Park is the country’s most remote protected area. This off-the-beaten-path destination boasts gorgeous scenery and excellent game viewing, including species such as lion, elephant, buffalo, a variety of monkeys and myriad antelope species. Game viewing is not as prolific as in other parks; however, this is the only park in Uganda where visitors might spot cheetah, black-backed jackal, bat-eared fox, aardwolf and caracal. Rich birding can be found in Kidepo Valley as well with more than 450 species, including 60 recorded in no other Ugandan park.
Activities include game drives and guided hikes. Hiking to visit remote tribes in the area is also an option, though it requires a base level of fitness.
Ngamba Island Chimp Sanctuary
Just 45-minutes by motorboat from Entebbe, Ngamba Island hosts a Jane Goodall-sponsored project that is open to visitors. The sanctuary is home to a community of orphaned chimps, most of which were confiscated from poachers. These special day trips coincide with feeding times for the chimps, giving visitors a chance to observe the primates closely. An overnight stay allows visitors to participate in a special ‘caregiver for a day’ program, granting guests an intimate insight into the effort that goes into caring for the orphaned chimps.
The snow-capped peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains provide a tantalizing challenge to dedicated mountaineers, as do the Virunga Volcanoes and Mount Elgon, both of which offer highly rewarding hiking opportunities through breathtaking highland scenery. For serious mountaineers, a visit to Rwenzori Mountains National Park for a multi-day circuit trek on 16,761-foot-high Mt. Rwenzori is a must. Day hikes are available throughout the country as well. It is best to avoid the wet season when planning mountain trekking safaris in Uganda.
When to Go
Uganda’s climate is equatorial, and temperatures do not vary greatly throughout the year. The wet/rainy season for much of the country takes place from April to May, then again in October and November. Hiking, trekking and mountain climbing can be unpleasant during the wetter months, and wildlife viewing may be less abundant. The wet season does provide great photo opportunities, however, with low to no haze and dramatic lighting.