Aptly dubbed ‘the Pearl of Africa’ by Sir Winston Churchill, Uganda is one of the continent’s most charming and diverse countries. Home to the tallest mountain range in Africa, the world’s longest river and the continent’s largest lake, as well as half the planet’s remaining mountain gorillas, and the Big Five, this relatively small country has a lot to offer. We share our pick of some of the top things to see and do in this incredible country.
Lake Victoria and the Ssese Islands
Swaying tropical palms and white sandy beaches, rolling green hills covered with verdant rainforests and 84 beautiful islands lying off the northwestern shores of Lake Victoria and you could be forgiven for thinking you have arrived in the Mediterranean. This incredible inland sea – the largest of its kind in the world – is the ideal place to begin or end any Ugandan safari. Locals live in villages along the shoreline and launch their fishing boats each evening at sunset and with tranquil beaches abutting dense rainforest and sparkling azure waters, the stress-free Ssese Islands are heavenly places to visit. Head to Bulago Island and the Ngamba Chimpanzee Sanctuary for an unforgettable experience.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Nestled between the brooding presence of the Rwenzoris and the watery expanse of Lake Edward, the Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the most popular parks in Uganda. With diverse habitats ranging from dense rainforests to open savannah and peppered with countless crater lakes, the reserve boasts one of the highest biodiversity ratings in the world. Home to 96 species of animals, including a healthy numbers of hippos, elephants, lions and leopard as well as chimps and hyena, the park also features the remote Ishasha sector, which is famous for its tree-climbing lions, as well as over 600 species of birds – more than found in all of Great Britain!
The vast park is well worth a visit for a boat trip on the Kazinga Channel and a walk through beautiful Kyambura (Chambura) Gorge, a little Eden brimming with chimpanzees and other primates. Head to the south of the park to the Ishasha sector to search for the famous arboreal felines, which can be found draped over the branches of shady fig trees along the main road.The Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Wildlife-rich Murchison is Uganda’s largest national park and home to the magnificent Murchison Falls, where , after thundering through one of the Pearl’s most scenically spectacular national parks, the mighty Nile River funnels through a rock barely six metres wide and plunges over a breath-taking precipice. Even more rewarding than the mesmerising view from the lip of the tumultuous cascade is the 17km launch trip from Paraa to the base of the falls. Ubiquitous hippos and crocodiles shares the riverbanks with thirsty herds of waterbuck, kob, elephant and buffalo, as well as a rich variety of birdlife, including the rare shoebill and iconic African fish eagle. When you tire of waterfall-watching, head inland on escorted game drives, nature walks and chimp treks in the neighbouring Budongo Forest. Murchison Falls National Park is located in north-western Uganda, 90 kilometres from the town of Masindi. It is Uganda’s largest National Park. It is covered with wild African savannah and majority of the visitors who have toured a number of national parks in Uganda have found this as the best safari destination in the whole of Uganda.
Uganda is synonymous with primates, in particular, the regal mountain gorilla, and the once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing these magnificent creatures on a primate-trek is one of the country’s major tourist drawcards. While habituated troops of chimpanzees can be found in Murchison, Queen Elizabeth and Semliki, the best place to see these fascinating animals in the wild is at Kibale National Park. However, it is in Bwindi and Mgahinga Parks that you can spend a privileged hour in the company of a family of critically endangered mountain gorillas. While the rain forest trek to find them can be quite a tough, muddy, uphill slog, the reward at the end is worth every minute – a rare opportunity to sit in the presence of these incredible creatures that share 98% of our DNA.
24 Hours in Entebbe
An attractive, verdant town that served duty as the capital city during the early years of the British protectorate, Entebbe makes a nice, relaxing introduction to Uganda. Offering a relaxed pace of life and many natural attractions, this charming city is the perfect start to any Ugandan safari.
Set on an 11-hectare estate alongside Lake Victoria, the five-star Imperial Beach Hotel offers luxurious accommodation in idyllic surroundings. Next to the botanical gardens and overlooking the lake, the Imperial Botanical Beach Hotel is another superb choice.
While your hotel will undoubtedly offer an array of incredible local and international cuisine, try the family-friendly Nicky’s Pizza Restaurant for good Italian or the China Garden Restaurant for a tasty selection of Eastern fare.
See & Do
Laid out alongside Lake Victoria in 1898, the expansive Entebbe Botanical Gardens are a wonderful place to have a picnic or walk away from the bustle of the city. The recently expanded Uganda Wildlife Education Centre is home to rare wildlife rescued from poachers and traffickers and there are boat cruises and fishing excursions on the Nile River that can be arranged.