Wildlife Safari Experiences
Uganda has more than 10 national parks and reserves that between them feature all the big five – lion, elephant, rhino, leopard and buffalo. Uniquely, in addition to the big 5, Uganda is home to two of the world’s most iconic primates – the gentle endangered mountain gorillas of Bwindi and Mgahinga, and the chimpanzee with the largest population in Kibale National Park.
Uganda is also home to over 10% of the worlds and 50% of Africa’s birds, with over 1,000 different species including some of the rarest and endemic such as the Shoebill Stork. This makes the country and its national parks a premium and sought after bird watching destination.
In Uganda – you will be spoilt for choice with a string of pearls to add shine to your itinerary!
Each of the parks and national reserves are unique in habitat and species. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, a world heritage site, is mountainous and misty, whilst the rugged wild Kidepo Valley National Park in the northeast (voted 3rd Best Safari Park in Africa by CNN in 2017) is so isolated that a safari there becomes a solitary excursion into the wilderness.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is the most popular safari park, famous for its tree-climbing lions and home to an abundance of wildlife; the park is blessed with crater lakes, forested gorges, savannah plains, swamps, rivers and the Kazinga Channel offering exceptional boat cruises.
Lake Mburo National Park is Uganda’s smallest park and close enough to Kampala for a short-stay visit to experience the vast herds of buffalo, topi and zebra, together with over 350 species of birds. The park has a varied mosaic of habitats and landscapes: forests, rich acacia tree valleys, savannah grasslands and swamps. Visitors to Lake Mburo enjoy boat cruises, fishing or hiking. Quad biking, mountain biking and horse riding in Lake Mburo National Park offer a unique safari experience with the ability to explore the park not on a game drive vehicle but rather up close and more personal. En-route there is a stopover at the Equator Line crossing that passes through Uganda.
Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks – Gorilla Tracking
Uganda’s foremost tourist attraction, and indeed one of the world’s most remarkable wildlife encounters, is tracking the rare Mountain Gorilla in the remote forests of south-western Uganda. Found exclusively in the forests of Bwindi and Virunga National Parks, over half of the world’s mountain gorillas are to be found in Uganda. In Bwindi 19 habituated groups are available for tracking, and with only 8 permits for each group, an exclusive and intimate experience is guaranteed. In Mgahinga on the northeastern slopes of Virunga Volcanoes – gold meets silver whereby Golden Monkeys can be tracked along with the mountain gorillas Silverback.
Africa’s richest forest, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, has an impressive list of species with over 350 birds, 51 reptiles, and 120 mammal species including several primates for example: Black and White Colobus, Blue Monkeys, Grey-cheeked Mangabey, L’hoest’s Monkey and both the Chimpanzee and Mountain Gorilla.
Kibale National Park – Chimpanzee Tracking
Kibale National Park is dubbed the “Primate Capital of the World.” Located in the western part of the country it is also the most magnificent of Uganda’s tropical rain forests and one of the most rewarding areas to explore. The forest is home to 13 species of primates including Africa’s largest population of Chimpanzees with around 1,500, East Africa’s largest population of the threatened Red Colobus, the rare L’Hoest’s Monkey, Bushbaby, Potto and the endemic Uganda Mangabay, a species of Old World monkey found only in Uganda.
Kibale’s major attraction is Chimpanzee tracking with a unique experience offered nowhere else in the world – the Chimpanzee Habituation Experience. Visitors accompany researchers and habituators to follow the entire day’s routine, from the de-nesting in the early morning to the nesting in the evening. This all day experience offers a unique opportunity to observe the chimpanzees’ daily habits such as feeding, hunting, nursing, resting, patrolling.
Murchison Falls is Uganda’s most famous pearl
The centerpiece of the country’s largest national park is Murchison Falls where the rushing waters of the Nile River are dramatically forced through a narrow gorge into the Devils Cauldron. After the falls, the mighty cascade is transformed into a broad, placid river that flows across the rift valley floor into Lake Albert, giving visitors remarkable wildlife viewing experiences – elephants, giraffe, buffalo, hippos, Nile crocodiles and aquatic birds (including the rare Shoebill Stork) are permanent residents on the riverbanks. The northern section of the park contains savannah and borassus palms, acacia trees and riverine woodland, whilst the south is dominated by woodland and forest patches. Notable visitors to the park include Sir Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway and several British Royals.
Drift silently above the savannah plains teeming with wildlife in an unforgettable hot air balloon adventure experience that ends with a champagne bush breakfast – another of Uganda’s unique pearls.
Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
In 2005 the Rhino Fund Uganda re-introduced Southern White Rhinos into the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary – en-route to Murchison Falls National Park. A guided walk in the 70km2 sanctuary offers a unique opportunity to encounter rhinos in the wild.
Kidepo Valley National Park
Uganda’s most isolated national park lies in the rugged, semi-arid valleys of the northeastern borders with Sudan and Kenya; it is ranked among Africa’s finest wilderness areas, and the wild frontier region of the Karamojong hunter-gatherer tribe. The park is home to over 80 mammal species (including 28 rare endemic species such as the aardwolf, bat-eared fox, striped hyena and cheetah), over 475 bird species and healthy populations of elephant, zebra, oribi and one of Africa’s largest single herds of buffalo.
Semuliki National Park
Sprawling across the floor of the Semliki Valley the park is dominated by the easternmost extension of the great Ituri Forest of the Congo Basin – one of Africa’s most ancient and bio-diverse forests to survive the last ice age 12-18,000 years ago. Home to over 60 mammals, 440 bird, 374 butterfly, 81 moth and 336 tree species the park has hot springs that bubble up from the depths demonstrating the powerful subterranean forces that have been shaping the Great Rift Valley over the past 14 million years. Primates, birds and sport fishing offer exceptional experiences. The traditional Batwa hunter-gatherer tribe lives on the edge of the forest.
Aside from the exceptional wildlife and nature experiences, Uganda’s many adventure pearls are growing in popularity, with physical and cultural exchange experiences included in itineraries. Some of the more popular experiences are mountaineering, hiking, bungee jumping, white water rafting, kayaking, quad biking, mountain biking and horse riding amongst others.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park – Hiking and Mountaineering
Hiking the mystic “Mountains of the Moon”, Africa’s highest mountain range at 5,100 meters and the snowy source of the Nile, is a unique and challenging experience for seasoned mountaineers to climb the summit of Margherita – the highest peak, although non-technical treks are also possible. Rwenzori is a UNESCO world heritage site, hosting 70 mammals, 217 bid species including 19 Albertine Rift endemics and some of the world’s rarest vegetation.
Jinja, Source of the Nile – East Africa’s adventure capital
Jinja is the town at the source of the great White Nile River and home to some of the world’s best and wildest white water rafting. The Nile boasts rapids ranging from class 1 to 6, making rafting an ideal activity for all levels – first-time rafters as well as extreme adrenaline junkies.
Mt. Elgon National Park – hiking
One of the oldest volcanic mountains in Africa, Mt. Elgon in eastern Uganda is surrounded by forests and inhabited by mammals and over 300 species of birds. It offers beautiful vistas, caves with rock paintings, warm springs and cascading waterfalls; the ultimate goal of many climbers is not on reaching the final ascent to the 4,321m Wagagai Peak, but on the decent into the vast 40km2 caldera, one of the largest intact caldera’s in the world (a large cauldron-like hollow formed after the evacuation of the magma chamber in an extinct volcano). Adventure activities include rock climbing, sport fishing above Sipi Falls and mountain biking through the coffee plantations at the foothills of the park.
Uganda’s cultural pearls
Undoubtedly Uganda’s most precious pearls are our people. Home to some of the most amazing cultural traditions and histories of our times, our people are bound together by the great human spirit of Ubuntu. Uganda composes a number of ancient kingdoms and chiefdoms that today offer rich cultural experiences in their royal heritage sites, dance, arts, and varied ceremonies of the world’s most ethnically diverse population of 56 tribes.
Uganda’s iconic tribes
The Batwa or ‘Twa’ are one of the last groups of shortstatured people also known as ‘pygmy’ people, and until Bwindi Rainforest was gazetted as a National Park they lived a hunter gather lifestyle in the forest. As the original dwellers of this ancient jungle, the Batwa were known as the ‘Keepers of the Forest’. A visit to the Batwa community of Bwindi is an enriching experience; showcasing their culture, housing, food, way of life, fire making, art and crafts, and through their song and dance, the Batwa will inspire you.
Some of the tallest people in the world, the Karamojong are a proud tribe of fierce warrior semi-nomadic pastoralists found in the northeastern corner of Uganda bordering southern Sudan and Kenya. Karamoja, near Kidepo Valley National Park, is a must-visit for anyone interested in culture; the Karimojong cultural dynamics are showcased in their village homesteads, way of living, artifacts, dress, dance and a wealth of other unique traditional regalia.
Uganda’s ancient kingdoms
The Kasubi Tombs in Kampala is the site of the burial grounds of four kings (Kabakas) and other members of the Baganda royal family. It is one of the great cultural sites and remains an important spiritual and political site for the Buganda people, as well as an important example of traditional architecture. It was proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.
Buganda cultural sites
There are many cultural pearls of the Buganda Kingdom to experience firsthand in central Uganda. The Kabakas (Kings) Palace situated on the Mengo hill within Kampala is the main palace in the Kingdom of Buganda incorporating the great Parliamentary building, the Royal Mile and monuments in Wankaaki Gardens. The magnificent reed and ring work representing the 52 clans of the Baganda people, and the tranquility inside the grass thatched Kasubi tombs all contribute to the mysticism, respect and awe of the great house.
Karambi royal tombs in Fort Portal
western Uganda, are the tombs housing the regalia of the royal family of Tooro Kingdom and the burial ground for three Toro kings – Kyebambe Kamurasi, Olumi Kaboyo II and Rukidi III.
Igongo cultural center and cow tours
Igongo Cultural Centre is one of the best museums in southwestern Uganda, Eriijukiro, showcasing the regions history and culture. Uganda is the major stronghold for what is unquestionably the most impressive of Africa’s domestic creatures, the Ankole long-horned cattle. Explore a Ugandan cattle ranch with the Ankole Cow Conservation Association and experience the unique Ankole cows with their massive horns for yourself.
Uganda’s faith-based pearls
Uganda martyrs shrine in Namugongo
The Martyrs shrine in Kampala is where 24 Catholic converts were brutally executed following the orders of Kabaka Mwanga II in the year 1886. The Roman Catholic Church, Christians and the Church of Uganda have since developed the shrine, to which over two million visitors from all over the world make an annual pilgrimage on the 3rd June to commemorate and celebrate Martyrs Day – the day the Catholic Church of Rome beatified the martyrs of its faith in 1920 and canonized them in 1964. Three Popes including today’s Pope Francis have made this personal pilgrimage.
Gaddafi Mosque (Uganda National Mosque)
Famously known as ‘Gaddafi Mosque’ the colourful structure with its magnificent art features was built and designed based on a mix of Arab, European, and African cultures. Built on Old Kampala Hill it can be viewed from all corners of Kampala. The large Mosque hall can accommodate over 35,000 people making it one of the largest mosques in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The Bahai faith was introduced to Uganda in early 1958. A house of worship was built and completed in 1961 atop Kikaya Hill on the outskirts of central Kampala. Designed by Charles Mason Ramey, the Temple with its characteristics dome is the only one of its kind in Africa. The 50- acre site includes extensive tranquil gardens that attract people from far and wide.
Abayudaya – the Jews of Uganda
The Abayudaya or ‘The People of Judah’ practice Judaism and are found in the villages of Putti in Mbale district, eastern Uganda. They are a Baganda community of between 2 and 3,000 that are devout in their practice, keeping kashrut and observing Shabbat. The Reform and Conservative movements of Judaism recognize most of the villages. In June 2016 Rabbi Shlomo Riskin led a Beit Din that performed an Orthodox conversion for the Putti community of Abayudaya.
Social Responsibility activities
Add purpose to your meeting or incentive tour in the Pearl of Africa through visiting one of Uganda’s most successful conservation initiatives – easily accessible in and from Entebbe.
Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary
Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary was established by the Chimpanzee Trust, a Non-Government Organization, as a sanctuary on an island in Lake Victoria in 1998 for the care and welfare of entrusted captive chimpanzees whilst conserving as far as possible the ecosystem of the island; its most famous patron is Jane Goodall.
A 45-minute boat ride from Entebbe, the Sanctuary has been globally recognized for its successful conservation of chimpanzees and their habitat, as well as for the educational programmes that it delivers to Ugandans about chimpanzees, ecotourism and community participation.
Overnight or volunteer at the home of (about) 45 orphan chimpanzees and experience ‘a day in the life of a Chimp Carer’ feeding, participating in their health checks and learning the rich stories of these amazing primates. Ngamba Island is also home to an abundance of other wildlife – birds, bats and monitor lizards.
The Uganda Wildlife Education Centre, set on 72-acres of land in Entebbe town on the shores of Lake Victoria, is home to over 400 indigenous wild animals, over 500 plant species and over 250 bird species in natural settings that depict three of Uganda’s ecosystems – wetland, savannah and forest.
It serves as a rehabilitation center for wildlife, with most of the animals having been rescued from smugglers, poachers or the community. Many are released into the wild after a successful rehabilitation period, whilst others are given a new home for educational purposes or due to loss of habitat in the wild, which reduces their chances of survival. Experience the ‘Behind the Scenes’ tour – a fascinating opportunity to observe the animals up close and learn first-hand what goes behind the scenes in this unique conservation programme.
Add education to your meeting or incentive tour in the Pearl of Africa through learning about one of Uganda’s most iconic agricultural crops.
Coffee has been Uganda’s top-earning export crop since the 1980’s. The Pearl of Africa’s competitive advantage is in its ability to produce and export a constant supply of superior quality coffee globally throughout the year, being blessed with two rainy seasons and a wide variety of agro-ecologies. Boasting high altitudes and a cool equatorial climate that benefits slow ripening, this gives rise to the most fragrant of coffees produced by Africa’s smallholder farmers; 80% is of the varietal Robusta grown in the low altitude areas of Central, Eastern, Western and Southeastern Uganda – up to 1,200 meters above sea level, with the other 20% comprising Arabica varietals grown in the highland areas on the slopes of Mount Elgon in the East and Mt. Rwenzori and Mt. Muhabura in the Southwestern region (1,500-2,300m above sea level). As a coffee enthusiast, savour the deep scent and flavours of one of the world’s finest coffees on an authentic coffee plantation tour at the end of your business trip, tracing your favorite coffee bean to its source deep in the Pearl of Africa, from crop to cup.
Uganda is blessed with a verdant green landscape of tea plantations, contoured up and down the rolling hills from the east to west, south and central parts of the country. Tea is one of Uganda’s biggest cash crops providing an income for many, with a climate that produces some of the finest tea in the world. Experience a Tea Tour – visiting plantations and processing plants, cycling on a tea safari through Mpanga Estate, and tasting the different green, black and oolong teas.
Add excitement to your meeting or incentive tour in the Pearl of Africa through participating in one of Uganda’s most iconic events.
Nyege Nyege music festival
Nyege Nyege takes place in a breathtaking forest setting on the shores of the Nile River, just a few minutes from the Source of the Nile in Jinja. The festival is the most important 4-day international music festival in East Africa known for its unique Afropolitan party vibe; it is a celebration of Ugandan culture and African music. In 2017 it was voted Uganda’s event of the year.
Kampala City Festival
The Kampala City Festival is the biggest street party in East Africa, a signature event that draws multitudes to Kampala every first week of October to celebrate culture, unity and social life. With Kampala in a constant state of change and regeneration, the festival projects the image of the City as a happy, cultural and warm place to be whilst promoting positive change to its public realm.
Kampala becomes animated with flamboyant sights, vibrant sounds and lively rhythms in concert with an array of floats winding through the streets with dancers spinning, whirling and twirling to mesmeric beats of celebration along the festival route.
Along with savoury aromas of roast and other local foods, enjoy the electric vibes by sensational artists of diverse. Make a date with East Africa’s biggest street party.
The MTN Kampala Marathon, a social responsibility initiative of the MTN Foundation, is one of the biggest races in Uganda with over 30,000 participants, organized by Uganda Athletics Federation. If you are an athletic or marathon enthusiast this race offers participants a range of challenges such as hills, sharp bends, varied surfaces, inclement, weather, and competing in large groups; the event runs in November every year.