Baby Gorilla with mother in Uganda

Bananas, Rolexes, boda-bodas and Michelle Pfeiffers. These are some of the things that await visitors to Uganda’s capital, Kampala.

Bananas are everywhere you go in Uganda. Everywhere. Often you will see them stacked up impossibly high on top of the equally ubiquitous motorcycle taxis called boda-bodas. Everything and anything is carried by the boda-bodas. Fruit, livestock, bricks, furniture, people – all are piled on. Five people on one boda-boda is a Michelle Pfeiffer. A Rolex is Uganda’s version of a breakfast burrito. It is a rolled up chapati with scrambled eggs in it. That’s where the name “Rolex” comes from, rolled eggs. These quirky idiosyncrasies are a small part of what make Kampala such a vibrant African city and a traveler’s favourite. It is outside of the city, however, in Uganda’s national parks and reserves that travelers are most likely to be charmed.

The Pearl of Africa

As Lonely Planet explains, “Emerging from the shadows of its dark history, a new dawn of tourism has risen in Uganda, polishing a glint back into the ‘pearl of Africa’. Travellers are streaming in to explore what is basically the best of everything the continent has to offer.”

Uganda is home to the Rwenzoris, the tallest mountain range in Africa, which is the source that feeds the Nile, the world’s longest river and Lake Victoria, the continent’s largest lake. The country is also one of the best places in the world to see gorillas and chimpanzees and also has a range of Big 5 game parks with abundant wildlife. This place is a thriving destination with a range of diverse offerings for the more adventurous traveller. These are our top five things to see in Uganda:

What to do in Uganda: Our Top 5

1. Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

Baby gorilla in Bwindi National Park
Gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda

The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a national park that is home to almost one-half of the world’s population of the endangered mountain gorilla, making it an extremely valuable conservation site and one of Uganda’s chief tourist attractions.

It is situated in the south west of Uganda on the edge of the Great Rift Valley and is considered the most diverse forest in Uganda. Encompassing an ancient and vast stretch of lush rainforest, it is one of the few large expanses of forest in East Africa where lowland and mountain habitats meet.

2. Chimpanzee Tracking in Kibale National Park

Schimpanse im dichten Busch

Kibale is one of the best places in the world to go chimpanzee tracking with about 500 of these primates spread around the park. The chimpanzee tracking tours leave twice a day with an expert guide who will lead you on a trek through the verdant rainforest.

The Kibale forest is rich in wildlife and is most noted for its primate population. Other than chimpanzees, Kibale has populations of red-tailed monkey, diademed monkey, olive baboon, and black and white colobus.

3. Queen Elizabeth National Park

Uganda is not just about gorillas and chimpanzees. You can also enjoy a traditional East African safari in one of the game parks dotted around the country. The Queen Elizabeth National Park is considered the best option as it contains a wide variety of wildlife and is easily accessible in the western corner of Uganda. The park is famous for its tree climbing lions that can sometimes be spotted resting in the branches of the large fig trees in the area.

Queen Elizabeth National Park is located at the base of the Rwenzori Mountains and the views from some of the camps are simply spectacular. The park boasts an array of wildlife such as lion, leopard, elephant, antelope including the native Ugandan kob and the park is home to over 600 bird species which makes up a quarter of Africa’s total birdlife.

4. The Mountains of the Moon

Crater Lakes, Uganda
Image credit: Matti Saranpää

In ancient times, it was reported that the much-debated source of the Nile was a group of massive mountains in East Africa. It was said that the Nile flowed from the mountains into a series of large lakes. The natives called this range the Mountains of the Moon because of their snow-capped whiteness.

These mountains turned out to be the Rwenzoris, which means “maker of rain” in local dialects, which are a dramatic range just to the northwest of Lake Victoria. Their highest peak is Mount Stanley, Africa’s third highest mountain at 5,109m. These mountains experience regular and significant snowfall and hold several significant glaciers. Today these are among the most endangered glacial formations on the planet. These impressive mountains can be admired from afar or, for the more adventurous, can be traversed with challenging multi-day hikes.

In the foothills of the range lie the crater lakes, also called explosion craters, which are extinct volcanoes. These picturesque crater lakes (some over 400m deep), are ringed with improbably steep hills. It’s a great spot to settle in for a few days to explore the footpaths or cycle the seldom-used roads.

5. Murchison Falls

Murchison Falls National Park
Image credit: Luz D. Montero Espuela

Murchison Falls National Park is Uganda’s largest and the location of the famous waterfall of the same name. The park is bisected by the Victoria Nile, which first races down 80km of white-water rapids before squeezing through a narrow gorge, only seven metres wide, to create a spectacular waterfall that plunges 43 metres below. The Murchison Falls, the park’s greatest draw card, drains the last of the river’s energy, transforming it into a broad, slow river that flows quietly across the rift valley floor for 55km to Lake Albert. The river’s banks are thronged with hippos and crocodiles, waterbucks and buffaloes. Wildlife includes lions, leopards, elephants, giraffes, hartebeests, oribis, Uganda kobs, chimpanzees, and many bird species.

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