Top things to do on a Uganda safari
Top things to do on a Uganda safari :Uganda is known as the pearl of Africa when it comes to attraction in that it has a lot to offer in terms of hospitable people, rich culture, vegetation types, landscape, mountains, wildlife species which are found in national parks, game reserves and sanctuaries, water bodies such as the source of the Nile which is the longest river in the whole world, lake victoria which is the largest lake in Africa, Lake Bunyonyi which is also the second deepest lake in Africa, Kazinga channel among others. Uganda has 10 national parks which offer various activities such as gorilla trekking, chimpanzee trekking, birding, mountain climbing, boat cruise, game drive, golden monkey trekking among others . all can be can be visited on a Uganda safari.
Top things to do on a safari in Uganda
Gorilla trekking, Uganda is a home of about 459 mountain gorillas which makes gorilla trekking the most done activity in Uganda. Gorilla trekking in Uganda is carried out in two national parks that is Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park both located in southwestern Uganda. Bwindi impenetrable national park is a home of 19 habituated gorilla families which are found in four sectors namely Buhoma, Ruhija, Nkuringo and Rushaga sector and Mgahinga gorilla national park is a home of two habituated gorilla families namely Nyakagezi and Hirwa family. Gorilla trekking in both destinations starts in the morning with a briefing about the expectations, rules and regulations where after you will be grouped into 8 people depending on age and physical fitness. gorilla trekking in Uganda takes about 2 to 6 hours in the jungle depending on the location of the mountain gorillas and once the gorillas have been found, you will be able to spend one hour with the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat learning about their lifestyle, habits, behaviors, taking photos and recording the moments.
Chimpanzee trekking, chimpanzee trekking is the second best done activity in Uganda after gorilla trekking. chimpanzee trekking in Uganda is done in different destinations namely Kibale forest national park, Budongo forest in Murchison falls national park, Kyambura gorge in Queen Elizabeth national park, Kalinzu forest among others. Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda allows a maximum of 6 people to trek each habituated gorilla family and can either be done in the morning or in the afternoon. Trekking chimpanzees takes about 2 to 4 hours or even longer depending on the location of the chimpanzees because they like to move deep into the forest in search of food especially during the dry season. Once the chimpanzees have been found, you will spend one hour with them in their natural habitat learning about their lifestyle, taking photos and recording the moments.
Game drive, this is an interesting activity in where you get an opportunity to explore the national parks in the comfort of the safari vehicle. Game drives in Uganda are carried out in Murchison falls national park which is the largest national park in Uganda, Queen Elizabeth national park which is the second largest national park, Lake Mburo national park, Kidepo valley national park among others. Game drives in the national parks can either be done early in the morning when the animals are still active or late in the afternoon. During the game drive you will be able to view the big four mammals including elephants, lions, leopards, buffaloes and other animals like the hippos, Rothschild giraffes, Jackson’s hartebeest, zebras, impala, Uganda kobs, waterbucks, bushbucks, oribi, eland, warthogs, giant forest hogs, bird species like goliath heron, black bellied bustard, marabou stork, red throated bee- eater, papyrus Gonolek, swamp flycatcher, Abyssinian ground hornbill, secretary birds, grey headed kingfisher, scarlet chested sunbird, red capped lark, African mourning dove, Nubian woodpecker among others.
On your Uganda safari, you can also engage in night game drive which usually start after dinner at 8pm and last for about 2 to 3 hours. Night game drives in Uganda are carried out in Kidepo valley national park, Lake Mburo national park, Murchison falls national park and Queen Elizabeth national park. During the night game drive you can look out for nocturnal animals like civets, bush babies, genets, porcupines, night jars, side stripped jackal, white tailed mongoose, bush pigs, leopards, lions, thick tailed galogo, hyenas, honey badger among others. The night game drive also gives you an opportunity to view hippos which will be grazing at night and other animals which will be resting.
Birding safari, Uganda is a home of over 1040 bird species which makes it a birding paradise and one of the top ranked countries for birding. There are various habitats for birding which include forests, vegetation types like savannah grassland, wood land, tropical rain forests, water bodies, swamps, mountains among others. Birding in Uganda is best done in destinations like Queen Elizabeth national park which is the second largest national park in Uganda, Murchison falls national park, Kibale forest national park, Bwindi impenetrable national park, Kidepo valley national park, Mabamba swamp, Mgahinga gorilla national park among others. On your birding safari look out for bird species like the sought after shoebill stork, double toothed barbet, swamp flycatcher, yellow billed tinker bird, African fish eagle, black headed heron, great blue turaco, grey crowned crane, black headed waxbill, handsome francolin, double collared sunbird, dusky crimson, fox kestrel, white bellied bustard, black breasted barbet, kori bustard, ostrich, swallow tailed kite, yellow throated cuckoo, swamp palm bulbul, black throated coucal, fire crested alethe, black dwarf hornbill, giant kingfisher, kivu ground thrush, African goshawk, brown capped weaver, little greenbul, black bishop, white spotted flufftail among others.
Nature walk/hiking, this is an interesting activity where you will get an opportunity to get close to nature as you explore the cool environment, enjoy the fresh air and cool breeze. Nature walk in Uganda is done following trails in different areas like hiking to the top of the falls in Murchison falls, Kaniyo Pabidi and Rabongo forest, Katwe salt lake, Mweya peninsular, Kyambura Gorge, Maramagambo forest in Queen Elizabeth national park where you will be able to view primates like chimpanzees, baboons, monkeys, bird species, Rubanga trail in Lake Mburo national park which offers great views of the bird species, forest walks in Kibale national park, nature walks to the foot hills of Rwenzori mountain with great scenery of the waterfalls, butterflies, slopes of Mount Elgon national park where you will view Karamoja plains, nature walk to the male and female hot springs among others.
Mountain climbing, this is an adventurous activity and it’s carried out in different destinations including Rwenzori Mountains which are found at the border of Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo. The Rwenzori Mountains have the third highest mountain in Africa which is Mount Stanley a snow capped peak that stands at 5109m above the sea level. When hiking Rwenzori Mountains there are trails that you can take with the longest taking about 8 days and the shortest taking about 3 days and 1 day. Visitors on mountain climbing safari can also hike Mount Elgon which is 4321 meters above the sea level located in eastern Uganda at the border with Kenya, hiking Sipi falls which is a set of three beautiful waterfalls with the main water fall which is 100metres above the sea level. You can also climb the Virunga Mountains which are located in southwestern Uganda in Mgahinga gorilla national park. The three Volcanic Mountain include Mount Muhaura which is 4127m above the sea level, takes about 5 hours to reach the summit and offers great view of the Crater Lake on top. The second volcanic mountain is mount Gahinga which is situated between Mt Muhabura and Sabyinyo and is 3474m above the sea level. The mountain offers a large shallow crater swamp with unique sub-alpine plants like lobelia thrives.
Boat safari, this is a thrilling activity where you cruise on fresh water close to the animals. Boat safaris in Uganda are carried out along the Kazinga channel which joins Lake Edward and Lake George, Victoria Nile delta and bottom of the falls in Murchison falls national park and Lake Mburo. Boat cruise is either done in the morning or in the afternoon and takes about 2 hours. During the boat cruise you will be able to view animals like hippos, crocodiles, other animals like elephants, giraffes, antelopes along the water shores and water bird like the great cormorants, Egyptian goose, yellow billed stork, pink backed pelican, great white pelican among others.
Horse riding safari, this is an exciting activity where you explore landscapes, beautiful scenery, local communities while on the horseback. Horse riding in Uganda is carried out in Lake Mburo national park where you will get an opportunity to enjoy the park with great views of the savannah vegetation, animals like zebras, giraffes, warthogs, giant forest hogs, impala among others and in Jinja where you can either go for the morning, afternoon, sunset or overnight horse riding safari. Horse riding safaris start with a briefing where the inexperienced or beginners are given a training on how to control a horse. Every horse riding session is given two guides one in front and another one follows behind to ensure that no one gets any difficult. During horse riding in Jinja you will have spectacular views of the farmlands, sugar plantations, hills, River Nile, tea plantations, local communities, bird species, monkeys, antelopes, mongoose among others.
White water rafting, this is one of the most exciting outdoor activity in Uganda. White water rafting is done on Lake Victoria by use of a paddle raft to navigate the waters. The activity begins with a briefing and it’s graded depending on the water rapids from grade one to grade five and after completing each rapid the guide gives you an option whether you want to go to the hard way or the easy way.
Canoeing, this is an adventurous and interesting activity where you will cruise on the water in a dugout canoe. Canoeing in Uganda is done on water bodies like Lake Bunyonyi which is the deepest lake in Uganda and second deepest in Africa, Lake Mutanda among others. During canoeing you will be able to explore the 29 islands on Lake Bunyonyi, beautiful scenery, landscapes, local people, bird species, animal species among others which gives you life time experiences on your safari in Uganda.
Golden monkey trekking, this is an adventurous activity that is only carried out in Mgahinga gorilla national park. The national park is the only destination in Uganda that harbors the endangered mountain gorillas and the golden monkeys hence known as a unique destination where silver meets gold. Trekking the golden monkeys starts in the morning and takes about 2 to 4 hours and once the golden monkeys are found you will spend one hour with them in their natural habitat taking photos, recording the moments and learning about their lifestyles.
Visit the Batwa, the Batwa are the pygmies who used to live in the forest many years ago before the parks were gazetted into national parks. On your safari in Uganda you can go for Batwa experience in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park or Batwa trail in Mgahinga gorilla national park. During the Batwa visit you will learn about their hunting and gathering skills, guide you in the forest where they used to live, show you medicinal plants which they used as medicine, fire making skills, how they used to fetch water with bamboo cups, Garama cave which acted as a training area and granary for their food.
There are other activities you can do on your safari in Uganda such as cultural experience where you will interact with different cultures like the Karamajong, IK people, Hot air balloon safari, sport fishing, visiting the historical and religious sites like Uganda Martyrs shrine, Gadaffi mosque, Bahai temple, zip lining in Mabira forest among others.
When to go for a safari in Uganda
Uganda can be visited anytime throughout the year though the best period is during the dry season in the months of June to August and December to February. During the dry season there is little rainfall in the national parks therefore access roads will be passable, there will be short grass which enables you to clearly view the wild animals, animals will gather along the water shores to drink water which helps you to take clear photos and gorilla trekking, chimpanzee trekking, nature walk trails will be passable compared to the wet season when they are muddy and slippery.
Uganda can also be visited during the wet/rainy season in the months of March to May and October to November. Though the wet season is known as the period for heavy rainfall activities still continue as usual and during this time there will be less crowds in the national parks, luxury lodges will offer discounts to attract visitors, there will be plenty of food which favors birding and gorilla trekking permits will be easily acquired compared to the dry season when they are competitive.