❝ I’ve been blessed to have had one of the most amazing experiences of my life, gorilla trekking at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
It was a meet and greet experience between us and our closest relative in the jungle. I was with my friends, a group of 5 girls, afraid of the wild jungle but who took the risk for the chance to stand face to face with gorillas in the wild.
We had only walked for an hour or so before we saw it; a baby gorilla swinging freely from tree to tree. We agreed that none of us had ever seen anything so full of life as he had been.
But this was just the beginning. It wasn’t long before we saw another, and then another, with not a care as to our presence in the jungle. Of the warmest sight, a mother gorilla carrying her baby; the epitome of love.” – Chris Amutuhaire
Many of us dream of taking an African safari, but most people don’t realize that there are many more options beyond classic jeep tours in popular countries like Kenya and Tanzania.
There are in fact, some 15+ countries which offer their own unique take on an African safari, though from gorilla trekking to exploring landscapes that include rainforests, volcanoes, savannas, and the River Nile, the following are 5 reasons you should choose Uganda.
5 Reasons to Choose Uganda for Your African Safari
#1 Gorilla Trekking
Image: Scott Chacon (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
Many of us dream of standing face to face with a wild gorilla, though if you’re hoping to see them in places like South Africa or Tanzania you’re going to be sorely disappointed.
Gorilla trekking in Africa is available in three countries; Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. But if you’re choosing between the three, Uganda is one of the best places to see them in the world.
Located in southwestern Uganda along the border with the DR Congo, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is home to roughly half the world’s remaining mountain gorillas.
Several gorilla groups within the park have been habituated to human visitors and a short 2 day gorilla trek in Uganda to Bwindi will see you to be awestruck by this rare and wonderful experience.
Gorillas are a critically endangered species, and the chance to trekking through the mountainous jungles to observe them at close range in the wild is one of the most magical and memorable travel experiences you can have.
For most people, a trip to Africa is likely only going to happen once in your life, so it’s important to make it as epic as possible, and the simple argument for choosing Uganda is that you can’t see Gorillas in many other countries.
#2 Plenty of Classic Wildlife
While Gorilla Trekking is one of the biggest reasons people choose Uganda for their African safari, it’s worth noting that you’re not missing out on the classic wildlife you would see in other countries.
There is plenty of wildlife viewing in major National Parks, reserves and sanctuaries throughout the country, especially in Kidepo Valley National Park, where the best viewing is during the middle and end of the dry season (November to February).
Deep in the northern region of Uganda, with an open, savannah terrain, Kipedo has a profusion of big game and hosts over 77 mammal species as well as around 475 bird species. There are common sightings of lions, elephants, and herds of up to 1,000 buffalo.
Cheetahs are often sighted here, as well as five species of primates, and you can spot the endangered Rothschild’s giraffe. The wildlife is so easy to spot during dry season, as the rivers dry up and animals congregate in mass around very few water sources.
Other fantastic parks in Uganda include Queen Elizabeth National Park, which is famous for its tree climbing lions, and wildlife that ranges from hippos, to chimpanzees, hyenas and Nile Crocodiles.
There’s then Lake Mburo National Park, known for its zebras and wilderness camp, Semuliki National Park which is a haven for birders, and Kibale Forest National Park where you can track 13 species of chimpanzees.
By choosing Uganda for it’s mountain gorilla offerings, you’re not sacrificing on the classic African wildlife you would see in neighboring countries. In fact, you’re probably seeing more!
#3 Incredible Landscapes
Image: Jason Houston for USAID via Flickr
The landscapes throughout Uganda are varied, and a fantastic reason to plan a safari is that you’re experiencing a lot more than game drives through an open savannah – though you’re experiencing that too!
Murchison Falls National Park (sometimes referred to as Kabarega National Park) is a prime example; named after Murchison falls where the mighty river Nile bangs through a narrow gorge flowing down to be converted into a placid river.
Not only do you have open plain savannah to explore, you also have riverine forest and woodland. Throughout other National Parks across the country you can take boat cruises down the River Nile, head into the jungle, or take a hot air balloon to enjoy the view of these diverse landscapes from the sky.
And then there are the volcanic landscapes. Queen Elizabeth National Park is famous for its volcanic features, with volcanic cones and deep craters, many with crater lakes such as Lake Katwe, from which salt is extracted by the local communities.
Mt. Elgon National Park too, has a volcanic history; an extinct volcano that first erupted more than 24 million years ago, now with the largest surface area of any extinct volcano in the world (50 km by 80 km). Here you can explore vast caves where elephants and buffaloes come to lick the natural salt found on the cave walls.
#4 Heaven on Earth for Bird Nerds
Rod Waddington (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr
Uganda is heaven on earth for bird nerds, and if you don’t consider yourself a keen and passionate birder now, Uganda is the country to convert you!
Semuliki National Park is world famous for its 400 bird species. Located in the deep western regions of Uganda close to the Uganda–Congo border, it has a rich habitat of grassland, savannah, forest and wetlands.
You’ll spot incredible bird species here such as the white chested bill, Dwarf Hornbill Red bill, Pipping Horn bill, Yellow chested Nicator, Great Blue, Ross’s Turaco, the elusive Shoe Bill, as well as many other sun birds and roughly 300 butterfly species.
It is one of the richest areas of floral and faunal diversity in Africa, and there is a natural hot springs in the park that attracts a large number of shore birds for its source of salt. This makes their whereabouts easy to predict, and therefore easy to spot.
#5 White Water Rafting on the Nile
From game drives, to exploring caves, hot air ballooning, and standing at the base of thundering waterfalls, there’s a lot of adventure to be had in Uganda. But one of the most unique is perhaps white water rafting at the source of the Nile.
With an estimated length of almost 6,700 km the Nile is the longest river in the world. The White Nile rises in Lake Victoria in Uganda, its source starting right from the city of Jinja.
Egypt may be the best known country for taking a Nile River cruise, but what most people don’t realize is that you can do so right here in Uganda too; as well as adventure activities like bungee jumping, fishing, and white water rafting.
This way, you get the best of all worlds; gorilla trekking in Bwindi, game drives in the country’s many national parks, chimpanzee tracking, Rhino sanctuaries, wilderness camps, and, white water rafting at the source of the Nile!