Uganda is truly an interesting destination boasting with incredible wildlife experiences, a warm tropical climate, amazing topography and a lush green vegetation cover. Here are some awesome things to do on your safari in Uganda as you get yourself inspired for a real African experience;
- White Water Rafting
Uganda is known for some of the finest white water rafting activities in the world. This unforgettable experience is popular along the River Nile in Jinja where the Nile River explorers enjoy a day’s raft along with giant water slides. Guests are given the opportunity to choose between an easy or more difficult route before the rafting begins. Participants are given life jackets and strong helmets for protection in case they trip over. Despite the intensity of some rapids, guests who engage in this activity agree that it teaches one to remain calm under pressure.
- Hot Air Ballooning
Hot air balloon safaris in East Africa were common in Kenya and Tanzania. In Uganda, the activity can only be conducted in Murchison falls national park. This activity is usually arranged in the morning or evening where visitors may view the sunrise and sunset at the parks. While on a hot air balloon tour, you will be able to watch last-minute preparations like pumping air into the balloon before you soar high after the briefing. Only eight members are allowed to fly up in a balloon currently. The balloon goes as high as 10.000 ft and is not recommended for children below 6 years.
Hot air ballooning allows you to have a great view of wildlife in the park: the savannah, and beaming wildlife. Amazingly this happens above treetops making it much easier to see the majority of the beauty of Mother Nature. At the end of the activity, each participant is awarded a certificate to recognize one’s participation in the activity. It is a kind of activity perfect for those seeking a once in a lifetime adventure rewarding with spectacular sceneries. This for you will be an experience made of a thousand memories.
- Waterfall tours
Uganda is filled with a lot of scenery to see and one of them is the numerous waterfalls. Waterfalls are some of the world’s most amazing sceneries. Here are some of the waterfalls in Uganda that reward visitors with breathtaking views of natures beauty: Murchison falls sprouting from the Victoria Nile once described as the most spectacular thing to happen to the Nile, Ssezibwa falls on Ssezibwa river, Sipi falls located in eastern Uganda in Kapchorwa district, Kisizi falls located on Kyambe river, Mpanga falls found on River Mpanga, Bujagali falls, Aruu falls and many others. Waterfalls are what most people term as the epitome of Uganda’s wildlife adventures.
- City Sightseeing
A cruise around Kampala city is a thrilling adventure for any visitor interested in seeing different sites and attractions. Explore the history, architecture and culture of Kampala by touring to the city’s most celebrated attractions. This is usually done in a bus, van or small safari vehicle depending on the number of participants or the visitor’s preferences.
While on the city tour in Uganda, visitors may be taken to different historical sites such as the Independence monument; commercial centres such as Owino or Nakasero market; and Uganda museum which serves as an archive of natural-historical and traditional life collections of Uganda’s cultural heritage. A tour to the Lubiri palace in Mengo, Kasubi tombs at Kasubi hill- the burial place for Buganda kings, among others are Kampala’s most iconic attractions.
- Religious tours
Judging from Uganda’s motto ‘For God and my country’, one can easily ascertain that the country is blessed with a variety of religious attractions. Gaddafi national mosque located at old Kampala hill is Uganda’s biggest mosque and second-largest in Africa. The mosque houses the head offices of Uganda Muslim supreme council. The mosque has a variety of architectural features: the inside is adorned with crafted rugs and carpets on the floors of the prayer rooms; huge Egyptian chandeliers and branded ornamental light fixtures hanging from the ceilings.
Rubaga Cathedral a roman catholic church which has a long cultural and political history. The summit of Rubaga hill where the cathedral is built offers spectacular views of Kampala’s other great hills and the rest of the city.
St Paul’s Cathedral Namirembe located on Namirembe hill is the oldest Anglican Church in Uganda. The cathedral has commanding views of Kampala and is visible from many parts of the city.
The Baha’i temple located on Kikaya hill Gayaza the only one of its kind in Africa with unique architectural designs that every visitor on a religious tour to Uganda should see.
Uganda martyrs shrine located in Namugongo 12 km outside of Kampala, is a destination where believers of the Christian faith visit to pay tribute to the Uganda Martyrs usually every 3rd June towards their contribution in planting the seed for the church in Uganda. The Uganda Martyrs shrine is well known for its unusual, but the very beautiful interior and exterior, especially its shape which is modelled after a traditional African hut is a beautiful feature to view while at the shrine.
Next to the shrine is a small man-made lake believed to have healing powers, with a large grass-thatched hut at the centre. Taking on any of these religious trips is an excellent way to enable a visitor experience all the religious sites in their glory, absorbing their history while taking off time for sightseeing and contemplation.
- Day and Night Game viewing
Savannah parks in Uganda offer a vast diversity of wildlife and a variety of spectacular landscapes. These scenic views are unbounded for viewing. A mix of game drives, boat cruises, guided walks and canoeing will provide you with a variety of game viewing opportunities you need to keep your tour captivating, not to mention impressive photographic moments.
Given the above options, game viewing allover East Africa is still dominantly done in customized 4×4 safari vehicles such as Toyota Prado, Land Cruisers, Nissan Patrol, Nissan Safari, and Mini-vans. Such models are available at 4×4 Tanzania (www.4x4tanzania.com) and 4×4 Uganda (www.4x4uganda.com), one of the best companies for self-drive rental in Tanzania and Uganda respectively.
Particularly in Uganda and East Africa in general, game viewing safaris are famous for majestic elephants, the pride of lions, magnificent giraffes, antelope species, and buffaloes among others. The best time to see wildlife is during early morning or late in the evening. Night game viewing is also possible although it is limited to specific national parks.
It is one of the memorable activities where visitors enjoy a game drive during the night with a ranger and a 4×4 safari vehicle customized with extra lights. Night game drives are enjoyed at only Murchison fall national park, Queen Elizabeth national park and Lake Mburo national park.
- Nature walks/ hiking
Guided nature walks and treks are offered in all national parks in Uganda. These bring you close to nature either inside the park or outside the park. Murchison falls national park rewards hikers with a trek at the top of the falls and relishes the scenery around the beautiful falls. Queen Elizabeth National Park also offers opportunities for nature walks in its habitat including Mweya peninsula, Kyambura gorge, among others.
Bwindi impenetrable national park, Mgahinga gorilla national park and Kibale forest national park have nature walking opportunities along the gorilla trekking trails which reward visitors with views of several primate species, birds, plant life and many others.
Rwenzori mountains national park and Mt Elgon national park offer breathtaking opportunities to view rare forest vegetation, waterfalls and amazing birdlife. Other places with nature walking opportunities include Kidepo valley national park through the incredible savannah, Lake Mburo national park leading to the salt lick, and Semuliki national park to the male and female offsprings.
- Cultural tours
The need to cherish and appreciate culture has been at the forefront of Uganda tourism. Visitors on cultural safaris to Uganda oftentimes enjoy an opportunity to learn about the lives of the people who live around the national parks. During a cultural encounter, guests learn about the ways of life of the people in different communities, their food and forms of worship, dress code and farming among others. The most popular cultural encounters Uganda are the Batwa, Ik and Karamojong tribes.
Often times, cultural tours are companied with music, dance and drama from all tribes but most popularly the Ndere troupe cultural centre which rewards guests with awesome traditional performances from different tribes in Uganda. Other opportunities where you would experience culture tours include the Lubiri (palace), Kasubi tombs, Igongo cultural centre in Mbarara, the Wamala tombs, the coronation site in Buddo, Nkokonjeru tombs in Mbarara, Karambi tombs in Fort Portal, Mparo tombs in Hoima and many others.
- Mountain climbing/hiking
Mountain hiking is one of the most popular things to do on a Uganda safari, and the most interesting is the Rwenzori Mountains of the moon with highest peak in Uganda, and third-highest in Africa (Magheritah) at 5109M. The hike to Margherita takes 6-9 days depending on your experience and level of fitness. Mountain Elgon in Eastern Uganda is the second popular with the highest peak Wagagai at 4231m.
The Rwenzori Mountains have two main circuits, Kilembe and the central circuit trail with each lasting for 6-9 days where one is rewarded with a sight of the snow peaks: Stanley, Speke, Baker, and the highest Margherita. Mt Elgon, on the other hand, has three circuits, Sasa trail, Sipi trail and Piswa trail which last for 3-6 days.
Other mountains on which hiking can be done include Mount Moroto situated in the far east along the Kenyan border and Mount Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo located in southwestern Uganda, and make part of the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
- Primate trekking
The term primate refers to any mammal of the biological order- primates, a group that contains species related to monkeys, lemurs, and apes. In this article, my point of focus will be on mainly three primate species- mountain gorillas, chimpanzees and golden monkeys. These unique primates usually impress many visitors while on their wildlife adventures.
- Mountain Gorilla trekking
Mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda is the leading primate safari experience adorned incredible must-try adventures only achieved from the southwestern part of the country. Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park are the only two places where mountain gorilla trekking is done in the country. Bwindi impenetrable national park alongside gorilla trekking is the only destination in Uganda that offers mountain gorilla habituation experiences. The two national parks reward visitors with a stunning view of these gentle endangered apes not to mention an incredible photographic moment. The opportunity of being around half of the world’s population of endangered mountain gorillas alongside other magnificent forest species such as; forest elephants and antelopes is incomparable to any other safari in the country.
- Golden monkey trekking
Mgahinga national park is the best safari destination to track golden monkeys in Uganda. The park rewards trekkers with a thrilling experience where they watch golden monkeys jump from one bamboo branch to another. Just like gorilla tracking, golden monkey trekking starts with guests being briefed at the park about the dos and don’ts when tracking the monkeys.Tracking golden monkeys is not so strenuous like tracking mountain gorillas since golden monkeys live in lower areas. Visitors are allowed one hour in the midst of a golden monkey family where they are able to spot their bright orange-gold body, cheeks and tail. Although golden monkey safaris are not as popular as those for mountain gorillas, I would recommend a blend of gold and silver experiences in cases where tourists visit Mgahinga Gorilla national park.
- Chimpanzee trekking
Kibale forest national park has the highest diversity of primates including over 1500 chimpanzee population. The park is Uganda’s leading chimpanzee tracking destination. Popularly, Kibale forest national park rewards guests with incredible chimpanzee trekking and chimpanzee habituation experiences. The stunning encounter with man’s closest relative is an unforgettably once in a lifetime experience that you need to explore on your safari to Uganda.Other places to track chimps and other primates in the country include Budongo forest, Kyambura gorge, Kalinzu forest reserve, Toro- Semuliki wildlife reserve, Ngamba island chimpanzee sanctuary and Uganda wildlife conservation education centre.
Uganda is renowned as one of Africa’s prime bird destinations, with a list of about 1000 bird species recorded. The country is a birders haven hosting over half of Africa’s birds. It is undoubtedly true that Uganda is one of the richest birding destinations in the world.
Birds in Uganda are found in diverse habitats ranging from the shoreline of great lakes; to the forests in the Albertine rift; banks of the River Nile; swamps and wetlands. Here are some of the bird species found in Uganda: shoebill, bar-tailed trogon, Black-breasted Barbet, pelicans, green-breasted pitta, African green broadbill, Great blue Turaco, Shelley’s crimson wing, Standard- winged night jar, short-tailed warbler, Doherty’s bush shrike, and many others.
Uganda is one of the best sportfishing destinations in East Africa with over 350 fish species recorded. The country is blessed with several water bodies which support the sport especially numerous lakes, incredible rivers, beautiful swamps, wetlands among others. Sportfishing offers visitors an opportunity to catch a variety of fish including tilapia, the big Nile perch, catfish, tiger fish and many others.
Upon prior booking, this lifetime adventure can be explored at Murchison falls national park usually at the base of the falls as you spice up your game viewing; Lake Victoria where fishing is an all year round adventure; Sipi falls area near Mount Elgon national park; Lake Mburo national park and many others while in Uganda. Interested guests are advised to carry their own fishing equipment or hire from the park headquarters if interested in the sport.
In conclusion, there are several awesome things to do on a safari in Uganda giving you so many reasons to put this amazing country on your travel list.