Bordering the popular safari destinations of Kenya and Tanzania, landlocked Uganda is located on the equator which ensures a temperate climate and fabulous gorilla tracking that is a great add on to an East African safari or as an adventure by itself. Sharing the Virunga Mountain range with Rwanda, Uganda offers an incredible experience at 40% of the neighbor Rwanda’s price. The impenetrable forest of Bwindi National Park is home to more than half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas, with 14 habituated gorilla families, an experience enhanced by the immense flora and fauna of Bwindi, one of the most diverse forests in East Africa. Uganda lacks much of the infrastructure of other tourist destinations in Africa and most hotel properties can be best described as 3* and 4*, although some 5* properties do exist. Flights from Kampala/Entebbe to Bwindi can be expensive and aren’t too numerous, so many people choose to take the long drives through the country.
If you have more than a few days to visit, consider traveling to Kibale Forest National Park, for chimp trekking with a thriving population of primates that include monkeys, baboons, chimpanzees and mangabeys. Queen Elizabeth National Park is a rich topography of dense forest, vast savannah, volcanic craters, and sprawling lakes – home to the Big Five and tree-climbing lions. Further north, Kidepo Valley National Park offers a unique safari excursion with numerous mammals, massive buffalo herds, and almost 500 bird species. For those seeking water activities, Jinja is considered to be the best white water rafting destination in all of Africa.
Though journeys can be 4-8 hours between locations by vehicle it is rewarding to drive through the small towns and villages to see the unique housing and architecture of the various tribes and to enjoy the welcomes and friendly smiles of the villagers, especially the children who will run alongside the vehicle waving and practicing their English.
What’s To Love in Uganda
Track the Gorillas
Rise up early to join a small group of 8 guests, accompanied by guides, porters and trackers for a trek through the thick canopy of Bwindi National Forest to find a family of endangered mountain gorillas, spending an hour photographing and enjoying the breathtakingly close encounter.
Experience a Unique Culture
The Batwa pygmies thrived for centuries as hunter-gatherers in the depths of the forest of Bwindi before the forest was declared a national park, expelling the Batwa who suffered near extinction from displacement. Now living on the peripheries of the forest, the Batwa welcome guests to learn of their struggle to preserve traditions while adopting aspects of modern life that have enabled their people to persevere.
Find the Chimps Under the Forest Canopy
With more than 1,500 primates and 13 different species, Kibale Forest National Park offers an unrivaled guided chimpanzee trekking experience with populations so immense, a sighting is nearly guaranteed.
Hold an Orphan Chimp
At the Uganda Wildlife and Education Centre, hold a playful young chimpanzee as you discover the behaviors of and imminent threats to this endangered species, rescued from poachers, illegal trade or accidents. (Note: Not for the timid or those on a budget: visitors are required to have proof of a number of immunizations including Rabies before handling the chimps)
Break up the Drive with a Safari
Although there are better options in Tanzania and Kenya for safari, the drives in Uganda between Entebbe and Bwindi or Kibale are long, and a stop through Queen Elizabeth National Park can be worthwhile, especially if you can spot a tree climbing lion.
Converse with the Locals
Friendly Ugandans are always ready for a chat. Visit the town of Bwindi to make some new friends over a warm beer.
Practice Your Conversation Skills
Visit a school.
Crash the Rapids
Considered the best white water rafting destination in Africa, Jinja includes extreme grade 5 rapids with names such as Jaws, Chop Suey, and Vengeance.
Uganda’s gorilla tracking is fabulous year-round. The best months to travel throughout the country are between June and October when the rains are lightest. This is also the best time or safari. Gorilla permits in the summer get booked more than a year in advance, and the best lodging can be hard to find, so plan ahead.
Typically for the type of Custom Itineraries we build, Uganda can run from $500 – 1,000+ USD per person per day, (not including Gorilla permits which cost $600 per trek or chimp permits $150 per trek). The base range is primarily dependent upon the locations you visit, the mode of transportation and lodging style. Quoted Tour prices include camps and lodges, required regional flights, guides, excursions, park entrance and conservation fees, ground transfers, all meals, all beverages including local alcoholic beverages.
Tour proposals exclude international flights, travel insurance, and gratuities. Each proposal will detail all inclusions and exclusions for clarity. The gorilla permits will be included in final proposals and should be obtained several months prior to travel as the number of permits is limited per day. If traveling in the summer months we recommend obtaining permits more than a year in advance. Note that a limited amount of permits can be obtained for a more immersive session with gorillas for 4 hours at $1500 per permit day.